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The Thing about Where Cars Live...

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Travel anywhere in the country, the world for that matter, and many people could identify where they are simply by the cars they see. Blindfold me, throw me on a plane, and place me in the airport parking garage and I am confident I could tell you where I was. (Note: For anyone who would like to try this, I have never been to Hawaii.)

The question though is why? Is it Nature versus Nurture? Is it climate related or is it geography? Is it simply an outcome of financial ability or is there even a political bias that causes us to purchase that one vehicle that just...ummm...well..fits me?

Nature versus Nurture?

plato_1669507c.jpgAre we, as Plato defined it, born with an inner mechanism to want a certain car or are we more like Locke who believed our social environment determines our automobile choice? I must lean towards the Lockeian (if that is a word) view. As much as I believe I have gasoline in my veins I don't believe DNA played a part in it. Yes, there is some sort of IV drip in my senses that allows me, and continues to allow me, to absorb my love of cars but the real love comes from just being around them.

Therefore, I believe our social environment carries a lot of weight for the cars we choose. The first words out of a baby's mouth are not 'Ferrari' or 'Built Ford Tough' (imagine if that happened, it would be as big a marketing success as the first pregnant male!). Our car desire or lack thereof happens over time through words, experience, visuals, and a local culture. We just seem to be trained to like a certain type, brand, or  even model of automobile.

I must conclude then, in the Nature versus Nurture argument it is Nurture, not Nature that determines where a car will spend its life.

Climate and Geography?

Climate and geography are not so definitive about why a car lives where it does. Sure snow and cold merits a 4 wheel drive hence big honkin' trucks, SUV’s and the little Subaru in the Northeast. But that does not explain the Midwest, a place also loaded with plenty o' cold and snow, and yet nary a Subaru to found. Continue the journey to the Pacific Northwest, where more snow and mountains exist and yet I believe there are more Subaru's then there are the 50 foot monster pickups.

Colorado+Mountains.gifWhat causes the real confusion in the climate and geography debate? States like Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama where there is little snow, few mountains and roads that are more smooth than Jack Daniels yet there are more pickups than 'all y'all' will see in most other states.

Geography and weather test results? Inconclusive.


los-angeles-freeways.jpgAt this question you all think, 'No duh John, of course money makes a difference' and you are right, it does, up to a point. Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston, even Birmingham are all areas with a high degree of wealth so of course there will be more BMW's, Audi's, Porches' and other vehicles that tell everyone else 'I have made it'. In these areas people proclaim with their cars 'Look at me, I am successful.' Sort of like Like Peter Gabriel's 'Big Time'

" car is getting bigger. Big time, my house is getting bigger Big Time, my eyes are getting bigger and my mouth'...

welcome_alabama.jpgWe then take the interstate to the side roads of rural areas. You know, like Vermont or Wisconsin,  Idaho, Montana even Mississippi and Louisiana. Certainly not often listed as the richest states in USA Today’s surveys. And while many cars in these states are held together with duct tape and bailing wire (I've had a few of my own) there are also more than just a few Ford F150, crew cab, diesel, dually  pickup trucks, and the matching Dodge or Chevy counterpart, and they are everywhere. But they are just trucks, right? Well those 'just trucks' can easily be in the $50,000 range. Yes, $50,000! At those dollar amounts we are in the high end BMW 3 series, nicely optioned Audi A6's, even Porsche territory.


So if the wealth of an area is not a decisive factor, what then can it be?


Maybe it is politics, or at least a person's world perspective on politics. Those living in areas that are known for a liberal political bent, such as the East coast and the West coast may own BMW's and Porsche's but what else do see a lot of? Volvo's, Toyota Prius’, Subaru's and even the quirky Saab. Excluding Subaru, few of them are four wheel drive or have features and functions that people find 'necessary' to handle the weather in those areas. So what gives? Then there are those on the conservative side, typically the South and the fly over states who tend to prefer more traditional American fare – Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge. Trying to compare these two is like comparing an Old Country Buffet versus a Gordon Ramsey tall food restaurant.


I would like to continue this politics perspective, but honestly, I just don’t see a leaning in politics make someone choose one car over the other (excluding the Prius, that car deserves its own blog). I just don't think politics answer my question.

What then do I conclude with this information? 

Absolutely, positively, and most assuredly - NOTHING. 

Really, I am serious, nothing. I have categorized where many cars live but didn't answer, nor do I know the answer to, why they live where they do. We could test my theories by taking a liberal, New Englander, or maybe a conservative Southerner, or both, and move them to a place like New Mexico, which appears to be Switzerland in its car purchases, and see what would he or she buy? Again, no idea. This deserves some research. Anyone have a government grant we can steal a few dollars from?


So the thing about where cars live? I guess they live where they want to.

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