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It was also during this time that more and more families were living in mobile home parks so, with their car, they could relocate at a much shorter notice. Harper's Magazine said of many of the new auto culture workers that their sense of community had been eroded somewhat by suburbia. When asked where their home was, some replied, "Do you mean where I was born, where I live now, where I lived a couple of years ago, where my folks live, or where I last voted?" (Schorr, 1958)
Greed and the Gas Pump (1976-1992) -- Automobiles changed with the time, the 1960s brought more and more imports from Europe and Japan, with the Volkswagon "Bug" even starring in its own movie series. As the Vietnam War ended, the Hippie generation faded, America faced a new, dual challenge with the automobile: imports were becoming even better and gas was getting more expensive. During th 1970s, motor vehicle registration increased by almost 50 million, but manner of fuel consuption changed. Gasoline shortages resulted in a 1974 speed limit of 55 miles per hour on all U.S. highways and the establishment of a new fuel economy standards. Politicians were critical of imported oil, and suddenly the idea of the car as the pinnacle of leisure activity became expensive. America was, however, too ingrained in the auto culture, too hooked on commuting, and even with the changes made during the Regan revolution, never again felt the freedom to use their cars the way they had in the 1950s and 1960s (Jakle and Sculle, 2002, 70-9).
Fuel Effeciency and Advanced Technology (1993-presnet) -- The automobile was no longer an American institution, even for Americans. Multi-giant car makers in Japan had a substantial portion of the market (Toyota, Acura, Honda, Lexus) and some of the newer and less expensive models in Hyndai and Kia; Europe continued to export Volkswagon, Audi, and Mercedes Benz -- all seemingly more in tune with the American personality that the Big 5 in Detroit. The trend became, especially for men, that the type of car, the customization, and even the brand, became a personality extension. This was complicated by a resurgence in ecological thinking and the green revolution, in which alternative fuels, hybrid or electric cars, were actively being marketed. Thus, we now have a leisure class who purchases a car to tell the world that they are politically correct (Subaru, Toyota Prius), active (SUV), a soccer Mom personality (Vans), financially secure (BMW, Mercedes, Lexus), or part of the "cool generation" (usually smaller Japanese sportscars tricked out including massive stereo systems) (Carducci, 2009, 13-15).
Technology, Fuel, and the Future of the Automobile - Increasingly, consumers are becoming more and more aware of the issues surrounding the environment and global warming issues. While recent news articles have indicated that it would take over 1,000 years just to reduce the impact already seen in the global ecology, there is great debate about what may happen should the current trends not be reversed (Global Warming, 2009). It is likely that, as we move forward into the 21st century, sea levels will rise, perhaps flooding coastal and economic centers; glaciers will retreat (dropping their water into the sea and changing the salinity and biodiversity), a shrinkage of the polar regions (which changes the earth's ability to process oxygen), and several secondary effects due to temperature and moisture changes (extreme weather, tropical diseases, changes in seasonal climates, lack of current agricultural regions to remain stable). All these changes are caused, in part, by the global explosion in fossil fuel consumption based on the internal combustion engine. This, in turn, may have serious cultural and political ramifications, as it is possible that much of the economic centers of the developed world will no longer exist. What is, however, quite clear, is the fact that it is no longer possible to do nothing or believe that this change will not occur -- the facts are available, what we as a species do will likely indicate the way we live for the next century and beyond. If one things of the earth as a large organism, a concept known as Gaia, then these large forest belts all over the world would be the lungs -- processing air and carbon dioxide and providing a stable environment for human habitation (Lovelock, 2000). Thus, the way the automobile impacted American leisure time for the last half of the 20th century, may not be practical for the 21st century. Instead, driving culture and the idea of the American automobile may go the way of the Edsel, and move into the world of virtual gaming, where gasoline costs remain immaterial.
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