Cars are extremely useful devices for getting around, they are generally comfortable, they can carry all of your crap (depending on the size of them), they provide personal space, driving can even be quite fun but perhaps most importantly they leave when you want and they go where you want which helps to give us more choice in how we get around. Of course in Auckland especially, we acted like a kid given free rein in a candy shop that completely gorged itself on lollies and chocolate.
However that doesn’t mean cars don’t have their downsides. I expect that we will eventually solve the issues surrounding their dependence on fossil fuels however there is one major issue that will continue to exist, they don’t play well with others. The freedom and choice that cars provide quickly goes out of the window when there are no alternatives and when thousands of others want to make the same journey as you at the same time. That is a key part of the reason as to why we developed the Congestion Free Network proposal. But this post isn’t about the CFN, instead I want to look at one of the reasons cars have been so successful, their marketing.
I believe that one of the key reasons that cars have been so successful is that car manufacturers have done an excellent job at selling the dream that cars represent and what is the key way they do that? By showing their cars as the only vehicle on the road. Typically this means driving on open roads in away from the city where there is no-one to slow you down while at the same time showing off some of the amazing surrounding scenery (either from New Zealand or somewhere else overseas) or an iconic activity that people associate with (like a family going on a summer holiday).
Now of course getting out to see the country or going on a family holiday (often the same thing) are excellent reasons for having a car but for most people and for most of the time the reality is quite different. The “daily grind” means staying in the city and commuting to and from work all at the same time as a lot of others. Occasionally we will see an ad set in an urban area yet amazingly even then the roads magically flow free and are almost always filmed at night when we don’t have congestion problems anyway.
Below are a few examples of recent ads.
This one from Audi is definitely a very pretty ad showing off some great New Zealand scenery but it’s also funny how the urban scenes they show are of a car taking off down a shared space (Fort Lane) – an areas where pedestrians have priority and of the streets above the Britomart train station (which really should be shared spaces too).
This one from Toyota is perhaps one of the few that shows the reality of city streets before the driver decides to avoid the traffic and head off on an adventure in the countryside
Or how about this one Mazda which is set in a city centre with wide streets yet there are no other cars about and continuous green lights.
Just to make it clear, I don’t have a problem with companies marketing their products and highlighting the best points about them, why bother otherwise. I also don’t expect them to start selling cars as “being part of the congestion” but what is very clear is that the dream and the reality are quite different.