O/T: Talking Cars Tuesday: The death of cars?

Submitted by JFW on July 10th, 2018 at 10:49 AM

So, with Ford and Chrysler essentially abandoning the car market, and many other automakers investing heavily in crossovers, are cars truly dead? 

I've been fairly open in my slow conversion to sedans. I was a (kind of) early adopter to the SUV scene back when the people in the school of natural resources were bemoaning the popularity of SUV's. I had an XJ Cherokee and loved it. 

But as time went on and my little ones came along, it stopped working out for me. My grumpy old ass just doesn't like sharing space with my luggage. And with AWD and new tires the clear foul weather advantage of SUV's started to fade for me. Now I have a Commander and a Five Hundred, and the Five Hundred is far and away my choice for trips. 

So, what is your preference? Sedans or SUV's, and why? And while Toyota Honda, and other makes still make some mass market cars do you truly think their days are numbered? 



July 10th, 2018 at 11:10 AM ^

sports car types will be the only cars left


UV's make more money than sedans, generally safer, and are easier to make into hybrids with more packaging space

KO Stradivarius

July 10th, 2018 at 4:04 PM ^

I think they are safer in some ways...in a collision, the result is often better.  SUV's have more mass (always helps), sit higher (if you get rear-ended or hit head-on by a pickup truck or another SUV while in a sedan the truck may override the car since the bumpers are different heights; side impact is also more severe since the bumper may be higher than the car's Rocker Reinf), and are just tougher all-around due to increased durability.  Sedans are designed to offset these risks to some extent but you can't cheat physics.

Sure, they do roll over easier due to the higher center of gravity.  This is really the only attribute I can think of in which cars are inherently safer.     


July 10th, 2018 at 11:24 PM ^

my first auto accident as an EMT...1970's oldsmoboat hunk of steel vs. new VW Beetle. Outcome, VW 2- Oldsmoboat 0. Driver of the Oldsmoboat died on impact from the steeringwheel. The VW was hurtled into a corn field. The VW driver suffered a broken ankle, her steeringwheel was pushed within inches of her chest. but it held. The passenger suffered a broken toe on her left foot...tiny vs mighty, modern crush panels and technology won the day....don't tell me how an suv is built better for safety.


July 10th, 2018 at 11:10 AM ^

We have 2 SUVs and a hatchback.  I have three kids now, so had to move to a family hauler.  I have fit a lot of things in my hatchback and SUVs.  The large opening makes it easy to load big items like when I brought mine and my wifes bikes up to Macinac in my Hatch last year.  The 3 row SUV allows me to put three across the middle with a large space for dogs when I need to transport everyone, and kids in the third row for normal driving for more space and more people if need be.  

Just like the utility of the extra wide opening and extra vertical space of the SUV/ Hatch over the standard sedan.


Blue In NC

July 10th, 2018 at 11:22 AM ^

I drove an SUV for nearly 20 years but with my kids growing up and space becoming a bit less of a concern, I recently moved to a sports sedan for the handling/driving fun.  Ideally I do favor a hatchback for the ability to load bigger things on occasion but for me the handling trade-off of an SUV was no longer worth it.


July 10th, 2018 at 11:27 AM ^

Sedan, for space reasons. Sure I give up some cargo area, which can sting sometimes, but it's that much easier to maneuver in crowded city streets and parking lots. Also, for gas mileage reasons. If electric cars become more efficient and charging stations more widespread, I'll make the switch.

The thing with Honda and Hyundai et al, is that you're not sacrificing quality for price any more. They make a decent car for a decent price, and they last a decent number of years/miles. There will always be a market for that. 

Inflammable Flame

July 10th, 2018 at 11:29 AM ^

I'm lucky enough to work only a couple miles from home. I could drive a dump truck and it wouldn't cost much in gas. 

I'm happy with my Silverado, it has all the comfort/options/capabilities I want. Fits 3 car seats in the back comfortably and a bed for anything else. 

Without an obacene monetary incentive, there's a close-to-zero chance of getting me to sell my truck for a car. Just a truck guy


July 10th, 2018 at 1:25 PM ^

I'm definitely an SUV over a truck guy.  I like the fact that my dogs can ride in the back of air conditioned or heated cabin rather than the hot or cold bed.  I also feel like my stuff is secure with tinted windows and locked tailgate and my stuff all stays cleaner.  Once you add a cover to the bed, it makes it harder to get stuff in, and stuff can slide around a lot.  

I've been able to get so much stuff with my hatch and SUVs, too.  I got my front door into my explorer with a kid.  I know a lot of people love their trucks, but I just think the utility of most SUVs is better than having the large truck bed. But that's just my opinion man, and by the popularity of the silverado and F150, one not shared by a lot of folks. 


July 10th, 2018 at 2:16 PM ^

My dog fits nicely in the back seat of my truck.  Can fit my daughter and 2-3 dogs back there.  Plus the added benefit of hauling things (rocks/dirt/wood for the fire pit/tools) without worrying about ruining the interior of the vehicle is nice.


Really it comes down to "outside trunk" vs "inside trunk" and I prefer mine outside.


July 10th, 2018 at 3:59 PM ^

"inside trunk" and "outside trunk" are great ways to look at it.  For me I need the "inside trunk due to 3 kids and 2 dogs.  Like them all inside.  For the few times I need anything hauled I rent a trailer from uhaul or just have the stuff delivered (have a big pile of mulch on the driveway).  A lot of people in Michigan use their trucks a lot. I just use my "inside trunk" 90% of the time compared to the couple times I need more.  I figured where I live there's more people with usage like mine.  

Goggles Paisano

July 10th, 2018 at 11:29 AM ^

I like the crossovers and the SUV's as I like to sit higher up on the road.  I feel safer this way as I can better see what is going on around me.  Sitting low to the ground in a car is a bit unsettling.  I haven't owned a car since 1990 or so.  Since then it has been F-150's and now an SUV. 


July 10th, 2018 at 11:31 AM ^

GM is bucking the trend and investing in cars. I don't think cars will "die" but they will be a smaller percentage of the market for a bit at least. This is all local as well. The SUV boom is a very US centric thing, Ford isn't killing all their cars. They just released new Focus and Fiestas. They're just going to sell them in Europe. If the US starts buying cars again, Ford can localize them, just like they did before with the Fiesta.


July 10th, 2018 at 11:33 AM ^

I have (had) a big diesel truck for the first time in my life. Was just rear  ended by a tractor trailer recently. While my kids and I were injured, I'm 100% sure the truck saved at least one of our lives.   The poor woman I was shoved into had her foreign hatchback crushed and went to the ER too. Had she been between us, I can't imagine she or her kid would have survived.

Long story short, no one in my family will be driving a car ever again. Suvs or trucks from now on. 




July 10th, 2018 at 11:45 AM ^

I have a high performance German sedan that combines sub-four second acceleration with luxury and I love the car.  Having said, that, it seems like the highways are SUV's and trucks.  We also have a 3/4 ton Silverado which takes the need of SUV's away.

The automotive industry seems to be heading quickly towards electric vehicles with autonomous cars waiting in the wings.  Autonomous vehicles, IMO, portend the end of the current ownership model.  I suspect many folks will pay for their cars on a use basis, particularly in urban areas, and this may alter what people prefer.


July 10th, 2018 at 12:08 PM ^

Autonomous vehicles will replace human driver-controlled cars to the same extent that we're all going to have flying cars, garage-sized helicopters, and jetpacks, which for decades were projected to be "just around the corner."

Sure, there will be niche markets for autonomous vehicles in highly congested urban spaces where parking is at a premium, but the notion that average Americans in Oregon or Kansas or rural Pennsylvania are all going to ditch their own cars in favor of autonomous vehicles is an absurd fantasy that completely ignores how people use their vehicles in real life.


July 10th, 2018 at 12:40 PM ^

Sorry Don, but I disagree.  I've worked professionally on the IP side of AV's and the investment in capital and effort has been massive.  We have a shuttle on North Campus that is driving itself.  Cars and trucks will be next; the labor savings will justify the development costs many times over. 

It is not a niche market by any stretch...it is affordable technology, the rudiments of which are already in many cars that have been on the road for at least five years.

Some reading for you: 




July 10th, 2018 at 1:06 PM ^

You may be right that AVs will be more available (I'm guessing minimum 10 years out). Why 10? The technology is simply not there to operate safely in all the variety of environments that cars need to operate in. So, 10 years until AVs push in. That said, I think you are dead wrong about it changing the ownership model even in that time period.

If you don't live in an "everything in walking distance" city/suburb, virtually no one is going to give up their car. Lots and lots of people fit that description. Will there be more people using on demand cars? Sure, but I think that eats into Uber/taxis as much or more as it eats into private vehicle ownership.

The time scale on a major decline in private vehicle ownership is 30-40 years (which is basically the same as saying "I don't think this will happen"). The US is designed around the car, and that ain't changing in the foreseeable future.



July 10th, 2018 at 1:30 PM ^

Here's a few links to consider, and I disagree about your time scale.  We are talking less than five years at this point in time.






July 10th, 2018 at 1:35 PM ^

Less than 5 years from what? Ubiquitous adoption? Sorry, not happening that quick. If you're saying high end luxury cars will have some autonomous capabilities, sure. Volvo is talking Level 4 by 2023. But widespread adoption? No way.

The average car on US roads is 11 years old. There are 250M cars on the road in America. Americans buy 15-18M new cars a year. It's taking a hell of a lot longer than 5 years to flip the fleet.


July 10th, 2018 at 4:25 PM ^

I largely agree with the subtitle you posted which is a far cry from your comment:

Autonomous vehicles will replace human driver-controlled cars to the same extent that we're all going to have flying cars, garage-sized helicopters, and jetpacks, which for decades were projected to be "just around the corner."

There are 2-3 million Uber drivers worldwide, and about 400K in the US.  There are 3-3.5 million truck drivers in the US alone.  Fleet introduction is where you will start seeing large numbers of AV's, which is why trials have been going on in several US cities for a couple of years now.

But EV's are coming and the movement is being driven by massive cost savings as well as safety.  Waymo ordering 62,000 minivans from Chrysler for use as EV's is a big deal.




July 10th, 2018 at 4:32 PM ^

How cost savings? 

I bought my last car for 16K with 60K miles on it and have driven it for 11 years. I don't put much money into it. I doubt a per use or fractionalized ownership model would be cheaper than the owned car in my driveway that I just put gas and occasionally oil into. 


July 11th, 2018 at 6:50 AM ^

Lol. That’s the thing. I’d still be paying for maintenance. The cost of the use would

have maintenance bundled in it, and the car would be getting a Hell if a lot more use than mine does now, as well as paying for the higher cost of all the tech and programming to make the damned thing autonomous.

i’m a pass unless forced into it.



July 10th, 2018 at 3:10 PM ^

Ten years into the smartphone revolution, about 75% of people in the US have one.  Five years in, it was a little less than half.  It's a device that's replaced often and if the price climbs out of three figures it's a major news story.  Cars are replaced occasionally and cost five figures and sometimes six.

I'm not sure what you mean we're five years from, but it sure as hell isn't widespread, ubiquitous use of autonomous vehicles.  We might be five years from them no longer being a complete novelty to most people.


July 10th, 2018 at 4:28 PM ^

And, given the price that an AV may bring in, and the convenience of the car you have in your driveway... changing the ownership model may be a long way off too. 

Some people will love it. They don't value the freedom of having a car at their beck and call whenever they want, and are happy with an 80% solution if that means they don't have to drive. 

But if I have my self drive car, and my option is to spend a ton of money to get into a fractional ownership AV, I'm keeping my self drive for as long as possible. I know many who are of the same mind. 



July 10th, 2018 at 7:54 PM ^

I don't see the ownership model changing substantially.  I've never, ever bought into the "autonomous Uber for everyone" model.  New ideas may enter the marketplace but they won't replace private ownership unless something drastically different happens - and self-driving cars aren't drastic enough, IMO.

The per-use model of transportation predates cars.  For-hire cabs were a thing in the horse and buggy days.  It fills an important niche, that's all.  Fractional ownership exists nowadays too and has had plenty of time to prove itself.  It fills a much smaller niche.  The concept of carpools has been around for decades, and if people wanted to work on a pre-arranged, inflexible schedule, they already would.  There's no part of the "autonomous Uber for everyone" model that hasn't already hit the marketplace.  Even the autonomous part has, in the form of trains.  I don't see the combination as a winning one.


July 10th, 2018 at 1:33 PM ^

"The US is designed around the car, and that ain't changing in the foreseeable future."

People living in major cities and urban areas might not be attached to the idea of having their own cars, but that's been the case forever. Those who think that Americans en masse across the country are going to forego the independence and ultimate mobility that owning their own vehicles gives them are simply choosing to ignore how people prefer to live, for better or worse. They completely fail to understand how central auto ownership is to the American psyche and culture. 

There are two related things at play: the development of autonomous driving technology, and the question of ownership. Autonomous driving capabilities will gradually be integrated into human-operated vehicles so that the driver can opt for either mode, depending on the circumstances. Obviously that's already occurring with basic functions like the auto-parking mode some models have.

This is different from the notion that the majority of Americans will give up owning their own cars altogether at any time in the foreseeable future. That ain't happening, absent some major dislocation in external factors affecting automobile transport to begin with, like a catastrophic and long-lasting increase in oil/gasoline prices.



July 10th, 2018 at 3:07 PM ^

The major flaw in the idea of people paying on a per-use basis is: Who will own all those cars?  The other major flaw is: People would be doing that now if they wanted to.  Zipcar is a real thing.  If people wanted per-use cars, it might be the world's most valuable company by now.  Instead it has 10,000 cars around the world, which is roughly one or two days' worth of sales for any given major automaker.


July 10th, 2018 at 11:56 AM ^

What I really want is neither a sedan nor an SUV. I want a wagon (or estate, if you're fancy) that will accommodate my family of 6.  I love the look of the new Buick Regal TourX, but it only seats 5, same with the Jaguar Sportbrake (couldn't afford it anyway.) Right now only the Ford Flex, which I love, is the only "wagon" that will work for my family.  I'd love to dump our Pilot for a true family truckster!


oriental andrew

July 10th, 2018 at 2:31 PM ^

I am a wagon guy, also, but more of the "traditional" wagon. I really like the look of the Regal TourX. I LOVE the look of the Volvo V90, but that's way out of my price range (I don't even think about/consider cars like the Jaguar XF Sportbrake or MB E-series).  New Volvo V60 looks great, but a bit on the smaller side, like the Golf Sportwagen, and still pricey.

Then again, I only have a family of 4 and our other car is a minivan, so a 5 seater works just fine for our situation. 

I did rent the Flex on a family vacation some years back and thought it was a pretty good family hauler. More car-like than SUV's for sure, which I appreciated. 

S.G. Rice

July 10th, 2018 at 12:06 PM ^

I went minivan this time and have been a big fan.  It has the room and cargo capacity of an SUV (or more) while getting a bit better gas mileage.  I'm not likely to go back to a sedan any time soon, I like the higher seating position and ease of entry/exit for less flexible passengers.


If it made any sense for me I'd get a Pacifica Hybrid and fill up every other month.


July 10th, 2018 at 12:08 PM ^

When kids came along, my wife's Mustang convertible went out the door and was replaced by a Ford Explorer.  After that, we bought a boat so we had to have a tow vehicle.  We've been a 1 SUV and 1 car family ever since.  She drives the SUV because she likes to sit up high and I drive the car because I'm a car nut and love cars.  I've driven 4-door sports sedans except for a short fling I had with a 1994 Ford Probe.  I guess that was my premature mid-life crisis car.

I prefer sedans because you can haul 4 people when you need to and it's easy to get stuff in and out of the back seat.  I recently purchased an Audi A4 Sportback because it has 4-doors and a coupe like roof line.  Love the look.

Millennials are becoming the predominate consumer group and they were raised with minivans and SUVs.  My son wants an SUV even though he really doesn't need one.  Then again, he's at that age where you purchase large objects (like furniture) and haul them home as you acquire the stuff of life.  Cars won't be going away, but the market has been shrinking as baby boomers age and stop buying cars as often as they did.  We'll find out if it's a wise bet to put all your chips in one market segment.  Consumer tastes can be pretty fickle and turn on a dime.