Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Boomers Love Cars--As a Statement!

I live in Northern California where folks think they're very aware of environmental issues. We like green and we particularly like not using up nature either for ourselves or for our kids, or so we say. Therefore, it should not come as surprise that the Toyota Prius hybrid, with the lowest emissions of any car out there and fabulous gas mileage, is proliferating here. Everywhere I look, there's a different colored one: metallic green, dark blue, white, black, taupe, fire-engine red, tan. And they're just all over the place: in every parking lot, every carpooling lane (of course, in California, you can drive in the carpooling lane without a carpool if you drive a Prius), and lined up one after another in street parking spaces. And they're continuing to sell like hotcakes, at a premium.

I was thinking today about this phenomenon. It reminds me of VW bugs in the 60s and 70s. Everyone seemed to have one. It was a cool thing to do and, somehow in spite of the fact that everyone had one, it was a very individualistic purchase to make. It said something about the owner that was with-it and positive. A VW van, of course, made an even bigger statement and brought into play lots of additional traits and possibilities--adventure, mystery, or at the very least, trips, of all kinds. I think the Prius bandwagon is similar. A Prius is not particularly cheap although the tax credit, free bridge tolls, and carpool lane driving are very attractive incentives on the federal and state levels. But it's much more that that. It's a statement, much as VW bugs and vans were earlier and for the same generation--Boomers.

Boomers are now affluent enough to pay a premium for leading the environmental charge, even though all the hybrid cars sold until now are still a drop, if that, in the environmental bucket. Still, driving a hybrid and better, driving a recognizable hybrid like the distinctively shaped Prius is a way to yell to the world: I'm voting green, guys, and you should, too. We Boomers are doing it again, as we always have: self-righteously, full of ourselves, sure we know the best and right way. Little has changed.

By the way, I just loved my yellow VW bug that I drove in the early 70s. But my metallic green Prius is probably my favorite car yet! I think it's really me.

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