‘Where you live, and what you [don’t] drive.’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos , the richest man in the world, is worth $ 135 billion but drives a 20 year old Honda Accord
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos , the richest man in the world, is worth $ 135 billion but drives a 20 year old Honda Accord

You Can’t Be Serious - ‘The good life…’
You Can’t Be Serious – ‘The good life…’

I drive a twelve year old car. It is a black car. I have owned several black cars, but I have never before had a twelve year old car as my primary car. Last year I drove an eleven year old car for the first time, and before that it was ten years old – and so on. Same story, going all the way back to when my new car was three year’s old.

I know … I know, you couldn’t give a rat’s ass what sort of car I drive – but I am setting up to make a point, if only you can stick it out.

My first new car was purchased in 1973 and from then until my black car was three years old, I changed to a new one between one and three years. I just loved the gloss on a new car – and particularly the smell of the inside. I only had to think about changing and the existing car would somehow come to a halt on the forecourt outside a car showroom. I was a soft touch for even a rookie salesman and left him wondering if he was sure he charged me enough. I was in love with my new car.

Not any more, my friends. My feelings have changed. In fact, I have developed a feeling of loyalty towards my mature but beautiful black Beemer. Six, seven and eight years ago, I was only paying road tax for six months at a time, in the expectation of ‘changing’. Now my faithful old friend receives the due respect of being taxed for a year.

I am not alone in holding onto my old car. Once upon a time people were allegedly judged on ‘where you live and what you drive.’ Not any more: Back in the day we changed the car ‘because we can’ – now just as many people are not changing ‘because we can.’

At this juncture, let me hastily add that there are lots of people who love a new car – and fair play to them. If that is your thing, do it. And dealerships like my friend, Jim Bourke have to live! Please God, I shall live long enough to enjoy the tingle of shopping for a ‘dazzler’ again, but at the moment I am not thinking that way. Statistics tell us that there is a growing swell of the same opinion.

Car sales in Ireland are down 20 per cent since 2016 – and this at a time when the national economy is booming. In Britain, a third of the 21 – 29 age group do not hold a driver’s licence. Many of these young people will never own a car. Granted, that percentage would be much lower where I live, because it is very difficult to manage without a car in rural Ireland. But the undeniable fact is that the glamour of the gluaistean is gaga.

The big car was status – and that again is changing. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, like most of my contemporaries I only owned one good suit. The ‘good suit’ was worn to Sunday church, holiday occasions – but most importantly of all … dances! The strange thing here is that as soon as my buddies and I could afford more than one suit; we started going to the dances in shaggy jumpers, jeans and casual trousers. Is the same rule applying to cars now?

Of course pollution and the environment has a lot to do with changing people’s attitude on how they get around. There is a hint of guilt attached to owning a guzzler nowadays and that will only increase.

Several countries I have visited in recent years have come up with innovative schemes to reduce cars on the road. Tax breaks for car pools, free carparks on the outskirts of cities for car sharing and so on. There is a brilliant car-sharing system in Birmingham that started some years back. You pay X amount and can get behind a wheel anywhere in the city and leave the car at your designated drop off point.

Several other cities in the UK and United States are well advanced in coming up with schemes similar to the ‘rent a bike’ we now see in all our cities The idea of being able to spontaneously grab a car without having to fill forms or enter a conventional rental agreement will encourage people not to bring their cars to centre city.

Individual drivers are also taking their own initiatives with regard to car ownership. Friends, families and work colleagues of from two to ten people are buying a car between them. So, like the man said, ‘thing’s they are a changing.’

One thing for sure though is that I’m not for changing my black beauty until I have to!

Don’t Forget – The greatest pleasure in life is doing what other people say can’t be done.