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Cars in India: The Middle-Class Dream
November 27, 2011 3:55 PM   Subscribe

"Little is changing modern India more than the spread of cars, a four-wheeled reflection of its economic transformation and a window into the aspirations of the new Indian middle class."
posted by mr_crash_davis (23 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
New Car, Insane Bro! For only ₹15,000 you can drive out to a mountainside cabin with your friends to drink chai and subtlely flirt with your copilot. Sounds great. Somehow they don't sell that well though.
posted by Winnemac at 4:26 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Very interesting how this mirrors precisely what cars meant to the upper middle class in America in the mid-20th century. It's sometimes hard to remember now, but Robert Moses et al literally meant it when they created "parkways" around NYC: bucolic, natural, outdoor escapes from the city that you could experience only from your car. Now, being able to hop in your car and get out of Delhi for the afternoon probably seems equally appealing to a family with a little disposable income for the first time.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 4:44 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"You, alright? I learned it by watching you!"
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:01 PM on November 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


The weird thing is, being able to live without a car is the highest aspiration for some North American families (like my family).
posted by KokuRyu at 5:10 PM on November 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


looks like i need to hurry up and schedule my first trip to India. before there are Targets and Olive Gardens everywhere. kinda seems like that's what middle class means in this country.
posted by ninjew at 5:20 PM on November 27, 2011


"There is just so much to buy today."

Fools.
posted by -t at 5:20 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it's also worth noting that projects like Mr. Moses' parkways aside from simple pleasure cruising provided paths towards expansive suburban development across areas such as Long Island. While Mr. Moses is famous for his development of an expansive roads-to-parks program backed by Federal funds many of these "parkways" or "scenic routes" already existed by the time that Robert Moses came to power in the 1930s. In fact, much of the early support for roadway improvement in America was championed by bicycle enthusiasts who founded the Good Roads Movement in the 1880s.
posted by armisme at 5:23 PM on November 27, 2011


India must catch up with China, I suppose.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:24 PM on November 27, 2011


The weird thing is, being able to live without a car is the highest aspiration for some North American families (like my family).

Yup, and it's why I am unlikely to live outside of NYC or, maybe, a small handful of other cities anytime soon. But it will be interesting to see if the urban congestion --> cars --> suburbs --> disillusionment --> return to cities cycle will take place among the upper middle class in places like India much as it has here, just fifty years later.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:32 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


If such a thing as an 'upper middle class' exists in any numbers anywhere in 50 years time....
posted by lalochezia at 5:42 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Little is changing modern India more than the spread of cars, a four-wheeled reflection of its economic transformation and a window into the aspirations of the new Indian middle class."

So, is the car a reflection of the transformation, or an agent of change itself? Also consider that a country of 1.2 billion people only bought 2.5 million cars last year, while the 23 million people of Australia alone purchase about a million cars every year.

If there is something that qualifies on both counts (agent/reflection of change), it would probably be the humble mobile phone in my opinion. More than 800 million mobile phones (PDF) and counting (more than 7 million new ones in August 2011 alone).
posted by vidur at 5:43 PM on November 27, 2011


I think the car may be an outdated example. I'm inclined to go with the mobile phone as well - given its greater flexibility in terms of what you get out of the investment - communications, connectivity and, commerce. I've seen iPhones and top of the line smartphones and Blackberries across socioeconomic strata.

These are Sub Sahara's figures from early November,

Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, and is the biggest after Asia, an association of worldwide mobile phone operators has said.

The number of subscribers on the continent has grown almost 20% each year for the past five years, the GSM Association report on Africa says.

It expects there will be more than 735 million subscribers by the end of 2012.

posted by infini at 6:07 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


May they learn from our mistakes rather than repeat them.
posted by miyabo at 6:19 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


May they make their own mistakes and learn from them, rather, don't you think?
posted by infini at 6:29 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Recent research suggests many young Americans prefer to spend their money and time chatting to their friends online, as opposed to the more traditional pastime of cruising around in cars.
[...]
But with money tight in many households, and the cost of gas and insurance soaring, some youngsters are having to choose between buying a car and owning the latest smartphone or tablet.
BBC
posted by infini at 7:00 PM on November 27, 2011


"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." - Douglas Adams
posted by vidur at 7:08 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


The trouble with most forms of transport, he thought, is basically that not one of them is worth all the bother. On Earth — when there had been an Earth, before it was demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass — the problem had been with cars. The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm's way, turning it into tar to cover the land with smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another — particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e. covered with tar, full of smoke and short of fish.
- Douglas Adams (From The Restaurant at the End of the Universerse)
posted by Winnemac at 7:12 PM on November 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Chai is for closers!
posted by thewalrus at 8:04 PM on November 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Second place is not a set of steak knives.
posted by longsleeves at 10:39 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dixiecup: urban congestion --> cars --> suburbs --> disillusionment --> return to cities cycle

I'm not sure that's the cycle overall. Most of the people in the US suburbs today are stuck there, and they're going to be in rough shape with rising petroleum prices.

Can't India look at peak oil and our own vulnerable and unsustainable suburbia, and put two and two together and say we shouldn't do this? Or are they smoking the same innovation-will-save-our-lifestyle crack we are in the US?

They won't be able to do for fifty years what we did for fifty years.
posted by maniabug at 2:07 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, the automobile's appetite for land isn't going to do India any favors. Land is the most valuable thing there is (along with air and water). Throwing it away for such junk as the fleeting feeling of liberation marketed by the transport industry is a disgraceful folly.
.
posted by maniabug at 2:12 AM on November 28, 2011


Oops that link should be
posted by maniabug at 2:34 AM on November 28, 2011


Vehicle density numbers for India, China and the USA are scary. In the US this year, there are 965 cars per 1000 people of driving age. In China, there are 47. In India, there are 23. Obviously, the potential for growth is significant, but until the infrastructure improves, it is limited. There might only be 23 cars per 1000 people of driving age in India, but if you've been there you'll know that there is no shortage in the supply of traffic jams.

The scarier thing about the US number is that if you include commercial vehicles for personal use (so pick-up trucks and the bigger SUVs that are actually designed to be used commercially but are largely used for taking the kids to soccer practice) there are actually more "personal vehicles" in the US than there are people to drive them.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 5:30 AM on November 28, 2011


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