Cars are changing. No matter to what extent purists deny that electric powered autonomous cars are the future, the truth is that they are the future. Cars are losing their soul and might soon become an appliance just like the washing machine in which you cleaned your laundry today.
And even before this change has happened, one can’t hide from the changes happening around us right now.
The first toy that a toddler gets today is not necessarily a toy car anymore. Toys, action figures, miniature sports items were what young boys were given as kids even though they did note necessarily belong to a family of car enthusiasts.
Well, why would that kid relate to a model car? When perhaps his (or her) parents today have started seeing owning a car a liability. Even some hardcore car enthusiasts today drive only on weekends and prefer public transport or cabs most of the time.
The glitzy world of touchscreen phones provide far more gratification than a static toy would. Toy makers around the world are facing the issue of finding younger buyers. Kids don’t buy Hotwheels cars any more. At best, they are buying Hotwheels track sets where the hero is not the car but unrealistic stunts and the carnage of cars slamming into each other.
Hence the toy companies’ focus is shifting towards the collector and hobbyist market. Factor in the growing manufacturing costs and prices of model cars (they are not toys anymore) have gone through the roof.
Now let’s look at adults. While we are blessed with classics which provide us simple motoring purity, most of these cars will be forced to retire due to growing concerns of pollution around the world.
The new age cars are brilliant. They are comfortable, spacious and safe. No doubt. But at the same time, they are getting complicated. There is no joy of fixing them yourself. Not to mention, many are sharing the same mechanicals, the only differentiating factor being the styling, badge and perhaps the features in the infotainment system.
I have been attending multiple car meets and I can’t fail to notice that the average age of people attending these meets is steadily increasing. This is in a nation like India which is getting younger. Kids of car enthusiasts are not taking their parents’ hobbies as seriously. They have other avenues today compared to the limited choices with which their parents grew up with. Yes, there are exceptions but these exceptions are very few in comparison to the larger reality.
On the flip side, the level of awareness of cars in general is growing due to ease of availability of information online. If anybody wants to be an active car enthusiast today, the entry barriers are far lesser. There are online forums, e-commerce sites and a gazillion car portals.
A few car guys (or girls) are born. They inherit the passion from their parents and siblings. But most are made. Because cars for most, till now, were a symbol of freedom, the first taste of speed, a shining example of being “arrived” in life. But this is eroding at a frighteningly quick pace.
When the larger base itself is dwindling, naturally, the “traditional” car enthusiast, i.e., the enthusiast who eats, sleeps, drinks cars, is becoming an endangered species.
While we might see a lot of people into cars as a passing fad or out of general interest, the true blue car nerds may cease to exist completely a few generations down the line! Or who knows, they may evolve into something else.