Friday, March 12, 2010

If you're that bothered about the car you drive you've got problems

We flopped down in front of the TV last night and found ourselves watching a police procedural documentary. I never turn those kind of things off because I always learn something. In this case I learned about the technology used to combat the international trade in stolen luxury cars. One case involved a 7-series BMW (or something similar) that had been stolen and then recovered at the docks where it was on its way to Tanzania. The policeman at the port rang the owner to tell him that what was lost was now found. The owner was particularly relieved because he had failed to fit a tracking device in the vehicle and therefore the insurance company were refusing to compensate him. "I was going to have to sell my house," he said. The GLW and I simultaneously blurted the same thought. Why would anybody buy a car so expensive that its loss would immediately lead to having to sell the roof over your head? And why would they sell the house? To buy another luxury car? I even found myself thinking that people shouldn't be allowed to buy a house if they're also spending that much on a car.


  1. My prediction is that in a couple of generations from now, 50 years at the most, people will look back on our current fascination with cars and wonder what we were collectively thinking.

    Not only the obsession with something that is a remarkably inefficient way to transport a single individual from point A to point B (all that metal, glass, rubber and fuel!), but also the damage currently being done to the environment.

    I know I'm mixing metaphors, but both lemmings and tulip mania spring to mind.

  2. You've not been paying attention. We've just had a 10 year economic "boom" based on people re-mortgaging their houses so they can stick a big 4X4 in the driveway instead.

  3. I guess that the BMW owner firstly assumed that insurance would cover any theft (a reasonable mistake) and secondly that depreciation of the car would be affordable. At least the silly bugger bought a BMW rather than a Porsche Cayenne which is devalued by 30% almost as soon as you drive it.

    There *was* a presumption that property inflation would allow people to borrow beyond their means. Unfortunately, forcing people to sell their homes to repay otherwise unsecured debt is not economically efficient. Unless you are in the business of buying homes from distressed sellers. We can laugh at personal stupidity but there is a family story surrounding these fools. Just as we laughed or cried in the late 1980s negative equity period.

    And Leo Salazar, people are obsessed by cars because they present the idea of liberty and freedom. Kenneth Grahame wrote about it 102 years ago, so it must be something basic in the human psyche.

  4. Tell that to the Chinese, Phil.