Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Growing Chinese Infatuation with the Automobile

A story by Howard French in today's NYTimes tells of Shanghai's struggle with the faster than expected adoption of the personal automobile in that city. To read it online, you will need to create a membership account here A City's Traffic Plans Are Snarled by China's Car Culture.

The automobile has so successfully become a symbol of personal freedom, as well as a symbol of one's wealth, that developing economies want them with a fervor that can not be quelled. This demand is aided by some government's willingness to make the large investments in the infrastructure to support the automobile's use.

How many jobs does the purchase of an automobile create? The manufacturing processes for the sundry parts and components that come together to make the auto, the jobs to maintain the infrastructure the auto uses, the service station jobs and various after-market accessory company jobs. What about the jobs disposing of used tires and junked cars? How about the waste side of the equation?

With the increase in mobility, what is the increases purchasing power of the consumer? Since they can travel at their will, do they have access to goods and services that they would otherwise not purchase? Of course, this purchasing power goes along with an increase in disposable income (a term that is quite interesting in itself) that would allow the purchase of a car in the first place.

Do we have a complete picture of the externalized costs of an auto-centric development pattern? Not yet.

No comments: