At The Auto Show

After work Friday, I went downtown to the Dayton Auto Show. Not that I need a new car; mine is only five years old with 33,000 miles. I don’t get a new car that often — I’ve only owned six in 54 years of driving, but I couldn’t resist seeing what was new. Also, I’m considering a new strategy.

In the past, I’ve always bought a car new (or nearly new) and then ran it into the ground — usually keeping it at least eight years. That badly violates the rule of buying what appreciates and leasing/renting what depreciates. Anyone who has ever bought a new vehicle gets a first-hand lesson on depreciation. But in addition to finance, there is another good argument for leasing.

Technology. Innovations are coming so fast, we’re seeing major improvements almost ever year. The car I’m driving now is about two steps down from my eleven-year-old trade-in, but with multiple airbags, a back-up camera, tire-pressure monitoring, and running headlights, it’s actually a much safer car. Besides, I’m philosophically opposed to spending more on a vehicle than I did purchasing my first house, which is where we seem to be headed.

And now that I’m a senior citizen, I realize my reflexes aren’t quite what they used to be. So features like proximity warning and adaptive cruise control are looking more like must-haves if I want to continue driving. Of course, in another five years, the car might be driving itself anyway, which I guess is another argument for not owning a car for the long term.

I can’t help but marvel at the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. When I was a child, car bodies would start to rust after about five years; I can remember seeing vehicles on the road with really shaky structural integrity, like they were leaving a trail of rust particles in their wake. Air conditioning and automatic transmissions were luxuries. Then came anti-lock brakes and airbags. Cruise control was a godsend for long trips. And here we are on the verge of our cars driving us.

Change has also applied to the industry itself. There were 28 brands on display at the show. Yet my first two cars were Plymouths, which are now long gone. In my youth, we owned a DeSoto, a really nice brand from that era and a big step up for us, except they disappeared two years later. Into the void came the Japanese, Europeans and Koreans. Car shows today are a mechanical version of the United Nations.

Which shouldn’t surprise anyone. It was the ancient Greek philosopher
Heraclitus who was credited with saying “change is the only constant in life.” Flying cars? After what I’ve witnessed the last seven decades, I’m not going to rule it out.

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