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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Status Symbols on Horizon

According to the Edmunds Green Car Advisor blog, Mitsubishi has already sold out the first production run of it's electric car, the i-MiEV. And you are right. That isn't a picture of the i-MiEV above. It's a near-clone called the Blue Car that incorporates a capacitor along with the batteries. Here's the real deal.

The i-MiEV is based on the Mitsubishi i. It's expensive and will therefore have limited mass appeal. But envy, as is always the case, will drive a demand for similar cars that cost less and the market will meet that demand. I predict that the i-MiEV will do for the electric car market what the Prius (highest selling model in Japan, 14th out of 350 in U.S.) has done for the hybrid market.

And then there is the Audi e-tron. According to gas2.0, this concept car will be on display at the Frankfurt Auto Show. It is purported to produce "a full thousand more lb-ft of torque than the 'world’s strongest' semi truck." Good God.

I was motivated to do this post by an article over on the Dot Earth blog dealing with the dog-eared mantra that human beings can simply choose to stop consuming (or having sex for that matter). That idea is barking up the wrong tree. Human beings need to seek status. We need to provide more environmentally benign ways to satisfy that subliminal and almost totally ignored instinctive urge.

Here's the comment I left on Dot Earth:

They are on the right track, but the problem isn't consumption per se, but conspicuous consumption. They should join forces with evolutionary psychologists to better understand what drives us to want more and more material possessions. Man cannot live by vacations alone.

We seek bigger and more in a largely subconscious attempt to advance or hold our place in our monkey troop status hierarchy. Opioid release is how evolution goads us to seek status. If it feels good, you tend to want to do it. Sexual urges are closely related to status seeking urges, but more obvious.

The market would respond (and I suspect it is already beginning to do so) to an increase in demand for more environmentally benign status symbols. The Prius is presently the fastest selling car in Japan and the i-MiEV electric car has already sold out its first production run in pre-orders.

Update: A tipster reminded me of the Nissan LEAF, due to arrive next year and go into mass production in 2012.

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