The Modern Automobile Must Die

Clearly, the power generation industry is changing its ways. So why aren’t carmakers following suit?To American eyes, Germany may look like a public transit paradise. But the country also has a flourishing car culture that began over a hundred years ago and has only grown since then.

Behind Japan and the United States, Germany is the third-largest automobile manufacturer in the world — home to BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen.* These brands, and the economic prosperity they’ve brought to the country, shape Germany’s cultural and political identities. “There is no other industry as important,” Arndt Ellinghorst, the chief of Global Automotive Research at Evercore, told CNN.

A similar phenomenon exists in the United States, where gas-guzzlers symbolize nearly every cliche point of American pride: affluence, capability for individual expression and personal freedoms. Freedom, in particular, “is not a selling point to be easily dismissed,” Edward Humes wrote in The Atlantic in 2016. “This trusty conveyance, always there, always ready, on no schedule but its owner’s. Buses can’t do that. Trains can’t do that. Even Uber makes riders wait.”

It’s this cultural love of cars — and the political influence of the automotive industry — that has so far prevented the public pressure necessary to provoke widespread change in many developed nations. But say those barriers didn’t exist. How could developed countries tweak their automobile policies to solve climate change?