Auto Mania: Cars, Consumers, and the Environment by Tom McCarthy

By Tom McCarthy

The twentieth-century American adventure with the car has a lot to inform us concerning the courting among client capitalism and the surroundings, Tom McCarthy contends. In Auto Mania he offers the 1st environmental background of the auto that indicates how shopper wish (and producer judgements) created affects around the product lifecycle—from uncooked fabric extraction to production to customer use to disposal.


From the provocative public antics of younger millionaires who owned the 1st autos early within the 20th century to the SUV craze of the Nineteen Nineties, Auto Mania explores advancements that touched the surroundings. alongside the best way McCarthy examines how Henry Ford’s fetish for waste aid tempered the environmental affects of version T mass construction; how Elvis Presley’s broadly shared postwar hope for Cadillacs made issues worse; how the Nineteen Seventies strength trouble damage small automobiles; and why child boomers overlooked concerns approximately international warming.


McCarthy indicates that difficulties have been well-known early. the trouble used to be addressing them, an issue much less of doing clinical examine and instructing the general public than imposing ideas via America’s marketplace financial system and democratic executive. shopper and manufacturer pursuits have infrequently aligned in priceless methods, and automakers and shoppers have made strong competitors of rules. the end result has been a combined list of environmental reform with troubling clients for the future.

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Even at this price, automobile owners found the price of gasoline reasonable, particularly when viewed in relation to the overall expense of purchasing, operating, and maintaining an early automo­ bile. Given the wealth required to own an automobile and the pleasures to be had from driving one, early automobile owners generally showed little concern about cost. In this context, industry observers viewed the sharp rise in the price ; 5i:ic;;-;, of gasoline, not as problem in itself, but as a sign of growing scarcity.

He knew, too, that a car that sold well in rural America would also sell well with many other middle-class Americans. Henry Ford later derived much personal satisfaction from the popularity of the Model T with rural Americans. 4 No one had a greater hand in the design of the Model T than Ford himself. He worked side by side with his designers day after day for nearly two years. The key to the car that they made was combining lightness with power and durability. To achieve these goals the company pioneered the use of vanadium steel, which provided greater strength with less weight.

Automakers and consumers ignored warnings about the gas oline supply and the advice of the experts. They refused to develop, let alone p urchase, internal combustion vehicles that ran on alcohol. Pricing, compet­ ing social concerns, marketplace decisions by potential producers, technology, timing, and power all contributed to this outcome. In 1904, the price of alcohol suitable for use in internal combustion engines in the United States was, not thirteen cents a gallon, but about fifty cents a gallon, more than double the price of a gallon of gasoline.

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