It’s been a long, strange thirty years. One need look no further than Aerosmith to find out what’s happened with America since 1972. The band was signed by Columbia Records that year, hailed as “The Bad Boys from Boston”, and dutifully put out chart-topping blues-based hard rock for a few decades. Then Alicia Silverstone and the 90s happened. Then Steven Tyler decided to host American Idol and dress like he was trying to win cross-dressing competitions, effectively caricaturizing himself and undermining any musical respect he may have gained when he was at an age where he could pull that stuff off (way back in 1972).
(Steven Tyler. Not in 1972.)
Point being…America’s changed a lot since the waning days of the hippie era. But maybe, just maybe…we’re coming full circle back to hippie land! In September, Volkswagen of America sold 36,339 units, representing a 34.4% increase over September 2011 and a 37.2% increase year-to-date over 2011. It was the company’s best September since 1972.
On top of that, Volkswagen has already delivered 4.2 million passenger cars worldwide this year, which is the first time VW has surpassed 4.0 million for the period, period. VW, synonymous with that bygone era of acid parties and bandanas, is resonating again as the new era of acid trips and bandanas continues (the new era began approximately with the rise of Phish around, let’s say, 1990, and has grown straight through to right now with the thriving music festival circuit).
This is all a very unscientific way of correlating these trends, but if you were in high-school in the middle of the 90s, you’ll know that Phish and smoking cigarettes in Volkswagen Jettas was the coolest. It’s not surprising that VW is breaking records again as the hippies continue to dot the landscape in ever-increasing amounts.
Significant September cultural car trends also occurred in the east, though for very different reasons.
Japanese automakers suffered an all-out collapse in car sales in China in September. Toyota’s sales to dealerships dropped 49% compared to last year. Honda’s sales were down 40%, and Nissan’s and Mazda’s fell 35%.
Why the precipitous decline? It’s due partly to major political and cultural differences surrounding the Senkaku Islands, located northeast of Taiwan and due east from the Chinese mainland. Japan formally annexed the islands in 1895 and surrendered them to the U.S. after World War II in 1945; the islands were reverted back to Japanese control in 1972. Needless to say, ownership of these islands have been under constant dispute, and the Chinese, based on their proximity to Senkaku, feel just as entitled to the land as the Japanese.
Anti-Japanese sentiment bubbles often and in varying forms; last month the sentiment targeted Japanese car companies and, unfortunately, people driving them. These firms are cutting back production numbers for October, as they don’t see any improvement in the local Chinese markets.
And guess what? VW benefits from the Japanese pullback, as VW is the leading foreign automaker in China.
Hippies in the West! Hippies in the East! Hippies everywhere!