Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Fast Five"...Hundred

Apparently, there is something about the never ending “The Fast and the Furious” franchise that keeps us interested (the first one came out 10 years ago, normally we don’t have that type of attention span).  According to “the man Stephen Colbert says is the greatest man in America” (Stephen Colbert), “Fast Five” opened to the largest box office weekend in April ever.  Why?  It could have something to do with Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (or Jordana Brewster).  It could also have something to do with our love of stuff we can’t afford and isn’t practical, like fast sport cars – especially the kind that have a lot of horsepower, short turning radius, and can miraculously come out of a dangerous, nerve-wracking car chases relatively unscratched (sport cars defy nature!). 
Who are we kidding, we love cars of all shapes and sizes.  Disney made a movie just about cars (aptly called “Cars”) and we loved it.   And you know when Disney gets involved it’s pretty serious (“Cars2” is coming out soon).   Disney’s Hollywood Studios even has an “Extreme Stunt Show” devoted to the depiction of a speeding car chase sequence seen in movies. 
Just like most things, our love of cars – new, used, U.S., or international – can be measured.  Data released late yesterday shows in April Americans bought cars and utility trucks (“light vehicles”) at an annual rate of 13.2 million vehicles per month.  This is up 17% from the annual rate last April (11.3 million vehicles per month), meaning Americans have bought more cars over the last year (a further sign the economic recovery is taking hold, good news).  In fact, our spending (“personal consumption expenditures”) on motor vehicles and parts was 17% more during the first 3 months of this year than in the same period last year, after adjusting for price changes, compared to a 2.8% spending increase for all goods and services. 
Our purchasing habits also reveal Americans buy more U.S. made vehicles than foreign made, by a large margin.  Of the 13.2 million vehicles sold last month, 10.1 million were U.S. made.  Further, of the U.S. made vehicles, Americans prefer trucks to cars.  Over the last year, trucks made up between 52% - 60% of all U.S. made vehicles sold each month.  Data on our spending patterns complements this: “real” spending (after adjusting for price inflation) on new trucks overtook new cars in 1997, and real spending on used trucks overtook used cars in 2002 (yes, trucks can cost more).  As 80% of all truck purchases in the last year were U.S. made, it seems that if Americans are going truck they go American (must be those Dennis Leary Ford commercials). 
So we shouldn’t be surprised if the next car-themed movie or speed chase video game is truck-themed.   Maybe the sixth installment of “The Fast” franchise will be “the Bigger and the Furious” (and bigger is better).  Perhaps the “Cars” franchise can live on, with the third installment aptly named “Trucks”.  That may keep our attention.
(Auto manufacturers and Autodata Corporation, Commerce Dept., Stephen Colbert, IMDB)

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