Newsweek reported that in Japan -- ever a global trend-setter -- new car sales have declined by about one third since 1990, and Japanese spending on autos has started to decline even more precipitously in recent years:
Two points. First, cars are an environmental nightmare. Second, Japanese consumers tend to be trend pioneers.
Cars are increasingly just a mobile utility; the real consumer time and effort goes into picking the coolest mobile phones and personal computers, not the hippest hatchback. The rental-car industry has grown by more than 30 percent in the past eight years, as urbanites book weekend wheels over the Internet. Meanwhile, government surveys show that spending on cars per household per year fell by 14 percent, to $600, between 2000 and 2005, while spending on Net and mobile-phone subscriptions rose by 39 percent, to $1,500, during the same period.
For Japanese car companies, the implications are enormous. "Japan is the world's second largest market, with a 17 to 18 percent share of our global sales. It's important," says Takao Katagiri, corporate vice president at Nissan Motor Co. The domestic market is where Japanese carmakers develop technology and build their know-how, and if it falters, it could gut an industry that employs 7.8 percent of the Japanese work force.While surging exports, particularly to emerging markets, have more than offset the decline in domestic sales so far, companies are looking for ways to turn the tide.
Now, if the Japanese are turning away from cars, that can only be good news for our environment. That's a big story, right?
Not according to Newsweek. The actual storyline does not concern the benefits fewer cars sold by Japanese automakers could mean for the global environment, but rather the problems this development seems likely to entail for the auto industry and the Japanese economy. The journalistic style serves as a reminder that "good news" is too often defined by the mainstream media as whatever appears to be good for the bottom lines of global corporations. Apparently, nothing else is supposed to matter from the reader's perspective either.