Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Headliners: It’s Time to Reinvent

Here a headline that caught my eyes this morning, in the Wall Street Journal:

Auto Sales Zoom, Helped by Low Prices at the Pump

When two phenomena coincide in time, a relationship of cause and effect is not thereby established. Obviously. Ducks at Lake Wolverine are frequently honking their way south in V-formation just as I drive south to the only near TrueValue hardware store. The connection? None that I can detect. That handy store is closing now. The owner couldn’t find a buyer—hence I will have to drive farther away in the future, using more gas. Is that the reason I’m not in the market for a new car?

I’m told that the average person uses 729 gallons of gas a year*. We’ve had five months of decreasing prices, from somewhere around $3.52 to $2.74 per gallon on December 1. That makes a drop of $0.78 per gallon in the period. Suppose that drop came on July 1—all in one fell swoop. That would have saved the average buyer $237 in those five months. The average price of a new vehicle is $32,086. So a $240 saving in five months “helped” to motivate people to spend $32,000? Honestly?

To write this took me roughly 12 minutes. Shouldn’t the headline writer have spent that much time to see if that headline made any sense? These days people don’t correct, refresh their knowledge, think, or more potently yet, reform. We are only ever reinventing everything. It’s time therefore for headline editors to do a little reinventing of their craft.
*Per person usage of gasoline ranges from a low of 281 to a high of 729 using different sources and different miles-per-gallon estimates. I am using the highest estimates. With the lowest, the savings would be $91.26.

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