This spring I got in less than 24 hours two distinct bits of news. Each of them was important in and by itself, but getting them almost simultaneously made them much more impressive. At least, they made me think a lot, and confirmed the importance of some questions about car manufacturing in Italy that I had already asked months earlier.
On the morning of May 12th, 2010, I read on Italian Newspaper La Repubblica that:
_...we Italians will all die buried under our cars. The number of cars in Italy keeps growing even if we already have the highest concentration of cars in Europe: 59 cars every 100 inhabitants, enough to fill a parking lot as big as Milan and Florence together._
But on the evening of the previous day I had also read on the website of AGI news agency, that:
_"we consider the presence of FIAT in Sicily even after 2011 to be indispensable" said the representative of the car workers Union_
In the same days, nobody less than Italian vice-president of the EU commission Antonio Tajani, in company of businessmen like Sergio Cimino or Gian Mario Rossignolo, proprietario di De Tomaso, was saying that continuing to build (possibly electric) cars in Sicily after 2011 is a good idea.
Problem is, in Italy there is no more space anymore where people could park or use all these cars and still live decently, that is in walkable neighborhoods. At least in a society where people use cars even to sell or buy organic salmon as pet food! Selling to foreign markets? In most other countries lots of people are either in the same situation as Italians (no space for both cars and quality of life) or without money for new cars anyway. So why do Italian workers, politicians and Union representatives still want to keep building cars (at least) as many cars in Italy as in the past? Even if they were all zero-emission cars, would that create enough space to park and use them without wasting many hours of life stuck in traffic?
If there is no space anymore, there is no space anymore, period. Even if there were enough money, in many places it would still be impossible to build enough parking lots and larger roads without erasing whole neighborhoods first. Oh, and at least for Italy: 59 cars every 100 inhabitants means, if you subtract from the second number all the children, inmates and senior or disabled citizens, that practically all the Italians that may use a car today already have one. But almost none of them has enough money to buy a new car every 2 or 3 years, like the current car industry would need to survive. Last but not least, Italian population is decreasing and aging, and many other European countries are in a similar, if less serios, situations.
In such a landscape, how could anybody count on cars to remain a source of as many Italian jobs as in the past or a viable option for private transportation in many Italian cities… for more than a few years from now?
Now, helping people to feed themselves and their families is all right. However, giving to those people hopes and “guarantees” that they can merrily keep building for twenty years something that will surely become more difficult to use every year, even if it were cheap and zero-emission maybe isn’t a guarantee but a sentence. Who really benefits, in the end?
NOTE: I wrote the original, italian version of this post in May 2010. I’m translating it because the problem is common to many already industrialized countries, and because I see the citizens of emerging ones like China and India doing their very best to go down a path that we in Italy are proving wrong and dumb every day.