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Friday, July 20, 2007


Local pride

The San Jose Mercury News reports today that the Toyota Prius is now the number one selling car in Santa Clara County (which is more or less the same as the region known as Silicon Valley), far ahead of the rest of the country. The Prius represents just 1 percent of car and truck sales so far this year nationwide, but 5.3 percent in Santa Clara County.

None of this is any surprise to me. Since I've been driving a Prius since September 2000 (the month they became available), I've always been quick to notice others on the road. And while there are six or seven on my block, and it is a rare occasion when I'm in my car and don't either pull up behind or next to a Prius at a stop light, or park next to one, whenever I go any place else (I can think of trips to New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, and the Carolinas in the last few years) I'm lucky to see one in an entire week.

The Mercury News quotes someone as claiming this reflects a "higher level of education [that] reflects a higher level of understanding of the terrible consequences of global warming," and I'm sure there's a some truth to that. I think there are actually three bigger factors: 1) a general environmental consciousness of Californians, and specifically a concern about air pollution (a Prius is a "SULEV" - Super-Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle) which is a far more immediate concern than global warming; 2) a preponderance of engineers and other scientific types in the area, who are generally more up on technology (and hence know, as a remarkable number of people I've talked to don't, that you don't have to plug in a Prius); and, of course, 3) a large number of reasonably well-paid people who can afford to buy a new car (although the 1 percent vs. 5.3 percent comparison only reflects people who are buying new cars).

Anyway, in virtually all things I'm an internationalist. On this particular subject, I'm happy to indulge in a little local pride. :-)

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