End of the road for petrolheads

Cancellation of the British International Motor Show should signal an end to our onanistic car culture

This article originally appeared on The Guardian

It won't shock you to learn that I'm neither surprised nor saddened that the 2010 British International Motor Show has been cancelled. The concept of building a temporary temple to the car each year, in which thousands of people pay considerable sums to pray and give thanks to the car industry, never did make sense to me.

Judging by the line-up of last year's accompanying Motor Show Music Festival – UB40, Alice Cooper, Status Quo, Squeeze, Deep Purple, Blondie, Bananarama, Toyah, Midge Ure, Meat Loaf, Belinda Carlisle, Chicago, Jools Holland – the organisers had a pretty specific target audience in mind, and I wasn't among them. The British International Motor Show is the leather jacket-clad, piston-pumping 1980s in mind, body and soul.

In 2009, where we are waist-deep in a recession that has led to thousands of job losses in the car industry and witnessed unsold cars being measured by the hectare, the organisers recognised that this particular show could not go on. Stir the environmental crisis into the mix, too, and such a celebratory event seemed entirely misplaced.

As many people have already commented, this year will hopefully come to be seen as a historic turning point for the global car industry. Any financial handouts that come the way of the ailing car industry must have thick ropes – not strings – attached that demand that this dinosaur sector greatly improves the fuel efficiency of all its products and urgently develops much cleaner alternatives to the fossil-fuelled combustion engine that, for a century, has gifted us great mobility but at such a huge cost to the environment. If any company refuses such conditions then we must let them go to the wall, however harsh the human cost might be in the short-term. We just can't afford the luxury of sentimentality any more.

Bringing a close to our onanistic car culture – typified by events such as the British International Motor Show – must be part of this gear change. The Top Trumps mentality, where we all aspire to a bigger, better, faster, newer model, must end. The penis-extension jibes aimed at petrolheads are cliched, but true. It's time we all grew up when it comes to both discussing and building cars.

So let's hope when the British International Motor Show returns – as it surely will – it has been remoulded and redesigned to reflect this new era. The organisers could start by booking some contemporary bands.

This article originally appeared on The Guardian

More from this author