Before we close up shop for the long weekend ahead, we’d like to take just a moment and share a few of the things for which we’re thankful this holiday season. This isn’t a snarky list — in fact, it’s a little earnest, a little hokey — but there are worse things to be, we suppose.
And so, in no particular order, we’d like to express a little gratitude for:
1. The overwhelming number of LGBT-friendly automakers: Seriously, have you looked at our list recently? It’s pretty amazing that of all the companies on that long, long roster, only four miss the boat on being gay-friendly. Just ten years ago — less, even — we were living in a very different world.
2. The push for LGBT-equality in America’s daily life: Our community has made huge strides the past couple of years — perhaps the biggest being the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Today, LGBT Americans figure prominently in politics, business, entertainment, and every other sphere. That’s not to say we don’t have a long way to go — starting with the repeal of DOMA, thankyouverymuch — but we’re on a roll. Even right-wing bigots admit that we’ve pretty much won the battle for marriage equality. That’s saying something.
3. Our allies in the industry: When we see massive companies like GM create an “It Gets Better” video and conservative brands like Buick sponsor a story about an anti-bullying campaign in the world of sports, it’s enough to knock our socks off. Beyond just treating their LGBT employees fairly, these companies go out of their way to make them feel welcome and to promote tolerance in the workplace.
4. Dual-clutch transmissions: They may not be quite as challenging as that column-shifter you drove back in high school, but dual-clutches will do in a pinch. And having them around means that drivers get a taste of what gear-shifting feels like, which may keep more manual models off the extinction list.
5. The Chrysler/Fiat merger: Was it the most popular merger in U.S. history? Not by a longshot. But it’s made Chrysler one of the most interesting stories in today’s automotive world. Rather than whittle down its brand family like Ford and GM did, Chrysler went in the other direction, adding one marque (spinning off Ram into its own line) and then another (the new Fiat). And there’s talk of another Chrysler line in the return of Alfa Romeo. Will Chrysler’s strategy work? Will the Fiat 500 stick around? Who knows? But it’s damn entertaining to watch.
6. Smartphones: Today’s cars are a long way from the ones your parents drove — and that’s not just because of what’s under the hood. It’s also because of the many ways we can accessorize them, and one of the most versatile accessories on the market is the smartphone. With a range of apps — most inexpensive, some completely free — that can rival many built-in navigation and infotainment systems, smartphones have helped make driving fun again for many of us. (Just please don’t use them to text while driving. Oprah would be very, very mad.)
7. Greener cars: No matter whether you’re a Jeremy Clarkson-style gasoholic or an electric-car hugger like Ed Begley Jr., you have to admit, the advances in green vehicle tech are exciting. Are today’s EVs viable for most people? Probably not. But every gearhead and gadget-lover worth their slide ruler has to be thrilled at the sight of so many intriguing technologies perched on the horizon. (Saving gas and cleaning up the environment aren’t too bad, either.)
8. Social media: We’re not ashamed to admit that we have a thing for Facebook (and Twitter, too). Not only do social networking sites allow us to share news in near-real time, but they also give us a new way to keep tabs on car companies. The marketing conversation has changed: it’s no longer just about automakers pumping out car ads, it’s about dialogue. They have to say interesting things to keep consumers listening — and they’ll be held accountable when things go off-track. Ford’s Fiesta Movement campaign was just the beginning of a new way for us to communicate with our favorite car brands — and vice-versa.
9. China, India, and Brazil: For years, automakers — like many companies — operated in a vacuum. Now, emerging car markets are forcing those same automakers to collaborate and forge partnerships with their former competitors. While this may not yield huge benefits for us in the short-term, down the road it may lead to more interesting products and faster development of technology.
10. Our readers: C’mon, like you didn’t think we’d give you a shout-out on this special day? We’re really happy you’re here, and we hope you’ll let us know if there’s anything special you’d like for us to cover.
Thanks for tuning in. Have a great holiday, and we’ll see you next week.