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Commandment To All Automakers In 2020: Stop Saying 'Active Lifestyle'

Illustration for article titled Commandment To All Automakers In 2020: Stop Saying Active Lifestyle

Attention! Attention all automakers! Please shut down your various assembly lines and workhouses and gather your PR people out front to hear my decree! I will only say this once, likely followed by repeating it, over and over: you are to no longer use the term “active lifestyle” in reference to any of your products, or the people you may wish to exchange money for your products. This order is effective immediately and is non-negotiable.


If you’re wondering how I can possibly have the authority to issue such an edict, I’d like to remind everyone that just this morning I proclaimed myself Emperor of Automobiles, with all of its associated privileges and powers, and immediately after I also appointed myself Pope JayJay I of Automobilism, so consider this an automotive papal bull as well.

So, as you can see, I’m not fucking around here.

I was alerted to the need for this proclamation earlier this morning when our own David Tracy (now the Prime Minister of Automobiles, congrats) showed me these sentences from the 2021 GMC Canyon press release:

“The new 2021 Canyon AT4 broadens the appeal to midsize truck customers who live an active lifestyle,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick and GMC.”


Those sentences say effectively nothing. “Broadens the appeal to midsize truck who live an active lifestyle?” Tell me what the fuck that means about the truck? You can’t because it means nothing.

That’s because, fundamentally, the term “active lifestyle” has become so overused, diluted, and thin that it’s completely meaningless, a general catch-all term for literally any vehicle that is capable of motion while carrying one or more humans and some amount of cargo.

Want to see a few of the recent press releases that have used this term? No? Too bad: this and this and over here and this one and that and this other one and this one, too, oh, and this one and then this and this and that and I guess this one, and why not one more.

Please note that those press releases came from cars all over the price spectrum, from huge companies to small start-ups, and from all over the globe—America and Japan and Korea and Germany and Sweden. There’s no escaping the lifestyles of activity.


Remember how a few years back automakers flogged the word “dynamic” so relentlessly and brutally that it lost all meaning? Well, that’s where we are now with “active lifestyle.” It’s dead. You killed it.


Initially, I suppose “active lifestyle” was just one of those weird, strangely neutered and generalized ways of describing people that, you know, left their homes, occasionally.

It was used to describe people who may engage in some kind of physical activity, or a sport, or like being outdoors, or something like that. Even when it sort of meant something, it was never a great way to describe how people lived, since it attempted to lump together innumerable possible human endeavors into the most general of all nouns: activity.


Shit, anything you do can be “active,” because you’re doing it. Do you like to find grain silos and furtively masturbate behind them while looking at a hand-drawn map of Antarctica? If you do this on a regular basis and need a vehicle to get to those silos with room to hold all of your stacks of hand-drawn maps then, friend, you should look at an Outback or a Tiguan or a Navigator or an XC90 or pretty much anything with doors and a hatch, because it’s made just for people with active lifestyles like yourself!

It’s done, car company PR and advertising people. You’ve squeezed all possible meaning out of the words, and now they’re dead. “Active lifestyle” can no longer describe your stupid SUVs or crossovers because those are now empty filler words that convey precisely zero about your big dumb whatever.


And the fact it was always applied to SUVs or pickups or crossovers is ridiculous, too. Minivan buyers very likely have the most “active lifestyles” of any group of buyers, if we’re actually trying to figure out how much “activity” is in their “lives.” And, uh, “styles.”

Hell, my old 1990 Yugo promotes a very active lifestyle, because when I drive it, I may soon find myself actively trying to get my lifestyle back from off the side of the road where I’m stuck, and let me tell you, that process can be active as all hell.


In the future, automakers, feel free to describe how your vehicles can be useful and what they’re capable of doing and how those features will help to enhance or enable things I may want to do.


But do that without being lazy monsters and saying “active lifestyle,” because, again, you killed that. It’s dead. Walk away.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:

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Shane Morris

This goes back to the whole conflict of how Postmodernism truly works with concepts like The Positive and The Negative as ideas, rather than how marketing brains push automotive ideas.

If you’re living an “active lifestyle” in the sense that we’re probably thinking, the best option on the table is to get a beater Jeep Cherokee like David Tracy would. Spend $2,500... or $2,000... actually, let’s be real, he’d never spend more than $800. But my point stands; if your goal is weekend camping, you don’t need or want a new car anyway. You’ll just live with anxiety about getting the interior trashed, or spilling a cooler full of fish in it. (Wanna know how long the fish smell will linger in a 2008 Outback? I can tell you.) These cars are The Negative, because they’re the people who aren’t doing it for Instagram clout, or attempting to find some value in telling other people they’re active.

New marketing is about pushing The Positive, and how the world sees you, rather than how you observe the world. That’s why “active lifestyle” isn’t a term for you, but rather how the world should observe you. We make assumptions about income at the very least, and often about “lifestyle” without really considering the implications.

Active lifestyle cars aren’t for you to actually live an active lifestyle in. They’re so other people will make value-based judgments about your social life.