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Car sales could slump in 'unlucky' 2013

  • 4x4 off-road safari. Egypt. Sinai desert


Triscadecaphobia (or triskaidekaphobia) is the fear of the number 13 as a harbinger of bad luck. And it’s why new car sales will likely slump in the 2013 model-year.

Believers will want nothing to do with an “unlucky” 2013 car, and even non-believers might shun these autos fearing lower future resale values.

Rationally, we can dismiss such beliefs as nonsense, but the fact is that our society often accommodates this common superstition. For example, high-rises rarely, if ever, have a 13th floor – usually skipping from 12 to 14 in the numbering. Many developers also by-pass “13” when numbering homes in new communities.

In Ireland, known for its lucky charms (and inspiring a kids’ cereal here by the same name), an auto industry group estimates 2013 car sales will plummet by one-third. To help counteract this, officials are being asked to change the car registration system to alter the year prefix to become “131” and “132” instead of the dreaded “13” alone.

So what’s the solution for North America?

As a knee-jerk reaction, automakers might just jump ahead and call them “early” 2014 models. But then, that would bring us into the realm of tetraphobia where the number “4” is avoided because it’s pronounced much like the word for “death” in Cantonese and other Asian languages. The number “14,” as in the year 2014, is considered even more unlucky (“sure death”) than “4” by itself.

Now, while this is a widespread superstition among Cantonese-speaking immigrants, it should be stressed that remedies aimed at removing all mention of the number “4” in Canada (like changing house numbers etc.) are actually disfavoured by enlightened Chinese community groups who instead promote tolerance in our multicultural society.

Anyhow, the point is that because the upcoming two years may be perceived as numerically unlucky, many consumers will likely put off buying a new car.

If automakers choose renumbering (like with house numbers) to avoid “2013,” consumers might perhaps see “2012-A” and “2012-B” cars in the following two model-years.

Or, maybe, 2014 models will come out ridiculously early in 2013, and likewise for 2015 models in 2014, to minimize the duration those “unlucky” numbers are out there discouraging sales.

Or, perhaps, we’ll all just come to our senses.

After all, doom-and-gloom was ‘supposed’ to encompass the world in 1984, and then again in “Y2K.” Yet, here we still are.