Cupholders are apparently something we really NEED in our cars. It’s one of the options prospective new car buyers look for: enough cupholders that are also the right fit for your favorite beverages. Cupholders are so important to car consumers, that they trump in-car air fragrance systems, gaming systems, heated seats, massaging seats, and autonomous driving options. In fact, a 2007 PricewaterhouseCoopers report found that cupholders are the most important option for those in the market for a new car.
Back then, having sufficient cupholders of the right size, was considered even more important than gas efficiency. No one knows if that is true today, with soaring gas prices. What we do know is that cupholders are still among the top items car owners want.
How many cupholders does the average driver need? That depends. If you drive a mid-size or large SUV, you may need as many as 19 cupholders in order for all your passengers to slake their thirst until they arrive at their destination.
Cupholders Offer Comfort
Now it’s true that Americans are spending more time in their cars due to longer commutes, and heavier traffic. But how does that translate to the need for almost 20 cupholders in a single car? The answer is comfort. People want to be comfortable in their cars, where they spend so much time. Cupholders are apparently, in the eyes of most drivers, a necessary part of the driving experience.
When did cupholders first become a thing? Well, the first patent for a car cupholder was granted back in 1953—though it was only an optional accessory. With drive-in movies so popular in the 1950s, not to mention the restaurant boom, the cupholder took off, if you’ll excuse the pun. Still, ut wasn’t until 1984 and the Plymouth Voyager minivan that the cupholder truly became part of driving culture. The Voyager was the first vehicle to have a built-in center console cupholder, able to hold two 12-ounce cups.
But back to the exaggerated number of cupholders in larger automobiles. Even with three rows of seats, there are still only 7 or 8 passengers along for the ride. Why then is it necessary to provide them with up to 19 cups?? Not to mention the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, which has room for up to 5 passengers, but 13 cupholders. That’s almost enough cupholders to provide up to three drinks per passengers.
Consumers’ First Question
Also, why such odd numbers (literally) of cupholders? It seems that sometimes car manufacturers run out of room. In the case of at least one large car with 19 cupholders, it was necessary to route one component of the HVAC system through the left armrest of the back row. That meant doing away with cupholder number 20, the omission of which is important, because the first question prospective car buyers ask is how many cupholders a car has.
Why are cupholders considered such a can’t-live-without item for drivers? French researcher and marketing expert G. Clotaire Rapaille thinks it’s because when we drink a warm drink, it subconsciously reminds up of drinking mother’s milk and therefore makes us feel protected and that much safer. “What was the key element of safety when you were a child?” asks Rapaille. “It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That’s why cupholders are absolutely crucial.”