In this job, we get to drive lots of awesome cars. And some of those cars cost a great deal of money. And many of those expensive cars are not the ones that people actually buy. Well, very few people. And yet, there is a top-heavy load of reviews for cars that few people buy. I doubt this is helpful. It is car porn, which I appreciate as much as anyone. I just wonder if it’s helpful to the entity that should be the most powerful part of this equation: the consumer.
The best-selling passenger vehicle in Canada, the Honda Civic, sold 26,631 units till the end of May. If you Google it, you get 2,620,00 hits. Google the Mercedes Benz SLK Roadster and you get 1,870,000 hits. The Mercedes sold 290 units till the end of May. Scientific? Nah. But anyone can see the math is a little lopsided. I picked those two cars because I’ve driven both and while the Civic is the best seller, the Roadster is alarmingly sexy.
I read too many reviews where the writer says things like, “This car has impeccable road manners.” That’s one of my favourite lines; I’ve used it, just to see if anyone would call me out on it. It’s the car reviewer’s equivalent of, “It was an honour just to be nominated,” something to say that sounds appropriate, and you can never go wrong. If a car is barely going to make change from $100,000, damn straight it better have impeccable road manners. It better hold open doors, make the bed after it gets up, and talk to your best friend’s boring husband all night at the BBQ if that’s what’s required.
I like readers’ comments and shared thoughts on the cars we actually buy. I always wonder what my colleagues personally drive, what they spend their own money for. It’s the best question to ask any of us, I think. We’re real people, few of us are rolling around in enough money to pull some impeccably mannered car back to the manufacturer and say, “I’ll take one.” We might like to do that, so asking what car we’d have if money were no object is totally fair, but asking what we actually buy is more real.
My favourite cars to mooch for jaunts or expeditions, like the one I just got back from around Georgian Bay, seem to be around the 80K mark. There’s a lovely Land Rover LR4 in the driveway, shiny and black (where there isn’t bird poop), lush and leather and roomy like crazy. Drives like a dream. It’s a massive vehicle that sucks gas and spoils you and makes my kid grin like crazy when we’re in it. This thing is made for off-road though, of course, that rarely happens for people who actually buy them. Same with the Porsche Cayenne. People don’t like to scratch the pretty. Too bad, all that expensive technology just sitting there, wasted. It’s a perversion of those movies where the plain girl takes off her glasses and is beautiful. Instead, it’s the beautiful girl who turns out to be the one who wins Survivor. These vehicles are marketed one way, usually used another.
As I noted above, the most important part of this equation isn’t the reviewers, the manufacturers, the dealers or the media. It’s you, the car buying public. Are we serving you? Are the aims of those businesses assisting you in your decision making, or throwing up roadblocks?