Anna Abbruzzese and I have a lot in common. We're both hard-working professionals with two young kids. We both live in Toronto and have similar household incomes.
When it comes to cars, however, we couldn't be more different. Abbruzzese drives a shiny black 2007 Porsche 911, a "powerful little car" with 355 horsepower and a six-cylinder engine. Her husband, who's "not interested in cars at all," also drives a luxury vehicle, a 2007 Saab 9-3 Turbo.
I, on the other hand, drive a 2009 Kia Rondo. It's also black, but far from sporty, and I couldn't tell you much about what's under the hood. As for my husband, the only impressive thing about his 2000 Saturn SL2 is that it's still running.
But we're boring, so back to Abbruzzese and her snazzy sports car.
"I love driving my Porsche!" she gushes as she describes the way it handles. "I like the way it drives and the way it feels." I can certainly appreciate her enthusiasm, if not relate to it. Increasingly, people like Abbruzzese are dominating the car market. Last year, Canadian sales of luxury vehicles increased 6 per cent – above the 4-per-cent growth the broader auto market saw. In fact, sales of luxury vehicles have been steadily gaining market share for more than a decade.
Those pesky economists keep trying to rain on the fancy-car parade with dire warnings about how household debt is being driven up by auto loans. But we just crank up our enhanced audio systems and drown them out, along with those credit bureau party-poopers, who warn consumer borrowing will hit another new high this year.
Listening to Abbruzzese talk about her spiffy Porsche, I'm almost jealous. I'm certainly not as passionate about my Kia, although the heated seats are nice in the winter.
However, I'm a tightwad, and proud of it. I figure Abbruzzese and her husband spent about $115,000 more on their two cars than we did, without taking insurance and maintenance into account. To their credit, they paid outright for their cars with money Abbruzzese earned during a couple of plush years for her accounting software business.
Still, if $115,000 fell out of the sky into my lap right now, I'd likely use that money to put my kids through university, rather than buying a car I wouldn't let them come within 20 feet of.
As for my husband, when we finally hauled his old Chrysler to the junk yard after 14 years and 230,000 kilometres, he was proud that he had literally driven it to death. Rust had eaten a hole through the hood and the heater was stuck on full blast, even in the summer, but hey, it was paid for.
Like Abbruzzese, I have a bit more car pride than my husband, which is another reason I'd have trouble driving a car with monthly payments that rival an average mortgage. If my husband scratched the leather armrest on my Porsche while loading it up with lumber, as he did with the Kia, he might not live to tell the tale. If the kids used the ice scraper on the hood, like they did with the Saturn, I'd be a lonely woman indeed.
That's the big difference between me and a luxury-car aficionado like Abbruzzese – she describes herself as a "live for today" person, afraid of winding up in an early grave, never having owned the sports car she always wanted. And I can actually picture her grey-haired and eating cat food as she says that.
Now that her two girls, aged two and 31/2 are attending preschool, Abbruzzese grudgingly admits it's becoming impractical to keep up the 911. The tiny back seat is not family friendly, so she's eyeing a Porsche Cayenne for her next ride.
"I like the feel and the power," she says of her decision to buy another luxury vehicle. "Once you go forward, it's hard to go backward again."
No going back from expensive cars? I'll take that as a dire warning.
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