There is an old joke about men and cars
which explains that men look at cars like they look at women. They are immediately attracted by the sporty, fast car but will almost always end up buying the practical four door sedan (men suffering from a mid life crisis are an exceptional case). A supermodel might turn heads, but men will almost always choose to marry someone dependable, reliable and supportive.
Just as any joke playing on stereotypes, it is
a fairly bad joke.
But thinking about it, I realize just how
closely we relate our perception of self with material possessions and how other people see us through these possessions. And nothing demonstrate this more than the car we choose to buy or aspire to buy.
Would James Bond still be considered as a dangerously seductive Casanova if he were always seen struggling
with the gears of a Citroen 2CV?
Long standing perceptions abound and persist no matter what the reality is: BMW drivers are all bankers and yuppies, Maserati owners really want a Ferrari but can’t afford one, people who drive MX-5’s (Miata’s to our U.S. friends) or BMW Z3’s are “hairdressers” (people from the UK will know what this means), a true motor-head must have owned at least one Alfa Romeo roadster… the list of
drivel is really endless.
I will admit that as a child I used to fantasize about owning Porsches, Ferraris or Lamborghinis, but I am driving a reliable and sensible Mazda nowadays. Firstly, because I can’t afford an Aston Martin, and secondly because I really do want to get from point A to point B with
my suitcase (5 if my wife is coming as well), kids, and golf clubs (I don’t really play golf, but I just like to take the clubs with me everywhere I go). So I guess, somewhere the joke above is sadly true.
But is all this now changing? Consumers claim to be more environmentally conscious, and after years of resistance the big car manufacturers have
realized that they had better start addressing their customers’ concerns, or at least appear to.
When the big bosses of the big car companies arrived at the doors of their various governments with cap in hand asking for help, most of them shunned the expensive, luxury corporate jets in favour of cars
purporting to be economical and ecological to demonstrate their commitment to a new business model.
But what exactly does the customer want? At the Geneva Motorshow this year, nearly every car manufacturer had concept cars for the
future that they claim will conserve energy resources (hybrids, electrical fuel cell powered) and will prove more ecological (zero emissions). But when the visitors were asked what they thought about the displays, most of them said they were there to look at the sexy, sporty, powerful
beasts that would impress by their 0 to 100 speed (and most of the people who said this were women, maybe the joke really applies to both sexes).
Maybe the requirements when visiting a car show are different from the requirements of the real practical world? Because if you build a car with those requirements, you’ll end up with something big and heavy and you will need to put in a ton of stuff to make it safe (thus making it bigger and heavier) and bang goes trying to conserve energy.
The public and governments were quick to denounce the big car manufacturers when the price of oil was rocketing, and the industry was in trouble, but in all honesty we are still young kids with posters of sleek, curvaceous supercars on the wall. We still want a ridiculously fast, red car streaking across and over steering through a sharp corner.
Hell, if they come up with a reliable electrical car that goes like a cheetah with its backside on fire I’ll be on it like a fly on horse manure. Oh, and it should have a really short braking distance and
be affordable and have enough boot space for 5 suitcases and a soundproof area for the squabbling kids and...
Ummm, maybe the car industry still needs a few more government handouts.
Photo credits: Abdul Sami Haqqani.