At one point few vehicles epitomized the American family car as the station wagon, particularly of the fullsize variety. Today, most car companies are pretty much convinced that American consumers will not buy station wagons. A few of the European luxury brands offer them here, but for the most part wagons are not welcome in the contemporary automotive scene in the U.S. According to Pete Bigelow of AOL Autos, the fault for that lies with the vehicular star of 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” — the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a hideous pastiche of just about every bad malaise era styling trend appliqued over a Ford LTD Country Squire.
Just as the federal government wants Honda and Takata to fix the airbags in the former’s vehicles, Honda would like consumers to bring in said vehicles for repair.
Even if it means involving the government.
Capitalism has no loyalties.
Everybody is replaceable.
Products. Employees. Employers. Services. Alliances. Joint Ventures. Financiers. Even the executives of multinational firms along with their board of directors are only as good as whatever quarterly numbers can be cooked up by their ‘independent’ auditing firm.
Capitalism is the ultimate “Let’s go!”, “Do it!” and “Screw you!” of economic systems. You name the angle or need in capitalism, and chances are that there is a market substitute that can immediately fill the gap. Even government regulations can be routinely challenged by trade organizations, international courts, and the all too common political handshake.
All this reality happens… on paper.
The best deal.
Most consumers use this phrase interchangeably with what they really want. The best car.
The question is whether they can find both at the same place.
The average Toyota Camry likely sells for somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000.
What if you could buy a more durable version of that Camry for, say, $33k…. and get a bumper to bumper lifetime guarantee?
Are car buyers rational? Anyone who deals with car-shopping consumers on a regular basis would probably answer with a hearty “no.” In fact in my experience, helping prospective car buyers navigate the many considerations and options available on the market usually ends with me throwing up my hands and saying “if you like a car, just buy it.” But according to research cited by Wired’s Jonah Lehrer, conscious reasoning might not be the ideal way to shop for a car in the first place. Sometimes “going with the gut,” and making a decision without thinking it through is the best way to solve complex choices like finding the car that’s perfect for you.
As a relatively pragmatic person who generally chooses the imperfect-yet-achievable path rather than agonizing over the perfect-but-unattainable goal, this chart [from a fascinating Boston Consulting report, in PDF here] frustrates me. I understand why Americans choose hybrid-electric cars as their most favored “green car” technology, but from their it gets fairly crazy. EVs are fantastic on paper, but in the real world they’re still far too expensive, their batteries degrade, they have limited range, oh and did I mention that they’re freaking expensive? Biofuels, America’s third-favorite “green” transportation technology can be fantastic in certain limited applications, but the ongoing ethanol boondoggle proves that it will never be a true “gasoline alternative.” Finally, at the bottom of the list, Americans grudgingly accept only relatively slight interest in the two most promising short-term technologies: diesel and CNG. Neither of these choices is radically more expensive than, say, a hybrid drivetrain and both are considerably less expensive and compromised than EVs at this point. So why are we so dismissive of them?
What do you say about a purported “Total Value Index” that includes such notable turkeys as Honda’s Insight, Mercedes’ R-Class, and Chrysler Aspen? No seriously, what do you say? Did nobody at Strategic Vision notice that the Aspen has been discontinued or that the Insight is actually less compelling than a Civic Hybrid? Besides, can we be done with surveys that find different ask people how much they love the car they just dropped a load of money on? If you’re dumb enough to spend money on an Aspen, you’re dumb enough to say it has more “total value” than any other mid-size ute. But why does SV have to give your dumb, self-justifying opinion even the thinnest veneer of credibility? Here’s what Strategic Vision’s President has to say about the list:
Durability alone and simply satisfying customers is not enough for buyers who demand both immediate and long term Value. Customers no longer feel constrained to consider only the ‘usual suspects.’ Because of increased quality, competitive prices and manufacturers fighting for their lives to provide Loveworthy℠ vehicles, this is truly an exciting time for car buyers, today and in the near future. Manufacturers are listening and reacting quickly to stay competitive.
By discontinuing models that appear on the list? Sigh. Match these vehicles against their sales numbers, and you’ll see that the only consumer opinions that count (i.e. the ones backed by purchases) are very different than this list.