QOTD: Why Are People So Wrong?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd why are people so wrong

It’s infuriating. Here I am, sipping a tall can of dodgy suds (I poured it into a glass for a modicum of elegance), and all around me people are buying vehicles I wouldn’t be caught dead in — and using their own hard-earned cash to do it, the buggers…

Corey Lewis is one of those culprits, so last weekend I got in the car, drove down to southern Ohio, and gave him a piece of my mind — if you catch my drift — for having the unmitigated gall to desire the wrong used cars. Let’s just say you won’t be seeing him in public for a while.

It never ends with these people!

If you haven’t guessed, I’m being facetious. Corey is just fine. He’s relaxing comfortably at home right now, free to pursue a life of religious fulfilment. No, what got me started on this tangent was a tweet from a very online automotive journalist who, in a fit of frustration, lamented that “consumers have no idea what they want, and don’t listen to us anyway.”

Perish the thought. After watching this journalist get a proper rebuke from people I respect, it was time for reflection. I couldn’t imagine taking offence at the thought of someone I’ve never met not taking to heart personal commentary about what I like and hold dear. We’re all animals, barely removed from the jungle, and emotion and familiarity rank high on the list of motivators for car shoppers.

My brother-in-law owns one and says it’s good. Jane in accounting is on her second [model name here], and she’s a lifer at this company so I’d know if anything went wrong. I know nothing about what’s on the market but I see these everywhere and it’s a name I trust. I feel an innate need to possess this object — I don’t know how to describe it, but just looking at it satisfies me on a deep, personal level, and owning it is something that must happen.

Etc, etc.

As TTAC’s managing editor stated during my subsequent bitchfest, most people read car reviews to validate pre-existing choices. Shit all over a new car, and (barring a catastrophic mechanical breakdown illustrated in said review) the reader whose heart is set on that exact vehicle will probably let emotion, their personal budget, and a basic list of needs rule the day. Probably in that order. Many readers, more than we’d like to admit, care not one whit for our (or anyone else’s) recommendations; they just want our approval.

Listen, I’m as upset as anyone about the continuing eradication of sensible, reasonably affordable sedans, but have your ever driven a popular crossover? There’s many reasons why a consumer would find such a vehicle desirable. Hell, I’ve found a few desirable, and they weren’t exactly a high-riding, musclebound sports car that gripped the pavement like an ill-fated boat passenger hanging onto a deck rail. They drove like a high-riding version of the sedans everyone drove in the 1990s/2000s. And guess how many of those cars OEMs sold.

Want to check sales stats for the 1995 Ford Taurus or 2002 Chevrolet Impala?

A great many crossovers do many normal things reasonably well, and they do so because the average consumer is looking out for his or her needs, his or her family, and isn’t a single twentysomething auto journo who’s regularly handed wheel time in supercars for free and can get pissy over rarified minutiae. The 35-year-old-Porsche-project-car-taking-up-the-garage-of-shared-house-because-there’s-a-press-car-in-the-driveway lifestyle is a cliché, but man is it prevalent. And good on you for doing what freedom, determination, and excess pocket money allows. Live that dream while you’re young.

There’s still good advice and on-point observations floating around out there. Just don’t expect voices emanating from this online monoculture to carry much weight with your average buyer.

If I had my way, I’d keep Lordstown Assembly open forever, just so the low end of car-buying humanity can have something to pick up for, say, $17k, and drive for three to five years. GM’s buffet of high-margin trucks and SUVs can fund the threadbare, one-shift-plus-downtime operation, and Mary Barra can spend a few less days at the beach. But GM can do whatever it wants, within the law, so unless the government takes over all mainstream automakers, we’re left exposed, buffeted by the whims of a buying public able to exercise free choice in what they drive. It’s the same Wild West that existed a century ago.

Goddamn it, Steph, you’re droning on like a Wright Cyclone engine on a mission over Germany! Yes, you’re right. I’ll stop now and formulate a question from this impromptu rant.

B&B in which instances do you give car-buying advice, and where do you cut it off? If someone you know is enthusiastically in the market for something you view as mediocre, do you step up to pour vinegar all over their day? Or are there moments when you just clam up, sit back, and let your friend, coworker, neighbor, or in-law go ahead and do what makes them happy, knowing your words won’t move them to change their mind?

Sound off in the comments.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC, Steph Willems/TTAC]

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2 of 122 comments
  • Squelchy451 Squelchy451 on Mar 13, 2019

    Thing is, people value different things and don't have finely attenuated senses. It's all about maximising the utility function. I tend to push Lexus, Toyota, VW, and Audi (approximately in that order), as I don't think Benz, BMW, most other European or Japanese brands don't offer anything compelling. Unless getting a particular brand/car is what they're after.

  • Ilkhan Ilkhan on Mar 13, 2019

    Unless I'm asked ahead of time, and the vehicle they are asking about is genuinely *bad* (and there aren't a lot of those being sold any more), I keep my mouth shut or say "yeah, that a decent option in a sea of better options, because [reasons that fit what they are actually asking for]".

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?