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]".

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.