This weekend I made the plunge into new vehicle ownership for the first time in 8 years.
Some history: The first car I ever “owned” was a leased, bottom-of-the barrel Toyota (color: aqua!) that I got in grad school and that moved me up to the great Northeast for my first job. Then I spent several years in New York City where a car was neither required nor desired nor affordable, so I was spending time checking cars and bikes at Gearheads.org only. Upon moving to a “driving city” several years later, I bought a Jeep liberty: it was on sale and what my girlfriend at the time decided we needed: in addition to being in my price range and NOT being a brand that offended my sensibilities. These were my only requiremetns at the time.
This weekend, I purchased a “luxury vehicle” that has hybrid technology and just about every stupid feature a car can have and have been trying to gleefully recite the L’oreal slogan to reinforce my happiness with the purchase – although I am still wrestling with it.
By way of context:
For the past 13 years of my career, I have spent a significant amount of my time studying and developing brand strategy for the consumer automotive industry.
I am conscious of the fact the past year of my life spent considering purchasing a new car and then actually going out and buying one has been a gut-wrenching experience to say the least. I know too much and (likely by virtue of my professional context) have a very polarized attitude towards brands in this space.
On the one hand, I know about all of product trends and competitive issues that manufacturers deal with. I know what they can do, can’t do and what everyone is going to do next. I am aware of all of the cultural and psychological implications of vehicle design as well as the critical and ultimate sell-in requirements for consumer targeting and branding.
Therefore, on the other hand, I am prone to scrutinizing whether or not my choice in vehicle is based on a cultural pre-disposition – or aversion – to a particular vehicle’s brand message and what my choice of that brand will say about me – whether I want it to or not. Then I have to decide whether or not I care. Finally, i have to decide if I am okay with the degree to which my brand choice is based on value (e.g. reputable brand, resale, cost-benefit of features and performance) versus some sort of esoteric measure.
I have listened to people tell me which brands are appropriate for “someone like me”, which brands are most / least reliable, what their personal experiences with their own vehicles has been like and their ultimate rationale for their choices. I have actively scrutinized who’s points of view I relate to most. I have gone over the numbers. Finally, I went to battle with my ego.
And lets not even go in to the fact that I am so hyper-conscious of the state of social inequality in the world and pervading / emerging macro-social values that even considering a luxury vehicle made me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit.
In the end…I am not really sure who won and how I feel about it. Did I just cave in and get what my wife wanted (like the last car, where I cared so little that I just let my girlfriend pick)? Did I submit to my ego? Did I jut by the expensive toy because I can or because it is really a great value? Did I indulge in something that and has everything I could ever need / want in it because I feel entitled by virtue of the years of hard work I put into building a successful career?
In any case – I find the situation baffling at least and ironic at best.I welcome comments of both empathy and good natured ribbing.
- Lexus Named Top Car Brand in Consumer Reports Rankings – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- China Luxury Car Sales Seen Beating U.S. by 2016 (bloomberg.com)
- Ford’s Lincoln Luxury Sales Sputter Even After Super Bowl Ads – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Automobiles body seeks roll-back of extra tax on SUVs (thehindu.com)
- Branding Design (nuriasanchisdesign.wordpress.com)