Whenever I meet new people, I normally lie about what I do for a living. The reason is that I’m acutely aware of brand loyalty in our motoring fraternity, and the chances of getting punched in the nose as conversations get heated.
You see, after I’ve answered the regular questions, like “What’s the best car you’ve ever driven?” (answer: Ford Ka), they normally tend to ask what I think of their cars.
There are two options: I could lie and say it’s the best car ever, or I could give them my honest opinion. The lying route doesn’t work out as well as you’d expect, especially if there’s more than one person involved in the conversation. It doesn’t sound too convincing when I call every car that pops up the best car ever made.
People are very defensive about their chosen vehicles, and with good reason. The last thing you want to hear after spending R250 000 on a new set of wheels is why it’s not as good as someone else’s new set of wheels.
The only manufacturer exempt from this phenomenon is Volvo. Everyone seems to like a Volvo. Whenever someone says they have one, everyone gives a sort of approving nod before swiftly moving onto the next car up for discussion. And these aren’t even motoring fanatics I’m talking about. These are just normal folks to whom a car is something they have to have, and not a lifestyle choice as it is for most petrol heads.
When it comes to petrol heads and brand preference, some people can be downright offensive. I recently noted that someone had described the new Citroën C1 as “gay” on Facebook, while another person, who hadn’t driven it, called it an “expletive deleted” box. I haven’t driven it either, but I’m sure that comparing it to manure is a bit extreme. It’s also offensive to use the word “gay” in that context, not to mention the stupidity of doing so on a public platform.
I feel sorry for the French, because they are usually at the sharp end of comments like this. They built a few horrid cars years and years ago, but still the reliability rumours and “poor build quality” issues remain firmly in place.
A French company such as Citroën can build a perfectly good, segment-busting car like the C4 Cactus, which is a vehicle they should be rightly proud of by the way, but around five minutes after its international debut, someone behind a computer screen writes a scathing comment on Facebook about it before he’s even driven it.
Where does all this stem from? Is it a generation thing? In other words, is your brand loyalty carried over from your father?
I don’t think so, because my father and I don’t see eye to eye when it comes to cars. In fact, the only thing we agree on is that Alfa Romeo makes sensational vehicles. And my grandfather was a massive fan of the Cressida, while my dad wouldn’t allow a Toyota parking space in his yard.
I find brand loyalty fascinating. In many ways I’m guilty of it too, being a bit of a Ford boytjie. Where work is concerned, however, my love of the blue oval often counts against the cars because I tend to judge more harshly to compensate for my love of the brand.
The thing is, is brand loyalty necessarily something that needs to be fixed? I don’t think so, and not only because I find the bickering between car owners highly entertaining. In my experience it’s mostly just in good spirit, especially when it comes to the world of 4x4s. The Fortuner and Wrangler owners will make fun of the Jimny’s size, while the Jimny owner will make a comment about overcompensating for a lack of something.
And besides, a really good product has the ability to take an axe to the wall that is brand loyalty. For proof, look no further than the Renault Duster. When it first came on the market, people made fun of it, but look at the sales figures in the back of this magazine. Try making fun of it now, and you’ll have a few hundred people ready to mock whatever you happen to be driving.
As long as it’s in good spirit, I really don’t see the harm in making a shrewd comment about your mate’s car. He’ll probably make one right back and besides, if we all agreed all the time, just imagine how boring the world would be. Just don’t go around making snide, hurtful comments about cars before having the decency to at least drive one.
If, however, you want to be immune to it all, buy a Volvo. People love Volvos.