Pride and prejudice and bakkies

There are going to be a lot of interesting braai-related fights in SA this year. With so many new bakkies coming this way, its going to take some serious arguing, dopping, fighting, shouting, flying fists and specification regurgitation to find out which double-cab 4×4 is best.

I’m lucky, because I’m going to know the answer before most people. As you will have seen on the cover, our new editor, Danie, minced down to Australia to find the answer, and as I respect his opinion about everything regarding to motoring above anyone else’s, I’ll trust whatever verdict he came back with. At the moment I don’t know, as he’s still a week away from leaving, but I wanted to get this opinion out before there was any kind of verdict that might interfere with what I’m about to say.

The fact of the matter is that, for a select few, it simply doesn’t matter what Danie will end up discovering in the land of a million things that want to kill you.

I know this for a fact, because it has happened to us many, many times before. His verdict will be valuable consumer advice to the majority, but we’ll inevitably receive letters from a select few who will argue that the verdict was wrong, even though they had never actually driven every single one of the bakkie championship contenders.

It even happens when we hand the responsibility of deciding over to a panel consisting of industry experts and owners of competitor vehicles.

This happened in 2010, when we had a shoot-out between a number of double-cabs and the then brand-new VW Amarok. The verdict they came to was that the Amarok moved the goalposts considerably, but even so, the Hilux owners team stated that they’d rather wait for the Hilux replacement than buy an Amarok. Not to mention the number of letters that followed. “Yes the Amarok is nice, but…”

I think the general mindset has been changed since then. The Ford Ranger is proof of that. Not only did it give the Hilux a few sleepless nights, but some months it actually trumped it in the sales stakes. I can honestly say that I never thought that the Hilux would be dethroned in my lifetime, but it happened. It goes to show that the majority of people can actually be persuaded to switch brands, if the product is good enough.

The same thing happened when the South Korean brands started building properly good cars. Suddenly you could have a class-leading product at a retail price that was significantly lower than what you were expecting. Unfortunately Kia and Hyundai don’t publish their sales figures, but you can tell that they’re doing fine if you just count the number of Picantos and Sportages running around.

Certain segments, however, seem to be immune to any sort of change. If you’re in the market for a luxury saloon, you take your business to BMW, Mercedes or Audi. Many have tried to get in on this business, but all of them have failed.

Similarly, I don’t understand why Subaru isn’t selling more of their products. The XV, Forester and Outback are all outstanding, but month after month the sales are lackluster. Why?

Subaru has an outstanding reputation for reliability and the products are superb, so why aren’t people buying them? Someone recently suggested that it has something to do with the small number of dealerships, but I don’t think it’s that. Subaru is well covered in the areas where it would do the most business, so in terms of footprint; I think it’s sorted.

Perhaps it has something to do with keeping up with the Joneses. An Outback is seemingly not as impressive as a car with a German badge, but to drive a car because it’s going to impress other people is a foolish endeavour.

Some cars also suffer because of a poor reputation for reliability that has unfairly been carried over from a previous generation. The Citroën C4 Cactus is an epic little crossover and I predicted that they’d sell at least 100 per month. In actual fact, Citroën is lucky if it hits 20.

In my opinion, too many people don’t bother with a test drive. They rely too much on outside opinion, which is good in some ways, but not so much in other.

From our side, we’ll always do our best to point you in the right direction, but, similarly, you’ll always have that one friend who says French cars are rubbish because they fall apart. Really? It’s been decades, people.

Whatever the outcome may be, let’s try something different this time round. Instead of immediately sending us a claiming how wrong Danie was, why not use that energy to go test drive the new Hilux/Ranger/Triton/Navara first and see for yourself.

Then you can send us a nice letter on how nicely your new bakkie is working out for you…