Thursday, December 31, 2015
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Why do we even buy luxury cars? What about them gives us the nerve to buy something we know isn't practical? Is it prestige? Is it truly the quality? Or is there some intangible there that I've missed all these years?
For years, my mother parked some variety of Mercedes S-Class in our driveway. She couldn't afford to own them, but she got them anyway. I never had any of our neighbours ask about those cars, they knew what they were, but didn't want to intrude in air they couldn't breathe in. We always blended in at the luxury shopping mall, SouthPark, with all the upper class do-good-ers buying high priced leather goods. Was this the prestige that came with the brand? A silence that says "I'm better than you" or "We're better than them." People never stopped and stared with their mouth agape, but definitely respected it. Later down the road my mother picked up a Cadillac STS, all $60k worth. People asked about it, would admire the Diamond White paint, and would respect it. That silent approval may be the key to luxury car ownership, that affirmation of your decision every time you drive it.
Let's be honest though, a car is an appliance at its most basic level. We use it to move ourselves between locations faster than we could on foot. But what makes one car more valuable than another, is the difference in quality really there? When I drive home in a Mercedes GL450 all week then hop in a Camry my whole demeanour changes. It's like existing in two different worlds in the same universe, both serve the same purpose but just aren't the same. Noticing the difference is actually hard for most people -including myself- until you take time to experience both sides. I drove around in a 2010 Camry the other day, and slowly it ate at me. The interior panels didn't line up at all, the plastic was scratchy, and the leather seats felt like a vinyl lie. After an hour of driving on the hard excuse for foam in the seats I realised I made a serious mistake.
But does that justify buying a 750Li in a world where personal wealth is reserved for very few? Honestly, no. No one really needs it and most people can't really afford the cost of ownership. But you'd still rather have it because the powerful V8 makes traffic disappear behind you. You'd much rather sit in a 18-way adjustable seat that can massage your ass. You'd rather look at real wood veneers under what seems like 50 layers of polyurethane that will crack after 7 years. All of that adds up to an experience. You make a grand entrance everywhere you go. You arrive relaxed. You travel enveloped in a cocoon that separates you from the outside world and away from even the thoughts associated with more plebeian travel. You feel powerful.
That's it, you feel powerful. There's the core of why we buy anything that's aspirational. Yes you could walk into a meeting in any suit and feel at home, but if you're draped in a freshly tailored Brioni you get a feeling of power. Luxury items of any sort give the laymen the feeling of power. A base Altima can't give you that. It could however give you a hernia from driving it too far. So ask yourself this question: do you deserve to feel powerful? Then let your choice of car reflect it.