The gap between perception and reality is wide, and there are times when I think it’s growing wider yet. For the vendors of motor vehicles, it’s downright painful:
Every brand, every model, every trim level is sold to two buyers: the imaginary buyer and the real one.
The impossibly beautiful and perfect forty-year-old woman who fairly bubbles out of her Christmas-morning negligee upon spotting a red-ribboned new Lexus SUV in her driveway; the square-jawed, Vacheron-Constantin-wearing man’s man who attentively pilots his Nine Eleven down a rainy autobahn; the quartet of twenty-something models without which no Jeep Wrangler would be complete imaginary buyers, all of them.
None of them, however, sign the checks. These people do:
Real buyers are far less interesting. They’re primarily concerned with the cheap shine of perceived prestige, the dimly understood terror of major mechanical difficulty, and the hard graft of discounted pricing.
Now: to whom is the following pitch, well, pitched?
“If you were designing a new luxury car, how would you make it stand apart from the crowd? Would you give it the most powerful V6 engine in its class? Would you create the most spacious cabin in its class? Maybe you’d offer luxury touches and a level of ingenuity that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Surely, laying claim to any one of these achievements would set you apart from today’s crowd of luxury automobiles. Imagine how special you’d be if you could claim all of them.”
The guys who design cars in their heads, or during study hall, don’t design luxury cars; they design track stars, cars with maybe a gesture or two toward creature comforts but which are primarily intended to complete a road course 3.5 seconds faster than the other guy. And they never, ever say “in its class,” unless they mean an actual racing class.
So your Real Buyers here and this model did sell fairly well are largely responding to poseur bait. What’s weird is that this particular line is devoted to upscale cars with plenty of go-fast bits, but the manufacturer seems to be assuming their owners are basically badge snobs. I suspect they’re hedging their bets, just in case the cynics on staff were right.
(Disclosure: I drive the very car advertised in that “luxury-car” spiel. Go figure.)