Tuesday, October 26, 2010

People's biased opinions on car brands. Lack of knowledge, ignorance or plain stupidity?

Yesterday, I participated in a Facebook conversation that caught fire very easily.
After a cool down I decided to try and understand how and why should one of the participants have such a biased opinion when he clearly had no knowledge foundations to support his claims.
The "he's just a kid" justifications immediately popped in my mind (and by that I'm not targeting age, but rather behaviour)... I'm still convinced that I was right about this case...but latter I decided to think a little more about that issue and I realized that more mature people are also BIASED like hell... and so I had to try to explain this instead of just starting the distribution of "I'm an absolute ass" sticker on peoples foreheads. I came up with a theory that I post here... expecting some commenting.

Now evidently you have people that bias just to chock others (and I reckon to be like that more often that I should... but people that know me understands a certain amount of comedy in my biased caustic comments). I'm talking about Jeremy Clarkson for instance, and in the other extreme "Captain Slow"... the mean in the TopGear show is "The Hamster". These guys are biased because they have a strong opinion and have to run a show that must be both entertaining and amusing.

But what about the rest of the world. Well, most people just don't have enough knowledge to understand... so they glue their hearts to a brand and stick with it no matter how stupid it's creations are.

It's however important that most people understand that MONEY talks... and it talks pretty loud in the Automotive industry.

Most BIG manufacturers produce dull products (in the pure motor sports and adrenalized opinion). But they do so because they have a huge infrastructure to maintain and can't afford to lose sales... sales that are made by people that really don't know anything about cars. So, evidently, and putting safety & quality improvements apart, they build what YOU buy... and if you have little or no knowledge about cars you will buy a dull product and be extremely happy with it.

Then you have some of these manufacturers that have a racing pedigree and continue to build some very impressive products.. but still in small production (compared to the rest of the line) and always in a compromised design. The Peugeot RCZ for instance. This car comes from the same people that created the brilliant 205GTI! But back on the RCZ, not the best chassis, but not that bad either, a fun little engine, but SHOULD do much much better. Still, its a product that will make more sells due to it's design then anything else... so, evidently, considering that the buyers no nothing about what they are buying except that it's beautiful, they fine-tuned the chassis toward a dull but very-safe-to-the-bad-driver UNDER-STEER behaviour. But don't get fooled about these facts, with small simple changes this car is a real performer... and it does reflect Peugeot's racing heritage.. but in metropolitan era.
Sure it's not half the car a 206gti was... but again, today's drivers are not ever near a quarter of what they were back then and politicians and environmentalists have quadrupled since that time!

And then comes the small manufacturers than have the freedom to create whatever they want because they have a small structure to maintain... And even these, went entering a competitive market have to compromise (see my other article about the brilliant little ASTERIO ROADSTER).

In between the Big with a racing heritage and the small, you can place most FORMER sports car producers... But these didn't resist the market squeeze that brilliantly and most got brought by the big groups. Some (if not all) as a way to "buy" racing pedigree that they didn't have... for example VW buying Audi, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

Now for the market... the humans buying the cars. Look around you and and try to place the people you know in the following drawers:
1 - knows about cars
2 - knows what they need on a car and looks at it as a transportation tool
3 - has no idea but likes cars
4 - doesn't give a damn and has cars... because

These drawers should be filled according to these division rules:
1 - A VERY HARD TO FIND 1 maybe 2%
2 - 20 to 30%
3 - 20 to 30%
4 - 38 to 59%

Now It's a little easier to understand why the market is getting duller by the minute. Most drivers on the road don't know how to drive, don't care about it.. an this attitude is a reflection of how they buy a car.
So big manufacturers have to follow this trends in order to survive. This is also the major reason for so much safety improvements in cars and weight resulting from it.
It's a really disappointing fact of this industry, Active Safety is being sacrificed in order to improve Passive Safety. It's a nonsense evolutionary factor that describes today's car industry... car are becoming big metal condoms. You have worse handling because of all that extra weight... and eventually you might crash... but if you do, airbags will pop out from every panel and the car's structure will deform completely but progressively and safe your sorry ass.
Me on the other hand... I rather have a car that can go around bends and avoid the crash :S maybe I'm too old fashioned.

The final tie.
People BIAS toward a brand because they really feel lost in this ever changing and trendy world, know little about cars and have very little culture about the automotive industry. If you have little knowledge, you follow design and specs... and automotive designers know this and tend to create lines that will keep you satisfied.

Most people in this country work their entire life to buy a Mercedes because every ass likes Mercedes and state poorly unsupported comments like "the star of the road", because they like the design, the comfort and think that they are in a safe inside one of these because of all the airbags and electronic gizmos and tones of metal. Most do this ignoring the fact that a benz is an (autobahn car) ... it's a well made decision to buy such a thing if you drive long distances and need a comfy, safe-in-a-straight-line car that, in a high speed crash would put it's weight's inertia into the crash and use other vehicles as an extra crumple zone (eventually killing other people in the process).
The truth is that most of these people then drive the car in mountain roads, and suffer the results of that huge living-room-on-wheels and all it's weight moving on top of a soft comfy suspension...and feel sea-sick in no time... and if they push hard, the lack of active safety will come on as an issue and eventually they could get surprised by the good old inertia laws (the same ones that could also kill people in other cars if having to deal with all that weight you are displacing)... and need all that passive safety that contributed to all that excess weight that made them crash.

My suggestion:
learn how to drive, learn physics and mechanics...and racing history... and then choose the cars you LIKE and that make sense to you and your needs, but on a knowledge base.

I'm mostly an anti Mercedes person (mostly because I feel they are building better and better cars, so I'm trying not to BIAS as much), but has I can fully criticize an A class creation (and apparently I was very very spot on from the first sketch... being proved right with that catastrophic test failure and the later A class model being redesigned towards the audi A3 shape!!!) I can also say that I absolutely love the original gull wing! I admit my BIASing but I can explain it. I don't like ferraris and hate most V engines, but the Italia's engine is just something else... and I happily admit that I love it!

I'm also a pro-VOLVO person and recon that anything beyond the S40 and C70 is too heavy and ultimately dangerous to drive... and believe-me.. I know Volvos. I wouldn't want to be inside a car that crashed an XC90... I think that you have trucks out there that are a softer option to be crashed by...believe-me.
I'm also a Old Honda lover, I have one! And I'm the first to crucify Honda with it's recent ECO-Mania stupidification... I can state that the ONLY good Honda on sale today it's the FCX clarity... this is from the company that gave you the CTR, ITR, NSX, CRX, ATR, Prelude and S2K!

Stop being biased JUST BECAUSE... and start opening your eyes... good cars are being harder and harder to find. Learn to find them, or suffer the consequence of living in a prius / insight, grey, dull, world!