Why do people buy horrible cars?

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I spend too much time questioning peoples’ motives. I shouldn’t though. It isn’t very productive and peoples’ motives are none of my business but sometimes I just can’t help it…

For example, why would an otherwise ordinary sane person buy Crocs, or anything gluten free if they’re not suffering from celiac disease? Why do some people think it is a good idea to drive like an idiot at rush hour or completely forget how to drive when it rains? Why do people eat couscous or peas? What could possibly motivate them to do these things? Now I know these are all fairly pointless things and have no real bearing on the world. I also wonder about more serious things but I’d rather not touch on those today, lest I get angry and post defamatory things about Daesh and politicians.

Most of the time I come up empty and put it down to personal preference or just accept that some people have no taste.

When it comes to cars though, I can’t… I just can’t put it aside like yesterday’s bacon and for the following reason. A car is a big purchase. It is the second most expensive thing most people will buy in their life, after their house, if they can afford either, which many people can’t. So when I see someone driving around in a new Etios Cross or a Smart Car I’m struck with a certain measure of both sadness and intense frustration.

Why would you buy that? Why! Why would you spend good money on something so awful? You’re going to be stuck with it for at least five years of your life. Most people only live to about seventy five, so that is 6% of your life, spent owning an awful car that you spend at least an hour in every day. People will throw out things like, “oh, it’s economical” or “it is good for the environment” but the truth is it makes little difference to the environment if you drive a little three cylinder car with a juicer for an engine or a big V8, because factories will manufacture, foresters will keep chopping and mines will keep mining. Your little four cylinder saving won’t even make a dent.

People also say, “but I can’t afford anything better” which is also nonsense. There are many, many great used vehicles for sale. You can get an Audi A4 from 2011 for the same price as your Aygo, and you can get an extended warranty for it as well. For that you get to feel great for an hour a day instead of just existing in your little car made of plastic that has the horse power of half a dead donkey.

So please put a bit more thought into the cars you buy. I bought a Renault Megane 1.6 hatchback a few years ago, and while it is a decent car and it looks alright, it still isn’t the best car I could have bought for the money I paid. I could have found myself an older Mitsubishi Pajero or a Golf 4 Gti perhaps. I could have bought a Citroen C4 2l hot hatch, but I didn’t. I was too impatient.

A year ago I bought a 1989 Toyota Land Cruiser 4l petrol 4×4. I think it’s the best car in the world, sure it may be old, but what a machine. Once the Renault is sold it will be my only car. Sure it may be old, but what a nice place to be! When the engine starts it sends a tingle down your spine. It grumbles for a few minutes after getting wrenched from peaceful slumber, much like its owner. A pull on the choke sorts that out, like a strong cup of coffee; it is just the kick it needs to get going. You might only be going to work, but the fact that, if you want, you can drive it to Sani Pass and get up without too much trouble, or to Mozambique for a bit of fishing, makes it something different. It’s the possibility of the thing that makes it special. To me car needs one of three things, it either needs to be fast, capable off road or interesting in some other way in terms of design or technology or even just history.

There is none of that in an Aygo or Nissan Micra. There is no fizz about an ordinary Hyundai or a middling 1.4 Golf. Maybe people who own these cars care about other things or have other interests. Maybe they’re interesting in other ways. Maybe they ride fast motor bikes or fly airplanes. Maybe they’re artists who take lots of drugs on weekends at trance festivals. Maybe they’re parents who’ve given up on their own joy to concentrate on the joy of their children. Maybe they actually like small horrible cars with no power. Maybe they’re aliens with questionable driving skills. I’ll question all of that but I’ll do my best not to judge them because that would make me even more of a hypocrite than I already am.

I don’t know.

What I do know is this. Cars are a major part of our lives and it makes sense that one should buy the best, most capable vehicle for the money you have to spend, and I’m sorry, that is not a Nissan Qashqai or an Opel Astra diesel.

You’d like a new car sir? No problem, that will be R600 000 and a kidney please…

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At the risk of harping on a subject I’ve already harped on about, I feel the need to vent about new car pricing in South Africa a bit, again…

Last week the new Ford Everest was introduced. I wasn’t invited to the launch because I am neither cool nor famous enough, or because I am an ignoramus who doesn’t know how to get invited to new model launches…

Nonetheless, the new Ford Everest is a cool looking car. It is based on the bestselling Ford Ranger bakkie. It comes with the 3.2 turbo-diesel engine and produces enough power and torque to do just about whatever you want with it. It has electronic 4×4 goodies to protect you from yourself and your bravado. So all in all it is a decent car then.

So what would you expect to pay for this marvel of modern engineering? Well, the base model comes in at, wait for it, R593 900… Five hundred and ninety three thousand nine hundred rand…

I’ll wait while you clean up whatever you just spat all over your computer monitor.

But wait there’s more…

If you don’t like the Ford Everest you can go to Hyundai and buy yourself a new Santa Fe’ for, ahem, R659 900, six hundred and fifty nine thousand nine hundred rand! And for that you don’t even get four wheel drive, you have to pay an extra forty thousand for that, which will take you to just short of seven hundred thousand rand.

Now, I am not privy to the costings of these vehicles and I have no idea how much profit the automakers are making on each car, but come on, seven hundred thousand rand for a Hyundai Santa Fe’? Are you drunk? Have you been eating special mushrooms from the forest behind your house? Has your imaginary friend been filling your head with ideas or has your German shepherd been telling you to eat peoples’ kidneys again? Madness, madness is the only explanation for the pricing on these two SUVs.

Sadly though they will probably sell, well at least the Ford will. I can’t see anyone buying a Hyundai Santa Fe’ when they could get a Toyota Fortuner, FJ Cruiser or Prado for a similar price or less, or a small flat which could generate you a bit of a return on your money. The people who buy them will be smacked in the forehead with massive depreciation and will lose a huge amount of money.

I know cars are not a logical purchase, hell, I’m thinking about swopping my sensible 2008 hatchback for a 1995 4.2l petrol Nissan Patrol and I already have an old FJ62 series 4l Toyota Land Cruiser sitting in the parking lot. Thing is though, I won’t have to spend a lot of money on the Nissan. They’re as tough as old boots and can easily trundle along for over a million kilometres. If you find one with less than 300 000 km on the clock you can consider it hardly used… It is a wonderfully capable vehicle and it looks cool too. Why on earth would I want to spend R7000 a month on a new car that isn’t as capable?

People say, oh, but what about fuel consumption? It must be so high! Well yes, but I don’t have to pay a car instalment every month do I? My insurance is less than a third of what you’re paying for your new car. Petrol… Pfft…

My advice? If you want a nice comfortable SUV that can go off-road a bit and won’t break down often, get a used Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 3l diesel or a used Mitsubishi Pajero for between R150 000 and R350 000.

Use the rest of the money you’ve saved to go on holidays in it, or maybe invest that small flat….

If Rugby Teams were Cars

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The New Zealand All Blacks

BMW M division – Powerful, fast and reliable.  Sheer pleasure to watch and generates envy wherever they go. Also, they are unpredictable because they never indicate what they are going to do next…

The South African Springboks

Toyota Land Cruiser – Big and powerful, but as subtle as a concrete block. At its best when conditions are tough and the odds are stacked against it.

The Australian Wallabies

Mini Cooper S – Not as big or powerful as its competitors but quick and nimble, plays to its strengths and uses smarts to overcome more powerful adversaries.

England

Land Rover Defender – Strong engine, steeped in tradition and very capable. However can be slow to accept change. Constantly overtaken by everyone else.

France

Alfa Romeo – Can be sublime but prone to baffling periods strewn with breakdowns and technical issues.

Ireland

Lancia – One good model every 7 to 10 years, but always peaks when it doesn’t matter.

Scotland

Suzuki – Always eager and willing but simply lack the firepower to compete regularly

Wales

Bentley GT Continental – Sporty looking and heavy but at the end of the day it’s a VW underneath

Argentina

Jeep Wrangler – Rugged, plenty pulling power but battles with handling at speed on the highway.

The Pacific Island Nations, Manu Samoa, Fiji and Tonga

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 – Big, powerful and fast, but lack the finesse of their better funded opponents. On their day they can compete with the best, but when something goes awry they don’t quite have the same depth of resources to keep their level consistent.

 

 

Gluten Free Beer and Free Range F1 Cars

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I don’t really like craft beer. It’s not that I have anything against it. There is no political, social or otherwise important reason for me to not like craft beer. I just don’t like the way it tastes. It’s too “earthy” for me. I’m scared I’ll take a sip and choke on some peat or barley or something, and then have to pick little bits of dust out of my teeth afterwards. (However, if one day I say I love a particular craft beer and its logo appears on my blog because they’re paying me, feel free to call me a hypocrite).

I’m the same with food, if it has a label that says “organic” or “gluten free” or “free range” I’ll consider buying it unless there is a cheaper non-“special food made from happy chickens that walk free and eat the best corn” or whatever, then I’ll pick that one. Whilst I have empathy for the chickens on chicken farms and their cramped up lives in horrible cages, I still need to eat and the sad truth of the matter is that if I have to pay R25 extra for a happy chicken, well, I’ll buy the cheaper one and apologise to it afterwards for the horrid way it was treated while it was alive.

Many people really don’t have the luxury of eating organic happy chickens with pesticide free broccoli. Petrol and electricity prices are through the roof. People are battling to get by so when I see the latest internet outrage about the horrible treatment of animals we eat I generally move on to something else less judgemental. Truth be told, the person on the street doesn’t know if there is any discernible difference between the free range chicken and the other one. The label on the lettuce might say it’s organic, but how do I know they’re not lying. It could just be the result of some clever branding. We’re told by an assortment of “experts” and marketing gurus that yes, the expensive free range lettuce is better for you so you should spend more money on it, because it really is better for you. Is it? I don’t know, to me it just looks and tastes like lettuce.

Don’t get me started on gluten free products. How did gluten become the enemy? People have been eating bread for thousands of years and gluten was never an issue then? My limited research on it tells me that only people with a certain disease have to worry about gluten. All the other people with so called allergies can rest easy. Proper doctors say that. Yes people will buy gluten free bread, beer, pizza at twice the price of normal bread, beer or pizza because they’ve believed the lies and it makes them feel special to say, “hey look, I’ve got something wrong with me so I have to eat this more expensive pizza over here”. If you’re reacting to anything in bread I’d first take a look at the preservatives they’ve put in it, or the colouring or the sugar? Not the grains or wheat. Wheat is good for you, isn’t it?

Why would you want something to be wrong with you anyway? I never want anything to be wrong with me and even if I think there is something wrong with me I’d rather ignore it until I’m absolutely sure and then go see a doctor.

This brings me to the point of this little diatribe.

Formula 1 is supposed to be about the best drivers racing against each other in the fastest cars. Sure everything around F1 makes it more slightly more interesting and saleable, the girls, the technology, the money, the tyres, the pits stops and all that, but what gets people watching is the racing. People love the rivalries and the speed, the combination of man and machine at the limit competing with nineteen other drivers all doing the same. Somehow some clever people in their marketing department seem to have missed that. I love hearing about the hybrid engines and all the gadgetry that goes into them, but not as much as I love hearing a screaming V8 revving to twenty thousand rpm.

So like the organic and free range things we see every day, we may be told that the new F1 is better for us, that the more expensive smaller hybrid engines and stupid tyres that don’t last will benefit normal cars but to me that is just marketing rubbish. The cars are the same as the old ones, just slower and more expensive.