Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Story of the Automotive Consumer

Alexander Carabitses

This past Saturday, I made my annual visit to the Northeast International Auto Show in Providence, Rhode Island. This auto show, is one of the many auto shows that are organized by Motor Trend, for cities that otherwise wouldn't have a car show.  Generally, there are three types of people who attend this show.  There are those who go, simply because their kids like cars, there are those who are looking to buy a new car, and then there are those who go because they have nothing better to do.  For this reason, as much as I like this car show, it pains me to go and listen to the everyday consumer look for cars.  There were several noteworthy quotes from this show, starting with a lady who was looking at the Hyundai Genesis.  She was complaining about the fuel-economy label in that it was "poor", so my dad casually says to her "People who buy these types of cars generally don't worry as much about fuel economy."  Her reply was, "Well, I care."  But wait, there's more!  Next, we move to the Honda stand, where an older couple walked up to a Honda Odyssey.  The wife then said, "Is that the CR-V?  No wait, thats the Odyssey; this one's the van."  But wait, there's more!  Upon walking to the Audi stand, we saw that there was an R8 there.  Despite the fact that we'd seen this car numerous times, we went to check it out.  In the end, it was more fun listening to the general public gauge an opinion towards the car, and it is here that we get the best quote from the entire auto show.  So a couple walks towards the car (they were with some other people, but thats not important), and the husband is all excited to see the car.  The wife's first reaction is "Where's the trunk?"  The husband responded by saying, "In a car like this, you don't need a trunk", so she says, "Well, the engine is in the back, so what happens if you get rear-ended?"  Need I say more?

Anyway, I did sit in some noteworthy cars, and I'll sum up my reactions to them here:

Audi Q3 (again): Very nice, especially considering how low the price is.
Subaru WRX: Ehhh, not great.
Honda Fit: Its alright for the money, but I'd still take a Sonic or Fiesta any day of the week.  The rear  seat still folds flat, which is great.
Hyundai Sonata (again):  Major disappointment, after the last-gen model, which was very good.
Hyundai Genesis (again):  Nice car, that apparently doesn't please everyone.
Lincoln Navigator/ Ford Expedition refreshes:  (I'm combining my reviews for these vehicles, 
because my opinions are the same). These refreshes are both the automotive equivalent to the "Bay of
Pigs" operation.
Ford Focus refresh: Very well done.
Ford Edge/Explorer: (Different Vehicles, but same opinion)  These were both locked, but they looked good inside and out.
Ford Mustang (again): Still excellent, but the factory execution is shitty.
Ford Transit: Nice, at least as far as vans are concerned.
Ford F-150: Even in the King Ranch version, I was disappointed by the interior, but I doubt that my
opinion on this vehicle will make a difference.
Nissan NV:  Clever design, mixed with ugly proportions.
Nissan Rouge:  Much nicer than the RAV4 or CR-V, but I'd still rather have an Escape.
Kia Sorento: OK, I guess.
Kia: Sedona: Best minivan in the class, right here.
GMC Canyon: Very nice, but I don't see why anyone would buy this over a Chevy Colorado.
Chevy Trax:  Very nice offering that should do well in its segment.  It was actually one of my favorite
cars from the show.
Mercedes-Benz GLE: This is very nice.  I guess only the BMW X1 sucks then.
Mercedes B Class: Same interior as the GLE, buts its still very nice, and I loved the wood trim inside.
Volkswagen E-Golf:  Exactly the same as any other Golf, which is not a bad thing.
Toyota Camry refresh:  So here's a funny story.  I was sitting inside the car with my dad, when he saw a Toyota spokeswomen come onto the stand.  He bolted out of the car as fat as he could leaving me in there.  The spokeswoman started talking about at the car, and actually asked me what I thought about the seats.  My response: "They're pretty good." She then gave me a flashlight. Meanwhile, I saw my dad cracking up, and then he took a picture of me.  That was the most interesting thing that ever happened to me at an auto show.  As for the car itself, it was nice on the outside, but crappy on the inside (No,, the seats weren't anything special, despite the fact that they featured red stitching).  I did like the alcantara look they tried to pull off on the inside door panels though.
Chevy Volt:  Locked and roped off, but it looked great.  The mainstream look they were going for works well, and looks a lot better in person.

Now there is a lesson to be learned from this auto show, and I didn't write about it for no reason.  If you look back at the quotes, the Camry incident, along with other things like the preproduction models not being on stages or placed on turn tables, the weird floor plans (see here), the dealer CPO vehicles that were at the show, or the lack of brands like Lexus or BMW, are all proof that the consumer is, for lack of a better term un-educated, and doesn't give a rats ass about anything other than safety, reliability, and good gas mileage.  Its the unfortunate truth, but thats who most auto makers are trying to appeal to, as they've done since the beginning, and its quite sad.  The average consumer doesn't care that there were Bentleys at the show, and will still say that the Honda Accord was their favorite car.  Yes, I will admit that my favorite car was the Volt, but thats because I go to three auto shows a year and have seen everything, up to that point.  Plus I've seen Bentleys, Porsches and Maseratis before.  I will never understand why the consumer thinks this way, but I guess people have other things to worry about, other than cars.  At least these people help the car companies make money, so that they can produce cars like the Ford GT, right?  Simplicity, thats all that the consumer wants, and anything else, such as a mid-engine sports car, is terrifying to the consumer's mind.

So thats my outtake on the 2015 Northeast International Auto Show.  I do want to let people know that I do plan on changing the link for the blog from "", to "" later this week.  Nothing will change, except the link, and I'm doing this so people can find the blog easily.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow Car News Commentary, and check back next week for my take on yet another auto show (Chicago).  Until then, have a good week.

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