No one ever says, “Hey, jerk – you scratched my Kia Rondo!”
There’s a reason for this, something understood by pretty much everybody.
That is: it isn’t worth mentioning the specific make and model of your ride if it isn’t something special. Something prestigious.
Now, by association, that swanky ride makes the driver something special as well. But beware – with status comes stigma, meaning to some people, the arrival of your hood ornament heralds the appearance of a Grade A prick.
Sure, this isn’t really fair – and the rationale behind it is fallible at best – but our human nature insists that different makes and models of vehicle MUST imply a specific kind of driver lifestyle and mentality. In a world driven by emotion and identity politics, we’re all guilty of this to some degree.
I realized the lasting power of these thoughts the other night while on a Quebec highway. Humming along in the slow lane, I watched a 1980s-vintage Porche 911 Targa blast past. A nice ride on a summer night, for sure, but all I could picture was old money, tennis whites, and the jerk son of a local bigwig.
Have I ever met anyone like that? Nope, but I saw a hell of a lot of them on TV over the years.
Recently I was reading a news story out loud to colleagues. It concerned some bad judgement by a BMW driver, and was (of course) accompanied by a video of the incident, which involved the police and quite a bit of destruction.
After taking a peek at my monitor, a co-worker said he’s noticed that BMW’s are only mentioned in a news headline if the owner of that Bimmer is somehow being a jerk. With no evidence to back this up other than my hazy memory, this seemed to ring true.
Is the BMW brand being pigeonholed and stigmatized – even by the media? Are all BMW drivers – even those who don’t act naughty in public – being ‘vehicle-shamed’? Are we jealous of what they’ve attained, or is it something else? Am I a social scientist holding a fistful of studies?
Well, I know the answer to the last question.
Even former Chrysler chairman and all-around automotive guru Lee Iacocca can be heard going down this road in the following clip, where he describes (to the world’s media) BMW and Mercedez-Benz as “boutique cars…bought for snob appeal.”
True, I’ve seem some drivers behind the wheel of a 3-series that needed a slap upside the head, but the same is true for Honda Civics and a laundry list of other vehicles.
I will say this, though. I can’t recall seeing half as many Mercedes-Benz’s driven in a manner worthy of a one-finger salute as those wearing the blue-and-white propeller. Maybe Benz has a more reserved clientele. Maybe the brand’s offerings don’t appeal to the drive-it-like-you-stole-it crowd (“Hoon that diesel E-class, man!”).
Whatever the reason, I will make a valiant attempt to ignore my unscientific findings, suppress my knee-jerk emotions, and go forward in life harbouring no stereotypes – or ill will – towards other drivers.
Let’s see if old habits die hard.