‘Tis The Season

Posted: July 10, 2011 in Cars
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Bugatti Veyron Super Sport

Well, at time of writing it nearly is – and at time of reading it probably will be – December. This means many things. The shops will soon be busier, unless you’re more organised than I and got your shopping done in that short period of time after Easter Eggs disappeared and before the Christmas carols started playing.

Some families will begin to plan annual pilgrimages to far off lands to see people they haven’t spoken to all year, while many others will stay home and attend their chosen Mecca’s to continue their bi-annual conversations with a being they’ve never seen. And the eternal lie of the fat guy in a red suit will be perpetuated, taking credit for the hard work of parents who have chosen awesome, yet, entirely inappropriate gifts for their offspring.

It’s at this time that vehicle manufacturers start to get rid of new cars built in the current year at prices slightly higher than a new pair of socks. I have mentioned before that my father sold cars for about thirty years of his life and it is with some pride that I say he was quite successful without losing his integrity. In fact some ten years after he left the ‘game’ he was still being courted by Holden to take over various dealerships. I mention this purely to illustrate the point that I have some inside knowledge of how the car industry operates.

It’s no secret that a vehicle with a year plate of the previous year is far less desirable than one with the current year. It could be a difference of only a few weeks but it normally equals savings of thousands of dollars. If you’re in the market for a new car than there really is no better time to approach a car yard, particularly high volume car manufacturers, eg. Holden, Ford, and yes, even…yawn…Toyota zzzzz….

However, in these times of good deals and good wishes something sinister lurks. Over the next month I would like each of you to walk down the magazine aisle in your local supermarket and look at the cover of every car magazine they sell. It may take you a little while as there are a few available but you should start to notice a common thread. Yes, it’s time for the local and international publications to start handing out their awards for the year.

I flicked through the recent Herald-Sun CarsGuide and noticed the shortlist that they have compiled. I was not surprised to see that the selection was a list of unlikely winners (Peugeot RCZ), banality (Camry Hybrid) and cheap Korean crap (Hyundai i20). If the past years are anything to go by no matter how good a car is as soon as it goes above the level of about $45000 it becomes the spawn of Satan.

Other cars shortlisted for consideration by the Herald-Sun Cars Guide team include the Suzuki Kizashi, the Skoda Superb and eventual winner Volkswagen Polo GTI. Do you see what I mean now about the price limit? With the exception of the Camry and the i20 every other car is a worthy addition to the list. There can be no doubt that the Polo GTI is a worthy winner but can I honestly say that it is the best car released this year? Not a chance.

Bugatti, extremely upset about some American upstart company called SSC, or Shelby Supercars, building a car that was faster than the wonderfully improbable Veyron, built the Veyron SuperSport which tops out a fantastic 431 km/h. Ridiculous? Yes, you bet, but it does all this while keeping you cloistered in perfect comfort. It comes with a stereo, air conditioning, ABS, Sat Nav and every other modern creature comfort available today. In Australia it will cost somewhere north of $2,000,000. I would like to suggest that this car is far better than the Volkswagen Polo GTI. It is ruled out because of its inaccessibility to the proletariat.

This is a load of nonsense and must be redressed as soon as possible. It is unlikely to be done this year, for instance when reading the blurb that accompanied the Hyundai i20 it appears that it was chosen because it now has iPod connectivity which essentially means we are rewarding car companies for installing two metres of wiring and a USB port. It probably costs them about 0.0001 of a cent to install such a thing but for some reason is been haled as a revolution. Why do we support such mediocrity?

While I’m talking about mediocrity I’ve really had a gutful of car ads which still talk about power steering, air conditioning, and a stereo as being ‘features’. It’s nearly 2011, if those things weren’t available as standard I’d be spending my money elsewhere. There are of course exceptions to this rule. As I mentioned in a previous article the wonderful Porsche 911 GT2 RS has none of these things and it costs around $500,000. This car is made almost legal for the road while been a focused track car. In no way is this thing mediocre.

I understand that these publications must write to suit their chosen demographics but it also appears that every magazine have the chosen the same audience. There is an inherent fear that if a magazine thinks outside the box they may get it wrong and held up to ridicule by there rivals. Personally, I would prefer to go out on a limb and be wrong but at the same time putting some distance between myself and the rest of the herd.

It’s easy to be cynical about car awards the same way it’s easy to get cynical about entertainment awards. It’s very easy to imagine car companies delivering their cars to magazine headquarters and the winner is the one with the most money in the boot. At least that’s the way that I’d do it if I owned a car company.

The best advice I’d give to anyone about to buy a new car is to completely ignore any magazine awards and do things the old fashioned way. Work out how much you can spend, check out the cars in the price range and then test drive them. Take whatever you normally carry in your car and throw it all in and see if it fits. Pull the interior apart and put it back together and have the idiot with the grin answer your questions. No matter what advances in technology we make, sometimes the old ways are best.

This article first appeared in the December 2011 issue of The King’s Tribune

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