Since brutal honesty and irreverence happen to be the hallmarks of the Dead Curious brand, Rolling Sloane has of course refused to apologize to the chief executive for his previous automotive, we’ll call them, indiscretions. The Ford Focus once driven by yours truly was a top of the range model, handled extraordinarily well, and I was dating a SAAB at the time. The point is we all make mistakes, some just much more so than others. The Renault Clio is still crap, but despite being the butt of many jokes, the Ford Focus has been, well, a McLaren F1 in comparison. The Focus is a good car. There I said it, so stop asking. I thought this was covered in the buy any Ford and all but one VW article, but this gave me an idea. Therefore, here is the “Rolling Sloane Guide to Cars One Might Actually Buy That Don’t Completely Suck:”
VW’s save the new Jetta
SAAB’s (if they’re still available)
Any current Jaguar
Most Alfa Romeo’s
Jeep Grand Cherokee (current model)
Pre-late 1990’s Merc’s
BMW’s model series E46 and below
Lexus IS250 (manual only)
Range Rover (sans suffix)
Volvo XC90 (should you happen to be a safety conscious yummy mummy)
Ok, that’s not a very long list, and this is the problem. Most modern cars are designed by committee in order to appeal to the masses. Being either nerdy or old enough to remember the DOS game ‘Lemmings’, I would compare the masses to the rapidly multiplying lemmings on your screen, but that’s not really fair. Society has to a point gotten beyond this, so instead a group of intelligent people have built a consumer economy appealing to morons. General Motors simply wouldn’t exist in a society of even moderate intelligence, but, in the age of bad reality television, the company got a huge multi-national taxpayer bailout. The French have done the same thing for decades, and it is only their very limited production flagship cars that don’t suck. Jaguar and Land Rover are the same company, yet only one half of the company still “get’s it”. Clearly, something is wrong here.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, there is a reason for all this: the Chinese. The level of consumer sophistication in emerging markets relative to completely developed markets creates a fraction so minuscule that I’m not sure what the metric pre-fix would be. That’s some brutal honesty right there, and until a sophisticated consumer society develops in China, most cars designed for that market are going to continue sucking. GM saved the Buick brand, which if you don’t know is the American equivalent of say Rover, because it’s a top luxury brand over there. BMW’s new 5-series is a Buick competitor in China, which helps to explain why it sucks so much. Hell, Rolex changed their entire model line to increase sales over there, but like that old American patriotic song from 1917 says: “and we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.” There’s more money to be made selling cheaply built crap off of a past reputation for excellence than there is in pushing technological frontiers, which is why Jaguar doesn’t make anywhere near as money as BMW, but at least some companies at least put forth the effort. Of course, these are the same firms who either sell entirely different cars or relatively few of them in China. Notice a trend, here?