Perception Is Reality

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Dan from Madison notes that perception is reality, when it comes to cars, and, from my experience, I agree completely:

Back in 2005 or 2006 I bought a Hummer H3. Before then I owned three Ford Explorers in a row, all purchased about four or five years apart. After I bought the H3 I started to get lots of questions from my customers, and a lot of times they were almost deriding.

I own a small business, and since I am always the first one there in the morning I park in the closest spot to the front door. All of my employees and customers walk by my vehicle on the way into my place of business.

When I bought the H3, I was taking a step down in cost of the vehicle — it was a long time ago, but I seem to recall that it was about 10% less then a new Ford Explorer at the time.

Almost immediately, many of my customers would see me and start asking me everything about the H3. When I asked them why the interest, I found out that many thought it was actually an H1 (cost over $100k) or an H2 (cost over $60k). My customers were basically giving me the berries for owning an expensive vehicle — which they thought they were paying for. When I explained to them that it was actually the “baby” hummer and was nothing but a Chevy Colorado pickup with an inline 5 cylinder engine jacked up tall, they calmed down a bit. But I had to go through the story many, many times.

I loved that H3 — it served me well in snow, mud, and was fun to drive, besides the occasional middle finger I would receive from a raging Madison lefty who had decided that the Hummer was the mark of the beast.

But fast forward to last week. I have decided to move on and have bought a new Acura MDX. This thing is like driving a spaceship. It is super fast (300hp), has almost as much room as the Hummer, and is an absolute pleasure to drive. The interior drips with luxury and it has a boss stereo to boot. Bluetooth hands free phone. Beautiful, soft leather seats cushion my weary body after a long, hard day of work. When I back up there is a camera on the back so I don’t even have to crane my neck to see if I am going to run over anyone. Almost all of the controls I need are mounted on the steering wheel so I don’t have to look down while driving. The defrost heats up the rearview mirrors so there is no ice on them. The safety ratings on the vehicle are insane. On and on I could go.

But it has a very unremarkable exterior. It looks nice sure, but to the uninterested eye, it looks like a zillion other cars on the road. And so it does to my customers. Not one person has said one thing about the new vehicle, and I am thinking never will. My H3 received comments five years after I bought it.

So what have I learned with this little anecdotal episode in my life? The world moves fast and not everyone knows — or cares about — the details. Honestly, I am thinking now that I could have had a Porsche parked in the lot and it would have drawn less attention than that $30,000 Hummer. Perception is always reality.

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