Have you ever sat down and wondered why you love Fords so much? I am sure it is because they are the most dependable and stylish vehicles to have ever graced the open road. I bet your buddy who drives a Chevy would say the same about his ride. Wait, do I hear cousin Rick shouting about MoPar superiority from the other room? It’s funny how we tend to label ourselves through a brand.
I have found myself getting into heated discussions over the virtues or shortcomings of various brands of vehicles. I know it doesn’t make any sense and is an act of futility. I have to admit it can be fun at times depending on who you are talking to. Sometimes I really don’t have an opinion either way but enjoy the exchange nonetheless. In reality, I know there are aspects I respect from all car brands. If the products had no redeeming qualities the companies would not be in business.
Just like there are a multitude of dish detergents that will break through those stubborn greasy deposits on our plates, there are just as many car manufacturers. Aunt Mildred swears by her Dawn just like you swear by your favorite badge on the front grille. But why so much brand allegiance?
I don’t claim to be a Sigmund Freud psychoanalyzer, but let’s try to break this down with psychology. Maybe it is a matter of feeling comfort and a sense of ease when you choose your favorite brand. If you always had a Chevy you know what you are getting. The style, the feel, and the sound that you have grown accustomed to puts your mind at ease. Who wants to venture into the unknown? Apple pie tastes great. Why would I try boysenberry? Apple pie always satisfies!
The pragmatic approach to the question puts our needs at the forefront. Cars are not a one-size-fits-all product. This is kind of like finding a style of jeans that fits your body and stick with that cut because you know it fits right and does the job. I know I am not a “skinny” jean type of guy and will never attempt to go there. I have driven compact cars in my lifetime, but know better these days. At 6’-5” and not growing any smaller (if you can catch my drift) I can understand the old Howlin’ Wolf line of I’m, built for comfort… not for speed. Some brands of automobiles have a reputation of being more spacious.
Even though the psychological and pragmatic theories make a lot of sense, I believe there is a larger player in our brand choices. Our families tend to align themselves on brand loyalty fronts. I grew up in a GM family. My dad had owned a Ford once, but has always gravitated towards GM brands. My grandpa always had GM vehicles as well. The brand loyalty appears to be inter-generational. This ties into the comfort and ease. The familiarity sways our opinions. If you grow up working and driving a certain family of vehicles, your knowledge of that brand makes it hard to break away. It also brings a sense of closeness and unity within your own family. On the flip side, it also poses a potential for rebellion. A son or daughter of brand X buys a brand Y just to get a reaction.
Of course, this might be overthinking the whole issue. Perhaps the lines in the sand are not as distinct as they once were. I have a Chevy project, but drive Dodge vehicles. My sister owns a Ford and a Chevy in her household. Modern cars are tending to look more and more similar these days. Reliability is a second thought and the baubles each manufacturer markets as the next “must have” gadget are not that essential. For instance, I was looking at pictures of the 2016 Mustang next to the 2016 Camaro online the other day. Historically, these are arguably the two most decisive cars in the brand loyalty conversation. Looking at the bodylines and general proportions the two are not that different. I am sure many of you can point out a million differences, but the general look, size and presence of both vehicles are quite similar. Which one would I buy if I had the money? I truly can’t honestly decide which one is better. They both would bring a smile to my face.
When you add the new crop of imports to the mix it muddies the water even more. The character of different brands is not as distinct as it was in the past. With our short attention spans, reputation is irrelevant in today’s market. I am torn on whether this is a good or bad thing. Back in the days before corporate consolidation there were even more distinctions between brands. BOP and Chevy were completely different entities. Currently, aside from a grille change and badging, I can’t tell much difference between brands now aside from Buick — the only part of BOP to survive the GM axe.
Perhaps the answer is to change with the times and focus more on mutual respect than choosing teams. As the traditional car crowd grows grayer and fades away, the younger generations will take the torch and distinctions will be less important. I guess that is a healthy progression in the hobby. It does take a lot of fun out of it though.
Here’s to all of you Ford, Chevy, MoPar, Toyota, Packard, Mercury, Lincoln, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, AMC, and countless other makes. Be thankful for the passion and the pride you have in your brand. Long live the bench races and lively garage banter. It adds a bit of flavor to the mix.