January 19, 2009

Clear meteor arrow shot

When it comes to marketing hype, I'd be a bold man to venture a guess at where you'll find it at its most refined. But I shall be bold, why not: my vote goes to the auto industry.

In the effort to keep us buying cars, automakers constantly offer us "new" models. Now cars don't change all that dramatically from year to year. How to reconcile that with the need to persuade us that they are "new"? Here's how: Make some essentially cosmetic exterior changes, make out that this is what the world has been waiting for to make driving a safer/happier/more exciting experience, and give it all a fancy name.

Do that, and a famously uncritical automotive press will lap up this stuff and throw it at us customers. Doing our bit, we'll run out and buy. Those fancy names become household terms.

Examples? A few years ago, carmakers began offering us "clear-lens" headlights, which were the greatest thing since, I don't know, steering wheels on cars. I mean, what were they telling us? That until then they had been giving us cars with "not-so-clear-lens" headlights, maybe even "opaque" headlights?

Then someone hit upon "meteor-shower" taillights, and suddenly every car had to have them, and every article about cars mentioned them. When I was looking to buy a car in 2004, every car salesman mentioned, with grave passion, their cars' "meteor-shower" taillights. As far as I can tell, all this means is that the taillights have a few thousand little dots. Easy to see, we heard, which only begs the question: were the previous taillights, whatever shower they were, difficult to see?

And now Honda's "new" City comes with ... drum roll please ... an "Arrow-shot form".

That's right. I've already seen this delightful new phrase in plenty of ads and reports. For example Autopundit's report, where I also learn that this "unique" design gives the car "a powerful and imposing presence."

Don't I want that.

As far as I can tell, the "arrow-shot form" refers to three horizontal bits of chrome that make up the grill of the City. Well, that makes it "new" right enough. Go buy!

Incidentally, with all this hoopla, there remains some doubt about whether this "new" model is really just that, a model. Meaning, a toy. In that report I linked to above, you will read that the "new City offers a 15 inch wheelbase".

That's about as long as your forearm. Think of a car that big, "arrow-shot form" and all, dinkying down the road. "Powerful and imposing presence", they said.

And lest you think this is a typo found only in this one instance of the automotive press, check The Auto Channel. Or the Economic Times. Or Zimbio. Or I Love India. Or domain-b.com. (And there are more).

All slightly different writeups, all mention the "arrow-shot form", all mention the 15 inch wheelbase. See what I mean about the uncritical automotive press?

But never mind all that. Go buy the City, won't you? Because other reports about it mention its "Eagle Eye", and I want to know about that. Don't you?


Check an earlier ode to Honda.

Check an even earlier discussion of audio cable that none of us can do without.

And finally, please definitely check Story of Stuff.


??! said...

Surely it's not so much a case of an uncritical automotive press, as that of a lazy general press? You can quite clearly see where they've just taken the press release and dumped it on their sites.

Princess Fiona said...

well...if u think abt it..this sorta marketing hype applies to every single product

Detergent - "Strikes dirt and removes it in one wash"..umm...guess it took 3 washes before..

Chocolate - "Nuttier , crunchier, more chocolaty" - before they just sneezed chocolate and nuts on my bar!!

TVs - "picture clear quality" - i know who to blame for my poor vision considerin i have an old dabba tv!!!

but yeah..i hear u!!! marketing gimmicks!! bah!!!

Kavi said...

Yes ! People have to make a living. And that some times comes out of making three strips of chrome. And at other times comes out of calling it arrow head or jug head or whatever ! And sometimes by writing about in a infomercial sort of a way in all Auto and other magazines !

Thats the way of the world !

Dilip D'Souza said...

??!, uncritical or lazy, take your pick. It amazes me that not one of those guys stopped to ask, a 15 inch wheelbase? Is Honda serious?

Incidentally, I hope you have a name? When I type "??!", I feel uncomfortably as if I'm abusing someone.

Princess, well, it does apply to every product. My impression is that the auto industry leads others in coming up with meaningless new terms (like "arrow-shot"). Then again, there are other contenders too, as you point out.

And Kavi, sure it is the way of the world. It can use some fun poked at it, nevertheless, in the hope that someone will see through it.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Here's the other thing: why buy a new car, when you can buy a barely-used car at 60% of the price, or a 2-year-old car at less than half the price? What does the newness actually give you that is worth that kind of premium?

In 2004, I paid Rs 1 lakh for a 1999 Fiat Uno that had done 25000 km. I still have it, nearly 5 years and 30000 km later, and am perfectly happy. A new car that spacious would have cost about five times as much. (The low price was partly because Fiat's after-sales reputation sucks in India, and also the Uno was no longer being manufactured, but I found a guy near my house who keeps it running happily.)

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rahul, about the Uno. We too bought a used Uno, I think a '96 model, in 1999. Unfortunately we had to get rid of it (sold it back for next to nothing to the dealer himself) because it gave us a whole lot of trouble. Specifically, with unpredictable overheating. Nobody, from dealers to roadside mechanics, was able to solve this. I couldn't count on it to get me to the petrol station 1km away.

That apart, your point about used cars is spot on.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Interesting. I've been having problems with the fan relay too. Earlier the fan would stay on even after the engine was switched off. So the guy replaced the relay, and now there are occasional problems with the fan not coming on and the engine overheating -- but at least I know what to do (if I jiggle the relay the fan comes back on). I guess one more replacement is called for, but I haven't handed it in yet.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rahul, ahh, the old "jiggle the relay" procedure! There's hi-tech for you.

Reminds me of the amplifier I once owned that would unpredictably stop amplifying. I'd stand directly in front of it and stamp my feet. It would start amplifying again. I was unaccountably pleased.

Kart said...

This reminds me of all the furor that was going on in one of the automotive sites when HH launched a 'new' variant of the CBZ Xtreme - the outerside of the rear wheel rim was painted RED on a bike that is all black. And someone aptly referred to what it looks like - a baboons ass!
Believe me. It does look that way.