Congratulations, you’ve just become the latest unwitting volunteer in a study to add weight to a discussion between myself and Editor Cottingham. Although there is a core following of die-hard ‘Car & SUV-ers’ who return week in, week out for their fix of this column, the Editor in his infinite wisdom has hypothesised that we could quite easily boost readership levels – or at least page views, which is what matters to the advertisers – by adding a dash of celebrity spice to things. The death of poor old Whitney for example.
I have to admit, there was more than a touch of scepticism on my part. No matter how promising a headline may appear, the prospect of anyone actually believing they could find a factually accurate, blow-by-blow account of the super diva’s last moments on what is very obviously a motoring publication hailing from a small island in the Pacific seemed an unlikely prospect. But it does have to be acknowledged that people in general are quite predisposed to being suckered in by a juicy sounding promise and nowhere is this truer than when cars are involved.
Take the now ubiquitous Sports Utility Vehicle which essentially uses the first two parts of the name to lie about its capabilities. I appreciate that ‘Sports’ now covers a pretty broad spectrum of activity, but the athletic prowess of most of these vehicles is somewhere in the region of darts players. Certainly anyone changing between an ostensibly sporting car and the motoring equivalent of a fat lad in a tracksuit would struggle to make a link between the two.
Then there are the claims of utility, which are also a little on the far fetched side. If cream carpets, leather upholstery and hundreds of miscellaneous storage bins in which children can hide sticky objects that in the fullness of time evolve into furry objects are that utilitarian, can someone please explain why no-one has yet thought to bedeck the rear of a Toyota Hiace with them?
Even more disingenuous are the Multi Purpose Vehicles, or MPV’s, which are nothing more than vans with removable seats. And whether you pile them with boxes or employ them for shifting what the airline industry refers to as ‘self loading freight’, the purpose is essentially the same – getting something from A to B. In fact I’ve yet to come across a mainstream car – MPV or otherwise – which has been designed with much more in mind than the purpose of conveying itself and contents. Sure, there are people with a bit of imagination who have gone on to find auxiliary purposes for vehicles – mine usually looks like it’s supplementing its income as a skip – but in general they are all cut from very much the same cloth, with variations in space, pace and opulence the only differentiating factors.
As a rule of thumb, if the motoring industry deems it necessary to employ an acronym when selling a vehicle, you would be safe to assume that it is being done to prevent the potential buyer from detecting the overpowering whiff of bovine excrement. But it still seems that as a sales tactic it works and people are happily seduced by a glamorous sounding title, no matter how fatuous it may actually be.
And if it turns out that this rule applies to motoring articles as well as the vehicles themselves, brace yourself for next week when I’ll be revealing exactly who Madonna plans to adopt next.