There is a car ad running on our local radio station right now that says, “Are you still making payments on a car you’re not in love with anymore?” And follows with a message to come by their dealership; they can help to put you in a car you will love. Say what? Are we really talking about dumping our cars because we are not in love with them? Especially in this economy?
This struck me on two levels: one truly related to cars and the irresponsibility of exchanging one for another for this reason and the other dealing with the greater impact of the statement and the emotions that led to the advertisers thinking this might be an effective approach.
Dealing literally first, buying a car for pure lust (let’s call a spade a spade, OK?) is not an option for most of us. If it were, I would probably be driving this:
But alas, I am not driving a Ferrari and let me count the reasons in no particular order: 1) I am not made of money, nor does money grow on those big trees in “the woods” surrounding my house; 2) My two kids, all their gear, and their friends would not fit; 3) Heck, even our weekly groceries would not fit; 4) A small scratch the size of an eyebrow hair would send me into a frenzy and the chances of NOT getting such a scratch (or bigger) in parking lots and garages is unheard of; 5) In my neighborhood, in my town? That’s like begging someone to stalk and rob you because no one else appears to have so much money; 6) Waaaay too pretentious; 7) Can you say “waste of money” even if I had it to waste? I can think of better ways to blow a quarter to a half million dollars (if I had it to blow); 8) Gas guzzling and guilt — enough said. And the list goes on.
Like most of you, I choose the vehicle I drive for reasons that have little to do with love/lust. Does it meet the needs of my family? Can we afford it and does the cost of it make sense for what you get? Does it get decent gas mileage? Does it have the features that we need without going overboard? Will it last us for a good while? Honestly, we trade in our old cars when the car no longer meets our needs or it needs so many repairs that it is not cost-effective to repair it. I have yet to replace a car because I was “no longer in love”. In fact, I tend to get attached to our vehicles to an extent. The car has earned my respect and I have confidence in it that it will get me and my precious cargo where we need to go safely. [If this changes, it’s time for it to go.] I also know where all the buttons and switches I need are. There’s a certain amount of security and comfort in that.
Now for the bigger implications. The advertisers know exactly what they’re doing. Our society is such that the idea of being in love with anything, even your car, is appealing to people. We want that rush of excitement, that “Oh, this is so cool” feeling. It’s bad enough to do it with things, like a car, but some also seem to do it with people. Their lives get too rote, too familiar, too day-to-day, so they go looking for new excitement. Some do it while trying to hold onto what they have at the same time. But what people (again, just some, but this number does seem high) don’t seem to realize is that the newness will wear off quickly with the current “love” also, just as that new car will lose its new car smell; its “state-of-the-art” gadgets will be outdated; and its crisp clean-ness will disappear before you can say, “I love this car” 20 times fast. And then you go looking for “love” again.
I imagine that ad may help sell cars, but its message just left me sad. Not sad about my life (or that I don’t drive a Ferrari), but sad that their message is rooted in the very structure of human gratification today.
[Disclaimer: If you know me, please do not start worrying about me. I am not talking from personal experience or even about my life at all (except for how I choose to get a new car), but rather about my emotional reaction to the car ad and what the advertisers’ choice of words said to me about our society.]