Thursday Five: just because it's popular, doesn't make it good (aka; the 'Bieber effect')
Against all the odds — the media exposés and public speaker faux-pas — that Donald Trump fellow is entering the upcoming US election race as a near equal front-runner with Hillary Clinton.
It’s bizarre really, to think that someone so maligned can be so successful. There’s obviously endless amounts of literature out there on the old Googlemachine for those who was to investigate why Trump’s campaign has gathered so much momentum, but I want to talk about something else.
Like Trump, there are plenty of cars out there that have become huge success stories —in either the marketplace or in motoring folklore — that in hindsight were very lucky not to be complete failures. Here’s a selection of them in your Thursday Five.
Original Volkswagen Beetle
I hate the term 'politically correct'. Not because I'm a baby boomer with an axe to grind either. I just find that as soon as someone utters the term in a discussion, everything said following from the opposing party becomes tainted. In the wrong hands, calling something or accusing someone else of trying to be “politically correct” can fell even the most well rounded and reasonable of debates.
But I digress.
I bring up this point because part of me struggles a little to understand how the original Volkswagen Beetle was, and is, so revered — given its huge link to Adolf Hitler. Perhaps my 'politically correct'–tinted glasses are just warping my mind a little, but it seems odd that the Beetle stands as this colossus of car culture.
Third-gen Nissan Micra / March
The third-generation Nissan Micra (or March in Japan) was something of an anomoly.
It remains one of the weirdest looking things in the segment; looking a little like Iron Man's scrotum. Its looks had its fans and its critics, but the point I have is that it logically doesn't make sense for a manufacturer to give a car primarily aimed at an older, more conservative demographic such a wild look.
Sure, maybe it was a ploy to entice younger buyers. But most of them were too busy saving up for flip phones and Beyblades.
Yet, they sold well. And even now more than 10 years after they debuted, they're everywhere you look on the roads. Having driven one, they're not a terrible car. But the mind boggles that, out of all the cars in the segment from that era, it's these that are just about the most popular on our roads.
Chrysler PT Cruiser
Ask yourself; what's the most hated car in the world?
While it may not have been your first thought, I would hope that the Chrysler PT Cruiser appears in your top five — if only to help prove my point.
But despite the fact that the PT Cruiser is the butt of car jokes the world over, they were a huge seller. Particularly in the United States where the Cruiser was a perfect storm of nostalgic design cues, an interior that was easy to hop in and out of, and a brand name engraved in American culture. In other words, it was a car tailor made for an older generation seemingly forgotten about by the contemporary car world.
Here's a classic example of a car that sold purely on the basis of popular culture. It arrived on the scene during a boom in the kind of mainstream rap music that focused more on gold chains and fat stacks than the issues of a Compton microcosm.
Ludacris (he's a rapper) probably helped trigger the Escalade's inevitable notoriety when he waxed lyrical about the Escalade in his track 'What's your Fantasy' at the dawn of the century (the music video also features the PT Cruiser ... weirdly enough).
Rapping about a car and featuring it in videos where it gets draped in women is a quick way to ensure that a car will become something society will connect to their aspirations — 'buy this car and everyone will know you're a baller/playboy/top banana'. And the Escalade promptly became a mainstay in the rapping genre; thanks to huge chrome wheels, a brand of perceived luxury, and probably a few savvy moves on the part of Cadillac's marketing team.
All of which glossed over the Escalade's crude driving experience, low-rent cabin, inability off road, and just outright silliness.
The Ford Pinto was made for this list really. You can argue the other four suggestions all you like, but the Pinto is quintessential in this instance. It was shocking.
Priced cheaply, styled innocently, and marketed well within the context of *shudder* young people, the Pinto became a sales hit with first-time car buyers. But things quickly went downhill following findings that the Pinto would go kaboom during rear-end collisions because of its rear-mounted fuel tank — which was vulnerable to punctures and had a fragile filler neck.
Things then reached an incredible new low when it was found that Ford were completely aware of the issue, and did nothing to rectify it. More specifically, the manufacturer had studied the price it would cost to recall and fix the problem, versus the potential price of paying out victims. People in America still hold grudges against Ford to this day over the disastrous Pinto.