Performance currencies

Buying a new car is the second-most important purchasing decision the average person makes, right after a house. It happens somewhat more frequently, even though how much “more” definitely varies by country: the average American moves 11 times in his/her lifetime but the average European a lot less, so buying a new car every eight/ten years might fall on either side of that frequency depending on where you live.

Value-wise however the average new car will likely be in the 20,000 to 30,000 bracket, while a house will easily cost you 5 or 10 times more.

Such an important purchasing decision will entail some degree of ranking between the various available options, and “ranking” entails “metric”.

The effort to define the automobile ranking metric agenda is perhaps one of the costliest in the world of marketing, given the hugely complex set of variables vying for supremacy.

When I was a kid, in the sixties, “top speed” was – in the parlance of kids which weren’t yet in the set of potential buyers – a very important value: we would rate a car making 180km/h better than a car making 150, because that was the age of no (or lightly enforced) speed limits.

When that changed and it became embarrassing (and in some countries, outright illegal) to brag about speeds that could not be attained on public roads, in the seventies OEMs began to talk about “nought-to-sixty” times as more important. Drag racing as a genre became popular, also because it could be reproduced in normal life at each traffic light.

During the eighties some OEMs attempted to replace that metric with “safety”, but to the best of my knowledge that stuck only for Volvo.

I think time has come for another metric change, and IMHO the best candidate is “efficiency”: Tesla trumped everybody else on efficiency (and still does) for production cars and I think Mercedes with their recent Vision EQXX reveal (and Lightyear One before them) tipped its hat to that, showing they have what it takes to best them.

Of course, in the meanwhile they will also need to make sure the cars they create are not butt-ugly, but this boils down to personal tastes and my Beast could well be your Beauty.


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