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Sunday, 25 August 2013

What is the point?

I ponder upon a question of existentialism. Of sedans.

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I went to Pune last week, to pay a visit to my uncle. It was a good four days, with good food, good relaxation and good movies. I was pampered no less by my aunt, taken on awesome drives around the hills of Pune by my uncle and well, was the subject of the greatest curiosity of my adorable albeit capricious cousin.

My cousin is this complete car-freak - and at the age of 6, he is able to identify even the rarest supercar by looking at pictures. He ogles out of the window whenever in a car, and the whole drive is riddled with his exclamations of “Audi!” and “Porsche!” and the like. Family legend has it that I was something of a similar nature when I was such an age, but I digress.

As with all little boys who love cars, my cousin loves to draw them as well - something that I have myself been into, for more than half my conscious life on this planet. And when I did see him draw a car, my mind went wandering into one of those automotive meanderings that it generally does.

Experiment: ask any kid to draw a car, and see what he (or the occasional she) produces. It will invariably be something like this, this, this or this. Not exactly of course; I’m not putting a lid on the endless creativity of the mind of an artistic kid, but always it’s something along those lines. In other words, to put it in motoring parlance, the default car that a kid draws is a sedan, or a saloon. Why? Because to a kid (and subsequently to an adult), when we first say “car”, the earliest thing that pops into his mind is four wheels, a front bonnet, four doors, and most importantly, a boot.

Now let’s talk hardcore motoring.

What really is the point of a sedan in today’s world?

Personally, I have absolutely nothing against them. I, for one, would love to drive and own an BMW M5 or a Jaguar XF, or a Maserati Quattroporte, or … heavens, the list of good sedans in this world is endless. But, what tangible advantage does a boot give you?

To answer said question, let us try to answer another, broader question. What are the criteria that people have when buying a new car? Generally speaking, there are three.

One. Small size and fuel economy.

The Polo. The king of small, sensible cars. 
If you’re looking for a small car that’s easy to drive around the city, there are plenty of wonderful hatchbacks to choose from. If you have to seat a family of four, go get a VW Polo. If you’re a college student and want a chic car that is fun to drive - go get a Honda Brio. And if you are willing to shell a few crores for a hatchback, you can always get the scintillating Ferrari FF. That's well - supercar material. You’ll even get four wheel drive with it. So as you see, if you’re looking for a small car, you have a number of options.

Two. Space and off road.

Now, if you want a big car, that can seat an extended family that we Indians are so commonly
The Yeti - an absolutely lovable SUV
associated with, you have some great, quality MPVs, to suit your needs: from the new Chevy Enjoy to the rock solid Toyota Innova. If you want to go on an occasional off roading pillage with your extended family, you have the Mahindra XUV500 and the awesome Renault Duster. If you’re looking at upscale - there’s everything from the 30 lakh Toyota Fortuner to the 1 crore Range Rover to consider. Of course, there’s a bunch of other option, including the Merc GL, the BMW X1 - X5, the VW Q3 - Q7 … tons of choice. Otherwise, if you’d rather have a small, fun loving dune bashing vehicle, then Skoda has the perfect thing for you in the Yeti.

That covers all bases?

Three. Fast cars, and ego massagers.

The Nissan 370Z gives you the easiest
and the healthiest way to smoke
Lastly, if you want a car with which you can flaunt your wealth, smoke some tyres and then crash into a tree, you have, as before, truckloads at your disposal. Of course, if you’re in this category, you’ll need to have a fat bank account, because there aren’t really any sports cars in our country that cost less than the 40s. But then onwards, there is a wilderness of them! The Nissan 370Z is the easiest way to smoke some rubber - a reason why it’s earned the title “drift king” for itself. Then of course, you have the Porsches (the 911 is somewhere around the crore), the Ferraris (a few crores for each of them), the crazy Lamborghinis (a few more crores) and the completely daft Bugatti Veyron which peaks at a little over 13.5 crore. If you want a luxury car that can do similar stuff to your tyres (and to your ego) Audi, Mercedes, BMW have lots of models on offer.

That pretty much sums up, all Indians’ car needs. Which brings me to my original question - what is the point of the “default” car? Why do we still have more sedans and saloons in production than hatchbacks, utility vehicles and sports cars? Yes, the Mercedes S Class is the best car in the world, but what is the point of it? Yes, the Audi A4 is the perfect executive saloon for small businessmen, but again, why would you need that? And yes, the Hyundai Verna Fluidic is as good a budget sedan has a budget sedan can get - and looks absolutely stunning, but then, what …. go on, finish it.

This baffles me. Why has the sedan become the icon of the “automobile” today? Why is it the most popular form of the automobile in the world - when it offers absolutely no tangible advantage to its owners?

The answer my friend, is not blowing in the wind.

Why do these exist? Why do people buy them?


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