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Why are so many inferior vehicles considered status symbols?

bottgersbottgers Posts: 2,030
edited March 2014 in Land Rover
I don't get the trend of people buying inferior, yet more expensive vehicles to flaunt their status. Why buy a Land Rover given their poor reliability record? Why are poeple willing to spend so much money on Beemers, Benz's, and Jags when they could have just as nice of a vehicle in an Acura or a Lexus AND have the reliability too? Why do people buy Hummers when there are so many other vehicles that are better at everything and cost half as much? And I know this isn't a motorcycle forum, but why are so many people willing to put their name on a waiting list to buy a Harley when everyone on the planet knows Japanese bikes do everything twice as well for half the price? Do people actually have so much money they're willing to blow it on senseless purchases?


  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    They don't tend to be THAT bad. And they have other redeeming qualities, that (apparently) make up for it.

    Otherwise, we'd all be driving a Camry. Whole lotta fun that'd be, right?

    I should add that I'd buy an Alfa Romeo if they were available here (a 147gta) and happily spend a lot of time waiting for it at the shop. It's that cool.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 42,241
    Yeah I don't know about "inferior"...they might have more problems per 100 vehicles etc, but the roads aren't littered with broken down S class and 7ers.

    And when they are good, they make up for their shortcomings. Resale value is usually respectable too, especially on Mercedes. If they were so awful, they'd depreciate like Jags.

    Styling goes a long way too. And then there's the history aspect.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Anyone who uses a car as a status symbol has a personality flaw anyway.

    "Be who you are, regardless of your car."
  • bottgersbottgers Posts: 2,030
    ...Beemer or a Benz have that an Acura or a Lexus doesn't?
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    Hmm, a Lexus or an Acura are status symbols to me (well, Lexus more so). I think I'm not looking at this conversation the way you are.

    As for Andre's response, I'm not sure very many BMW/Benz owners could tell you anything about those companies' histories. But I agree that a company's heritage has a profound effect on what we think of their products. I root for Honda because of its history even though I might never own one, and I'd get a Miata over a Solstice for the same reason.

    Around here, BMWs are the cars to get if you're a young snob. Most of the buyers don't know and don't care that BMWs have some advantages (balance, feel) or disadvantages (room, price). Those advantages do have a purpose - to give the 3-series a "best car in its class" title from the magazines - but hardly anyone cares just what those advantages are. Is that really "heritage"?

    I think it's just a car's reputation in the last couple of decades that matters to people. When I was little, the name "Mercedes Benz" had a mythical sound to it. That's status. Cadillac, for all its heritage, didn't have that mystique at the time I was growing up - so I didn't grow up caring about them.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    A lot of it is, for lack of better term, "personal expression".

    Perhaps more than any other single thing we own, a vehicle signals a lot of information about who we are and/or how we want to be seen. Like it or not, it's true.

    When I was looking at pony cars, I considered the Camaro. Amazing bang-for-the-buck performance, decent styling and cool heritage (a biggie for me, actually). But in the end, I couldn't do it...I just didn't want to be a "Camaro Guy".

    Also, in terms of cars being status symbols, a lot of it is a hold-over from the days when they WERE status symbols. That is, in times not too long ago, you had to be rich to dive a Jaguar or whatever. Leasing didn't really exist and credit was much harder to come by.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,870
    More precision in how they drive...they drive "sharper". I just did a comparo between a 7 series BMW and a Lexus 430....both 2005 models and I could tell the difference immediately.

    Will the BMW be as reliable as the Lexus? Probably not.

    Would I buy either? No, too big.

    But I'd by a 3 series Bimmer over a 300 series Lexus any day, because they drive sharper. I like to drive, I need "feedback"...even some noise, engine roar, that kind of thing.

    The Lexus was wonderful and boring at the same time.

    Oh, and IMO BMWs and Benz are better styled than Lexi, which are certainly inoffensive but not very interesting to look at.

    Lexus for value, Lexus for reliability, BMW for real fun, driving pleasure and for more prestige.

    As for "inferiority", both Lexus and BMW and Benz have superior and inferior qualities IMO.

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  • jchan2jchan2 Posts: 4,956
    The reason why a percentage of the buying public buys "status" cars such as Land Rovers, Hummers, Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, and Jaguars is because of their prestige and respect. You can walk into a boardroom in Asia and say "I own a Mercedes" and most people would know what you mean. Try saying "I own an Infiniti" to the same person, and they'd say "huh? Infiniti? What's that?" A Mercedes, Jag, Land Rover, or BMW has world wide respect that a Lexus, Acura, or Infiniti doesn't have.

    Kinda like when I bought my I35 and my nephew (who was studying in the US) asked what new car I bought, and I responded with "an Infiniti" He asked what it was. I then had to explain that Infiniti was Nissan's luxury division that wasn't available outside of North America. If I had bought a Mercedes (or BMW) I wouldn't have had to explain. I could point to the 3 pointed star on the hood, and I'd be done.

    People buy different cars for different reasons. My own son wants a Saab because he loves them and to him, there's nothing better than owning a "genuine" Saab. ( he has his eyes one of those 2000-2003 9-3 Convertibles)
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 18,746
    ..Beemer or a Benz have that an Acura or a Lexus doesn't?

    If you haven't driven one a sure can't explain it you, it's like jazz.

    BTW, a Beemer is a motorcycle, a Bimmer is an automobile. :)

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • fintailfintail Posts: 42,241
    Status cars are no different than buying a $10K watch or a big cookie cutter McMansion.

    And Lexus and Acura are about status too, even though I have seen owners loudly deny it.

    I don't know why I like MB so much...but I like the sedans every bit as much as the flashy coupes and droptops. There's usually something just so right about their styling, inside and out. Good engines for the most part, too. I bought my fintail because I thought it was cool and I could afford it as a teenager...I bought the 126 because of its condition and price, and the C43 for similar reasons, plus performance. I just like the cars, and how they look and feel on the road.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I don't get the trend of people buying inferior, yet more expensive vehicles to flaunt their status. Why buy a Land Rover given their poor reliability record? Why are poeple willing to spend so much money on Beemers, Benz's, and Jags when they could have just as nice of a vehicle in an Acura or a Lexus AND have the reliability too?

    Simply because reliability isn't everything there is to a car and a Lexus or and especially an Acura aren't "just as nice of a vehicle" to them by a long shot. Lexuses have proven to be more reliable than any other car out there, yet some people won't go near them, and Acura has nothing beyond the TL/RL.

    Others have touched on styling and performance, but another problem with brands like Acura, Lexus and Infiniti is that they don't offer the choice of BMW or Mercedes. This is also what holds Audi back too IMO. Both Audi and Lexus seem to be set to address this, but I don't see where Acura is going to expand unless they go RWD. Infiniti I'm not sure about, but they do have the next GTR coming, but that still won't put them on a equal footing with BMW like they want when you compare brand to brand.

    What does a LS430 customer buy after he has had 2 or 3 LS models? There is nothing else for him to do but buy the same car over and over. Some people buy the same model over again every 3-4 years whether or not the bodystyle has changed or not, that would be hugely boring to me. With BMW or Mercedes in particular you can always go higher and higher and/or switch to a Coupe, Roadster or something from their M/AMG offerings. The Japanese don't offer the choice or style or status of the Europeans. That is why people continue to buy Land Rovers, BMWs and Mercedes.

    Acura and Infiniti have made some huge gains in the entry-level lux market but past the 50K or so they mean nothing, only Lexus has a foothold with buyers looking to spend some big money. A BMW Z8 or Mercedes SL65 or SLR says status. A V10 and 7-speeds in a sedan says status and Japan just doesn't have anything remotely similar to compete with beyond the everyday models and even then they can't match the Europeans for choice.

    Some people look at a car as an emotional choice and it will never matter what a boring publication like CR says. Some people like cars in general and aren't bound by one particular factor about a car whether it be reliability, styling or performance.

    People buy European cars for the nuances they provide, something that the Japanese can't seem to duplicate. Sure they can duplicate the sheer performance numbers (Infiniti G35/M45 and new Lexus IS350 comes to mind), but the "feel" and experience isn't there - to a person that "gets" it and/or cares about such things. If not then you'll never understand why people buy these car reliability is the only thing you're looking at and calling the rest inferior.

    Land Rover in particular says the hell with the Consumer Reports crowd on heritage alone and their buyers are, according to market data, are some of the youngest professional folks or any luxury brand. This group should know better, but they don't seem to and/or care what the reliability is.

    Lastly, despite popular belief here these "inferior" brands as you call them aren't littering the roads with broken down cars, hoods up and smoking like some here would lead you to think. You have to also remember that MB, BMW, Land Rover all got their "status" based on some superior trait at some point in their history. Mercedes, VW, Audi, Land Rover all have dropped the ball on reliability in recent times, but their other positive aspects are still there.

  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Beemer or a Benz have that an Acura or a Lexus doesn't?

    More choice, better styling (on average), mass appeal via years of glorious heritage to name some.

  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,294
    You must be a bit younger than me. When I was growing up, Cadillac had a lot of brand equity, prestige, and mystique. I've been in love with the brand since I was very young. I recall asking Santa Claus for one as a kid.

    Mercedes-Benz was around but uncommon. There was a doctor and wife couple who had his and her twin Benzes. The only BMW I recall belonged to a kooky college professor. Anybody who was anybody in my neighborhood had Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Imperials. The ordinary people had their Chevrolets, Fords, and Plymouths. One guy who owned a travel agency bought a new Chrysler New Yorker or Imperial every year. It wasn't until well into the 1980s Mercedes-Benz and BMW came into their own. A friend of my best friend's brother bought a new BMW 5-Series in 1989. It was a nice car, but it seemed he forever was having problems with it. I looked at a new Mercedes 560SEL in 1989. The W126 S-Class was Mercedes pinnacle and I'm sure I would still have that car today, but the price was an astronomical $73,400. I instead bought a new Cadillac Brougham that I still own.
  • prosaprosa Posts: 280
    I think it's just a car's reputation in the last couple of decades that matters to people. When I was little, the name "Mercedes Benz" had a mythical sound to it.

    Remember what Janis Joplin sang more than 35 years ago: "Oh Lord, won't you buy me, a Mercedes Benz" :)
  • I have always percieved the German brands as status symbols, even moreso than the japanese brands. Especially with Mercedes, they always seem to be on the forefront of new technologies. Even today, Benz still comes up with new technologies for safety, security and solidity that others seem to be catching up on a few years later.

    Example: I have here in my office an article for nano-particle clearcoat that is on the new body panels of Benz cars. Makes the paint stronger and more resistant to swirl marks. That's some pretty cool stuff IMO! Same goes for the active safety that is on the new S-class that closes all the glass in the car if an impact or rollover is immenent.

    Now obviously, this new tech has lowered the reliability (more gadgets to break) but even still, it's the fascination of this new tech that draws people in. Then its the Lexus, Infiniti, Acura brands later on that end up incorporating this newly discovered tech in their vehicles after the "bugs" have been worked out. At that point, the Germans are adding some new whiz bang gotta have gadget that makes them even MORE desirable. A viscious cycle that will probably go around forever until the Japanese brands start incorporating their OWN new whiz bang gadgetry. We are starting to see that, but I think it'll be a while before they outdo the clever and creative Germans...

    I ASPIRE to own German, but I prefer to BUY practical japanese, even if it plays second fiddle. :)
  • bottgersbottgers Posts: 2,030 one has addressed the Harley thing. I thought that would generate a lot of responses as many "car" people are also "motorcycle" people.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    I think the Harley thing is a combination of heritage and image.

    Harley is the only surviving American motorcycle brand, and it definitely has a long history. I think that speaks to people, esp. with a purchase as utterly impractical as a motorcycle. In the USA, very few people buy bikes for commuting anymore. Once you're free of practical concerns, more nebulous things like heritage, style and feel take center stage in a buying decision.

    But a lot of it is also the image thing. Every suburban Brando thinks a Harley makes him look dangerous and cool. And at one point, they did, if only because of their rarity. But now, they're so common the effect is kinda lost...sorta like the whole tough-guy offroader SUV thing. So in a way, the Harley image is a victim of its own success.

    I'm sure Harley makes more money from its clothing and accessories than it does on its motorcycle sales...
  • dino001dino001 Tampa, FLPosts: 4,615
    Europeans basically set trends in styling, performance, engineering and content. Lexus, Acura and Infiniti, as nice as they are, basically follow them. They always have that look of a German of a previous generation (especially Lexus).

    One small example (not really a proof of anything, sample rather) that hit me last month during local auto show. Auto transmission shifter shape in "entry luxury" lines. MB, BMW and now also Audi have auto shifters shaped similar to manual shifters and gates are enclosed in a leather pouch. Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura have shifters in chrome gates. Both of them look great, but the latter look so 90s.

    I do think BMW, Benz, Audi and Jags are overpriced. However, they are probably not as overpriced as they appear at first glance. Trends cost and trendy people are willing to pay for it more than it may be worth from a bookkeeper standpoint. I'm not one of those people for reason I can't afford it :cry:

    2018 430i Gran Coupe

  • martianmartian Posts: 220
    I think the germans have been putting over a con job for a long time! If you look at the AUDI boards, those cars seem to be nightmares of complexity! Even the simplest one (A4) seems to have all kinds of electrical and transmission problems-and they are extremely expensive to fix. And the AUDI owners seem unanimopus in condemnation of their dealers-very few have any good to say about AOA!
    Maybe buyers of prestige cars are "masochists"? Do they enjoy sitting in waiting rooms? of course, I understand M-B and BMW have very nice waiting rooms, with free coffee!
  • dino001dino001 Tampa, FLPosts: 4,615
    The thing with Audi is the moment you get on a slippery road with snow/ice/heavy rain/mud and a few curves, you are just about to forgive anything (unless you previously owned a Subaru :P ). Similar sensation with getting a Bimmer to a dry backroad.

    2018 430i Gran Coupe

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,870
    Well then it's a con job that all American car manufacturers should learn to pull off. Harley did, I don't see why some US brands can't fool some of the people some of the time.

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  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 18,746
    While I don't doubt some folks have had poor experiences w Audis, mine was fantastic. The '98 Audi A4 Avant that I took to 120K miles was very well-built and reliable, only off road once in 5 years due to non-routine service.

    That combined w the dynamic qualities of the A4 makes it probably the best car I've ever had (including a couple of Japanese origin).

    The Jury is still out on my BMW 528iA, it's a great car but still a puppy, it only has 77,000 on. ;)

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • bhw77bhw77 Posts: 101
    Who you are - is where you live and what you drive...
  • jprybajpryba Posts: 201
    As a recent Mercedes-Benz print piece said, "Nobody ever poses with their toaster." (For those who don't remember seeing the ad, it had a bunch of pictures of people with their MB vehicles.)
  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    is like asking why do some people buy $50 coffee makers from a dept. store, when you can buy one at Walmart for $10-$20. Or why spend $500 for a Brooks Bros. suit when you can buy a nice, quality suit at the local bargain store for $200.
    It's the same reasons, people choose different autos. Each individual applies the same logic/desires/needs to their examination of the purchase of any item.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 13,458
    Why are poeple willing to spend so much money on Beemers, Benz's, and Jags when they could have just as nice of a vehicle in an Acura or a Lexus AND have the reliability too?

    The question then becomes why buy an Acura or a lexus when you can get a nice car with just as good a reliability rating in a lesser priced brand name?

    Why buy an Acura when you can get a Honda for less (lets face it Acuras are overpriced Hondas)?

    It all comes down to image which some cars have and some don't. To be honest many people I know have a much higher opinion on MB than on Lexus.

    But when push comes to shove my 5 year old Hyundai is much better than any new Lexus, Acura, BMW, JAG, MB or any other. You see it runs trouble free and its paid for.

    2008 Sebring Ragtop, 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 13,458
    That's status. Cadillac, for all its heritage, didn't have that mystique at the time I was growing up -

    Don't know where or when you grew up but for me they certainly had that mystique. I have never heard something called "the Mercedes Benz of..." or "the BMW of...." but when someone wanted to say something was the top of the line they said "it is the Cadillac of....", and still do.

    2008 Sebring Ragtop, 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 13,458
    Well to add to what has already been said, i am not sure that Japanese bike do everything twice as well. Granted they make much faster bikes but being a road rash waiting to happen is not what a Harley rider is. Plus since Hogs do keep their value (I have actually known people to buy one brand new and sell it a year or two later for more than what they bought it for) they make a better value.

    2008 Sebring Ragtop, 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

  • dino001dino001 Tampa, FLPosts: 4,615
    I don't think it's entire fair to say that. While there may be some shared parts, IS, GS and LS have no Toyota brand "siblings", same with G35, M35/45, and Q45, or RL and TSX. Sevearal others are "fluffed up" versions of their lesser counterparts, esp. ES350, I35, QX45. Some are sharing large pieces of technology, but are still significantly different (RSX, TL, MDX, RX330, FX35/45) inside and out.

    As much as I think those brands have some distance to their German competition, charge of being "just overpiced versions of their non-premium brands" is outdated. It might have been true ten years ago, but not today.

    2018 430i Gran Coupe

This discussion has been closed.