By Eric Meltzer
In the automotive world, there are owners and then there are enthusiasts. Owners or drivers view their car as a conveyance; a tool to transport them from point A to point B. Enthusiasts, on the other hand, have a bond with their vehicle; it is something intrinsically deeper than a mere man (or woman) and machine. To many, their vehicle helps define the person. An outdoorsy person might drive a SUV, a pickup truck might define a utilitarian type, a frugal individual might be seen in a hybrid, while a European sedan might appeal to a more refined automotive palate. Some enthusiasts can park outside a store and guess pretty accurately which vehicle a patron might be walking toward just by their persona. None of this is a judgment; in fact, it's the way manufacturers define their own models and design a new vehicle for a specific demographic. It's marketing.
All these facets enter into the car-buying equation. Somewhere between "I don't care what I drive" and "I need a midnight blue pearl Wizbang XGS with two-tone leather and quad turbo Synchrosemetrical drive" is a happy medium for most. Whether new or used, a vehicle is a significant investment, and some thought should be given to the type of vehicle that most fits the buyers wants and needs. When it's time to buy a vehicle, look at those you can identify with or might even get you a little excited. There's no harm in pushing the boundaries beyond simple practicality. Look past what you think you know or want and explore the options.
In these times of global economics and mega mergers, vehicles can no longer be defined by their country of origin or even their parent companies pedigree. Here is a quick rundown of who owns whom in the automotive world. This list is subject to change and has changed in the past with various corporate mergers, acquisitions, sales, and controlling interests.
Currently, or at least as currently as I've been able to discern, the following is true: BMW owns Mini and Rolls Royce; Fiat owns Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, and Ram; Ford owns Lincoln and a small stake in Mazda; General Motors owns, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC. GM owns a controlling interest in Daewoo, as well as Opel and Vauxhall in Europe and Holden in Australia. (The U.S. government also owns a stake in GM.); Honda owns Acura; Hyundai owns Kia.; Tata Motors (India) owns Jaguar and Land Rover; Mazda is independently owned; Mitsubishi is independently owned; Daimler AG owns Mercedes-Benz and Smart; Nissan owns Infiniti. (Nissan, in turn, is owned by Renault.); Saab is owned by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS); Subaru is owned by Fuji Heavy Industries with Toyota a minority partner. Toyota is also a minority partner with Tesla who is in Partnership with Daimler AG; Toyota owns Lexus, Scion, Daihatsu and Hino Motors, with a stake in Fuji Industries (Subaru's parent company) and Isuzu; Volkswagen owns Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, and overseas-brands SEAT and Skoda; Volvo is owned by Chinese-automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, aka Geely.
The above list should help disprove any stereotypes regarding vehicles and preconceived notions about quality, engineering, manufacturing and cost. My point is to broaden your approach to vehicle buying. The old adage "buy American" might mean "buy a Toyota" more than "buy a Chevy," since where a vehicle is built has little to do with where it's parent company resides. The gleaming cat proudly frozen mid stride on the hood of the Jaguar, a symbol of British power and style, is now refined in India. Volvo, the definition of stout Swedish safety, looks to Chinese owners for its guardianship after passing through the hands of Ford some time ago. None of this diminishes or defines any of the brands but it certainly shatters some old ideas and shows that not all is as was once thought.
The global economy rears its head in the repair arena too. People will say "a Roadhugger GT is expensive to fix." I reply that any car can be expensive to fix. We've serviced cars that most would think are inexpensive and found them to be more expensive than their European counterparts, commonly believed to be "expensive cars to fix." Furthermore, some seemingly expensive cars cost less to service than those believed to be inexpensive. Maybe not in all cases, but enough to throw that notion out the window.
So when it's time to buy, try out that fancy sedan, sporty car,\ or pickup truck. Cast your preconceived notions aside. Realize that life is better lived with a smile and enjoy the ride!
Eric Meltzer owns and operates Fryeburg Motors, a licensed, full-service automotive sales and service facility at 299 Main Street in Fryeburg, Maine with his wife, Michelle, and lead technician, Craig. Eric has always been into cars and appreciates anything that drives, rides, floats, and flies.