Driving to work last week, something I’ve observed many times in the past was particularly noticeable that day: most vehicles aren’t very colorful anymore. Now, this was indeed a typical southeast Michigan mid-winter day – cold, cloudy, light snow – so maybe that was the reason for the recurring thought. I observed again, this time more critically…
Nope, still no colors. In fact, boring. B-O-R-I-N-G.
This was amazing. It seemed like 90% of the vehicles were either black, white, silver, some kind of metallic grey, tan/beige/wimpy gold, or a highly-muted version of what used to be called burgundy.
And it’s not just colors – there’s the vehicle types. Just how many SUVs can there possibly be, especially the mid-size CUVs? And why do their side and rear views all look exactly alike from 20 yards away? (And is every Tahoe or Suburban – both fine products – only available in black?)
(Let me acknowledge that: 1. Many people are indeed very happy with, and actually prefer, vehicles in this color range. That’s cool; we have those in our family as well. 2. Not talking about quality or functionality here. Most of these are great products, so please don’t shoot the messenger.)
These deeply insightful observations led me to some research. Is it the buyers who are the primary cause of this trend, or the sellers? Viewing the websites of various automotive OEMs, it’s pretty apparent that it’s the sellers. Sure, some vehicle lines – Mustang, Wrangler, Corvette, a few Asian subcompacts – have wide color availability, and a couple of them have CUVs that look a bit different, but the vast majority don’t.
Boring. Where’s the “Hey, look at me!”? Where’s the passion?
As someone who’s been in the automotive industry a long time (both internally and externally), I’ve had the great pleasure of working with numerous people who were, and are, highly passionate about what they do. They live, breathe and eat automotive and transportation. They dream of breaking new, yet-to-be-imagined, barriers. The question is, what percentage of the others in their companies have these same levels of passion, regardless of job function (maintenance people can be every bit as passionate as product planners). One of the most oft-repeated complaints about the industry is that it’s controlled by bean counters, and not by enthusiasts. If one’s primary motive is collecting the most beans, do the products become secondary?
And lack of passion (I’ll call it “Low-P”) is absolutely not just limited to automotive. Far from it.
How many restaurants do you go to where at least parts of the menu are updated on a regular basis? (Not just talking daily specials here – and not just changes, but truly innovative and interesting options.) Conversely, how many restaurants do you know where the menu has been the same for years? No evolution, just going through the motions – a.k.a. Low-P.
Does your doctor or specialist seem truly interested in your well-being? Do they spend the time to get to know you, and develop a relationship, or does the “system” dictate speed and one-size-fits-all procedures to maximize the “beans”?
Does your hair stylist, accountant, dry cleaner or landscaper do the same? Or do they suffer from Low-P? When’s the last time you saw a new movie that might be considered groundbreaking? The sixth sequel to a superheroes series, or the fifth remake of a 1930s classic does not qualify. Low-P.
In our own dealings with corporate clients, it’s amazing the incredible contrast we’ve seen between those with high levels of passion – wanting to maximize the messaging and brand image – and those who seem to just want to cross off a line on their list of Things to Do. Low-P.
Every few years I like to attend the kick-off parade for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. Many who participate in the week-long-plus activities no doubt are there for the nostalgia, talking about the old days of kids, cars, nuts and bolts, and…whatever else. It seems to bring them back to what seemed like a happier time. Nothing wrong with that.
But what excites me most is seeing the “look at me” displays of unbridled fun – the rolling machines from the past, each transformed into someone’s current three-dimensional, one-of-a-kind dream… dripping with raw human passion. For me it’s not the vehicle on display, but the heart. We should all be that fortunate.
To my knowledge, Low-P is not fatal, but it can be very limiting. It’s also potentially contagious, depending on people, place and circumstance, so you’ll probably want to avoid it any way you can.