In Dubai, one sees every automobile model, especially the expensive ones. Ferraris, Maseratis, Aston Martins, and Lamborghinis are a dime a dozen. Top model Mercedes, BMW’s, and Audis are so common to be uninteresting.
Stretched versions of various limousines are spotted daily, I of which I find a bit ridiculous. I have had the misfortune of riding in a stretched Cadillac, so I do not understand the appeal. Until today, the most ridiculous stretched monstrosity was a Hummer. A Hummer is dumb enough, but a stretched one?
Today, I spotted a stretched automobile and I had to stare to figure out what it was. I never would have imagined that anyone would be foolish enough to do this and I could even less imagine why anyone would want to ride in it. Perhaps, it is for people who know nothing about cars, beyond that it is a vehicle with four wheels and an engine.
After watching programs on the background on many writers, singers, and actors, I have reached the conclusion that an “overnight success” takes a minimum of ten years. This is the only explanation as to why anyone would build, rent, or ride in a stretched Chevrolet!
Unfortunately--no, on second thought, fortunately--I did not take a photograph. This is not something I need to see a second time...
Most car advertising is dumb, but a new winner must be crowned. A recently seen (I think it ran during the Super Bowl) Cadillac ad is the dumbest of the dumb. This is a non sequitur to end all non sequiturs. If this car was conceived in a garage, then it needs to stay there..with the door closed.
This morning, I noticed a piece in one of the “newspapers” about the Chrysler ad aired during Super Bowl.
Dylan might be a great poet, but his latest effort indicates that he might be off his game. Or treading on unfamiliar ground. Or selling out to corporate strategists. He should stick with poetry and leave marketing hype to others.
According to the article, the ad included the following line:
"Let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car."
Perhaps, Mr. Dylan should try a German car. I have tried Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors automobiles. Not only is German beer better, but the cars are, too. And, not only does Budweiser make some of the world’s worst beer, their ads are stupid.
Scanning the London Telegraph, a headline caught my attention.
Land Rover: the end of a legend
The world's longest-serving vehicle is to roll off the production line
for the last time after a continuous run of 67 years.
Why? Because the first “car” I owned was a Land Rover. This was the perfect vehicle for a college kid in Vermont, where many roads were unpaved and winter snows made driving perilous for non-four-wheel-drive cars. I spent many afternoons exploring old logging roads (and learning how to become unstuck: even 4-wheel-drives cannot go everywhere!).
The final sentence of the article sums up my feelings about my Land Rover, gone but never forgotten...
“...overwhelming sense that your car can be something just that little bit more magical than merely a form of a transport.”
NB. It was interesting that this article was in the “Luxury” section of the newspaper. This is probably due to the fact that its descendant, Range Rover, is considered by many to be a luxury brand. My daughter owns one. Although not bad, it compares in no way to my Land Rover, beyond having four wheels. My Land Rover was everything but luxurious: that was the last thing I wanted.
A trade fair or any kind of fair is called Eine Messe. This looks and sounds like the English word, mess, but that is not what organizer plan for. Traffic can be messy, and crowds can leave a mess, but these affairs are well-organized, ofter elaborate, and very expensive for companies. Major cities have huge fair grounds, which are usually composed of massive halls. Hoping to leave a positive impression with customers, companies spend vast amounts of money. Crowds flock and jam all available space, especially inside the halls.
Although one of the biggest (if not the biggest) car shows in the world in the International Automobile Fair (IAA), which takes place every two years in Frankfurt. Although I have lived here for years, I have never been. Cars do not interest me much and certainly not enough to brave the crowds of gearheads.
I went this year to accompany a friend, who is a gearhead. He knows everything about every brand and every model. I can identify the major brands' logos and some of the model names.
Not willing to share one of the main halls with other brands, Audi build their own on an empty space in the fair grounds. The line outside was like a Disney park, with monitors displaying the waiting time. Crowds braved the wait to get close to all the models, touch them, and sit inside. Not all brands let people touch their cars.
Inside the halls, crowd pushed and shoved to get close to the cars. Biggest crowds were around the exciting brands, like Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti, Bentley, Aston Martin, etc, which explains the blurred photo.
After fours hours of trudging though hall after hall and inspecting countless cars, I found something interesting in the lasts hall. I found a tiny display of the Tesla. This was the most interesting car of the entire show, because it is so different, has an interesting design, and has a future. I would buy one....if I did not have a great car.
Today, I had my first jaunt in the new car on the Autobahn. (I assume that anyone with a bit of school learning knows that term, so will not provide a German Word of the Day.)
I will not comment on how the car performed relative to other cars I have driven, beyond noting the newest Audi A7 is faster and rides smoother than my first Porsche 911.
And, I like to drive it better than my second 911.
I will not mention BMW, not wanting to hurt any feelings.
I was reminded of a lesson I learned during my early days of tearing up German highways and byways in my 911. There was less traffic and gas cost 18 cents. Everyone that takes driver’s education learns about defensive driving. Take that and increase it exponentially for driving on a German Autobahn.
Lack of speed limit lets people drive at crazy speeds. Even I have been guilty of such folly. That said, I have always found 180 kilometers per hour (112mph) to be the safest speed...not considering other drivers.
The thing about Autobahns is that speeds are so unpredictable. Some people race and some plod, either to save gas, to be cautious, or because the car is a dog. The problem with slow drivers is that they have no understanding of how fast others can move. The concept of rate-of-closure is unknown. A glance in the rearview mirror might reveal an approaching car, but they have no idea about how soon said car will be upon them. I can spot the wheels slowly turning in the brain of a driver up ahead and can determine when he will pull out to pass the car or truck in front of him...without taking a second look in his mirror to discover that I am now on his tail and, without braking, would crash into his slow-moving ass. This guy cannot appreciate how fast I am moving, because he is driving as fast as he ever has and cannot imagine that anyone can drive faster...despite being constantly passed by faster cars. Some human brains do not move that fast.
So, driving a fast car on an Autobahn requires true defensive driving. Needless to say, I achieved speeds today far below those of my Porsche and BMW days. Cars might have improved, but my reaction times have slowed, and I know how fast cars can drive.
Today turned out to be a typical March day. I woke up to snow falling outside my window. Normally, I would be happy to spend Sunday glancing out the window at gently falling snow, but I had to go out today. At some point, snow turned to rain...which saved me from shoveling.
Our new car left the garage for the first time in weather that did not include sunshine. This had to happen someday, but the event saddened me. Just as one does not want one’s children to grow old, one hates to see a new car ravaged by the elements. The sun should shine eternally on a new car, if only metaphorically.
I drove to Frankfurt to help Number One Son renovate his new apartment. We decided to paint the walls, as opposed to paying someone to do the work. I have painted so many surfaces in my life, starting with helping my father so long ago, that I find the work easy and rewarding.
One thing I always notice with new cars: they make their predecessor seem old-fashioned. I have been in the practice of changing cars every three years, despited feeling that there is nothing wrong and no need to change. Once in the new car, I realize how many advances have been made (I have mentioned before that cars do not interest me) and what a piece of junk my “old” car was. Good-enough turns out to be quasi-worthless.
The new car performs well in bad weather. All-wheel drive provides a sense of well-being, and improved lights increase safety. Of course, the exterior is now soiled, but nothing that a good carwash cannot handle. Some might consider this to have been a baptism, not by fire, but by rain.
I have mentioned before that I do not become excited by automobiles. I like a decent car, but any car will get someone from Point A to Point B. Comfort might vary and dependability can be an issue, but basic transportation does not require luxury or comfort. Ever ride in the back of an Army truck?
I will now go out on a limb and make a rash assumption: a nice car is a nice car. An expensive automobile from the leading brands provides a more enjoyable ride than a cheap or old one. Modern technological advances have made driving comfortable, easy, and fast (and safer).
My new car lets me open the door by merely having the key in my pocket and grabbing the handle. The trunk opens with a wave of my foot under the bumper, a nice feature with full hands. To lock the door, I merely wave my hand near the handle, as if waving goodbye to a friend.
I will not even begin to describe the technology assisting the driver. I’m surprised that I still must push a button to start the car, select a gear, apply gas, and brake. Of course, I have plenty of additional tasks, not unlike a flight deck manager on a Airbus, managed with buttons on the steering wheel, attachments to the steering column, buttons on the console, or buttons on the dashboard. Did I mention that the car responds to voice commands? I have yet to “talk” to the car, but I might.
Fortunately, this car is a pleasure to drive. Any trip from Point A to Point B, regardless of the distance or conditions, is done in style and comfort. I will not be testing the upper limits of the speedometer: 300 kmh.
When I first came to Germany, Audi was considered to be a car for factory workers or laborers and not known for technology. I never considered driving one, preferring instead Porsche, BMW, or Mercedes. Over the years, the company has joined the ranks of the top models...and might even have surpassed them in some ways. The A7 is a good or better than any car I have driven.
Today, I bought a child’s seat for our new car. Increased babysitting duty requires that we have more than one car able to meet German safety standards. The seat is safer than the one in helicopters I flew in war. And, prominent branding with the carmaker’s logo surely boosts the child’s ego while making him safe.
Thoughts of children car seats brought back a distant memory, one of my oldest. This was before the day of seat belts or seat locks. My mother had picked me up from nursery school and, being safety conscious, placed me on the rear seat. This worked well on most journeys. Cars travelled at around 20 to 30 mph, or slower, in our town. On this day, she was forced to brake suddenly, which caused me to become airborne--my first flight. I ended up crashing into the dashboard. I’m certain to have cried, but suffered no lasting injuries...unless one considers how my brain has worked since that day.
Cars now travel much faster, especially in Germany, but are fitted with seat belts, seat locks, airbags...and children’s seats. No child will ever hit the dashboard. Life is less exciting, if safer.
Strange the way consciousness functions. Before last week, I rarely noticed or considered Audi cars, much less an A7. Since buying one, Audis are everywhere, and I spot A7s seemingly all the time. A similar number of Audis and A7s crossed my field of vision in the past, yet none made an impression leading to awareness or consideration.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.