Outsource This - Rebadge That!

Automobiles gave the men and women who made them, from designers and engineers, right down to the guy who fits the windscreen wipers, a genuine sense of pride. Designing, engineering and building motor vehicles slowly moved from being very crude and technical (the first 10 - 15 years after they began to gain popularity), to being a genuine art form, and it was't only that the people who made the cars took pride in their work, but they also endowed the inhabitants of the town or city where the car factory was located the same sense of pride - cars were special.
This special feeling has all but disappeared. We are facing a very serious crisis in the automotive world, where everybody is copying everybody else, and I’m not just talking about stealing car design ideas (although that is valid, as well), I’m talking about the fact that manufacturers have begun outsorcing and rebadging everything they can, to ‘reduce costs’.

However, in doing so, they have lost that special something that made their products appealing. Would you buy an MG6 knowing it is nothing more than a rebadged version of an already existing Chinese car? Doesn’t that make you really angry - a big name in the world of sports cars can now be found on the bonnet and boot of a rebadged Chinese car?

It makes me sick to even think about that. In the olden days, you could feel the passion, the effort and the man-hours that had gone into an automobile just by sitting in it and taking it for a short drive. Nowadays, the driving experience is so detached that yawning is the most exciting thing you’re going to do behind the wheel. All cars look the same, they all sound the same, they all drive the same and they’re all priced the same - you think you’re spoiled for choice, but you’re not!

I say that brand loyalty is all but redundant in 2012 and things will only get worse in years to come. Haven’t you seen all the news which go along the lines of “BMW to Open Factory in X-Country” or “PSA Closing Down X-Factory - Will Start Building This and That in China”. Back in the day, you went into a BMW dealership and you knew you drove away in something that was engineered, designed and built in Bavaria - as the company’s name would have led you to believe.

Not any more! BMW now builds its SUVs (X3, X5 and X6 in the US) - a country famous for building cars which are exactly like BMWs - except for in every single way. Doesn’t it hurt their German egos to build cars in a country they were planning to invade but 50 years ago? Sadly, the answer to all of this is that they no longer care about making good cars. They make cars that will sell, cutting corners during their design and manufacturing processes to get the price right down - who cares if a piece of plastic on the underside of the dashboard would take your skin off if you were to rub your knee on it? It was cheap and nobody will ever see it - is what they would say, but we strongly disagree with such ideas.

Now that China has finally become the market everybody knew it could, automakers are showering the country with investments, to build plants and the actual cars there, instead of importing them to China. As a Chinese car buyer, would it not bother you that your BMW X1 was not built in Germany? It should, and not necessarily because of build quality issues or rubbish like that - it is wrong! Building cars in the US and China is a much bigger sacrilege for the company than fitting a turbocharger to the M5 - whereas BMW would like you to focus on debating over the latter while they make billions upon billions by outsorcing.

These automakers, including GM (which warrants its very own negative editorial), BMW, Mercedes-Benz, PSA, Renault, oh... it’s pretty much all of them, with too few in the way of exceptions to actually count no longer care about making good cars - they only care about making money. Another example - the Mercedes-Benz Citan, which is a rebadged Renault Kangoo which is more or less identical to the Dacia Dokker. Is it just me that finds this whole rebadging thing wrong (not just talking about the Citan here) ? This phenomenon, known as badge engineering, is really killing what made the auto industry special in the past.

Mercedes-Benz is one of the world’s leading automakers in terms of technology, as well as historical value and engineering prowess. They should design, engineer and build their own damn van! Sadly, they won’t listen to such comments, as their only goal is making money, they don’t really care about what people say or think as long as the cash keeps flowing in.

However, the fault is not only with the automakers. Those proud people that I mentioned in the first paragraph are old now and remember the ‘golden age’ with nostalgia. They talk about a time when competition between manufacturers was a nation-wide affair, with the prestige of an entire country resting on the shoulders of one automaker. For example, what would Italy be without Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Maserati and, of course, Ferrari, or France without Citroen? Or Russia without Lada - oh wait, they built a rebadged Fiat for 40 years, so they’re out as well!

Sadly, after having analyzed the entire history of the automobile, I have come to the conclusion that, aside from the very bad “planned obsolescence” introduced in the US, in the late 20s and the ever-increasing greed and need for money that nobody will ever be able to realistically spend or invest, the fault attached to the downfall of the auto industry into this ultra-commercial crap we are forced to buy, is also partially due to the fact that people were way too busy with making money themselves to have time to care about what they were driving, and the manufacturers slowly lowered the standards and just added more gadgets and gizmos to keep drivers distracted from the plummeting quality of their soulless products.

If there was demand for cars made by people passionate about driving and not money, rest assured that somebody would be making money out of that as well. However, there is no real demand for cars made by ‘car people’, because, sadly, ‘car people’ no longer exist, and as a result, cars are no longer special!
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