Does Automotive Exclusivity Matter?

I spent the majority of the past weekend walking around Downtown Vancouver with my girlfriend and my dog, and I couldn’t help but notice the sheer number of Mk7 Golf R’s I cam across in a 8 block radius. As you already know, this car is on my short-short list of potential replacements for my 2014 Fiesta ST. But I couldn’t help but ask myself whether the R is just too common as there’s definitely part of me that prefers a more special and rare car. This had me questioning myself about whether there was merit in wanting an exclusive car or whether it was just automotive-hipster nonsense.

Community

When it comes to having an enthusiast car, the sense of community can be quite important. It gives you plenty of resources for troubleshooting issues, tuning your setup, and perhaps most importantly it can give you a circle of friends that are tied together by a shared interest. Being one of the early adopters of the Fiesta ST in North America, I found that this model had a less-than-ideal community situation. When I began modifying the car, I often found myself as the guinea pig for certain parts and didn’t really have a strong forum network to rely on. For example, when I had the MBRP catback installed, there were relatively few reviews or videos talking about how this exhaust sounded. The only resource I had was from the manufacturer and specific vendors which I generally take with a grain of salt. After the exhaust was installed I found the drone unbearable and looked for ways to quiet it down. Being one of a handful of people who even had this exhaust, I had to take measurements and source mufflers that had matching inlet/outlet diameters that would be effective yet still fit in the limited amount of space afforded by the axle-back portion of the exhaust. This is just one example of the many times that I installed parts thinking they would just work out and experiencing the rude awakening that followed as I had to make adjustments to make something work. Just to name a few other parts that didn’t work out quite as I had planned: tires, big brake kit, coilovers.

Even if you were to leave a car relatively stock, making friends with a group of like-minded individuals has obvious appeal. Having been a Miata/MX-5 owner for the past 5 years, I can safely say that a good portion of friends that I regularly interact with were met through the local Miata club. When it came to the Fiesta ST though, we have a province-wide Facebook group that has less than 10 active members and I have met a total of two other local members in person. Popular and less-exclusive enthusiast cars like the FRS/BRZ, S2000, and Subarus will always have a greater community presence, for better and for worse. But when you own an oddball sports/enthusiast car, you can feel a bit like a loner at times.

Seeing yourself come and go

Maybe it’s just me, but when I have an enthusiast car I have a tendency to try and make it mine. While there really isn’t a fear of losing my car in a parking lot, the sense of seeing someone driving a facsimile of my car gives me an uncomfortable feeling similar to seeing someone wear the exact same outfit that you’re wearing. I don’t feel this way about most things in life, for example, I wouldn’t mind if others ordered the same thing that I did at a restaurant, or if others used the same cellphone that I use; heck in many ways seeing others make the same decisions that you do would validate your own decisions. However, there are exceptions in life; sex for example, is a realm where finding out you’ve shared the same partner as many others would generate some objectionable feelings. For myself, cars are an extension of who I am and they fall much closer to the sexual partners side of the spectrum than food or fashion but perhaps it’s time to change this semi-elitist mentality.

You see, every time I spotted a Golf R this weekend, I pointed them out to my girlfriend who never understood what I was excited about. To non-car people, anything shy of a Jaguar F-Type is somewhat forgettable and the nuances between the R and standard Golf are easily missed. Standard Golfs, and for that matter, standard Fiestas, are everywhere and I’ve enjoyed the lack of attention in the Fiesta ST for the better part of 2 years now. I’ve never been hassled by law enforcement and the few people that do pay attention are enthusiasts who occasionally strike up a conversation. Last week when I was at the dog park, the driver of an 8th gen Civic SI coupe approached me and asked how I liked the ST as he was considering one as a replacement. The other benefit of having an inconspicuous sports car is that no one tries to race you, and if they do try to race you it’s not a big deal either way (You either got beat in a Plain Jane hatchback or you beat someone in your Plain Jane hatchback). Sociologically speaking, having a sleeper is kind of like being a petite female; if someone were to pick a fight with you they wouldn’t look particularly great if they won, and if they lost to you, well they’re still not going to look good.

The Common Good

Perhaps the strongest argument against having an exclusive car (one that doesn’t involve weird sexual analogies, racing, or modifying a car) is the fact that good products tend to be popular. People tend to buy what they like and what makes sense for them with all things considered (price, features, quality, etc.). So by that logic, if a car is common, the manufacturer is probably doing something right. Sometimes it doesn’t always translate, for several years in the mid 2000’s the American Big 3 and even Honda/Toyota made some very mediocre and objectively noncompetitive automobiles that sold very well thanks to buyers who blindly followed brands or were simply looking for the lowest monthly payment possible. That being said, even if common cars aren’t always good, good cars are usually common. A car that is great to drive, practical, well priced, and well built will tick many boxes for a lot of different buyers and chances are you’ll see them quite frequently.

If you like a car and it’s your favourite within your budget, it shouldn’t matter whether a lot of other drivers also own the same model. After some considerable thought, I’ve realized that being different for the sake of being different is a retarded sentiment and it makes no sense to avoid one model based on how many other drivers have also made the same decision.

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