It’s pretty common in our rich, varied community of car-obsessives, to meet people that are really into one particular brand of car. This concept is probably best known through its expression as a hat or a T-shirt that says something like “I’d rather push my [car brand] than drive a [other car brand].” I’m here now to let you know that this way of thinking is absurd; a true gearhead values the car, not the brand.
I know even attempting to define what is a “true gearhead” or not is a ridiculous exercise, but in this one particular case, I think an argument can be made.
I even feel bad using the phrase “true gearhead,” because, come on, I’m in no position to judge that, and, really, none of us are. But, whatever. At this one moment, yeah, I’m going to be a judgmental jerkoff and say that if your car interest is defined by unshakable loyalty to one brand, you’re just doing it wrong.
When one falls for a car, as we all have and will continue to do, while we may be falling, in part, for a set of shared traits that the car inherits from its parent company, it is the car model itself, its own individual traits and merits, flaws and features, that draws us to the particular car; if you’re taken by a car because of the badge it wears, I’m going to be that guy and say you’re just doing it wrong.
Carmakers and brands are just too varied, too broad, too vast to be able to be granted your blanket loyalty. I’m an admitted Volkswagen obsessive, sure, but that obsession isn’t to the Volkswagen brand; it’s to a series of cars VW made during a certain era, cars that share traits like air-cooling, opposed engines, and a certain idiosyncratic design vocabulary.
Because I like many Volkswagens does not mean I like them all. I mean, if I could send every early-to-mid-2000 Passat into the ocean, I think I might do that. That seems like an expensive undertaking, though.
People who have intense loyalty to a brand are willingly giving up their own freedom to think, appreciate, and evaluate. Take a hypothetical wearer of one of those “Rather push a Chevy than drive a Ford” hats, for example. What if the Chevy in question is a rusted-out Vega and the Ford in question is a mint-condition GT40? How long would that blind loyalty last there? Also, let’s say its raining.
If the Chevy-idolater still wants to push that Vega, then they’re just illustrating my point: brand loyalties are stupid.
Another personal example: I adore my Nissan Pao. Does that mean that I should be thrilled by the latest Altima or Versa? No, of course not, because that would be an act as impossible as swallowing the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. It can’t be done.
I know some of the most intense brand-loyalties come from carmakers with very focused lines of vehicles that fit a very specific template: Porsche, for example, is one of these. There are many fiercely loyal Porscheophiles, and it’s easy to understand the motivations for their loyalty. Even in cases like this, where compelling arguments can be made, it’s still a bad idea to be blindly loyal to a brand.
If you by default love all things Porsche, without question, then you’re going to wall yourself off, needlessly, from other automotive joys. Will you ignore Renault Alpines because they’re not 911s? I’ve seen that happen. Who wins there? Nobody.
Plus, if we’re really, brutally honest, the most annoying gearheads are the intense fanboys. Ever talked to a starry-eyed Tesla fan? It’s like dealing with a cult member. Know someone who only wears Ferrari-branded clothes, everywhere, all the time? You probably lose weight keeping your slapping reflex in check.
Brand loyalty is tied up in perceived status, too, and I can’t think of a situation where having a car’s badge be the primary criteria for your attention is positive. Well, maybe in the case of an Aston-Martin Cygnet, but that’s just because it’s fascinating in the same way a two-headed turtle is.
The point is when you fall in love with a car, you should find that you love the car even if you switched the badge on the hood. Cars are like humans that way: judge a person based on themselves, not on their family or race or religion or whatever.
We love cars. That’s the only broad statement you can make. If Tata comes out with something amazing, a true gearhead can appreciate it, just as they can mock something terrible that Rolls-Royce might one day belch out.
It’s the car. Not the brand.