Flutterby™! : Visits & rap

Next unread comment / Catchup all unread comments User Account Info | Logout | XML/Pilot/etc versions | Long version (with comments) | Weblog archives | Site Map | | Browse Topics

Visits & rap

2003-10-13 00:17:34.943217+00 by Dan Lyke 9 comments

Drove down to visit with Diane and crowd yesterday evening, had a great time hanging out. Must do more of same. And she's got some cool and very smart kids.

On the way back I was looking for things to keep me awake, so I hit the "seek" button to take me past my usual fare and ended up listening to KMEL. I've no specific feelings about rap, I enjoy the lyrics of the Marginal Prophets, don't find the rhythms nearly as annoying as a lot of house or techno, and I'm amazed at those sessions where they're passing a microphone around a circle of folks who free-associate in rhyme 'til they lose it. So, some observations from late last night as I cruised along 101 up the peninsula, getting blown by as the street racers took the far left and right lanes...

  • It's amazing the things you can rhyme with Hummer.
  • That the Hummer is the new vehicle of choice of today's modern gangsta (and [ahem] other miscreants) might be the only thing that'll save the Lexus brand.
  • Remember when rap was just about consensual sex and the occasional cop-rapper violence? Now that rap is big business run by the record industry and not home-grown and real, the cops don't even rate, and would be outgunned if they did. A paranoid conspiracy theorist might even posit things about that content shift as it became more commercial...
  • Nothin' helps your career like getting offed. A really paranoid conspiracy theorist...

[ related topics: Children and growing up Music Sexual Culture Bay Area History Law Enforcement Pop Culture Conspiracy ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-13 23:01:22.485352+00 by: ziffle

Lexus -- ? Don't understand - I have two of them and love them. Ahhhh....

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-13 23:17:19.189877+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'm sure they're wonderful cars, I mean, they're cushy Toyotas, that's not a bad thing. It's just that when I think of "Lexus", I now have this image of the gold trim package and the wheels turned around and sticking six inches out from the side of the car and that low clipped rhythmic rumble rattling the windows...

Much as Mercedes got in trouble a few years ago by being the vehicle of old people, it's a brand issue that they need to address.

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-14 00:26:45.676599+00 by: Larry Burton

Well, being a Toyota is a bad thing for me. I'm sure they are fine cars but they aren't designed for me. Maybe it's all the years driving GM and Chrysler products but I just feel uncomfortable with the layout of the controls in a Toyota. I don't think that's just because it's an import, I also feel uncomfortable in a Ford for the same reasons. Things just aren't quite where they ought to be.

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-14 02:00:35.662442+00 by: Diane Reese

Sorry if this is a stupid question, but what do Hummers have to do with Lexuses?

Larry, y'all can send me any Toyotas you don't care for, especially if they're hybrids.

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-14 20:11:03.744715+00 by: ziffle

Dan: Well think of a higher quality, 'balanced' (as in pistons etc) motors, really nice car - its not just another car IMHO. I mean they give you a new Lexus to drive when you take it in for servicing. Maybe California is different - of course it is -- we do not think of the car all goobered up with rap dressing - in Mayberry, USA. Smooth is the word. Gosh a car that lasts longer than the payments! I expect to get 300k or 400k out of them.

Larry: I do miss the so easy tilt steering wheel in American cars ...

Diane: I have an old (93) Camry I have out on loan to a Mongolian till next year - I'll let it go cheap - but you have to come to Mayberry to pick it up. And, what do Hummers and Lexii have to do with each other?

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-14 23:23:55.884171+00 by: Dan Lyke

Awright, Lexii and Hummers:

The purchase of a luxury automobile is not a rational decision. Automobile makers know this, which is why this class of cars is not a commodity; profit as a percent of sale price on a Tercel is far lower than profit as a percent of sale price on an IS 300, and you're not likely to make a successful cost/benefit argument to get someone to trade in their BMW[Wiki] 5 series for an equivalent Lexus. Even though I'll also bet that these two classes of vehicle are both available with fixed-price through the first "N" thousand miles of operation options, where "N" is likely to be longer than the original owner has the vehicle.

Converting a BMW[Wiki] driver to be a Lexus[Wiki] driver or an Infiniti driver (or vice-versa) takes an emotional appeal.

Nothing new there, right? Same thing as Coke[Wiki] versus Pepsi[Wiki], only played with more dollars.

There's a lot to that emotional appeal. A decade ago, Mercedes[Wiki] was in trouble because they were the car of the establishment, a well-off 30 year old didn't want to be driving their grandparents car, and Mercedes[Wiki] was safe and dependable, not hip and sporty. This is why BMW[Wiki], formerly known in the U.S. for econoboxes like the 2002, and Lexus[Wiki] and Infiniti[Wiki] were able to gain large portions of the U.S. luxury car market. Now they're making a comeback on the low-end by being the one luxury car brand that doesn't use some sort of semi-Bostonian accented announcer, but instead being the "young, hip, strung out on credit cards thirty thousand dollar vehicle".

This despite now having a worse reliability record than Jeep[Wiki](which used to be a laughingstock, but is actually pretty good now). But ask anyone if they think Mercedes[Wiki] is dependable and affordable, and you're likely to get a "yes".

Of course then companies discovered sport utility vehicles: Rather than competing for the refined elegance crowd, they could take all those discretionary dollars in a different direction. The Land Rover[Wiki] and Hummer[Wiki] are the excess of this. You could buy a Chevy Suburban and equip it with an on-the-fly tire inflation system for a fraction of the cost of a Hummer[Wiki], and have a time-tested system rather than something that they're working the kinks out of, but having all of that sheet metal that says "I look like a 20 year old bravely setting off to die for my country" appeals to people. And take a Land Rover[Wiki] off-road and you're risking drinking radiator water for three days until some guy in a 25 year old Bronco II rescues you.

So in the case of both the Lexus[Wiki] and the Hummer[Wiki] you're making an emotional appeal to the buyer: Buy our car, and people will associate some other set of traits with you.

Every time a brand becomes particularly successful in a specific demographic, the marketing guys hold their collective breath: If the product becomes too popular in that demographic, then those customers control the image, not your marketing campaign. Porsche[Wiki] learned this the hard way when it introduced the 924 and saw sales of its high end cars plummet. All of a sudden driving a Porsche[Wiki] didn't have the cachet. While the 924 in isolation looked like a good business move, it screwed with the company's overall bottom line in a big way. They're still digging out from that.

(More on Porsche's problems here)

Nissan[Wiki] and Ford[Wiki] have been doing incredible things targeting that demographic with the Sentra SE-R[Wiki] and Focus SVT[Wiki], by hitting the people who want performance without price with their low-end brand (even though in the hands of an average driver on a mid-speed course both those cars will completely cream most Porsche[Wiki] vehicles), because they're raising the Sentra[Wiki] and Focus[Wiki] brands, not lowering the Infiniti[Wiki] and Jaguar[Wiki] lines, and because those purchasers pride themselves on "cheap", not cachet.

Lexus[Wiki] has been teetering on the edge of losing their brand to the "gangsta" crowd. If you wanna flash your bling bling, the gold trim package on a Lexus[Wiki] is half-way there. White and middle-class, but wanna look ghett-o while rattling the windows listening to "Damn it feels good to be a gangsta"? These wheels are where you start, just add sound system.

But now, suddenly, the lyrics all talk about the Hummer[Wiki]. The demographic has tried and rejected the product, and the marketing guys have the image back.

Next up: Watch how Courvoisier manages their newfound fame. Will they go Canadian Mist or not? Stay tuned.

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-15 13:41:25.947436+00 by: ziffle

Ohhh - go drive a new LS 430 Ultra and tell us you don't like it - its awesome - without bling bling - and if you do like it its not because I have one (bought mine used) but because they really are great cars. I liked your analysis BTW.

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-15 14:14:59.082266+00 by: Dan Lyke

Oh, I'm sure I'd like it. When we were in Seattle last time we killed some time by walking into a BMW[Wiki] dealership. It's totally irrational for me to consider a vehicle that costs $.70/mile, but there's some serious gadget lust there...

#Comment Re: Visits & rap made: 2003-10-15 15:07:05.132532+00 by: ziffle

go drive the LS - then buy a two year old one - sweet dreams are made of this... or try the RX its fun!