Mike Stevens | May 23, 2008

By Gunnar Heinrich

CANADIAN Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said that living near the United States was, "like sleeping next to an elephant, you're affected by every twitch and grunt."

Operating in the same automotive market as BMW must feel much the same way for the world's automakers.

Germany's "Texans" - as ADL Director of Photography Jan Hering is fond of calling the Bavarians - know just how to chorale the cattle... er... I mean appeal to the world's car buyers. Year in and out, BMW manages to woo a wide variety of customers by mass producing highly capable, efficient, safe, driver friendly, swift luxury cars of near peerless build quality.

By setting this sterling standard, the marque has rightfully earned its prestige status in the eyes of the lusting consumer. That said, there is that one factor that turns off plenty of would-be buyers - the BMW image.

Plenty of car makers try to sell what we can call the "anti-BMW"; cars that perform well but don't come laden with a Clintonian level of controversial baggage.

The most successful of these marques is Audi, which is proving particularly adept at picking up conservative customers who want Teutonic performance while maintaining a low-key status on the road. The Brits, in particular, have found allure in Audi's chill offerings.

A resurgent, bling happy Cadillac seems to carry most of GM's money and blessings. Though, the no one exactly knows who the Cadillac man is today. Lord knows he's not your grandfather.

Jaguar, too, seems keen on taking on the Bavarians in aspects like technology and engineering that Coventry's cats have never, ever been known for. The marque's tactic seems to make all the sense of a ballerina reciting her softball batting averages at an audition.

All the while, the Lexus customer remains happily oblivious and prone to sign-it and forget-it leases.

Selling the anti-BMW is like attending alcoholic anonymous meetings and offering members crystal meth as a viable substitute. It enables the performance addiction while providing customers a high and dry (un)sanctimonious ground to look down on those who are choosing to stick with the original vice.

In other words, buying Audis is for quitters.

Years from now when we're all being shuffled from Quadrant A to Sector Z in robotic Honda pods, the world will likely know BMW and its eponymous driver as the stuff of rebellious lore. They'll remember reading about Bimmer folk and their lane weaving, tail-gating, gas-guzzling ways as the iconoclasts to a harmonious, stress-free world of travel.

All the other marques who pandered to the same buyers under humbler guises, will get second billing to an era of unrighteous performance.

Be well, John Spartan...

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