Car Buying: When what you Need is NOT what you Want

So which should you have? Crucial advice to car buyers and dealers on surviving Carmageddon

By Shahzad Sheikh

Your body demands sustenance, so here’s a sensible bowl of salad. Okay fine, I’ll throw in some vinaigrette. No deal?

salad 2

Your heart desires food, so here’s scrummy stacked pizza. Look at that dripping, melting cheese. Hmm… are you salivating yet? I sure am. Hey back off, I get the first slice!


What’s that? You’ve got some leave coming up?

Oh perfect! You’ll be able to catch up on the spring cleaning, and cataloguing those old VHS home movie tapes you’ve been wanting to salvage for ages.


On the other hand, Bali beckons…


By now you know where I’m going with this, right? Okay just indulge me then.

You need a new car: you’ve analysed all your requirements and done your calculations, and it turns out; that the new Kia Rio meets your every need.

kia rio

But you still have a poster of a Lamborghini Aventador on your wall.


Somewhere between sensible and insane lives sublime. Something you can’t quite justify, but it works for you and the pennies just about add up – at a stretch.


It could be a Ford Focus ST – a practical five-door hatchback, but a nutter-mental raving hooligan with over 250bhp through the front wheels, rigid ride, manual shifter and handbrake lever that loves to be yanked – if you see what I’m saying.

Focus ST

Or it might be a reliable and durable Toyota 86 with a tight-fitting cosy cabin, only just enough power to get into to trouble, mini-Maserati looks and deliciously playful handling.

Toyota 86

Splash out a bit more and maybe it’s the belligerent-beastie bad-boy Dodge Challenger Hellcat for you, splurging the ponies at the merest twitch of the loud pedal, antisocial roar from the rear, and traction control that will just phone it in if it’s being really feisty – which is most of the time.


Or perhaps it’s something else entirely. Forbidden fruit, a car not even brought into our market, a machine we’re told there is simply no call for. I’m looking at you Honda Civic Type R.

Honda Civic Type R

And in fact it’s a previous iteration of that car, which I snapped and posted the other day on Motoring Middle East Facebook page, and the discussion that ensued, which is what sparked off this train of thought – that and the Ramadan hunger… you go a bit crazy when you’re fasting, right? Or it is just me?

So the Type R is part of a whole catalogue of utter hotness that isn’t officially imported into the UAE including a juicy line-up of hot hatches and sports cars and even some muscle like the Camaro Z28 – very often these are manual transmission cars too.

Camaro Z28

Now, jab an accusatory finger at the car companies and they’ll immediately raise shields and pull out a tired old array of excuses: cost of homologation, cost of testing and conversion to GCC spec, and a lukewarm reception by supposedly keen buyers – by that they mean YOU!

Falling down

To which I say that Ford and Volkswagen both seem to be doing alright, with Focus ST and GTI respectively. As for the reluctant buyers thing, I’ll come back to you guys in a bit.


Now you may ask on what basis I say the ST and GTI are doing well as the volumes are still small. Well yeah, because they’re niche cars – of course the volumes are small. They would be anywhere, not just here.

The purpose of cars like those is not to rack up massive sales in themselves but to act as halo cars, as showroom lures, as attention grabbers; to build some excitement around those brands.

Halo car

Typical scenario – dad goes into a VW dealer to ogle a GTI Clubsport, looks at his family, comes to his senses, is gently guided towards a Touareg… and – if the salesman is good – Ker-Ching! Dotted line signed on.


So you may not sell that GTI, but for getting people into the brand, it’s worth all the extra investment alone.

In fact every manufacturer should have at least one sexy model on the shop floor to pull the punters in – and I mean a car, not a sales girl.


Whether that car sells or not is irrelevant. It’s honey. It’s there to attract buyers in and to keep them there.


And more than that, it’s to get people into the brand, it’s to get them dreaming about the brand, to make them loyal to the brand – to turn them into a sort of ambassador to the brand.

Ford fans

Look, for example, say you, you’re besotted with the Shelby Mustang GT350 – which you should be cause it’s stupendous.

But you can’t justify buying it, so you might actually own a Ford Edge. Nonetheless you’ll go around ranting and raving about how awesome the blue oval is, and force all your friends to buy a Ford too; maybe even a GT350, just so you can get a drive!

Ford GT350

Yet when it comes to these low volume cool cars, the dealers always sound a tragic lament – ‘been there, done that, still have 2015 stock rotting around the back. Psst… hey, wanna do a deal?’

Yeah, right, cue world’s smallest violin…

Smallest violin

Guys c’mon, cars – and particularly these kinds of cars – are not toiletries and tomatoes that will expire or rot if you can’t sell them quickly.

Rotten Tomatoes

Although as a quick aside, might I just add that there is a secret, little known tactic that is sure to shift metal. Come closer, I gotta whisper this one… it’s a top tip, just between you and me, yeah. It’s called ADVERTISING!!

911 Targa advert

Oh yeah, that! Advertising with media outlets that actually influence people’s car-buying decisions, like… oh… I dunno… MOTORING MIDDLE EAST maybe!

Motoring Middle East advertising

Wow. Sorry. Just need a moment. Touchy subject I guess.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Listen you car-markers, and especially you dealers, you may perceive the car trade as a cattle market, but it’s not. And if you persist in that notion, you’re heading for certain disaster.

cattle market

Why? I’ll tell you why. Because the Chinese are coming. Actually they’re already here.

Geely Emgrand X7 Sport

Yes, mull that over for a bit. Perfectly usable and well-equipped machines with good servicing and warranty packages. And, I’ll wager, considerably cheaper than YOUR cars.

China Trump

An oft repeated phrase is that ‘there is no such thing as a bad car anymore’. In fact I say this so often I’m like a needle stuck on a record… Record… you know, those large black discs… er… never mind.

record players

Anyway, the point is that in order to differentiate your product from the rest, it’s all about personality and perception. You have to make your cars special, you have to make your cars stand out, most of all you have to make them cool.

You are no longer in the business of selling cars, you are in the business of selling dreams and fantasies.

Dream car

These special cars that you can’t be bothered with… the ones you don’t import, don’t put on the shop floor, don’t offer test drives in… you’re making a mistake. These are the cars that get customers into your brand. That helps you move metal.


And in the imminent dying days of the automotive industry as we know it – this is crucial really. When the world is no longer buying cars, but simply car-sharing autonomous electric transport pods – you’ll miss these days.

Google car

Now, back to you buyers. A bit of this blame for us not getting cool cars in our market, is on your head too.

Oh yeah, we put up a post about a cool car with a manual box and you all rant and rave about it. But when the dealer actually brings it in, you all moan about it being tiresome in traffic, difficult to drive, expensive to maintain, blah blah blah.


Man-up guys – do you want cool cars or don’t you? As you’ve seen, dealers don’t care. They’ll bring in what they think sells. And if that’s Lancers and Sentras – so be it.


If you don’t buy that manual hot hatch, sportster or muscle car, they just won’t bring them in.

Then there’s no point posting on Facebook about this or that dealer being so crap because they don’t have they car you want, or they won’t take your order and if they do it’ll take six months to get the car… meh, meh, meh.

Facebook post

As I’ve said above, things are changing, and changing fast. Before you know it, the only driving fun available will be left in virtual reality driving games.


The automotive apocalypse isn’t far away. So stop being so sensible and go get that outrageous, impractical, hard-to-drive cool car, because very soon you won’t be able too. So if you wanna live the dream, you’d better do it now.

automotive Apocalypse

Or, just nurse the regret into the autonomous age – but keep it to yourself, I’ll be too busy weeping into my mango mocktail to care about your woes.

Crying into Mango

And if you don’t like that, you can comment below. Or comment about anything, it’s free, go for it.

Civic Type R yes or no


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