The way The Luxury Car Is Being Redefined
Pickup trucks are being sold with snakeskin leather accented interiors and heated steering wheels. Middle of the road cars such as the Ford Fusion -stitched leather-trimmed 10-way power seats. All of which might make automobile shoppers wonder: What does “luxury” mean today?
A luxury vehicle was once pretty simple to define. In comparison to the average ho-hum vehicle available on the market, far better functionality was typically offered by a luxury car on the road plus a far more elaborate and much more comfortable inside. In addition, it came using a price tag that was far more expensive.
But at a time when pickup trucks—once considered the quintessential no frills utility vehicle—can top $50,000, and when automobiles starting at under $20,000 can be equipped with bells and whistles usually only found in the high end market, it’s time to redefine what a “luxury” automobile is and isn’t.
Through the years, automakers have discovered that lots of consumers like and certainly will pay good money for high-end touches, even as it pertains to vehicles that seem to be the polar opposites of staid, classically luxurious cars from Mercedes, Cadillac, and Audi.
This past year, Hyundai, once considered a “cheap” brand in every sense of the word, essentially stopped selling the bare bones version of its own lowest-cost model, the Accent. It said that because the great majority of motorists didn’t want the base model priced below $13,000, the most economical MSRP for the Accent essential topped $14,000.
According to USA Today, the 2013 Accent will start at over $15K and contain several characteristics that used to be alternatives as standard, heated side mirrors, including a USB port, and remoteless key entry.
Some of Hyundai’s success in the marketplace can be attributed to the threats it chose in recent years, particularly the launch of two luxury sedans—with premium price tags to fit— the Equus and Genesis. Now after this year, Kia, which has typically been considered the chintzier of the two leading Korean automakers, is also anticipated to roll out a premium luxury sedan, the K9.
It’s not just sedans which are leaning toward luxury.
The high-end pickup truck— which, not long ago would have been an oxymoron—is gaining in popularity among buyers. For $50,000 or more., 22% of heavy duty Ram pickup trucks sold in 2010 Last year, that figure rose to 29%.
The automobile insider publication WardsAuto, meanwhile, notes that the rise of high-end attributes in mid-level automobiles including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford Fusion has caused specific automakers to go to new lengths to give high-end and exclusivity—and to warrant their high MSRPs.
Occasionally, automaker efforts to set themselves can seem ridiculous. No matter how pretty the look, do you actually want to pay top dollar as the cosmetic wood inside the Fisker Karma is 300-year-old white oak retrieved from the bottom of Lake Michigan?
Such a material doesn’t perform better than others. It doesn’t always appear much better than others. Why would a consumer be willing to pay extra for it, and need it?
In precisely the same manner that automakers would like to set themselves besides the pack, a certain strain of consumers needs to do the same. Automobile features that at least give the look of being exclusive, one of a kind, and handcrafted help achieve that goal.
Whether or not these characteristics are in fact outstanding doesn’t seem to matter. Pat Murray, of the brand consulting and product development company Murray Design, did his best to explain why some consumers are so brought to luxury, without making them seem irrational or shallowP