"I just want a car that gets me from A to B. What should I buy?” That’s what people will ask you, innocently, because you’re their designated car person. You’re the one among their friends and family who reads Autocar and therefore know what you’re talking about. They want to buy a car and you can advise them. They have simple needs: A to B.
Only they don’t have simple needs, really. Everybody wants something more than this and always has, right from the day that Henry Ford said that thing about people wanting “a faster horse” if he had asked them.
Imagine somebody asking me what I wanted from a fridge, for example. Weird question, I’ll admit, but, not being a fridge enthusiast, I would tell them I want somewhere to keep my food cold.
Which is true, but isn’t the half of it. It isn’t even the start of it. What I actually want is a fridge that uses only a little energy; that makes an unobtrusive noise; and that has a little light that comes on when I open the door in the middle of the night to pour a glass of R White’s lemonade.
It needs space for bottles to stand upright. It should have glass shelves so that spills don’t descend onto levels below yet which allow enough light through that I can easily see what’s inside. I want it to resist icing up and to have drawers at the bottom whose airflow is limited to maintain salad crispness. I’d like a compartment with a lid to store niffier cheeses and perhaps even some kind of flap in the door to keep bottles secure when I open it.
Then I’d like it to not cost a million pounds, and look unobtrusive in the corner of my kitchen. I don’t need it to order my shopping, tell me that the chocolate inside it will make me fat or dispense cold water. I’m not a fridge fetishist. But I do want more than I think.
And so it goes with cars. Last year, a friend asked me which car I would recommend to replace her old Citroën Xsara Picasso, using the specific phrase: simply to get her from A to B.
If she really only wanted that, she could have kept the Citroën. I mean, if you’ve spent all that time working out which way it’s facing, you might as well. But she wanted to go from A to B more reliably, more quietly and more economically, and in something that would pair with her smartphone, that would have space for her children, and that was sensible enough that they could learn to drive in it.