I’ve owned a lot of different cars over the years, and the only thing consistent about them them is that I rarely purchase the same brand twice in a row, and almost never purchase the same car. I’ve owned domestic brands (Ford and Plymouth), German brands (VW and BMW) and Japanese brands (Acura, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Subaru), and when I’m in the market I always shop for the best choice in my price range. If I had the income, I’d snap up a new Ford Mustang GT tomorrow, because it’s the best choice for performance and handling at its price point. If I were in the market for a sedan, I’d take a serious look at the Hyundai Sonata Turbo and the Kia Optima Turbo, because they represent the best bang for the buck. If I’ve learned one absolute in this job, it’s this: no one builds a bad car anymore.
In the early sixties, VW had a hard time moving cars in the United States. Their Beetle was under-powered and lacked the sheer mass that Americans associated with safety. I remember my dad saying that he’d never drive one of those “German deathtraps”, until the day when he got a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a crashed Bug. He snapped it up, restored it and used it as a second car and shuttlecraft for trips in the family motorhome. That Bug was in our family for years, and I learned to drive a stick in that very car. By the late sixties, VW was an established and respected brand, but the Japanese makers were facing the same biases. Americans associated Toyota and Datsun with “disposable cars”, the kind you’d only buy because they were cheap. The original gas crisis (of 1972, if I remember correctly) changed a lot of people’s perspective on the Toyota Corolla and Datsun B210; suddenly, these “disposable rustbuckets” became a sensible, mainstream choice for affordable transportation.
Fast forward to today, when Hyundai and Kia are still facing some of the same biases among US buyers who equate “made in Korea” with “cheap and disposable”. That’s no longer the case, and both Hyundai and Kia crank out top quality products. If I had a need for something they built, I’d shop them in a heartbeat. In fact, if they stuffed their new 429 horsepower V8 into the Genesis Coupe, I’d easily shop that against the Mustang.
So here’s my question: are you a brand snob, or do you shop for the best ride in your price category? Would have any reservations about buying a particular brand? Why or why not? What’s your take on the quality of cars being built today?