by Peter Dushenski
I dared to take risks. I dared to have a different perspective. I dared to challenge the convention of what a car review should tell you.
And now BMW and Toyota have banned me from their press fleets.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Car companies are not created equal and neither are their marketing departments. We know this. While Mini, and to a lesser degree their parent company BMW, is known for creative and inventive ad campaigns, it turns out that it’s only kosher if they’re the creative ones.
My comparison of the Mini Countryman and Ford Focus last Fall was a resounding success. The feedback on my use of literally vexing hood slang was overwhelmingly positive. I should also note that writing in this style is extremely challenging and labour intensive. I lost track of the hours I spent writing and re-writing that article with different voices in my head. Everyone from Ali G to Lil Wayne to Mark Twain (probably) influenced that article. I was quite proud of the result, particularly my analysis of the seats.
Startin’ wit’ da Countryman, we see dat it only seats 4 of yo peeps, which be meanin’ dat one of yo crew be walkin’. Dat some bullshit fo real! To add in salts to yo injuries, the seats be so flat dat da walls be jealous. Snap! Doze seats wrap around yo skinny ass like yo arms wrap around a Californ-I-A Redwood. It ain’t even close.
Da Focus seats be all up on yo shit like yo parole officer. Start slidin’ one way and it be there to catch y’all, go da other way and it be there too! In dem twisty roads, da Focus thrones be latchin’ on to you like dat nasty weed habit. Ya just can’t shake dat shit. Da bolsters in particula’ be stacked like me girl. Not dat me is braggin’ or nothin’. Da two-tone leatha just be da icin’ on da cake. For Kings, dey is only one option ‘ere: Da Focus.
BMW Canada didn’t seem to care for my references to bejeweled cups, my lovely fiancée, and cruelly salting injuries. They found it offensive! Don’t they realize that many of their celebrity customers make a living talking exactly this way?
BMW/Mini probably didn’t like losing the comparison test either. Maybe Porsche’s notorious promotional policies are gaining wider appeal (if their car doesn’t win, no more gravy train).
Strangely, I never even asked to drive BMW’s press cars in the first place. Nor do they even have a regular press fleet for Edmonton! The fairly awful Mini Countryman was a complete anomaly and I still can’t don’t know what it was doing on the Prairies, other than getting whooped.
Oh, but it gets better! Toyota turns out to lack a sense of humour too! The Camry and Corolla are competent to a fault, but the beige values they represent seem to run deep at Toyota, despite CEO Akio Toyoda’s efforts at a cultural revolution. Ironically, this is exactly what I was lamenting in the Toyota Venza review that got be banned from their press fleet.
After struggling to come up with a way to make the review of the coma-inducing Toyota Venza at least moderately entertaining, I decided to write out the review by hand and even went so far as to crayon a concept for a more exciting product.
Too fringe for Toyota’s predictable target customer? You bet!
My chicken scratched slam of their product, including a comparison of the Venza’s interior to the oeuvre of Max Ernst (surely complementary, no?) apparently sent Toyota Canada into a tizzy. My reckless offense was allegedly enough to shun all future creative endeavours involving a Toyota, Lexus, or Scion.
Although I very much enjoyed the GS450h I drove last summer, never driving another one of their press cars is hardly a loss. Same for Toyota. It was future Scion products that I was most looking forward to reviewing. While my Scion experience thus far has been rather mixed, with the incredible iQ beating the galactic turbo-Explorer in a memorable comparison test of FWD four-bangers, there was also the matter of the Scion xD, which earned CarEnvy’s Worst Car Reviewed in 2011 award after a “dull if not downright disheartening” week behind the wheel.
I was understandably looking forward to the FR-S (who isn’t?) but I still have childhood friend Chris Button at Mayfield Scion to lend me a helping hand in that department.
Toyota and BMW no longer see the value in a tangential perspective but y’know who does? And this shouldn’t surprise you one bit: Ford.
The Blue Oval of Canada immediately saw the humour when I “owled” the Raptor last summer. They could’ve gotten upset that I wasn’t respecting their cars and that I wasn’t appealing to their target audience but they didn’t. They saw that I was having fun and creating buzz. Or creating “Ooo Ooo Ooooo” in this case.
Despite Ford’s benchmark open-mindedness, Toyota and Mini have a good point: I wasn’t appealing to their target audience. Venza buyers aren’t looking for artistic expression and Countryman buyers aren’t looking for rap battles. But who’s to say that someone in their “target audience” couldn’t buy their car? Aren’t car companies fixated on the elusive Conquest Sale that would otherwise go to their competitors? W.L. Bateman is accredited with observing that
“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”
Toyota and Mini are fine with that. I’m not.
I have immense respect for the press cars given to me, lest anyone suggest otherwise. After all, they’re new cars that I get to drive anywhere I want. How amazingly cool is that?!
It’s an honour, clearly, but it’s an honour that I earned. And I earned this honour by taking risks. Without risks, I would never have had the opportunity in the first place.
Starting CarEnvy.ca and devoting an alarming amount of my free time and energy into it was a risk. Firing all my paid contributors, breaking things off with my co-founder, and shunning the news blog format was a risk. Cold calling all the manufacturers and asking if they’d like to provide me with press cars was a risk. Owling was a risk. Hand-writing a review was a risk. Drawing a picture was a risk. Writing in hood slang was a risk.
Talking about philosophy on a car blog is the biggest risk I’m taking right now. Will it pay off? Based on the positive reception in the last 2 months, I’d say yes.
Most of the car companies in Canada understand what Peter Dushenski, and by extension CarEnvy.ca, is about.
I’m about cars and I’m about taking risks.
Sometimes my perspectives are pretty out there, but I’d argue that perspectives that test us are even more important than the perspectives we already have. New ideas are essential to producing well-rounded individuals and communities, and isn’t that what we’re looking for? As I discussed in this week’s Philosophy of Driving, lateral and creative thinking are what differentiate us from machines. It’s what our ancestors prized, it’s what they tried to teach us with religious scripture , and it’s what we fear.
CarEnvy.ca isn’t my primary occupation; it’s my labour of love. As such, dear reader, you needn’t worry; you’ll be able to enjoy my worldly and uncommon perspectives for as long as I enjoy sharing them. You might not find meaning in each and every article, but keep looking and you’ll find something that speaks to this moment in your life.
I’ll happily keep exploring ideas and taking risks, and I hope that I can encourage you to do the same.
Just don’t expect any Toyota and BMW reviews any time soon.