I don’t claim to be old, past my years, golden this or that, but what on earth is going on in this world today?? I chose the headline picture for this blog as it sooooooo accurately outlines my feelings and thoughts around this topic. Now adding to my list of don’t... I have never been a tea, coffee or any other form of warm stimulus lover... Although I am and have always been a sucker for a good hot choco. And guess what... I have just highlighted almost ALL of the choices that I and everyone else once had when choosing the right hot drink for them. Nice and easy. When I said to my friends, lets grab a coffee, at least one of use would have a coffee!
Fast forward many many years to now. My trips to coffee shops are long, stressful lessons in thinking, bartering, comparing and forgetting orders. Did they want sprinkles, cream, marshmallows, caramel, full milk, skimmed milk, semi skimmed, oat, almond, goat.....arrrrrghhhhhh!
So where am I going with this?
Well it seems like the hot beverage industry is not on its own in providing unparalleled volumes of choice. In much the same way, 20 years back, when I started driving it was really really straight forward. What’s my budget and do I want a car that is small, medium, large, 2/4/5 doors, or a 4x4. That was it and it made my life choices fast and uncomplicated. I like uncomplicated! It keeps the decision process short and leaves loads of room to focus on actually getting the car and enjoying the decision I made.
I tried the same approach recently and, my god, I started to feel older than my first W registration Austin Metro. It’s like picking from the periodical table. I was recently looking for a 4x4 to replace the family Audi SQ5, which had been a great choice for the near 3 years we had the car. I wanted something 4x4 again, tall, large enough, good boot space, comfortable, fast and still handled like the SQ5. 20 years back I would have said get a Range Rover and live with the performance challenges. Now, however, I started my search and looked at which manufacturers now offer SUVs. ALL of them! Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Land Rover, VW, Volvo, Ford, Peugeot, Skoda, Nissan, Honda...The list just goes on. So managed to narrow over 20 manufacturers to just those from the wonderful Deutschland, which still left me with the big 4. Progress right? Sure, until you realise that Mercedes offer a GLA, GLB, GLC, GLE, GLS, G. The GLA and GLB are based on the A class, but the GLB has 7 seats, and is longer (I hear) than the GLC, which is based on the larger C class and has only 5 seats! The GLE and GLS both have 7 seats, although optional in the GLE. Huh?! I continued on to BMW and then had the X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6 and the bloody X7. Audi was no different, and somehow even Porsche had managed to sneak 2 in over the years. So even with the so called narrowing, I was still looking at over 20 models under the category of “SUV” (or SUV Coupe if you really want to see me go Incredible Hulk angry..One for another blog). And don’t even get me started on variants, because that took me back to over 100 options.
I could go on, but I think you are getting where I am going with this.
We have reached a point in time where just trying to chose your next family SUV could almost carry its own diploma and 3 year syllabus.
So I ask again, do we have too much choice when it comes to cars? I think it has to be a resounding YES. When you start to look at the ACTUAL differences on offer across the whole range of any of these manufacturers, you find that all they are really trying to do is cover every single gap between the lowest and highest models in the range, so not to lose any customer. This surely must be a good thing right as you can now find a car that is exactly what you are looking for! This side of choice is positive and means that the gap between what you want and what is on offer closes fast. However, on the flip side, this gap covering has also meant that telling the difference between the 200, 300, 400 takes some extra focus. Slightly more pace, one more button, slightly different grill, slightly bigger brakes. We are really talking about marginal differences now and going from one model to the next one up, provides the equivalent ‘marginal’ gains, and takes something away from the joys of moving up the model ranks. As we move forward, and make the switch from petrol to electric, we are faced with yet more choices, yet more research and yet more time spent trying to work out why 4 models share the same capacity engine.
There is of course a flip side to this and every other story, and that is that somehow, despite all of my gripes, I still seems to see every variant of every model on the road on my journeys in and around London. Perhaps this means that there really is a market for choice. We have over 1000 variants off hot drink combinations, so why not in fact extend that to all areas of our life. Would we be the same without that choice now. Would we even accept going back to a world with only tea, coffee and hot chocolate? I don’t think we would, however, with the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to limit us in many areas, perhaps we will all need to get back into the swing of limited choices and maybe even start to use some of that R&D money to start injections some extra quality across the remaining ranges.
Lets see what happens for now and hope that balance prevails overall.
Share you thoughts in the comments section below...
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