SRT to Smart
Wednesday, February 27th, 2008
The theory behind market segmentation assumes that people have a certain set of needs and thus that when looking to buy something like a car can be expected to buy a specific type of product.
Reality isn’t nearly so clean. Although I continue to find market segmentation quite interesting (how might car buyers be grouped?), and believe there’s a role for it to play, the traditional view of car buyers’ needs as clear and unchanging just doesn’t hold up. Instead, people’s needs are often highly fluid, especially as they play out in the selected vehicle.
I learned this a few years ago when someone asked me if they should buy a Subaru WRX or a VW GTI. He didn’t personally feel any need for a fast car, but he wanted something that his friends would think is cool and noteworthy. He arrived at a better solution without my help: a Toyota Prius. Which did fit his basic needs, demonstrates the unlikely alternatives that can result even starting with the same set of needs.
This month I came across a similar switch. Someone who’d been driving a large 425-horsepower Chrysler SRT8 swapped it for a tiny 70-horsepower Smart ForTwo. It’s hard to imagine two more different cars. Yet at this point I’m no longer surprised by such a switch; major changes from one vehicle to the next happen too often.