Peter Bromhead: The problem with my car

Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Illustration / Peter Bromhead

The problem with my current automobile is that I'm constantly bombarded with hoary old jokes about my wheels, going back to the bleak Iron Curtain days when Skoda was a satellite of Russian manufacturing ineptitude.

Joke number one I hear, ad nauseam, is "How do you double the price of a Skoda? Answer: Fill up the tank."

This is followed by: "Why does a Skoda have a heated rear windscreen? Answer: To keep your hands warm while you're pushing it."

And last: "What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof? Answer: A skip."

In acknowledging these and other worn-out chestnuts, I can respond only with a weary smile.

The paradox in these comments, as most car reviewers will agree, is that Skoda today is one of the most reliable and respected European brands on the market.

Even the top management at Skoda's stablemates, Volkswagen and Audi, are mystified by the way the Czech product constantly comes out ahead of the German version in European consumer satisfaction surveys.

Not just occasionally, but year in, year out.

In this year's British review, "Best cars to own 2014 survey", conducted by the influential Auto Express, the Skoda Yeti again takes top spot, followed by two other Skodas, including the Superb.

You have to go 26 places down the list before a fancy Audi V6 or an uppity Mercedes E Class turns up.

So, what's driving me to write this puff piece in defence of the brand?

Well, recently, a lady who should know better shuddered when she saw me alighting from my Yeti.

"You surprise me," she said.

"I would have thought with your design taste, you'd be driving something more upmarket."

I sometimes wish I were a trained psychologist, so I could understand the muddled thinking that drives consumer perception, particularly with automobiles.

I was able to respond gracefully, replying: "Well, you won't think much of my taste when I inform you I've just purchased the caregiver another new Skoda Superb wagon, with all the bells and whistles, for half the price of its stablemate Audi."

"Well," she smirked, "I hope your poor caregiver enjoys slumming it."

Presumably, her adverse reaction is dictated by misguided perceptions on brand status rather than economic or engineering rationality and like many people, she is happy to pay a premium for questionable benefits.

To me, this suggests the Skoda joke is now on her.

- NZ Herald

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