Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Nice But Does It Have A Cupholder ?

In an obvious sign of the coming apocalypse, Lotus has decided to include an optional cupholoder in their recently announced Exige S Performance Pack. Obviously bowing to pressure from owners and potential owners (probably mainly American ones) Lotus, the company famed for lightweight, simple, raw sportscars, has added this to a car that is more suited for the track than the road.

The question of why is easy to answer. They obviously have heard from enough people that they feel it will make buyers happier and maybe increase sales. I don't blame them for that. The real blame lies with the people who are actually looking for such a device on such a car. I have to say that if you bought a Lotus Exige or are thinking of buying one and the thing you are not happy with is the lack of a cupholder, you've obviously got the wrong car. These are cars that demand all your attention and are all about the driving experience. Not about whether or not your big gulp can come along for the ride.

I stated that it is probably mainly American customers who are looking for this because I imagine this is one of their biggest if not the biggest market for their cars. Here in the US, more than almost anywhere else, most drivers think of cars as appliances and of driving as a necessary inconvenience that they would rather avoid if they had the choice. Most American drivers feel that they need to do something else while driving to pass the time. European manufacturers were probably the last ones to put these kind of non-driving related options in their cars because they don't get it. They don't understand our need to do other things while driving. They put them there because we demanded them and we are a huge market for their cars. Europeans seem to take their driving much more seriously than we do. Even our mainstream automotive press reinforces this since most car reviews I see in the magazines complain if a car doesn't have a good cupholder. I don't give a crap if a Lotus has a cupholder or not. The damn car is meant for driving, not a picnic!

I don't know how this happened but there are probably a number of reasons. The highway system in our country is pretty boring with it's mostly straight driving and relatively low speed limits. Driving is a necessity here in the US much more than in most parts of Europe. Population density is higher in Europe and public transportation is relied on more. The US is much more spread out requiring longer more boring interstate travel. Also, because of this the automatic transmission has become more popular here than anywhere else in the world. That in itself frees up the driver to do other things while driving because you only really need one foot and one hand to drive. The newest dangerous trend here is to send text messages via cell phone while driving. I don't know how the hell you do that at all while driving but it would be pretty much impossible while driving a manual transmission car. In fact almost anything, besides actually driving the car, would be much harder if not impossible in a manual transmission car.

Sure I've used the cupholders in my cars but if I was in the market for a track toy type of car, I wouldn't even think to ask if it had one. It's just not important and not what the car is all about. I'd probably never use it on such a car anyway. I'd be too busy enjoying the driving.

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