Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hummer VS MINI

In the following weeks, I invite you to a series of seven chronicles on the theme: Why do we love… or hate a vehicle? To shed light on this question, I will use two vehicles whose philosophies are a world apart: the Hummer and the MINI. Let us begin with the largest one.

The Hummer is in a class of vehicles commonly known as Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV), or 4X4; they are derived from the Jeep, a vehicle which has known its hours of glory on all theatres of operations of the Second World War. Originally conceived by the American Bantam Car Company, the US Army signed manufacturing contracts with Willys-Overland and Ford in 1941. After the war, Willys-Overland continued production alone, Ford no longer being interested; the company is sold to Kaiser in 1953, who continued production. Kaiser is bought by AMC in 1970, which got into a partnership with Renault in 1979; in 1987, Renault sold its stake to Chrysler, attracted by AMC’s Jeep division (4wheelz Web Site).

The Hummer leaves no one indifferent; some love it intensely, others hate it just as much. In fact, few vehicles, maybe none, give rise to such passion; have you ever heard someone say that he detests a Jeep, a Land Rover, a Ford Explorer, a Chevy Suburban…? Yet, they are SUV type vehicles! How should one understand these reactions?

First of all, let us consider those who love the hummer. SUVs became very popular in North America in the 1990s. Clotaire Rapaille teaches us that the reason of this popularity rests in the structure of the brain, which comprises three parts: the cortex, the limbic system and the reptilian brain. The first takes care of logic, learning, abstract thought and creativity. The second is the center of our emotions, which often take precedence over reason. The third is a remnant of the reptiles’ brain; this zone harbours the survival and reproduction instincts. Survival being more crucial to our existence than “feeling well” or “making sense” the reptilian brain always prevails. Instinct always wins over logic and emotion. Rapaille maintains that this happens to be the case for personal well-being, purchase decisions and even the choice of leaders (C. Rapaille, The Culture Code, New York, Broadway Books, 2006, p. 74).

I am not quite so definite; I would say rather than in some people, in certain circumstances, instinct prevails over reason and emotions. In others, in a different context, logic or emotions will triumph. In fact, intuition tells me that there is a close link between the predominance of one facet of the brain or another and self-image. Unfortunately, I have no empirical evidence to support my intuitive hypothesis for the moment.

I would like to know what you think of the reptilian brain theory.

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