Sure it’s ugly, but at least it’s expensive.

I passed an all-electric BMW i3 today and it’s the ugliest thing ever. It reminded me of the ungainly 2001-2005 Pontiac Aztec, one of the ugliest vehicles ever made, according to consumer polls. Even legendary GM executive, Bob Lutz, said it and other GM products looked like “angry kitchen appliances.”

BMW i3

BMW i3

What is it that drives people to buy the i3, with a MSRP up to $46,250, and other horrendously pricey, but ugly, products?

It’s the weirdness itself.

It’s not that people want an ugly car. What they want is to stand out, to express their have their friends, neighbors and even strangers see them in their distinct, peculiar, expensive car. If it’s an electric or hybrid car, so much the better because it crows, “I can afford this. Admire me and my environmental credentials.”

Same thing with a host of other products.

Want an expensive watch? You could spend tons on an exhorbitantly priced, but bland-looking one. But who will notice? Instead, try the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor, priced at 1 million Swiss francs (about US $1,125,000).

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor watch

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor watch

The maker says it’s worth it because its case is made entirely of silicon (according to the brand, the first such watch of its kind), a material with half the weight of titanium and four times the hardness. It’s big advantage? It’s really ugly, so people will notice.

How about shoes? Some women are apparently willing to spend $2495 on Giuseppe Zanotti white crystal-embellished peep-toe leather mid-calf booties. It can’t be because they are so elegant, but they certainly will be noticed.

Giuseppe Zanotti booties

Giuseppe Zanotti booties

Of course, some people will buy expensive things even if they aren’t ugly, so long as they carry status. Aspirational Americans keep buying Land Rovers, for example, even though they consistently get terrible reliability ratings.

Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque

When JD Power recently released the results of its newest Customer Service Index study, Land Rover finished right at the bottom, in the basement, dead last.

Typical of owner complaints is this from the owner of a Land Rover with 28,000 miles on it: “…after a year of owning it – the electronic park brake got stuck and was a huge expense to fix. Shortly after that the rear anti roll bar was leaking – another huge expense…After 50K miles front suspension arms have gone wheel bearings have gone and front anti roll bar has gone, another 4.5K to fix all. Just got the car back – and now the right side turbo has gone. Another 5K fix… Range rovers are nice to look at – but are built so poorly – its not worth owning this car.”

Oh well, at least people blowing all their money on overpriced things are keeping the people who make them employed. And that’s good for the economy, right?


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