A lot of people talk about the cult of personality that is Apple Computers and Steve Jobs. It’s true that he’s really managed to build up a base of loyal followers that will buy anything Apple craps out no matter how expensive, initially broken, or ridiculous. There are two other companies that I think do an even better job of this, but in different ways. One is Coca Cola, which has such deep market penetration that the military regimens of the world should study their strategy. But they only have one product that never changes and when it does, it flounders (I’m looking at you New Coke on the 80’s.) Another company that is a bit more like Apple is Mercedes-Benz. They bring out new models all the time and an undying base of fans snatches them up continually no matter what the reviews say about quality or safety. If there is the “land, sea, and air” emblem on the hood of the car, then it is fit for purchase.
My neighbors up the street from my parents’ house were your typical Mercedes owners. Every two years, there was a new Mercedes in the driveway and they bought everything from the sports coupe (for the midlife crisis-addled father) to the SUV’s (for the on the go soccer mom). But they’re Americans and Americans love any semblance of being a VIP or upper class, so they buy these cars without hesitation and in blind faith.
Such it seems is the case in DR Congo. Mercedes-Benzes are everywhere in Kinshasa and other towns. These are not the Mercedes of my neighbors though. Well, actually, they might be the ones that they had 10 or 15 or even 20 years ago. These things are old and they get older even faster because they’re driven ragged over the potholed and dilapidated streets of DR Congo. But it doesn’t matter if the muffler is being held on to the car with the muffler of another car or three of the doors can’t open because they were smashed in an accident; it’s a Mercedes and that means status. With status comes the premise that you can be an asshole. I had to laugh at the fact that every time a Mercedes would cut us off while driving or walking that it reminded me of the same behavior I’d see back in the US. It’s true that BMW drivers are the absolute worst assholes in the world, but folks with Mercedes are an incredibly close second. In DR Congo it’s a funny concept to see someone driving so fast when in reality there really is nowhere to go, as the vast majority of people are unemployed or not employed through traditional means.
So there you go. Even in a country like DR Congo where the infrastructure is in ruin, corruption is rampant, and a good monthly salary for a family of four is $200, the Mercedes still rules as the car of choice for those on the up and up.
The Cult of Mercedes