When Francis Fukuyama declared the ‘end of history’, with the triumph of liberal democracy as the world’s prevailing ideology, he was perhaps a bit ahead of himself, as this new Mercedes GL would seem to demonstrate. I can’t think of a more perfect embodiment of the zenith of our society’s evolution than a car specifically designed and specifically purchased to inflict injury on others. From the environmental implications, to which no one can any longer claim to be oblivious, to the positioning of the massive brand marque on the grill, at a childs head height, this is an aggresive looking vehicle driven by aggressive people.
Motor manufacturers are masters of the ‘brand experience’ – the magical storytelling which transports us to a place where city drivers really do require a car which looks as though it could withstand not just a scrape in Tesco’s car park, but a full on assault from a rocket propelled grenade launcher. This is the storytelling which enables the mum on the school run to justify her purchasing decisions on the back of a flimsy ‘hunting/shooting/fishing’ ideal, which will never be realised, but which must remain a believable possibility, in order for the choice to be authentic. Clare Dowdy covers this topic in the excellent â??Carchitectureâ??, a book which provides a highly lucid and rational exploration of current thinking around the car and the city. But as any half decent english student will tell you, these brand stories fly because we’re willing, or able, to suspend our disbelief. I just wonder how long the suspense can be sustained?