Badge Snot – Or when you buy a car and can’t afford the servicing

Automotive advertising tends to sell the sizzle and not the steak… especially when it comes to European cars, says Richard Robertson.

ADVERTISING IS filled with beautiful people living perfect lives thanks to beautiful motor cars. It’s called aspirational advertising and is designed to sell you the dream. And while manufacturers of all nationalities do it, it seems most people equate European cars with ultimate prestige. 

“Buy the new <<<insert make/model here>>> because only then will your life be complete. Your personal grooming and style sense will be transformed; you’ll become highly attractive to members of whichever sex/s you choose and it will always be bright and sunny as you sip latte in a fabulous sidewalk cafe. You’ll even acquire a taste for Campari (improbable as that might sound).”  

Recently I was watching an ad like this and it reminded me it’s a long time since I had Campari…

The truth is there’s at least a little bit of badge snobbery in any of us who love beautifully designed and engineered cars. Who wouldn’t rather a Lambo over a Lexus or a Merc over a Mazda? Well, me actually…

“Pourquoi (that’s French for ‘why’ and pronounced “poor kwaa”. Drop it into conversation to sound really sophisticated)?”

I wouldn’t because I don’t have a boss who’ll buy and maintain one for me. When it’s my money on the line, gimme Japanese or Korean any day.

There’s an old saying in the luxury car business that if you have to ask about fuel consumption you can’t afford it. It seems to me many buyers are dazzled by the badge and give no thought to ownership costs; things like depreciation, insurance, service and parts. The kinds of things that can keep you up at night…

I remember a few years back picking up a media Falcon from a dealer in Sydney who also sold Audis. I was chewing the cud with the handover person and the topic turned to service costs. I remember him saying a Falcon service at that time was around $350, but the equivalent Audi service was about $2500!

Moving to the present day – and still on Audis by coincidence – a mate’s son is a bigwig in the banking industry and earns a salary in the deep end of the six-figure swimming pool. He bought a used Audi RS5 coupe and after a precautionary oil change ($1500) was told that at the next service the pads and brake discs would also need replacing, with a likely bill north of $5000. Seriously? Even if they were individually sung into being by mystical elves deep in the Bavarian forests around Ingolstadt, then wrapped in gossamer thread and flown Down Under by a winged horse (on a holiday weekend), they still shouldn’t cost that sort of money.

I’ve decided being a badge snob is when prestige trumps (speaking of snobs) all other considerations. I’ve also decided badge snot is what happens to you when you buy a prestige car – and from a great height.

Of course I’m only jealous. Give me a seven-year unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assist and capped price servicing any day. Any day I’m paying, that is. But if there’s someone out there prepared to offer a job-and-prestige-car package to an old hack journo with a cynical streak and a distant-but-fond memory of Campari, I could be swayed. Snot that difficult really…


  1. Monty
    November 14, 2016 at 9:54 am — Reply

    Agreed. Especially true in Australia. I don’t know why any sane person would buy a BMW. I had an Audi, second hand, before I knew better. Water pump was 8 times the cost of a Holden pump and there was no real difference.

  2. Anonymous
    November 14, 2016 at 10:45 am — Reply

    A friend of mine upgraded to a 2015 BMW 328i after many years with a 2007 Corolla.
    I know the finances of his family, and I urged them not to get the Beemer expecting Toyota levels of maintenance.
    He doesn’t even like driving, nor does he appreciate cars.
    He is just a badge snob
    He paid $55k for that Beemer and although I wish the best for him; I’m certain that Beemer will bite his arse.

    • Rex Chan
      November 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm — Reply

      Just don’t go to the dealer for servicing and it’ll be fine. Euros also have longer between services. My 2014 A class is 25k kms between services. Bmw have condition based servicing. A lot of jap cars are only 12.5 or 15k or 6 months.

      • Adzee Aus
        November 20, 2016 at 4:40 pm — Reply

        Different climates…

  3. Dean
    November 14, 2016 at 2:56 pm — Reply

    Mercedes are very keen to stress that servicing their new cars costs less than servicing a Mazda… and they’ll collect and return your car before and after the service. The whole experience of owning a premium marque is much more than snobbery. It’s the same reasons people who can afford to stay in 5 star hotels over the local caravan park cabins – it’s all just a roof over your head, right? Right? Just watch out for the mini bar…

    • JohnGC
      November 14, 2016 at 4:03 pm — Reply

      I agree with point regarding a premium marque being more than snobbery. They are better cars, whether it’s interior comfort, design, fuel efficiency, handling etc. It’s never the badge that is the only difference. And I have trouble differentiating badge snobbery from loyalty. My father never considers anything other than Fords, so he’s a badge snob I guess. He thinks Asian and European cars are gutless, oddball things, so he really is a snob, despite driving a base model Falcon.

    • MattP
      November 16, 2016 at 11:41 am — Reply

      Dean, that is unlikely. In my personal experience, owning three Mercedes-Benz over an eleven year period, servicing and parts costs are higher than a non-Euro brand. If you can get a service loan car they usually charge for the privilege. No picking up or dropping off the car. And notice how Mercedes-Benz do not offer an extended factory warranty (even at a modest cost) like Ford or five, six or seven years from new like many other brands. Why? Because they know that once a Mercedes-Benz hits three years old, many very expensive things go wrong on a regular basis. Heck, I had to pay $7,000 to get the bearings replaced in a four year old gearbox. German quality!!!! Mercedes-Benz are NOT better cars, but they are better con artists.

      • Dean
        November 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm — Reply

        Interesting you’ve owned three given how rubbish they are! I don’t know if you bought them new, I’m just quoting the sales guy from a couple of weeks ago re service cost and the pick up service. I know people who are having that done for them, so there must be some truth to it. Push a harder bargain on your next one!! 🙂
        My wife and I have an out-of-warranty high kms Range Rover that is costing a bomb to keep on the road – just normal wear and tear so an extended warranty wouldn’t cover it anyway – but it’s frankly worth it, cos it’s a brilliant vehicle.
        I guess that’s the point of the article though, that you need to factor those costs, especially once they’re out of warranty.

        • MattP
          November 16, 2016 at 12:19 pm — Reply

          The first two I traded not far from warranty expiry, it was the third one I decided to keep “for the long run” and soon learnt how poor Mercedes quality is once the warranty expires. It is true Mercedes try to convince the public they are a “premium marque” as you claim. And perhaps, today, they are providing a better service offering. My point was to demonstrate that none of the German marques are actually “premium” in reliability once the warranty expires and, as the article correctly outlines, the premium prices they charge represent poor value indeed. Unless impressing the neighbours is important to you, of course.

  4. November 14, 2016 at 11:18 pm — Reply

    Out of curiosity I had a look (don’t own an Audi).

    They offer service plans – 3 years/45k.
    A8 – 1900AUD
    Q5 – 1870AUD
    A3 – 1680AUD

    That’s marginally more than what I am paying for my Hyundai Santa Fe (roughly 500 AUD per service).

    So at least during the first 3 years, the ownership costs are low (within the limits of these plans). Compare that to Subaru service costs …

    • Adzee Aus
      November 20, 2016 at 4:39 pm — Reply

      Amazing, a regularly serviced vehicle is more reliable than one that can go longer without servicing. Yeah, I admit I hated servicing every 6 months with my subaru, but it was rock solid and i was doing roughly 15k every 6-7 months anyway… I would hate to be doing less kms and doing that but it was fine for me cause it was needed anyway. Fiat somehow reckon a 2cylinder twin turbo engine only needs servicing every 32k or 2 years… and they arent know for reliability…

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Richard Robertson

Richard Robertson

A life-long car nut and son of a Holden Man, Richard Robertson was raised in the days when a kid could know every car make and model on sale. Having worked across four-wheel drive and mainstream car magazines, and owned a pop-top Kombi in the early 80s, Richard launched iMotorhome in early 2012: A free downloadable PDF magazine and website dedicated to all-things motorhome and campervan in Australia. More than 100 issues later and with a iMotorhome New Zealand launching soon, iMotorhome has become a must-read for Grey Nomads and all lovers of motorised RVs. Find it at www.imotorhome.com.au and on Facebook at facebook.com/imotorhome.