After New Acura Commercial, Enthusiasts Bite Back

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Acura's recent commercial on "excuses" and "reasons" for luxury was an apparently devastating parody of the farther shores of (male) technological enthusiasm, featuring a bearded actor marveling that his tube amplifier "reproduces frequencies only dogs can hear."



It reminded me of a former old-line luggage store in Princeton, N.J. that during a pre-9/11 Indian summer featured an attaché case made of reindeer hide, tanned by a now-lost Russian process, salvaged from an 18th-century shipwreck. The Prince of Wales, who received the first pair of shoes made from the salvaged leather, could have had a perfect cameo in the ad.

The Acura spot was of course a challenge to aficionados not only of high-end audio but of complicated watches and limited-edition fountain pens. But the Web makes the satirical commercial—especially one as beautifully produced and brilliantly acted as Acura's—a doubled-edged (Damascene) sword. Some enthusiasts just laughed (seeing the targets as parvenu collectors rather than true connoisseurs) but others reminded Acura of its own glass house:

One friend of mine has a ten year old acura, worth about $2000 with an purchase price of 25K. Another has a pair of 45 year old Marantz 8b's worth around 15K with an initial purchase price of what, $800 bucks?

Stupid series of ads in my opinion. They ridicule the purchasing habits of their potential customers! How dumb is that? I am a vacuum tube audio equipment enthusiast and one of their ads ridicules a tube amp and its owner. Geez. Maybe someone should ask Acura why one would want to own a more expensive but re-badged Honda. Is it really worth the premium over their Honda lineup?

The luxury cars of yore, like the Adenauer Mercedes of 50 years ago, imposed as much by by their size and weight as by their elegant lines. The caste of dignitaries for whom they were created has long vanished. Today's luxury cars are made for a different kind of ruling class. These vehicles share the aerodynamic shapes of their poorer cousins, excelling especially in their computerized controls, navigation, and audio systems. But sports and entertainment celebrities, according to an auto reviewer friend, gut and replace these systems, already obsolete by the time the car is on the market, as even their own upgrades soon will be as well. Moore's Law can be a grim reaper, and electronic luxury the most evanescent kind of all.

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Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

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