Matt Prior: why trucks and beards go hand-in-hand
A pick-up sends out a message about the person driving it
It looks like human survival instinct is kicking in nationwide, as commercial vehicles fly off the forecourts
A bloke who sold vans once told me that it was a much nicer gig than selling cars.
The trouble with cars, he said, was that when somebody came into the showroom to buy one, they were probably going to spend their own money, which meant they took negotiations personally.
There’s no great surprise or shame in that, given a car is the second most expensive thing most of us buy and the first most expensive thing that sees us dealing with a big, bad, faceless conglomerate who we fear is out to get us, rather than dealing with a home owner in a similar situation to ourselves. People do not like buying cars for this reason.
Buying vans, though, according to my dealer interviewee, was more relaxed. There he was, the anonymous face of a corporation with a minimum number in mind, meeting the anonymous face of another corporation with a maximum number in mind, and they’d chat until they found a mutually satisfactory number. If they couldn’t, they shook hands and moved on.
He found it much more agreeable. And I suspect that during the past decade, it has also been much more profitable. I know that Ford and Peugeot – and I suspect this of several other car companies, too – make more profit from actually selling commercial vehicles to companies than failing to sell you and me hatchbacks.
It’s something that’s made even easier by the fact that more and more of us want vans and pick-up trucks. Since the 2008 financial crash, we’re buying more of them, while car sales – save for fancy, expensive ones – are less buoyant. The logical conclusion, then, is that there are those among us who used to drive cars who are now driving vans.
That, one industry insider told me last week, is because more of us are working for ourselves, because there’s an upsurge in home delivery shopping, or because we’re working for ourselves delivering home delivery shopping. Whatever, with more zero-hours contracts and more self-employment, we are becoming more independent of, and doing more sticking it to, our former bosses.
And there’s something else we want more of these days: beards.
Now, I thought we’d seen peak beard in the early 2010s, but they just don’t seem to stop growing. Figuratively. I mention beards and commercial vehicles together because I think their respective growth – in sales terms, or more literally – is closer linked than you might imagine.
What says ‘independent spirit’ better than a pick-up truck and a beard? Why shave if you have no boss to make you? And, in this desperate, post-recessional austere time, where showing you can provide for your loved ones is more important than how shiny your alloy wheels are, what sends out a better message to rivals and potential partners that you can look after them, and could probably kill and skin a rabbit with your bare hands, than a flat-bed vehicle and a bushy chin? You are a provider, and they are the trappings that prove it. People are resilient and resourceful and, in hard times, we find novel new ways of thriving. These are the visible signs of such ingenuity.
I generously impart this free, then, in case you’re in the planning department for a commercial vehicle maker: watch the facial hair.