Guest Opinion: Hypermediocrity

Hypermediocrity is not a real word. Microsoft seems keen to remind me of this by placing that annoying red squiggly line under it each time I type it. It’s that same red squiggly line that appears each time I type the word colour, kilometre, and favour. I’m Canadian. The Queen makes us do it.

Now let’s get back to Hypermediocrity. I’m 36 years old, and the soundtrack of my youth is 80’s music. Although I never had Flock of Seagulls hair, there are few pictures of me from that era and I prefer it that way. As spawn of the 80’s often do, I am always in search of the ultimate musical group that will help me recapture the dark dreary fog of my youth. A while back I stumbled across FischerSpooner, a Chicago-hatched group of artsy weirdoes that just happens to produce some interesting electronic music that I like. After a week of commuting to the sounds of FischerSpooner, I was hooked on their cheesy 80’s-like electronica.

Which gets me back to Hypermediocrity (there’s that damn red line again). The Fischerspooner song Emerge begins with Casey Spooner singing something that kind of sounds like this: “Hi”, “Huh I”, “Hyper”, “Hyper-mediocrity”. The song then goes on to repeat the same two lines filled with poor grammar over and over again. A classic! So now you’re all saying, “What does some whacko electronic club song have to do with cars? Is the Clown ever going to get to the point?” Yes I will, but in order for the rest of this little story to make sense, you have to understand that I thought that Hypermediocrity was a cool word…and I was keen to attempt to put a meaning to it. Understood?

Three paragraphs in and I’ll finally talk about cars… I am lucky enough to be able to work in the auto industry. I’ve been at it for over 12 years now and I really like my job, which allows me to get paid to meet and work with other people who like cars as well. But alas, a car-guy job isn’t all discussions of horsepower, new models and trips to auto shows. The auto industry is going through some pretty challenging times right now and many discussions revolve around economics, supply and demand, and those dreaded two words, market share.

Market share is a touchy subject these days, with the Big Three’s rapid decline in market share over the last several decades being the focus of much discussion in the industry. This issue has been visited, some would say beaten to death, many times in the Car Lounge here at VWvortex, so there’s no need for me to explain to all of you what kind of emotions can erupt from these debates. What is interesting is that the same discussions we ‘vortexers often have in the Car Lounge are also going on in the boardrooms across North America. “What’s going on with the Big Three?”

Many people in the industry are struggling to describe what is wrong with GM, Ford, and Chrysler these days. Are they victims of a media backlash? Are they some how being punished by consumers for past sins? Will their new products be enough to reestablish their former glory? There are many arguments on both sides of the fence, but one discussion of late sticks out in my mind.

Recently, after making a presentation to a group of fleet administrators, I had the chance to talk with an executive of perhaps one of the largest fleet management companies in North America. He was a true car guy and our discussion soon turned to the current market share issues with the Big Three that had been touched on in my presentation. He struggled to describe his idea of what he thought was the root of the problem. He exclaimed that he is constantly surrounded by fleet sales representatives from the Big Three parroting the exciting features and benefits of their products. “Everything is the ‘Best,’ everything is ‘Leading Edge,’ everything is ‘Super!’. Everything out of their mouth is a hyperbole”. Yet, on the same day the same man is confronted by his own customers who describe the very same Big Three vehicles as old, bland, mediocre, lacking excitement, and having poor residual values.

So the executive throws up his hands. “It’s all very perplexing.” He says. “On one hand you have hyperbole, and on the other you have mediocrity. How can a person possibly describe this?”

Without really thinking I say “Hypermediocrity?” “Yes! That’s it! That’s exactly it,” shouts the executive. “But is that really a word?”

Well no, but it might be now.

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