The Ego Divide

The recent­ly-dis­con­tin­ued Nis­san Mura­no Cross­Cabri­o­let dark­ly mir­rors sen­ti­ments first begun with the Pon­ti­ac Aztek, nar­rat­ing Gen­er­a­tion X’s decline.
My Nis­san wheel­time for Honk has grown a mas­sive respect for the brand’s audac­i­ty with­in me. My inter­est in the pro­fes­sion has spanned years of matu­ri­ty — from ask­ing can’t you just…? to active affec­tion for those who dare reli­ably retort with a con­fi­dent no.
Can’t you just retire your body-on-frame SUV entries already like every­body else did ten years ago?
The noble, rugged Xter­ra, which we shall sin­cere­ly miss.
Can’t you just fol­low the Golf’s unques­tion­ably low-risk lead into the tumul­tuous youth mar­ket?
The Juke NISMO, which we regard as the industry’s sin­gu­lar steady grasp on what youth actu­al­ly means.
Can’t you just take some cues from Hon­da and Toy­ota, and make your sedans easy on the eye?
The Alti­ma and the Max­i­ma, which con­sti­tute the last tru­ly evil mar­que avail­able.
Can’t you just step a lit­tle lighter on the Versa’s mar­gins? You’d be insane to build a car designed by MSRP alone!
The Ver­sa is — for bet­ter or worse — the absolute essence of auto­mo­biles’ trans­portive func­tion, and no more.
And there’s the GT-R, of course, which con­tin­ues to make fools of an entire cul­ture of self-titled “gear­heads” who claim speed as their one true dowry.
Through­out the years, Nis­san has over and over again made me look like an absolute­ly absurd idiot for your dis­play — and I can­not think of a bet­ter gift. Of all the brands to mis­un­der­stand, it is the ulti­mate muse, so — in the present — I am grandiose­ly assum­ing you’ve been atten­tive enough to delib­er­ate the pos­si­ble out­comes of our time with the Mura­no Cross­Cabri­o­let.
It was quick­ly appar­ent that the expe­ri­ence was not going to resem­ble our Night of the Juke in the slight­est. It could be attrib­uted to my pre-game men­tal­i­ty: for the first time, I came to this mon­stros­i­ty think­ing I’d final­ly learned my les­son, des­per­ate­ly hop­ing to be whipped again — real bad — but walk away with more clo­sure than with which I arrived. Like a good diplo­mat, I made myself approach with­out want for any­thing but under­stand­ing.

Some­thing ter­ri­ble has hap­pened to my best friend. Appre­ci­ate your prayers in this hard time.

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On first take, the Xter­ra was proud, and the Juke was clever.
The Cross­Cabri­o­let is a corny joke.
Take a look at an occu­pied, top-down exam­ple from afar.
I can­not think of a more ridicu­lous pic­ture.
Just since its assem­bly in 2011, our example’s trim has endured enough to begin dis­in­te­grat­ing in a few bizarre locales. Not to over-iter­ate, but it’s need­ing strong men­tion: I had nev­er sat in a roof­less crossover before. I’m assum­ing you haven’t, either.
It is unnat­ur­al. It is har­row­ing.
From the orga­ni­za­tion I have summed so many times over the years as “acute­ly inge­nious” came this… unset­tling sub­ur­ban bath­tub. It’s a shame — I repeat­ed­ly remark on the extrap­o­lat­ed poten­tial I can see in a roofed Mura­no. Every­thing else in sight is worth my time. If only it had been bet­ter-pro­tect­ed. The sen­sa­tion is sim­ply ridicu­lous in what’d be a taste­ful sense were this a one-off project of some hearty garage tin­ker­er or tun­ing shop, but… my God; Nis­san deliv­ered it this way, and had the gall to ask $10,000 more for their molesta­tion.
Still, its web­page (in past tense, thank God,) pro­claims “the Mura­no Cross­Cabri­o­let was the world’s first and only All-Wheel Dri­ve con­vert­ible crossover” in the same lan­guage I’d tout the Xter­ra (may it rest in peace and eter­nal­ly-inad­e­quate glo­ry) as the last avail­able SUV, in the tra­di­tion­al use of the seg­ment, or the Juke NISMO as the first com­pe­tent­ly-com­posed auto­mo­tive prod­uct for mil­len­ni­al youth. Or the GT-R as by far the most effec­tive, high-val­ue instru­ment for the pur­suit of max­i­mum veloc­i­ty across the ground. And so on.
The lan­guage so assured, the par­al­lels must inevitably be drawn to that cheap joke of the century’s turn…
The Pon­ti­ac Aztek.
The details of its life sto­ry are reli­ably amus­ing, should you find your­self mid-research. From the journos’ gasps at its cor­po­rate­ly-edgy concept’s unveil­ing, to the weary orig­i­nal steed of Break­ing Bad’s Meth Man, there is a sim­i­lar lifestyle vehi­cle thread between the prod­ucts that weaves an obscure nar­ra­tive.
My own con­tri­bu­tion: after a missed exit out­side Galve­ston just as Azteks first became rentable, my step­fa­ther (the most earnest­ly late-his­to­ry Pon­ti­ac man who ever lived) took an entire­ly-unex­pect­ed and unchar­ac­ter­is­tic 70 mile-an-hour plunge into the chop­py grass medi­an after shout­ing “this is an off-road vehi­cle!”
As I’m sure you can imag­ine, it was the sin­gle most trau­mat­ic event I have ever expe­ri­enced as the pas­sen­ger of a motor vehi­cle, but the damned thing was unscathed, despite hav­ing repeat­ed­ly chucked us all (ful­ly-belt­ed) into its beige ceil­ing.
Gary believed in Pon­ti­ac.
Though he was keen enough to smell death, he chose to believe in the Aztek.
And you know what? His faith, too, has made me look like an idiot.
That’s what sep­a­rates the Aztek from ye late Cross­Cabri­o­let: it real­ly was a gen­uine­ly-bold inno­va­tion. Sur­vive the laymen’s idle par­ty chat and crude design cri­tiques, and you’ll find an impres­sive clar­i­ty in its pur­pose, espe­cial­ly giv­en the con­text of its con­cep­tion. In the used mar­ket espe­cial­ly, it still rep­re­sents a char­ac­ter­ful, prac­ti­cal, and high-val­ue con­sid­er­a­tion. And yet — at the expense of them­selves — Amer­i­can buy­ers did not clam­or for it like the informed of the pop­u­lace did. Per­haps it was because the informed — like then-Busi­ness­Week’s David Welch — were echo­ing hopes of a “design renais­sance” for Gen­er­al Motors. The renais­sance that would not come until the Flush of the Boomer High­er-Ups some eight years lat­er.
Both tales, I think, rep­re­sent a pro­found neglect of con­sumer jour­nal­ism. At the turn of the cen­tu­ry, though, it was not unusu­al to go a day with­out access­ing the inter­net. Today, peo­ple are still buy­ing the few flops the indus­try has left to offer — mak­ing what is most like­ly the sec­ond-largest pur­chase of their life’s cur­rent epoch with­out con­sult­ing the vol­umes of diverse, intel­li­gent, and artic­u­late opin­ing now acces­si­ble instant­ly free of charge via the sub­si­dized slates that light­ly jos­tle in their jean pock­ets as they wig­gle their sig­na­tures on deal­er paper­work.
Fun­ny, isn’t it?
An Amer­i­can hit when the Japan­ese were unques­tion­ably win­ning, and — just over a decade lat­er — a Japan­ese miss as their win­ning had just begun to be ques­tioned. Make no mis­take; I am not being patri­ot­ic. For me, sov­er­eign­ty does not extend beyond design hous­es, R&D facil­i­ties, and test cen­ters. And it’s some­where with­in Nissan’s where pil­lars were sev­ered and delu­sions nur­tured; all astound­ing­ly with exec­u­tives’ bless­ing. I am ter­ri­bly and shock­ing­ly ashamed to report that my coun­try­men actu­al­ly bought them.
As many as 3300 units in the last year of the Mayan cal­en­dar.
The worst bit, though, is that they all made their way to my par­tic­u­lar part of the plan­et.
I swear to the Sun… I am sur­round­ed.
If you’re famil­iar with Colum­bia, Mis­souri, it does not take more than a mod­er­ate imag­i­na­tion to com­pre­hend the sense, as gru­el­ing as it is. I see them reg­u­lar­ly; once a month, at least. In a town where one can expect to spot a Gal­lar­do in front of Buf­fa­lo Wild Wings marred by hor­rid plas­tic ath­let­ic mini­flags wedged in its five-fig­ure doors, they are ever­p­re­sent reminders that the New Mon­ey Effect con­tin­ues to flour­ish, unbri­dled in the Mid­west­ern U.S.
The soft top is always retract­ed, of course, and the exposed dri­ver is always a sweat­ing mid­dle-aged white woman wear­ing a light-col­ored ten­nis visor.
She… they… are always on their way to a match.
Doomed to roast for­ev­er, I sup­pose, as there is only one near­by court, as far as I know.
It is dis­heart­en­ing to real­ize that, now, I see many more of them than Azteks around. Though nei­ther were designed for any tan­gi­ble “lifestyle,” per se, I am sad­dened by the shift this minus­cule tell indi­cates in my hometown’s morale. From an (albeit equal­ly-vague) yearn­ing for new adven­ture in an intrigu­ing new cen­tu­ry to an emo­tion­al­ly-des­ti­tute jaunt to the court, I have wit­nessed all of Gen­er­a­tion X’s vig­or erode pro­ce­du­ral­ly away before my eyes.
Y2K, Great Depres­sion II
An ancient apoc­a­lyp­tic prophe­cy from one of the wis­est civ­i­liza­tions in record­ed his­to­ry…
Sure­ly, one of these fore­told dis­as­ters will final­ly End it All!
Per­haps Nis­san knew that even the well-read of the North Amer­i­can mar­ket were, by and large, sim­ply look­ing for ways to pass the time before the death which they felt so assured­ly approached. The num­ber of unan­i­mous­ly-unbuyable prospects avail­able has shrunk­en to vir­tu­al­ly none, and the Cross­Cabri­o­let was not much of an invest­ment; not all that high­ly-engi­neered, real­ly. Per­haps they felt oblig­at­ed to enter­tain us in our delu­sion­al way out.
Per­haps it was all just an awful­ly-Ger­man prank.
And — if the End of the World is immi­nent — what’s to stop one, real­ly, from leas­ing the world’s first and only con­vert­ible crossover?
What’s to stop one from play­ing ten­nis?