4X4 COMMUNITY vs 4X4 BRAND
By Grant Spolander
The South African 4×4 community has no shortage of opinions and toy-throwing contests (Hilux vs Ranger, Cooper vs BFG, Ironman vs Old Man Emu – to name just a few), but let’s forget what we disagree about for a minute and consider some of the things that unite us as a tribe.
- A passion for the great outdoors,
- A need to explore remote and isolated places,
- A yearning for freedom and disconnection from the “modern” world,
- An appreciation of friends and family, and time well spent with them,
- And, of course, the evolution of the vehicles that make all of this possible.
Unfortunately, sometimes we forget these things, and instead of defining ourselves by what we do, we define ourselves by what we own. I think one of the reasons this is such an easy habit to slip into, is that we “buy more than we do”.
Of course, we would all like to go on holiday more, drive more trails, and spend more time exploring new places, but the reality of life and our respective commitments means that we spend more time dreaming about these things than actually doing them. So, the next best thing is… Retail Therapy.
But I’m not here to tell you the rights and wrongs of how you spend your money. Heaven only knows how many times my buying habits have postponed any hopes of a pension.
However, the problem with buying instead of doing is that we often get caught up in what we’ve bought, and as a result, we defend our purchases like mouth-frothing lunatics that rant and rave in a rhythm that’s oddly similar to our favourite brand jingles. “Yours may have lockers, but everything keeps going right with mine!”
“We defend our purchases like mouth-frothing
lunatics that rant and rave in a rhythm that’s
oddly similar to our favourite brand jingles”
The truth is that every product has its place in the market. If it didn’t, no one would buy it and it would cease to exist.
Obviously, not all products are equal, and (generally speaking) you get what you pay for. However, the question of good, better and best is relative to budget and need. Not everyone needs to own the world’s toughest 4×4, fitted with the world’s toughest suspension, riding on the world’s toughest tyres.
WHAT’S THIS SITE ABOUT?
This brings us (in a very round-about way) to what this website is all about. With the 5 previously mentioned points in mind, I hope that this site will serve as a reminder (to myself included) that loyalty to a community is better than loyalty to a brand.
But why should any of this matter? Well, I can’t speak on your behalf, but this is what brought me here…
For those of you who don’t know me, I spent 7 years working at SA4x4 magazine. During that time, I noticed many trends in our 4×4 community, one of which was the global recession that hit sometime in 2008. Ironically, I would venture to say that at the same time, the South African off-road (enthusiast) market was at an all-time high.
Things were going remarkably well for a lot of players: off-road trailer sales, suspension sales, camping fridges, and 4×4 trails and destinations were all booming. And the better the market did, the more growth there was within the South African 4×4 community.
As more people identified themselves as off-road enthusiasts, farmers were inspired to open new trails, lodges to build new campsites, and automotive brands to import new vehicles, all to cater to a growing dedicated 4×4 community.
Sadly, though, it didn’t take long for the recession to trickle down to SA. Over time, trailer manufacturers shut down, major brands left the country, big franchises just about collapsed, and many trail owners closed their gates.
Similarly, the development and innovation of new products largely left the hands of South Africans and migrated to off-road markets in Europe, Australia and the budding overland scene in America.
4X4 COMMUNITY LEADERS
But it was not all doom and gloom. The companies that fought through the recession came out stronger, leaner and far more focused. They proved that customer service, product-innovation and the ability to identify opportunities are age-old business skills, regardless of the times. I don’t know all of them, but I’d be willing to bet that they all have a great story to share; and this website will serve as a place to do just that.
However, apart from celebrating our “tribal leaders”, this site will focus primarily on you: on the places you visit, the gear you use, and the field knowledge and experience that you bring to the table. With any luck, we’ll rope in more 4×4 owners who aren’t yet 4×4 enthusiasts (there’s a big difference) and thus inspire our community to preserve what we value, and to expand what we have for future off-roaders to enjoy.
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