I’ve always really loved the Indian car market. It has a really demanding set of requirements for success in the home market, including rough road conditions, expectations that vehicles will be overloaded and overworked, and they have to generally be affordable and rugged. The result is often a lot of innovative thinking and interesting solutions. I think this new MG Comet EV is a result of that, and even though MG is a brand owned by the Chinese company SAIC-GM-Wuling and appears to be a re-badged and re-designed Wuling Air EV, the little boxy car does seem like an EV that should be well-suited to the Indian market, at least in the urban areas. What’s less well-suited to the Indian market is the marketing for the MG Comet EV, especially this brochure, because the Indian market is made up of human beings capable of reading words, seeing pictures, rolling their eyes, and possibly vomiting. It’s just so, oh god, so embarassing, and it’s trying so very, very, very hard, like the amount you’d be trying to pull yourself up onto a ledge if you were dangling off the side of a skyscraper, but instead of desperate gripping and clawing and climbing, it’s trying to sound cool to a bunch of Gen Z kids who are not gonna have it.
Now, I’m going to be perhaps a little harsh on the way this little EV is marketed, but I do want to say that overall this looks like a pretty cool little EV, and is precisely the sort of EV that I think the world – not just India, I mean America, too – needs right now. It’s priced at about $9,760 in American paper money, it seats four, makes a city-car-reasonable 40 hp, can go 143 miles on a charge (which is not only great for something that will be primarily a city car, but if each mile were a kilobyte, would be the capacity of an original Apple II floppy disk), has a 17.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and can support Android Auto and Apple Car Play, something your fancy-ass Tesla can’t do out of the box.
The truth is that a car like this would cover a huge percentage of your day-to-day driving needs (I know because I’ve done a lot more with a lot less) and makes a hell of a lot more sense than hauling around some massive, heavy battery whose full capabilities you only push a few times a year. I think this MG Comet EV has some real potential, which is partially why this painful marketing campaign is so tragic as well as funny. Hopefully, it won’t dissuade too many members of its laser-targeted Gen Z market, who hopefully can look past the pandering and see the good idea underneath it all.
Now, though, let’s get to the pandering! Though, I should put a qualifier here, because while I’m going to be making fun of this brochure, it should be clear that I am a painfully old man, and the most up-to-date slang I use references our nation’s robust telegraph network and probably Pet Rocks and shit. I’m approaching this not as a member of the desired target market of this car, but as a cranky old bastard hoping to squeeze a bit of joy at the expense of some probably well-meaning marketing people just trying to do their fucking jobs, already. That’ll teach them to want to sell cars!
We know we’re in for some fun starting with the cover:
Alright, we have the car in a fantastic green, some happy Gen Z kids awkwardly gesturing at one another or attempting to climb out a window, and that’s all fine. What drives me nuts is the skateboard. Yes, the fucking skateboard. I’m not exactly sure exactly when a skateboard became the lazy, default signifier of Cool Kid Youth Culture, but it sure as hell has. Does it go all the way back to Bart Simpson? Of course, that trope had to exist to be part of that in the first place, but is that the start of the universality of this? Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know is in this instance it looks like it was just rolled into that scene with the MG as an afterthought, like someone realized at the last minute “oh, shit! These are supposed to be cool kids! Where’s the fucking skateboard?” and then slid it into the shot, moments before that shutter clicked.
It doesn’t even look like it belongs to any of the people in the picture? It’s just there, to check a box, skateboard, got it. I’m surprised there aren’t some Beats by Dre headphones on the grass there, too.
Maybe it’s a size comparison? So you can say, oh, damn, that MG looks a lot roomier than my skateboard!
Look, I like all the colors and I think the decals on the car are just fine, this is the sort of car to have fun with, so go nuts. But they copy, oy, it’s so cloying. “Keep it real” causes one pang, and then the “cutting the crap” line feels like something that would be delivered, a bit too loudly and with a bit too much swagger, by a cool youth deacon seconds after he plops down onto a folding chair he’s just turned backwards. And, if you listen carefully, you can hear that “crap” is pronounced like “cr*p.”
Plus the main tagline of “Presenting The New Age Urban Mobility Solution” has the same sort of gentrifier trying-too-hard feel to it as one of those “Urban Taco Fabricator” restaurants that put some old family-owned taquerias out of business.
This page, though, oh boy. Picking tribes, fam, flex, main character energy, woke, legit, vibe-check, and, of course, slaps all make an appearance here, all on the same page, like the writers printed out as many Tik-Tok screenshots as they could, puréed it in a Vitamix, chugged it, and then turned whatever they puked back out into ad copy. It’s dizzying. And someone told that model to make that face and that gesture. Is it possible not to make fun of this? I don’t think it is, at least it wasn’t in our Slack channel:
What is that, exactly? Is it tough? Is it cool? Is whatever is going on there somehow the feeling generated by that car? This just feels like the skateboard all over again. Someone saw people looking kind of like that, doing something like that with their hands, so that’s good enough, it’s in, it’s selling cars!
All the slangiest slang they could slang, all the time, slaying FTW for your tribe, or whatever. They do hedge their bets a bit, making sure that if you’re not as cool as the potential buyers of an MG Comet EV, they’re happy to clue you in on the secret lingo:
See! FOMO means “fear of missing out!” The other page did the same thing for FTW, which they helpfully explain as meaning “Flog That Walrus.” No, no, I’m kidding, they got it right.
I’m being a little harsh, here. Almost every carmaker is guilty of this kind of pandering to whatever the current youngest car-buying generation is doing. Hell, Toyota based their whole Scion sub-brand on embarrassing bullshit like this, and let’s not let Kia off the hook, who committed the cardinal sin of youth pandering by making animals rap:
Besides, I wasn’t kidding when I was saying that little, cheap EVs like this are exactly the sorts of cars that need to happen. And they should be fun, because why the hell not? A rational car design doesn’t have to be boring, so if they want to offer all kinds of sticker kits, even if they have eye-rolling names, who cares?