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BMW Is The Answer To The Begged Question

This is the interlude in our chat, dear friends, in which I complain like an old "Get off my lawn" coot about modern commercial culture.

But there are benefits that can broaden a person's education. Another generation, another chance to explain what "begging the question" means and how it works.

Take, for example, the Allstate car insurance TV ad in which a BMW convertible driver sails down the road while singing a duet with his female silver hood ornament. Nice visual, though not quite as enticing on the 500th time you've seen the ad.

"You've got the brains, I've got the looks, let's make lots of money," she sings.

Their shared joy results from saving $700 on car insurance by switching to Allstate. This musical blurb is actually a sampling of the 1980s pop hit "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" by the Pet Shop Boys.

The Brit tech pop group's lyrics were intended to mock mindless Margaret Thatcher consumerism and excess. It hit the charts big in 1986.

So here are the begged questions. Begged Question Alert!

The Begged Question Alert allows readers to be outraged and chagrined about crimes unknown unless someone told them.

I try to inspire ire. It's a service.

It's a career.

The "begged question" is a literary device that leaps over a central fact and ignores a question under the assumption it has already been answered when it hasn't.

One of the underlying principles of all advertising is the lie or distortion the consumer does not recognize.

First, the simple question. If you save $700 a year on insurance for a 2016 435i BMW (the modified buggy in the commercial), how much were you paying for insurance on a car worth $35,000? Several insurance price estimators (Finder, for example) put the average price at $2,136.

So that maximum savings gives you an insurance rate of $1,500 a year. Still outrageous. But if you own a $35,000 BMW, do you really care? You have far bigger issues to confront. Besides, Allstate never loses money on an insurance policy; whatever great deal that singing driver is celebrating mostly means he was really being ripped off earlier.

The cost of insurance on a BMW 435I is the least of anyone's woes. Buckle up. The driver should wipe that smile off his face.

Take for example, said the man who knows, the intake manifold gasket, a relatively innocuous part in German cars, but it has to work all the time or your car goes kaputsky.

The intake manifold distributes air taken in through the throttle plate to the multiple cylinders. I was told this by someone who knows.

But high heat, oil and coolant contamination, plus bursts of intake air, will wear the gasket. Then you get leaks between the cylinder head and manifold. Bad, very bad, I am told.

According to various maintenance estimators, the average cost for a BMW 435i intake manifold gasket replacement is between $482 and $634. Labor costs are estimated between $418 and $527 while related parts are priced between $64 and $107.

Toss in taxes and fees.

So that part runs you easily $1,200.

That's about the cheapest part that goes bad in 435I BMWs. Example? The exhaust manifold costs $3,000 to replace.

The happy guy in the Allstate ad apparently has not taken his BMW to the shop for its first surgical visit.

The helpful advisors at Repair Pal rate the average annual BMW repair cost at $968. If you own one for 10 years, that means you spent $35,000 on the car and almost $10,000 to fix it.

Though the BMW is beautiful, it's often a Euro beater. The BMW Reliability Rating is 2.5 out of 5.0, which ranks it 30th out of 32 for all car brands. Repair Pal says the rating is based on an average across 345 unique models.

The happy-go-lucky Allstate driver seems blithely ignorant before stepping off the curb into the path of a PACE bus. Hasn't thought about what lies ahead, so saving $700 (or "making $700," as the ad says) only seems like a swell achievement.

But what if you drive a more mundane vehicle? More to the point, can you save $700 a year insuring a 2015 Honda? As in a real car that real people drive?

The folks at Quote Inspector say the average insurance rate for a 2015 Honda Accord is $1,228 a year with full coverage. Think Allstate will sell you that policy for $500 a year?

But the "begged question" in the ad is more fundamental. The principal head fake is how to define "making lots of money."

No matter how much you pay Allstate for car insurance, you are not making money. What are you? Nuts?

Allstate is making money. You are spending money. You do know the difference, don't you?

The company made $44.791 billion in net revenue in 2020. It goes up 0.25 percent every year. They know how to make money - predominantly by taking yours.

They are the "taker" and you are the "spender." The underlying "begged question" in the ad depends on who is playing which role.

When Allstate sings "Let's make lots of money," they are talking about themselves, not you. The BMW dealership has the same motives.

You just have to understand the rules.

Once you do, then proceed to more complex begged questions. For example, why are Tag Team duo Cecil Glenn and Steve Gibson in a GEICO insurance ad? They are scooping ice cream while singing a new version of their 1993 single "Whoomp! (There It Is)". The homeowner in the kitchen - Boomshakalaka Tasha - never asks these two maroons who they are, and why are they in her kitchen.

Why? WHY?

That puzzle awaits another day.

And, by the way, get off my lawn.

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David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was Where Quarterbacks Don't Die. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

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1. From Bob Gaunt:

Good afternoon, Mr. Rutter:

Just had my first experience of your work this morning while looking for something completely different - well, maybe not that completely different. Your column, appearing in The Beachwood Reporter, June 22, 2021 is the one titled, "BMW Is The Answer To The Begged Question." I am solidly in the "begged question" generation, and enjoyed your wide-ranging but laser-focused perspectives. It was pure serendipity that I came across your piece this morning, thanks to the Internet. How and why, you will read below. Also, thanks to the Internet, I will be looking for more of your work.

Aside from the type of humour I most admire, your article is meticulously researched, without mentioning or dwelling on that fact. Your humour flows through it all, carrying the reader on a colourful journey, ranging from literary, through music, a side order of automotive technology and repair, to include the insurance industry. I find it hard to believe you assimilated all the detailed mechanical information from a random "someone who knows." I do "happen to know," so I appreciate how well it was done. However, that is beside the point, isn't it?

I'm impressed you identified the car in the Allstate commercial because I had no idea. The point (no pun intended) was the creepy hood ornament. That liquid metal "thing" reminds me of Terminator movies; undulating, while sticking out the front of the car like a weapon - which sometimes they were in their heyday, weren't they?

It begs the question (sorry, couldn't resist) how anyone at Allstate could think it was a great idea to create a commercial featuring a missile-like hood ornament of the type that was banned for safety reasons in the U.S. in 1968, and in the E.U. in 1974 (pertinent to the BMW part, I suppose). I have friends who like the commercial, mostly for the music, but I cannot get past the damn hood ornament, considering why they were banned. (A horrible thought: Do you think it possible that only non-vocal pointy lethal hood ornaments were banned? Is there a loophole here? Is the word "chanteuse" buried somewhere deep in the entrails of the legislation, where no one thought to look - until now?)

Now, the connection: I came across your column while researching the exact year that type of hood ornament design was legislated out of existence in the U.S.

Up here in Ontario, Canada, we currently are being assailed by another disturbing insurance commercial: a minivan is on a garage hoist, revealing a hairy, anatomically correct, cow udder attached to the undercarriage of the minivan, leaking milk on the floor. One mechanic nonchalantly tugs on a teat to get milk for his tea or coffee, and another steps in to pull milk for his cereal. The vehicle owner, a woman of course, looks on helplessly, whimpering, "What should I do?" (My first suggestion would be to bulldoze the ad agency's lair into a parking lot - also a great lead-in to a Caterpillar commercial.) I find the commercial udderly disgusting, and I originate from a farming background.

As I write this, both Allstate and whatever company signed off on the cow udder commercial take turns annoying me on TV (again, showing my age, watching TV - no smartphone tracking my whereabouts). Fortunately, I use an OTA antenna to pick up the few free channels within range, so I am not compounding the insult by paying cable or satellite fees (remember early claims by fledgling cable TV companies that, by paying to receive programming, there would be fewer commercials? Yes, I'm that old.)

Looking back up the page I see that, as usual I have rambled on far too long. I will spare you more. I suppose psychologists might suggest I pecked away at such length to delay facing the work waiting for me just outside the back door. They may be correct, but I'll never let one poke around inside my head to prove their theory - for their own protection. If they saw the mess of circuitry, tangled and disorganized as a witch's hairdo on a Monday morning, they would run away, screaming, and never look back.

Best regards,

Bob Gaunt
Hagersville, Ontario, Canada

P.S. I don't know how many Canadians you are acquainted with (and perhaps cringing at how we spell words like "colourful"), but I would not wish you to take away the wrong impression from this one, unsolicited screed. Some, if not many, of us are perfectly normal - however boring that might be.



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Posted on April 23, 2021


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