Passion is one of the things that makes the automobile business special.
People get worked up about their vehicles, which can make the purchase process intense and the ownership experience more emotional than logic would seem to suggest.
Some owners give their vehicles names, which is a pretty good indication of a deep-seated emotional attachment.
Automotive passion comes in different flavors. One of the strongest is nostalgia, which is enhanced by the passage of time and all of the little tricks your mind plays when it filters memories. That's part of the reason that Pontiac's new GTO ran amok when it didn't measure up to expectations that some say were unreasonable.
But automotive passion can be a bad thing, too.
Chrysler group design chief Trevor Creed reports that the automaker is receiving hate mail about a new model, the 2006 Dodge Charger, which goes on sale early next year.
What's the beef?
Mopar nostalgia freaks are incensed that the Chrysler group intends to use the sacred Charger nameplate on a four-door sedan. The fanatics say it is heresy because early day Chargers were all two-door models and that's what the new one should be, by golly.
Hanging the Charger name on a sedan may seem to be a marketing blunder, especially in light of Pontiac's recent GTO experience, but that's no reason to get worked up into a frenzy.
Consumers will decide the new Charger's fate. And don't forget that the Chrysler group's clever advertising and marketing folks found a way to put the good, old Hemi name on a different engine. Demand for the new Hemi is so great the company is scrambling to add capacity.
The other side of the passion issue is anti-automotive passion. There are people who hate automobiles. They hate cars and trucks in general. And they may hate some types of automobiles, such as SUVs, in particular.
Obviously, these folks don't get it. But that's OK. It's their right to not appreciate the social, economic and aesthetic importance of the automobile.
But anti-automotive passion can have an ugly, irrational side. Just ask William Jensen Cottrell, the 24-year-old grad student who was convicted in federal court of setting fire to 130 SUVs at California dealerships. He stands to spend at least five years in prison when he is sentenced in March.
Cottrell -- and a couple of cohorts still on the lam -- are depicted as environmentalists who believe SUVs guzzle gas and spew excessive amounts of pollution into the air. Ironically, the pollution belched into the atmosphere by the burning SUVs caused far more damage to the environment than driving the SUVs ever would have.
Automotive passion, like nuclear energy, needs to be managed and controlled to avoid a destructive meltdown.