"It is far more important for Canadians to know about the United States that it is the other way around," says Michael Adams, president of Environics Research.
In speaking to the Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s Aftermarket Conference for Executives this morning in Mont-Tremblant, Que., Adams said that similarities mask significant differences in our respective cultures.
"There are these superficial ideas of these lifestyles. Financial elites, if you’re in Toronto or New York, you are united by the fact that your worship money. It also may reside in an idealism that we tolerate and celebrate differences, yet we become very sceptical about why differences in the rest of the world cause you to feel superior to others and create war on them."
In automotive terms, says Adams, there are significant differences in not only the vehicles that Canadians and Americans buy, but how they view them.
"America is more of a car culture, they have more money to buy cars," he says. Canadians buy more minivans, fewer SUVs, and he believes generally see vehicles as more of a utility. Still, consumers north and south of the border view their cars as an important means of self-expression.
"Cars are highly symbolic of your self image. You project a lot of your self-image in the kind of car you buy. It is a big ticket item, but no product is more indicative of your socio-economic leaning. You project who you are or who you aspire to be by the car you buy."
The roots for the differences may be in the very cultural differences that run deep in the two respective countries.
"Money is everything in the U.S. Money is suspect in Canada. They probably assume you got a government grant.
"[In the U.S. it is winner takes all. In Canada it is income distribution."
These are important distinctions that reach throughout the society, right to Canadian political realm. "The new Conservative Party is muting its social conservatism that was the hallmark of Stockwell Day’s leadership and that was seen as the hallmark of Preston Manning’s leadership," says Adams. "I suspect that while they may start from a base of more conservative social values, they will be the Canadian version of that. If anything, they will be more like the democrats in the U.S that the Republicans.
"You do not govern this country from the right, you govern form the centre. Otherwise you relegate yourself to the periphery." And that may be the most important distinction of all.
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