Which brings me to my next point. You don't have to hold a business degree to understand the benefits of platform sharing: Spin a bunch of vehicles out of one basic set of ingredients, and you offer a little something for everyone. And if you know what's under the skin, you can work a better deal by, say, pondering a luxury car's humbly branded mass-market cousin. If you dig the new Porsche Cayenne diesel, you might be able to wangle a better deal by making it clear that you could walk across the street to the Volkswagen dealership and buy the Touareg Diesel. Likewise, you could cross-shop Lincoln and Ford (MKZ or Fusion), Buick and Chevy (Enclave or Traverse), or Nissan and Infiniti (Pathfinder or JX35). Car companies are generally adept at building distinctive-looking cars off the same platform, but the guts – and thus the driving experience – are hard points that aren't very negotiable. Blindfolded, could you tell a Toyota Avalon from a Lexus ES350? Someone should go out on the Bonneville Salt Flats and answer that for me.
Given the variety of options, there are plenty of ways to go awry. But this is the golden age of the automobile, a time when a V-6 Honda Accord will smoke the Ferraris of your dad's generation. So if you do your homework and use your choices to your advantage, there's a good chance you'll end up with the best car you've ever owned.