The new Subaru Ascent is an SUV making headlines … for a strange reason. The vehicle seats a maximum of eight people, but it has 19 cupholders.


I pulled out a calculator so I could tell you that works out to 2.375 drinks for every occupant — and that’s if every seat is taken.

Now I enjoy a cold beverage while cruising around the Sunshine State as much as the next guy, but I try to limit myself to one drink at a time. Occasionally, I might have an empty cup in my truck — next to a new cup — but that’s not really two drinks, is it? That’s just two cups.

I wonder if a group of eight people with 19 beverages might have a bigger problem than mere transportation. Maybe their hydration demands are so serious they should move from cupholders to a sprinkler system.

And just how far can eight people with 19 cupholders drive before one or two … or six of them needs to make a bathroom stop? It must kill your highway mileage if you have to stop at every exit.

My pickup has three cupholders, but one is where I keep loose change and the other two are full of phone chargers, gum, pens and stuff that needs to be put in the garbage. I think if I had 19 cupholders, I could probably maintain somewhere between 12 and 15 as actual, honest-to-goodness cupholders.

Is that about average? That would still be nearly two cupholders per person with eight people in the vehicle. Who needs more than that when their loose change, gum and pen needs are already being met?

And at what point does the number of cupholders stop being a selling feature?

Does anyone outside of the Subaru offices believe that it was important to get that cupholder number up to 19? Is that some kind of magic number? Was there a debate among engineers in a conference room?

First Engineer: It may sound crazy — hear me out on this — but I think we need more cupholders!

Second Engineer: Are you out of your minivan-lovin’ mind, Chuck?! We already have eight cupholders in the vehicle. That’s one for every passenger! If we add another cupholder we’ll have to eliminate some seatbelts.

First Engineer (glassy-eyed as he stares off into the middle distance): I’m not talking about adding one, Jerry. I’m dreaming big here. I think we need 19!

Second Engineer: But no one’s ever cracked the 13-cupholder barrier! Mitsubishi says it can’t be done!

First Engineer: Mitsubishi S@*%subishi! They didn’t dream big enough, Jerry, and I didn’t leave NASA to stop at eight cupholders!

I’d go on, but George Lucas would probably steal the dialogue and turn it into an overrated science-fiction blockbuster.

My point here (and yes, I do have one) is that eventually your selling point stops adding value. Eventually you’ve saturated its utility. It’s important to recognize when that happens because if you go too far, it becomes a joke or you come to the realization that you have a commodity rather than a real product.

So, is the point of diminishing return 20 ball bearings or 14 shades of threadfin shad or 47 bass-specific casting rod actions? I’m not sure. But if you’re thinking you might be close to going too far then “too far” may already be in your rear-view mirror.

Some retailers and manufacturers don’t have enough “game” to think of other differentiators. They’re stuck on the numbers — make the bad ones smaller and the good ones bigger. What they need to remember is that numbers aren’t the biggest reason people buy.

I believe that if your sales pitch starts with numbers, you’re already playing defense when you should be playing offense.

After all, why would you tell a customer that your new baitcaster has 17 ball bearings unless you also want them to know that the competition only has 16. Why tell a customer that your new spinning rod weighs 2.4 ounces unless the competition’s latest weighs 2.5?

That’s defense, and it may win championships in the NBA and NFL, but it rarely makes sales.

People buy things and shop places because of how those things and places make them feel and what those things and places say about them. Sell them what’s special.

Leave the overkill to the other guys.