“You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.”
It’s a great quote.
History can’t decide if Abe Lincoln or showman PT Barnum said it; either way, as sayings go this one’s spot-on.
It’s still relevant today, especially in Australia’s car industry.
Adding some appeal to a new-car range is nothing new. Holden’s Commodore “Vacationer” station wagon; the Ford Laser “Carla Zampatti”; the Gemini “Sandpiper”. It’s been done forever.
It’s still being done. And for good reason. It’s a cost-effective way to convey ideas and images of “adventure”, “exclusivity” or “value” in a new-car range.
But that’s the problem with them. They only convey images and idea. Not the real things.
And it can create expensive (and invisible) problems.
Yes, these dressed-up models can increase sales in the short-term, especially when a new-car range is reaching the end of its lifecycle and needs a retail boost before it’s replaced.
But the problem lies in what these packages don’t do.
They don’t meaningfully augment uncompetitive new-car models.
They often don’t enhance a vehicle’s brand.
And they don’t attract the buyers who want “the real deal” – the customers who are willing to pay a premium for a new vehicle that’s been “properly” enhanced by its official importer.
These buyers typically want comprehensive and meaningful enhancements made to their preferred new car so it becomes their ideal new car.
Here are the market facts.
4WD buyers often spend upwards of $25,000 on suspension changes and accessories after they take delivery of their new SUV or dual-cab ute.
Sports car aficionados happily shell out thousands to high-performance tuning workshops to make their new car handle better or go faster.
And there are local automotive upholsterers with queues of new-car owners waiting to have everything from extra leather to custom-made interior parts fitted – even to brand-new luxury cars.
There’s an entire local economy catering to these buyers because official importers don’t always cater to their new-car needs.
Meeting their needs is profitable – for them, the importer and the global carmaker.
My message to every official new-car importer is simple: if you can make your new-car enhancement programs fully developed, these buyers will come to your showrooms.
We all get why new-car importers do stickers-and-stripe packs on cars. It can sometimes be difficult to get permission from a global head office to locally enhance a new-car range, and it’s quicker and cheaper. But it’s a false economy.
A stickers-and-stripes program might cost $X and sell 100 extra new cars each month.
But a complete new-vehicle enhancement program, one that creates a niche model for a particular target audience and delivers them the ideal new car they want, one that’s been fully engineered with the right design, manufacturing and assembly, that’s a whole new ball game:
It might cost more time and money to initially develop, but its effects on an importer’s revenues, profits, market share, customer satisfaction, buyer referrals, dealer satisfaction, model nameplate image, and overall brand image are immense.
And by extension their global head office gets a piece of these results.
So, what does all this mean? Be aware of what lighter-weight new-car “enhancement” programs do (and don’t do).
It’s one thing to apply an image of sportiness or ruggedness to a car or dual-cab ute, but it won’t achieve anything similar to what a fully-fledged program can deliver, one that correctly engineers and bolsters a specific new-car model in the way an enthusiastic buying group wants it enhanced.
The Australian new-car market has moved. Stickers and stripes don’t cut it like they used to in the ‘80s.
Abe (or Barnum) is right. Just be sure about who you might be fooling before considering a new-car enhancement program.
Because it could be costly.
Bernie Quinn – Engineering Director, Premcar Pty Ltd
About Premcar – Premcar Pty Ltd is a leading Australian vehicle engineering business that specialises in the automotive, defence and aerospace industries. For more than 25 years, global car-makers have made Premcar their go-to partner for the complete design, engineering and manufacture of niche-model new cars, full-scale new-vehicle development programs, and electric vehicle (EV) conversions and manufacturing. As the name behind more than 200,000 new cars and 55,000 new-vehicle engines, Premcar’s body of work is extensive and has delivered technical and sales success for major car brands from Europe, the USA, Japan, China and Australia. Visit premcar.com.
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