To boldly grow: car makers seek out new life and new civilisations with alien products
A sci-fi analogy works well when discussing automotive industry expansion.
Cars are quite scientific and sci-fi is known for becoming sci-fact. Think Tricorder, think iPhone.
The big difference between Starfleet and the likes of Hyundai, Mercedes or Bugatti, is that the car makers have thrown the Prime Directive straight out the nearest docking bay. They are colonising a civilisation of alien products with a continuing mission to attract new customers to their brand.
Here’s a look at how they are doing this, and some reasons why.
It’s not sci-fi. Motoring is becoming too expensive. Young drivers in particular are less interested in car ownership now than they have been for decades. Last year, Alix Partners’ report on global motor industry growth highlighted that, if people were still getting driving licenses at the same rate as they were in 2000, we’d have five million more people on the road. That’s a lot of missed sales.
Car companies keep their brands alive in the face of such changes by presenting consumers with something new and unorthodox – an unrelated product offering that stands alone to target conquest customers not only from other brands, but from outside the automotive world.
This is not so much the Rolls Royce-SUV-style of growth i.e. automakers creating products to compete in an automotive segment other than the one they are traditionally associated with. They’re thinking outside the car industry box.
Moving into motorsport is a borderline example. VW has shown how successful this transition can be by winning the WRC Manufacturers and Drivers titles in its debut season. Hyundai is also tipped to be moving into WRC for 2014 with their i20 model.
Caterham and Mercedes-Benz’s Smart car sub-brand have expanded into the bicycle and motorcycle markets recently. Mercedes Smart e-bike has been popular; at least according to 166,421 people who liked it on Facebook. Fan engagement data is becoming as valuable as sales figures, particularly with regards to brand perception.
Meanwhile, Caterham, the sportscar brand that offers ‘accessible fun’, has recently announced that it will also be expanding, producing its new Carbon and Classic E-bike product lines, as well as its Brutus concept, dubbed the ‘SUV of Motorcycles’.
I wonder when we may see Mercedes-Benz expanding into motorcycles, taking the fight to its arch-rival over at BMW’s Motorrad?
Mercedes has recently launched itself into the London Taxi market with the Vito. Nissan has also entered the competition, with the NV200 Taxi taking it to LTI.
Other manufacturers have been even bolder with their brands (if less so with their products) by expanding their merchandise divisions to take themselves into the fashion and home retail industries.
For example, Bugatti and Bentley have their own luxury handbag ranges, with prices starting from $5,500. Porsche offers car silhouette paper clips for a tenner.
Common Sense ? Really? In the UK, we are rarely dumb egonuh to buy a new car with our own money If your boss sends you to the dealer to buy one in your colour, that is one thing, but to pay all that tax, out of your own money (that you already paid income tax on!) is just sick. What happens when you drive ANY car off the forecourt? Can you sell it for EXACTLY what you paid for it? NO! New cars are over-priced, always, and the first buyer is the sucker who takes a MASSIVE hit on depreciation. An ex Dealer-Demonstrator will have been kept clean, and serviced, and only used for test-drives yet for being a virtually new car, it will be thousands cheaper than an actual new one. All the big American makers are in DEEP trouble. If you buy a car now, expect to have trouble with getting parts for it in three years, as the maker goes out of business! What will that do to your re-sale value? Flush it clean down the toilet! On a personal level, have you bought your own home, outright? NO mortgage, no personal credit? A good, money-making investment portfolio working for you? Absolute financial and job security? These are the criteria you need to meet, before you think about peeing all that money away on a new car. (I own my own home, outright, have no personal credit AT ALL, can save about 50% of my earnings each month, and I run two cars a smooth Mercedes, and a fast and frantic Alfa-Romeo. Each cost me less than a months wage, and I only spend about that much on them each year. Both are considered classics here, and I could easily sell each of them for MORE than I paid for them, inside a week! Try doing that with your new car!