Feb 24, 2009
Am I alone in thinking that what he says could be easily be translated into rationalising some of the largesse of the car industry?
“The biggest challenge was the biggest opportunity with designers eschewing big runway shows into a static exhibition. This in tandem with an internet presence is a more modern way of working and I think we’ll see much more of it.
A lot of the rubbish will be swept away. We are going to focus on brands with real integrity. There was a much more intelligence to the merchandising of the lines. There was the same level of creativity but less window dressing and more focus on salable items.”
His comments regarding shows is particularly pertinent given the impending Salon de Geneve. Yes, I will be there (hopefully) enjoying my three course lunch with champagne at Audi, I’ll admit. But what if car makers moved away from the massive cost of running their motor show stands and introduced new product like Apple will, who has decided to not continue with their traditional MacWorld keynotes?
Apple has been investing in the creation of temples to their brand where they now intend to host simultaneous global launches of new products. What if a car brand did the same? What if they managed to build the brand, supported by great experience centres (not dealers, you shouldn’t feel like you have to buy anything) so that people actually want to come in just to soak up the good vibes, like they do in an Apple store? Of course these would need to be located in prime retail centres, not relegated to the outskirts as traditional dealers tend to be. I’m imagining an environment where it’s ok to window shop, to soak up the brand and see if it fits you.
Having worked in Apple Australia’s retail network, I speak from experience when I say that if you make the products and the brand experience good enough (not just the store, the staff are vital to the experience), you don’t have to sell. It was just a question of how much you could up-sell.
Volvo trialled something similar about a decade ago in Sydney with the Volvo Gallery. It was a multi-function space that served as art gallery, cafe, cultural centre and sales outlet. It had a city-centre location and oozed Volvo brand values. Sadly, it eventually suffered from a lack of clear direction from Volvo Australia and a lack of understanding on behalf of the Sydney audience. There was also MG Garage (I know, I know: Morris Garage Garage) which combined one of Sydney’s most highly regarded restaurants with an MG/Rover experience. I don’t need to tell you what killed that off…
Granted, I’m ignoring the fact that it’s more efficient to have globally dispersed journalists coming to one place to experience many new products at once. However, for the people who are actually buying the cars, the Geneva show will only reach those living within a couple of hours drive at most.
His second point, I feel is equally applicable. Imagine if BMW had spent the money from developing the X6, chasing a comparative handful of sales, on furthering their EfficientDynamics program?
Anyway enough from me. What do you, dear readers, think? Do you love the experience of motor shows, or would you rather experience new cars as part of a more holistic brand experience? Will we see a broad rationalisation of product lines or will niche splitting continue apace?