IF you’re reading this, the Mayans were obviously wrong. The end of the world has been postponed and you can get back to planning your next car purchase. And that’s where this issue of CAR magazine comes to your aid; from page 44, you’ll find the second annual Autobrand survey. Conducted by RamsayMedia Research Solutions, Autobrand is the largest, most detailed survey of its kind and paints an interesting picture of South Africans’ associations with particular automotive brands. It also vividly shows the degree to which consumers notice when a brand takes its eyes off the ball…
Although buyers rate the various attributes of cars as the strongest purchasing influence, what happens at the service centre in the subsequent months and years has the biggest impact on customer retention. This includes resale values, which are closely tied to brand strength.
With brands such as Saab, Hummer, Pontiac, Maybach and Mercury already wiped from the worldwide automotive map, and a few more currently in the ICU, 2013 could well bring an apocalypse of another kind – Carmageddon. The signs are ominous.
Last year, European new-car sales dropped to a 19-year low, with no signs of recovery in sight. Companies such as General Motors, Peugeot/Citroën and even Mercedes-Benz are selling off non-core assets. More worrying, however, is the fact that the once shining light of hope, the Chinese market, is showing signs of cooling down. In these turbulent times, the brands that are caught in a cycle of negativity will be able to break out only by doing radical things. Some of these ventures will be successful and others will fail. But, the fact remains: some brands will not survive, at least not in their current forms.
While it might appear to perpetuate the cycle of negativity that holds some brands in its deadly grip, the advice to the automotive consumer is relatively simple: you’re spending a lot of money in a market in which bad cars are rare, but mediocre after-sales service isn’t. So, look for consistency as the deal-clincher.