There’s some idiom about success not being enough, that you must see other people fail, too. I’ve never liked the expression, it’s competitive in a mean-spirited way, no matter how true. In this light, I’d like to draw your attention to a series of surveys which have swung past my desk over the past month.
Flicking through this month’s magazine, you will find reams of data, drawn from polls or pulled straight from balance sheets, weighing up how captive finance providers and independents have performed, how much of the US market is accounted for by what kind of lender, where people will be spending money in fleet, what second-hand motor to refurbish and which to scrap as taxes make them a loss to ride. The surveys I’m looking at right now aren’t drawn from numbers or predictions; they’re drawn from perception; from how people see a car brand.
Maybe this is why I dislike subjective ranking. I don’t have to worry about branding, not because I’m arrogant, but because this magazine is the only dedicated publication to this industry, tying our ‘brand’ to the self-esteem of this industry, which happens to be high right now. Plus, if you, the discerning and handsome reader, find this magazine worthwhile you need not disavow others.
There is nothing wrong with these surveys, and those conducting them are correct to report what and who isn’t faring well right now, but forgive me if I only focus on what is working. First, a lot is working in car finance today, those numbers filling this month’s issue bear that out, and now is a time to maximise the good work. Secondly, if a brand is slumping in a market, I’ll bet pounds against peanuts they know it.
So, onto the results. According to the Motoring.co.uk Car Buying Index (2013), 40% of 1,500 consumers surveyed are looking to buy a car in the next 12 months, and only 23% not looking to buy one in the next three years. The most desirable brand right now in the UK is Ford, followed by BMW, Audi, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. So, two all-round top-selling brands and three premium brands make up the top five. But this weight of aspiration is tempered by the arrival of Škoda and Kia in the top 10.
If we reference this with the 2013 European Executive Opinion Survey by Magma People, those brands rated most highly for their strategic vision for the future by the automotive industry included a top four of Audi, BMW, Kia and Volkswagen. And those brands listed as a potential career destination held BMW top, with Audi in the top five, and Volkswagen and Mercedes in the top 10.
What do you or I draw from this? Well, BMW seems popular with customers and industry peers, ahead of Audi and VW. If I was news reporting, I’m sure I could use the numbers to qualify an adjective comparative such as ‘highly popular’, or point out these three appear ‘slightly better thought of’ than Mercedes or Ford. But all these brands have done well to convey their company and product to buyers and competitors. As have many more down the lists. Even those at the end of such polls are still drawing people to their cars and exciting people to join their work.
Take those numbers we publish every month, the UK car sales and the finance written on them. Both of these have been positive for between 18 months and two years. That’s not just the work of the car badges or bank signs we all recognise, that’s small-volume manufacturers working hard with white labels and JVs, putting people behind steering wheels, too, and they all deserve credit.