This won’t be another doom-and-gloom editorial. You’ve probably had enough right now from this editor on the troubles of the automotive market. So I’ve decided to see if I could find some good news to relate to you for a change – the bad news can wait until sometime after August when everyone is back from their vacations. Okay, enough kidding … now onto the good news.
In a recent New York Times article, Micheline Maynard points to a bright spot amidst all the economic troubles of the North American auto industry. While the Detroit Three struggle with declining market shares, sales and bankruptcy, small auto makers are showing a surprising robustness, growing market share and building buyer loyalty. Companies such as Hyundai and Nissan are growing in popularity, with Hyundai and its Kia brand, for example, taking 7.3 per cent of the American market. Last year, these two brands only made up five per cent of the American market. This trend seems to be happening with others, including such well known brands as Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Some of this increase can be laid squarely on the fact that these car makers have a range of well-made small-and mid-sized fuel-efficient vehicles which people who are looking to buy a new car are moving towards. But Maynard points to something else that is driving these sales: car buyers are less focused on brand loyalty and more focused on the quality of the vehicles. Maynard quotes a range of car buyers who have purchased these vehicles, often for the first time, and did so because they were impressed by the quality of the vehicles and the range of vehicles available to them by theses smaller players. One fellow, who had never once considered looking at a vehicle by Hyundai, is now glad he did. He took to the Hyundai Veracruz, a crossover, which he says for fit and finish is the best he has ever driven.
What does this mean for Canadian independents? For one thing, if the sales trends translate to Canada, these changes mean new revenue streams for shops. People will need these vehicles repaired and maintained, and shops that are up-to-speed on these vehicles’ technologies and systems will benefit as they can generate new revenues by servicing these vehicle makes. Let’s remember the remark Maynard makes about quality: Car buyers today are not interested so much in the brand of vehicle purchased, but the quality of the vehicle -and that emphasis on quality is what will be the deciding factor on where these car owners will take their vehicles to be maintained and repaired.
Loyalty is a rather fickle thing. It is not easily won and it can be quickly lost. But once it has been gained, the rewards are something that can be measured on the bottom line. Independents that can gain the loyalty of these new car owners who are willing to invest in quality, and will take their vehicle to someone who delivers quality service, will see long-term revenues increase, and independents will ride out this downturn and come out ahead when things turn around and grow even more.
Car buyers today are not interested so much in the brand of vehicle purchased, but the quality of the vehicle -and that emphasis on quality is what will be the deciding factor on where these car owners will take their vehicles to be maintained and repaired.