Germany still rules
GERMAN carmakers still rule in Australia. New research shows that despite the millions rivals spend to promote their cars and names, it is still BMW, Benz, Volkswagen and Audi that do best with owners. Not only that, but Australia’s own — GM Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi — were a poor third after Japanese carmakers including Subaru, Honda and, despite its desire to be known as a local, Toyota. The work was done by the University of Melbourne, which surveyed 2000 car owners to discover how — and if — they would recommend their cars to friends. The team used a system called the net promoter score (NPS), which measures the difference between the percentage of owners who give high responses and the number who give low ones. The results are based on the single question: How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or a colleague? BMW did best, according to associate professor Mark Ritson who led the study, with a score of 59. Volkswagen was next on 47, followed by Audi on 45 off the back of a big sales and marketing push in Australia, then MercedesBenz on 39. Mitsubishi and Holden both scored minus 16, but Ford was worse with minus 25. The lowest-ranked brand was Saab. Ritson says more than half of the owners of German brands are ‘promoters’, meaning they will actively encourage others to buy that brand, as well as probably choosing their next car from the same company. ‘‘Perhaps even more impressive is the remarkably low number of detractors these brands have. More than a third of Holden drivers are detractors and they will spread an enormous amount of negative word-of-mouth about their car,’’ Ritson says. ‘‘Contrast that with either BMW or VW, which have almost no detractors to speak of. Their whole customer base is either passive or a promoter of the brand.’’ Ritson says there is more to the survey than the numbers. ‘‘It’s important in a category like automotive to recognise the crucial importance of low numbers of detractors for a brand. Detractors spread more than 80 per cent of the word-ofmouth on a brand — we are much more likely to tell our friends bad things about our products than the good things,’’ he says. He says the study is not good for Mitsubishi, GM Holden or Ford, which all posted dire results, and disastrous for Saab. ‘‘There are many potential explanations for this position, but perhaps the most likely is that Saab’s operations in Australia are handled by Holden. This is a company that struggles to generate positive NPS for its own brand, and is probably too busy and too distracted with this mission to successfully manage an additional brand,’’ Ritson says.