Leav­ing on a high note

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - NEWS - John Ox­ley

Well, the sales fig­ures for 2016 are out, and ended just fewer than 3,000 short of the mag­i­cal 150,000 fig­ure I (sort of) proph­e­sied in our De­cem­ber is­sue. It was an in­ter­est­ing year, and one which saw Toy­ota re­tain the ma­jor share of the over­all mar­ket, pas­sen­ger and com­mer­cial, with 18 per­cent, fol­lowed by Ford on 11 per­cent, Holden on 10 per­cent, Mazda on eight per­cent, and Mit­subishi on six per­cent. As far as in­di­vid­ual mod­els were con­cerned, the Ford Ranger was top dog, and in over­all mar­ket terms, SUVS now out­sell cars and sta­tion wagons, with 36 per­cent of the mar­ket com­pared to 35 per­cent for other pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles, and 29 per­cent for com­mer­cials. In the pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle arena, Toy­ota was tops on 17 per­cent, fol­lowed by Holden (10 per­cent), Mazda (nine per­cent), Ford (seven per­cent) and Hyundai (seven per­cent) One much-ma­ligned area for some im­porters is the ve­hi­cles sold to rental fleets, which they say skew the fig­ures. How­ever, my take on this is that these ve­hi­cles are real sales, not “pa­per en­tries”, and they even­tu­ally find their way back into the mar­ket­place via the used mar­ket, where Toy­ota in par­tic­u­lar makes good use of them by re­fur­bish­ing to “nearly new” con­di­tion in its su­perb Sig­na­ture Class fac­tory in Thames, Waikato.

Mar­ket­ing

One in­ter­est­ing take for me on all this is the vary­ing de­grees of mar­ket­ing ef­fort, and par­tic­u­larly me­dia re­la­tions, put in by the var­i­ous com­pa­nies, and as a mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist it’s a sad tale to tell. I have been writ­ing about mo­tor­ing for more than 50 years, and dur­ing that pe­riod I have road tested up­wards of 2,500 ve­hi­cles, all over the world. The fact that I am about to stop ve­hi­cle test­ing to con­cen­trate my ef­forts, in a sort of semi-re­tire­ment, on our Mo­tore­quip­ment­news mag­a­zine, which is aimed at the au­to­mo­tive trade, in­clud­ing work­shops and other re­pair­ers, frees me from the need to be diplo­matic. It’s fair to say that, with no­table ex­cep­tions, the stan­dard of mo­tor­ing me­dia re­la­tions in New Zealand is of­ten poor, and in some cases abysmal. It’s of­ten hard to get in­for­ma­tion, some of the web­sites are, frankly, a mine­field of noth­ing­ness, and yet those who seem to try the least are of­ten the first to com­plain when mis­takes in­evitably oc­cur. One area in par­tic­u­lar that wor­ries me is the lais­sez faire at­ti­tude of some im­porters to road tests. In a me­dia world that is con­stantly chang­ing, these re­main the most cost-ef­fec­tive means of com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ues of a mo­tor ve­hi­cle to the buy­ing pub­lic, yet money is thrown away on “cre­ative” TV ad­ver­tis­ing and the like which does noth­ing to show the ar­eas sellers want to know about. In par­tic­u­lar they fail to ad­dress the key ar­eas of ad­ver­tis­ing high­lighted by David Ogilvy, con­sid­ered the “Fa­ther of Ad­ver­tis­ing”, who in 1955 coined the phrase: “The cus­tomer is not a mo­ron, she’s your wife”, based on Ogilvy’s prin­ci­ples that the func­tion of ad­ver­tis­ing is to sell, and that suc­cess­ful ad­ver­tis­ing for any prod­uct is based on in­for­ma­tion about its con­sumer. He dis­liked ad­ver­tise­ments that had loud pa­tro­n­is­ing voices, and be­lieved a cus­tomer should be treated as in­tel­li­gent.

Road tests

That means, in a world where lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about the prod­uct is ac­tu­ally im­parted by ad­ver­tis­ing, mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ists re­main the vi­tal link be­tween the ve­hi­cle and the buyer in pro­vid­ing, first, in­for­ma­tion, and sec­ond, qual­i­fied opin­ion. Yet jour­nal­ists pro­vid­ing this vi­tal func­tion (gen­er­ally for free, since ad­ver­tis­ing spend is be­ing redi­rected away from much of the Me­dia), are still of­ten treated as free­loaders be­ing given the use of a new ve­hi­cle. Peo­ple ask me if I’m sad to be giv­ing up new car test­ing, but the re­al­ity is that I’m a petrol head at heart, and although I be­lieve elec­tric ve­hi­cles will some­day dom­i­nate the land­scape, there’s still a long way to go – and they don’t make sense un­less they cost the same as equiv­a­lent petrol cars, elec­tric­ity is de­vel­oped from re­new­able sources, recharge points are plen­ti­ful, and recharg­ing is cheaper than buy­ing petrol. On au­ton­o­mous cars: although mas­sive ad­vances have been made, it will be a long time be­fore a com­puter can re­li­ably repli­cate all the myr­iad de­ci­sions a hu­man makes while driv­ing a car, and the ve­hi­cle can be al­lowed to have com­plete con­trol. Global warm­ing? While I be­lieve in cli­mate change, there are too many peo­ple, of­ten quite un­savoury char­ac­ters, jump­ing on the band­wagon for me to get to grips with it. Fact is, no-one can pre­dict the fu­ture, and com­puter mod­el­ling is only as good as the data that’s be­ing fed in. If you look at dire pre­dic­tions made 10 to 15 years ago, well, none of them have hap­pened, lead­ing me to be­lieve we need a lot more in­for­ma­tion be­fore we can work out what MIGHT hap­pen. And that’s what makes the fu­ture look a lot brighter than the doom and gloom mer­chants would have us be­lieve. Hope you have a great 2017!

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