SUVs climb up the prestige ladder
Sports utility vehicles are poised to account for up to half of Europe’s prestige car sales, according to figures compiled by automotive data company Jato Dynamics.
Jato reports that SUVs are moving further away from the traditional utilitarian image of 4x4s and acquiring all the traditional hallmarks of prestige cars, such as leather upholstery, cruise control, climate control, satellite navigation and in-car entertainment.
Comparing SUV sales in 2005 with those of five years ago, Jato notes annual sales in Europe’s five largest markets rose from 460,000 to 750,000 units, mostly at the expense of traditional premium and luxury saloons and estates. When it comes to comfort, nine out of 10 SUV models offered air conditioning as standard (up from 75% in 2001); cruise control was a standard fitment on 45% of models last year (double the level of 2001); and 70% more models now come with leather upholstery.
BMW dealers report slump in confidence
BMW’s UK business prospects have taken a sudden turn for the worse, with dealers marking down the brand’s profit potential for the foreseeable future.
There’s better news for newcomer Chevrolet in the ‘dealer satisfaction’ stakes and Land Rover has also made great strides in improving morale in its franchised network.
Dealers at BMW – traditionally one of the most prized franchises – have gone through “a winter of discontent”, according to Sue Robinson, director of the RMI’s National Franchised Dealers Association. Commenting on the latest RMI Dealer Attitude survey, she said: “Despite sales in 2005 up by more than five per cent on the previous year, BMW dealers are clearly worried, with their confidence at its lowest ebb since the survey began 17 years ago.”
Dealers recorded their lowest ever scores for marketing, profit potential, vehicle supply and distribution and manufacturer requirements. The franchise also came bottom in marketing stance and future profit potential.
Sue Robinson said of Chrysler’s rating: “There is evidence that they have been listening to their dealer network, with confidence in the franchise making rapid strides.”
Biggest success story is Land Rover, which makes a surprise entry at number two in the all dealer index for value of franchise, moving up five places since the last survey in the summer of 2005. It was the only network to show confidence in retained margins. Most valued franchise continues to be Lexus, retaining top slot for the sixth survey in
TOYOTA ‘best provider’
Toyota Manufacturing UK has been named ‘best work experience provider’ in an awards scheme sponsored by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Launched in 2003, the scheme spans seven different categories in company size and sector. Judges picked Toyota “because of its commitment to providing quality industrial placements, which offer students the chance to broaden their portfolio of transferable skills and make a real contribution to the business. This was obvious from the student feedback”.
RMI warns of ‘code confusion’
Different codes of conduct for the motor industry are in danger of causing confusion among consumers, claims the RMI. It’s urged the Office of Fair Trading to establish a single code of conduct for the aftermarket in a bid to restore consumer confidence.
The call came after Bosch obtained OFT stage one approval for its Car Service Code. The code joins the British Standards Institute’s Kitemark scheme and a set of standards being prepared by the SMMT. RMI chief executive Matthew Carrington said: “While we applaud Bosch on its commitment to improved customer service through its network of repairers, the introduction of yet another code may serve to further confuse an already confused consumer.” Carrington claimed the work of the government-led Retail Motor Strategy Group indicated that “one industry-wide code is the best way of raising consumer confidence”.
Currently there are no fewer than five different codes of practice in the motor sector. Their aim, according to the OFT, is “to promote and safeguard consumers’ interests by helping consumers identify better businesses and to encourage those businesses to raise their standards of customer service”. They include handling of complaints and regular monitoring of service standards.
Stability control a ‘must have’
Car buyers have been urged by consumer organisation Which? to ensure the vehicle of their choice is fitted with stability control.
Which? points out that the top scorers in every safety category of vehicles assessed by them have SC fitted as standard: Peugeot 1007 (supermini); Mercedes Benz B-Class (small family); Volvo S40 (large family); Volkswagen Touran (small MPV); Audi A8 (executive); and BMW Z4 (sports and coupés).
The number of new cars fitted with SC in the UK rose from 29 per cent in 2004 to 33 per cent last year. Some studies show it could reduce accident rates by up to a third. Which? says it should be a standard feature on all cars.
SC – which can prevent a severe skid or loss of control by braking individual wheels, thus guiding the car in the desired direction if it senses the driver is in danger of losing control – appears under a variety of aconyms. Most common are ESP, VDC, ESC, DSC and VSC.
‘Cradle to grave’ service from AutoLogic
Logistics company Autologic has set up an operation aiming to provide ‘a cradle to grave’ service for vehicle management and remarketing. AutologicFirst Fleet will offer its service to vehicle manufacturers, contract hire and leasing companies and daily rental operators.
First Fleet follows the launch of another Autologic business unit, VMEX, a real-time, online exchange that allows automotive industry customers to link up with approved transporter companies and owner operators with spare capacity on their trucks.
AutoLogic currently operates from 64 sites across Europe providing a range of logistics services, including technical enhancements and customisation, fleet preparation and distribution. It’s responsible for co-ordinating the movement and delivery of over 3.5 million vehicles a year and works for the majority of major vehicle manufacturers.
Gerry Lynch, managing director of First Fleet and previously with Inchcape Automotive, said: “Until now, AutoLogic has been extremely new vehicle focused…First Fleet presents a plethora of new business opportunities.
“Currently the vehicle remarketing supplier sector is extremely fragmented with some companies focusing on logistics and some on vehicle remarketing, including refurbishment.”
Rover’s V8 lives on
West Country based engineering company MCT has won a contract from Land Rover to supply aftermarket OE engines – including the renowned V8. Production has been relocated from Solihull to MCT’s plant in Weston Super Mare.
For over 40 years, the V8 has powered cars ranging from the Land Rover Defender to the Rover P5B. It is also the standard British engine for all hot rod use and special versions powered the Formula 1 winning Brabham team.
The MCT contract is worth £25m over the next five years and over 70% of the volume will be exported.
Commented managing director Peter Roberts: “It shows that small and medium British manufacturing and engineering companies can successfully compete for high-end added value projects.”
Britannia Accident Assist has been named best dealer branded product by the Institute of Transport Management.
Recognition comes on the back of several dealership wins, with Hertfordshire Mercedes-Benz, Blakes Motor Group and Caledonia Motor Group all using Britannia to roll out their own branded accident management service to customers.
Britannia managing director Kyle Harris said: “Feedback from dealerships has been most encouraging and a formal accolade like this is an added boost.”