Secret Marketer sounds off about car sales

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree.

My company car is due for renewal in a few weeks’ time and I have decided to hand back the keys at the end of its lease. For many years, the monetary advantage of staying in the scheme has been marginal, but I have always placed a rather high premium on the hassle-free convenience of being a fleet member.

Reality dawned this week that unless I get my act together in arranging a new vehicle, I would soon be walking to work. Little did I realise that despite all its marketing, it is actually quite difficult to spend your hard-earned cash with the troubled UK motor industry.

Like many marketers, I suspect I have a rather predictable repertoire of brands from which I am happy to choose. I am unable to bring any empirical evidence, but let’s face it – nine out of ten marketers are most likely to be found behind the wheel of an Audi or BMW.

My search begins online, where both Audi and BMW have invested serious funds to deliver a premium brand experience. Sadly, the online experience is where the fun ends. Many a textbook has been written on the importance of joining all customer touchpoints together for a seamless customer journey. Sadly, this concept has bypassed the car industry.

I arrive at the dealership ready to do a deal. I explain my situation and also the fact that I wish to pay in cash for a new vehicle. I am subjected to a lecture on why paying cash isn’t actually a good idea for me and that I would be better taking advantage of one of their hire purchase, contract hire, lease hire with balloon financing options.

This type of sales technique is right up there with the hard sell of warranty guarantees for electrical appliances. I leave the showroom wound up, frustrated and wishing I had never left the company car scheme, where I used to just be able to pick my car and somebody else would deal with the torture of acquiring it.

In most walks of life right now, debt is hard to fund and cash is again back in fashion. But it seems the car industry has worked its model into such a state that cash-paying customers have become the poor relations. Selling cars is now very much secondary to the core business of selling finance packages. The marketing claims of “Vorsprung durch Techniq” and “The Ulimate Driving Machine” suddenly seem a long drive away…

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