Moran gets back in the driving seat

Moran gets back in the driving seat

Former Toyota GB commercial director Mike Moran is returning to the car industry after almost four years with the launch of a consultancy called The Automotive Partnership (TAP) (MW last week).

Larger-than-life Moran, one of the sector’s most high-profile marketers until he left Toyota to join Thames Water as worldwide marketing and strategy director (MW January 30, 2003), has teamed up with former motoring journalist John Blauth to launch TAP, which he says will be an “outsourced, one-stop shop” for the motor industry.

TAP will offer marketing services, media planning and buying, and financial and strategic consultancy. It has signed deals with five partner companies to offer the individual services and will primarily target the UK’s 7,500 dealerships.

Moran thinks he has found a niche that has been poorly served when it comes to marketing communications. “All the member companies of TAP understand how the motor trade works and have been involved in it for many years,” he says. “None of us needs to learn the business before we can start to offer effective and bespoke solutions to our clients.”

Long-term thinking Moran’s second-in-command at Toyota, Paul Philpott, who replaced him as commercial director and also worked with him at Ford, says: “A year ago I would have said that he’d come back to the client side but now I think this is a long-term venture. Mike’s great fun to work with but that’s backed up by a strong ability. He’s a great motivator of a team but he needs good people around him to implement his 101 ideas.”

One industry source says it would have been difficult for Moran to return to a senior marketing or executive role after two years running business strategy and marketing venture The Orchard Consultancy, which he set up after leaving Thames Water (MW July 28, 2004). But his name has been linked with several senior posts, including chief marketing officer for PartyGaming and chief executive of LDV. It is also understood that the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers approached him about replacing Malcolm Earnshaw as director-general but that he did not want the job.

On being a potential chief executive, Moran says: “I’m not afraid of it. It is a very different role to marketing director but I have absolutely no doubt that I could do it. I would never say never and something might come along, but it’s not where my head or heart is at the moment.”

Seismic changes Moran thinks a “seismic shift” is taking place in the motor industry, which has seen luxury marques and challenger brands, particularly from the Far East, prosper at the expense of the mainstream volume manufacturers. Moran, who was director of sales and marketing at Ford of Spain before joining Toyota, says Ford is in danger of “imploding”.

He adds: “It’s sad because it is making better products than ever. I don’t think its marketing has been particularly good but it’s not been that bad either. It’s lost the magic it had ten or 15 years ago and it’s very hard to get that back.”

It was reported earlier this month that Ford and another beleaguered carmaker, General Motors, had considered a possible alliance. Moran says strategic alliances between car companies are the future but adds: “Ford and GM would be like Churchill marrying Hitler.”

Robert Lester