I’m cruising the web today and I find this comment from “Mopar Norm” a loyal Jeep lover talking about his love of Jeep on the new Chrysler Listens to You- Consumer Advocacy web page. “For “Car Guys” (and that term includes women) many of us can remember that “new car smell” as we sat in a car or truck for the first time, usually as a young child. There is something about the bond we have with that experience, the fresh paint, the shine of the chrome, the clean interior that leaves a lasting impression.”
I’d love to think that all my car companies, (I sell all brands), really cared about the “lasting impression” their present product is making on the consumer, environment and financial future of the America. However, on closer inspection, I find that many of these companies are more interested in dredging up our longing for the “good old days” in the name of nostalgia marketing. Witness the rebirth of the Challenger, Camaro and Bullit Mustang, all touting muscle-machine 8 cylinders, not one ounce of concession to the current cost of gas, global warming or our dependence on foreign oil. When the Big 3 made a product that had flaws, they rarely stepped to the plate and announced a problem BEFORE NHTSA got involved. In some cases, they are still avoiding responsibility for faulty design, poor safety records or parts back orders that leave owners disabled for days and weeks while engineers discuss fixes.
Then you have the manufacturers; Toyota, Honda, Nissan, who for years built a more reliable, trouble-free product that ran for over 100,000 miles. Today the majority of those vehicles are built in plants in the Midwest. In a race to grow market-share, the quality has become challenged and recalls are more prevalent. The styling of the imports, drive to environmental awareness and cultural cross-style has grabbed the young consumer’s attention. Many of these 18-30 buyers remember growing up with Japanese made products, but even the thirty-something car buyer is beset with confusion over quality, loyalty and brand recognition vs. price and value, as the dollar gets pounded. As I see it, the key components to brand and consumer loyalty are based on meeting these three consumer expectations… High Quality. Does the car deliver on the promise of trouble-free ownership? Exceptional Value. Does the car provide a well-balanced, safety oriented, feature rich package of standard and optional features that justify the cost and enhance the ownership experience? Outstanding Service. Does the manufacturer, dealer principal, sales professional and service technician embrace a level of empowerment directed at complete and total customer satisfaction every day? When we, as automobile professionals, can honestly say that everyone in our organizations works to achieve these goals, only then can we expect to be honored with customer brand loyalty. Until then, it’s just marketing. Sarah Lee is a 20yr. veteran of the automobile industry and author of The Complete Internet Car Buying Guide. www.mycarlady.com