What’s in a name?

  12 June 2011

Hands up who remembers the Hyundai Pony? I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong but I recall it was a copy of the Morris Marina and Hyundai’s first car in Europe. Why is this relevant? Because Hyundai has just sold its five millionth car in Europe.

And I’m sure there are readers out there who can remember the first Datsun to arrive on these shores too. Was it a Cherry? Or a Cedric? Oh, how we laughed at those funny names. I don’t see anybody laughing now.

Some time later this year we’ll probably see the first Great Wall vehicles arrive from China and Brilliance is already selling in limited numbers in continental Europe. Okay, the quality is a bit iffy and the crash test results not yet to European norms, but I do hope you’re all taking them seriously.

By coincidence, it’s also been a good week for UK Autos plc with new investment in Sunderland and Oxford, the Prime Minister personally backing car and component manufacturing as a vital industry and Europe’s top automakers in London for their annual get-together. But there are rumblings beneath the surface.

The vehicle manufacturers’ trade association (ACEA) sees tariff barriers blocking the way ahead in our dealings with Korea, India and, potentially, Japan. ACEA wants those barriers to come down and, in this world of clichés, they are calling for a ‘level playing field’.

Are they prepared to put up a fight to get it? I don’t think anybody is suggesting a trade war – after all, we probably need the Japanese and Indian markets more than they need us – so this is just an early negotiating position. But it could get quite heavy.

While I understand the need for Europe’s manufacturers to find somewhere in the world to sell their overcapacity (and maintain jobs), I can’t see them getting much support at dealership level.

In the retail industry we’ve moved beyond the point where a car’s country of origin is relevant. All that matters is that it satisfies the customer’s needs and wants and, right now, the retailers I talk to are just happy to close any sale – whether it’s a Qashqai, a cee’d or a Yeti (and names don’t get much dafter than that).

Whatever brand of car you’re selling, I hope the week ahead is a good one for you. Remember, if you’ve got a story, e-mail: rupert@auto-retail.com

Rupert Saunders

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