I have always been an admirer of the smoke and mirrors in the presentation of the automotive industry's products that draws a customer to a particular bran

The editor's week

I have always been an admirer of the smoke and mirrors in the presentation of the automotive industry's products that draws a customer to a particular brand. There's clever marketing and product positioning inherent in the brand badge and all it stands for. It's not just the nuts and bolts of how the car is put together and what it actually physically is, but so much more than that to get the customer to, say, pay a premium that is the result of a decision making process that includes a significant emotional element.

I have explained to many people over the years that if value is your thing, for example, maybe go for a VW Polo over an Audi A1. The Volkswagen is perfectly fine, but if it's the four rings you want on the grille and the little touches that Audi makes for that extra premium feel, then be happy and go for it. But under-the-skin, much is shared with the Polo. Your choice - what makes you happy?

And if value is especially important, with reference to the VW Group, then take a look at cars under the Skoda and SEAT brands, of course. Skoda now has morphed way beyond where it was when VW finally acquired it in 2000 (but there was always good heritage at Skoda, considerable engineering prowess and astute strategies in spite of often adverse circumstances).

Volkswagen Group has cleverly managed its brands and the industrial/manufacturing strategy to share major components across the marques. How far can you go with that and where are the limits? At what point will the market perception and 'brand stretch' of, say, an improved brand - Skoda - start to result in cannibalisation of sales from other brands - especially VW? It's an interesting question, for sure, and one that the Skoda Scala may well bring to the fore.

Scala propels Skoda into C segment mainstream

Trade tensions between the US and China continue to ratchet up and down. A bunch of new tariffs are planned by the US for China imports from 1st September, but then the announcement was followed by news that there are delays to some sectors until December (many automotive parts have stayed out of the fray so far; if you want a fascinating glimpse of the micro-detail of line-by-line trade tariff lines you can get your fix here by clicking on the respective September and December lists). I guess the simple fact that there is flexibility being shown will reassure some, but uncertainty remains. And that uncertainty translates into economic decisions being put off - by consumers and businesses alike. It's hardly surprising then, that the Chinese vehicle market is pretty sluggish.

China vehicle sales decline slows in July

It is also August, which means news generally is also a little on the slow side. In automotive, many factories will be shutting for annual maintenance, production lines also being re-tooled for the new model year. At this time of the year many minds are, naturally, on the beach, both literally and metaphorically. Occasionally, a press release breaks cover that is a little, shall we say, unusual. We had something out of Jaguar last week that caught our eyes. Question: When is a car not a car? Answer: When it has an electric powertrain, according to a strict interpretation of the Oxford English Dictionary's (OED) definition of the word 'car'. Watt? Language, like automotive technology, is clearly an EV...olving thing. Hats off to the bright spark at JLR who spotted that one.

EV maker wants 'car' redefined

Until next time...

Dave LeggettDave Leggett
Managing Editor

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