What matters most: great product or great dealers?
That’s what I’m tinkering with in my mind in the aftermath of the cars.co.za awards, a COTY-type (Car Of The Year) competition which chooses winners in various categories and also chooses a brand of the year. The former is based on actual testing by a group of motoring journalists (with public input via an on-line voting system) while the latter is based exclusively on owner surveys.
The brands which dominate the South African market – Volkswagen and Toyota – dominated the awards too.
Volkswagen won four category prizes, so I’m assuming they have the best products and Toyota was the brand of the year (also winning a category). Toyota seems to take a more holistic approach and the aftersales experience is hugely important. Untroubled ownership is the essence of Toyota and while I don’t own one (and never have) I have experienced this philosophy in action both at a dealer and OE level.
Let’s face it, a Yaris isn’t a match for the very latest Polo (it was barely a match for the previous VW Supermini) and an Auris not the equal of a Golf but if you want a life partner that’s going to keep on giving, then a Toyota it must be.
In the (albeit short) history of the competition, VW tops the pile with 10 category wins but it has never won the Brand award. Toyota has now been Best Brand twice, as has upstart, Suzuki – this is a statistic which should worry local VW executives as this result is determined entirely by market and customer data.
Other stand-outs from the evening were two awards for Merc - which is crafting fantastic interiors and exteriors nowadays – and the Honda Civic Type R winning the hot hatch category, recording the brand’s first cars.co.za award in the process.
Ultimately, it is interesting that the ownership experience plays such an important role and once the new car thrill has worn off all most people want is a reliable car that is affordable to own, and when something goes wrong, a dealership nearby that doesn’t make you feel like you’re being a nuisance. Interestingly, in no fewer than 5 out of the 13 categories the judges’ favourites did not win, due to the impact of the ownership satisfaction aspect.
This of course is not unique to franchised dealers, where it can make or break a brand and applies to all products and most services. I’m sure every reader of this will have a story – or many stories – to tell in this regard!