When hype and reality collide

Brand values are yesterday's ethos, but once in a while, car companies do get it right

Maria markets the Macan

My review of the Porsche Macan was nearly a year ago. You can sense the reservations I felt at the time towards the Porsche. It was nothing personal, just my revulsion towards the automotive industry’s  slick machinations to draw customers with a mix of half-truths and hyperbole. “So what?” you may ask. This isn’t some terrible misdeed unique to the automotive industry. Heck, isn’t that what marketing is supposed to be all about anyway?

Yes, that’s the marketing department’s job and you can call me naive, but I have always felt there was little room to hide when it came to cars. The damn things are so big and so real, being disingenuous was simply too hard. The consumer would find out, or so I thought.

Yet, today the consumer is constantly having the wool pulled over their eyes with an oily combination of pseudo car-speak, techno-babble and USP diarrhea, all packaged in sexy videos designed to appeal to every form of narcissism known to man.

Sorry, say that again?

But every now and again, I get proven wrong and my faith is renewed. The Macan is one one such example.

Let’s walk through what happens in car development.

CEO: The board wants a 10% increase in volume.

CFO: We also need a 10% decrease in cost.

CMO: We need new segments.

Design: That’s not our DNA.

Engineering: Sod off!

M113 AMG
AMG M133: The highest output four-cylinder engine in production

And so starts the process of creating a new car, that is cheaper to build, has higher margins, can be sold in greater volume and is somehow, authentic! In days of yore, such suggestions would have been slaughtered at the alter of brand purity and company values. Those days are gone.

So it becomes the task of the hapless executives to build a bridge from opposing chasms and hope they meet somewhere in the middle. Most often, it ends up in some hideous chimera that the marketing team will have to wrap in layers of self-aggrandizement and snake-oil.

But sometimes, magic happens. Like a sonorous choir, the altos of design create a sweet note that is augmented by the solid baritones of engineering and this all gets lifted by the soprano of marketing to give us a truly delightful piece of music.

[quote_box_center]It says a lot about the automotive industry that in this day and age of hyper-speed innovation, they continue to create wonder and somehow tempt the laws of physics.[/quote_box_center]It says a lot about the automotive industry that in this day and age of hyper-speed innovation, they continue to create wonder and somehow tempt the laws of physics. While the Macan is a case in point, it by no means is the only one. Look at Mercedes-Benz’s AMG M133 engine – a 2.0-litre four-cylinder producing 361PS and 450Nm. Not too long ago, these numbers sounded like science-fiction and yet, today, they are a reality.

BMWs iDrive controller has become an automotive norm

Or BMWs much maligned iDrive. When first introduced, the world scoffed at the idea because needing an interface for more information seemed ludicrous. Today, an iDrive-type system has become an industry norm. And guess what? A lot of these innovations actually came out of marketing ideas.

Which brings me back to the point of today’s ramblings. While I will continue to stick my fingers up the nose of automotive horseshit and challenge crappy products, I do so only because I believe in the industry. I believe in the inherent magic that can be created with genuine product development and innovation. That, these are not just slogans to be sold so that some shareholder somewhere gets his fat dividend at the end of the year.