23 November 2014

Premium? What Premium?

When I was young, cars with a premium image sold at much higher prices because you got a much better vehicle. People bought them for the quality and prestige that went with the ownership of a superior car. They sold in much smaller numbers, but the profit margins were much higher to compensate. They were better built and a lot more solid.

Fast forward to today and the lines have been blurred. Mass market cars are better than ever and premium brands have moved into segments ones the preserve of lesser brands, such as Mercedes did with the A-Class. So are premium brands so premium anymore?

The short answer is no! They sell in numbers that are not too far short of standard makes, so any exclusivity has gone. They sell for twice the price of the lesser brands but offer scarcely more in terms of superiority, so they still make loads of money but giving little extra for it. Build quality is no better, as all cars are pretty well made these days. Often they are less reliable. So why do they have such desirability? Many of the car buying public hasn't seemed to have realised the change that has taken place.

In summary: The pursuit of sales volume to be the biggest by the three German premium brands is putting them into segments they shouldn't be in. The quality is not as special either anymore. To make the point, I was recently reading a car magazine which was reviewing the new model Nissan Qashqai. It said "There's a better ambiance about the Qashqai's cabin than the twice as pricy Merc GLA.." That says it all really.

What to make of it: There seems no reason to buy premium if it is not premium. Why would you? Mass produced brands are delivering today and surely the public will cotton on eventually. Some premium marques such as Jaguar offer something with style and class that is worth paying for. The same magazine recently wrote about the F-Type R Coupe that it had something that is lacking in a lot of it's Germanic competitors, and that's genuine character. All premium cars should have that, making ownership special. As for too many premium cars, what's the premium? All too often only the price.

Forget the GLA and get a Qashqai. Save heaps of money too.

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