Recently, research from Sewells uncovered how company car drivers are influencing business decision makers, demanding premium models over more affordable volume brands.
It supports industry commentators who liken the current car market it a soufflé in a hot oven; viewing side on, with the bottom of the market on one side, the top on the other, the outer edges rise as the centre – where volume brands sit – stays uncooked. Both premium and budget markets are growing, leaving volume brands in the centre of a gooey mess.
I’m confident that the manufacturers know this, too, as volume brands push their quality with lengthy warranties and battle to bring the most affordable running costs. The latest Vauxhall Insignia is the perfect example; here is a full size family car with tax-free motoring thanks to emissions of just 99g/km. Even for the new generation of drivers, accustomed to this kind of economy, this is truly astonishing.
However, even without a compromise in car size, performance or quality, one element continues to push decision making; the badge on the bonnet. Brand snobbery is a powerful, and we remain adamant that we prefer to be seen in a premium car than save on a more affordable model - even if this is just at the local petrol station.
Premium brands are responding however. Invading the centre of the soufflé, both Audi and BMW have models for almost every letter/number in the range. Even Jaguar is set to enter battle with the tax-exempt version of the XE in 2015. Two of the biggest weapons volume brands currently have then – affordability and efficiency – are now being incorporated in offerings from premium brands.
Although this may take the pressure off fleet decision makers – allowing drivers to have their beloved BMW without the awkward call from finance – the pressure will be on traditional volume brands to bring game changing models to market, taking the headlines and sales volumes once again.