Let’s be honest, we all like a little bit of luxury in our lives, don’t we? That’s nowhere more apparent than in the car world, where premium brands are seen as aspirational, not only for buyers, but also for rival mainstream brands. In my view, too many of them have ideas above their station; there’s nothing wrong with a brand that offers good old-fashioned value.
That’s why I find Vauxhall boss Stephen Norman’s assertion that the British company makes “modest cars for the modest person” so refreshing. But of the many clever things the car industry has done in recent years, two of the smartest have been the premium makers who’ve given us smaller, cheaper models, and the finance gurus who thought up PCPs to make them more affordable for us to acquire.
This week we’ve driven the latest Audi A1, a car that, for some years now, has offered luxury for less. The car itself is another example of the Volkswagen Group’s brilliance at platform and parts sharing – making it easier, cheaper and more lucrative for Audi to build a great small car. But it’s also the knowledge that car buyers just can’t get enough of ticking the options boxes – options that come with rather tasty profit margins.
Let’s credit MINI with kicking off the premium small car fad, but it seems people can’t get enough kit on any car. That’s why Ford’s top spec went from Titanium to Titanium X and now there are even grander Ford Vignale models. Admittedly, we scoffed at them when they were first announced, but buyers are loving them. And we have to admit that the Focus Vignale we’ve driven is the most appealing model yet.
Which brings me to the humble PCP – probably the smartest sales tactic ever. With the focus on monthly payments, not the overall price, it makes spending more on luxury options seem spookily affordable. Oh, and it guarantees buyers return to their dealer every few years. Genius!
If you enjoyed reading Steve’s column this week then click here to read his prevous one…