Auto brands have come a long way from the financial crisis of 2008 and government bailouts. Yeah, I know, it may be “too soon” for some of you to forget the millions (and millions) in bailouts, but let’s focus on the positive. Something interesting happens in a recession. We retreat, we return to the comforts of home, we nest and we conserve. And post-recession, we come out of it changed. The longer the recession, the longer the change lasts.
Before getting into the ways the auto industry has addressed these changes, let’s review the changes:
- Focus on work-life balance versus the all-work, no-play lifestyle before hard times.
- Consumers expect more for less. Brands did all they could to stay afloat. Value added offerings and deal sites like Groupon have raised consumer expectations and those won’t be lowered anytime soon.
- More discerning buyers. Online research and search guide more buying than ever.
- The back to basics behavior picked up during hard times (comforts of home, the basics in life, nesting) will stick with consumers
- Emergence of innovation and design. During the recession, most brands hibernate and put all of their energy toward coming out on the other side, still alive. Post-recession, there is a lack of innovation and new design that brands will try to fill.
The following are lessons we can all take from the auto industry:
Subaru has hit a home run focusing on work-life balance. Centered around “Dog tested. Dog approved.” – lifestyle commercials feature man’s best friend. The campaign even sponsors Dogbook (the Facebook hub for dogs) and the ASPCA, a “Map my Dog Walk” app and a Klout Perks campaign reaching social influencers of dogs/cars.
Scion’s reputation of “inexpensive, funky-looking cars for young urbanites” hits home more than ever. This year, they are debuting a new model, the iQ, which has been described as “like a Smart Car, only smarter.”
Buick’s new Verona is positioned as “affordable, thoughtful luxury.” Addressing the “getting more for less” is their hope as they aim to position themselves against other compact luxury cars (think Lexus IS, BMW 3 series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and Acura TSX) but at a much lower price point.
The all-new Ford Focus is ranked #2 out of 40 cars in its class. Appealing to both parents (highest rankings in safety and MyKey “parental control”) and teens (with MyFord entertainment and tech features) it performs well in the world of “search assisted retail.”
Kia is coming out of the recession with a lot of pent up design and innovation. Six of their 9 models are brand new or redesigned.
What other industries can we learn from?