Stewart's and Toyota join forces in folly

Friday, January 17, 2014

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STEWART'S Automotive Group and Toyota Jamaica denigrated the ATL Automotive Group by taking out a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Gleaner on January 12, 2014 which proclaimed that ATL's tag line which is "Unbeatable" comes behind both Toyota and Stewart's according to the Automobile Dealers' Association of Jamaica (ADA).

The advertisement went on to emphatically state: "The results are in: 1= Toyota. 2 = Stewart's Automotive." It is not difficult to assume that this is a collaborative effort on the part of both Toyota and Stewart's to belittle ATL.

To further besmirch ATL's branding, the advertisement depicts the company's trademarked logo/tag line "Unbeatable" -- with a question mark and a line through it -- and "Beaten" with an exclamation mark.

While both Toyota and Stewart's may be congratulating themselves and slapping themselves on the back for what they consider ingenious ad copy, they do not compare like with like. In other words , they both woefully miss the mark by comparing apples with oranges. For a start, Stewart's Automotive includes figures for its truck division, a segment which ATL does not compete in. Stewart's failure to disaggregate those numbers therefore does not present a true account of the correct figures. Stewart's must now endeavour to diambiguate this situation so greater clarity can be obtained.

The advertisement was published shortly after ATL's ad appeared in the leading national daily newspapers last week, which read: " While they were sleeping Audi became Jamaica's hottest premium brand." The ad depicts a faded BMW logo in the star-lit night sky nestling behind a gleaming fire-red Audi coupe.

The intent here is to be subjective and to make the point that BMW is losing its lustre to Audi. It does not quote a source such as
the Automobile Dealers 'Association of Jamaica to substantiate the veracity of its claim.

Mind you, it did not claim to be the number one or for that matter the leading premium brand -- it claimed to be the hottest. In other words, Beyoncé may be the number one female pop star in the world, but Rihanna is deemed the hottest.

So, therefore, how does one define hottest? Caché? Sex appeal? Popularity? Star appeal? The court of public opinion? Surely an amalgam of all these go into what is deemed the 'X Factor'. Cate Blanchett is a great actress but Angelina Jolie is a hot actress. But why?

In a blind effort to retaliate, both Stewart's and Toyota decided to launch a broadside at ATL Automotive itself and not the marques it represents. Is this disingenuous? Does it emit a whiff of mendacity? Is this a case of leading competitors conjoining in an effort to belittle a brand that is fast gaining traction and is knocking on the door of the market leaders?

It is difficult to recall in Jamaica, or for that matter anywhere in the world, where two car brands combine their efforts to disparage another. One can only assume that this is the case because neither Toyota nor Stewart's have indicated as yet that they dissociate themselves from this form of despicable advertising.

One wonders whether the ADA was complicit in this because it has remained remarkably silent on the issue. It can therefore be taken that the regulatory body condones this kind of collaborative effort to belligerently belittle a brand that in only three years is posing a serious threat to the market shareholders who have held this unassailable position for decades.

As for the chairman of the ADA, Kent LaCroix, one wonders if the ADA has seen the ad? What does he make of this double-teaming effort by Stewart's and Toyota? Does he regard it as usurping his authority, and what will he be doing about it?

There is nothing wrong or malefic in employing subjectivity in advertising copy.

Nelson Ireson, writing in the "Motor Authority "in an article entitled: "Audi RS 7: Best Car to Buy 2014 Nominee," writes: There are many luxurious sedans on the road these days. There are even many very fast ones. There are a few that do both luxury and the performance exceedingly well. But none of them look as primarily dashing, as sensually as the 2014 Audi RS7.

"Of course, the RS7 started with the best-looking luxury sedan in the business, the A7. That leg-up isn't the only thing it has going for it, however. This beauty has brains and brawn."

The esteemed business publication Forbes, described as the bible of business in October 2013, put out its "The Best Luxury Car Buy Of The Year (2013)". The rankings are as follows:

1. Audi Q5

2. Acura MDX

3. Chevrolet Corvette

4. Acura RLX

5. Cadillac SRX

6. Audi A5

7. Mercedes E Class Diesel

8. Infininiti G50

9 Audi Q7 Diesel

10 Range Rover Evoque

So how did Forbes arrive at this ranking and what criteria did it employ?

"Audi's success is due in part to an overall reputation for making vehicles with a low cost of ownership, says David Wurster, the president of automotive analytics firm Vincentric.

"The basic concept is that it isn't very important what you pay for your vehicle out the door -- it's more important what it costs over the lifetime that you own it," Wurster says. "The sophisticated buyer looks at cost of ownership very closely."

In fact, the Audi Q5 SUV ranked No 1 on this year's list of the most affordable luxury cars on the market today, and the brand lodged three models out of the top 10 that made the cut. They and a few other imports (think along the lines of Acura and Mercedes) join American newcomers like the Cadillac SRX and Chevrolet Corvette as the luxury cars with the best overall value on sale this year.

Behind the Numbers

"In order to make this list we used data provided by Vincentric, which is based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Analysts there tallied the cost of ownership for each 2013 or 2014 model-year vehicle by evaluating the manufacturer suggested retail price and five-year totals for fuel costs, maintenance, repairs, average national insurance rates, depreciation, interest, opportunity costs and taxes," reads the Forbes article.

For years, BMW in Jamaica has led the premium segment. However, there is a new player on the block and it is catching up fast.

At one time Audi was under the stable of Motor Sales, but never sold the numbers it now does with ATL Automotive. So what did ATL do for the brand so much so that its exponential growth is the best in the premium segment?

A cursory look on the roads of Jamaica tells one that Audi is making its presence felt particularly with the younger, more hip demographic. It is here that the hotness factor comes into play.

So, therefore, while a certain marque slept unperturbed, safe in the knowledge that its top spot would remain safe as it had done for years, in little less than four years, ATL Automotive has positioned Audi as an avowed challenger looking to take the top spot in the premium segment - while they were sleeping.

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