We British are a funny bunch. Either we’re tubthumping about how great Britain is, or we’re being highly apologetic… Multitudes of St. George’s crosses are now adorning every other car in the land, and this is an extremely interesting phenonemon. Obviously, it is Euro 2004 that has galvanised the country into this touching show of patriotism, but is it tapping into something deeper?
This evening, the results of the European election will start coming through, and one party that seems to be making inroads into the “big three” is the UK Independence Party. Does this mean that the British populace are turned on by the idea of the Island nation, and that they don’t really want to be part of Europe? Who knows, but one thing that is slightly baffling is that while we are not a Europhile nation, we love with their cars.
Contrast this situation with the French and the Germans: two Europhile nations, that continue to buy their own cars above all others. Ahh… people could argue that Rover and MG’s line-up is shaded by the opposition, but is it really? In terms of sporting convertibles, the MG TF still cuts it against the likes of the MX5, and we all know that the Rover 75 is more than a match for the VW Passat or Ford Mondeo. OK, the 25 and 45 are getting on now, but in spite of that, they are still worthy cars…
…one thing that’s slightly baffling is
if we’re not a Europhile nation, why are
we so in love with European cars?
No, the British are an educated lot, and like it or not, they probably won’t feel the urge to buy British until the 25/45 are replaced with something new (sad, but true… we’re now all locked into five-year product cycles) – even though both cars have been continously improved during their lives…
There’s also the small matter that we all like to buy prestigious cars, and that’s where our nation’s love affair with BMW and Mercedes-Benz comes in. They offer prestige and dealer backup that MG Rover can only dream about. So, how to improve things? Well, MGR cannot beat the Germans in a straight fight, so the plan must be to be innovative and play to a different set of rules.
Marketing is probably where the most impressive short-term gains can be made: Play on the country’s current patriotism – wear the flag prominently in adverts, and play the “buy British” thing for all it is worth. Yes, I know the 25 and 45 contain a fair degree of Honda hardware, the 75 is powered by German diesels and the CityRover is as British as Bollywood, but at least the profits from these cars will be pushed back into the British economy.
The “Phoenix four” then need to come off the fence and be more open about what they want to achieve with MGR. If they want it to have a long-term future, they should bloody well shout it from the rooftops. Get some positive press, get the papers on their side. Do that, and people may feel confident to buy into the product…
Perhaps the ultimate sales offer would be for MGR dealers to sell England flags: put them on offer, buy one, get a free car to stick it on…
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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