Following on from Mike Humble’s essay of Daewoo ownership in the early years, he also explains about some of the truly shocking tactics the rival brands and dealers used in an attempt to discredit the fledgling company.
Having first hand experience of Daewoo cars in the UK some time before most others left a bitter taste in my mouth, as I explained in my last essay about this marque. To say the cars were total garbage would be unfair, as many went on to give fairly good service – but some proved to be rather erratic.
I personally knew an owner of a small mini-cab outfit who bought two Esperos, and both proved to be a sound investment. So much so that when his own intergalactic mileage Accord give up, he purchased another. But without doubt, it was the poor level of attention to detail and hapless blundering many owners experienced via the Halfords Service Centre network, which allowed the likes of Hyundai or Kia to hoover up the disgruntled owners – and rightly so.
One thing that is fact, was that Daewoo never aspired to be a direct competitor to the likes of Ford or Vauxhall. The traditional Daewoo owner tended to be an ex Lada or Skoda owner who wished for something a little more up to date; or a family buyer on a budget who previously would have had to made do with a used Sierra or Cavalier.
On paper they promised so much, and to many owners who had no real interest in the engineering or tech spec, a car with free everything for three years seemed an ideal and logical choice – just add fuel and drive. Daewoo’s revolutionary packages certainly sent out a shockwave throughout the motor trade, and scared many manufacturers or dealer groups so much, that some rather un-sporting antics took place as part of a crude fight-back.
Personally, I think it was nothing more than sheer jealousy that spurred many a tactic, which was all designed to do nothing more than discredit and make mockery of this up and coming Korean manufacturer. I gave an example of the negative attitude given by some in the form of my ex-employer, who in effect, barred me from parking a Daewoo in the dealership staff car park.
Another example happened on a visit to the North East to see my family. While I was there, I popped in to a local Volkswagen-Audi dealer to see a salesman I had known since I was a young and avid brochure collector. He came and curiously looked at the car, before telling me to scarper before he got into trouble by his dealer principle.
In some parts of the UK, things became really messy and personal. Take, for example, this happening which took place back in the East Midlands where I lived at this time: every year, the local daily newspaper, The Northampton Chronicle & Echo, would sponsor a Motor Show event, which took place in locations such as Billing Aquadrome, Althorp House or Overstone Manor. In reality, it was nothing more than all the local dealers buying a pitch and setting up a tent with the aim of shifting some tin. Obviously, any dealer who attended this event would be blessed with considerable advertising in the local rag, and virtually all of the local dealers – big group or small family firm – went for this yearly event with gusto.
Upon hearing that Daewoo were set to attend the event in 1995, a number of dealer groups took this matter up with the paper and threatened to pull out of show in protest. And with the newspaper standing to loose a considerable sum of money, or possibly a non-event, they barred Daewoo from attending – bowing to considerable pressure from the baying dealers.
This was not unique, as other towns and cities also held similar sponsored shows, and this nasty ganging-up of nothing more than jealous petty dealers caused similar exclusions to Daewoo up and down the land. The jungle drums were certainly beating well, as all this took place back in a world before email, Facebook or Twitter, as anti-Daewoo behaviour reached an all time high by one of the UK’s biggest groups.
Even though differing car makers or dealers tend to be sometimes bitter rivals, their top brass staff all wine and dine in the same lounges, play golf at the same clubs and move or shake in the same social circles. In their minds, something had to be done about Johnny foreigner, and rather than step up to the platter in terms of warranties or servicing packages by matching Daewoo, they decided that beating, rather than joining, would be a better long term strategy.
Ideas were banded about by members of dealers and manufacturers over brandy and cigars following some positive sales figures on the part of Daewoo. Local car dealers decided they would not accept any Daewoo offered in part exchange and printed this in local newspaper advertising, but it got much worse.
A certain very well known dealer chain with great prominence in Scotland, regularly advertised in various National weekend and Sunday papers. Upon hearing that dealers in the UK were bashing Daewoo in the local press, this infamous dealer group ran an advert in the National press also stating that they too, would refuse one taken in against one of their new cars giving no reason for their prejudice.
Following some legal action on the grounds of defamation of character, the dealer in question was ordered to withdraw the statement from future advertising. But no doubt its overal policy still stood. Daewoo, quite rightly, refused to adopt any tit-for-tat advertising.
On the other hand, some dealers chose to embrace the Daewoo brand. One or two specialists opened up here and there, making a decent living buying, selling or simply servicing out of warranty Daewoos. One notable example was CS & CV Robinson of Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire – once a retail Rover dealer until 1994. The owner, Charles Robinson, moved away from selling general used cars to becoming a used Daewoo specialist for a number of years.
Its excellent reputation for good honest family customer service ensured that a good number of these Korean cars would be seen driving around a quiet corner on the borders of Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.
Fast forward to 2011 (or what’s left of it) and we see Kia offering seven year warranties, Hyundai with five and the remainder of the other manufacturers offering a minimum of three years, with countless offers of servicing, free fuel and other incentives. Cars like the Espero, Leganza, Nexia, Nubira may hardly have set the world on fire, but they certainly made others sit up, take note and take stock.
Scaring rival makers into offering better aftersales care? – That’ll be the Daewoo!