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The brand matters: the car is not a commodity

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We have heard for years that the car will become a commodity, a use-and-leave product for a customer interested only in the service they can get from it, with ownership replaced by access. If this were indeed the case, the value of auto brands should be in free fall. This is not what emerges from the analysis of Interbrand, a global consultancy firm specializing in the economic valuation of brands. At the beginning of the century, the automotive sector was placing 7 brands in the top 100, for a total value of 115 billion dollars. Last year there were 15 brands for a value of 271 billion. The methodology, developed in 1987 together with the London Business School, combines the financial performance of the brand, the weight it exerts in customers’ purchasing decisions and its strength, understood as the ability to project loyalty in demand and therefore profits into the future.

This growth concentrated above all in the last decade, according to the CEO of Interbrand Charles Trevail: “emphasizes how close the relationship of customers with their cars is, how much of their personal identity is linked to the brand they drive, and therefore how much value the brands have. automotive “.


It is difficult to be surprised by these words. We are all motorists and we know how important brands are in the car, even for its detractors, who are often interested in discrediting what they cannot have: the fox and the grapes. After all, it is no mystery that the trendiest brand, Tesla, is based on the meaning of driving the icon of green mobility. Rather, the top managers of car brands are surprising when they easily speak of mobility, of overcoming the product, of leading the industry towards the mere use of cars, which means tarnishing the value of the brand, in favor of availability, cleanliness. and ease of service.

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However, if they speak occasionally, they strive on a daily basis to enhance the uniqueness of the brands they sell. Not an easy job, given that some large European groups are now struggling with the abundance of brands in their portfolios, the result of the mergers of the last century, followed first by some failures and then by the opportunity to settle in low-cost countries. In the beginning, the positioning technique worked, among popular, elegant and sporty brands. Later the bodies also came to characterize the cars, first the station wagons and then the SUVs, while elegance and sportiness were set aside in accordance with new trends and there seemed to be room for low-cost cars. The fact is that today the two main groups have many brands in their belly, some very overlapping and others still not well defined, even after many years. Yet, in recent years they have felt the need to launch new ones.

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