15 TO I Sir,
I laying recently returned from a year in the U.S.A., where my wife and I drove a secondhand VW Microbus 24,000 almost trouble-free miles through 31 different States, I feel that I can throw some light on the reason why VW sell 15 cars in the States for every one that the combined might of the British manufacturers manages to sell.
I tried at first to buy a Ford Thames ‘bus in Durham, North Carolina, but none was available. I tried the B.M.C. agent for a Minibus—he had never heard of them. So I went to the attractive, shining VW emporium, where I was offered the choice of six new Microbuses and four used ones. Through a combination of patriotism and a willingness to save a thousand dollars, I bought a secondhand one. Herein lies the difference between Teutonic thoroughness and British apathy. VW really try to sell cars. The British effort is pathetic.
The British, poor trusting souls, try to sell cars through American car dealers. Why should a Cadillac agent care about selling a Morris when he might sell one of his American products and make a fatter profit ? VW weren’t born yesterday. They have their own, independent, nation-wide chain of showrooms and service stations, selling nothing whatever but VW products on new, efficient, attractive premises. VW have actually discovered that there are people living in the vast, unexplored hinterland between New York and Los Angeles—and they have set about selling cars to them. To do this, they also advertise their willingness to perform this service. They advertise in the local papers, which the British apparently cannot stoop to do. The snob New Yorker will only do for them—which is read by perhaps one American in too. VW advertise their service stations on large boards at the roadside (and very comforting this is, too, when you have just flogged a Microbus 2,000 miles in four days …) showing their precise location. You find VW showrooms in almost every town with a population of roo,000 or more—big, clean, shining showrooms with the windows filled with cars and buses just waiting to be bought—the most effective trap for surplus wealth I have seen in my life. You simply never see a British car in a showroom window anywhere other than in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a few other very large centres of population. The service bays in the VW emporia are clinically clean, staffed by mechanics in white overalls under (as a general rule) a German service manager, with his name written large on his office door. These things, I can assure you, create confidence. Confidence sells cars. If the British manufacturers wish to regain a foothold in the Stages and get back some of the trade they have lost to VW, I offer them the following advice :
(1) Band together. Form a completely independent organisation under some such title as ” British Cars Inc.”
(2) Build, on the Main Street of every town in which VW Inc. have a showroom, a bigger, brighter and better showroom.
(3) Cut down on the ridiculous number of models offered. Let each manufacturer offer two models, at most. Fill the showroom windows with them. Look as though you not only want to sell cars, but you have some to sell.
(4) Advertise. Advertise especially in the town’s local paper. Learn that there is no such thing as a National Press in the States. Advertise your presence at the roadside.
(5) Give first-class service. Make sure no car brought in for service will be off the road for more than a day or two.
(6) Build the same ruggedness into your products that VW build into theirs. A VW can be driven on full throttle on the American Interstate highways for 24 hours a day, and it stands up to it. I know—I’ve tried it. Few British cars will stand this sort of treatment.
In short, let the British motor manufacturers copy VW in their enterprise. Chevrolet have copied VW mechanically—why do we not copy their selling methods ? Then we might copy their sales.
Oxford. G. A. MEEK. * *
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