Chris Green (pictured), founder and sales director of Motoring.co.uk, on the new key questions consumers are asking on the search for their next vehicle - and how some manufacturers are reading the market wrong.
"It’s a well known fact that brand loyalty is a thing of the past for many new car buyers, as their pockets are coming under increasing pressure as the recession continues. The majority of consumers are less interested in make and model and are more interested in MPG, insurance group, monthly finance payment and vehicle tax.
"Motoring.co.uk research carried out through its consumer contact centre and email marketing campaigns has found that for every 10 consumers thinking of buying a new car, seven of them ask five key questions - what is the MPG, insurance group, road tax, finance deposit and the monthly payment?
"Long gone are the days of consumers having lots of disposable cash and asking ‘What is the discount?’ as they simply don't pay cash like they used to.
The changing needs of today’s new car buyer have been met by some of the volume manufacturers like Ford, who have been able to maintain and grow their market share. The likes of Hyundai and Kia have been able to increase market share significantly.
"Ford has been particularly successful launching new products with excellent build quality, backed by attractive finance deals.
"Hyundai has responded with seven year warranties and lower-cost vehicles and its growth in market share is testament that this strategy is going down well with consumers, with a 29.49% increase year on year in market share (February 2013). Kia has employed a similar strategy to Hyundai and is enjoying similar growth and success in increased market share.
"Interestingly Suzuki has experienced a significant increase in market share (61.98%) and this is down to a focus on the small hatchback sector. Swift has answered and ticked the boxes for the consumer on all of the key five questions they are asking. It's also a cracking little car that is great to look at and appeals to all.
"So what about the manufacturers who are losing market share and why?
"Renault has seen its market share eroded with a drop of 21.44% (February 2013) and if you believe what you read in 2012, they were over 40% down on registrations from 2011, which is a huge decline for such a big volume brand.
"It's fair to say that they may have got their strategy wrong and the investment they have put into electric cars in such a tough few years, could have been better spent on new models and much better build quality.
"Consumers are not concerned about the environment. Instead, they are focussed on survival, with the big five questions being the major influencers on buying a new car in today’s market.
"Renault has been slow to adapt itself to the changing new car buyer and has relied for far too long on sales of Clio, Megane and Scenic. Unfortunately Renault has lost loyal consumers to other brands and its future in the UK is being questioned by some critics.
"You could say that Toyota and Honda lost their way for a while with a similar strategy, but they have put themselves back on track very quickly and their new models and finance offers are looking good. The new Clio is a fabulous car, so there could be hope for Renault yet.
"Motor manufacturers can no longer rely on traditional marketing to sell their new cars. Instead, they need an integrated digital customer acquisition and retention strategy that keeps customers loyal and interested through their whole car-owning cycle, including aftersales. For a brand like Renault, old school display advertising is simply not the way forward.
"Brands that have lost market share need to be much more aggressive to gain that market share back and focus on performance marketing. It's no coincidence that the likes of Ford, Hyundai, Kia have had a very clear strategy and they have focused on new models with exceptional spec, technology, good build quality and reliability, while being aggressive in their marketing approach.
"They have also ticked the boxes of the big five consumer questions which is what will keep manufacturers winning in the market share race and keep consumers coming back to buy their product."
Author: Chris Green is founder and sales director of Motoring.co.uk. It provides automotive data, leads and intelligence, using online and offline channels to reach millions of consumers every month, through car buying conversations, targeted email marketing and working with other large publishing partners. Motoring.co.uk provides in-market customers to its manufacturer and dealer client base every month.