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Honda's a great little automotive company (shame about the logo)

Honda is one of the great little global automotive companies even though it may have a blind spot when it comes to modern diesel technology and petrol engines that develop high torque at low revs.

This tunnel vision has cost it dearly in Europe — but Honda's engineering and manufacturing are greatly admired by its peers. Imagine how much more competitive the company would be, then, if it understood marketing and branding.

The brand centre being built on the site of the company's old UK headquarters in Chiswick, west London, illustrates the scale of the problem. Honda, it proclaims, is one company with three logos – an H for cars, a wing for motorcycles and a new circular squiggle for power products.

It's worse than that, though. In Europe, Honda's corporate colour is red. In the United States, its biggest market, it is blue. Honda is global in everything but image.

By contrast, Mercedes-Benz manages with one instantly recognised logo for everything from an A-class to an Actros truck. BMW has consistently plugged away with the same badge, corporate colours and type face for more than 30 years.

Its engineering standards are none the worse for it. Honda's attitude smacks of engineering arrogance. It ought to listen occasionally to some marketing and branding specialist, not just to its engineers.

The opening of General Motors' pan-European customer care centre at the Vauxhall HQ in Luton is good news for the people who will work there. It's also positive for the Vauxhall, Opel, Chevrolet and Cadillac owners who will be able to avail themselves of its emergency and break-down services.

And, if one studies the results of the recent JD Power quality survey, that has to be a plus. Step back, though, and Luton is a microcosm of a worrying trend in this country. It is gaining a call centre which will eventually employ 360 people while simultaneously losing 2,000 jobs in car manufacturing.

Similar changes happened at other once-great manufacturing sites in the UK. Much of the old Morris complex at Cowley is now an office park. There is a Sainsbury's where Triumph once made cars in Coventry. Another office and retail centre stands on the former Chrysler plant at Linwood. Dagenham and (dare one say it?) Longbridge will probably follow the same route.

Perhaps it doesn't matter. National origins are clearly irrelevant when buyers in this country happily drive South African-made BMWs and Mercedes-Benz. The long term worry, though, will be when those call centres follow manufacturing to low-cost destinations – to India, Puerto Rico or the Philippines. McDonald's beckons, but I wonder whether burger flippers can afford to pay for all those (imported) new cars.

Jaguar has finally twigged the retailing implications of the new X-type. The new model's anticipated 30-something buyers are not going to feel comfortable in the clubby, olde worlde ambience of today's Jaguar dealership. So, out go the burr walnut and green chesterfield sofas and in come an American cherry look.

Unfortunately, the new look was unveiled to Jaguar dealers in London only in February, which means few of them have time to make the change before the new car goes on sale this month.

And not all Jaguar dealers are impressed about X-type. “Good lord, it's the sort of thing I had to buy after the war because there was nothing else available,” one warned.

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