By Jay Nagley
One of the biggest issues facing senior people in any large organisation is figuring out what people on the outside think, rather than what people within the organisation report that they think.
Jay Nagley was a market analyst at Porsche Cars GB before spending the past 13 years as the head of Redspy Automotive, his own analysis and forecasting consultancy.
A classic example was the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Lots of hard-right Republicans were convinced Obama was going to lose. The Tea Party types only ever spoke to each other, so the more they told each other they were going to win, the more convinced they became. Opinion polls telling them that any party running with Sarah Palin as the proposed vice-president would not get elected to run a village stall were dismissed as a “liberal media conspiracy”.
The same thing happens in business. Every motoring journalist can name at least one MD who has claimed bad reviews are the result of a biased media, claims which are rapidly forgotten if improved products lead to better reviews.
However, there are signs that some companies are trying to break out of their echo chambers.
Vauxhall makes a fresh start
Tim Tozer, the new boss of Vauxhall, has taken the opportunity to make a fresh start. As an outsider, he can say things lifers would find difficult, which is presumably one of the reasons Vauxhall took the admirable and unusual step of not promoting from within.
First of all, he has said Vauxhall needs to define its brand – currently there is no clear message (his initial thinking seems to be quality, value and Britishness).
Secondly, he says the dream of becoming premium is a snare and a delusion – it is what mid-market car companies daydream about when their business model is not working.
Thirdly, he says Vauxhall needs to look at the complexity of its model range – why has it traditionally offered far more versions than Ford, despite selling fewer cars overall?
None of those statements will surprise readers of this publication, but it may come as more of a surprise to GM insiders who have spent years telling the rest of us we were missing the point for raising these very issues.
It is also an implicit criticism of some senior GM people in Detroit, who have publicly mused about Opel/Vauxhall “doing a VW” and going upmarket – as if going upmarket was like sending out for a pizza.
It is safe to assume that if Tim Tozer had been in charge of product planning, GM Europe would not have spent its last pre-bankruptcy euros on developing the “premium” Cascada – a car that has reflected its name only in the sense that cascades flow downhill.
Jeep has come clean about its position in the world
Jeep, which has faced even tougher times in the UK than Vauxhall, has also come clean about its real position in the world. After coming close to being driven out of the UK in 2012, when deserting dealers meant there were not enough people on the ground to actually sell the cars, it has set out its recovery plan. The boss of Fiat UK, Steve Zanlunghi, said he was disappointed to find Jeep’s name was only slightly ahead of Suzuki and Mitsubishi in the UK.