Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Customer Disservice

Customer Disservice


If the first apple you bite has worms in it, there's a pretty good chance that in the future you will lean towards oranges.

Consider the true cost of giving your customers the warranty run around (AKA lost future sale).

Incidentally, Mitsubishi and Hyundai both come with a 5 year warranty.

Check out more of the Mitsubishi ASX on Instagram: #INSTANIPANDTRUCK

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Middle Of The Road

Don't you love reading all the lists that come out at the end of the year? Most Affable Car of the Year, cheese of the year, celebrity death of the year; the hits keep on coming. 

I've had a particularly long hiatus from this blog thanks to a properly head busting year and a half of work, so here's my contribution to the period point of 2015. Most disappointing performance, starring the Holden Malibu.

Aiming for the Centre Mass

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, some numbskull decided that Holden needed a new mid-sized car to replace the Vectra. For those who missed the festivities that began with the locally built Vectra B and ended with an over priced, imported Vectra C technical extravaganza, you may have blinked and missed the arrival of the Holden Epica.

Marketing praised its hushiness thanks to a range of "Porsche developed" in-line six cylinder east-west engines..... which basically makes it Holdens 914...but with 4 doors and front wheel drive and made in Korea so......

I drove the 2.0 5M when it debuted and dubbed it "automotive Valium". If I'm honest, at the time I was a bit of a junior when it came to getting the best out an engine, so I may not have been flogging it appropriately. Nonetheless, *yawn* I did find the seats reasonably comfortable but forgot what else I liked before gently putting my head down for a nap.

As time went on, I saw the occasional Epica turn up on my local roads. Then the diesel turned up and the mid sized box of mediocrity become less occasional and more common. 
I'm not talking Corolla levels of ubiquity here (obviously) but there was definitely an up tick of interest from the market. I definitely noted a large number of generally olde folks taking favour with the car of no flavour. 

There was also competition from the Blue corner in the shape of the Ford Mondeo. Sourced from Belgium, it made the Epica look like the value proposition that it was. The Mondeo won every comparison aside from cost, where a mid spec version would set you back around 38k vs the Epicas "top spec" (which was actually pretty basic) which weighed in at 33k.

Five years later, depreciation has set in and the Epica finally fronts up with a win, shedding $25,240 vs $28,890 for a Mondeo Zetec. 

I know what you're thinking: "that's pretty faint praise Mick", and also possibly "what the hell does that have to do with the Malibu?"

I'm getting there.

Who's been to Malibu?

I don't think it was the same numbskull, but it was a numbskull nonetheless, who decided that the global replacement for the slow burning oil burner should be adorned with a very non-global moniker: Malibu. Apparently it's a sunny place in a far away land, but it's also the name of a cumbersome watercraft that doesn't turn very well....

I was just as eager to find a glimmer of hope in the Malibu as I was when I first drove the Epicac. What I found was an alien design with alien fabrics and weird giant buttons. It felt neither sunny nor global, and definitely not local. The diesel was an awful racket and the steering equally disappointing. 

I found some solace in the 2.4 petrol CDX with a fairly comfortable front seat and amicable though distant electric steering. However, the boot was huge and the design (aside from the vaguely Camry-esque front end) had some great angles.

 It wasn't until the second coming of the diesel that I found a product suitable of local acceptance. Adoption of the electric rack made a massive difference and all of a sudden the Malibu had a shot at the market. So what did marketing do? They took a swing at thin air.

The TV ad tried to convey an image of escaping the city. Not exactly unique nor new, but most importantly, it did nothing to get the attention of people who may have been vaguely interested. 

The Malibu is not a bad car. In fact I quite enjoyed using it (ironically) to escape from home for the weekend. I packed up the family with everything we needed for a day trip (which fit easily in the enormous boot) and headed to the country. The kids had fun, my wife was comfortable, and in the name of science, I even took the long way home and gave the Malibu a battering over some local gravel roads. It didn't just survive. It excelled. 

It's a really good car.

In that regard, however, the Malibu is not alone. There are plenty of really good cars on the market. 

Holden did give me the car for a month though, so that I could use it as a basis for comparing commuters over my usual daily commute (105kms each way). I averaged 5.2 L/100kms and got as low as 4.5. This is exactly where the Malibu shines AND it's also where its predecessor gained market traction. 

So my award for most disappointing performance is not aimed at the product itself. It's for the marketing effort not standing up and yelling: "HEY OLD PEOPLE, THIS CAR IS CHEAP TO RUN AND WILL SAVE YOU MONEY IN THE LONG RUN!". I think with more focused presentation, the Malibu could have had a better showing.  

It's like the new Commodore ad. There's no wishy washy "lovely family car for Australia" prattle, just the LS3 punch in the face.

Holden aren't on their own with this, but I hope that in 2016, when advertisers pitch a product, they aim it at a corner of the market instead of general malaise in a general direction. 

Stop pretending your product is all things to all people. Especially when in some respects, it's middle of the road.

Video Review below

Monday, October 27, 2014

A late night chat with Sharon

I'm not sure what went wrong here, but when I approached Sci-Fleet about a new VX Landcruiser for my father in law, Sharon really didn't help me at all....

"Sharon: Hello, thanks for contacting Sci Fleet Motors. My name is Sharon, may I have your name?
System: The visitor has returned to the chat.
Visitor: Mick
Sharon: Hi Mick. How may I help you?
Visitor: I have noticed that there a few vehicles with red spot savings on them or whatever. I am looking at buyin a VX Landcruiser. Do they currently have any promotions on?
Sharon: Alright. Before we proceed, may I have your phone number and email to better assist you?
Visitor: 0403876577
Sharon: Thanks Mick. Which location is more convenient. Albion, Kedron or Taringa?
Visitor: Albion
Sharon: Okay. How soon are you looking to make a decision?
Visitor: Quickly
Sharon: Great. One of our Consultants can help with this. Would you like me to have them contact you?
Visitor: Yes
Sharon: Okay. I have sent your information to our office, and you will be contacted as soon as possible. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Visitor: Well technically you didn't really help me. In fact your answers were so benign I assume you may be a bot
Visitor: Nothing personal
Sharon: I am a real person Mick.
Visitor: So can you tell me if there are any promotions on the VX Landcruiser? That was my original question
Sharon: Here is a link to our weekly specials:
Visitor: So no is the answer
Sharon: Are you interested in a new or used vehicle?
Visitor: Yes
Sharon: Do you want to buy a new VX Landcruiser?
Visitor: That depends if there are any specials on
Sharon: Here is a link to our new vehicle inventory:
Visitor: A VX Sharon
Sharon: Alright. Our inventory is constantly changing. I recommend you speak with one of our Consultants who can confirm we have what you’re looking for in stock.
Visitor: So you are telling me you can't find a VX in stock even though you and I are both people and I just found 3?
Visitor: I think you're pulling my leg sharon
Sharon: I apologize, I don't have access to inventory. I recommend you speak with one of our Consultants who can review your request.
Sharon: I can provide this link but confirmation will be provided by the consultant
Sharon: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Visitor: Perhaps as part of quality management you could suggest to your supervisor to have access to inventory, because really, this didn't go well. You didn't really help me any more than I could help myself. The only result is you now have the email and phone number of a disappointed potential customer. Look for my blog covering this CRM experience soon. I know it's not your fault sharon, but really, after this chat all I've done is burn time I could have spent with my kids.
Sharon: Okay. I’ll include this as a query with the rest of your details.
Visitor: Sorry, my typing suffers when I'm having a rant. :D
Visitor: Thanks for your help Sharon. Have a great night.
Sharon: Alright. You are welcome. Thank you for contacting Sci-Fleet Motors.
System: The chat session has ended.

So which is it Sharon? Do you have access to inventory or not? Because you said you didn't but you sent me a link to inventory.... for the wrong vehicle. 

Seriously, CRM doesn't work if you don't give the customer any thing in return. It's even worse if they give you bad information. You've made me feel cheap Sharon. Cheap! I know you have my number but I bet it wont be you who gives me a call. 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

And on the Seventh Day

I've been watching Hyundais "Seven Days of Genesis" videos as they arrive in my mail box and just as I was trying to decide whether I liked it or not, Jane Mills a.k.a +whatjanesays tweeted "Keep it fresh and new people". 

You can watch the Genesis videos here: SEVEN DAYS OF GENESIS Don't worry, there's no Phil Collins so far, but it's only day three.

Now I'm not saying that the Genesis videos are bad. In fact, the camera action, the slo mo shots and mix of comp gen images are really well done. Even the information (which I personally prize above aesthetics) is there after a kind of awkward mid way "Genesis" brand statement. 

There's moderately emotive music, some really beautiful industrial sounds included and they've even used some areas of shooting that look like they could be Australian. That last part is a big deal because Mercedes, Audi and BMW don't seem to want to make ads for our market despite our transaction prices being up to twice that paid in other places. (please comment if you have seen some local ads from the euros)

Still, the whole thing left me kind of cold;
I wasn't anticipating day four. 
I wasn't engrossed in what was happening. 
The information was kind of redundant (muscle turns into motion? really?)
Worst of all, there were no people in it.

We know that the next car is stiffer than the last. 
We know you're making it safer than the predecessor.
We know ....what ever the third point was which I can't remember even though I only watched it 15 minutes ago (really, I'm typing this directly after watching the video)

This is not fresh. This is not new. Don't worry Hyundai. You're not on your own here. Audi have all of a sudden started using dub step in their ads...... but were beaten to the punch by Mercedes last year whom had used dub step in their cool new A Class ads....... but where also beaten to the punch by KFC who used dub step for their frozen crusher drinks..... 

At least you didn't use dub step.

So what can be done? What is fresh and new? Hyundai need to work that out as soon as possible. The Genesis is launching at the end of this year and I am very interested in the product itself. It's a very important statement to the market about what Hyundai is. 

Already they have managed to turn their perception around and battle for small car honours with their seemingly well executed i30. If 5 years ago when their best effort was the snooze worthy Sonata, you said that Hyundai would be selling mid sized wagons for $40,000+ in 2014, I would have lost a rib. 

Their products and times have changed. Brand perception for Hyundai is at an all time high, but the Genesis is the next level. Their marketing needs to make that same leap.

If this is the best they can do, they'll end up hanging out in the corner with Infiniti (sorry Infiniti, there's still time).

"Keep it fresh and new, people".

Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: Holden Captiva7 LS Normcore Edition

The recent release of refreshed Captiva models sees the slow burners of the Holden brand get not much bar a price cut. I have already posted a pretty version of the Captiva Review on

This edition talks more about the SUV label and if the LS is the crocs and socks of the current market.

Can't view YUBEs on your mobile? Here's the direct link: Review Captiva Normcore Edition

One million IG pics right here: #INSTAFUNBUS

Want to see more of these vids? Subscribe to my Youtube Channel LOFLYTKULTURE

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Here's the prettier version on

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blame Games

As General Motors recalls millions of cars over unsafe ignition barrels, stories are coming out again dragging "olde GM" out of its grave (which is yet to be filled). 

An article in Detroit News Auto Insider from Bryce G Hoffman reports Bad Blood Cited Between General Motors and Ignition Switch Supplier Delphi from when they separated in 2002. 

The article goes on to explain the toxic relationship between GM and it's suppliers, particularly in regard to applying cost pressures, so much so that Delphi began shipping sub standard parts. 

Sorry Delphi, but if you can't produce a component of the appropriate level of quality for the price you agreed, then don't deliver it. As much as this article appears to be pointing to big bully General Motors exercising it's position over Delphi (which is nothing new, Supermarkets do it to farmers ALL THE TIME), at the end of the day, if you can't be competitive (whether that be through diversification or unique capability), you're out of business. That is exactly what the "free market" does.

In the case of Delphi Automotive, who have over 160,000 employees, if they can't compete in a global market, then they need to state their case to the appropriate authority whom can assist in their future security if it is so deemed to be in the best interests of that authority.

In case you have problems with reading between the lines, I'm talking about government assistance to ensure that particular industry and infrastructure are supported, such that the effect applies a positive outcome for the nations productivity (or employment). 

In Australia we have had similar issues which resulted in the announced closure of Ford Australia, Toyota Australia and Holden. Personally, as a tax payer, I was more than happy to lay out what added up to less than $20/ year of my income tax, to support tens of thousands of jobs. 

Now that I have rattled the "protectionism" tree, I'm sure plenty of communist hating tea baggers would be shaking their proverbial fists and burning hammer and sickle tea towels left, right and centre, because that's how stupid the system is. 

EVERYTHING in this world is about balance. The current trend of all encompassing free trade agreements and economic co-operation is ONLY good for the people running companies that import/export to the rest of the world. It's not good for the regular citizen, because everything has a cost.

One of the reasons Australia can't compete with other labour markets is because many other labour markets do not meet the same working standards as Australia. For example, though auto workers in Thailand have the right to form unions, union members have to work in the same company, so if you're fired, you are no longer a union member. The Thailand government is yet to implement International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 87 on freedom of association and Convention 98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively.

So basically they've got "Work Choices".

That's not to say that protectionism is an ideal scenario either. Where companies take advantage, protectionism can lead to "milking of the teat", but that is simply circumvented through appropriate performance requirements. 

We as a society need to think about our decisions, and, ensure that we do not prioritise the opportunity to get a cheaper TV over the opportunity for the bulk of our society to obtain gainful rewarding employment.

Delphi Automotive is a significant employer and the value of that work force enabling a tax base for it's regional or national economies should have justified activity, by government, to ensure that agreed levels of workers rights and quality of materials could be provided at a competitive cost for supply to General Motors.

Tariffs not only aid local manufacture, they protect rights for workers that most of the world cannot afford, or are not willing to pay. Maybe Delphi would not have sacrificed quality on their components. 

If they were competing against domestic competition, then that's just business.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ford Kuga: A Qualified Opinion

How disappointing. I received an email from Quantum Market Research:

Recently you showed some interest in buying an SUV called the Ford Kuga. Ford is very interested in asking you some questions regarding what you thought of the Ford Kuga and what you look for when purchasing an SUV.

Oh goody, someone cares about what I think! some one is "very interested" in what I think and what I look for!
Unfortunately, after 5 qualifying questions, I was booted out! Apparently that first statement in the email was a total lie, and now I, as a potential customer feel like I am not interesting and my thoughts are not important. 
Of course that's not entirely true, in that I didn't feel that way, but some potential customers may have, and of course my opinion is important. 
Way to distance the customer from the product Quantum Market Research.

Here's the 5 Qs:
Are you male or female?
How old are you?
What state are you from?
Have you bought a new car?
Do you work in the automotive industry/nooz?
Unfortunately, I didn't qualify (and it wasn't the last question because I said no. The Automotive industry is not my profession). Whether that was because I wasn't the correct configuration or Quantum Market Research are Blues fans (Go Maroons!) is irrelevant. I have an opinion on the Kuga and I'm going to share it dammit!
It's heavier than a Commodore Evoke wagon and only marginally more efficient, however the cost of the required premium fuel would certainly mean greater running costs. 
That's before even talking about servicing costs or the possibility of using the greener LPG option for the local product. 
Statistically the Kuga appears markedly under powered with the 1.6 ecoboost. I am fairly confident that fuel consumption would be pretty ordinary under load, particularly in hilly areas. Why on earth would you use a 1.6 in the Kuga but a 2.0 in the Falcon (which weighs less!)? #weird
Of course there is good news to be had though, in the frugal and grunty 2.0 Diesel coupled with the direct shift 6 speed transmission, but it's going to cost you 40k at least for the privilege (which isn't too bad really).
You get points for how it looks too. The design is reasonably good for the upper end of the segment, however, it has just stopped being contemporary. It's now out of date. If you sit a new X-Trail next to it, it's Star Trek (the one with the young hot Kirk) vs. Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek IV the Journey Home. Have a guess which is the Vulcan.
Interior wise, the Spanish built Kuga is mid pack, mainly due to the centre stack which looks like something Sony designed in the late 90's. I do have "a problem" with Sony in that I still think they're cool, but I'm partying like it's 1999. No one else is.
Now here's the rest of the good news: I don't REALLY care about any of that stuff (except the 1.6 Ecoboost). 
What I'm looking for is; how well I can fit the kids seats? 
How easy it is to get the pram/portacot/lilo/esky/8 changes of baby clothes/300 nappies/tent etc. (dependent on requirements at the time) loaded into the back...... and then access the clothes bag to retrieve the only Octonauts DVD that is required (the other 4 are the wrong ones).  
Can I easily pass a frozen coke fruit popper to the seat behind me? 
Does the cover of the centre console bin become wobbly after kids constantly use it as a thoroughfare to escape when you are trying to buckle them in? 
How easy is it to get the McDonalds fries out from next to the front seat rail?
Is there somewhere to store a spare change of clothes and emergency wipes for the juniorest burger (we're potty training)?
If, for some strange reason I actually drive on some wet grass, will my pretend 4X4 have the guts to pull itself up that seemingly innocuous knoll without awkward slipping and revving whilst the other dads at the camp ground point and laugh nervously hoping they don't have to do the same with their flimsy french poodle Peugeot?

According to your survey, you already know I'm not your target market. I mean sure I'm a mid level white collar professional under 40 (just) with three kids and a 3 year old car I bought new, but who's interested in what I think? 
Maybe next time around, we will buy an SUV because as I try out more of them, I can see their practical value, but they are still slow as shite. 
Right now, many SUVs are still badly done cars or weak sauce off road vehicles, with almost minivan practicality. They are rapidly moving toward becoming more car like, and that's a good thing (handling wise) but they need more power! 
Think about it. SUVs are supposed to be for holidays as much as the everyday. But when you are on holiday, that is when you have the least rearward visibility, the highest load and usually the longest travel time. They are all risks. The last thing you need is to find out that 240nm really isn't a lot when you are trying to overtake a caravan on unfamiliar roads.
Chances are, I'm just going to buy another Commodore wagon anyway, because  my wagons already do what I want (except for retrieving fries from next to the seat rails) and I can safely rely on the little bit of extra power to safely overtake, irrespective of if I have my whole family on board with all our camping gear or not. 
So there you go Quantum Market Research. That's what I thought of the Ford Kuga and that is what I look for when buying an SUV. Not that you care. I don't qualify.