Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Out of step as I consider trading the VeeDub

The recently released Roy Morgan Single Source survey of automotive brand loyalty in Australia questions my sanity - but belies the claim of VW's advertising, which is about being different.

You see, VW enjoys the second-highest level of brand loyalty among car owners (measured by intention to purchase again) in Australia - the numero uno in the survey being Subaru which, incidentally, just ain't me. So I am clearly swimming against the tide as I shop Audi dealerships, even though my ever-reliable VeeDub Passat is only two years old.

At an Audi dealership last weekend, even the salesman was saying what a good looking car I had. I could see he was perplexed as to why I'd consider trading it at a changeover cost of 30-plus big ones.

So what is it with me? They should have severed the dysfunctional wiring loom in my head instead of the umbilical cord when I was born. There's nothing wrong with the VeeDub. In fact, I had it serviced only last Friday - NOTHING WRONG WITH IT!  But unfortunately, it is a victim of Honda syndrome. Yep. I had a Honda Accord several vehicles ago. Boring, but....NOTHING WRONG WITH IT!

You see, plain functional vehicles that do everything right are boring to car enthusiasts. I owned a Saab. Broke down several hundred kilometres from home at a family funeral. Believe it or not, the crank pulley came off - something minor, a once in a lifetime event. Despite being tempted to bury it in an adjoining plot at the time, I duly had it repaired at the local dealer after negotiating a two month warranty extension.

Last car was an Audi. Totally pissed off when the Bosch ABS control unit failed after eight years, I discovered that this was a known issue on the car and that VW had issued an international recall, but subsidiary brand, Audi, had not. Presumably, Audi owners were considered wealthy enough to cover the cost of the $2,000 repair.

In the case of both the Saab and the Audi, I traded them shortly after or, in the latter case,  with the problem. But you see, the point is that these issues gave these cars character. I've remembered every critical moment with those cars and am now blogging about their virtues.

Where the 'cars are just for getting from A to B' type owners regard these characteristics as an impediment to their motoring experience, Europhile owners just love the character - their brand's point of difference. We've heard all the stories - Jaguar, Porsche, Maserati, Alfa Romeo - the road is littered with the oil and debris of shattering electro-mechanical failings.

But herein lies the VeeDub's problem. It's sandwiched in the loyalty stakes between Subaru and Toyota which, given its well documented recent issues, should really have copped a drubbing (white goods are easily replaced fortunately).

Being the meat in this sandwich impacts hard on one's psychology. But more particularly, it explains why brands with character appeal to people like me. You'll never find Audi sandwiched between Subaru and Toyota in the loyalty stakes. Much better to be off the chart and unique. It's character building.

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