Magazine article Marketing

Mark Kleinman on Marketing and the City: Bring Back Best of British

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Kleinman on Marketing and the City: Bring Back Best of British

Article excerpt

There is a compelling case for the government to instil a sense of national buy-in to the car industry.

As new dawns go, it was something of a damp squib. When Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson unveiled their vision for the country's industrial future in the unlovely environs of Loughborough University a few weeks ago, there was barely a glimmer of acknowledgement from the stock market.

So odd was the timing - the strategy was unveiled just two days before the most crucial Budget statement in living memory - that some people suggested that Brown and Mandelson had got the New Labour trick the wrong way round by burying good news instead of bad.

There is, however, another minister marketers ought to be following closely, particularly those who earn their crust in the car industry: step forward, Lord (Mervyn) Davies, minister for trade.

It isn't often that an entire sector of the economy has good reason to laud a member of HM Government, but the pounds 2000 scrappage scheme has brought motor manufacturers around from a bout of existential angst.

The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) explain the hand-wringing - car registrations were down 30% in March. During 2009, the SMMT expects sales to slump to below 1.7m.

Car dealers are warning that a slump in adspend by manufacturers has undermined their efforts to breathe new life into the market. According to figures published by Marketing in March, Ford, Vauxhall, Toyota and other big car marques slashed their adspend last year.

Can marketers do anything about this dire backdrop? The evidence for a positive response seems flimsy.

Chrysler filing for bankruptcy last week (leaving Omnicom Group's BBDO network as one of the biggest creditors), and the imminent break-up of General Motors, both underline the seismic nature of the upheaval.

Even so, from the ashes of recession, marketing opportunities will surely arise. If ever there were a time to encourage national champions - not through protectionism, but by creating an environment in which high-quality domestic companies can thrive - it must surely be now.

Given the decimation of British car manufacturing, there isn't a lot left to aim at. It may no longer be British-owned, but Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is an obvious candidate for such an effort. Its 15,000-strong workforce is based largely in this country, and it is engaged in high-end production. Moreover, the prospect of losing our last remaining big, indigenous carmaker, and the associated skills base, is a sobering one. …

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