Following Stame’s rather pathetic post on hydrogen powered cars and his claim that he is about to buy a Porsche (rubbish – he can’t afford a Skoda) I share a recent article from Mckinsey. In it they suggest that a bit of market segmentation could give a boost to sales of electric cars. A typical piece of McKinsey analysis reveals that different types of driving needs gives the opportunity to develop and position different kinds of electric cars. I fully approve of the use of market segmentation to reveal innovation opportunities. I am a real fan of segmentation and have always argued that it is a key reflex of a good marketer. Only by slicing and dicing the market in a different way according to different circumstances (who, what, why, when, where) can brands spot new ways to add value. But sadly this McKinsey work misses the point.
Firstly, most people are not in a position to operate a portfolio of cars. One car needs to be able to perform several functions and to be able to do so cost effectively. It must be an economical and practical car about town, a decent long distance ride, and a fair sized people carrier for when you need to cart of few mates or kids around. As the second highest capital investment that most people make, it must also hold its value well – something of a concern I suspect for the new alternative fuel or hybrid cars.
Secondly, cars are a big badge. Your choice of wheels makes a significant statement about you. Even people (and it is a small minority if you discount the liars) who say they really don’t care about cars still want a car that says they don’t care but they’re not stupid or poor either, so they buy an Audi. The Toyota Prius, which is frankly a bit of a con as a save the planet- mobile, has achieved its success because, thanks to the likes of Leonardo de Caprio, it gives you a great big Green Badge, a statement of moral superiority, albeit a misguided one. Whether you like it or not, and most do, the choice of car says a lot about a person.
I do think that the hydrogen fuelled car is probably the future, and I suspect other radical breakthroughs are around the corner. 95% of the energy a car produces is used to transport the car, not the passengers. The single biggest difference we can make to fuel economy is to light-weight cars which modern materials now allow us to do. But rather than a lightweight, hydrogen-powered Honda, I’ll wait for the Mercedes, the Porsche, the Audi or even the Renault – because they are brands that make the right statement (for me).
As a footnote, check out Rory Sutherland on TED.com. A really funny, clever talk where he makes the point that if the ‘greens’ want everyone to stop driving SUV’s they must ensure that every convicted paedophile is required to drive a Porsche Cayenne!