Safety, Fun Experience Support Market ParticipationBy Alejandro Salas | Mon, 07/13/2020 - 05:00
Q: How confident is the brand about reaching 5,000 units sold by 2020 and eventually a 1 percent share of the Mexican market?
A: Our targets have not changed. We had a slight delay in 2018 due to our efforts to reconstruct our dealership network, which was in part due to the change in government and in permits. Regarding the aftersales segment, there are still areas for improvement. We had some problems with our previous importer but these have now been resolved. We are also providing training for our staff constantly to improve our service, part of it done by an official instructor from Subaru Japan. In addition, our strategy considers growing the number of service centers in the country, as well as their spare parts inventory. This ensures there are no lags in service, which can be provided quickly and at a standard price.
Q: What do you look for in a new distribution partner?
A: Understanding of the brand’s values is very important. Subaru has unique characteristics and it has its own technological developments, such as the Eyesight safety system. It is also important to understand our products. We expect dealership managers to be involved in the operation of their business, as well. In the end, there does not need to be a large number of people working at the dealership as long as they can adopt our values and style of work.
Q: As a niche brand, what are your strategies to generate buzz around the brand and its specific characteristics?
A: Our strength is grounded in having well-rounded cars that are fun to drive, but which also ensure a safe driving experience. We conducted several surveys in 2018 with clients and we realized that the main reasons why they buy our cars is because of the safety features they offer. Therefore, we are now focusing on these technologies to showcase our portfolio. We did not invest significantly in marketing in 2018 because our agency’s network was not yet prepared. Now, we intend to use videos and organize events where clients can directly experience the feeling of driving a Subaru and see what our technology can do.
In the US and Japan, almost 90 percent of Subaru’s sold have Eyesight. We launched a limited number of vehicles featuring this system in August 2018 to see how the Mexican market would respond. Our XV car has two versions, one with Eyesight and one without. We expected 70 percent of our sales to come from the latter version but the tendency has been completely the opposite. This confirmed that our clients are really looking to upgrade this part of their driving experience.
Q: How do you transmit Eyesight’s advantages to potential clients?
A: When we talk about safety, Eyesight is just one part. There are other elements like airbags, the body of the car, stability controls and emergency exits in case of an accident. We have an integral concept of safety and we still need to explain this well to the market. Many brands are investing in semiautonomous systems but our concept is more complete. Furthermore, most brands are incorporating these systems from a third-party provider, whereas our system is 100 percent ours.
We started developing Eyesight in 1989 and for 30 years we have been upgrading the information we provide to the driver. Compared to a radar system, our system can identify what kind of object is in front of the car and, like the human eye, it also has a much wider angle of vision. For example, when a car is moving in cruise control and there is another car driving in front of it, a radar system will lose sight of it when you reach a curve and the other car moves left or right. Eyesight is able to follow the other much better.
Q: What is Subaru’s strategy regarding hybrid and electric vehicles?
A: For these units, we are going to use Toyota technology. Our alliance with the brand has brought great benefits and unlike other car groups, we remain independent within the alliance. Toyota has a 16.8 percent share in Subaru but does not have a director on our board or management. Toyota’s president understands Subaru and its character. If the company were to intervene in our products or processes, our brand could lose its special DNA, which is why it respects our autonomy.