It doesn’t matter what color, the main thing is that we have a car…

Renault’s “Fast Track” offer for the Arkana, the first units of which are starting to be delivered to France, guarantees a new car in a maximum of 30 days, while the average waiting time is usually at least five months. Stephan Mahe/Reuters

For Emily (41), choosing a color for her new Renault Arkana SUV was no problem as only three colors were offered. Her husband didn’t like black, she didn’t like pearl white, so they both settled for gray. And the couple is delighted, because the most important thing was to get the car quickly. “Given what we hear on TV about a delay of six to eight months to get a new car, when they tell me that 30 days, I smile. But I had it there in 15 days, it was great,” recalls this resident of Calvados.

Faced with more than a year of shortages of electronic components, coupled with logistical problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, manufacturers have been multiplying offers in Europe for several weeks to ensure their customers get a new car in time for their summer vacation. . A turnaround in a sector that until now only depended on the customization of the ordered product thanks to just-in-time production and the digitalization of factories. Historic automotive players are also following in the footsteps of Tesla, whose abbreviated catalog is one of the keys to success.

The analogue of the shortened delay is a sharply limited choice. Renault’s “Fast Track” offer on Arkana, the first units of which are starting to be delivered to France, guarantees a new car in a maximum of 30 days, with an average waiting time of at least five months. But the cars reserved for the occasion are only available in three colors – instead of the usual dual – with one trim level (RS Line) and one engine choice – a 145-horsepower hybrid. “This delivery time, reduced and guaranteed, is ensured thanks to a well-established industrial program and a special distribution process to the final delivery point,” the diamond group explained in a press release. Renault has clarified that the time limit is no longer guaranteed if the buyer requests equipment, an accessory, an adaptation or an additional option. “These operations will multiply in the current logistical context because it takes time to improve,” said a source close to Renault. However, it sends a signal that a reduction in commercial and technical diversity is compatible with good business. »

As a sign of the success of Operation Arkana, Fast Track is not even on concession. In June, she accounted for half of the model registrations in France. The inability to accurately select a car is a shame in a sector where the ability to personalize your car with color combinations and accessories, as well as remotely control the production progress of an ordered model, has so far constituted a strong selling point. But that was before disruptions caused by a shortage of chips and logistical difficulties caused by the Ukraine conflict added to the simplification of manufacturing processes to cover the cost of electrifying vehicles.

“Now the car is going through a real paradox: on the one hand, we want to produce on demand, not push sheet metal; on the other hand, reducing the variety of products makes it easier for customers to find the right model in stock,” comments Denis Shemul, analyst at S&P Global Mobility (formerly IHS Markit). “Reducing diversity is beneficial to everyone, this is a fundamental trend, we will not go back. And everyone will go, even the Germans,” he continues.

Faced with a shortage of components, Volkswagen also cut the selection of its electric ID.3, available in Europe in a single version, in February to optimize delivery times for the car. “In order to simplify and streamline the production of the ID.3, Volkswagen is simplifying its proposal (…). The priority of the Volkswagen brand is indeed to offer customers an offer as soon as possible, despite the limitations caused by the shortage of microprocessors,” explained the German group.

Choice ? A shame!

As with the ID.3, the “Up and Ahead” offering from Dacia, the Renault group’s low-cost brand, did not cut the range of exterior colors to expedite deliveries, but rather limited the range of power and options. “For us, the reduction in color diversity is not an obstacle. But by focusing customers on two engines and one finish, there is no more embarrassment of choice, more options, and thanks to this, from an industrial point of view, it is much easier to program, plan, ”explains Dmitry. Manussi, director of distribution and logistics Dacia.

“Up and Go” for upgrades and faster pick up saves 40 days on delivery times. In this formula, the brand claims 30% of Duster sales, with the number of options reduced to 14, versus at least 400 combinations for the remaining 70% of sales. “If we reduce the variety, we will make many things more flexible, and in particular the industrial part,” adds Dimitri Manussi. Dacia intends to expand this offering to new markets in the future, including Belgium, Morocco and Portugal by the end of the year, and then the UK, as well as the entire range. In Italy, pre-booking carefully selected vehicles is also becoming more common in the face of growing waiting lists, says a source close to the dealer.

Good for customers who are guaranteed to get a new, well-equipped car by the summer – as in Peugeot’s “Ready to Go” based on a sample lineup stored in May and June, and then again in July – the operation is also good for the manufacturer’s margin, since, for example, in the Renault Arkana, “Fast Track” corresponds in the catalog to the top-of-the-line model, the RS line, with a starting price of 38,630 euros. Most new car buyers don’t seem to mind too much. But they still can’t compete as all brands face significant delays. Emily and her husband opted for the fully equipped version of the RS Line from the start.

The trend is not specific to summer offers and is gaining future models as well. Buyers of the new Peugeot 408 will also have to turn to higher trim options as the lion brand removed the entry level to keep only two of the three levels. “We are in the trend of simplifying the offer. The new 408 is focused on the most sought-after configurations. This aims to simplify the customer journey,” explains Jérôme Micheron, Peugeot Product Director. He assures that such a policy reflects the desire of a large part of new car buyers: “Our site makes it easier and faster to set up your car when there are not too many options. »

Tribute to Henry Ford

According to a 2020 analysis by automotive consulting firm JD Power, 98% of the combinations offered on models are sold at just 50 copies each, and their combined weight is only 25% of total sales. The remaining 2% of options account for the lion’s share, three-quarters of sales. In the US market alone, large pickup trucks offer at least 70,000 different trims and options, points out Doug Betts, an analyst at JD Power. The main challenge is to eliminate the versions that sell the least while avoiding mistakes that risk losing sales.

This controversy is an unexpected tribute to a joke attributed to Henry Ford, the founder of the brand of the same name, who over a century ago said of his Model T, a symbol of the search for efficiency on the production line, that “people can choose any color.” (…) as long as it is black.”

Source: Reuters.

Source: L Orient Le Jour

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