Tuesday, September 06, 2005

European vs. American brand views:

Automotive News has a great article concerning brand viewpoints, or rather how the average person views a brand. They specifically concentrate on those brands that are "premium". The article unfortunately is only availabe to subscribers and can be found here. Below is an attempt at a chart comparing the views of what is premium in America verses what is premium in Europe. The American views are based on common sense and my opinion.


Alfa Romeo--near luxury.

Audi--near luxury, slightly more upscale then Alfa.

BMW--clearly luxury.

Cadillac--not seen as luxury, not well known, usually sold at a discount.

Jaguar--High end is premium, X-type drags down brand a little.

Lancia--only premium to Italians.

Land Rover--seen as hard to define. Near premium overall.

Lexus--NOT seen as premium to anyone but the British. Still not well known outside UK.

Maserati--Premium but legacy is based on old racing victories.

Mercedes-Benz--still loved despite quality problems.

Mini--seen as premium.

Porsche--another example of perfect premium.

Saab--struggling to be premium.

Volvo--Not really premium, small cars in range hurting status.


Alfa--not in America, not really well known anymore. Since Maserati has had a successful rebirth in America relatively quickly however, there's no denying that this brand could achieve some kind of premium status if it were to return however.

Audi--This brand might have a higher reputation in America than in Europe. However I think the A3 brings it to a more pedestrian level that Americans aren't used to seeing. Like Europe it is third fiddle to Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

BMW--Like Europe it is quite premium. The 1-series introduction on this side of the pond probably makes it a little less premium, but otherwise there's little noticeable difference.

Cadillac--Another startling difference between Americans and Europeans. Cadillac is well received in America, and is one of the few gems in GM's lineup in America.

Jaguar--I don't think the X-type has really harmed the image of Jaguar in America. Jags are considered premium, but I think the reason they don't sell is that they just have a poor quality reputation, and really don't make competitive cars in terms of fighting with BMW and Mercedes. Both Europe and America see this brand problematically.

Lancia--No brand identity whatsoever in America.

Land Rover--Yet another striking difference. Land Rover has a fantastic image in the US. It is undeniably a premium brand, and in some ways the ONLY premium SUV out there, or at least premium SUV lineup. Sure Porsche has an SUV, but it really is seen as a specialty vehicle. Land Rover are seen as experts in the field. Perhaps not selling the Defender in the US is a good thing.

Lincoln--Here is another difference between America and Europe. Lincoln in recent years has suffered tremendously, but its domination of the livery market in America cannot be denied. You actually DO see Lincoln limos over here, but they are rare. No brand identification in Europe. More of a near premium brand in America.

Lexus--Another surprising difference between continents. Lexus is perhaps only second to BMW and Mercedes in America, maybe even higher than Mercedes in some areas.

Maserati--Yet another difference between Europe and America. This is seen as a very premium brand in the US.

Mercedes--Like Europe seen as flawed, but still competent. Probably more of a premium brand in the US because we never see the Mercedes busses, and vans that are over in Europe.

Mini--Not seen as premium in the US. Certainly seen as premium for its class, however size is important in America, and no vehicle that small is classy to Yanks.

Porsche--Europeans and Americans see eye to eye on this one. Definitely premium.

Saab--Again not seen as premium. I don't know if this brand was ever seen as premium in America at all.

Volvo--In my lifetime this car went from a Saab alternative, to a luxury brand in America. So long as there is no vehicle introduced that is smaller than the S40, I think this brand will continue to be viewed as premium in the US.

In general Americans see more brands as premium than Europeans. I suppose since the car market in Europe is more fickle than in America, because owning a car is so expensive and many make do without any vehicle, that Europeans will be more picky on what is luxury and what isn't. Americans see almost anything European as luxurious and premium. However we also see Cadillacs and Lincolns, and Europeans could care less for those brands. I think the success of Acura too shows that Americans are more than willing to consider anything priced over 30k with leather seats premium. Sad but true. There seems to be a greater emphasis in America on appearing rich than in Europe. Thus the greater emphasis on luxury in America.

dude, saabs are nice
Rick nice post, I enjoy your blog.
Lancia is not well known in the US that's true, but those of us who do remember, think of them as quirky, unreliable and expensive to fix. The same could be said of Alfa or any Italian car. I know people who are fiercly loyal to their Italian cars, and can't figure out why. But of course, I'm a Ford guy, so I'm not supposed to understand.

Volvo and Saab came into the US market trying to compete with Volkswagen, so their history here is only recently a near luxury.
Volvo is bringing a new model the C30 to the US that is a 3 door built on the CD-1 platform like the S40/V50. You'll see it in the UK befoe we get it.

You didn't mention Ford, I know they're not considered a premium brand in Europe or the US, but I read recently on another blog, that some Europeans didn't know Ford is an American company. What is the overall image of Ford in Europe or more specifically the UK?

Keep up the great work,
I think what it comes down to is that Americans as a whole still only see things in terms of size and power without understanding their relation to one another.. Yes, if you have a 4,000 lbs car, a V8 with 300bhp will move along nicely, whereas if you have a 1.6 litre engine in a car that weighs in around 2,200 lbs, and produces 170bhp, you've got a better power to weight ratio, not to mention a better chance at considerable gas economy gains.

I personally like hatchbacks, nice looking hatchbacks. The Peugeot 206, the Citroen Saxo, the Lancia Delta, even the Ford Puma. Yes, I've been involved with this cars in person and find them all very nice in terms of size and engine output. Living in the US though, I don't get to buy a car with a decent small external footprint generally. Most of what is out there is too big for my tastes.

Look at the idea of what class a car is in. In Europe, what is considered a mid-size car will be considered compact in the US, etc. And to think that the Americans don't know about Micro-sized cars such as the A Class from Mercedes, or the cars from Smart, or the Nissan Micra, or hell, even a Sunny or a VW Polo.

I recently traded in my 2003 VW Bora Sport 1.8T (Jetta, 4th Generation GLS Turbo), as it was getting costly for fueling, etc. It was a great ride, but I know in my heart (and from it being my third VW) that when parts start to go, it costs a fortune. I just recenetly picked up a car that most American's flat our won't buy. A Daewoo Lacetti 5 door (4 door hatchback). Sold in the US as a Suzuki Reno, Canada as a Chevy Optra5, China as a Buick, and in much of Europe as either a Chevy Lacetti or a Daewoo Lacetti.
This car is bigger inside than my Bora/Jetta was, yet a wider front and rear track, as well as wheel base. It is using slightly older, yet redesigned Opel/Vauxhall engines from the Astra redone by Holden in Australia, but is an Ecotec II engine (16v 2.0 litre), it works fine for me. I only wish they offered the 1.4/1.6l engines here.

I would like to see the SUV craze go away. They aren't necessary quite frankly and given that a fillup will cost over $100 now that Americans are gettting a hint as to what fuel actually costs other countries ($3.00/gallon isn't bad for those of you also in the US, visit any modern country in Europe, you'll most likely be shocked at what is "the norm").

I realise this is a series of rants all in one posting, but people just don't think over here anymore. We need more diesels over here as well, Only VW and Mercedes are really doing it at the moment. Almost all the "Luxury" manufacturers listed above in the original posting offer diesels (including performance diesels).. Jaguar, Saab, Volvo, Mercedes, Alfa, Lexus, BMW, Citroen, Renault, Land Rover, Audi (of course)... Even in Europe companies like Jeep/Chrysler offer Diesels, what's the deal, sell'em here, people may just see the light..

Wait a second, I doubt it, Americans as a whole seem oblivious, I consider myself to be one of the lucky enlightened ones who has actually recognised that we only think we know best and refuse to yield when others prove our theory wrong.

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