Camry Wins After Camry Loses

USA Today, MotorWeek, Cars.com, and an actual family tested and ranked family-sized, moderately priced sedans. The resulting article, originally published with the suspense-ruining headline “Winner is Hyundai Sonata Sport,” compared the Hyundai Sonata (who knew?), Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.

I rate the results merely semi-interesting. The real story, though, is not about the cars. The real story is about the manufacturers and consumers. So here is what I learned from that riveting story investigating back-seat space and “giant grilles,” among other things of cosmic significance.

  • The industry is in total competitive convergence. No one is original any more, as originality means taking risks. Instead, the driving force is, don’t let anyone have bragging rights over you. Fear rules the C-suite of these icons.
  • The industry has come a long way since quality differences were obvious. As the article stated, even the lowest-scored car was good and competent. I don’t know why, but I felt a sudden urge to drive the beautiful, leaking, rusting Alfa Romeo of yore. At least it had character!
  • Can you guess the car ranked dead last? Look again at this article’s suspense-ruining headline. The car ranked dead last was the Toyota Camry. Can you guess what car sells best in the US? Right again. Toyota Camry. So what does that tell us? That mass consumers take no chances. The car should be as boring as the driver. More evidence: nearly 3 in 4 cars are painted white, silver, grey, or black. (See this and this.)
  • Stereotypes work. Without seeing the survey, tell me: which car do you think focused on engineering and completely neglected any other aspect of delighting the drivers? No headlines to help you this time. Still, if you didn’t guess it, you haven’t understood the Germans very well.
  • Which would be the most fun? Zoom zoom wins again. Small, relatively low on resources to compete with the big guys, Mazda’s management has carved a niche of fun-loving clientele. Mazda seems to cherish the idea of positioning. Kudos.

Conclusion? Buy an SUV and the hell with the planet. That’s what Americans are doing, anyway.

About the author  ⁄ Ben Gilad

BENJAMIN GILAD, PhD, is founder and president of the Academy of Com­petitive Intelligence, Inc., and with Mark Chussil, a cofounder and partner of Sync Strategy. He is a former associate professor of strategy at Rutgers University’s School of Management, and a pioneer in the field of competi­tive intelligence and war gaming. He has published seven books and more than 90 articles in academic and practitioners’ publications on the topics of behavioral economics, competitive intelligence, and business war gaming.

He has been running war games for Fortune 500 companies since the 1980s and teaching a course on war gaming as part of Fuld-Gilad-Herring Acad­emy of CI which grants CIP certification in the field of CI. The Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals society awarded him its highest Meritorious Award in 1996.

He earned his PhD in economics at New York University, MBA at the University of Central Mis­souri, and BA at Tel Aviv University.

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