Audi has 48 models, and wants to add 12 to 14 more. BMW is finding ever-finer strategies to slice the substance from the 3-series family, by turning some of them into 4s and adding Gran and GT Cabrio versions. Even Rolls-Royce and Bentley are planning range expansions with an SUV and a small coupé.
Car makers are racing to create more luxury models at one end of the scale, value brand offerings with the other as well as a phalanx of SUVs and crossovers in the middle. Model proliferation along with the filling of sectors, niches and segments has been the king trend across the majority of the industry these past 15 years, and there seems little manifestation of it stopping. Unless, that is, you canvas some views from Barcelona.
That’s where Seat is headquartered and where boss Jürgen Stackmann believes that containing his range and making a bigger effort to sell it can pay dividends. True, Seat is the perennial money-loser among the Volkswagen Group’s vast portfolio of brands, but Stackmann believes the company is heading for that sunlit uplands of profitability, and step to this mission is extracting the maximum sales from the models it already has.
Speaking recently at the Geneva motor show, Stackmann explained: “Expansion is not about new cars – it’s about getting the right cars in the right segments. Adding more cars does not equal more sales. There’s lots of potential inside the dealers and maximising the impact from the models we now have. Adding three cars towards the range won’t help – dealers drop a car, and add a car. Sales people struggle to memorise the specifications of 15 cars – they get lost.” Have a look at today’s Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Audi ranges and it’s easy to understand why.
“The dealer network is amongst the most underestimated powers in the market,” he says. “Distribution is around hard passion, trust and work. Nothing is harder to acquire than the trust of the dealer network. But once you have it, they will move mountains to suit your needs.” True, Seat might be planning to add a compact SUV to its range – a decision on whether to go on is possible this week – but after that, Seat’s model expansion looks very likely to end.
That will leave Stackmann to demonstrate his theory more sales is possible by better exploiting Seat’s existing range in league with its dealers. Stackmann’s view runs completely counter to much of the industry’s, but if you see the choked showrooms of your more madly proliferated makes, packed with so many different models – many from Seat’s brand stablemates, interestingly – it’s easy to see some merit in the argument.