Tiny cars and massive pickups – other countries, other cars

So much for automotive pap: What inspires a buyer in Germany will only bring a tired smile to a Japanese customer. This presents manufacturers with major challenges: other countries, other cars.

The preferences of car buyers differ from country to country. What is the reason for this? First of all, the local conditions are very different: In sparsely populated regions like the Australian outback, people buy different cars than in conurbations like Paris or Tokyo. Luxury taxes on cars as in Scandinavia influence the market just as much as low taxes on gasoline in the U.S.

Another reason for differences in customer preferences is the cultural standards of the country in question: in other words, what the vast majority of people regard as normal, typical and binding. Most people internalize these standards to such an extent that they control and shape them in their actions and also decisions in their subconscious.

Sharpen the senses for the special
These cultural standards are only perceived as “special” when different cultural circles come together. Automobile manufacturers must therefore be aware of the special features of each individual market. They must know what their buyers want. And they have to fulfil these wishes.

USA – likes it big

In the land of unlimited possibilities, one thing (not only) counts for cars – sheer size coupled with crisp power. Size matters! And this combination carries a name in the USA like Donnerhall: Ford F. For 37 years, the six-meter long, two-meter wide and high pick-up truck has been the best-selling passenger car in the United States. It dominates the road scene not only on endless highways, but also in the cities.

In 2019 alone, Ford sold 900,000 units on its domestic market, which has been dominated by pick-ups from US manufacturers since the introduction of the “chicken tax” in 1963. With this tax of 25 percent, the Americans had unceremoniously imposed a tax on the import of European commercial vehicles – in response to European import duties on cheap chicken from the USA.

The US-American cultural standards for pick-ups? Lots of chrome as a tribute to design orgies of the 1960s, an automatic transmission for lazy shifters and an XXL-size coffee cup holder (which German suppliers now also have in their range for the US market). Size matters.

Japan – preferably small

In Japan, pick-up trucks are a no-go on the streets. Instead, over the decades the Japanese have developed a hot love for lavishly equipped miniature cars. After the end of the Second World War, the Kei cars were intended to enable poorer Japanese to buy cars.

To this day, the Kei cars dominate the Japanese market: in 2016, 30 million Kei cars were on Japanese roads; 90 percent of these were equipped with automatic transmissions, which are also the cultural standard in Japan.

With a maximum length of 3.40 meters, a width of 1.48 meters and a capacity of 660 cm3 , they are automotive bonsais, but are in no way inferior to a luxury sedan in terms of equipment. The young Japanese in particular like sophisticated safety systems, gimmicks like 360-degree parking aids or cool infotainment systems. So comfort comes first. The Japanese manufacturers take this cultural standard mantra to heart.

The popularity of the Kei cars also has very practical reasons: low taxes, low tolls and parking fees, unproblematic registration even in megacities. Outside their home country, kei-cars play no role: stricter crash and pollutant standards as well as right-hand drive (in Japan left-hand traffic applies) stand in the way of exports.

China – preferably longer

Kei cars would not stand a chance in the world’s largest car market. Chinese buyers, like the Americans, have a weakness for size, but especially for length. That is why there are many long versions, especially in the premium segment. A Mercedes E-Class, for example, is a full 14 centimetres longer than in Europe, Jaguar stretches its XF by the same amount, and the Audi A4 stretches 9 centimetres in the Chinese long version.

BMW stretches its smallest SUV X1 by 12 centimetres and thus offers more legroom than the largest SUV X5 in Europe. This provides comfort for the driver and above all for the passengers. Because for Chinese customers the following applies: When you buy a car, you want to show others what you have.

In the interior, Chinese buyers enjoy colorful lighting, and on no account should they miss – attention, cultural standards – the storage space for the paper towel box, a fragrance dispenser and a place for their personal lucky charm. Touch screens in the rear are also in demand.

Brazil – the golf without f

Adapting to customer tastes is also worthwhile in emerging markets like Brazil. Volkswagen has developed the VW Gol for the South American giant. Produced locally, the robust mix of Golf and Polo already exceeded the seven million mark in sales in 2012. For 27 years, the Gol was the VW bestseller in South America. For Brazilian customers, the combination of price, durability, stability and spaciousness was what counted.

It cannot hold a candle to its German brother Golf in terms of equipment and comfort. It is not only the f. On the other hand, the Gol is much more robust and equipped with a manual air conditioning system designed for continuous operation for the southern hemisphere.

Thanks to its Totalflex engine, it can run on either petrol or ethanol or a mixture of both – a good idea in the land of sugar cane. By the way, good idea: to give the name Gol (goal) to a car model in the land of the soccer-crazy, five-time soccer world champion is evidence of intercultural competence.

The Swiss’ favourite car: the VW Touareg

The “Swiss Car of the Year” was awarded for the eighth time last night in front of some 300 guests from the automotive industry and many celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment. Perfect for driving in front of a Casino Geneve Building. The fourteen-member jury of experts awarded the coveted title to the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV.

The VW Touareg won the award “The Swiss people’s favourite car” in the representative public vote conducted by Schweizer Illustrierte and AutoScout24 in all parts of the country.

The largest car jury in Switzerland, consisting of readers and users of Schweizer Illustrierte, AutoScout24, BLICK, SonntagsBlick, L’illustré and il caffè and visitors to the Auto Zürich Car Show, chose their favourite from 39 new cars. Around 40,000 votes were cast in the election for “the Swiss people’s favourite car”. The only VW model among the 39 new cars, the VW Touareg, was at the top of the list right from the start. The VW SUV, which is equipped with lots of high-tech and, if desired, even rear-wheel steering, claimed a full 14.66 percent of the votes and is thus the clear winner. The Volvo XC40 was also highly rated by the expert jury and the audience. With 6.25 percent, the Swede secured second place. The latest generation of the Audi Q3 took third place with 5.77 percent of the votes.