Sunday, September 11, 2011

The "Meh" Motorshow

I have to admit I found the Total Motorshow largely disappointing.

I will start with the positive. The smaller exhibitors by and large brought their A-game. They came to interact with visitors. They took this very seriously. Kudos to them. Chase Bank, Cheki, Unifilters, Stoic etc all seemed to have made a real effort.

Where the show was let down for me was by the main car dealers. I went there expecting to see everything the dealers had to offer, expecting to interact with knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic staff. I wanted to see cars that would make me dream, speak to sales people whose passion and belief in their brands would make me a convert. I expected to experience grand stands & displays, each more awe inspiring than the last. Instead, for the most part, the message that the main dealers sent to me was a big "Meh".

Of course when the dealers look at me, they see a peasant who is probably unlikely to buy any of their cars any time soon. But for me, the motorshow is not about immediate sales. It is not necessarily about the chap who will see your car and walk into your showroom with a briefcase full of money the next Monday to buy his car. For me, the motorshow is about selling dreams. It is about converting a Premio driver into a Mercedes fanatic, making a Vitz driver ache for an Impreza, making an X-Trail driver crave a Prado. It is about making that peasant university student see, feel and experience the wondrous majesty of the Mercedes S600 V12 with it's heads up display, night vision camera, auto parking and whatever other bells and whistles the car may have. The student will not buy that car today, nor tomorrow. But the goal should be to plant that seed in him. "I must be a Mercedes man. I must have a showroom Mercedes". One day, he will get a job, buy a Vitz, get a promotion, buy a Premio, do well, buy a second hand C-Class. But if you are successful, he sees all those cars as mere stepping stones to his ultimate dream: getting his showroom Mercedes/BMW/Range Rover/whatever.

Instead, what message did our main dealers send with their limited, short staffed displays? "We don't care about you poor people. We have no need to wow you, woo you or impress you. You are mere spectators and we shall only put in the bare minimum to show you what we have because you are little more than pests to us. We wont hire extra temp staff, train them, infuse them with our passion so that they in turn infuse you with the same passion because put simply, you are not worth it."

On Saturday morning, BMW had one salesman. He was pretty much overwhelmed because BMW garnered loads of interest. Jaguar/Land Rover had one sales lady who was bored, disinterested and unenthusiastic as any sales person could possibly be. GM had a good display but something like two sales people (I stood at their stand for about five minutes and left without speaking to anyone). It seemed like the higher end the brand, the more snobbish the dealers were. So Toyota Kenya and Nissan were okay but Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW were horrible.

In hindsight, I realize I probably had unrealistically high expectations. I went to the motorshow to be wowed. Instead the most apt description of my experience is merely "Meh"


  1. poor show n poor you

  2. Pole. Apart from ASK, good exhibitions are in Kenya. The disdain for peasants is present in banks,real estate agents, curio shops and worst in Momba hotels. Both these come from a short-termism about closing fast sales. They prefer dealing with the obese politician who turns up with his entourage straight from govt coffers.
    Good businesses aim to hook customers for repeat business.

  3. Good Review! Makes me kinda glad that I sort of forgot it was happening.

  4. I had a feeling that was going to be the case. I feel vindicated by your comments. I particularly resonate with your comments about not caring about the "peasants". It's a common Kenyan misconception, it's not your customer today who will make you reach, but that inspired dreamer who will inspire other dreamers, ad infinitum who will make your company the stuff of legend. Thanks for the post.

  5. Sad to hear that. Its not surprising to expect the best in a car show. Its more surprising not to be wowed. Well, that's life.

  6. The short term mentality many companies have presents a big opportunity to whoever comes in thinking differently. Banking sector is a good case study in this. Big banks treated wananchi as little more than a nuisance for years, then along came Equity which has grown into a giant largely on the back of the mwananchi. Now we have big banks scrambling to attract the very people they overlooked for years and years. I hope the same sort of thing will happen in other industries including the car industry.

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