Do luxury buyers want their cars to be affordable?
There’s a luxury-brand dealer in these parts advertising ‘affordable luxury’ on its cars. I won’t say which brand, because it’s probably not alone.
Do luxury buyers want it to be affordable?
Sure, you might gain some traction with those who can just afford it, but it’s always seemed to me that part of marketing to luxury buyers is about playing upon their vanity. About helping them celebrate their accomplishments through the car they drive.
Luxury is more affordable than ever, and there’s certainly some market traction to be gained by helping people identify when, say, the price of a loaded Ford Explorer or Honda Accord is nearing the price of a comparable luxury vehicle.
But this seems to me to be one of those areas where a carmaker’s marketing department has to tread carefully. Take a look at Mercedes-Benz of Canada.
They seem to be walking this fine line very well.
The tagline for Mercedes these days is ‘This is your time.’ And they do announce pricing of the C-Class, which in the mid-30s certainly stands to take a bite out of the top of the mainstream competition.
But they seem to be very careful about diminishing the achievements of, say, their S-Class or CLS-Class or SL-Class customers. Part of that strategy is about protecting the brand, which has stood for achievement and a higher class of automobile.
There will always be a segment of the market that is satisfied getting an affordable car, milking it for every last kilometre and moving on to another very affordable car after the first has been driven into the ground. There’s nothing wrong with that strategy. It probably represents the lowest possible cost of ownership over the life of a vehicle, especially if you can pay cash.
This segment will never be a conquest market for the luxury brands. A lot of these buyers will never even consider a car more expensive than a Toyota Yaris or Hyundai Accent. Sure, you might get a small amount, but hardly worth spending any money marketing towards.
Where the ‘affordable luxury’ idea might gain traction is with those people who are just moving in to another financial strata. Perhaps they’ve just paid off their mortgages or one of the breadwinners in the family has been promoted or maybe they came into money through an inheritance.
These buyers may not have the wherewithal to drop $100,000 on a Lexus LS or BMW 7-Series, but perhaps they’re looking to reward themselves just a bit.
These are buyers to whom a campaign targeting the entry-level luxury market will be very successful.
But even these buyers don’t want, in my opinion, to be reminded that they’re only getting a Benz or a Bimmer or an Infiniti because it’s ‘affordable.’ They still want to feel a sense of accomplishment.
I understand why luxury-brand dealers may wish to promote the affordability of their products, but it seems to me there are ways to do that.
Tout all the competitive advantages of your entry-level model - from safety to luxury to styling to cachet — and then simply advertise the price. Let the price speak for itself. Advertise the payment. Let the payment speak for itself.
Let viewers of the advertisement make up their own minds. Those who don’t see value in a luxury brand will never be convinced, those who are on the cusp of buying are more likely to be persuaded and you’re not rubbing anything in the noses of your high-net worth clients.
The integrity of your brand is maintained yet you’ve reached out to likely conquests.
After all, Janis Joplin didn’t want the Almighty to buy her a Benz because it was ‘affordable.’