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From the chair: December 2015

publication date: Dec 1, 2015
author/source: Robin Roberts


The motor industry pours millions into making an impression.

Cars have to look attractive, drive well and economically; they have to be marketable and sellable; their launch must be eye-catching and the prs must be eager to promote them.
Memorable launches are increasingly becoming rarer so the availability of a good press fleet becomes more important, as does who gets to drive the cars. Press offices have always had a pecking order for journalists and naturally treat some with greater perceived importance than others, and that’s unlikely to change.
So they entrust all their best professional endeavours to one person, and it’s not the journalist. I give you the delivery driver.
They come in all shapes and sizes; the economical who walk to and from stations; the sporty who produce a foldaway bike from their tired looking rucksacks; cautious ones who have a ‘chase’ car or colleague in another vehicle and some who, to put it politely, are not of this earth. The delivery business seems to attract life’s most varied humans.
Few manufacturers now employ their own drivers but increasingly contract-out the work to businesses, and all the investment for the multi-billion-pound industry is held in their hands. So its important to pick the right people for the job and if an agency is used that can be more difficult than using your own people. I have recently completed an industry survey which included press fleet observations, and it was an interesting exercise.
Courtesy costs nothing, but it can cost a press office everything if a couldn’t care-less cowboy delivers your car late, dirty or with a faint whiff of cigarette smoke or stale food. Thankfully, nearly all the time this unusual, sometimes unseen, army of ambassadors do a very good job. They deserve a pat on the back for all they do in all weathers and usually with a smile, which is an important first impression.

Talking of first impressions, the SMMT’s first line of defence will never be the same again with this month’s retirement of Janet Wilkinson. Journalists have often said she deserves a medal and I am glad to report that HRH has been listening to us and Janet received an MBE last month. It’s thoroughly deserved and thewesterngroup wishes her well for the future after years of work for the industry and her remarkable charity efforts along the way.

I am surprised and honoured to once again be chairman of WGMW, grateful for the leadership of John Kendall over the last two years and who will play a key role as vice-chairman, and I eagerly anticipate the challenges ahead.
Have a very happy Christmas and a  prosperous 2016.

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