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From the chair October 2013
publication date: Oct 7, 2013
author/source: Reg Burnard
Bought a new car lately? Ever wondered how long a customer deliberates before selection? Do they ever read what we motoring people write about a new car?
And, normally - and ideally - we motoring writers have a car for a week to assess its virtues; and find its shortcomings.
So what of the trend of motor manufacturers’ public relations offices organising a day where we can drive almost all the cars in their range, usually for a maximum of half an hour, often on strange roads, in order to write a piece?
We could be in the car for a shorter period of time than the potential customer’s first run. And yet that customer is entitled to believe that he is reading a balanced judgment.
Seeking last week to have a particular model on the usual week’s test car loan I was told by one PR department that, as I would be shortly attending a regional drive day, that would be sufficient time to evaluate that model.
Sufficient for whom, one might wonder.
There is also a tendency for regional driving days to miss an important element, someone in the company you can interview to get an update on sales, marketing, product plans and, dare I say it, a local story of relevance to group members. You get the impression that some manufacturers simply do a regional driving day because they feel they should follow others and its a comparatively cheap way to get bums on seats and pack in as many drives in a day as possible.
Unfortunately, that can work against a manufacturer as some drivers log fuel consumption and assess a car over a comparatively short distance, which risks giving the car a poor fuel average as well as not showing it off to its best in broader motoring conditions. One new car launch, not a regional, recently took place in a built up area where you had a succession of speed cameras and speed humps, perhaps ideal for a city car but certainly not the sportier model they were showing to the UK press.
On the other hand it was a delight to attend a UK launch this summer to promote a lower ranked manufacturer's new models. Their modest PR budget and troops on the ground mean they have to very carefully plan and prepare events which give the best value return for their outlay, and it worked very well for them and the scores of journalists who attended over three days. There were people of interest to talk to, a good variety of cars to drive and a route which was compact yet compelling and enjoyable.
So, a good launch or regional drive can be a success, but its usually down to the PR's experience and abililty and the difference shows in the column centremetres created.
Thewesterngroup officers are always ready and willing to confidentially listen to launch proposals and offer their experience and advice, and it comes free. Something for nothing is a rare commodity.