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Porsche, Ferrari launch podcasts to relieve #iso fatigue

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MADAM Wheels has taken hedonic pleasure to a whole new level with the launch of its Cars and Champagne Masterclasses, designed to enable guests to savour some of the world’s finest champagnes while checking out the latest and greatest cars available.

Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren, Lamborghini and Maserati vehicles from Melbourne’s Zagame Automotive Group were in the mix alongside five cuvées from top French champagne house Taittinger.

This inaugural masterclass was organised as a networking event for female members of Melbourne’s Club of United Business, a private club set up to help Australian entrepreneurs meet and form valuable relationships to assist them on the path to business success.

The “Queens of CUB”, as they’re known, were invited to sample the individual wines while hearing about their unique characteristics as explained by global champagne force Kyla Kirkpatick, otherwise known as The Champagne Dame. Madam Wheels founder Jacquie Hayes then outlined the features of their matching cars.

Guests were welcomed on arrival to the intimate evening with Taittinger’s entry-level Brut Réserve, which was paired with a Maserati GranTurismo. These were followed by Taittinger’s Prestige Rosé (Lamborghini Urus), the Prélude Grands Crus Cuvée (a firm favourite among participants, and served with a DB11 Volante Aston Martin), Taittinger’s 2012 Brut Millesime (McLaren 570S Spider) through to the famed 2007 Comtes de Champagne Grands Crus Blanc De Blancs (Ferrari 488 Spider).

‘The masterclasses take the stress out of the vehicle-discovery session and lighten the mood with samples of the finest cuvées across the Taittinger range.’

Hayes says she curated the event to give guests a unique space in which to network while gaining a deeper appreciation for the very best cars on the market in a zero-pressure environment.

“Too often, women – and men, too, for that matter – feel out of their depth when they’re on the car-showroom floor, so may not have the opportunity to fully appreciate what a car has to offer,” Hayes says.

“The Cars and Champagne Masterclass takes the stress out of the vehicle-discovery session and lightens the mood with samples of the finest cuvées across the Taittinger range.”

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Audi Takes The Sales Pressure Off With Online Car Buying Tool

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COVID-19 has forced car brands to rethink the way they cater to car-buyers’ needs, with Audi Australia announcing a timely and novel approach – take the car salesman out of the equation altogether.

Audi has launched an online purchase platform across its full product range to tap into consumers’ growing appetite for online shopping. In doing so, it’s also acknowledging the things that make buying a car one of the most dreaded negotiations people face.From today, Audi buyers will be able to research, reserve and pay for a new car from the comfort of their homes, removing not only the risk of contracting a nasty virus but also any unwelcome face-to-face, high-pressure sales speak from number-driven showroom staff.

‘It’s probable dealerships will thrive as experience and test-drive centers, and sites where customers pick up their vehicles.’

The move to a full online platform has worked well for car brands in other countries, despite the naysayers.When Tesla announced to the US market a year ago that it planned to shift most of its sales to online, analysts questioned its ability to grow market share without physical showrooms. But the move has paid off.

In the UK, Tesla’s online sales capability is credited with helping it top sales in April, where the local car market suffered its worst month in more than seven decades thanks to corona virus-enforced dealership closures.Sales of new vehicles there were down by more than 97 per cent for the month, but Tesla still managed to move 638 Model 3s, accounting for 15 per cent of cars sold. Next best was fellow battery-electric ride Jaguar’s I-Pace, with 8 per cent (367 cars sold).

Luxury car

According to a Forbes report, a new study by Frost & Sullivan estimates that almost 825,000 new vehicles were sold online globally in 2019, either through online financing or by making a part payment online. Roughly 6 million vehicles are expected to be sold through online platforms by 2025.

Buyers often do most of their research online already so the online car sales platform seems a natural progression and more dynamic. Some believe it may become a more comfortable alternative to visiting the car showroom floor.So, could this mean the death of car dealerships?

Unlikely. It’s more probable that dealerships will thrive as experience and test-drive centers, and, ultimately, the sites where customers will go to pick up the vehicles they’ve bought online.

Audi has moved fast to capitalize on our growing penchant to click-and-collect, saying it’s the first premium car brand to offer a complete end-to-end online car purchase experience in Australia.

“At a time like this, where many Australians would rather make their purchases from the security of their own home, we wanted to create a tailored online solution that allows Audi customers to do just that,” an Audi Australia spokeswoman says.The platform will enable customers to find their preferred vehicle on its homepage before refining its location, price, engine, feature and color, along with relevant Manufacturer’s Recommended Drive-away Price (MRDP) for whichever state or territory the car’s being bought in.

The local dealership will be in touch with the buyer to offer a “virtual walk-around” of the specified car, or even deliver the test drive to their door. If the ride meets will approval, it can be reserved with a refundable $500 credit card payment.Once the deal is done, the buyer can choose to have the car delivered, meaning the whole transaction could take place without going into an Audi showroom at all.

But Audi knows mistakes can still be made.It’s made it clear that if the buyer chooses not to go ahead with a purchase, they will get a full refund.

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Prestige Cars Get COVID Boost Amid Declining New Vehicle Sales

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Luxury car brands fared better than the weakening broader Australian car market last month when the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a 50 per cent drop in new-car sales compared to the same time last year.

Australia’s peak automotive representative body says the 48.5 per cent fall in April represents the largest ever monthly decline in new-car sales since VFACTS figures were first recorded in 1991.The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) says 38,926 new-car sales were recorded in April, representing a fall of 48.5 per cent over the same period last year (75,550 sales).

‘The greatest rival to people buying a European car is a European holiday, and as people are putting those holidays off, they’re more prepared to buy a car.’

Still, the Australian market is holding up well compared to its European counterparts. The Financial Times has reported that the UK automotive industry is expected to announce an April sales decline of 97 per cent, with similar falls in Spain and Italy.

Back home, things look even better again at the luxury end of the market.Among the prestige marques, BMW led the charge with its monthly sales down just 5 per cent. Ferrari was off the monthly pace by 18 per cent but was the only fancy carmaker ahead on its year-to-date trajectory (up 4 per cent), while Maserati recorded a 27 per cent slump in its April sales performance.

It seems some corona virus side-effects have been behind the uptick in luxury car sales.The general manager of a large Melbourne prestige car dealership, who asked not to be named due to “sensitivity issues”, says “closing ratios” have naturally been higher as there have been fewer inquiries, but those who have visited his dealership have been solid buyers.

One such buyer, who worked in alcohol importation, had pivoted to create an in-demand line of hand sanitizers after which he bought two high-end SUV models directly off the showroom floor.

The Federal Government’s COVID-induced $150,000 instant asset write-off tax incentive for small business may have assisted in that situation.However, the new restrictions around international travel may also have left families unexpectedly cashed up.

luxury car

One man who would have a pretty good fix on that is Bobby Zagame (pictured above), managing director of the Zagame Automotive Group, which owns and runs more than a dozen dealerships in Melbourne and Adelaide, including most of the high-end marques like FerrariAston Martin and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Many in his customer base would have been adversely affected by the corona virus fallout, but he’s been surprised by how many have also done well.”There’s always someone doing well in disadvantaged times and there’s more of those now than we would have thought,” Zagame says.But any propensity to spend would be limited to what they are able to spend that money on now, he says, and a car is becoming an increasingly useful thing to have in these times, even if it’s just to park it in the garage so you can look at it and enjoy it.

“At the top end, some people would usually blow pretty big numbers on an overseas holiday, which they won’t now be able to enjoy for a good 18 months,” he says.Ongoing restrictions across various transport options makes it probable that cars will become a more important discretionary spend in people’s lives.

“I don’t know about you, but a lot of people are probably thinking it might be nice to pack the car and go off to a beach or country destination for a break or just for a change of scenery,” he says.The Melbourne general manager agrees that “the greatest rival to people buying a European car is a European holiday”.”And the data we’re seeing from head office [in Europe] is showing that, as people are putting those holidays off, they’re more prepared to buy a car,” he says.

Stronger finance campaigns from car dealerships, including loyalty bonuses, have also seen existing customers, perhaps a few years into a car lease, prepared to refinance into a new vehicle without extra cost or risk exposure.

Zagame says he’s also seen a rise in “opportunistic buying” among those “thinking they can do a better deal now than they could do in better times, which they can”.In the overall new-car market, passenger vehicles were hardest hit, according to VFACTS – off 61.6 per cent on April last year – while sports utility vehicle sales were down 45.7 per cent for the period.

Across the country, Victoria saw the largest fall in sales for the month (down 53.3 per cent), followed by NSW and South Australia (both -50.5 per cent) and Tasmania (-50.2 per cent).The year-to-date sales figures for April of 272,287 represented a 20.9 per cent decline from the 344,088 vehicles sold in 2019.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber says COVID-19 had clearly been a major influence on the April sales result, reflecting a downturn in the broader Australian economy.“Figures recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 31 per cent of Australian citizens have experienced a decrease in income due to the pandemic,” Weber says.

“In addition, 72 per cent of Australian businesses reported that reduced cash flow is expected to have an adverse impact on business over the next two months.“These conditions inevitably impact consumer confidence and purchase decisions.”

This comes at a time when the Australian new-vehicle market has already been under stress for some time on the back of ongoing environmental, economic and political factors, along with tight credit lending restrictions.April’s was the 25th consecutive month of declining sales on a year-on-year basis (April 2020 compared to April 2019).