Peu importe la couleur, tant qu’on a la voiture...

No matter what color, the main thing is that we have the car…

Émilie (41) had no trouble choosing a color for her brand new Renault Arkana SUV as only three colors were offered. Her husband didn’t like black, she didn’t like pearl white, so they both agreed on grey. And the couple is happy, because the main thing was to have the vehicle fast. “Given what we hear on TV, delays of six to eight months for a new car, when I’m told 30 days, I smile. But since I had it in 15 days, it was great,” recalls this Calvados resident.

Faced with a shortage of electronic parts for more than a year, compounded by logistical problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, manufacturers have been multiplying their offers in Europe for several weeks to ensure their customers get their new car in time for the summer holidays. A turning point for an industry that, thanks to just-in-time production and digitization of factories, previously only swore by customizing the ordered product. Historic automotive players are also following in Tesla’s footsteps, whose reduced catalog is one of the keys to success.

The counterpart to shortened delay is drastically reduced choices. Renault’s “Fast Track” offer for the Arkana, the first units of which will be delivered in France, guarantees a new car in a maximum of 30 days, while the average waiting time is no less than five months. But the cars stockpiled for the occasion are only available in three colors – as opposed to the usual dual colors – a single livery tier (RS Line) and a single engine choice, the 145hp hybrid. “This shortened and guaranteed delivery time is ensured thanks to an elaborate industrial program and a special distribution process up to the final point of delivery,” explained the Diamond Group in a press release. Renault clarified that if the buyer wants an equipment, an accessory, an adjustment or an additional option, the deadline is no longer guaranteed. “These operations must multiply in the current logistical context because things need time to improve, a source close to Renault assured. However, it sends the message that reducing commercial and technical diversity is consistent with good business. »

Signs of the success of the operation, the arcana “Fast Track” is not exposed even in concession. In June, it accounted for half of the model’s registrations in France. Not being able to choose one’s own car precisely is a shame in a sector where the possibility of customizing one’s vehicle with combinations of colors and accessories, as well as remote monitoring of the progress of the manufacture of the ordered model, have played a strong commercial role so far arguments. But that was before the disruptions caused by chip shortages and logistical difficulties caused by the Ukraine conflict, in addition to a simplification of industrial processes to cover the cost of electrifying vehicles.

“The automobile is currently experiencing a real paradox: on the one hand, we want to produce on demand instead of forcing sheet metal; On the other hand, the reduced product variety makes it easier for customers to find the model they want in stock,” comments Denis Schemoul, analyst at S&P Global Mobility (formerly IHS Markit). “Reducing diversity benefits everyone, it’s a fundamental trend, we’re not going back. And everyone will follow, including the Germans,” he continues.

Faced with component shortages, Volkswagen also reduced the range of its electric ID.3, available in Europe in a single version, in February to optimize vehicle delivery times. “In order to streamline and optimize production of the ID.3, Volkswagen is simplifying its offering (…). The priority of the Volkswagen brand is in fact to offer its customers an offer that can be delivered to their customers as soon as possible, despite the limitations imposed by the lack of microprocessors,” explained the German group.

The optional ? An embarrassment!

As with the ID.3, the “Up and Go” offer from Dacia, the low-cost brand of the Renault group, did not reduce the range of body colors to speed up deliveries, but rather the range of performances and options. “Reducing the variety of colors is not a blocking point for us. But by leading customers to two engines and a single finish, there are no more awkward choices, no more options, and thanks to that it is much easier to program and plan from an industrial point of view,” explains Dimitri Manoussis, Director of Sales and Logistics at dacia

“Up and Go” for upgrades and faster reception saves 40 days of delivery time. The brand claims 30% of Duster sales in this formula, reducing the number of variants to 14 versus as many as 400 combinations for the remaining 70% of sales. “If we reduce the variety, we make many things more fluid, especially the industrial part,” adds Dimitri Manoussis. Dacia intends to expand this offering to new markets in the future, with Belgium, Morocco and Portugal to follow by the end of the year, followed by the UK, as well as across the range. In Italy too, pre-booking carefully selected vehicles has become an increasingly common practice amid growing waiting lists, says a source close to a dealership.

Good for the customers, who are guaranteed to have a new, well-equipped car in time for summer – as with Peugeot’s ‘Ready to Go’ based on a sample of the range stored in May and June, and again in July – the company is too good for the manufacturer’s margin, because at Renault, for example, the Arkana “Fast Track” in the catalog corresponds to the top equipment of the RS line model with a starting price of 38,630 euros. A good part of the new car customers does not seem to have anything against it. But they can’t compete against the competition anyway as all brands face significant delays. Émilie and her husband opted for the fully equipped RS-Line version from the start.

The trend is not specific to summer offerings and is gaining future models as well. Customers of the new Peugeot 408 will also have to look to higher versions as the lion brand has removed the entry step to keep just two steps out of three. “We are on the trend of simplifying the offer. The new 408 focuses on the most sought-after trim levels. This goes in the direction of simplifying the customer journey,” explains Jérôme Micheron, Product Director at Peugeot. He assures that this policy reflects the desire of a large part of new car customers: “It is easier and faster to configure your car on our site if there are not too many variants offered. »

A tribute to Henry Ford

According to a 2020 analysis by automotive consultancy JD Power, 98% of the combinations offered on the models are sold only 50 copies each, and their cumulative weight accounts for only 25% of total sales. The remaining 2% of variants account for the lion’s share, three quarters of sales. In the US alone, large pickups offer as many as 70,000 different paint finishes and options, says JD Power analyst Doug Betts. The main challenge is to eliminate the versions that sell the least, but without making mistakes, at the risk of stopping sales.

This debate is an unexpected homage to the joke attributed to Henry Ford, founder of the eponymous brand, who said more than a century ago of his Model T, symbol of the search for efficiency on a production line, that “people can choose any color (…) as long as it’s black”.

Source: Reuters

Émilie (41) had no trouble choosing a color for her brand new Renault Arkana SUV as only three colors were offered. Her husband didn’t like black, she didn’t like pearl white, so they both agreed on grey. And the couple is happy, because the main thing was to have the vehicle fast. ” Seen…


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