Published on August 8th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair1
Why Buy a Mass Market European Brand if You’re in Malaysia?
When the automotive industry first began, only the richest of the rich could afford a set of wheels. Then Henry Ford came along and made them accessible. Decades later, the Japanese automotive industry showed how taking advantage of production methods and scale could give birth to the cheap and reliable cars we all know today. Think about it, a Honda from the 70s has many of the same attributes as a modern hatchback like the Myvi. Front engine, front wheel drive, 4 cylinder, naturally aspirated, lightweight, uncomplicated. The car was perfected some 30-40 years ago.
Today, dozens of Chinese brands you haven’t even heard of can copy the formula and supply a decent and reliable automobile for a reasonable price. The Koreans are much better at some of the packaging and design aspects, while the Japanese have retained the lead in terms of consumer trust through part pricing and availability. Plus, they’ve used their experience to further refine the capabilities of their product.
So, where does this put the European brands? Well, it’s either move up into the premium realm or restrategise some other way to make money.
You’ll notice that many European brands have shifted even budget cars towards dual clutch transmissions and downsized, turbocharged engines for the sake of fuel efficiency. Here’s the problem
1) The components required to run the cars are often worth more than the car itself after a couple of years
2) The parts are inherently under more stress, so may fail earlier
3) These European brands never had a clear strategy for markets like Malaysia. Only in the late 2000s did they appear. It’s safe to assume little to no testing was done for our conditions.
4) Most of the parts involved require specialised tools and parts that only the manufacturer can provide.
So, if you’re looking for a car and your brain automatically associates European brands with ‘premium’, please think again. The Japanese do it best, the Koreans are getting there, and you always have Perodua and Proton with the price advantage to begin with.
This article is not aimed at any brand in particular. It was written following countless requests for opinions on B-segment European sedans and hatchbacks sold in Malaysia. These are going for huge discounts nowadays and they still look good despite being really quite old. Sure, they’re fun to drive and the discount is nice, but you don’t really want to be a slave to a very regular car after 5-7 years.