One isn’t better than the other but they are certainly two different worlds. They are associated not only with brain sides, but with almost everything we do in life and the way we live. Passion and reasonableness are two words that describe even nations, cultures. Is part of the personality of people and lately of products. Of course no one has to choose, as most of us are passionate in some cases, while more rational in others. That’s good, because life is full of situations that require a good mix of both. Automotive world is part of this discussion as cars became part of life of lot of people and somehow they reflect the personality of their owners. Passion and reasonableness fit perfectly with my analysis of how I see Fiat Group and VW Group and their eternal rivalry. After my last visit to Geneva I confirmed it.
This is not about who’s better or not. My analysis doesn’t consider their size, technologies or the way they are facing the future. I think the only common thing between Fiat and VW is that they make part of auto industry. That’s all. I don’t want to make a comparison because they are so different in their way of conceiving a car that makes no sense to say that one company is better than the other one. Yes, VW is bigger and sells much more, but it is just one more player. My goal here is to analyze both companies from the point of view of their idea of what a car is, and therefore the relation there is between what they offer and what their customers are. As I said before, both sides of the brain have strong influence on people’s behaviour and the way we buy products. Cars became part of that and that’s why all auto makers offer us several options to fulfill our expectations. However most of them have their own personality from the moment they create a concept car till the moment they sell it.
Fiat Group is Italy. A 500, a Giulietta or a Quattroporte are part of a company that makes part of a culture full of peculiarities that is closer to latin behaviour. It means that these cars are conceived and built under the Italian style: from the heart. Latin culture means passion. When Fiat thinks of a car it uses more its passional side, and it means that Fiat adds more emotion to its creations. They enjoy making cars, and they don’t conceive them as common means of transport. A car means feelings, love, hate, fun for an Italian. Of course this way of making a car has evolved according to what the market wants from a vehicle. In their cars anyone can see how the designers, engineers and marketing people had fun creating them. They may be right or wrong (it all depends on the point of view), but they certainly added passion to their work, making of it a unique piece. Fiat Group is a reflection of Latin culture: to live life feeling it. That explains why they dare to propose cars other manufacturers wouldn’t do. It explains why their passion for making cars has taken them to unknown situations that sometimes have bad results. Or who else would dare to produce and sell a car like a Multipla? I’m not saying that this way of creating and selling cars makes of Fiat Group better or worse than its competitors. It makes it unique.
In the other hand there is VW Group as the most visible player of a group of auto makers that use more the rational part when conceiving a car. Volkswagen is German and therefore, in my opinion, more rational, more careful. Its goal is to produce the right car for the right people. VW understands the majority of customers as it creates the car most of them look for. Cars don’t mean the same as in Italy. Germans from VW look for optimization of processes, for efficiency above all. Then, their cars are closer to a high-end industrial product: good and efficient, with a decent package. I repeat, it is my opinion: VW cars are excellent… products. VW as part of that Northern Culture (Germany, Scandinavia, Anglo-saxon countries) follows the idea that things must always work. While they focus on results they look how to minimize risks. It’s the way they do it to obtain good results, such as the ones VW is having nowadays. As I said before, this way isn’t better or worse than others. If passion makes of Fiat Group a unique car maker, excellent work makes of VW Group one of world’s most profitable car makers. And profits count a lot!
From the point of view of sales, VW’s formula is better. There is no doubt about it: the German group sells around 25.000 per day in the whole world against 11.000 for Fiat Group*. The success can be explained by several reasons, from which one comes from current discussion: cars are still an important product in life of people. They are important because they aren’t only the most comfortable way of daily transportation, but because they aren’t a disposable product. A car continues to be a non-affordable good for most people, so the purchase decision is mostly based on a deep analysis of the advantages and problems of a specific model. This can partly explain the success of a ‘conservative’ brand as VW. Not everybody is crazy about cars. In fact most people don’t care about it till they realize they need one. And when that moment arrives, as they don’t really care and they don’t want to risk, most of them take their decision based on what the market tells them to do. This decision comes along with the fact that passion doesn’t count when buying a car (for a big part of population). Of course, I am not saying that passion has the same meaning for everybody. For example, there are people who enjoy driving a trailer. So, if rationalism is the main driver for the majority of population buying a car, then it is quite understandable VW success.
In conclusion I’m going to use a basic example to illustrate what I’m saying and give my personal opinion. I love to have a good steak. It is always nice to eat it when it is properly cooked. It is also an excellent plate, which results into a highly nutritive meal. No one (non-vegetarian) would deny a delicious piece of tenderloin or a T-bone steak. I do also love to eat other things and specially new things. One of my pleasures in life is to try new plates, new flavors. It is exciting to taste new recipes as your tongue has fun with other flavors. For me, VW and Fiat are the steak and the new dishes. Sure, is good to have the steak as you won’t probably have problems with it and you’ll be properly fed. But, I am more into the idea of trying new things no matter the result. Of course, I must eat to survive and I love the steak. However my passion for cars can be explained by the cook that always prepares the best steak, and the cook that always tries new ingredients, new plates. I like the steak. But I love new plates. With cars I’m more passionate than rational, and that explains all.
*Information for January 2013