I’d like to share with you a story that will have you crying with laughter or pity at me. Now, before I share with you, please remember not to judge… everyone is allowed one shortcoming. Some collect teaspoons, some like to eat peanut butter straight from the jar, while others must live in Phakalane. I, for my sins, have an insatiable love for British cars. Yes, yes, I know there is no such thing anymore; the Indians bought Jaguar and Land Rover and the Germans took the Mini. The thing that I love actually does not exist any- more: a real British car. The famed “British” racing green will never be again, killing all my childhood dreams…
Even knowing this I continue to love these legacy brands. The image of that silver feline diving off a sweeping bonnet simply gives me and millions of other car enthusiasts that warm and lustful sensation that I will never be able to truly describe in this short column. I have been the proud owner of a vehicle that simply cannot be confused for anything else but British: a Jaguar. In fact, I am so in love with them that I have owned 3 of these beauties over the last decade. I see you all rolling your eyes. Yes, owning a Jag is pretentious and a bit over the top on the pompous-o-meter. But this is a fine British car that demands to be looked at. You just have to love it. Surprisingly, it costs, on average, less than comparable models from German stables of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. This and the fact that the Jag is simply the most beautiful car money can buy on a budget has kept me hooked and in love for years.
Sounds like all is well then? Well, no. In fact similar to long-term relationships, familiarity probably starts to replace love. I believe I fell out of love with this car many years ago but have struggled to let go for fear of the unknown. As I write this piece my Jaguar remains stranded in South Africa three weeks after it broke down. I have had no word of the progress of its repairs in over 15 days. Now I could go into great detail about the incredibly poor service I have had to endure from both the South African and Botswana dealerships but I think the statement from their South Af- rican tow service: “I only collect these things, I don’t build them,” pretty much sums things up. The finger pointing and references to the fine print of my warranty and motor plan have been jaw dropping. This you don’t get when you buy the car, there you get expensive coffee and key chains.
It is thus fair to confess that my love af- fair with my Jag is on the rocks. This must be clear to you as you read this. What I do not understand is why it is not clear to Jaguar themselves. The local dealership has few sol- id answers for me. Yes I fought for a loan car by why the fight? Is this not the kind of thing we have spent years preaching to you about in this column:“…the key to brand growth is client retention in the long term.” Maybe this article is a little premature. Maybe when my car is finally released from its incarceration all will be forgiven. Maybe this relationship is just going through a rough patch and my deep love of these cars will have me stroking those leather seats again. What is bothering me the most is that all the reasons I had for loving these cars are falling away one by one and Jaguar is not making any real effort to give me back some love. Hell, they are not even pretending to love me anymore. If their brand is to survive into the future they need to come to grips with a couple of simple facts.
Firstly, most buy these cars because they are perceived to be British. History tells us that England was the place you went for fine cars, now you need to go to New Delhi. This trump card is gone. Is it possible that gone too is the desire to pull the heartstrings of the consumer, which is a very British approach to motoring? What will be the special heritage that Jag can draw on now that it has been cut from its roots? Secondly and most importantly, consumers are loyal to brands only as long as they meet our primary reasons for owning them. We will forgive them for much. I actually forgive my Jag for being sick. I’ve been the butt of many a joke about the reliability of all British cars so I’m used to it. What I do not forgive is the lack of love I had from Jaguar, and that is the primary reason I got the car.
Other brands can learn a lot from my on-going saga. Look after those that love you most and, like a good marriage, even when things don’t go 100% we will always find a way to fix things. As I have not got my car back yet I cannot tell you how this story will end. What I can confirm is that my car and I are going to need some serious “make-up driving” if there is any hope of me keeping her.
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