LIGHTING – The color does not matter as long as you have the car – 07/12/2022 at. 08:00

* Reduce the diversity of models to meet deadlines

* Lack of components and strategy to reduce costs

* Turnaround for a personalization industry

* A Renault Arkana is available in 3 colors, but will be available in a few weeks

* Tesla’s simplified catalog is being emulated

by Gilles Guillaume, Nick Carey and Joseph White

PARIS / LONDON / DETROIT, July 12 (Reuters) – For Emilie, 41, the choice of color for her brand new Renault Arkana SUV was not difficult as only three colors were offered. Her husband did not like black, she was not tempted by pearl white, so they both agreed on gray. And the couple is delighted because what mattered first and foremost was having the vehicle fast.

“Considering what we hear on TV, delays of six to eight months to get a new car when I’re told 30 days, I smile. But here, I got it in 15 days, it was amazing,” remembers this resident of Calvados.

Faced with more than a year of lack of electronic components, to which have been added logistical problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, manufacturers have multiplied the offers for several weeks in Europe to ensure that their customers get their new car in time for summer vacation.

A turnaround for a sector that so far has only sworn by customizing the ordered product thanks to just-in-time production and digitization of factories, the historic car players are also following in the footsteps of Tesla TSLA.O, whose reduced catalog is one of The keys to success.

The counterpart to the shortened delay is a drastically limited choice.

Renault’s ‘fast track’ offer on Arkana, the first units of which are starting to be delivered in France, guarantees a new car of a maximum of 30 days, while the average waiting time is no less than five months. But the cars stored for the apartment are only available in three colors – against the usual double -, a single finish level (RS Line) and a single choice of engine, the 145 horsepower hybrid petrol.

“This delivery time, reduced and guaranteed, is secured thanks to a well-thought-out industrial program and a dedicated distribution process to the final delivery location,” the diamond group explained in a press release.

Renault clarified that the deadline is no longer guaranteed if the buyer requests equipment, an accessory, an adaptation or an additional option.

THE DAY TO A NEW TREND

“These operations are set to multiply in the current logistical context because things take time to improve,” a source close to Renault told Reuters. “But it sends the message that reducing commercial and technical diversity is compatible with good business.”

Signs of the success of the operation, Arkana “fast track” is not even revealed in the concession. In June, it accounted for half of the model’s registrations in France.

Not being able to choose your car precisely is a disgrace in a sector where the ability to personalize your vehicle – with combinations of colors and accessories – and to remotely monitor the progress of the production of the ordered model has so far been arguments. .

But it was before the disruption caused by chip shortages and logistical difficulties caused by the Ukrainian conflict, added to a simplification of industrial processes to cover the cost of electrifying vehicles.

The automotive industry is currently experiencing a real paradox: on the one hand we want to produce on demand instead of “pushing metal sheets”, on the other hand the reduction in product diversity makes it easier for the customer to find the model they “want” in stock, “comments Denis Schemoul, analyst at S&P Global Mobility, formerly IHS Markit.

“The reduction in diversity benefits everyone, it’s a fundamental trend we are not going backwards. And everyone will follow, including the Germans.”

Faced with a lack of components, Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE also reduced in February the choice of its electric ID.3, available in Europe in a single version – called the Active special series in France – to optimize delivery times on the vehicle.

“In order to streamline and optimize the production of its ID.3, Volkswagen simplifies its offer (…). The priority of the Volkswagen brand is indeed to offer an offer that can be delivered to its customers as soon as possible despite the restrictions associated with with a lack of microprocessors “, the German group explained.

THE CHOICE ? A COVER!

As with ID.3, the “Up and go” offer from Dacia, the Renault Group’s low-cost brand, has not reduced the range of body colors to speed up deliveries, but rather the range of forces and options.

“With us, the reduction in color diversity is not a blocking point. But by guiding customers to two engines and a single finish, there is no longer any embarrassment to choose from, no more options, and thanks to this, from an industrial point of view. View, it is much easier to program, to plan “, explains Dimitri Manoussis, Director of Distribution and Logistics at Dacia.

Up and Go, for upgrade and faster receipt, saves 40 days on delivery times. The brand claims 30% of Duster sales in this formula, with a number of variants reduced to 14, against no less than 400 combinations for the remaining 70% of sales.

“If we reduce diversity, we will make many things more fluid, and especially the industrial part,” adds Dimitri Manoussis.

Dacia intends to expand this offering to new markets in the future, with Belgium, Morocco and Portugal before the end of the year, followed by the United Kingdom, as well as to the entire range.

Also in Italy, it has become more and more popular to pre-order carefully selected vehicles as waiting lists grow, a source close to a dealer told Reuters.

Good for customers who are guaranteed to have a new, well-equipped car in time for the summer, as in Peugeot’s “Ready to Go” based on a selection of the range, which is stored in May, June and again in July, the operation is also good for the manufacturer’s margins, as the “fast track” Arkana, for example at Renault, corresponds in the catalog to the model’s top finish, the RS line, with a starting price of 38,630 euros.

A good portion of new car customers do not seem to be protesting too much. But they still can not play the competition, as all brands face significant delays.

Emilie and her husband had chosen the fully equipped “RS Line” version from the start.

The trend is not specific to summer offers and will also have future models. Customers of the new Peugeot 408 will also have to turn to higher finishes, as the Lion brand has removed the entry level to keep only two levels out of three.

“We are on a trend towards simplifying the offer. The new 408 focuses on the most in-demand equipment levels. This is moving towards simplifying the customer journey,” explained Reuters’ Jérôme Micheron, Peugeot’s product director.

He assures that this policy reflects the desire of a large number of new car customers: “It is easier and faster to configure your car on our site when not too many variants are offered.”

According to a 2020 analysis conducted by the car consulting firm JD Power, 98% of the combinations offered on the models sell only 50 copies each, and their cumulative weight represents only 25% of total sales.

The remaining 2% of the variants take up the majority, three quarters of the sales.

In the US market alone, large pickups offer no less than 70,000 different finishes and options, emphasizes Doug Betts, an analyst at JD Power. The biggest challenge is to eliminate the versions that sell the least, but without making mistakes with the risk of eliminating the sales.

This debate is an unexpected tribute to the quarrel attributed to Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford United Nations, who said more than a century earlier about his Model T, a symbol of the search for efficiency on a production line, that “people can choose any color (…), as long as it is black ”.

(With Giulio Piovaccari in Milan, edited by Bertrand Boucey and Sophie Louet)

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