For Émilie (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 rejoices, for what first and foremost spoke was to have 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 there, I had 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 until now only swore by customizing the ordered product, thanks to just-in-time production and digitization of factories. The historic car players are also following in Tesla’s footsteps, 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. “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. “These operations are set to multiply in the current logistical context because things take time to improve,” a source close to Renault assured. Having said that, 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 his car precisely is a shame in a sector where the ability to personalize his vehicle, with combinations of colors and accessories, as well as to remotely monitor the progress in the manufacture of the ordered model, has so far been strong commercial 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 car is currently experiencing a real paradox: on the one hand, we want to produce as needed rather than pushing sheet metal; on the other hand, the reduction in product diversity 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 will not go back. And everyone will follow, including the Germans, he continues.
Faced with a lack of components, Volkswagen also reduced the choice in February on its electric ID.3, which is available in Europe in a single version to optimize delivery times on the vehicle. “To streamline and optimize the production of ID.3, Volkswagen is simplifying its offering (…). The priority for the Volkswagen brand is actually to offer an offer that can be delivered to its customers as quickly as possible despite the limitations associated with the lack of microprocessors, ”the German group explained.
The choice ? An embarrassment!
As with ID.3, the “Up and Go” offer from Dacia, the Renault Group’s low-cost brand, did not reduce the range of body colors to speed up deliveries, but rather the range of forces and options. “For us, the reduction in color diversity is not a blocking point. But by guiding customers on two engines and a single finish, there is no longer the embarrassment to choose from, no more options, and thanks to this, from an industrial point of view, it is much easier to program, to plan, ”explains Dimitri Manoussis, distribution and logistics director 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, pre-ordering carefully selected vehicles has become an increasingly widespread practice in light of growing waiting lists, says a source close to a dealer.
Good for customers, 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 stored in May and June and again in July – the operation is also good for the manufacturer’s margins, as eg. at Renault, the Arkana “Fast Track” in the catalog corresponds 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. Émilie and her husband chose 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 tendency to simplify the offer. The new 408 focuses on the most in-demand equipment levels. It is moving towards simplifying the customer journey, ”explains Jérôme Micheron, Product Director at Peugeot. 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. »
A tribute to Henry Ford
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 main 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 joke attributed to Henry Ford, the founder of the eponymous brand, who said more than a century ago about his Model T, symbol of the search for efficiency on a production line, that “people can choose any color (…) as long as it is black ”.
For Émilie (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 rejoices, for what first and foremost spoke was to have the vehicle fast. “Set …