Why is it that one gets it right and the others are always playing catch up?

‘It starts with one thing, but I don’t why, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, keep this in mind, as the design is right …’. Our readers may be wondering why I have chosen to begin this column with lyrics from a band who is coming to South Africa in the upcoming weeks. You guessed it right, these words come from Linkin Park, and the reason for using them relates to the content provided in this story. The situation depicted surrounds the ability of an entity to come up with an idea before anyone else, roll this out and reap the rewards as competitors try play catch up.

I am referring to the feud between different car makers when fighting for market value in a specific car segment. Not just any vehicle type either, the cars that many motorists desire and wish one day to have, if you haven’t already. In the premium vehicle categories manufacturers bring out their basic models, from this point they work their way up the specification and pricing panels until they reach the echelon of their product offerings, their sport or racing type car. These examples showcase the engineering expertise that exists within their mechanical and design departments, where individuals build the bridge between cars raced and those sold for road use.

The VW Golf GTi has evolvedManufacturers like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche all exude and showcase their abilities of being a sports car producer, yes they may launch a luxury grand touring car like the California from Maranello, however their focus is to build motor vehicles that best showcase the brand’s racing pedigree. There is a major problem with this model however, not every man in the street can afford to dip into his coffers and splash out in the delights of such a car.

This where my point on premium car makers come in. The likes of BMW, Volkswagen, Nissan and Ford to name a few launched road cars that possessed a track pedigree. BMW, for touring car purposes unveiled the stunning E30 M3, Volkswagen the people’s car GTI, Nissan produced the potent Skyline models and Ford made the awesome Sierra Cosworth available to consumers. Before I get shot and abused, who could ever forget the Lancia Delta that was born from international rally stages. Purposefully I have left the likes of Mitsubishi and Subaru out of the mix, as their offerings, today, come in at E92 BMW M3 money, however struggle to compete with the likes of BMW’s 335i and Audi’s S4, will probably be harpooned for this comment, but this is an observation from local South African Production Car Racing.

The offerings from Ford and Nissan were special type vehicles that were still out of the man in the streets reach, whereas the E30 M3 and GTI were more affordable. From this a legacy started and in the recent years many have tried to mimic or even overhaul these two kings of family sports motor vehicles, I may have just created a new premium class with that description. Audi, Mercedes Benz and even Lexus have tried to beat the M3, while the GTI has had its work cut out to fend off the intentions from the likes of Ford, Opel, MINI, Renault and Mazda. Followers and club members to a specific club, such as the Ford and Opel owners club will swear by the product offering provided by their loved brand, however if you look at the amount of cars on the road you will notice that the manufacturer who first began and introduced such a vehicle into this niche market will always override the pretenders.

From the 'Drivers Seat'It is harsh to call great cars like a C63 AMG and Audi RS4 as an entity that will never overthrow the might of the BMW M3, however the forty years of M experience will always out do new players in such a market. You see the C63 has power and a smile inducing engine sound, but the handling is not great and in some people’s eyes the styling is overdone. The RS4 on the other hand has a decent engine, handles well, has a great interior, but its exterior styling resembles that of any other Audi A4 on the road. The M3 comes to the fight with the best of all worlds, great engine, brilliant sound track, appealing styling, exterior is not on par with Audi, however the all-round driving experience beats its other rivals from Germany. I still feel that BMW may have shot itself in the foot when launching the 135i and 1M, as up on the Highveld the pocket rocket will out gun its harder hitting rivals in a straight line fight, and probably on track too if the person behind the wheel of the M3 has spent R700 000.00 for status. The 1M knocks all of these contenders out the reckoning and probably is one of the best BMW’s ever made, better than a E46 BMW M3 CSL, tough call that because the sound the straight six emits is out of this world, however you cannot drive a CSL in comfort on a daily basis. I mention that the 1M is one of the best, that is because it is probably a predecessor to the greatest sports saloon ever made, the E30 BMW M3, the car where such ideas and thought processes first started, see where I am going with this? My thoughts relate to a manufacturer hitting a sweet spot and balance between all out sporting qualities and other aspects relating to values on effective family transportation. 

Same applies with the current GTI. The first generation Volkswagen sports hatch, like the E30 M3 is probably the best one ever made. The next three generation cars were mild disasters, as they were unappealing, lacked performance credential and did not enhance what the first model brought to the party. However when the fifth and sixth generation GTI’s arrived with force induced power, so did its rivals, however as with the first generation car the competitors were some distance behind. They all possessed great material attributes, however they were never the all-round package that the GTI was and now is.

Premium family sports vehicles, whatever you call them, seem to have a specific theme linked to the success of them when considered by the buyer. The one’s that succeed possess the historical pedigree that will always appeal to buyers. Readers of this blog can now appreciate the importance of innovation, developing upon an idea and implementing it before your competitors do so. If a success, rivals will be playing catch up as the entity who comes up with the initial idea first will have a strangle hold on the market. What’s more, and this is evident with all ranges of the M3, over time and with age the M3 or GTI one has purchased will always be a desired steed, because people will always look back on the first generation type and believe that one day their modern example will become the legend the initial carnation was and still is. That is why the M5 is believed to be the best car in the world at the moment, however if you cannot afford that an M3 might be an option, or you could resort to the recently launched M135i and if you want something for the family nothing wrong with purchasing a GTI. Costs are all an issue with these selections, but the point of this blog was to never factor in costs, especially for players in this market, it was to highlight why the likes of the M3 and GTI are always sells successes and why their rivals are constantly playing catch up.