Published — Sunday 16 March 2014
Last update 16 March 2014 11:26 pm
KEN SEARLE, a British car salesman, retired this month after 50 years of service in a Nissan show room during which he sold more than 100,000 cars.
He still remembers some of the highlights of his career, including the first car he sold: a Datsun 100A car for a penny less than £1000. He said that everything was great about the Datsun, because “it came with everything whereas you got nothing with other cars.”
Datsun was rebranded as Nissan in the 1980s and its reputation for reliability and integrity helped Ken achieve his monumental sales. However, it was not always plain sailing for Ken.
Nissan decided to open a British factory in Sunderland.
Ken remembers “When the factory opened down the road it didn’t really help sales because nobody wanted a Geordie-built car. They all wanted Japanese. The Japanese cars were so reliable and nobody trusted a car made locally.”
This is a curious case of British consumers not trusting British made cars.
The reason, at the time, was that they have had a long experience of shoddy locally-made Leyland and Rover cars that were notoriously unreliable; their bodies rusted within seven years; and were ready to scrap when they reached 100,000 miles on the clock.
These consumers tasted reliable Japanese cars and did not want another British-made car with a Nissan badge stuck on it.
Thankfully, the image soon changed and Sunderland followed the same car-making principles as the mother factory in Japan and produced cars to the same standard of reliability.
Ken started selling British-made cars again and consumers loved the cars.
It takes a man with a long memory, like Ken Searle, to point out that reputation in this industry is everything.
Consumers too have long memories and their praise of a brand, or disappointment, can live on to the next generation.
Today’s major carmakers have survived some tough times in their history and have come through unscathed.
Most new cars in the market today are of excellent quality in terms of reliability and durability.
However, where car companies tend to stumble is in the aftersales departments.
This is where most complaints are and this is where reputations are made — or forfeited.
Adel Murad is a senior motoring and business journalist, based in London.
Email: [email protected]