Inside the industry: there's still room for newcomers in the European market

15 June 2020 - autocar

Inside the industry: there's still room for newcomers in the European market

Tesla shows that newcomers can make their mark outside of their home territory

It's hard enough sustaining a car brand in Europe right now, let alone launching a new one, but that doesn't mean there's a shortage of wannabes queuing up to take a slice of the action in what is regarded as the toughest of all markets.

Dates and intentions can move of course, but Byton, Genesis, Lynk&Co and Nio are among the list of brands hoping to make the leap from unknowns to market players in the coming months and years, with three of those four (Hyundai-backed Genesis being the exception) seizing upon technological change – led by but not restricted to EV powertrain developments – in a bid to seize the moment.

It's telling that at moments like these, we tend to focus on the negatives, almost as though we fear change no matter how much we question the quality of the status quo. Car buying is a generally conservative business, as well it might be given the sums involved, with even most extroverts wishing to express themselves with an eye-catching paint scheme rather than buying a car bearing a badge that they have to justify all the time.

So it is Infiniti's glorious failure springs to mind, its sticker probably completing more laps in Formula 1 than it sold cars in the UK, as a particularly high-spending example of what can go wrong when you try to take on Audi, BMW, Mercedes et al. Other examples include Chevrolet, Daihatsu and even once-ambitious Brilliance, whose struggles seemed to halt the much-vaunted arrival of more Chinese car makers a decade or so ago.

But what of those that have succeeded? You rarely hear of them getting credit for it, but only a fool would question the effectiveness with which Dacia has cemented itself into a Europe-wide position of mass-market acceptance, Tesla has become the mark for EV leadership, valued well beyond the scale of its sales, and Alpine has slotted in to become such a byword for sports car purity.

Why did they succeed where others failed? All three came with the advantage of a clear proposition (and little to no direct opposition) and quality cars to sell.

Dacia wasn't launched as a rival to anyone, other than perhaps an upscale used car buyer or some lower fringes of the Nissan range; Tesla established itself when electric cars were unfashionable; and Alpine has so perfectly nailed its brief to deliver agility-based smiles over power-laden ones that it has set itself apart even from the might of Porsche.

Can others do likewise? Of course they can, but as the market gets crowded, it is only going to get tougher.

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