Matt Greenop: Brand transformations keep wheels turning

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Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

I remember back when I was at school and a mate's dad ticked over the big six-oh and retired. On his retirement list was a Jaguar. He was one of those blokes with a perfect garage workshop - the floor was spotless, covered in non-slip paint once a year; every tool had its place and was hung on a pegboard, sitting within its own meticulously drawn outline.

He got his "Jaaag" and was horrified to discover the impeccable floor was soiled by oil drips. Upon questioning the guy he bought the car from he was told, in no uncertain terms: "It's a Jag, mate, that's what they do."

Cars have come a long way in the past 20 years or so - to a point that finding faults with vehicles isn't quite the black and white process it used to be. And while some companies have come further than others, some have just maintained their status and quality by keeping ahead of the tech game.

Driving one of Jaguar's latest creations this week - the highly-entertaining, supercharged XFR - I got to thinking how far the brand has come since those, "It's British, it's got character" statements were used as a standard disclaimer for quality hiccups.

The Jag has improved markedly in the past decade, and since being drafted into the Indian Tata stable has become the quality benchmark it should always have been.

Other brands that have undergone transformations recently are numerous - Skoda being a great example. Under Communism it went from being a premium brand to a purveyor of horrible little boxes. Now, under the Volkswagen banner, the cars are excellent - the Superb diesel wagon I drove a few weeks ago had everything you'd want from a Euro car and more. It had the most innovative adjustable storage system I've seen.

Look to Korea for more examples. Hyundai was a horror show and Kia was worthy of being ignored. Now both brands are building cars that are not only footing it with their long-time rivals in Japan, but are taking on some of Europe's most well-regarded brands and winning on both technology and design.

What's the biggest transformation you can think of from a minor brand that's come good? Leave a comment below.

- NZ Herald

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