Morgan – a suitable case for treatment

October 18, 2013

What price reputation?

News of the ‘divorce’ between the Morgan Car Company and its eponymous former MD and brand champion Charles Morgan, shocked and disappointed the automotive world in equal measure this week.

A bland and largely uninformative statement announcing the departure of Charles, the third generation Morgan to steer the legendary car company, was contrasted by comments from Morgan himself about his intention to overturn the decision, and a Twitter profile set up by Morgan employees:

As with any separation, the story will be complicated, messy and may never be fully told, or at least not until someone writes their book. While money talks, share ownership has the shout – just watch any episode of Dragons’ Den, and a pound to a penny the bean counters have decided that the business will be commercially better off without Mr Morgan. But in the meantime they’ve left the brand’s reputation at risk.

Accountants don’t much care for PR, reputation, brand value, call it what you will. You can count the volume of parts in the stock room, the number of manufactured units leaving the factory gate and the positive or negative effect that and a few other things have on cash flow. While possibly and begrudgingly accepting that ‘goodwill’ might have an invisible net asset value, it’s an easy one to overlook, and besides: ‘This will soon blow over and everyone will forget what all the fuss was about….’

Or will they?

There are others better placed to talk about the history of Morgan, but surely what its customers like, why they pay handsomely and wait so patiently for their cars to be built, is that everything is so different. Different from the cut and thrust of the modern disposable nature of consumerism, yet nostalgically familiar and yes, old fashioned. Values that also include knowing that members of the family whose name appears on the badge are still running things.

So if the top man is suddenly and unceremoniously removed, what does that say about those who made such a decision, and the future of that badge?

While it might be difficult for an accountant to attribute increased orders in the sales ledger to reputation, it’ll be a lot easier to pin point the moment when sales started to decline.

The Morgan Car Company is about people not spreadsheets. The people who run it, work for it and buy its cars. It needs to talk to its audience and explain what’s going on – and quickly.

Marketing-speak moves on

March 26, 2010


Autocar Mail

Please reassure Philip Barry (Mail, 10 March) that he’s not showing his age, it’s just that marketing speak has moved on.

In the 1970s it was all about the marque, and people were passionately loyal to the one they drove.

It all started to get confusing with ‘badge engineering’ – a practice turned into an art form by British Leyland – which applied different labels (aka sub-brands) to the same basic product. Remember when an Austin Mini was also a Morris, a Clubman, Wolsey Hornet, Riley Elf or Moke?

While a Skoda, Seat, VW and Audi today might share components and underpinnings, at least the brand differentiation and driving experience is more distinct.

Jeremy Clarke

That’s just what I was thinking as I drove to work in our long-term Seat Exeo estate. Or was it an Audi A4? – TD

Published in Autocar Letters, 24 March 2010