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There has been much recent news and comment with respect to Europe and the sales environment looking ahead. We know from our own experience that the introduction of scrappage incentives can have positive influence whilst in effect, but can also have negative impacts on future vehicle sales. Further, our own analysis has identified unforeseen side effects relative to these programmes with reductions in loyalty rates. Once these programmes ended the loyalty rates returned to normal – demonstrating just how sensitive repeat buyers can be to these types of programmes.

With scrappage programmes coming to an end in Europe, and market-specific influences such as the VAT increase in the UK – it begs the question as to what we can expect in the years ahead.

We will be reviewing our most recent global automotive forecasts, with a detailed view on European Car Demand at a Polk EuroCar Seminar in the UK upcoming on 20 January 2010. For those attending, we look forward to reviewing these forecasts with you, and for those who cannot attend – we hope you will follow Polk’s Forecasting Dashboards or engage with us directly.

The current and projected sales trends have caused many vehicle manufacturers and dealers to increase their focus and attention on customer retention and related programmes. Customer loyalty and optimal aftersales programmes drive positive customer behaviours, and ultimately dealer and manufacturer profitability – key in the difficult sales environment. We will explore some of the best practices we have seen at the seminar, including such areas as predictive targeting and multi-channel integrated communications. Aftersales and service matter, and there are opportunities to succeed and drive results.

And whilst there is no doubting the impact of customer loyalty and retention, no brand can excel in these times without converting the highest percentage of active prospects. There are proven approaches to prioritising focus that generate demonstrable results in increasing conversion rates – and particularly with respect to internet leads. We will discuss our experience in this area at the seminar, and the broader effects the internet and social media are having on the industry.

These are indeed interesting times, but there remain opportunities for the taking.

Posted by Norm Marks, Vice President & Managing Director, Northern Europe, Polk (01.13.2010)

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