In all the discussions that have been sparked by my various posts on people’s readiness to dig a bit deeper into their pockets when buying wine, there’s one word that hasn’t been mentioned: confidence.

One of the best illustrations of the value of confidence is the old line that “no office manager ever got fired for buying IBM”. There were plenty of cheaper options among computers, many of which actually had better specifications than IBM, but the US giant was the trusted brand.

In cars, there is a parallel situation. Skoda, Volskwagen and Audi, and indeed Bentley, all belong to the same company. Bentleys look, and are, readily identifiable as being different to the other three but you need to look closely to tell the Skoda Octavia Estate from the VW Passat Estate or the Audi Avant A4. In fact, not only do these three look rather alike; they share a lot of the same components. One of the three, however, is the modern incarnation of a Soviet-era automobile joke; one is the poor man’s BMW and the other is the Volkswagen.

In fact, as What Car? suggests, the sensible buy for anyone wanting an estate with good fuel efficiency and green credentials at a reasonable price, is the Skoda to which it awarded five stars.

The VW, whose price starts at some £5,000 more, uses more fuel (and is a little less green) and only gets four stars.

But that car gets a much higher rating than the three-star rated Audi.

These ratings seem to have done little to dent Audi’s image, however. The brand has enjoyed another record year, with sales growing globally by 6.8%.

My point: ask a BMW driver if he or she would switch to a Ford, however fine it was proven to be and he’ll say no. Ask an Apple iPad user to swap to a cheaper brand and most will give you the same response. Then try telling someone who’s about to buy an Audi estate that he’d be better off saving £9,000 or so and buying a Skoda. He might just listen to you, but my bet is that he’s mentally seen himself as an Audi driver, he has confidence in the brand, and there’s no way that he’s going to switch to the joke brand of the 1980s.

And that kind of – possibly misplaced – brand loyalty is just as prevalent in the world of drink. The Cloudy Bay or Pouilly Fumé drinker might well be the Audi driver in this scenario while the Oyster Bay buyer might be the equivalent of the VW owner. However good your inexpensive Slovenian Sauvignon, it’s unlikely to have an easy time climbing out of the Skoda category as far as most of the consumers of those other labels are concerned.

  1. ” he has confidence in the brand” or “his friends will make assumptions about his purchasing power”. The same applies to gut rotting “half-price” Christmas battery-acid Champagne versus Prosecco.

  2. Very true Warren. However, the Champagne brand has a magic quality of its own. People often seem to imagine that they are “supposed” to like it, so imagine that their lack of appreciation for a poor example is their, rather than the fizz's fault.
    This is exacerbated by the fact that most people don't drink Champagne very often and many rarely encounter really good ones.

  3. Some people do buy Skodas. Just not 'our' kind of people. It's a perfectly successful business these days. Just because the wine critics don't like it…..

  4. The Estate Review is pertinent for load carrying winos. As it happens I looked at the Octavia Estate just a few weeks ago just in case my 11 year old Saab 9-5 Estate packed in sometime. The rear seats do not fold flat in the Octavia which is appallingly poor design – unless the salesman didn't know how to do it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.