According to the online dictionary suggested to me by Google, the halo effect is defined as “the tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area.” This perfectly words the point I will attempt to make.
In the automotive world, having a halo model isn't a choice, it’s a necessity. It provides an avenue for car makers to showcase their talents and technology.
As an example, let’s look at Kia, yeah they make good cars that are fit for purpose, but the credibility of the badge has been elevated since the arrival of the Stinger. The Stinger provided evidence that Kia was thinking about those who like to drive, those who see cars as more than simple transportation. The Stinger is a brand builder that connects buyers to the wider Kia range.
It’s a similar story at Hyundai, the launch of the i30 N has generated interest from a cohort of car fans that wouldn’t ordinarily gravitate towards the brand.
How about the new Supra? Despite all the jibes about it being a BMW, it’s proved a desirable purchase for a brand often mocked for not bringing enough passion to its cars.
The halo effect is also important at the premium end. Lexus has always battled for recognition in segments owned by the German brands, however, the arrival of the sensational LC500 has enthusiasts rethinking their loyalty.
After years of decline and an agonising wait, former high flyer Holden confirmed it will finally have a halo model after the demise of the locally produced Commodore. The all-new Chevrolet Corvette is going to be built in right-hand drive and sold through Holden dealerships.
If marketed and priced correctly, the Corvette can give Holden the juice to begin the process of reconnecting with enthusiasts.
In a tightening market though, has Holden left its run too late? Despite a long lead time, finding a replacement halo car hasn’t been the priority it should have been. The Corvette will relieve some pressure by potentially making Holden dealers a destination again, but it shouldn’t be seen as a silver bullet.
Ford was clever enough to plan ahead and currently offers the Mustang, Focus RS and Ranger Raptor as a halo trio. While these models are desirable, they haven’t been able to propel the Blue Oval back to its former glory. So there are lessons here for the suits at Holden to carefully examine.
Halo models can provide a powerful pull factor that puts a brand on plenty of shortlists, but they can’t paper over the cracks in a disjointed and improperly priced line-up. Instead, the halo model is the attention seeker that gets buyers of all sorts to take notice, what each marque does with that attention is what’s important.
In the weeks after Holden’s announcement, plenty of internet forums were buzzing with enthusiasm for the Corvette. Most posts with Holden tags have been lifeless for ages. The injection of a new performance hero has awoken the masses, something Holden has found difficult to do in recent years.
It won't be all sunshine and smiles for Holden’s diehard fans. One of the issues Holden will need to overcome is branding, Holden’s name isn’t what it once was and the Corvette will remain badged as a Chevrolet, which is a sensible move if you ask us.
Regardless of the Chevrolet badge, the Corvette is a car people will go out of their way to see. It will bring some much-needed traffic to Holden dealers, some of which are sweeping tumbleweeds from the forecourts.
For mainstream brands, halo models are only helpful if they’re affordable. The Stinger and i30 N are attainable models. Real people with regular jobs can buy them. Now before anyone has a sook, we realise the Corvette is in a different league and price range, however, it will do nothing for Holden if only the one 1 per cent can afford it.
The Corvette is difficult to price, in the US it competes with models like the BMW M2 and Porsche Cayman. When it reaches Australia, Holden and its parent need to ensure its appropriately priced. If it’s priced beyond the brand’s loyalists the halo effect will be nullified.
So does Holden chase margin or sales? If becoming relevant again is the goal, sharp pricing in pursuit of volume is the ticket. Pricing needs to be comparable to overseas markets. A reasonable price will see the Corvette succeed, which in turn will see dealers selling cars and building relationships with new buyers who might need an SUV at some stage.
In all honesty, Holden’s form hasn’t been good when it comes to pricing, the Acadia should be a popular car, but it’s too expensive to mix it up with the CX-9, Santa Fe and Sorento.
Halo models can build brands, but only if those brands are keen to take advantage of the halo’s pulling power. The Corvette presents Holden with an opportunity to relaunch itself. Opportunities like this don’t roll around very often, competitive pricing is needed if the lion is ever going to roar again.
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