By Wolfgang Philipp

Published in February 2024

1-Minute Automotive Product Strategy

Fake At First Sight: Why Have Cars Become So Plastic?

Fake At First Sight: Why Have Cars Become So Plastic?
© Photo by Dawid Zawiła / Unsplash

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Plastic has changed our world – and the automobile. Throughout all segments from budget to ultra-luxury, plastic is ubiquitous.

The light, flexible, and easily malleable material has revolutionized automotive design, production, and safety. We have become so accustomed to its omnipresence that we only realize it when we get into a vintage car – and experience a lost authenticity.

In countless applications, plastic is the best option to make a car better.
It speeds up the development of parts, it facilitates their production, and it is abundant.

However, often it is only the cheaper substitute for higher quality materials.
Plastic has predominantly become the artificial ingredient that enhances the flavor while reducing costs.

But even chrome surfaces, wooden veneers, and leather can’t mask away the reality fractions of a millimeter below them.

The illusion of luxury comes at a price: it is created by a mindset that favors instant gratification over quality.

This mindset turned the car from a professional tool into a consumer product with limited lifetime.

Wear-and-tear repairs of major parts are not intended or economically unviable. This contributes to the low residual value of BEVs – and the poor pricing power of most volume brands.

The ubiquity of plastic is not the problem; it’s only one symptom of a limited view on short-term goals.

A plastic panel covered grille says: If you want to have the real thing, buy our V8-powered sportscar.

The root cause are different short-term incentives for the individual OEM departments.

X% increase in quarterly sales, Y% additional margin, and Z% decrease in defect rates are compromising each other.

Quality is a long-term mindset. It requires a holistic strategy – a common strategic ground that unites all departments and specialists across brand, product, and communication to one collaborative power team.

The same long-term perspective enables everyone to fully focus on their specific expertise while moving in the same direction.

Thank you for reading 1-Minute Automotive Product Strategy!

If you want to learn more on this topic, read our article Holistic Marketing – How A Company Can Benefit from the Marshmallow Experiment In Real Life.

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PHANTASIA is a creative consultancy for the automotive and motorcycle industry. We are strategic partners for product managers, designers, and advertising agencies to thrive in their domain.

Our holistic strategies provide direct applicability from the beginning: The segment specialists can fully focus on their expertise while collaborating through the same strategic platform, which increases quality, pricing power, and ultimately brand equity.


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