Deluded though the Brochure often is, what lies behind it can be equally deluded, albeit differently so.
Back in 2009, we bought a Renault Kangoo Estate for work. It replaced a series of similar vehicles, starting with a Mark 1 Kangoo, then two Citroen Berlingos in succession. When I first visited the showroom, the New Kangoo had just been introduced to the UK and brochures had not been printed so, in response to my request for a brochure, the salesman gave me instead a full 55 page print-out of the ‘Distance Learning Guide’, a dealer sales briefing for the then newly introduced Mark 2 Kangoo. This made interesting reading alongside the public brochure that eventually arrived. In essence the brochure showed the usual, gurning, happy, young, lifestyle types of high-functioning humanity whereas the dealer briefing identified the Kangoo’s potential owners as ageing, low-ambition losers. OK, I’m exaggerating … but just a bit.
On Page 3 of what I shall call the DLG, it states that retail customers fall into two groups, ‘The Traditionalists’ and ‘The Versatility-Oriented’. By Page 34, all focus seems to have centred on ‘The Traditionalists’ (“they were not born yesterday”). Now my own reading of a ‘traditionalist’ maybe involves ownership of a Rover P5, but more likely something from the VAG Group, such as a Golf or an A4. Not that I’m knocking that but I think that, in this case, ‘traditionalist’ was a bit of a euphemism. And not that I’m knocking the people described in Renault’s DLG either – there’s nothing wrong with being older (well I would say that, wouldn’t I?), ignorant of cars in general or not having loads of money. But when I turned to page 35, expecting to find another group (The Iconoclasts!, The Fun Lovers!, ….. etc) there was none. It seemed that Renault UK had decided that the only identifiable group who could ever want their Kangoo were aged retirees on a tight budget who knew little about cars. By Renault’s reckoning, I guess I know which way most Kangoo drivers voted in last year’s Referendum.
Oddly, I don’t think this was Renault’s Pan-European view of the Kangoo’s potential market but, whether through prejudice or experience with the previous model, it was the assumption they made about likely UK customers. I didn’t actually find Renault’s preconceptions regarding my attitude towards so many non-motoring subjects that impudent, but they did seem counter-productive to finding a rather versatile vehicle a decent market share. But I’ve never felt that salespeople enjoy selling MPVs, ever since one dismissively referred to a Peugeot 806 as a ‘van’. That’s probably why I was given the DLG, which should have been a reasonably confidential bit of internal paperwork. Because the salesman didn’t really give a toss about selling these utility boxes when he felt he should be demonstrating a Renaultsport Clio, so giving the DLG to the punter meant he didn’t have to spend an evening at home memorising it, then needing to do the quiz.
But, looking at the actual, glossy publicity brochure, you’d be hard pressed to realise that. It paints an Alternative Kangoo Reality. Young, good-looking owners, cute kids and surfboards. Not a wrinkly in site. As any decent car salesman knows, two people make the decision about buying any car : the person that they are, and the person they think they are. Just as fashions intended for overweight over-sixties are usually modelled by relatively trim people who are 20 years younger, so are most manufacturers reticent to confront the real demographics of the workaday car. They can’t just say ‘this is the car you need – so suck it up’.
The problem about briefing sales staff in this underwhelming and rather complacent way, is that the unimaginative ones often end up diligently meeting such low target expectations. In fact, despite the value for money that ‘The Traditionalists’ presumably traditionally want, The Kangoo Estate wasn’t that cheap a vehicle. So it probably had better profit margins than many Clios and Meganes and would have been worth persisting with. My own feeling is that it is a vehicle that could satisfactorily fill myriad niches – in my case a small company needing a run-around capable of carrying both goods or people in reasonable comfort.
As I’ve mentioned before on these pages, after nearly seven years of ownership, I’ve never actually warmed to the Mark 2 Kangoo. By which I mean I still appreciate the concept, and it has virtues, but overall I’ve never enjoyed Renault’s stodgy reworking of the original. It had lost something of the appealing simplicity of the Mark 1 Kangoo, which was the nearest thing to a Renault 4 successor. It’s a pity they didn’t build on that more, both in marketing and in the detailing of the actual car, but the attitude towards the Mark 2 is probably reflected in the tastefully nondescript, grown-up UK colour palette. I certainly wish I’d sourced a petrol-engined version instead of the horrid 1.5 DCi diesel, though I still suspect that the Mark 2 Citroen Berlingo would have been a better bet. Alternatively, an all electric Kangoo ZE Estate might have been nice, but was never offered. Presumably The Traditionalists would be suspicious of that new-fangled electricity.
But, whether the nebulous ‘Traditionalist’ marketplace warmed to it or not, whether they all bought Berlingos or Dacias instead, or whether they just died, the Kangoo Estate was dropped from the UK after only three years. It seems you can’t learn much from a distance.