'In the future there will be half a dozen car companies... and Morgan!'
Exploring Soichiro Honda's most famous quote...
Soichiro Honda was not an especially average businessman. In fact, if you had met him, I'm not sure you would think this guy fitted into that category at all. Remember, this is a man that paused in the middle of running a company for a year, so that he could brew some alcohol and relax.
And while w all know Honda as an engine and car maker today, he changed the companies portfolio almost as much as Peugeot did! From early examples of the motorised bicycle - leading to Isle of TT victories, weird commercial mini-trucks to a brief stab at motor racing that didn't end well. (Nothing's changed, has it. I'm looking at you, Honda F1). Soichiro proved himself an eccentric genius.
And one of his better known quotes went as such. 'In the future, there will be half a dozen car companies.' And then, as an afterthought, he added 'Oh, and Morgan'. So I thought it would be interesting to explore what the 6 car companies could be in the future, what brands they could be comprised of, and what possible mergers could occur! So strap in...
1 - The VW Group
Let's start with the obvious. The VW Group's large scale platform sharing, combined with a multitude of fully owned private brands make it a giant in our industry. Recently, it fully bought Audi, and now it has complete control over that, and of course... Skoda, Seat, Ducati, VW, Audi, Bugatti, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, Scania, MAN and VW Commercial. This is a group that generates over 200 billion in sales, and takes home over 15 billion a year in profits! Those are crazy numbers!
2 - Group Stellantis
We started with an example of a massive company that had things in control, we move onto one that doesn't. Peugeot and Citroen were both decent companies, but ailing profits resulted into them being forced together by the intrusive French government, forming PSA. At the same time, Jeep and Chrysler were failing to meet their sales targets - racking up debt, and sensing an opportunity, Fiat dived in and bought the company.
Meanwhile, General Motors realised that it has no idea what to do with Vauxhall and Opel. It swiftly dumps that on PSA, which has just about got the idea of platform sharing with the 208, Corsa and C3 being related. Meanwhile, Jeep is sucking Maserati and Alfa's funds, and Fiat says: 'Enough'. It forces Jeep to reduce development and production costs.
Just when it looks like things are sorting themselves out, another bombshell is dropped. PSA and FCA form Group Stellantis. This new group consists of Lancia, Fiat, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Vauxhall, Opel, Citroen, Peugeot, Chrysler, Dodge, RAM and kind of Ferrari. And for the sheer number of brands, and the potential in the future, it is in the top 6.
3 - The Daimler Group
On the face of it, Daimler AG is a small company, with Mercedes being its only claim to fame. Dig deeper, though, and you will find that it is a giant. It owns Mercedes Benz, Mercedes Commercial (which happens to be pretty much the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world). Oh, and it owns a massive Chinese manufacturer called SAIC motors. Oh, and it owns Smart and Maybach. Oh, and it owns shares to 10% of Tesla. Oh, and it is likely to buy Aston Martin in the next few years. That's more like it!
4 - The BMW Group
The BMW Group is an incredibly successful group, for one made up of just 3 brands. Rolls Royce, Mini, BMW. Each with a niche, Mini's being small and premium, Rolls Royce being luxury waftmobiles (I've just decided that is a word), and BMW's traditionally being 'the best car in it's class' and now being 'the best car in it's class but with a horrendous dental problem'.
But that isn't the reason this group is up in the hypothetical top 6. No, it is because there are rumours that BMW is buying the JLR Group. I can't help thinking that this will be a brilliant idea for Range Rover and Land Rover, but may result in the death of Jaguar. And I am not sure that is a good price to pay.
5 - Toyota Motor Corp
The name of the game changes here. Rather than being a big corporation with a massive list of brands, the next two are just extremely successful companies throughout time. Toyota is one of the biggest and most profitable brands ever, selling millions of cars, and yet (apart from Lexus), it has no sub brands. It uses such modular infrastructure that you would not be able to tell apart a Prius from a Corolla by looking at the underpinnings! Toyota will survive for the next hundred years!
6 - The Honda Group
And of course... Honda. Even today, Honda constantly changes its mind about what it wants to be. And that is the thing that is special about Honda. The successor to a car can never be accused of just being a facelift. There is almost nothing similar between a generation old Civic and a new Civic. Hell, there is almost nothing similar between their current cars! Seriously. What trait do the Honda e, Civic Type R and Honda NSX have in common? I would argue, just the badge!
A few surprises here. Obviously, I can't make a list like this without having strong opinions, so here we go. Mazda is slowly losing its personality. The longer this happens, the more it will come into comparison with Toyota, to which it loses. Hyundai is irrelevant, GM is on the decline and McLaren is simply too small. Nissan-Renault is suffering a weird situation in which none of their cars are up to date. Tesla is starting to get whopped by the traditional manufacturers. Ford is a sleeping giant, waiting to reawaken.
It is entirely possible that some of these companies survive, but I think some will just be sucked into the bigger groups in the future. So, VW, Stellantis, Daimler, BMW, Toyota and Honda. Oh, and Morgan!
R.I.P Soichiro Honda.
What are your thoughts? Comment below!