A deep-dive into Vincentric’s results provides insight

A couple of days ago, I called out the results of Vincentric’s latest ‘Best Value In Canada’ for certain ‘questionable’ segmentation issues, namely that of four-door cars being allowed in the coupe category and the blurred lines between SUVs and crossovers.

After the post went up, I welcomed Dave Freed, managing partner at Vincentric, to respond to the issues of segmentation. Thankfully, he was more than happy to address some of our questions.

Is a four-door coupe really a coupe?

A coupe, by strict definition, is a vehicle with two doors. Many of us can agree with that. But, with the emergence of four-door coupes in the marketplace, and the high number of vehicles now available in this category, where do these cars belong?

“Our opinion is that vehicles you describe as ‘four-door vehicles with raked rooflines’ are closer competitors to traditional coupes than to traditional sedans,” explained Mr. Freed by email.

“Many in the industry agree with us, while others might agree with you…but rather than create a separate segment of ‘four-door vehicles with raked rooflines’, we put the Passat CC in the coupe segment and feel very comfortable with that decision.”

Why not just create a new ‘four-door coupe’ segment?

“That is worth looking at,” said Freed. “Our intent is to create segments based on how buyers might shop for a vehicle, and we can see the possibility of a buyer’s consideration set being focused on a vehicle with sleek lines that still has four doors. However, each segment needs to have a minimum number of trim levels in the segment to create an accurate regression analysis to calculate value, so we would need to make sure the segment passed that threshold.”

Considering the Passat CC is a four-door sedan, does it qualify for the sedan category as well? Maybe. But, Mr. Freed did clarify one very important point.

“With our current approach a model is only assigned to one category,” said Freed, meaning the Passat CC was only competing for an award in one category, even though it may fit the definition for multiple segments.

The runner-up to the Volkswagen Passat CC in the coupe category was the Honda Accord Coupe, which only has two doors. However, removing all four-door coupes from the running may not make the Accord Coupe the winner, as it “would require a large re-run of data, since pulling a vehicle out of the segment changes the inputs to the regression analysis we use to calculate value,” Freed explained.

How can the Trax and Encore win in two different categories when they are mechanically identical?

Segmentation is usually defined by what makes up a particular model – driveline, bodystyle, number of seats, and price – but it can also be driven by marketing.

When we posed the question about the Trax and Encore winning in the separate SUV and crossover categories, Freed explained sometimes its less about the car and more about how people use it.

“There may be times when we categorize a vehicle without ‘body on frame’ construction as an SUV because the competitive set, marketing efforts, and consumer perception make it a better fit as an SUV.”

But, Freed did concede “the Crossover/SUV decision on these type of sister vehicles [Trax and Encore] should be done in tandem.”

In the future, the makeup of the categories may change as well, with traditional body-on-frame compact SUVs an extinct breed in the Canadian marketplace, relegated to only higher-end, truck-based models.

Validity of awards

During our conversation, Freed did make some good points on the validity of Vincentric’s rankings. The company analyzes almost 2,000 different Canadian vehicles configurations using data from “well-respected data sources” when determining award winners.

However, if the segmentation, the basic separation between models and the main focal point of your awards, can be called into question, does that make the awards themselves credible?

Depending on how you cut your pie, it could go either way, and unless we know what models are considered for each category we can’t know for certain.

This is the problem with awards in the automotive industry, whether they’re based on raw data, expert opinion, ownership experience, or a combination of all these things. Unless you can see the steps taken to arrive at a conclusion (and, in this case, an award that can be used as a marketing tool by automakers), it’s still going to raise more than a few eyebrows.

Unfortunately, that won’t be happening anytime soon.


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