TheBigPond - spotlight on what South African business and business people have been up to in Europe. Edited by South African journalist Christo Volschenk from Stuttgart, Germany. Note: This blog has migrated to a new home at www.thebigpond.eu.
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ANGIE MIGHT STILL GET WHAT SHE WANTS

Gerhard Schr?der put them on the map - and then cost them the win. That's how I saw it at the end of the election campaign.

The "undisputed king of handling the media" overplayed his hand in the last days before the election and by doing that handed Angie's bunch the crown.

Schr?der's comfortable, confident, relaxed style turned into something smelling of smugness, arrogance, superficiality and "flippantness" in the last days.

This put an end to the upward momentum of the SPD in the week before the election and passed the momentum to the major opponent - the CDU/CSU - who went into today's election with the momentum on their side.

The last election polls before the election confirmed this - the CDU gained slightly in the last week, while the SPD lost ground.

This momentum-switch right at the end will prove to be of great importance. The fact that Angie went into the election with the momentum on their side means they will gain a proportionally big part of the "still undecided vote" today.

Thus they will come out of the election with a percentage higher than the last poll gave them - and the SPD will come out lower.

This momentum-swing in the days before the election might still bring the CDU/FDP coalition the majority they need to govern alone.

But, it'll be very tight. So, tight, in fact, that the whole thing could hinge on Dresden.

Then we might have a replay of the Miami fiasco - just a German-style fiasco.

The point: In the end "the king" became a victim of his own success.

18.9.05 11:48


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RAINFALL IN THE WESTERN AND SOUTHERN CAPE: A REJOINDER


An article from The Cape Times, 6 September 2005


Cape water crisis to get worse

By Melanie Gosling and Leanne Raymond

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has warned that South Africa will become one of the two driest places on Earth as climate change tightens its grip globally.

The WWF also warned that the Western Cape would run out of fresh water by 2015.

This comes as the Department of Water Affairs, the City of Cape Town and other stakeholders gather in two weeks to decide whether the region's water restrictions will be lifted or remain in place.

Although dams in the Western Cape's water supply system are 80% full, indications are that water restrictions will stay, but may not be as strict.

Rashid Khan, regional director of Water Affairs, said yesterday although there was enough water to see the province through the coming summer, it made no sense to lift restrictions only to reintroduce them later.

"We will get through the next season, no problem," said Khan. "Water restrictions are an intervention put in place for a specific period of time. (But) it makes no sense to take them away and then bring them back next summer. Rather have a low level of restrictions throughout than harsh restrictions later," he said.

Khan said his department wanted to retain the "behavioural changes" of using less water which water restrictions had instilled in consumers.

"It is not a case of 'we have water so let's use it'. Whatever water we use we are taking away from the fishes," Khan said.

Momelezi Skweyiya, executive supporting officer for John Mokoena, mayoral committee member for Trading Services, said it was unlikely that restrictions would be lifted totally.

"We are still assessing the situation. We could lower the restrictions to a level one, which restricts garden irrigation to certain times, or use a water demand management system," he said.

This would be implemented by the use of incentives.

Tony Frost, CEO of the South African branch of WWF, who spoke at the Cape Town Press Club yesterday, said predictions were that the two driest places on Earth as a result of climate change would be China's Yangtze River Valley and South Africa.

"The world will become an unpleasantly hot place. We will be subjected to severe drought in the Western Cape and in southern Africa," Frost said.

He said the world's massive natural resource consumption, particularly the enormous use of oil, was driving climate change.
By 1972, the amount of carbon emitted globally had exceeded the planet's ability to absorb it.

Every South African should take action to adapt to and lessen the effects of climate change. Three critical steps were sorting out the country's public transport system, recycling all water and installing rain water tanks and solar heaters on all houses.

"Public transport should be right at the top of every agenda if we're really going to counter climate change. If the three government tiers do not pay adequate attention to public transport, there will be a serious economic and social crisis in this country. It's a huge issue," he said.

When oil became $100 a barrel, filling one's tank would cost about R1 000.

"How will we transport all our workers?" he said.

Every household in the country should have a rainwater tank and solar heater.

"Why is every house not harvesting rainwater? It is an absolute requirement. Second, every single poor home should have a solar heater," Frost said.

He said houses owned by the rich should also have solar heating and rainwater tanks, but he had singled out poor houses because they were being built on a massive scale.

"There should not be one household which does not make use of the bounty God gave us."

All water in South Africa should be recycled, he said.



18.9.05 11:53


THE ELECTION IN GERMANY: A REJOINDER

So, there it happened. The German nation decided and it decided to opt out of the global economic race.

Zu anstrengend.....this race. To much change would be needed. No, we'll rather maintain the status quo. Sixty years of quasi-socialism (forget about the label "social market" - its just clever marketing) has tapped us of our energies, stripped us of all desire for change.

(Of course, in the world of economics, if you decide to tread water, you actually fall behind. You have to grow to at least stay with the rest. But, that just by the way.)

And, yes, the political landscape is even more "deurmekaar" now than it was before the election. But, the German nation had plenty of time to see this coming. On election day they voted not to avoid it, but to embrace it.

No need to feel sorry for them. They just got what they wanted. And what they deserve.

More interesting now, is how fundamentally the election changed the political landscape. Before, it was always a fight between two, big, middle-of-the-road political parties. The radicals were never really on the radar screen.

This election opened the door for the political landscape to look completely different 10 years from now - when the radical left will be a big force and elections will be fought between a (shrinking) middle-of-the-road party (consisting of a redefined CDU/CSU and a redefined SPD) and a growing left party under Herr Lafontaine.

And, sooner or later, the radical left will win an election.

Interesting thought. In a world which is changing ever faster in the other direction - the free market way.


27.9.05 09:38


HOW NOT TO TREAT A LUXURY BRAND

Yesterday the market punished Porsche heavily for its decision to strengthen its links with Volkswagen.

Today's newspapers suggested many reasons for the 10% drop in the Porsche share price.

I would like to add one, which I think is a subtle one, but nonetheless important - maybe more important than anyone mentioned to date.

As far as I know, the news first broke last Saturday. That's 4 days ago. And to this day I haven't seen a press statement anywhere by the Porsche management emphasising that there is no danger of the Porsche product and Porsche brand being "people-ised" by the connection to Volkswagen.

And that the Porsche brand and product will not be "tainted", or "diminished" by using the same parts, or by using the same designers, or by (the heavens protect Porsche) producing in the same factories.....

Yes, this may sound ridiculous, but the Porsche brand needs this distancing from "the people's brand", which is Volkswagen. It needs it clearly. And it needs it now. Not in a year's time.

Already on Sunday some analyst was quoted as saying that he foresees the day when parts will be shared by Porsche and Volkswagen.

To date the Porsche management hasn't seen it necessary to officially clarify that view.

Could it be that the Porsche people haven't learnt anything from Herr Schrempp's mistakes? (Or am I the only one who thinks the Mercedes Benz brand has lost a lot of it's upmarket shine under his rule?)

All I hear is how Porsche will benefit from the expertise and "Einsparungen durch eine engere Zusammenarbeit" with Volkswagen.

Really? Do you really want the Porsche fanatic to hear this?

That the godlike object he worships was built by an outfit who thinks they can learn from.....eeh...the mere mortals at....ehhh.....well, if I have to say the word: VOLKS....cough....WAG.....hoes...EN.

And that the gods at Porsche look forward to working closer with the makers of the people's car.

Oh, dear. Where do these hot flushes suddenly come from...

And then the Porsche people declared proudly they had developed their off-roader with Volkswagen. The result of the co-operation is on the market, they said. Volkswagen's off-roader goes under the name Touareg and Porsche's under the name Cayenne.

Aahhhh.......

And to add insult to injury, the wise people at Porsche decided to put their off-roader on the market at about half the price of the Touareg!

Aaahhh........air, no air, I can't breathe....

This all sounds like a MBA case study in the making. A case study on "How to kill a luxury brand (which took 60 years to build) in one, short year".

I beg you, please, no more.

Here's a suggestion to the Porsche people: In Stellenbosch, South Africa there sits the world's undisputed king of brand-building (and especially luxury brands).

His name is Anton Rupert. Amongst others, he is the brain behind Richemont.

Phone him.

He'll definitely have a few tips for you on how to preserve the "luxury" in your luxury brand.....on how to avoid your precious brand from turning into a mere "people's product" overnight.


27.9.05 10:05



PORSCHE BRAND UNDER ATTACK: A REJOINDER

In the latest WirtschaftsWoche the issue of "potential brand erosion" got a few paragraphs. And then the editor of the magazine helped the process along in his editorial in the front of the book!

This is how it all happened: In a long article on the question "Should they have done it, or not" the magazine wrote: "Denn bisher hat es der Porsche-Chef trefflich verstanden, seine Fahrzeuge, ganz gleich, wo sie produziert wurden, als topeksklusive, 100-prozentige Porsche-Produkte zu vermarkten....W?rde das Markenimage erodieren, w?re das fatal."

And then the editor gave us a taste of how subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) this process of "brand-image erosion" can work.....in his editorial he refers to the two companies as one and calls it "Volksporsche".

The luxury brand which was once Porsche is well on its way towards becoming a "mass brand". What a waste!

30.9.05 11:31





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