Durability. Continuity. Taxis.

Durable products are those which last a long time. They have longevity. If improved continually they survive in the market. They develop continuity. For Germans continuity is a sign of quality, reliability, durability, in sum excellence.

German advertising, regardless of the form, stresses that continuity. Automobile manufacturers present their newest models as the natural (logical) extension of their predecessors (Vorgänger), the improved version. Rarely do they take leaps of fancy, diverging from what has been. The same goes for many other products, whether household appliances, machine tools, or business-to-business products and systems.

And this thinking is found in German companies, in how they present themselves.

“You can rely on this product.”

Especially the famed German Mittelstand (small- and medium-sized companies) stress time and again with pride that they are an inhabergeführtes (literally owner-run) Familienunternehmen (family company). Invariably this statement is followed by the company‘s year of foundation – gegründet 1905 (founded). On many company websites you can read a chronology of the company (family) history.

The message is clear: you can rely on our product, and rely on us, because we have been working on it for decades, some companies many decades, constantly improving it, incrementally and in a very focused way.

Long-lasting (durability) is a value in and of itself. It signals experience, stamina, focus, survival. Not sentimentality, but real value in dollars and cents, or in Euros and Euro cents. The German logic says that it pays to invest in a long-lasting product, even if the upfront investment is higher than in a less durable product.

Quality and durability

I still take notice of the fact that most taxis in Germany are Mercedes Benz, followed by VW and some Japanese models. Mercedes Benz, top of the line. Every now and then I ask the driver: „Your fares are reasonable. Perhaps a bit higher than in the U.S., but not significantly so. How can you earn a profit if you have to finance this expensive car?“ The answer is always the same: quality and durability of the automobile in general, and of the engine in particular. „I can put well over a couple of hundred thousand kilometers on it, keep my repair costs low, and it still has resale value.“ In dozens of German cities over more than two decades, that is the answer I get each and every time.

Its evident also in how they define competence. Germans tend to work in the same discipline over a long period of time, whether it is engineering, supply chain, manufacturing, or a central functions such as personnel or legal. They believe in developing depth and breadth of expertise, in maintaining continuity in approach.

Continuity and incremental improvement

The Germans as a people seek permanence. Quite literally. They move far less frequently than Americans, for example. They are rooted, strive to maintain those roots, to deepen them, are often resistant to change. They are aware of how mobile American society is, often marvel at it, recognize the advantage of having a high degree of flexibility, but seldom would choose it for themselves. They would not want it for themselves or for Germany.

Continuity. Constant incremental improvement. A focus on the long-term. These are deep-seated German beliefs, therefore characteristics of German products. Can it be any other way? Can the products which a national culture produces be, in their core characteristics, different than the culture itself, the people? German products are German.

Durability. Continuity. Taxis.