In the world of general practice, our future will mean facing increased competition and an excellent practice reputation will be important for the prosperity of our business.
Similarly, in the highly competitive automotive world, branding and perceived image can make a significant difference in terms of sales.
|Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTD Lusso
Body: Five-door hatchback
Engine: 2.0 litre four cylinder turbodiesel
Claimed economy (urban/extra urban/combined): 50.4/72.4/62.8mpg
What's in a name?
The Ferrari brand is acknowledged as the most recognised and influential on the world stage and a huge proportion of the company's profits are derived from the sale of branded items. However, this Italian sports car manufacturer sells very expensive cars in small numbers.
Also part of the mighty Fiat group, but selling cheaper cars in much bigger numbers, is sister brand Alfa Romeo.
The name itself conjures up romantic visions of sophisticated continental lifestyles in sunny climates and the badge is rather special, combining the red cross of Milan's coat of arms with the Lombard dragon-headed snake devouring a victim. You can't just buy this sort of positive imagery - like our own practice, it can only be sustained with continued high quality services.
Alfa Romeo has stumbled a few times over the years but is now back on track with a growing line-up of modern cars that deserve to be linked to this iconic brand.
Of greatest relevance to most GPs is the Giulietta, Alfa's rival to the Volkswagen Golf.
To see if it can live up to its badge, I have been testing the top-of-the-range diesel Giulietta, the 2.0 JTD Lusso.
First impressions do count for a lot and this is where the Giulietta plays its strongest card. From the distinctive shield-shaped grille through to its coupe-like rear, this five-door hatchback says style and sophistication, loud and clear.
Lovely curves and attention to detail create a welcome relief from the boxy, anonymous proportions of competitor models.
There is an almost cartoonish comic-book quality to the styling, which echoes links to racing cars of decades gone by and the modern Alfa Romeo supercar, the Ferrari-engined 8C. It works brilliantly and this car could be sold on looks alone.
But canny GPs will not part with their hard-earned cash without some substance to reinforce those initial impressions.
Sit behind the steering wheel and the positive impressions continue. The modern dash can be specified with body colour coded trim and all the controls are neatly laid out.
Although there is no left foot rest, the pedals are straight ahead and not offset, like many Alfas of the past.
Unfortunately the interior fit and finish is poor in places and oddment space is restricted. Boot space is on a par with the Golf but rear head and legroom is compromised. However, standard equipment levels are high and a similarly kitted Golf is significantly more expensive.
Italian sports saloons should really deliver on the road, with an above average driving experience, and in this the Giulietta is partially successful.
The well-controlled ride and capable handling allow best use of the powerful turbodiesel engine but are let down to some degree by steering that feels heavy and slightly inert.
This is a shame because direct steering was one of the best features of one the finest driver's cars I have owned, the Alfasud.
The Giulietta's DNA (Dynamic, Normal and All Weather) driving mode selector allows you to tailor the car's performance to your mood, but is not as effective as similar systems found in BMWs or Audis.
Safety is top notch and the Giulietta scored one of the highest results in the European NCAP ratings.
Economy is excellent and despite the strong performance, Alfa claim 62.8mpg on the combined cycle.
The Giulietta generally entices but is flawed in a few areas. Perhaps that is the attraction of an Italian car that reflects the culture of where it was designed and built. I'm sure patients forgive us a few quirks if the overall service we provide is above average.
As an owner, you will feel a bit special and your car will always cut a dash in the surgery car park. The Giulietta certainly has character and in a motoring world of slightly soulless efficiency, this is quite refreshing.
- Dr Rimmer is a GP in Guildford, Surrey