Should Models be Brands?

 

The subject of should models become brands has been relevant and important lately. I have had conversations with family and friends about the subject since some have texted me wondering why certain car manufacturers are doing certain business decisions. So, here is my take on should car models become brands.

In 2009, Dodge/Chrysler/Daimler/FCA split off the Ram pickup truck from Dodge and created their own brand from that model. That has been a very successful decision. Hyundai has split Genesis off into its own luxury brand, copying a page from Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti recipe, but also making a brand from a model. Chevrolet has rumored that they might consider making the Corvette a brand in itself. Manufacturers have split models into brands in the past, some have success and some were a failure.

Now, Ford wants to make a Mustang a brand, starting with the all-electric SUV, the Mach E. There is also a rumor that they want to make the Bronco a brand as well. Although, what doesn’t make sense is how they use the Raptor nameplate. They utilize that name for the F-150 Raptor, and Ranger Raptor, but apparently that name will not be utilized to distinguish a more powerful Bronco. A beefy Bronco is rumored to be called a Warthog. Confusing, but whatever.

What Ford should learn though, is they have almost been in this situation before. They had Mercury, that they closed because they couldn’t seem to explain to buyers why they should pay more for a car that is identical to the Ford equivalent. Lincoln almost had the same fate. Hopefully, they have learned from those experiences and don’t mess up a new Mustang or Bronco brand. Toyota and Subaru are also the same boat. They had the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ, and the Scion FRS all on the market at one time. And now they are almost doing the same thing, but instead of the Scion available, the Supra has taken that slot. We will have to see how this goes. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan does this with their Z car. Especially with the launch of the new 400Z. The Z name is known by people both with and without automotive knowledge so that would be a good start for them.

What do you think? Should auto manufacturers start making separate brands from their successful models?

Sedan Man

dav

Very few sedans are being produced by auto makers now days. It is sad that they are slowly going extinct. While I don’t drive one now, which I understand adds to why they aren’t being made, I had three in the past that I loved. Not only that but my dream car is a sedan and I have a list of sedans I’d like to own.

My dream car is a second generation Cadillac CTS-V. I remember an advertisement calling it a “tuxedo with jet pack.” I have always thought of myself in that way and I believe that car fits me and my personality. I’d take any generation of a CTS-V, and if possible, I’d like to own one each of the three generations. And, while the CTS-V did come in a coupe form in the second generation, I want the sedan.

Another sedan I’d like to own is a Ford Taurus SHO. I got to ride in a fourth generation SHO that my coworker had. It was a great car. It is a big, sort of bulky car, but the SHO nameplate is iconic. I would be happy with any generation, but the fourth generation would be preferable. Then again, if I could have one of each, I’d go with that too.

The newest one to join the list is an Alpha Romeo Julia. It looks great, it sounds amazing, and to me, seems to be an all around worthy sedan. Since it is a little bit of FCA with some Italian flare, I would imagine reliability is not fantastic. That is hard to because since it is new, deprecation will tank these cars new. But, I am a fan of used cars, so I would probably take the risk.

Oddly enough, I have three cars from GM, Ford, and FCA on this list, which wasn’t quite intentional, but it’s funny to notice. I do know that most of these…if not all, are performance sedans. My honorable mention list is long and I wouldn’t mind owning any of the following sedans. A Dodge Charger, Pontiac G8, Chevy SS, Jaguar XE, Maserati Quattroporte, BMW M5 and the M3 sedan, Lexus IS F, Porsche Panamera, oh man, a Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 sedan, at this point I’ll even go with a Toyota Avalon TRD, just to name a few. Goodness, the list can go on and on. A good rule of thumb is, if it is a performance sedan, I like it and it is on my list.

Color Me Impressed

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept
2014 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept from the Detroit Auto Show.

There is something incredibly powerful about the color a car is launched in. Seeing a car displayed at an auto show for the first time can have a magnetic effect. A car that always sticks out to me is the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept I was able to see at the Detroit Auto Show. A photo of it is shown above. The red paint that covered that car had me mesmerized and the camera cannot capture how stunning the color really is. If I were ever to buy an Infinity, it will be in that color.

Other notable cars are in specific colors are a Honda S200 in yellow, a Volvo S60 or C30 in Polestar Blue, a Nissan Xterra in yellow (although red has grown on me), a Cadillac CTS-V in Black Diamond, the original Ford Raptor in Orange, the Lamborghini Huracan in Green and Aventador in Orange, there are countless cars that the color they are debuted in are the ones I find most appealing. But, that isn’t always the case because some cars are launched in multiple colors or a specific special edition colors, which are some of the examples mentioned above. A notable example of that is the Toyota 4Runner or Tacoma in TRD specific Cavalry Blue.

These colors are sometimes what I associate to cars in diecast as well. I tend to gravitate towards realistic models of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, especially when they are in the color debuted by the original manufacturer. Not all colors are captured well by diecast makers though. The Hot Wheels McLaren Senna does not quite match the color I have seen pictures of. Other times, maybe due to reasons like scale or proprietary information, the diecast car color is not exactly the color on the real-life car, but to the eyes and brain, it looks the same. It is a fascinating effect.

This topic has such depth to it and there are countless more stories of my fascination with cars and colors, that I could fill countless more blogs. If you have any stories related to this topic, I would love to hear it. Feel free to leave a comment if you feel the same way or have any cars you enjoy in a specific color.

Autonomy and Infrastructure

57306013_1140802339439577_950779848073150464_n

As the springtime gets into full swing, orange barrels start blooming on the highways. Construction seems to never stop, especially in large cities with high traffic and brutal winters. Budget issues don’t help things either. So when it comes to the subject of autonomous vehicles, I am very perplexed at the long term goal relating autonomy to infrastructure.

Economists and auto manufacturers have been conscious of “peak car” for quite some time. Peak car is a complex theory, but the premise is that there is a limit as to how many miles can be traveled by a number of cars before there are too many cars driving too many miles, at which point peak car has happened and a decline in usage and sales occurs. Add that to the highly debated topic of autonomous cars, and if autonomy will require a greater demand for vehicles or less, and the recipe is quite perplexing.

If autonomy will require fewer vehicles, than the amount of money going into creating new infrastructure to accommodate more vehicles will seem irresponsible and silly in the future. Yet, if autonomy will demand more vehicles, it will be a good thing that highways and roads and all other vehicle infrastructure would be improved upon and expanded. We will look back and be thankful we spent the money on those resources.

It is hard to determine which way things will go. Planning long term is something that is very hard to do in these modern times, so to try to perceive how autonomous vehicles will be needed and used, and weigh that to the current and future needs of infrastructure, the comparison is tough to connect in a shared goal situation. Time will tell how it turns out, but for the moment, I just hope construction will be completed so traffic can flow properly again.

All Cars Look the Same

56539227_338399540143309_9033949917378248704_n

Lately, consumers might have noticed that all cars, more specifically the ever increasingly popular SUV’s and CUV’s, all look the same. The graphic above is a wonderful illustration of that point. There are two reasons why this trend is beginning to take place.

First, manufacturers have invested incredible amounts of money on studies and research to figure out what consumers find aesthetically appealing. Automotive companies send representatives to design conferences to learn currently and what will be fashionable and trendy. Things like colors, fabrics, shapes, designs, and even smells and sounds, are all worked on years before they start to trend. What we see on the road today is a product of 3-5 years worth of research, data, and design foresight.

Due to that research investment, they know what consumers will buy. As with any business, manufacturers have to make things consumers want in order to continue to operate and make a profit. Consumers speak with their money and it is very clear, they want SUV’s and CUV’s regardless of how similar they all look.

Second, the strict fuel economy standards and safety standards, really begin to dictate how a vehicle will look. In order to achieve these benchmarks, designs to reduce drag coefficients are a leading supplemental way to meet the fuel economy standards. Angles, edgy creases, and deep concentration on airflow management all result in better fuel economy, but also begin to produce the same results in designs. The best example of this is airplanes. To an untrained eye, there are very few differences in airplane design.

Whether or not one thinks that manufacturers are just simply creating similar looking products to force consumers to accept what is being built and that they are limited by the designs in the choices of products available, that is an acknowledged hypothesis. However, many jobs and lively hoods, possibly even your own, hinge on the sales of vehicles, so it is hard for a company to take a risk on different designs. Consumers would need to reward risk with dollars and that is a challenging task to accomplish.

Give it time and new trends will start to emerge. Remember, what we see now was foresighted to trend a few years prior. Designs will change and uniqueness will find it’s way back into the automotive industry.

Oh, what a show!

Over the weekend my wife and I went to a car show hosted by ODMA at the Founders Inn in Virginia Beach. The weather was warm and comfortable. The overcast skies provided superior conditions for photo taking. The cars ranged greatly in make, model, and year, the oldest in attendance of which we believe was a 1909 Franklin.

That was the particularly interesting part to me. It is nice attending car shows with such a variance in age of vehicles. There were many pre-war cars in attendance. They are always a pleasure to see.

Not only was the large attendance of pre-war cars interesting to me, but also the incredible kindness by the owners of the vehicles. Never have I been to a show where people have been so friendly and enthusiastic about sharing their car. My wife, beautiful as always, looked like a southern belle and was offered many times to sit in vehicles to get her picture taken. She basked in the attention and experience and I was one incredibly proud husband.

We enjoyed ourselves very much at the show. It was a unique and rare experience and I am so glad that people in the car culture world have such warm welcomes to strangers. My wife and I are looking forward to more car shows this year, and certainly for the return of this show next year!

DSC02197

My wife in what we believe was the oldest car at the show, a 1909 Franklin.

 

DSC02270

My wife in her favorite car at the show, a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible.

The Lamborghini Lament

DSC02155lam002

When Lamborghini first rumored they were going to be building a new SUV, I was super excited. I remembered the first one they made, the LM002, and what an outlandish, absurd, and over the top vehicle it was. It was a brutish vehicle that looked like it was in the military reserves one weekend a month, two weeks out of the year. It then would practice law by day, and shuffle the family from horse riding lessons and ballet at night. It was amazing. At least, it has become that iconic to me. I have never driven it but, I guess, I just have this perception, this expectation of what it is.

So when they released the Urus, I was a bit taken aback. That was not the SUV I was envisioning. Now, I know it has not been tested yet. I know that when they conceived this vehicle, they did not know that Ford would be rumoring the return of the Bronco, or that Jeep would be rumoring the return of the Grand Wagoneer. All the big players in the off road game, like Hummer, Land Rover, Jeep, Mercedes G Class, Lexus, and the Ford Raptor should have been worried. The more luxurious ones and soon to be ones, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Maserati should have taken note. Instead, they made something that looks like “an urban mom” would drive, as my wife described.

Harken back farther than the 80s and you’ll remember that Lamborghini made tractors before it made sports cars. Yes, that’s right tractors. In fact, they still make tractors. With all those years of agricultural earth crawling and hauling knowledge, why could they not have applied that to a new SUV? They could have made it rugged, rambunctious, and ridiculous. They have all the right ingredients to make something fast, powerful, and luxurious. It would have been beyond capable, practically at home, off road, to outperform the competition in every conceivable way.

I really wanted the Lamborghini SUV to be a gorilla in a tuxedo. A big, bulky, but surprisingly good looking sight that you can’t take your eyes off of because it is just…bewildering. Its performance would be as obnoxious as expected, but with enough charm that you can’t blame it. These are all qualities that I think are in the lineage of the company and were expressed in the LM002.

Maybe I will put a poster up on my wall like many kids did back in the day with their dream cars. This time, the poster will just be filled with words. Words about a car, because it only exists in my dreams.

I Shed A Little “Light” On The Subject

An interesting story in the automotive news world recently has been the issue over headlights. While the story has currently been on many automotive sites, I first read about it on Yahoo, and in any case, many seemed to make this issue seem very recent. However, after looking into it, the issue was actually started much further back, as  you can read in an article here that was written in February 2013 about it.

Audi has introduced “matrix LED” headlights to the world, which in short, is an advanced headlight with the ability to turn corners and automatically brighten or dim to properly illuminate the drivers view. The problem with this new system is that a United States law from 1968 says that there can only be two setting for headlights, high and low, thus, prohibiting the “matrix LED” from being on a vehicle sold in the US. Our friends in Europe will be able to enjoy Audi’s “bright” idea on their vehicles. I did do a little digging, and found what I believe is the law that states the high low beam issue. The more interesting thing to note is that before I found what I believe is the law, I am became much more aware of all the issues at hand.

One such issue is that due to the government and private sector being so distant from one another in advancement of technology, and the inability to communicate to one another about such technology; that in turn causes the government to cautiously proceed when they do not understand and cannot properly define or regulate certain technologies. That is one issue in this headlight ordeal.

Another is the overall American automotive headlight laws and regulations in general. Each state has their own laws and rules, which obviously must first adhere to the national laws. This is where I see a problem.

The problem is that not all headlights are created equal. We have all seen the cars equipped with the xenon headlights. Those emit a much different light that standard headlights. The sheer difference in light emitted by all sorts of headlights on cars on the road is really not a good case for the government to claim cars can only have two settings. Sure you can have a “high” and a “low” but the light emitted in those settings can vary from bulb to bulb and vehicle to vehicle. From what I understand, “matrix LED” equalizes what each car emits because it is senses the light surrounding your car. That would be much more beneficial to all drivers.

We have all come across a driver who has forgotten to turn off their brights. That can be unpleasant and sometimes it results in an accident. “Matrix LED” would eliminate that because it would dim for you. However, it is also fair to point out that, a system like this can be distracting and unpleasant as well. The ability for lights to change on their own in fractions of seconds could result in distracted driving in the same manner as our current method of headlight change, human error.

I can see the pros and cons of the issue. I understand both the government and the auto makers side of things. I also understand the consumer side. There are so many factors and opinions that can be weighed and expressed. Feel free to let me know what you think.

Tidbits for Today

Tidbits for today…

I read this article earlier in the week about the GT-R. He was making decent sense…until, “I want the GT-R to be more like an NSX…” …WHAT?! Um, the GT-R should NEVER be like the NSX. It was never supposed to be like the NSX, nor is it, nor shall it ever be. Then to say “Think 560-horsepower AWD FR-S and you’re most of the way there.”  In what world is the FR-S like the NSX?! You don’t even make sense in your trippy logic! To my fellow car blogger, you are a few cylinders short of a GT-R.

I read this article about Lincoln the other day and how this author feels the company just needs to be laid to rest. I do agree. I see the whole Ford Motor Company as Apple; in a league of their own, I will leave it at that (although I’m not a big fan of Apple, so you can assume my feelings about Ford). However, with that said, I would love to take a shot at marketing a revival for Lincoln. They need to associate themselves with comebacks. Comebacks that a younger and well established customer would recognize and think to themselves, I want to be a part of that. That is just the surface of ideas that I would use to market a comeback for Lincoln. I would go so far to say that they don’t even need to do any restyling, they just need much better marketing. Image consulting is more the concept.

I was very happy that Kyle Busch swept the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway! I am a huge Joe Gibbs Racing fan and Kyle Busch fan! Super excited for all parties!

In relation to the NASCAR, I did not see any problem with the NRA sponsoring the race. It makes complete sense to me from exactly what this article states, “Eddie Gossage, the president of the Texas Motor Speedway, told CBS Sports he actually hasn’t heard much in the way of controversy over the race. He said the NRA’s sponsorship is “not about politics. It’s about sports marketing.” ITS ABOUT SPORTS MARKETING. Perfect sense in my book.

There are certainly more tidbits I have spinning around in my head, and hopefully I will be able to get more out later this week. But these ones have been swirling for a few days now and I want to make sure I am staying current and relevant. It’s what you deserve. Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments below!

Retool for the New School

Reading Autoblog today, stirred up some thoughts I have been mulling over for a while…the matter of automobile production. What really does it take to produce an automobile? If it is just like anything else in life, the willingness, passion, desire, and devotion to get it done are the ingredients to success. Why that doesn’t seem to work, or at least it was never popular up until this point I just don’t know. But I see a shift coming. A shift that will change the way automobiles are conceived, made, bought, and driven. More importantly there will be a shift to a unique connection between company, machine, and consumer.

I think the turn around time for creating a concept vehicle by a company, and either not producing it, or saying that it will be produced 3-5 years down the road…is absolutely stupid. That’s a lie. If you want to make something, you will make it, end of story. Sure it takes time to reset production plants and assembly lines, gather the materials and resources, create new machines that can make the new parts…yes I get that. But really, where has that gotten us? It has gotten us to this point, where new ideas are being generated faster than that old process can keep up.

Three stories on Autoblog today relate to this topic. The first is that Nissan is planning to build a new vehicle every 6 weeks until 2016. I say that is the most brilliant plan of any company to date. That kind of diversity will make their vehicles more exclusive and personal for consumers. In this day in age, consumers want to be part of a whole, but they want to stick out in that whole. This plan that Nissan has will provide that. Creating that type of momentum for niche audiences will also start creating a desire for people to own something that has the ability to become rare, which instead of seeing an automobile, particularly a grocery getter, as a expense, it is seen as an investment.

Second story is that Lamborghini is undecided on whether to create the four dour Estoque (Which has been around for what I think is a while and it is dumb they haven’t made it yet. It’s a great vehicle with would serve a purpose.) or an SUV. My opinion, BUILD THEM BOTH! Lamborghini shocked the world a few months ago with talk that they might start creating an “everyday” line-up of vehicles. People think that it might tarnish their image. I don’t. Lamborghini will never be a second rate company. If they want to build the most powerful exotic SUV, let them. It just goes to show that others can’t do what Lamborghini can do.

Lastly; the Jeep story. Just emerging from bankruptcy and paying off their debt, Chrysler has got some major catching up to do. They had an epic super bowl commercial, but I don’t think they are being wise on riding that success. Jeep has been considering producing a pick up Wrangler for a while, aka the Gladiator. Why they have not built it yet has made sense, paying back loans and all. But the decision to yet again put it on the back burner because cash is tied up in other places; like making small cars…REALLY? The Jeep has global sales capability, it already does, and it could add to it with the pickup model. To retool the assembly line to make a pick up Jeep Wrangler is much easier I think than to retool it to create a whole new car! Chrysler, I don’t know what you’re thinking but I don’t think it is very wise on this one. Try to remember your super bowl commercial and make the right decision to do something brilliant.