Bad Taste in Badges

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While out and about over the weekend, my wife and I saw a Toyota Solara that had a TRD badge in the front grill. What is so special about that you might ask? Well, that is exactly the point my wife and I discussed for a few minutes.

As a keen automotive enthusiast, I knew something didn’t look right about the Solara. After doing some quick research, and finding a flaw with the car and that badge. I described the situation to my lovely wife. She then dropped the bomb on all badge discussions. “That’s stupid. Why put a badge on a car when most people don’t know enough to care, and those that care, know it’s fake?” She is the best and I couldn’t agree more.

The Toyota Camry Solara was built from 1998 to 2008. There were two generations, the first from 98 to 03, the second from 03 to 08. Only the first generation had a TRD package available as a dealer upgrade on the 99 and 00 model years. While the parts are available for any Solara, the picture of the car above is a second generation car. That right there is already flaw one. I texted a picture to my brother in law and he noticed the badge is crooked. Flaw two. After that, I figured out what I would be blogging about.

The point my wife made was absolutely brilliant. Why bother badging a car for those that don’t care? You might get away with it for a little while, and it might impress some people who will act like they care. It might inflate your own ego. But, to those of us that know, you are really just making a fool of yourself. Bad taste in badges is a bad idea, but if you insist, it makes great content to put on the internet!

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Color Me Impressed

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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.

Dodge Can Do No Wrong

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The Dodge Challenger has recently outsold the Chevy Camaro for the number two muscle car sold in the US. It is quickly gaining ground on the Ford Mustang as well. You can read more about that here. I think Dodge has one of the best strategies in terms of manufacturing, marketing, and proven product, that factor strongly into the success of it outselling the Camaro and potentially the Mustang.

The Challenger design has been produced for far longer than initially intended or is common for the life cycle of a design. However, it has worked brilliantly for Dodge. They have been able to save money on all the factors that are expensive when a car is redesigned. That long life has allowed consumers and the general public to get very familiar with the look of the car. Dodge has squeezed every ounce out of the body and chassis. In 2018 there were 17 trim levels for the Challenger with prices ranging from $27,000 to $85,000.

Dodge has done brilliantly at marketing the Challenger.  They communicate an aggressive, bold, and cool image about the car. Some campaigns use famous people, others just showcase the car, but all have colors and sounds emphasized. The Challenger has been marketed so well, and there are so many on the road, that I “challenge” you to recall a memory of one.

A few months ago I was able to rent a Challenger for a work trip. After spending over 12 hours in the car, I came to the conclusion that it was an incredibly practical vehicle. The car had four-cylinder shut off, so I was able to get about 30 miles to the gallon, but if I wanted to get a bit feisty, the other four cylinders would light up with the tip of a toe. It has an incredible interior room, a spacious trunk, stupendous looks, and an aggressive sound.

Whoever made the decision to extend the life cycle of the Challenger should be applauded. That decision has allowed the Challenger to grow into being one of the best muscle cars on the road, aggressively “challenging” for the first place spot. In my opinion, Dodge can do no wrong with this car.

Autonomy and Infrastructure

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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

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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.

Licsensed, Hot, & Furious

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While watching YouTube videos about Hot Wheels, it prompted me to make a few speculations. I am not entirely versed in how licensing diecast cars works, but I am aware that recently Mattel has lost the Ferrari license and gained the Mercedes license. They have also indicated that they will be producing a few particular older JDM Nissan models and they also have shown a mid 90’s Mazda RX-7.

My wife and I recently watched The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift. While watching the movie I realized that it would be completely possible for Hot Wheels to release yet another batch of Fast and Furious cars. This time, they could potentially gain a license to utilize VeilSide and make the RX-7 from either Tokyo Drift, or the original The Fast and The Furious. If they produced both of them in the same set, I think that would bring even more desirability to the bunch.

While they are at it, they should revive the Nissan Silva casting they have so they can make the “Mona Lisa” of Tokyo Drift. The stunning blue and orange S15 owned by Han that Sean destroys in his first attempt at drifting. That would be a stunning car to add to the collection. They should also make the Mitsubishi Lancer that Sean drives throughout the movie as well. My opinion is that particular installment of franchise had some of the best, most non time sensitive cars of all the movies. It doesn’t matter that the movie was out of order because those cars are still drifting to this day.

I would really like to see Hot Wheels produce these cars and add to the Fast and Furious collection of Hot Wheels. I will admit, I have very few of them. They have been hard to find, they have come out in times of my life where I was not as able to search for them, and they are a little too expensive for me to try to purchase on eBay right now. Regardless of that, the fact that these dreams could become a reality, is hope enough to remain steadfast in my desire to collect as many Hot Wheels as I can.

 

Collecting Influence

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Economics teaches us about the law of supply and demand and how they affect one another. I have found that to be true in the real life collector car world and it’s influence on diecast cars. Lately, I have been following the trend of the Ferrari F40 and the McLaren F1. These two cars in real life have skyrocketed in value, and that spike in popularity and prestige has carried over into the diecast collector world. It is hard to find a good Hot Wheels Ferrari F40 or McLaren F1 for a price below $10.

A few years ago I experienced the same thing with the Hot Wheels versions of the Tesla Roadster, Lamborghini Murcielago, and the Bugatti Veyron. I ended up spending far more than I care to admit to purchase a 2009 Dream Garage series Murcielago in green on eBay. Asking prices for that car are still quite high.

That situation plagues my mind while Hot Wheel hunting in stores now days. Often times when I find something on the pegs, I will tell myself, “It is only a dollar now. If you want it later, it is going to cost you.” Sometimes I still put it back on the shelf and walk out empty handed. I am trying to be a responsible adult. I am also hoping I’ll find it again to solidify that I should in fact purchase it.

One similarity between the two collector car markets is that the real life collector car world has concourse condition. Diecast car collecting conditions are in the package or not. This topic alone could lead to so many other discussion points. In real life, actual completely “original” vehicles are becoming very rare as age and limited replacement parts slowly take away from factory original condition. I think diecast has the same type of issue going on. The “DLM” or diecast liberation movement is a sweeping craze right now. That movement simply means that the cars are being opened and removed from their packaging. That might not be a big deal for diecast cars produced from 2000 on because of such a large number produced and records of those numbers. But, for cars produced in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, that can be alarming. The amount of still packaged cars from that time is dwindling and the unknown amount of produced versions is certainly going to factor in. The more cars that get opened from that time frame, the higher the demand and higher the price for an unopened original model will be.

A second similarity is that the real life collector car world has rare limited edition models and trims. Diecast has both limited edition production numbers in some cases as well as wheel and paint variations. Diecast has an advantage in this area because not only can they produce the real life car models with special trims, they can also customize them further. This can produce even greater demand for such limited models.

All collecting for both markets boils down to what are people willing to pay for what they want. Perception is important and closely following trends in both real life car collecting and diecast collecting will certainly be beneficial. With all this in mind, know what you want, know how much you want to pay for it, and go enjoy the things you purchase.