Consistency is Key

For a long time, Chrysler/Stellantis products were considered laughable in both build quality and performance capability. Kia had the same reputation back in the 90’s as well. There was an unproven rumor for a number of years that cars built on Mondays and Fridays would be prone to more errors and problems than a car built midweek. While again, it was unproven, recently Tesla has had some trouble with the build quality of some of their cars, and many of the fixes came quickly, meaning a car built mid month was completely different than a car built at the end of the month.

I wrote a blog a year or so ago about how Dodge could do no wrong. One of the points I made, is that while their Charger and Challenger platforms are over a decade old, they have ironed out all the issues with it and have created a very reliable machine. Something they struggled to do for years. An article on Autoblog listed the best to worst automakers from Consumer Reports. From a very high level view, I want to sum up the top five and the bottom five. These are spoilers and if you want to read more details, you can click hear to go to the Autoblog article, which I believe has the Consumer Reports link in it for even further information.

The top 5 are:
1.) Tesla
2.) Lincoln
3.) Ram
4.) Chrysler
5.) Subaru

My quick analysis of this list is that these are pretty niche auto makers. They only produce a handful of models and what they do have, in some cases, have been around for a long time. They have capitalized on keeping what works and changing only what doesn’t. In some cases, Lincoln specifically, and even Tesla to some extent, they don’t sell a lot of product either. Their volumes compared to some of the bottom makers are only a fraction, meaning they have more time to focus and get it right. Because even with Tesla having as many issues as it does, they are still not pumping out the quantity to make it enough of a market impact. The buyers of theses vehicles are also very different than the bottom bunch as well.

The bottom 5 are:
23.) Mercedes-Benz
24.) Buick
25.) Cadillac
26.) Nissan
27.) Infiniti

The first few things that come to mind of that list are; these are same family vehicles, meaning they have the same parent companies and use the same parts; they are constantly changing up their vehicles and have a vast array of models to choose from; they can be expensive and complex and have a lot of things that can go wrong on them; and they are pumping out a lot of vehicles. Mercedes, Cadillac, Buick, and Infiniti are luxury machines with many technological aids that can fail. That leads to expensive repairs. They are also wildly different in model offerings. While Cadillac, Buick, and Infiniti are somewhat niche, having 22 models collectively offered, Mercedes has 29 different models on their American website alone. Nissan has 17 different models. Mercedes has more models offered than four of the top five manufacturers combined. When you are making that many different cars, at the volume that they are, it begins to paint the picture of why these brands are ending up towards the bottom of the list.

This shows that small, consistent things, done very well, are going to give you an edge over your competitors. Customers want reliable transportation. When a company takes the time to stick to a few models and iron them out over time, the customers will reward that with reviews and returning business. Even if they have issues, like Tesla, they are able to adapt quickly because scale is not at the capacity of the competitors. The fixes can happen almost instantly.

Information like this fascinates me. I’m always excited to look at the market from different perspectives and draw up new and different opinions, commentaries, and conclusions. Facts are facts. So it is fun to discuss the data and then think of ways to make it better. Consistency is the key.

For reference, here are the number of models made by each manufacturer according to their US website.
Tesla 4
Lincoln 6
Ram 14
Chrysler 4
Subaru 8

Mercedes-Benz 29
Buick 6
Cadillac 11
Nissan 17
Infiniti 5

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?

Wrangler Raptor Bronco Battle

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A few weeks ago, I commented on a Ford Bronco post on social media that was about how Ford thinks the new Bronco will eat the Jeep Wrangler for lunch (I’m not really sure where the exact quote about that is). My comment was, that on paper, the new Bronco looks to be a superior off-road vehicle to the Jeep. Many people quickly commented back saying that being able to make a prediction like that is not sound and that there is one crippling feature the Bronco does not have which will always make the Jeep superior.

That feature is a solid front axle. Jeeps always reign supreme because of having a solid front axle. The Bronco will be coming with independent front suspension. While I completely agree, that my opinion about the Bronco on paper is premature to call it superior to the Jeep without actually physically being able to compare them yet, I had to really think about the solid front axle issue.

After thinking long and hard about it, I concluded that I believe the Bronco is intended to be a different kind of off-road vehicle. I am not saying that the Bronco should not be compared to the Jeep, but I think the type of off-roading each vehicle is good at is slightly different. Jeep is intended for mountainous trails with steep inclines and jagged rocks. The Raptor and soon to be Bronco are created for desert trails and speed. That conclusion was solidified when I watched one of Doug DeMuros recent videos about the Jeep Mojave. I think Jeep built the new Mojave to specifically go head to head with the new Bronco in desert speed. The Fox shocks installed on the Mojave is almost the sole reason I think this.

What vehicle are Fox shocks famously found on? Oh yeah, the Ford Raptor. While no one is exactly comparing a Raptor to a Jeep, the Raptor is an insane desert off-roader. That is the type of driving I believe that the Bronco will fulfill to an even greater degree, but also tackle mountainous trails in an above-average way than what the Raptor currently does. This is why I think Jeep is installing Fox shocks, increasing the speed in low gear via the transfer case, and raising the ride height of the Mojave to prepare to compete with the Bronco on desert trail running. They know the Bronco is a threat and they are preparing for it. On the flip side, one could wonder why Jeep is moving away from “Trail Rated” and now placing “Desert Rated” badges on the Mojave? I think they want to show dominance in all areas first.

All of this makes sense when you look at the type of vehicles most popularly used for desert rally and endurance racing. Trophy trucks and the H1 Hummer are not exactly solid axle. The rear axle of a trophy truck is solid, but the front is independent and Hummers are portal. Looking at those vehicles and knowing that the Raptor is built to be with those vehicles, I believe it is safe to assume that the Bronco, with its independent suspension, is intended to join those vehicles playing in the sandbox.

One last side point is the modification capability of each vehicle. A point I made in my comment on social media was that the Jeep culture is vast and strong, and the aftermarket modification parts, capability, and customization is enormous. The Bronco out of the box will not have that. It will take some time for the aftermarket accessories to increase and bugs to be ironed out.

Even with all of this, I am incredibly excited for the Bronco to come on the market. Choices and competition are amazing and this will only make the off-road segment even more popular. Although, most of these will probably never leave the asphalt.

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.

A Patriotic Purge

So there are a few things on my mind today.

I read an article talking about how a guy is selling off his entire project car collection. I have been thinking that people like that should really get into finding the right home for those vehicles. Someone out there would absolutely appreciate the project car you have. In all reality I think the problem is timing and communication. When people want a car, they are going to find someone who has it. The problem is that many of the people who have the cars are not communicating that they have them. Its a sad day when amazing vehicles get hauled off the the junk yard because the owner thinks no one wants it.

I also read about how rally racing is probably the most expensive and hardest forms of racing. I have never been to an actual rally but I can imagine that it is more fun for the participants than the spectators. That is probably a factor into why it costs so much. Then again, there can be watered down versions of rallies that one can do with friends on public roads. The kicker there is just gas prices.

I am pretty impressed at the number of first time winners there have been in NASCAR this year. David Ragan is a wonderful driver and deserved to win last weekend in Daytona. Congrats to David Ragan. This upcoming Kentucky race should be pretty thrilling. These powerhouse teams really have not shown bright this year. Then again, was it really the teams or more so the individuals? If anything, this year has shown it is all about the individuals. Just take a look at the top 12 drivers. Then again, the teams have become tighter simply because of the tension on the track between individuals and the ability for more than one individual on one team to consistently do well. This chase will not be over till its over and I am completely ecstatic to watch it unfold!

I spent a little time with my friend today looking up Hot Wheels on Ebay. Pricing out cars we already have and looking up the cars we don’t. I love Hot Wheels but its hard sometimes to justify buying them when I could save the money to buy a real car. I guess being a passionate automotive enthusiast, I consider such things.

I was also thinking today about how the new styling of the Chrysler 300 would make a perfect coupe. Since the newer styled 300’s came out,  they have always had that watered down Bentley / Rolls Royce look. They have a chance now to take an “Imported from Detroit” vehicle and give it some flair, similar to a two door Audi/Bentley, since that’s what I think it would most collectively look like if it were a coupe. Not to mention that Cadillac has made a gorgeous coupe out of its well loved CTS. Then they hopped it up on some supercharging steroids to make it a CTS-V. Such an epic vehicle. I am a huge fan of GM and particularly Cadillac. However, I will support any American made company, such as Chrysler if they built a world class coupe. After the fourth of July, I have been all but thrilled to be as patriotic as possible. Hopefully the American automotive industry will do the same! 😀 God bless the USA!

A Proportionate Problem

Something I have always struggled with as far as automotive design goes is the use of un-proportionate parts/designs etc. It drives me nuts. Whether it be to big a spoiler, not big enough spoiler, side grilles with no purpose and horrible lines, headlights that are just ugly looking because they are too big or small, the list could go on and on.

Today I saw a picture of a Ram that made me really think. The truck is MASSIVE, and its ride height is incredibly high, yet with such a beastly truck, there was one thing that looked incredibly out of place, incredibly un-proportionate. The tires. Why does such an aggressive vehicle deserve such lil un-proportionate tires? I understand that there has to be fender clearance if it is loaded down, however, the ride height is so great, it really makes me wonder, even with a weighted back end, how low is that thing going to go? If it were to clear all that space, that would raise two problems, one, that’s probably WAY too much weight, and two, that would cause the nose to be so dang high, you wouldn’t have any real good maneuverability or sight line. So, this insignificant problem, my observance being annoying, thinks that they should increase the tire size of vehicles like this. It would make it look much more proportional.

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.

Ford might not be able to Dodge this Ram

Mopar also planning high lift Ram 1500 for Jeep Safari, Raptor put on notice

by Jeremy Korzeniewski (RSS feed) on Mar 16th 2010 at 1:58PM


Answering the question of whether Mopar’s Ram Power Wagon concept is meant to be a competitor to the awe-inspiring Ford SVT Raptor (that’d be a ‘no,’ it would seem) is a report courtesy of our friends at PickupTrucks.com that Chrysler‘s go-fast division is also planning to release a long-travel version of the Ram 1500 at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah.

Adding credibility to Mopar’s off-road-ready Ram “research project” is the presence of veteran Baja racer Kent Kroeker, who’s KORE company is already the go-to expert for aftermarket Dodge truck goodies (see photo above of his Ram 2500 racer). Being based on the Ram 1500 means that Chrysler’s Raptor-fighter will feature independent suspension at all four corners. We should also expect plenty of suspension travel. Oh, and could this be a hint at the future?

While it’s not necessarily expected that the Ram brand will offer such a high-lift, long-travel model in dealerships right off the factory floor, there is a decent chance that the components developed for this concept could end up in a Mopar accessory or KORE catalog (or both?) sometime soon. And you can count us firmly among those looking forward to that.

 Autoblog

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I wrote about the Ford Raptor a few months ago on a separate blog, before I began this one. Here is the link to that blog.

 Here is what I think about the Dodge Ram in general. Back in the mid 90’s early 2000’s when Dodge trucks got a face lift and Chuck Norris drove his beastly Ram in “Walker Texas Ranger,” I being about 10, instantly wanted one. It was my favorite truck up until a few years ago when the Silverado became my more preferred pickup of choice.

 All that aside, there has been talk that Chrysler will make the Ram a separate model from the other models in the company. I relate this to the simple illustration that Corvette has with Chevy. People think “Corvette” they don’t think “Chevy” because the car is in a league of its own. I have a feeling, and am an advocate that Chrysler separate the Ram. They should put their focus into making it the most versatile pickup on the market.

 When I heard the rumors that the Ram might be building a Power Wagon to compete with the Ford Raptor, I couldn’t have been happier. I think that with the design the truck has, it should be built leaner and meaner in engine and off road capability, although I do think the design needs a little more refinement to match.

 If the Ram Power Wagon goes through, I would support it thoroughly, and I think it has major potential in competing with the Raptor and beating it.

We The People…who own cars

Dear Car Companies,

We the people realize that you design and build cars for a living. We highly appreciate your talent and dedication to your craft because without you, about 98 percent of us would still be walking to the Seven Eleven down the block.

We recognize that you have been in this business a long time and have a built some pretty incredible machines. However, times are changing and we would like to tell you something. May we ask you for your attention for just a moment.

You have done pretty well thus far feeding us vehicles that we think we need. Actually, it is more like vehicles you think we need. However, you would be lying to yourself if you think you are giving us what we want.

As a person myself, I am taking the role of ambassador to relay important information. I will give you things that we the people are looking for in a car. We want vehicles with incredibly, let me rephrase that, RIDICULOUSLY good gas mileage. But you can’t just give us that, because up until this point, the ones that have done so, have looked like crap. Sorry.

We want the cars to look good, like something you’d buy at Tiffany’s, not the jewelry center at as Wal-Mart. Cheap imitation isn’t going to cut it anymore. We are smart, and can pick out the imposter a mile away. I promise, if you can deliver, we will pay.

A third thing we want is practicality. Don’t give us a seven passenger vehicle if really the only people who could fit in the back seats are children. If you say seven adults comfortably, prove it. Pick-up trucks, vans, cars; get people to drive them to tell you what is practical so you don’t have to guess. If you are right the first time, you don’t have to come up with some lame excuse for a cheap imposter vehicle.

Lastly, we want performance. There are only 24 hours in a day, so the fastest way we can get to 60 miles an hour, or more, is important. A smooth ride and great handling are critical because roads and traffic are terrible now days and we have to be able to dodge a bump, or take one, and the car has to last. Here’s an idea. Start with a race car, add the previous elements of gas mileage, looks, and practicality, and still end up with a race car. Done, walk away.

And, as a side note, don’t name these wonderful machines absurd names. Really think about what it is you have created and name it appropriately. If you have any questions, consult us. You can reach us on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or any other online social network known to man. But listen to what we are saying back to you, seriously. We can easily start walking to the Seven Eleven down the street.

Sincerely,

We the People