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

I Like My Cars Medium Rare

medium rare

After a year like 2020, I started to ponder things for 2021. Most particularly, what makes a car rare? Is it production numbers? Is it trim levels? Who cares about trim? Options? Price? Brand? Color? Where it was made? Number of units sold? Number of units intended to have been produced? Perceived popularity?

Does anyone care about any of that? What do people care about when it comes to a rare vehicle?

Everyone wants a chase car. That is more than likely why Ferrari and Lamborghini will always be highly sought after rather than some bizarre 2004 Buick Regal GSX stage 3 with a supercharged 6 cylinder engine and front wheel drive. But, some of those cars can have far fewer numbers produced than a six figure priced car. So what is more rare? What is more desirable? As the Tootsie Pop commercial says, the world may never know.

I recently saw a 1999 Dodge Durango Carroll Shelby edition for sale on Facebook Marketplace. It is number 53 of only 300 ever made. In your opinion, how impressive is this? The 1999 Dodge Durango is not exactly the most amazing vehicle every built. In the normal world, people do not know who Carroll Shelby was, so is having a Durango built by his shop really that impressive? Is that a flex to normal people? Is that even a flex to automotive enthusiasts? It really is completely up to the individuals. Both the one who owns it and the one or ones who are observing the vehicle. Personal taste is everything and I like all cars, no matter what. I like my cars medium rare.

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?

What is up with the RLC?

RLC stands for Red Line Club, which is the Hot Wheels Collectors exclusive group that has limited members where one can attempt to join once a year. Many members are able to renew each year, while on occasion some cannot, or some do not, and the club grows by small amounts each year to facilitate new members.

One of the perks to being a member is the ability to purchase Hot Wheels cars made exclusively for the club. In the past, those cars were only able to be purchased through the RLC. Once the sale of the car happened, only then were cars able to be purchased or won on the secondary market, like eBay, company promotions, etc.

The RLC has always had problems with their website crashing on car sales days. Sales get postponed or delayed often. When this happened for the sale of the 1969 Dodge Charger R/T, no one was really that surprised. Mattel said they were going to postpone the sale another week and I just accepted that.

What I didn’t expect, was that Hagerty would be promoting a give away of 25 RLC 1969 Dodge Charger R/T cars for new users to their platform. I am all for promoting the love of Hot Wheels to others, and promoting automotive culture. But, it is unsettling to me that Hot Wheels is letting their RLC cars be accessed, even through a give away, through something other than the RLC. What then is the point of the RLC? If there is the possibility of getting access to the cars elsewhere, that devalues being part of the club.

They should have done a similar promotion to the Road Kill partnership. Hot Wheels created two separate cars for Motor Trend’s Road Kill show that could be obtained by being a new subscriber to Motor Trend On Demand. While I do have a minor beef with that, because they didn’t offer it to current subscribers (which I am) only new, the car can only be obtained in that manner and it was not a RLC exclusive car.

All that needs to happen is the RLC cars should only be available to RLC members, especially if an RLC sale got postponed. Once the sale happens, maybe then the car can be used as a marketing tool. But, it would be best if RLC cars stay exclusive to the RLC.

Buffet of Topics for Today

buffettopicphoto

I didn’t get this post done ahead of time or scheduled on my regular Thursday at 10 time, but that is ok. There are a lot of topics I would like to cover quickly in the blog. Some are new thoughts and some are follow ups so hopefully you enjoy.

A week or so ago was Ford week on the blog, at least that is what each topic was about that week. Since the blog about the Ford Bronco, Ford has announced that they will not debut the Bronco until 2021. That is painful. I am tired of all these car companies “jumping the shark.” Make the car and we will give you money. That is not a hard equation. Side note to the Ford topic as well, my wife and I still haven’t filled out our paper work to get $20 for our Ford Focus issues. Maybe I should get on that.

Next up, NASCAR is BACK! It has been a little different than normal. No fans are in the stands, not even the announcers are present at the track. There is very limited crew and drivers must wear masks when not in the car. Last night Kyle Busch (my favorite driver) caused a bit of anger filled drama when he bumped Chase Elliott causing Chase to wreck. I am not going to defend Kyle, I am simply going to say, it really does look like he was driving by his mirror. Ryan Newman is back in the car after his crash at Daytona. Matt Kenseth has replaced Kyle Larson in the number 42 after Larson said a bad word during iRacing. I am excited for the next race at Charlotte this weekend.

I am finally getting back to Hot Wheel hunting and have been thrilled to find some really nice stuff on the pegs. I am hopefully going to be making videos of all the find that I have acquired, so keep tuned to the All Out Octane YouTube channel for the latest Hot Wheel and Matchbox finds! Both the blue and orange brands have some amazing cars coming out this year, along with great recolors of old cars, and it is nice to be able to share them with all of you!

 

*For fun- Comment below, would rather have a 2020 Chevy Camaro, a 2020 Ford Mustang, or a 2020 Dodge Challenger?

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.

What was Hot Wheels Nationals like?

collector-merch

When the Hot Wheels Collectors Nationals was announced that it would be hosted in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was super excited. I would finally get a chance to go to one of the biggest gatherings regarding ever for my Hot Wheels collecting hobby! I had heard plenty of stories and watched many videos about the event and since joining the RLC club for the first time ever, I was interested in taking my hobby to the next level.

While Charlotte is only a few hours from where I live, I was hesitant to actually buy a ticket. I don’t know why, I just went back and forth about the price, logistics, and if it was an overall wise thing to do. I ended up missing the window to buy a ticket. While I was bummed, I accepted the fact that I was indecisive (I do that a lot). Yes, I was a bit sulky around the house but I thought it was for the best. Then, while at a local meet up with some other collectors, one of them told me they had a friend who had a ticket available. A few emails later and I was on the list to attend the 20th Annual Hot Wheels Collectors Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 1st through 5th, 2020.

I still had no idea where I would stay, how long I would go, or what I was going to do. As the even came closer, about a month out, I started thinking I would do the room to room and hunt for cars, but I was also thinking about going to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and going to Joe Gibbs Racing, as well as any other automotive site I could find.

Then, a few weeks out, mid March, the virus struck. Cancelling event after event, isolating countries, cities, people into their homes and reducing any hope of large gatherings for the foreseeable future.

While I was not able to actually go to what would have been my first Hot Wheels Nationals, I hold out hope that someday, maybe I will be able to go to one. And even though it didn’t take place, the amazing hosts who organize the event still were able to mail out all the merchandise and cars associated with attending the event. I am very thankful for that.

The Concept that keeps on Giving

1999_Dodge_ChargerRTConcept1

I’ll never forget being in 5th grade, 1999, sitting in the computer lab at school on one of those shiny, new, colorful Mac computers. We were accessing the internet, which was still a fascinating thing, and a page loaded displaying the image above. The glorious Dodge Charger R/T concept.

I had always been a fan of Dodge products, even at that age. The Dodge Ram, especially the one driven by Walker Texas Ranger, was my favorite truck. Maybe I’ll write a blog about that later. But, back to this Charger concept. It has stuck with me ever since. Not long after seeing it, I was able to by it in as a Hot Wheel. That car is still one of the highlights of my collection.

Now, 21 years later, it is absolutely awesome to see the design elements live on in the current generation Dodge Charger. Sure, the style elements didn’t fully come into effect until the Charger name came back in 2006, and many of them were missing on the production model. But, as time has shown, the newest Chargers, especially from the side and back, take many elements from that 1999 concept.

I applaud FCA for making the absolute most out of a design that was drawn up over 20 years ago. They found a secret recipe and know what customers like and want. Plus they have saved lots of money over the years by not having to retool for new styles. My wife and I have agreed that a Charger would defiantly be a car we both would like to own and drive.

Fun fact, I had this blog drafted up 8 years ago, with the title being 12 Years Ago. It is awesome that even after that amount of time, the Charger is still going strong and has only gotten better looking based off that original concept.

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 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.