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?

Collecting Influence

19532448_10155375156116598_336392191_o

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.