The Sun is Setting

A Road & Track article was recently released saying that Ford has filed for the name “Skyline” to their trademark list. While Ford did have trim levels with the name Skyline in the past, and there was a concept with the name Skyliner in it, Ford is not the manufacturer most notable for the name.

In the automotive enthusiast world, Nissan is the manufacturer that comes to mind when the name Skyline is said. While the newest Nissan flagship sports car is called the GT-R, it used to carry the name Skyline, but never has in the United States officially. That is because up until the R35, the car was never officially sold here in the States. However, if it had, up until the R35, the cars had the name of Nissan Skyline GT-R. The R35 that was sold in the America did not have the Skyline name, and I’m not really sure if it did anywhere else except Japan, if it even did there either.

While you might be thinking to yourself, gosh, why is Ford encroaching on Nissan territory and how much more could Ford ruin good names? I am going to approach this from a different angle. My beef is with Nissan. Why doesn’t Nissan care enough to keep that name? Nissan has an upcoming new Z car that will launch soon, but goodness gracious, they have a lineup that is long in the tooth and they have for a number of years now, been staying in business by fleet sales. Nissan tends to be the punch line of many jokes. They are not helping themselves by neglecting to keep the Skyline name in their library just in case. It is sad to say, but the sun is setting on the Skyline name and possibly even Nissan itself.

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

Could it be More Super?

About a decade ago, Toyota had roughly 3 of the exact same vehicle on the road. The Toyota 86, Scion FRS, and the Subaru BRZ. Granted the Subaru was not Toyota, it was a Subaru, but it was only that by badge. All three cars were basically the same. Now, for the new Toyota Supra, Toyota has teamed up with BMW. The BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra are roughly the same car. There are minor interior and exterior differences, as well as a few mechanical differences, but they have more similarities than differences. It is very similar to the products they had on the road ten years ago, and actually, still up until today with the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. The fact that the 86 is still around is surprising in itself, and that can be a whole other blog subject.

To me, it would have made more sense to get rid of the 86 replace it with the Supra and instead of partner with BMW, do everything in house, based off the Lexus RC. If Nissan went slightly larger with their comeback king, the GT-R, then Toyota can and should too. I have made a graphic of all the size and price differences of all the cars referenced, along with the Lexus LFA, the one time supercar from the brand. A larger, more powerful, dare I say better looking Supra should have been the goal from the start.

I don’t have the IS500 on here, and the FRS is very hard to find anymore. It has the same dimensions as the 86 and BRZ. Click on the chart to see it in full size.

When it comes to power, I know the plan to put a V8 in the new 2022 Lexus IS500 had to have been around when the Supra was conceived. Maybe? Either way, when the Nissan GT-R went from a straight six to a V6, people didn’t complain THAT much. If Toyota planned to put a 5.0 V8 in a Supra, these things would be selling faster than they could be made. None of the new Supra makes any sense to me. There was so much potential and while the car is incredibly popular, it really didn’t meet what I thought could have happened. Granted, I did like it at launch, and I still am a fan. It just doesn’t seem like a Supra in the sense that it doesn’t compete with anything that the original did, or perceived to do. Perception is very important. Potential is also important. The Supra should have been a GT-R competitor, built in house, based off the RC, with a V8 engine. Toyota should have done all that on a budget and gave every 5.0 Ford Mustang owner a run for their money.

The RC looks so good in my opinion. It is the perfect start for a Supra. Plus, it can be all wheel drive. This one was.

Add a little eXtra to the Frontier and…

My rough Photoshop skills of what I think the Xterra would look like based on the Frontier.

Nissan has launched an all new Frontier mid-size pickup truck. It is not a full size pickup like the Titan. There are mixed reactions to the new Frontier in terms of its capabilities and options. People also think that Nissan is to late to the game in the mid-size truck segment. But, overall, the truck on paper appears to be capable. It looks like a truck should as well, in my opinion, so that helps.

Nissan also recently launched a new Pathfinder. Upon seeing it, I started to think about some reports that I read recently that have indicated Nissan dealers are asking corporate to bring back the Xterra. With the popularity of off-roading and many of Nissans competitors resurrecting iconic nameplates with incredible capabilities, Nissan dealerships are saying customers will buy an Xterra if it were on the showroom floors. They also know they need something to compete with the likes of the Ford Bronco Sport, the Toyota 4 Runner, Land Rover Defender, and others.

I am beginning to see how that can come to fruition based on the new Frontier. I am hoping Nissan thought about this ahead of time and planned accordingly to potentially make an Xterra from the Frontier platform. It would simply be the Frontier without a bed and connected to the cab, as I have demonstrated with the above Photoshop render. The only problem is if the Frontier is innovative enough, to use it as a base for an Xterra, and will it live up the expectations of customers? As controversial as it would be, I think that it would. Nissan can’t wait on this if they want to get money from that market.

While we don’t know what the price of the Frontier is yet, Nissan is very extreme in pricing. They are either incredibly affordable, budget cars or they raise your eyebrows in astonishment to what could justify the high price they are asking. If the Frontier comes in at an appealing price, and sells, then I think they will easily green light an Xterra and we might see a new version on the road within 2 years. What do you think?

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?

Automotive Literature

Automobile_Magazine-2006-01

It was during a study hall my junior year of high school that a huge aspect of my automotive passion grew into something far larger than just being a kid who liked cars. I wanted to do something with that passion. The pivotal moment was seeing the January 2007 Automobile magazine with the Nissan GT-R concept on the cover. After picking it up and soaking in every bit of information about that car, along with all of Ezra Dyer and Jean Jennings article, I made up my mind. I wanted to be an automotive journalist.

Upon going into my senior year, I took all the journalism classes in high school I could. I was late to the party on most, being that many were designed to be taken as a freshman so you could write for the school paper by your senior year. So, I didn’t get to do that. But every class assignment I wrote was car related some how.

I wasn’t keen on going to college but my parents wanted me to, so I went. I was accepted into Regent University, the first and only college I applied for. They didn’t have a journalism program for undergrad when I arrived, but by my sophomore year a bachelors journalism program was created and I immediately declared that my major. All throughout college I wrote about cars for every assignment that was students choice to write about. The school had no newspaper, and was pioneering the digital media segment. I wasn’t on any of those teams or classes, so there was not a lot of potential from my school to really get a solid foundation towards a career in journalism.

Even though the internet was becoming a large source for up to date automotive content, automotive magazines were some of my favorite things to get information from. It was also a lot of fun to get things in the mail. Plus they could be had for so cheap, that even as a college kid, I could afford them. Automobile, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and Hot Rod, showed up on my doorstep faithfully every month. Flipping through the pages, seeing the wonderful images of cars in hand, smelling the paper that was freshly printed, it was wonderful.

Sadly, I never took the necessary steps to get into the automotive community. My passion was still primarily a dream. I didn’t own a cool car, I never applied for internships (the economy was really sucky from 07-11 while I was in college), and sadly, I didn’t utilize the internet to my advantage. I blame myself for a lot of missed opportunities and not working hard enough to become an automotive journalist. I never really believed in myself to achieve my dream.

Regardless of what happened in the past, automotive literature has kept my spark alive. I was able to write for Barn Finds for a while, which was an awesome opportunity. Now, I am taking my automotive passion and actually applying myself. These blogs will hopefully keep coming. I appreciate all of you who read them.

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.

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.

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