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?

Is the Ford Bronco Back Yet?

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A few of the diecast Broncos in my ownership have seen better days. The same could be said for the yet to be debuted new Bronco.

With this week seeming to be Ford week on my blog, I want to cover the topic of the Ford Bronco. This vehicle is legendary in name and has been anticipated for years. But will uncontrollable circumstances cause us all to wait even longer? Hopefully not.

While the truck and SUV market is heating up, especially for older, iconic versions of those vehicles, the Bronco nameplate is one of the leading vehicles in that segment. Since Ford is putting all of their manufacturing into those types of vehicles, it is no surprise that they are bringing back the Bronco.

They have rumored this for a long time now, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 years ago. I can understand how long it takes to produce a good product, which I’m sure Ford will make when the next, new generation Bronco is finally revealed, but I won’t lie. It really deflates anticipation and excitement for it when we have seen concepts and rumors for 6 years.

According to Ford, their timeline was to finally show the public the kicking pony in the spring of 2020. They have a website dedicated to this here. Of course now that the time has come, a worldwide pandemic just had to come about which could potentially ruin everything. I know Ford does not want another botched product release like the Explorer and they have put personnel in place to prevent that. Sadly, they couldn’t predict a global catastrophe that would ruin their long in the tooth official debut. Will they go through with the global launch? Only time will tell, but spring is over at 11:59 PM Friday, June 19, 2020. The clock is ticking.

 

Ford for all the Marbles

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Last year Ford announced they would no longer be producing compact, small, mid-size, and large cars. They were changing their long term plan to only produce cross over, SUVs, and pickup trucks. Not long after that announcement, the electric Mach E Mustang was introduced, and that vehicle seems to be the kick off of a new large vehicle line up.

But, this plan might be in serious peril before it even gets started. Let’s break down a few elements that might make Ford’s plan very challenging. Many of these things can change quickly though, as they all are very recent themselves in some regard, so this is my opinion and speculation.

First, the world wide COVID-19 pandemic is absolutely destroying the global economy. Auto manufacturers are taking a beating and sales are almost non existent. With people out of work, it makes it hard to entice people to buy a shiny new expensive pickup truck.

Second, the factory that supplies parts for Ford, Ram, and Toyota trucks was recently damaged by a tornado. While this will hurt Ram and Toyota as well, it made most headlines as interrupting Ford’s production. Since Ford’s entire lineup is mostly large trucks and SUVs and the parts supplier that provides the transmissions for those vehicles is damaged, all the eggs are in one basket and about to break.

Third, oil prices are deep in the red in trading value. While that is great for consumers because prices at the pump are very low, this unfortunately isn’t the time to take advantage of it. A thirsty F-150 can be filled for cheap at the moment, but with all shelter in place guidelines and people out of work, it is unlikely that people are going to be wanting a vehicle that is expensive to fill up in the future.

Fourth; very recently Ford announced that they are wanting to achieve 10 percent profit margins, even through this current circumstances. They have placed Lisa Drake in charge to accomplish that goal. She was in charge of the 2004 launch of the 11th generation F-150. That particular skill is what they are desiring her to perform on because she is also tasked her with increasing awareness of new products being launched, something Ford has struggled with for the past few years. Most notable the newest Ford Explorer botched release.

The next blog will be about the fifth and final blow to the Ford fiasco that is brewing. But with all the issues mentioned above, Ford has put all their chips on the table. SUV’s and trucks that with gas prices low but a worldwide pandemic not facilitating using those vehicles, a damaged factory, and the need to produce and profit within all of these circumstances, it is going to be a tough year for the automotive industry in general but I think Ford will really be feeling a pinch. Although Ford has weathered a lot over the years, so I should stop being so negative. The American spirit will prevail.

 

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.

The Lamborghini Lament

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When Lamborghini first rumored they were going to be building a new SUV, I was super excited. I remembered the first one they made, the LM002, and what an outlandish, absurd, and over the top vehicle it was. It was a brutish vehicle that looked like it was in the military reserves one weekend a month, two weeks out of the year. It then would practice law by day, and shuffle the family from horse riding lessons and ballet at night. It was amazing. At least, it has become that iconic to me. I have never driven it but, I guess, I just have this perception, this expectation of what it is.

So when they released the Urus, I was a bit taken aback. That was not the SUV I was envisioning. Now, I know it has not been tested yet. I know that when they conceived this vehicle, they did not know that Ford would be rumoring the return of the Bronco, or that Jeep would be rumoring the return of the Grand Wagoneer. All the big players in the off road game, like Hummer, Land Rover, Jeep, Mercedes G Class, Lexus, and the Ford Raptor should have been worried. The more luxurious ones and soon to be ones, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Maserati should have taken note. Instead, they made something that looks like “an urban mom” would drive, as my wife described.

Harken back farther than the 80s and you’ll remember that Lamborghini made tractors before it made sports cars. Yes, that’s right tractors. In fact, they still make tractors. With all those years of agricultural earth crawling and hauling knowledge, why could they not have applied that to a new SUV? They could have made it rugged, rambunctious, and ridiculous. They have all the right ingredients to make something fast, powerful, and luxurious. It would have been beyond capable, practically at home, off road, to outperform the competition in every conceivable way.

I really wanted the Lamborghini SUV to be a gorilla in a tuxedo. A big, bulky, but surprisingly good looking sight that you can’t take your eyes off of because it is just…bewildering. Its performance would be as obnoxious as expected, but with enough charm that you can’t blame it. These are all qualities that I think are in the lineage of the company and were expressed in the LM002.

Maybe I will put a poster up on my wall like many kids did back in the day with their dream cars. This time, the poster will just be filled with words. Words about a car, because it only exists in my dreams.