By on January 11, 2013

Our NAIAS preview post revealed a common theme of dissatisfaction with the slow-striptease style of product reveals, where manufacturers “leak” teaser shots ad nauseam in the run-up to a product launch. It seems the readers are tired of it, and frankly, I am too. So what’s to be done about it?

Reader Jaydez summed up the collective discontent occurring among enthusiasts with respect to the slow reveal

Unfortunately with all the advance attention that all new cars get between “leaks” spy shots, and guesses, nothing is a surprise when it is revealed with smoke and fireworks on a stage. I’m bored with it all. I wish at least one company would use the Apple model for revealing new products. Don’t release ANY information and make sure your employees abide by that too. Reveal it on stage at a big event, like the NAIAS, and follow it with, “you can build it online tonight. Order it at your dealer tomorrow. Production is already underway and deliveries will begin in 2 weeks.

THAT would be worth tuning in for. Until then I will just look at the pictures with the same unenthusiastic manner I have been in the last few years.

 

I for one, would welcome a return to the days when a new product launch was a big event. You had to wait for one of the buff books to do a feature on it, or perhaps log on to a poorly laid out car site to see a grainy digital image of the car. The real OGs no doubt remember one crappy snapshot appearing in the local paper’s Auto section.

But the current system of annoying teasers is here to stay. The key thing to recognize with this problem is that the slow reveal benefits two parties; the OEMs, who get “exposure” for the “brand” and most importantly, auto bloggers. I wrote a brief rant about this in February, but the point remains the same

It’s a symbiotic relationship between the OEM and the media that’s unlikely to change, given the dysfunctional economics of blogging, that rewards speed, sensationalism and superficial content (which generate clicks) over the kind of slow, measured, in-depth work that the foundations of real in-depth journalism are built on. The kind of content that takes time and money to produce, bores many readers because it’s over 800 words long and often gets displaced in the article hierarchy because a new Toyonda Camcord Juicy Couture Special Edition was released and if we’re not first at re-hashing the press release and stock photos, we’ll be rendered irrelevant.

Jaydez’s formula for a highly secretive launch with no leaks could very well lead to the same kind of frenzied hype – perhaps intensified due to the lack of information available. The less reputable blogs could even resort to the same sort of conjecture and rumors that tech blogs fall back on in the run-up to an Apple launch. It’s not like they don’t already publish erroneous and incorrect automotive info anyways. Unfortunately, it’s unlike that any of the OEMs will take the first step, since the current formula seems to be “working”.

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21 Comments on “Time For The “Apple-Style” Product Launch?...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    Hey, at least we have the totally secret Lincoln MKC to look forward to.

  • avatar
    prndlol

    Ask anyone who added the Ford Explorer page to their Facebook newsfeed a few years ago, it was EXCRUCIATING. By the time the launch date itself was near I clicked on the peekaboo photos more for the entertaining rude posts people would make against Ford products in general, as opposed to finally piecing together all the cryptic pics and finally figure out what the hell the new model looked like already.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    Are you saying that there isn’t any hype for the 2014 Corvette reveal, despite months of teaser videos and info on the engine?

    Because if so, well, I don’t know what to tell you. All the regular car guys I know are pumped-up for the Sunday reveal.

    The slow reveal works, but I would argue that the Apple model is losing its appeal. Look at the almost universal disappointment with the iPhone 5.

    Sure, people still bought them in droves, but you could almost hear the collective groan when Apple announced new connectors and a taller phone. People who a week earlier had bought a product for their iPhone 4 thinking they could use it on the 5 were left feeling dicked over.

    The only way automakers should try to emulate Apple is direct sales to customers, and cutting out dealers entirely. But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      Agreed. Also I don’t think you can directly compare Apple’s model to the auto industry. In North America, the Apple brand is almost revered by an overwhelming majority of the market. Although an argument can be made of reverence to any individual auto company, no one company controls the majority of the market. There are a few really big players, but even they constantly look over each others shoulders and play copycat from time to time.

  • avatar
    Viceroy_Fizzlebottom

    I don’t think it is so much the teaser shots and such, it’s the cars that are being used in the teasing shot. No one cares about a minivan, SUV, or generic Mid-size sedan teaser. Exotic cars, I can understand that. But a midsize family sedan, no thanks. Those type of cars are not exciting, never have been exciting, nor will they ever be exciting.

  • avatar
    BrianL

    I don’t see why you hate this so much. So many car sites give camouflaged pictures of the car, this seems to be something that people who really want to know about what is coming out would like to see.

    Funny how the youngest journalist on this site wants to go back to the day of poorly laid out car sites and buff books.

    Times have advanced. If you want this stuff to go away, the best thing to do is ignore it, instead of giving press to the companies who do it when they do it.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Apple has a large cult of customers that will eagerly by the latest version on the day that it comes out. They are excited by a fresh launch, and they aren’t cross shopping other brands.

    Auto manufacturers are not in Apple’s position. Automakers have long product cycles — once a car is out, it is going to be at least 4-5 years before it is replaced, which makes the failure of any higher-volume model quite costly. Most consumers aren’t hanging at the edge of their seats to learn about their products, so the producers need to bombard the media with information in order to get as much publicity as possible.

    They also need to deal with a fairly large percentage of buyers who at least vaguely plan their purchases some months ahead of time. They announce cars ahead of time in an effort to end up on some of those shopping lists. And even despite that effort, most consumers still won’t be aware of it until after the fact.

    These launches may seem overexposed to enthusiasts, because they go to multiple sources for information. But most people don’t seek out that information so actively, so they aren’t overexposed to them.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’d prefer the Apple approach.

    All the hype usually results in a letdown. The 2014 GM trucks have only received mixed reviews. The Dart R/T – GT remains unavailable despite a full year of hype.

    The best recent one is the short notice received for the 2013 Civic re-do. There just wasn’t much time to spin it.

  • avatar
    d524zoom-zoom

    I don’t think an Apple type of reveal would work nowadays in the auto industry. The manufacturer would have to have an apple type of following with the public and only one or two competitors, like the Android peeps vs. the Apple peeps. It just would not fly IMHO.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Yep, get over yourselves car makers. Just leave one at a bar and let people play with it.

    You get free press, and it saves trouble for everyone.

  • avatar

    In the 1950s and 1960s, when new cars were generally revealed for the first time when they showed up at the dealers, the dealers made a real big deal about it, soaping or papering up windows to hide the new models from the general public until the official release date. Sure it was theater, but it was theater that got people to the showrooms. While we don’t have the same frequency of styling changes as there was 50 years ago, it could still work.

    Which would sell more Chevys, the invitation only reveal of the C7 Corvette on the night before the NAIAS media preview, or a nationwide reveal at Chevy dealers?

    • 0 avatar
      harshciygar

      Half a dozen of one, six of another.

      The people who are going to buy a Corvette are going to buy one regardless of how it is released. The teasers aren’t just about potential buyers; it is about the brand, the enthusiast, the person who doesn’t own a Corvette but one day desperately wants to.

      The kind of person like me, who can rattle off everything about the LT1 engine that GM has already released, but couldn’t afford or justify a Corvette purchase as a middle-class kid who just bought a house.

      What I CAN afford is Corvette Racing gear. What I CAN afford is a Chevy Sonic (which I am starting to think had one of the best ad campaigns of any car in years; I have friends who hate Chevy but know about the Sonic cuz they did a friggin’ kickflip with it).

      So Chevy gets me to look at teaser shots, to go check out their website months ahead of the actual reveal. And I keep coming back because they keep releasing new content. One day while I am there I start playing around with the Sonic configurator too because there is a car I can afford and…hey, is that a turbo engine? Wow, look at that dashboard, that’s so cool. And it sort of looks like a coupe thanks to those cool rear doors…

      But if I went to a Chevy dealership for a Corvette reveal like you’re talking about, which I might…well, I probably wouldn’t stick around for long after getting a peek and a few pictures. I came, I saw, and now I’m out, none the wiser to the Sonic. Sure, there is a chance I might talk to someone about the Sonic, but since I only came for the Corvette reveal that one time, what are the chances I am going to keep coming back?

      The more times I go to the Chevy Facebook page, the Chevy website, or read about Chevy on some blog or another, the more chances there are I’ll buy a Chevy. But a one-time, over-the-top reveal is just that; a one-time gimmick. You get that one chance to get me in the dealership and sell me the car.

      But I guarantee most people would just be gawkers like me; it isn’t that I don’t WANT a Corvette; I just can’t afford one, so don’t waste your time talking to me Mr. Salesman.

    • 0 avatar
      ZekeToronto

      I remember that quite fondly Ronnie. At least in Canada, the old school new model dealer intros continued well into the 70s. As a kid I was in charge of papering over the showroom windows at my dad’s GM store … and even in our small town it was customary for several hundred people to show up for reveal night (if only to find out how stylistically obsolete their recently-purchased new car now was). Also, the small cadre of new car dealers in our town were pretty chummy and it was normal for the dealers themselves to visit their competitors after the reveals to test drive each other’s new models.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Sigh. No one mentioned why this model is used, so here’s why. Reveals like this drum up buzz, good and bad. The companies that do it don’t care because in this day and age, any publicity is good publicity. So even when you whine and moan about these slow reveals, and take to the Internet to do so, it STILL provides free word of mouth advertising.

    If you completely ignored a slow reveal and it didn’t have any Facebook comments or likes, they’d stop this crap. However, consumers in mass aren’t that smart.

  • avatar
    jaydez

    Hmmmm. Kinda happy that my comment was noticed and many people feel the same way. I still think that slow reveals are stupid and should be done away with. The thing that bugs me the most about car shows thought, is the fact that a new model is revealed and it’s not available to order/drive/sit in/ or build online for 6 months to a freaking year after is rolls across the stage. How long have we waited for cars like the Focus ST and Fiesta ST to appear on dealer lots? The Focus was almost a year, the Fiesta we are still waiting on. Same thing with ordinary cars. I would love to go check out a Transit Connect Wagon for my family but I can’t.

    By the time the vehicle actually hits the ground the buzz is GONE! No one cares at that point because the next OEM has already revealed something sleeker, faster, and more desirable that again, wont be available to purchase for a year. If the manufacturers would have a supply ready to go within a week or 2 of the reveal, I think they would have a HUGE initial sale of the vehicles.

  • avatar
    TW4

    I also believe that death-by-tease is here to stay, but the branding exposure is just a symptom of another microeconomic force.

    Vehicles are big-ticket purchases, which cost about one year of labor at after-tax median household income. Cell phones and electronic devices are much cheaper as a proportion of income and consumers replace electronic devices more frequently. Technology manufacturers are not required to tease potential customers as a means of delaying their purchasing habits until a new product arrives. Automobile manufacturers are not as fortunate. The major auto manufacturers believe they must use buzz, hype, and constant media stimulation to manipulate consumer behavior b/c new car purchases are an increasingly rare opportunity.

    Until automobiles are purchased with the same frequency as cell phones, or until the manufacturers find a better marketing model for holding consumers attention, we will be teased to death.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Strip-teasing a cars release dates back to the 1950′s, and if it gets readersbloggers to go crazy I’m afraid that its here to stay.

    I don’t care for it myself, but I also never cared for Apples big events for releasing their latest slave-crafted planned obsolescence junk.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    None of this is going to change, the car companies couldn’t do it if they wanted to.

    1. You can’t road test cars in secret. You can’t do it indoors.
    2. Car People want to know about upcoming models. Someone’s going to pay something for the spy shots.
    3. The Internet. You can’t keep secrets anymore. Heck, ask Apple. At least you’re not going to get people leaving 2014 Corvettes at a bar.

    You just can’t control information prior to release like you used to. Imagine a dealership papering up its windows these days. All well and good, unless one of your employees has a camera phone. I mean, if it weren’t for the fact that every car dealership employee has the highest of moral scruples and is fully pleased with, satisfied by and obedient to the company they work for.

    So car companies can either ignore the fact that all this information is going to leak out and ruin their reveal anyway, or they can try to guide and tweak it by handing out teasers here, exclusives there, maybe some NDAs for the big boys, but not so strict they end up getting scooped by the little guys with no NDA.

  • avatar
    ckb

    Your 1. (Edit: meant to be a response to Jellodyne’s post) was my first thought too. A smartphone is much easier to conceal in public than a car is (mistakes like the bar incident notwithstanding). Even though both products need to be tested “in the wild” extensively before release, its a fundamentally different problem. A prototype phone in a case looks like any other phone in a case but when they put stuff on a new car and call it camouflage, they make it a rolling oxymoron. But that doesn’t mean OEMs can’t pull back on all the “teaser” shots…


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