Omnicom Group Inc.’s BBDO is Chrysler’s ad agency. At least for now. The Wall Street Journal reports the ailing automaker “has grown dissatisfied with the agency’s creative output.” The semi-nationalized automaker’s looking elsewhere for someone who wants to take on the sisyphean task of convincing Americans they need to buy cars from a bankrupt automaker with stale inventory that’s owned by another automaker with the one of the worst reliability ratings on the globe. Of course, marketing being what it is, all that’s needed is a catchy slogan akin to Toyota’s “What a feeling,” VW’s “Think small,” or Chevy’s “Like a rock,” right? That’s where you come in. What slogan or catch phrase would convince you to buy a Chrysler product? “Most smartly different?” Or what?
Posts By: Frank Williams
Move over corn. There’s a new sheriff in Ethanol City and his name is Watermelon. Every year, famers leave about 800 million pounds of watermelons to rot; the fabled orbs simply weren’t perfect enough for persnickety melon buyers. According to Automotive Fleet, USDA scientists in Lane, Oklahoma are converting melon juice from the abandoned fruit into ethanol. Researchers have determined that a 20-pound watermelon can yield about 1.4 pounds of sugar, which can be converted into ethanol more easily than corn. Allegedly. Common Sense Agriculture, a small biofuels company in College Station, Texas, is developing an in-field, watermelon-to-ethanol conversion machine for next season. They don’t say how much ethanol the equipment will have to produce to offset the fuel used to get to the melons, make the conversion and transport the liquid back to base. Here’s hoping this doesn’t lead to any watermelon riots, as Fourth of July and Labor Day picnickers protest a shortage of their fruit of choice.
The Mazda3’s performance has always kept it a step ahead of the other economy cars on the market. However, as Mazda’s worked to differentiate their econobox from cookie-cutter Cobalts, Corollas and Civics visually, they’ve tweaked it from “different” to “borderline bizarre.” They say, “beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bones.” Has Mazda gone too far, or is the 2010 Mazda3s Sport still good enough underneath to make you overlook its sheet metal shortcomings?
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers’ Senior Director of Communications has informed TTAC via email that the CARS (AKA “Cash for Clunkers”) program has NOT been suspended. “All deals concluded before a suspension is announced (if that happens) will be honored,” promises Charles Territo. We’ve also heard that the President is urging Americans NOT to not buy a new car (i.e., go ahead and buy a car) under the program over the weekend.
Rear view cameras are becoming commonplace on SUVs, CUVs and luxury cars. But only as part of very expensive option packages. If you prefer spending your money on things like groceries and house payments, or have an older vehicle, you’re pretty much out of luck. But not entirely. Peak (yes, the antifreeze people) offer the Peak Wireless Back-up Camera System. To see if it passes muster, I installed one on my 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe.
While Ford and GM consider building their mid- and full-size cars on a single platform, Toyota and Nissan are already doing it. The Avalon has been based on the Camry platform since its inception and now Nissan is giving us an Altima-based Maxima. The key to pulling this trick off successfully is differentiating the resultant cars visually and dynamically, and preferably aiming them at different market segments. Did Nissan succeed at this mission, or did they just give us an Altimus Maximus?
The House Appropriations Committee has passed a provision in the 2010 financial services spending bill that would require GM and Chrysler to work through state courts—instead of the federal bankruptcy court—to terminate dealerships. Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, sponsored the amendment. Ignoring the fact that federal bankruptcy law trumps state bankruptcy law, LaTourette explained, “Car companies have used bankruptcy to run roughshod over state bankruptcy laws.” In reporting this, Automotive News made what has to be the understatement of the month, if not of the year: “GM opposes the House bill.” Ya think???
TTAC’s Lutzies are safe. When Bob Lutz announced his retirement from GM at the end of this year, automotive journalists openly wept at the prospect of losing an never-ending supply of quotes and sound bites. But now we can rejoice. He’s back. Automotive News reports that Maximum Bob has decided to “extend his career as vice chairman in charge of all ‘creative elements of products and customer relationships.’” What that means isn’t exactly clear but he’s supposed to work with design chief Ed Welburn “to guide all creative aspects of design.” The chiefs of all of GM’s brands, plus all corporate mouthpieces will report to Lutz, who in turn will report directly to CEO-for-now Fritz Henderson.
Once upon a time, way back in 1959, a company called Datsun imported a funny-looking pickup truck with a small bed and tiny engine, giving birth to the compact pickup market in the U.S. After a slow start, the market grew, as did the competition. The 70’s brought onslaughts from Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and even VW. After the dust settled, the small truck market in the U.S. belongs basically to the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevy/GMC Colorado/Canyon (for now, anyway) and Nissan Forester—the direct descendant of the Datsun that started it all. Fifty years later, what hath Nissan wrought?
First, engine sludge in the Camry. Then, rusty frame rails on the Tacoma. Advertising Age (of all people) reveals the latest problem to tarnish Toyota’s solid gold quality image: the Prius’ HID headlights. A number of owners of Toyota’s green machine weren’t well pleased happy their high intensity headlights died after a few years. No surprise there; replacing them runs up a $1000+ parts and labor bill. Owners claim HID death is a “a dangerous but undisclosed safety defect” and that Toyota has “long been aware of Prius’ HID headlight problem” and is “concealing the problems from owners.”
Will they or won’t they? First, the factory. GM’s announced they’re bailing on NUMMI. Bloomberg says Toyota may be considering the same thing. Once GM turns its door keys over to Toyota, the Fremont, California, plant becomes Toyota’s highest-cost factory and the only one manned by UAW workers. With other US plants’ excess capacity (including a mothballed Mississippi manufacturing facility) and lower operating costs, ToMoCo may well pull the plug on NUMMI. Problem: PR. Shutting down a plant in economically-challenged California (Toyota’s biggest market) and putting another 5K people out of work wouldn’t endear the Japanese automaker to the public or their politicians. (GM, of course, would get none of the blame.) Now about that GM – Toyota Synergy Drive deal . . .
Aston Martin is thinking small. In what has to be the ne plus ultra in brand dilution, they will offer the “Cygnet” in 2010. And what, you ask, is a Cygnet? It’s a rebadged Toyota iQ. No, I really didn’t make that up. According to Bloomberg, James Bond’s favorite autobuilder will sell a “luxury commuter” based on Toyota’s three-seater one-liter city car. It’ll be built in Japan and sell (somewhere) for a yet-undisclosed price. Let’s just hope the Cygnet doesn’t mark Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd.’s swan song.