Last week, Ford’s Global VP of Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley, told a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that Ford has access to data on its customers’ driving habits via the GPS system installed in their cars. “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone,” he said. The next day Mr. Farley adjusted his statement to avoid giving the wrong impression saying that the statement was hypothetical and that Ford does not routinely collect information on, or otherwise track, drivers through their GPS systems without those drivers’ consent and approval. That approval comes from turning on and opting into specific services like 911 Assist and something called Sync Services Directions, a system that links the GPS system to users’ cellular phones. So that’s that, right? Read More >
Long before Knight Rider’s KITT, back in the mid 1960s there was a television show about a car that talked. I’m not sure just how they pitched the idea to the network, my guess is that it had something to do with the popularity of the Mister Ed show. If a horse could talk, why not a car? Anyhow, the 1965 show was called My Mother The Car and it’s generally acknowledged to be one of the worst tv sitcoms ever. Some feel it may even be the worst television show, comedy or drama, ever, though it managed to last a full season, 30 episodes. The show starred Jerry Van Dyke whose character discovers, while shopping for a used car, that his late mother, played by Ann Sothern’s voice over the car radio, has been reincarnated as a 1928 Porter. Don’t bother doing a search, there was no 1928 Porter, unlike Jack Benny’s Maxwell. Though there has been a couple of car companies named Porter, Mother, the car, was fictional, created just for the tv show, said to be named after the show’s production manager. Read More >
Today, my wacky morning DJ, right after he said democracy was a joke and called me “dude,” hit us with this fun fact: 39% of young people choose the same brand of car their parents drove. I’m not sure if that is impressive as the previous day’s fact, that 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually in the United States, but it made me think about my father’s preference in vehicles and whether or not I had followed suit. Despite the fact that my old man had pretty good taste in cars, the answer, oddly enough, is “no.” Read More >
By now everyone with an interest in any kind of motorsports has had a chance to view the terrifying video of an innocent New York City family surrounded and then attacked by a gang of motorcycle riding thugs. Every one of us has placed ourselves behind the wheel of that Range Rover, our wife beside us, our infant daughter in the back seat and thought about what we would have done had we been the head of that family under siege. What happened there is an unconscionable act of mob violence. It was precipitated by the stupid actions of a single motorcyclist and made worse by the general attitude among riders that it is “them or us” out there. Read More >
Late last night, a friend of mine posted the above video on my wall. At 2:15, CNet CarTech’s Brian Cooley demonstrates how the big Chrysler can read one’s text messages aloud. The example used may fly under the radar of most people, but anybody who has ever listened to rap music, or dealt massive quantities of cocaine, will pick up on it immediately.
Time was, the only time you could see cool cars on TV, outside of reruns of the Rockford Files and Starsky and Hutch, was on Saturday Mornings on The Nashville Network. Those programs, aimed at shade tree mechanics and the average do-it-yourselfer, were about as interesting as a high school auto shop class’ instructional videos. Things have definitely changed and today, thanks to hundreds of cable channels and the advent of Reality TV, car related programming is easy to find. The problem is that Reality TV is character driven and you have to endure colorful personalities in order to see the cars.
Sweet, sweet publicity. Although I am loathe to admit it, I am a sucker for a slick ad campaign. Those catchy jingles, perfectly posed photos, and quick camera cuts work their way into my psyche and demand that I throw down my hard earned cash for something I may not need, but God how I want it! Done right, an ad campaign can have a lasting effect on me – I’m not sure if Bertel is to blame, but does anyone else remember when Volkswagen used Elvis Presley’s “Devil In Disguise” to promote their GTI? I sure do- too bad I can’t find it on you tube! So let’s talk car ads – here are some of the greatest car ads of all time:
They say that you don’t regret the things you do as much as you regret the things don’t do. I hope the auto manufacturers are listening, because when I look at so many of the fantastic looking four door sedans on the market today, I feel a sense of regret for what they aren’t doing, namely making two door coupes. I know there are financial considerations, probably tens of millions of dollars worth, at work behind the scenes. I understand, too, that there are likely to be engineering challenges and any number of other issues that a simple layman like myself can never really understand, but the fact that there are no really cool coupe versions of today’s hot sedans gnaws at me.
Thank God for artists like Casey Shain, a man of considerable talent who, like many of us, believes that today’s cars can be better. Read More >
If you have a spare four minutes and four seconds (plus time for the commercial) take the time to check out the following discussion over at Bloomberg.com. As a layman, I find these kind of discussions very interesting and would like to hear the best and the brightest, many of whom I know to be connected with auto industry, give a little perspective to what seems to me to be a very shallow look on the subject of modern car design.
We have a new car show season. With it come new car releases, and with them comes a contagion that is as tiring and headache-inducing as a Cobo Hall flu on top of an after party hangover. The disease goes by the name of embargo, and it comes with the embargo breach as a secondary infection.
In case you have studied Pol.Sci. instead of HTML, you might be thinking that we are talking about real embargoes, such as those of Iran or Cuba. We don’t. In our biz, an embargo is when an OEM sends a blog a picture or a story, and then asks not to “print” it until later. If you think that the outcome is both predictable and inevitable, then you are absolutely correct. We could put the matter right to sleep without wasting (ha!) precious HTML column inches, would the new car season not also be marked by an excited chattering, twittering, OMG+1000ering over busted embargoes in what goes as the automotive media these days.
So let’s do what we rarely do, let’s talk about embargoes.
“Do you want to accompany? or go on ahead? or go off alone? … One must know what one wants and that one wants”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols
This week’s news that GM would stop production of the Chevrolet Volt for the third time in its brief lifespan came roaring out of the proverbial blind spot. Having watched the Volt’s progress closely from gestation through each month’s sales results, it was no secret to me that the Volt was seriously underperforming to expectations. But in the current media environment, anything that happens three times is a trend, and the latest shutdown (and, even more ominously, the accompanying layoffs) was unmistakeable. Not since succumbing to government-organized bankruptcy and bailout has GM so publicly cried “uncle” to the forces of the market, and I genuinely expected The General to continue to signal optimism for the Volt’s long-term prospects. After all, sales in February were up dramatically, finally breaking the 1,000 unit per month barrier. With gasoline prices on the march, this latest shutdown was far from inevitable.
And yet, here we are. Now that GM is undeniably signaling that the Volt is a Corvette-style halo car, with similar production and sales levels, my long-standing skepticism about the Volt’s chances seems to be validated. But in the years since GM announced its intention to build the Volt, this singular car has become woven into the history and yes, the mythology of the bailout era. Now, at the apparent end of its mass-market ambitions, I am struck not with a sense of schadenfreude, but of bewilderment. If the five year voyage of Volt hype is over, we have a lot of baggage to unpack.
As a “glass-half-empty” kind of guy, I would need a minute to think about the most fascinating story I’ve ever written, but could easily tell you about the most infuriating. That dubious honor goes to the Facebook launch campaign for the 2012 Ford Explorer.
I was originally hesitant to jump on the Tesla Roadster “bricked batteries” bandwagon, and my initial story was written with a sort of cautious neutrality. Further context will be provided by the details that have surfaced in the 24 hours since the story broke. Hope you’re ready to dive in to it all.