The Truth About Cars » Marketing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 04:59:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Marketing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/marketing/ Honda Pursues 70k Annual US Fit Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:30:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797498 2014-honda-jazz-2015-honda-fit-photo-gallery-medium_17

In 2008, Honda sold nearly 80,000 Fit subcompacts to the United States, and is preparing to move 70,000 annually from the lot to the driveways of America thanks to its new Celaya, Mexico plant.

Ward’s Auto reports the automaker had a difficult time hitting the milestone set in 2008 due to production constraints at home and fervent demand abroad. With the new plant, however, Honda will be able to make 200,000 Fits annually, as well as the Fit-based crossover set to begin production later this year.

As for who Honda expects will buy the 70,000+ Fits aimed for the U.S. market — aside from lifestyle bloggers — product planner Hiroaki Hamaya says the subcompact is already “capturing the highest household income and percentage of college grads.” Data from J.D. Power bears this out: Fit buyers hold an average income of $75,000 while 64 percent of them have graduated college. However, median age and percentage of buyers under 35 currently lag behind competitors such as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic.

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Chevrolet Offers Incentives, Extends Truck Month To Take Back Sales Crown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chevrolet-offers-incentives-extends-truck-month-to-take-back-sales-crown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chevrolet-offers-incentives-extends-truck-month-to-take-back-sales-crown/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:02:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788658 2014-Chevy-Silverado _12_

Though Ram knocked Chevrolet off the monthly sales throne for the first time since August 1999, the brand is ready to reclaim their part of Truck Mountain by offering incentives and extending their annual Truck Month into April.

Automotive News reports brand vice president Brian Sweeney threw down an additional $1,000 on the hoods of 2014 Silverado double-cabs in pursuit of “the heart of the pickup market.” Furthermore, Chevy’s second Truck Month boosts incentives offered last month, dropping a maximum discount of $8,974 into the bed of the Silverado 2500 HD crew cab or $8,162 for the light-duty double cab V8 model.

Lease offerings were also boosted for the reclamation battle, as one email from a Northeastern United States gave details for a regional lease agreement of $269 per month with $1,900 due upon signature; the Ram’s terms were $259 per month, but with a higher down payment of $2,999 upon signature.

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Gov. Perry Pushing For Direct Sales In Texas To Attract Gigafactory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gov-perry-pushing-for-direct-sales-in-texas-to-attract-gigafactory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gov-perry-pushing-for-direct-sales-in-texas-to-attract-gigafactory/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:09:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782065 Texas Governor Rick Perry circa January 2014

With the possibility of bringing Tesla’s Gigafactory — and its 6,500 jobs — to Texas, Governor Rick Perry is actively pushing for legislation which would do away with the direct-sales ban currently preventing the EV automaker from doing more than presenting their wares to local customers.

The Dallas Morning News reports Perry took his stance on the issue to FOX Business’ “Opening Bell” earlier this week, explaining that it was in the state’s “best interest” to revisit what he says some people would view as “antiquated protections” for Texas’ franchise dealership network:

The people of Texas will say, ‘We don’t need to be protected. We like to be able to negotiate straight away.’ I think it’s time for Texans to have an open conversation about this, the pros and the cons. I’m gonna think the pros of allowing this to happen outweigh the cons.

Currently, Tesla has two showrooms in Houston and Austin, with a third soon to arrive in Dallas. As of this writing, however, none of the trio can do more than provide visitors with information about Tesla’s lineup, prompting interested parties to complete their purchase online or in a state more favorable to direct sales.

The move to allow direct sales would add another incentive for Tesla to build their Gigafactory in Texas, which Perry proclaims would give his state a much-desired cachet. Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association president Lee Chapman, however, disagrees with the kind of incentive Perry wishes to use in luring Tesla:

The system we have was put into effect by the state to protect consumers and dealers. [Dealers are] always open to discussion, [but] at this point, we have not been given anything to discuss other than the right to sell cars here in exchange for a plant.

 

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Tesla Business Model Reconsidered In NJ, Talking Point In 2016 Presidential Election http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-business-model-reconsidered-in-nj-talking-point-in-2016-presidential-election/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-business-model-reconsidered-in-nj-talking-point-in-2016-presidential-election/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 13:30:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=781313 tesla-model-s-logo

Even though the door on Tesla’s direct sales model appeared to be closed in New Jersey, the Garden State is reconsidering its position just as the automaker’s way of doing business could find itself a major talking point in the 2016 run for the White House.

Automotive News reports that New Jersey Assemblyman Tim Eustace introduced a bill which would allow Tesla to continue selling its cars to the state’s consumers. The bill, which is the third in a series of actions related to the currently strained relationship between the two parties, comes on the heels of the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission’s decision to reinforce existing law banning direct sales by automakers, which would have unintended consequences for the local economy according to Eustace:

Because of this new rule, an interested buyer looking for more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicle options can go look and ask questions about an electric car in New Jersey, but will have to go to Pennsylvania or New York if he or she actually wants to buy the car. How does sending business to other states help New Jersey’s economy?

For their part, the New Jersey Coalition of Automobile Retailers, lobbying on behalf of the state’s franchise dealer network, stressed that while they have no intention of driving Tesla out of business, they only want Tesla to play by their long-established rulebook. Association president Jim Appleton is willing to work with the automaker to a point, however:

We hold as sacrosanct the franchise system. There is no resolution to this problem that allows Tesla to operate outside the franchise system forever. But we’re open to accommodations if Tesla can make the case that there’s a reason why they can’t.

Meanwhile, Tesla has a new ally in the form of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who, in his support for the business model, puts him in opposition of New Jersey governor Chris Christie in the run to represent the Republican base against the Democrat nominee during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Ford, King Ranch “Brownout” the Houston Rodeo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-king-ranch-add-extra-brown-to-the-houston-rodeo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-king-ranch-add-extra-brown-to-the-houston-rodeo/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 12:03:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=779481

Perhaps you haven’t lived in a flyover state where brown leather gear dominates your town during Rodeo season.  While the Ford+King Ranch press release celebrating the 15th Anniversary of those famous brown leather pickups reached the autoblogosphere, only a local writer with an internationally known knack for automotive snark both finds the sweet mochalicious lede and refuses to bury it in the dirt.

And what does that mean?  You gotta click to find out.

I’ve been blacklisted (brownlisted?) from Ford PR events as long as I remember, but I attended this shindig via the King Ranch side of the Ford+King Ranch love fest.  So I donned my cheap cowhide boots, my thrift store boot cut jeans and herded the Duratec Ranger’s 150-ish horses to the Rodeo…pardner.

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As the massive complex–housing the once amazing Astrodome—filled up, I noticed how this Rodeo’s grown in the last 10-20 years.  Ford’s booth hawked their latest wares much like any auto show, complete with a “media only” area for us bloggers, social media influencers and local autojournos. There was the new aluminum F-150, the new-ish Expedition and the current Super Duty…all in King Ranch guise, ‘natch.

And yes, the King Ranch is actually a famous Ranch, much like Bill Blass was a name on Lincolns attached to an actual person. They sold cowboy grade stuff nearby at their Saddle Shop at the Rodeo, too. But I digress…

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So what does a native Houstonian think of the aluminum cage’d F150? Pretty cool inside and out, as their design/engineering embodies continuous improvement, even if the rig is far too big for its own good. The doors close with less vault-like heft of the last-gen steel body, but it still feels great. And even the door card is all kinds of broughamy from the days of Ford LTDs with covered headlights and Ghia-clad Granadas.

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Now, even more than before, Ford’s take on the American Workhorse is the unquestioned Audi of Pickups.

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The new Expedition is a modest evolution, lacking the “WTF” face of the Tahoe’s buzz saw headlights. Its refined snout is a pleasurable throwback to the beard trimming grille of the UR-Fusion.

The hallmark all-wheel independent suspension and the massive fold flat 3rd row seat still bowl me over: shame on GM for not following suit.  But the interior feels distinctly cheap compared to the F-150. But every Ford product takes an R&D back seat to the almighty F-series, right? #pantherlove

 

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The Super Duty (ever present on the Rodeo’s dirt floor) has a new oil-burnin’ motor for 2015, but the stuff you can touch looks about the same.  The new-ish center stack loaded with SYNC looks functional enough, but again, the interior lacks the refinement of the F150.  Ditto the exterior.  But the King Ranch trimming in all three models drove home the fact that this is the brownest lineup in the car biz. Or at least the truck biz…and it’s been that way for 15 years now?

And, as a founding member of the Brown Car Appreciation Society on Facebook, a tail-wags-the-dog group that made brown as “important” as diesels and manual transmissions to auto journos and to the PR flacks that do anything to get their attention, it’s nice to believe our mission adds to the King Ranch’s reach. Because brown makes the King Ranch a cut above, even if the leather isn’t as buttery soft as before: hopefully the lack of tenderness means it’ll hold up better than older models.

Ford also had a brief presentation, after most guests Frank Bacon-ized themselves with free food/booze in the luxury suite.  Succumbing to the urge I felt in 2011 when buying my Ranger, I asked the Ford F-series rep why Dearborn talked me out of an F-150 by making it impossible to configure what I wanted: a regular cab, XLT, short bed, 4×4, limited slip differential with the 6.2L Hurricane-Boss V8.  You know, a Ford Tremor without the poseur trim, the tacky console and a half-ton of big block V8 instead of that funny soundin’ EcoBoost motor.

The rep went into some detail about the cost-benefit of offering everything under the sun (a fair point for any corporation, to some extent) and then threw me a bone:

“You definitely know what you want, maybe we can accommodate you in the future.”

So if the BOSS V8 ever shows up in some twisted FoMoCo homage to the GMC Syclone…well…YOU ARE WELCOME, SON. For now, enjoy these chocolatey photos showing a time when Ford, King Ranch and a lot of brown joined forces to impress rodeo-going pistonheads.

 

 

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Tesla Reader’s Digest Vol. 1: The Politics Of Dancing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-readers-digest-vol-1-the-politics-of-dancing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-readers-digest-vol-1-the-politics-of-dancing/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:19:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=779249 Tesla Roadster and Model S

In the first edition of the Tesla Reader’s Digest, Washington state makes nice with Tesla’s business model as Arizona ponders doing the same — while fighting three other states for the right to host Tesla’s Gigafactory, no less. Meanwhile, General Motors pens a letter to Ohio asking the state to force the EV automaker to play by the same rules as they already do, pricing of the Model S falls in Europe, and Edward Niedemeyer offers his view on how Tesla can topple the auto dealer monopoly.

The Detroit News ran our former EIC (originally published at Bloomberg View) a few inches to explain the situation Tesla faces with its revolutionary-for-the-United States model of doing business from the rent-seeking opposition found in the entrenched dealer franchise system. Though the automaker has already been locked out of Texas and New Jersey due to such opposition thus far, Niedermeyer offers that CEO Elon Musk has a few potential allies — including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, eBay, Costco and TrueCar — who could help him and the U.S auto industry as a whole bring about a future where all automakers can sell directly to customers.

Reuters and CNN Money report the states of Washington and Arizona are or soon will be signing legislation allowing Tesla to market directly to consumers; previously, the automaker’s sole Washington direct-sales efforts were in Seattle, whereas Arizona only allowed showrooms, pushing sales across the border to California.

The Washington legislation came as a result of campaigning from that state’s Tesla-owning constituents with help from a lobbyist, which will allow the automaker to expand into more cities while forcing every other automaker — upcoming or long-established — to sell through franchise dealerships, a situation advocates claim will need to be remedied when legislatures return to Olympia next January.

Arizona, however, is coming around to help improve the state’s chances in becoming the home of Musk’s grand energy project, the Tesla Gigafactory. Autoblog Green also reports Tucson has not only a suitable site for the 1,000-acre, 10 million-square-foot battery factory, but the tax incentives to lure 6,500 jobs away from Nevada, Texas and New Mexico.

As for the other three states, New Mexico is working on an economic package, while Nevada remains silent on their moves, and Texas has incentives galore in spite of banning direct-sales, the latter of which could hurt the state’s chances.

Speaking of direct-sale bans, Automotive News reports General Motors penned a letter to Ohio governor John Kasich over concerns his state could open the door to Tesla. GM’s senior vice president of global communications and public policy Selim Bingol explains his employer’s viewpoint:

We understand discussions are ongoing over legislation which could provide a broad exemption for a single manufacturer, Tesla Motors Inc., to circumvent long-established legal precedent on how new motor vehicles are marketed, sold and serviced in your state.

GM is not alone, as lobbyists representing the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association warned the state legislature last week that by allowing Tesla to sell directly to consumers, it would allow all automakers to do the same, casting the franchise model to the wind.

Finally, Tesla may be fighting a different battle in Europe. Inside EVs reports pricing of the Model S has dropped in Germany and Netherlands 6,700 euro and 4,000 euro respectively to 65,300 euro and 66,200 euro. Though Tesla cites currency appreciation against the dollar, low demand and lack of a sufficient Supercharger network may be to blame.

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Generation Why: How Citroen Is Disrupting The New Car Market By Selling Access, Not Ownership http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/generation-why-how-citroen-is-disrupting-the-new-car-market-by-selling-access-not-ownership/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/generation-why-how-citroen-is-disrupting-the-new-car-market-by-selling-access-not-ownership/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:36:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776977 citroen-c4-cactus-30

The new Citroen C4 Cactus is delivering on its promise to offer a C-Segment car for a B-Segment prices, with base versions starting at just under 14,000 euros – by comparison, its sibling, the C4 hatchback (which is more like a Volkswagen Golf, as opposed to the quirky, pseudo-crossover Cactus) starts at 18,850 euros. But the low price of the Cactus isn’t even the big story here. Instead, Citroen appears to be aping the mobile phone industry with two new innovative pricing plans for the Cactus.

According to Automotive News Europe, Citroen will offer two payment plans that are similar to a mobile phone contract. The first is a flat-rate that costs 199 euros per month for 36 months, which includes the payment on a base C4 Cactus, maintenance, insurance and a 45,000 kilometer mileage allowance. Flat-rate plans will also be offered on higher-spec models, with higher monthly payments, and will function similar to a lease. At the end of the term, consumers can walk away from the car, buy it outright or enter into a new lease.

But the more innovative option is the “pay-per-use” scheme being rolled out in select markets like the UK, Spain and Italy. Pay-per-use customers will pay a lower monthly fee than the flat rate, as well as a fee based on mileage – customers could hypothetically pay nothing if the car for the use of the car if it is not driven at all during the monthly payment period, though the basic monthly payment would be billed.

According to Citroen, this plan is intended to capture buyers who favor access to a car rather than owning it outright. Citroen CEO Frederic Banzet explains it in the context of a car sharing service, stating

“There is a portion of the population that is not willing to buy a car, but willing to buy the use of a car…we are proposing a way to only pay for the use of the car, while still having it at your disposal whenever you want it,” 

With Citroen’s plan, users can have their own dedicated form of transportation, while mitigating some of the costs of car ownership that make it unattractive for those who don’t drive often. While car sharing takes care of hassles like parking and fuel costs, the Citroen pay-per-use plan offers a way to have dedicated transportation with minimal financial hassles. By emphasizing access to a car rather than the prospect of being tied to the car via ownership, Citroen is tapping into the heart of a demographic that would like to drive a car and have one at their disposal, but is still understandably wary about the financial commitment that car ownership entails.

According to AN, factors like country-specific legislation, partnering with insurance firms and market demand will be roadblocks for a wider roll-out of pay-per-use contracts. While the first two factors are understandable roadblocks, the pay-per-use plan could become a very popular financing plan for a generation of consumers raised on mobile phones and apprehensive about the automobile.

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GM Recalls 1.55 Million More, Investigations, Fence-Mending Ongoing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-recalls-1-55-million-more-investigations-fence-mending-ongoing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-recalls-1-55-million-more-investigations-fence-mending-ongoing/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 14:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=774729 Saturn Outlook

As the recall of 1.76 million General Motors vehicles over a faulty ignition switch — a recall possibly prompted by a Georgia lawyer’s own dealings — continues to hammer away at the automaker’s “new” image, and with dealers doing all they can to mend fences between GM and its customers, three separate recalls have been issued to a total of 1.55 million vehicles.

Automotive News and Bloomberg report CEO Mary Barra asked GM executives to bring forward and give more attention to any products under review at a faster clip. The result? A recall affecting the following in the United States market:

  • 303,000 2009 – 2014 Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana full-size vans, whose instrument panels will be “reworked” to meet current crash standards meant to protect unbelted passengers
  • 63,900 2013 – 2014 Cadillac XTS sedans, whose brake boosters may suffer from corrosion issues, leading to overheating; two fires thus far have been linked to the defect
  • 1.18 million 2008 – 2013 Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia/Chevrolet Traverse/Saturn Outlook crossovers, whose wiring harnesses for the seat-mounted side airbags may be pinched, leading to non-deployment

Meanwhile, dealers are preparing for next month, when customers whose vehicles fall under the ignition switch recall will begin arriving to have the issue fixed. Though the repair will take around 30 minutes to complete, customers will be offered loaner cars if needed, as well as towing services and, should the customer wish to replace the car rather than the switch, a $500 discount toward a new car.

In turn, dealers will be at the front line of mending the fence between “New GM” and customers affected by the recall. Sam Slaughter, owner of Detroit-based Sellers Buick-GMC, says dealers will need to place the ignition repairs at the top of their service schedules, as well as lend a sympathetic ear to customers feeling burned by the automaker.

Meanwhile, Virginia-based Chevrolet-Cadillac dealer Jim Stutzman worries the recall, as transparent as it has been as of late, is throwing a spanner into the works:

It seems like every time we start to move forward, another shoe drops that puts us right back into that world view that says “These guys are total screw-ups. They just can’t operate like Honda or Toyota.” It’s a shame.

That said, the recall may have been delayed longer, and affected fewer customers, had not Georgia lawyer Lance Cooper — who had filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against GM on behalf of the family of Brooke Melton, whose 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt lost power due the faulty switch, ultimately leading to her death — pushed U.S. government regulators into looking closer into the issue via a letter issued shortly after the first recall of 800,000 vehicles.

In the lawsuit, Cooper procured more than 32,000 pages of similar lawsuits and other documents, as well as gathered depositions and assessments from several engineers and dealers regarding the switch. The lawsuit was settled last September two months before the suit’s trial date for an undisclosed amount, though a related suit — focused on Thornton Chevrolet and their failure to correct the problem that led to Melton’s death — could still go to trial.

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Crazy Ads & Car Stereos: How Earl “Madman” Muntz Changed Car (and American) Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/crazy-ads-car-stereos-how-earl-madman-muntz-changed-car-and-american-culture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/crazy-ads-car-stereos-how-earl-madman-muntz-changed-car-and-american-culture/#comments Sun, 16 Mar 2014 14:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=771162 IMG_0973

1950 Muntz Jet. Full gallery here.

When Chrysler touts its well-performing 8.4 inch UConnect touchscreen, somewhere Earl “Madman” Muntz smiles. When drivers use UConnect and other manufacturers’ infotainment systems  to play their favorite music Muntz’s smile broadens. You see it was Muntz who started the convention of measuring video screens diagonally in the early days of television. He was also an important pioneer when it came to automotive audio systems, inventing and selling the first affordable car stereo systems. Muntz could also be attributed with selling the first modern personal luxury car, or even the first American sports car (though Crosley buffs would demur). Not only did he influence the way people entertained themselves behind the wheel and at home, perhaps more importantly he influenced the way mass consumer goods, including cars, are manufactured and marketed.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Muntz was a serial entrepreneur who made and lost fortunes several times, coming up with timely ideas and riding them as long as he could. His first big success was selling used cars in southern California. Every loud, over the top television pitch for a car dealer can be traced back to the way Muntz promoted his used cars.

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Billboards went up all over the region saying, ”I wanna give ‘em away, but Mrs. Muntz won’t let me – SHE’S CRAZY!” and “I buy ‘em retail, sell ‘em wholesale – IT’S MORE FUN THAT WAY!”, featuring Muntz’s logo, a caricature of himself wearing a red union suit and a black Napoleon hat, and he flooded the airwaves with radio ads.

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His marketing persona may have been crazy, but in reality he was crazy like a fox. In 1947, he sold $76 million worth of cars and for a while he was the largest volume used car dealer in the world.

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An inveterate and flamboyant romantic, Muntz married seven times, and in between matrimonial relationships he also had a number of girlfriends, including comedienne Phyllis Diller. That seems somewhat ironic in light of the fact that all of his wives were beauties and Diller famously effected a homely comedic persona. A bit of a celebrity himself, Muntz hung out with comedians, singers and actors, in fact a number of celebrities invested in his businesses.

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Born in 1914, Earl Muntz didn’t have much in the way of a formal technical education, but he was a natural tinkerer, building his first radio receiver when he was just eight years old. In 1928, at the age of 14, he built one of the first car radios. Six years later, he started his own used car lot, having his mother sign all the legal documents since he was not yet a legal adult.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Seeking greater opportunities in the Golden State, in 1941 Muntz opened up a used car lot in Glendale with a second lot in downtown LA soon to follow. He met a young advertising genius named Mike Shore and told him to come up with whatever he thought would sell cars. The billboards blanketing southern California and as many as 170 radio commercials a day made Muntz a household name in LA. With much of American industry changed over to war production, there were no new cars being made after early 1942 so used cars were in high demand, particularly on the west coast. Muntz would buy used cars in the midwest and then pay servicemen who had to report for duty on bases in California $50 each to drive the cars cross country, making it possible to sell thousands of cars that way.

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A car enthusiast, Muntz loved to drive and frequently transported cars himself, taking Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, priding himself in the fact that he could do the run in 33 hours, faster than the Santa Fe Express train. In his later years, Muntz got alot of pleasure driving his customized Lincoln Continental which featured a tv set in the dashboard.

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Just like late night tv comedians today joke about commercials, guys like Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Red Skelton would tell “Madman” Muntz jokes on their radio shows. That only helped publicize Muntz’s car sales, and his car lot became a major tourist attraction, a spot on the Grey Line bus tours right along with Grauman’s Chinese and the big Hollywood sign.

Early Muntz television set

Early Muntz television set

With his personal interest in electronics and his business interest in advertising his used car lots, it was natural for Muntz to gravitate to television when the first commercial sets came on the market. In short time he not only would be advertising on television, he’d be advertising his own television sets. He bought a tv set from a major manufacturer, disassembled it to see how it worked and then put it back together, removing parts one at a time to make simpler circuits. At the time, major manufacturers like Zenith and RCA devoted considerable resources to getting better reception in fringe areas, designing more sophisticated horizontal and vertical hold circuits (I wonder how many of you under the age of 40 have ever had to adjust a television set’s controls?) and features like automatic gain control and fine tuning. Muntz realized that if he restricted his marketing to major urban areas where broadcast signals were strong, simpler, cheaper to build circuits would work just fine for those customers. Whereas the major manufacturers might put four IF circuits in their tv sets, Muntz TVs got by with just two. If more expensive sets used potentiometers to set tubes’ bias voltage, Muntz sets used fixed resistors. Cheaper to make, more expensive to fix, but customers seem to have been happy with the tradeoffs.

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It was Earl Muntz who first marketed video screens based on diagonal measurements. Comedian Jerry Colonna was both an endorser and investor for Muntz. Muntz liked to socialize with entertainers and use them to promote his products.

Muntz’s zeal to simplify production led to the term “Muntzing” and stories were told how even as an executive he’d carry a pair of insulated diagonal cutters in his pocket so he could start removing individual resistors and capacitors from prototype circuits his engineers were developing. He’d keep removing components until the signal would be lost and then he’d say, “I guess you have to leave that one in.”

Factory owned Muntz TV store in Miami, Florida

Factory owned Muntz TV store in Miami, Florida

As a result, Muntz was able to sell the first television set at a retail price below $100, selling them directly to consumers from factory owned stores to eliminate distributors’ mark ups. His $99.95 black and white tv set became one of the best selling consumer items in the United States. In addition to meeting that psychologically important price point, Muntz came up with the idea of advertising screen size measured diagonally, allowing him to cite a larger number for what was really the same size screen as competitors offered. Those competitors soon made Muntz’s math an industry standard. “Madman” ended up selling over $50 million worth of televisions in just a few years. Some said that he even coined the term “TV”, supposedly so skywriting planes he bought to promote his products could use the abbreviation. He even named a daughter Tee Vee Muntz. While the term undoubtedly predates Muntz’s use, he did popularize it, and like any good self-promoter he was happy with stories adhering to the Liberty Valance rule about legends.

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Like most car guys, Muntz had dreams of making his own cars. In the late 1940s, race car builder Frank Kurtis, whose roadsters’ success at the Indy 500 made him famous, designed and built about 20 aluminum bodied two seat sports cars powered by flathead Ford V8 engines. Kurtis also built a custom Buick that Muntz greatly admired. Kurtis didn’t have the resources to put the two seater into full production, so Muntz bought the manufacturing rights for $200,000 and renamed the car the Muntz Jet.

Earl Muntz and an early Muntz Jet convertible. In the foreground is the custom Buick Frank Kurtis built that inspired the Jet.

Earl Muntz and an early Muntz Jet convertible. In the foreground is the custom Buick Frank Kurtis built that inspired the Jet.

Predating the four seat “Square Bird” Thunderbird by seven years, Muntz had the wheelbase of Kurtis’ car stretched over a foot so he could add a back seat. The flathead Ford was replaced by Cadillac’s new high compression 331 cubic inch OHV V8 that put out 160 horsepower and the interior was made more luxurious, including the installation of a bar in the rear console. The Jet was not a car for shrinking violets. Muntz offered the car in a variety of loud colors and exotic skins including ostrich, alligator and leopard could be used on the interior. Even without exotic skins, one could argue that the Jet was the first modern personal luxury car. Part of the Jet’s image was as a performance car so instrumentation included a tachometer and a fuel pressure gauge. It’s thought that the safety features that Muntz added to the car, seat belts and a padded dash, were less to sell the car as safe, than they were hints that the Jet was dangerously fast. Kurtis’ simple, slab sided styling, though, was more or less retained. That simple styling has aged well, and while it’s of its time, the Jet doesn’t look quite as dated as its contemporaries. As manufactured, the Muntz Jet is an open car with a removable Carson style steel roof. Though it allowed for open air driving, the roof was very heavy and there was no place to store it in the car once removed so if it rained when you were driving without the roof, you got wet.

Frank Kurtis built about 20 two seat roadsters before Earl Muntz bought the manufacturing rights.

Frank Kurtis built about 20 two seat roadsters before Earl Muntz bought the manufacturing rights.

After building about 2 dozen Jets in Kurtis’ former facility in Glendale, Muntz moved assembly to a factory in Evanston, Illinois and made some significant changes. The easily damaged aluminum body was replaced with steel and the wheelbase was stretched another three inches, to 116″. Perhaps for supply reasons the modern Caddy engine was replaced with Lincoln’s version of the flathead V8, and Hydramatic transmissions were sourced from GM. The steel body was welded to a fully boxed perimeter chassis. The resulting structure was strong, but heavy, about 400 lbs heavier than the cars built in Glendale. In a later interview, Muntz said, “The thing was built like a tank. Had we continued, I think we’d have lightened it. If you ever had one in a demolition derby, it’d ruin everything.”

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Still, performance was pretty good for the era. Road & Track tested the Muntz Jet and reported a top speed of 108+ mph. Indy 500 winner Sam Hanks recorded a verified 128 mph on the salt flats at Bonneville in a Jet that was stock except for a belly pan that reduced drag.

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While Muntz’s investment was relatively minimal, $200K for the rights and about $75,000 for the tooling, the Jet turned out to be expensive to build, with a lot of handwork needed to fit and lead-in the body panels. Labor costs were about $2,000 a car, a significant sum in the early 1950s. The records were lost so it’s not known exactly how many Jets were made but Earl Muntz later estimated the total from both Glendale and Evansville was 394. About one third of those have been identified as still existing.

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As with his tv sets, Muntz didn’t use distributors or dealers but rather sold the Muntz Jet directly to customers, predating Tesla’s business model by 60 years. He advertised the Jet in upscale publications like the Wall Street Journal and had some success with celebrity customers, including Clark Gable, Clara Bow, Marilyn Monroe, Mario Lanza and Gloria DeHaven. While he sold every one he could make, in a *David Brown-like manner, Muntz lost about $1,000 on every Jet he sold, about what Ford lost on every Continental Mark II they built. Ford Motor Company, however, could afford those losses. A serial entrepreneur like Muntz couldn’t.

“They cost $6,500 apiece to build,” Muntz told an interviewer, “and at that price they wouldn’t sell. At $5,500, I couldn’t make enough of ‘em, but I couldn’t afford to keep it up. But as far as the car itself was concerned, we were very fortunate. We didn’t have too many problems.”

“Today the labor in that s.o.b. would run 20 grand! I lost $400,000 on that project before we closed it down in 1954,” Muntz said.

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Not only did Muntz lose money on his car venture, by the mid 1950s with color television about to hit the market and with major television set manufacturers selling more expensive console models, sales of the inexpensive black and white Muntz sets plunged. Once worth millions, Muntz’s stock in his television company was sold for just $200,000.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ever the tinkerer, through his connection to the radio industry, Muntz had become aware of the Fidelipac 3-track recording tape cartridges used by radio stations for commercials and jingles. The developers of Fidelipac had figured out a way to pull tape off the outside of a spool and then feed it back into the center of the spool, creating an endless loop. You couldn’t reverse and fast forward was iffy, but Muntz could put an entire Long Playing 33 RPM album on one cartridge. Adapting the design and adding a fourth track so it could play in stereo, in 1962 Muntz opened up the Muntz Stereo factory in Van Nuys, California, he made some licensing deals with record companies and started selling Stereo Pak prerecorded cartridges and players. In time Muntz licensed others to make 4 track players for both home and car applications. Stockholders in Muntz Stereo included Bill Cosby, Jerry Colonna, Sammy Davis, Jr., Robert Culp, Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra and Rudy Vallee.

The Stereo Pak was a huge hit. Customers lined up for blocks outside the Muntz factory store to get players installed in their cars. While today it’s cool to snark about eight track players in TransAms driven by guys with mullets wearing wifebeaters, in an era of $5,500 audiophile branded factory installed car stereo systems that indeed rival some very good home audio systems, it’s hard to imagine the impact tape cartridge players for cars had. For the first time the masses could have more than just an AM radio playing through one tinny sounding small speaker in the middle of the dashboard (musical trivia: Barry Gordy and the other producers at Motown’s Hitsville USA studio did their final mixes using a cheap car speaker as the monitor because that’s the way most people would end up hearing the music – oh and those late 1950s and early 1960s AM car radios used pretty sophisticated tube circuits and actually had good audio quality, even if they did take a mile or two to warm up and were played through crappy paper cone drivers).

It wasn’t just the sound quality. Perhaps even more important was the use of portable media – you could now play your choice of music in your car and not just what some disc jockey or Top 40 radio station program director chose. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but soon after tape cartridge players for cars started proliferating, so did so-called “freeform”, playlist-free FM radio stations. In addition to reflecting what was going on in the music industry in the 1960s, “underground FM” stations playing a broader variety of music, including longer cuts and extended jams may also have been the radio industry’s response to what Muntz had wrought.

Muntz’s invention of the Stereo Pak 4 track cartridge and player was a landmark event in what we call in-car infotainment today. Before then the only choice you had to play music in your car was either the radio or the completely inadequate Highway HiFi vinyl record players that offered limited content and skipped badly when going over bumps. While some automakers did offer stereo on vehicles equipped with AM-FM radios, the only place you’d find them would be in expensive Cadillacs and Lincolns. With the Stereo Pak 4 track players, for the first time drivers could have stereo audio in their cars, playing music of their choice, at an affordable price.

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Muntz Stereo Pak 4 track car tape player.

Then Muntz made the mistake of selling 4 track players to Bill Lear, for installation in Lear jets. Lear, another inveterate tinkerer, realized there were shortcomings in the design of the Stereo Pak system and he put engineer Ralph Miller to the task of improving it. Like all tape players, Stereo Pak cartridges use a capstan drive to move the tape. The tape is pinched between the rotating capstan and a rubber pinch roller. In Muntz’s design, the pinch roller flips up into an opening in the cartridge.

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Lear realized that putting the pinch roller inside the cartridge meant making a simpler player mechanism, reducing the cost of building them. Lear also simplified the cartridge, eliminating some components, making the mechanical part of the cartridges less expensive to make than Stereo Pak cartridges. Also, by then the Phillips corporation had already introduced the Compact Cassette tape format, which used 1/8″ wide tape, compared to the 1/4″ tape used by Muntz.

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With Phillips and Sony proving that tape tracks could be even narrower, Lear realized that going to eight tracks meant he could put twice as much music on the same amount of tape as Muntz and still get audio quality that consumers were accept. Eight track players and cartridges were simply cheaper to manufacture than comparable four track components. They didn’t sound as good as four track players, and the tape cartridges weren’t as reliable. There is a reason why eight track cartridges have a reputation for self-destructing, but for the most part they worked well enough for consumers to embrace them. Also, Lear made a deal with Ford to offer 8 track players as factory equipment in 1965, starting with the 1966 model year. For a consummate salesman, that was one sales opportunity that Earl Muntz missed. In a very short time 8 track cartridges took over in the marketplace. Muntz Stereo was flooded with the return of hundreds of thousands of unsold prerecorded tapes.

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Soon Stereo Paks were forgotten. Muntz tried to market variations, including miniature cartridges under the Playtape brand, and even tried to create a miniaturized player that incorporated a preamp in the tape head, which sort of anticipated the Sony Walkman, but eventually he gave up on tape cartridges and moved on to other things. In time, of course, Mr. Dolby made high fidelity Compact Cassettes possible and they in turn replaced 8 track cartridges, digital music came along with Compact Digital Discs which in turn replaced the Phillips cassettes and now our car stereos play music we store on a variety of solid state memory devices. I think Earl Muntz would appreciate a car stereo with no moving parts, though he’d probably say that today’s infotainment systems are way more complex than they need to be.

Always good at spotting the next trend, Muntz went on to be among the first people to market satellite dishes, home video recorders and big screen tvs. Some of his ventures were more successful than others, but into his 70s, Earl Muntz kept finding new things to sell. By the time of his death in 1987 he had become the biggest retailer in southern California of a new device called the cellular phone. Muntz Stereo, in Ventura, California still sells cellphones, car stereos and burglar alarms.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The 1950 Muntz Jet pictured here was photographed at the 2013 Concours of America at St. John’s. It’s owned by David and Katherine Hans. From its concours level quality, you’d never guess that David Hans rescued it from a Chicago area junkyard. It’s the second Jet that Muntz made, so it came out of the California facility, has an aluminum body and is powered by a Cadillac V8. It has the additional provenance of having been featured in a number of publicity photos for the Muntz car company, posed with Earl Muntz. If the Muntz Jet strikes your fancy, they’re not that expensive to buy. They come up fairly regularly at auction and it looks like a nice one will cost you $60,000 – $75,000, which doesn’t seem like a huge amount of money for a fairly rare and historically interesting car.

*The DB in Aston Martin model names comes from David Brown, who owned the company in the 1950s and 1960s. When a friend once asked him if he would sell him an Aston “at cost”, Brown reportedly told his friend, “but then I would have to charge you more than the retail price.”

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Ellinghaus: Cadillac Could “Easily Flourish” In Australian Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ellinghaus-cadillac-could-easily-flourish-in-australian-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ellinghaus-cadillac-could-easily-flourish-in-australian-market/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 10:05:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=771210 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Sometime in the future, Cadillac global marketing boss Uwe Ellinghaus believes Cadillac could enter the Australian market, being able to “easily flourish” under the proper conditions established on top of the goodwill the brand already has in the country.

Auto Advice reports however the main goal for Cadillac is to go after what Ellinghaus calls “low-hanging fruit” markets:

We see the opportunity [in Australia] and we want to expand into as many markets as we can afford, but it’s also fair to say we have so much growth potential unexploited in China, even in the US, Canada, Russia, Dubai, Mexico… This is the lower-hanging fruit.

We have limited resources and great opportunities elsewhere that we need to make a very careful plan when to enter which market.

Regarding where Cadillac could enter the Australian market, he says the space soon to be vacated by the Holden Commodore would be the perfect point of entry. Offering the brand for Commodore prices, though, would be easier said than done as far as a business case is concerned, pointing toward both the BMW M Series and Mercedes AMG as to where pricing would occur for Cadillac’s high-performance lineup. He also had high hopes for the CTS, and the SRX and Escalade, with the latter two finding huge success in Australian burgeoning SUV marketplace.

As for when Cadillac would enter the scene, Ellinghaus says an introduction would occur near the end of the 2010s at the earliest, and would be headed by one or two models converted to right-hand drive. This follows an near-entry into the market back in 2008 before turning back at the last moment, though not before exporting a few vehicles and appointing dealers to sell them.

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Tesla Hires Renault-Nissan Communications Director http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-hires-renault-nissan-communications-director/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-hires-renault-nissan-communications-director/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:35:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770985 tesla-model-s-10

In preparation to enter the Chinese market while battling state governments of direct sales, Tesla has hired Renault-Nissan communications director Simon Sproule to the role of vice president of communications and marketing for the EV automaker.

Bloomberg reports Sproule’s experience gained from stints with Microsoft, Jaguar, Ford and Renault-Nissan may be of benefit to Tesla, according to AutoTrends Inc. principal Joe Phillippi:

In many respects he’s got the perfect background. He’s been on the tech side, he’s been on the international auto side and he works for a CEO with peripatetic qualities who runs more than one company.

Sproule will be responsible for marketing Tesla to Europe and China — who aim to increase sales of its Model S 55 percent through exports to the two markets this year — while aiding in the fight with various state regulators over direct sales to customers, including this week’s blow-up between the automaker and New Jersey.

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Ford Medium-Duty Truck Production Moving To Ohio In 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-medium-duty-truck-production-moving-to-ohio-in-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-medium-duty-truck-production-moving-to-ohio-in-2015/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:30:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=768738 2015 Ford F-650

With the Econoline passing the torch to the Transit Connect at the end of this year, Ford is in the process of moving production of the F-650 and F-750 from Mexico to Ohio in time for the medium-duty trucks’ redesign for 2015.

Bloomberg reports the automaker is cutting ties with Navistar International in a joint venture based in Escobedo, Mexico to take full control of the two medium-duty trucks in their transfer to Avon Lake, Ohio, bringing the entire F-Series line — and the profits made up and down the chain — in-house as Ford’s president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs explains:

We’re doing this to bring the 650-750 production in-house so that we have complete design, manufacturing and engineering control over our F-series lineup. It’s so critical to be able to offer our commercial customers everything from an F-150 all the way to an F-750 and to know it’s built by Ford.

The relocation will preserve 1,600 jobs while honoring an agreement made between Ford and the United Auto Workers in 2011, with no added jobs or change in labor costs resulting from the move.

Hinrichs expects it will take less than the 13 weeks needed to transition the two F-150 plants from steel to aluminium-body production, with tooling from the Mexico plant already being put into place:

A lot of equipment has been going in on the fly. It’s not what we would classify as a new body shop, but the investment that’s being made largely is for equipment in the body shop and for tooling associated with building the 650 and 750.

The transition will occur in time for the F-650′s and F-750′s 2015 redesign, though the medium-duty trucks will remain steel-bodied.

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Lamborghini Watches: A Brand Too Far, Now On Clearance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/lamborghini-watches-a-brand-too-far-now-on-clearance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/lamborghini-watches-a-brand-too-far-now-on-clearance/#comments Sun, 09 Mar 2014 19:22:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=768570 lambowatch

Full disclosure: I’m a huge Lamborghini fan. Enough of a fan that I can get a little worked up about the brand’s directional wobbles over the past decade. Make no mistake, though: if my budget would stretch to a Murcielago, I’d have one. (About the Aventador, I’m a bit diffident.) Ferrari’s transformation from manufacturer of unreliable but pretty cars to merchandising machine and tyrannical allocation scheme has made Lamborghini seem much cooler by comparison. The clinical precision of the Gallardo makes the Dino-successor Ferraris look a bit try-hard and the big twelve-cylinder supercars have the swagger that the FF, 612, and F12berlinetta seem to be deliberately avoiding.

But there are times that one simply wants to turn one’s head away from the catastrophe that is Lambo’s Ferrari-aping merch scheme, and this is one of them.

Let’s get this on the table first: If you wear a Swiss “luxury watch”, you’re a douchebag. (Full disclosure: I have a few of them myself.) The bigger the watch is, and the more elaborate/flashy it is, the worse you are. The newer and more quick-bake the brand is, the more horrifying your personal presence is to people who weren’t raised in a trailer prior to the IPO/Goldman bonus/first-round draft pick/real-estate deal/personal-injury settlement. I’ve complained about this before, but wearing a watch that is unnecessarily complex and impossible to fix amounts to a Nero-esque destruction of capital without the attendant flair. This goes double if your watchmaker’s brand was “dormant” for fifty years or more before being pried out of the hands of someone’s step-great-grandchild by a venture-capital firm, triple if Nicholas Hayek imagined your brand while he was having a “speedball” medically administered by a twenty-two-year-old Italian nurse who does figure modeling in the evenings.

With that said, the Venn diagram of the buyers for expensive supercars and ridiculous watches is pretty much a circle, so it stands to reason that for every exotic car, there will be a somewhat less exotic watch. It has to be less exotic than the car because there’s also a merch possibility for the proles who can’t get the car just yet, and also because the very best watchmakers have too much pride to let something like that happen.

Ferrari started their time in the watch game with the staid but impeccably respectable Girard-Perregaux before bowing to their customer’s true demographic and moving the brand to quick-bake reboot and Sly Stallone favorite, Panerai. In 2010 those two brands parted ways and Ferrari started a house-brand watch lineup featuring “Swiss movements” with what the hardcore watch fanatics say is a heavy dose of Chinese componentry and assembly.

That takes care of the proles and the F1 team fans, leaving the company free to make a second deal with Hublot in which the Ferrari name is applied to some of the world’s most loathsome timekeeping instruments. It’s a neat trick, really. There’s a $599 watch for the guy who will never own a Ferrari, and the $22,000 watch for the guy who has two of them and is in the queue for his next one.

As is usually the case, Lamborghini isn’t that deft. Their choice was to partner with mid-level generic-luxury brand Tonino to create a line of $1500-3500 watches with the Lamborghini brand applied. Unlike the high-end Ferrari watches from G-P, Hublot, and Panerai, the Tonino Lambo watches come in every possible size and style, thus removing any chance that someone might recognize the watch without putting their face ten inches from the dial. As far as I can tell, the watches are existing Toninos with a bull at the twelve-o-clock mark.

The resulting products are neither compelling nor particularly cheap, thus ensuring that they won’t be bought by Lamborghini owners or Lamborghini fans. Being among the latter is tough anyway; if you get caught prancing around in a full Rosso Corsa outfit by your friends, you can always say you’re a fan of the race team, but if you’re wearing Lamborghini clothing and you don’t have a Lamborghini, you’d be better off staying in the house.

No surprise, then, that the discount website Touch Of Modern is half-pricing Lambo watches this week. No need to rush; they have plenty of them. I can only imagine one possible reason to purchase one, and that would be an attempt to humiliate yourself into accelerating the purchase of that nicely patinated ’04 with the crappy e-gear and the Audi 100 climate controls. If that’s why, then by all means, get the yellow watch, too!

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GM Korea May Increase Exports To Australia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-korea-may-increase-exports-to-australia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-korea-may-increase-exports-to-australia/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:52:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=767345 Holden Cruze

As Chevrolet slowly exits from the European market while Holden exits the production line altogether, General Motors is mulling over increasing exports to Australia out of South Korea.

Bloomberg reports the increase in exports is compensation for GM Korea losing as much as 15 percent to 20 percent of its production volume when Chevrolet closes the door on Europe at the end of 2015, and is roughly the same volume needed to fill the showroom floors in Australia while Holden winds down local production — and possibly itself — by 2017.

The Chevrolet experiment ultimately lost General Motors “millions” of dollars according to GM Korea CEO Sergio Rocha, though he expects the Australian market will more than make up for it:

With this money that we call ‘loss avoidance,’ I’m going to have a lot of money in the next couple of years that we can invest in new products to be competitive in the local market and for exports as well.

Meanwhile, GM will focus on Vauxhall and Opel vehicles in their native markets, with Opel also providing select vehicles to the Australian market, beginning with the Cascada convertible.

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Corvette Pricing Heads For The Sky http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/corvette-pricing-heads-for-the-sky/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/corvette-pricing-heads-for-the-sky/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 22:12:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766537 summer

Finish the following sentence: “The only General Motors product to consistently meet or beat the imported competition over the past twenty years has been the ______.”

No, not the Malibu Eco! The Corvette!

I was part of the team at Road&Track that chose the Corvette as the Performance Car Of The Year. Believe me, the C7 is a world-class product. And it’s selling like one. How could GM possibly screw this situation up?

The answer’s simple: they can raise the price. Our sister blog, AutoGuide, reports that the base price of the Corvette is set to increase from $51,995 to $53,995, a report that we were able to confirm on the Chevrolet website. That’s just a four percent bump, not the end of the world. But there’s worse news ahead: the must-have Z51 package is being bumped from $2,800 to an even four grand, so the base Z51 is now $57,995. That’s dangerously close to the $64,725 cost of a new Porsche Cayman S. It’s also far closer than a Cayman S would be to a Corvette Z51 on any racetrack longer than my driveway.

The fact of the matter is that nothing performs like the C7 for the price. However, the bump speaks volumes about how GM views its customers in general and its Corvette customers in particular. Many of them are long-time loyalists who have been waiting patiently for supply to match demand. Soaking them for an extra four grand? That’s not exactly like a rock.

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Mitsubishi Publishing Real-World MPG Sign Of Openness With Customers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mitsubishi-publishing-real-world-mpg-sign-of-openness-with-customers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mitsubishi-publishing-real-world-mpg-sign-of-openness-with-customers/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766201 outlander-phev-snow

In a sign of openness toward its customers, Mitsubishi will begin publishing real-world MPG figures for their entire lineup, beginning with the Outlander PHEV.

Auto Express reports Mitsubishi UK marketing director Lance Bradley stated the plug-in SUV was chosen because his customers, expecting the 148-mpg claimed in official tests, found the vehicle returned 90 mpg instead:

It’s crazy that people think that’s bad, but it’s all relative to the official figure. We’d like to do a graph, maybe just a figure, starting with the PHEV but then rolling it out to other cars. It would come from customer information.

The move comes as the automaker plans to have an PHEV variant for every one of their models within five years’ time. With more buyers reporting what their vehicle averages in fuel economy, future owners could compare the official test results with those found in real-world driving.

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Mercedes Adding New Sprinter Models, Dealers As Van Sales Rise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mercedes-adding-new-sprinter-models-dealers-as-van-sales-rise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mercedes-adding-new-sprinter-models-dealers-as-van-sales-rise/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 06:18:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=759977 2014 Mercedes Sprinter

With European vans such as the Ford Transit Connect and the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster finding overwhelming success in the United States commercial van market, Mercedes is preparing its Sprinter to show the competition how it’s done on Floral Shop Lane.

Automotive News reports Mercedes-Benz Vans USA — part of the overall global van division Mercedes created last year during an internal reorganization resulting in three self-contained units for vans, cars and commercial products — will be adding new models to the Sprinter lineup alongside more dealerships to sell the lighter and taller new generation van, all in an effort to capitalize on an evolving U.S. commercial van market as MBUSA vice president and MB Vans USA managing director Bernie Glaser explains:

The Sprinter is the benchmark and the norm of the Euro-style vans. There is a revolution happening in the segment and big changes coming that were caused by the Sprinter — vans with a smaller footprint but big cargo volume.

Changes planned for the Sprinter include: a new four-pot turbodiesel from the E-Class mated to a seven-speed transmission; electronic stability control standard with options available for collision prevention, blind-spot assistance and crosswind stabilization; an all-wheel drive model due in 2015; and a small 12-passenger variant under consideration.

Meanwhile, the sales channel for the Sprinter will expand from 188 to 218 within five years; 57 Freightliner dealers will also be added. Stronger marketing tactics are in the offing, aimed to move more Sprinters into the wrap shop in 2014 than the 21,816 sold in 2013. However, the unit saw 1,288 vans sold in January as small business owners coming out of the Great Recession with more confidence in the market headed to the nearest dealer.

As for 2014, the new Sprinter uses a base 2.1-liter BlueTEC I4 driving 161 horsepower and 320 lb-ft torque through its seven-speed transmission, whose fuel economy is 20 percent better than the optional 3-liter BlueTEC V6/five-speed transmission combo. The latter pairing gets 25 mpg on the highway from the supplied 188 horses and 265 lb-ft torque. Prices range from $35,920 for a Sprinter 2500 with 144-inch wheelbase and standard roof, to $45,400 for the same model with a 170-inch wheelbase and high roof.

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Barclays: GM Suffering From Worst Large Pickup Launch In 15 Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/barclays-gm-suffering-from-worst-large-pickup-launch-in-15-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/barclays-gm-suffering-from-worst-large-pickup-launch-in-15-years/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:29:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=757225 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior

Though the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado took home North American Truck/Utility of the Year at last month’s Detroit Auto Show, the large pickup and its brother, the GMC Sierra, have suffered from “the least successful large pickup launch over the last 15 years” according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson.

Automotive News reports the truck twins “faced a full-court press” from the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500, though winter weather also played a role in lower sales across the board. General Motors executives have come to the defense of their products, proclaiming average transaction prices of $4,000 to $5,000 more than the previous generation pickups and a combined market share hovering around 33 percent over the past few months, though the latter point held between 35 and 40 percent of the market in years past.

With dealers begging for stronger promotion and better incentives for the pickups, Chevrolet will host its Chevy Truck Month promotion. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing (dealer invoice plus destination charges and a $150 fee) on light- and heavy-duty Silverados, and will be heavily pushed during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with television advertising beginning March 18.

In addition, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC will all hold Open House events throughout the month of March. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing on nearly every 2014 vehicle sold under each brand, with the exception of the SS and Corvette Stingray for Chevrolet.

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Diaz Promises Profitable Share Gains, More Competitive Titan For Nissan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/diaz-promises-profitable-share-gains-more-competitive-titan-for-nissan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/diaz-promises-profitable-share-gains-more-competitive-titan-for-nissan/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:20:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=757121 Fred Diaz with Cummins Diesel For Nissan Titan

Nissan North America sales boss Fred Diaz expects his employer will gain more mind and market share in 2014 in the run-up to the 2016 Titan’s debut in showrooms, a truck promised to be more competitive than the current model.

Automotive News and WardsAuto report Nissan’s market share in 2013 nudged upward to 8 percent from 2012′s 7.9 percent share. Meanwhile, January 2014 sales rose 12 percent while overall industry sales fell 3 percent, and slashed sticker prices on a number of Nissan’s most popular models helped to to lower incentives by $375 while raising average transaction prices to $95 per unit sold.

Finally, Diaz himself met with the dealer advisory board monthly, as well as held discussions with all 1,167 dealerships in the United States, to learn about and adopt necessary product changes needed to bring more profits back to his employer.

One of the products in question is the 2016 Titan, where Diaz took those suggestions to heart during his visit to Nissan’s design studio in La Jolla, Calif.:

I was pleasantly surprised, but I also saw some things that could be improved significantly. No doubt I hurt some feelings and stepped on a few toes. I was pretty tough with the suggestions I made. We just needed to do a few things with the lines and the front of the vehicle.

The upcoming Titan is expected to match 90 percent of the competition’s various features and configurations in terms of cabs and engines, including a Cummins 5-liter turbodiesel V8. Nissan is also betting on the all-American soul that the newly designed pickup will bring to the table, having been engineered in Farmington Hills, Mich, designed in California, and assembled in Canton, Miss. with the aforementioned Cummins coming down from Columbus, Ind.

Diaz expects his employer will source 85 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. to come from plants in the U.S. and Mexico. Nissan is also in the early stages of revamping its ordering system so dealers can order and receive inventory at a faster clip than current.

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Opel Adam Entering Chinese Market As A Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/opel-adam-entering-chinese-market-as-a-buick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/opel-adam-entering-chinese-market-as-a-buick/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756345 2013-Opel-ADAM-Models

When the Opel Adam enters the Chinese auto market in 2015, it will do so with a Buick badge as General Motors’ first high-end city car.

CarNewsChina reports the Adam will sell for somewhere between 169,800 yuan and 268,800 yuan, the same price range as that of the city car’s main competitor, the Fiat 500. Buick will import the Adam at first, though local production could come to fruition further down the road.

Under the hood, two engines will be available to future Adam owners, including a 1.2-liter engine driving 69 horses through the front wheels, and a larger 1.4-liter with 100 horsepower. Both engines are gasoline-powered.

The customer base for the Adam are those seeking a trendsetting lifestyle machine that has little to do with their parents’ Regal or other sedans.

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Only Select Fiat Dealers Will Get Alfa Romeo Franchises http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/only-select-fiat-dealers-will-get-alfa-romeo-franchises/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/only-select-fiat-dealers-will-get-alfa-romeo-franchises/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753569 Alfa Romeo 4C

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is set to bring Alfa Romeo back into the United States market after a two-decade absence with the 4C, but only the best-performing Fiat dealerships will be selected to sell the first new Alfas when the lighweight $60,000 sports car rolls off the dock in June.

The Detroit News reports the majority of Fiat dealerships who were promised an Alfa wing will not be along for the ride in 2014. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne stated that his company would only allow “the best-performing Fiat dealers to participate” based on “simple dealer metrics” and efficacy in representing Fiat. Though he also added that said dealers knew who they were, FCA spokesman Rick Deneau countered his boss’s statement, saying that those dealers “have not been identified yet.”

While the 4C will be the only Alfa offering available this year, it will be joined in 2015 by the Giulia, Giulietta and a new Spider co-developed with Mazda, which will also underpin the latter’s new MX-5 roadster. The 4C is motivated by a turbocharged four-pot driving 240 horses out of the back gate, pushing the 1875-pound sports car from naught to 60 in 4.5 seconds.

However, follow-through hasn’t been FCA’s strong suit regarding Alfa’s return, with the brand originally promised to Fiat dealers in 2012, then last year before settling upon June 2014. The return was also promised to come with a full lineup to display in showrooms, but only the 4C will be setting the pace this year as it goes up against the Porsche Cayman and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

According to IHS Automotive, selected Fiat dealers will move 500 4Cs in 2014, with 8,400 more in 2015 once more dealers join the fray. IHS also expects Alfa to move 28,000 units in the U.S. by the end of 2016.

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Ford Raises Incentives To Clear Growing Fusion Inventories http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-raises-incentives-to-clear-growing-fusion-inventories/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-raises-incentives-to-clear-growing-fusion-inventories/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753497 fusion

As inventories of Ford’s Fusion continue to outpace demand — the result of a second plant brought online last year to keep up with demand for the newly redesigned midsize sedan — the automaker has been raising incentives to move more Fusions out of the lot.

Automotive News reports most dealers around the United States are offering potential Fusion owners zero-percent financing for 60 months plus $1,000 cash back, with discounts up to $3,000 available for trade-ins to those who decline the financing; lessees receive no money due at signing with no payment for the first month of the lease.

The incentives — the most generous offered since the Fusion’s new look debuted in 2012 — come as inventories of the midsize sedan climbed to 97 days as of February 1 — up from 84 days in January — while sales of midsize cars overall have declined from a peak of 200,000 since August of last year, with winter weather holding back more sales.

Though Ford is spending $2,900 in incentives on every Fusion — Toyota’s Camry and Nissan’s Altima both hold higher incentives — the automaker’s chief analyst, Erich Merkle, says the car still commands the highest transaction price in the segment, and is confident inventories will thin as winter gives way to spring:

The midsize sedan segment is the most competitive segment in the industry right now. The good thing is average transaction prices are still very healthy.

 

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The Knives Come Out For Writer Who Refers To Blogging Mommy As Mommy Blogger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/the-knives-come-out-for-writer-who-refers-to-blogging-mommy-as-mommy-blogger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/the-knives-come-out-for-writer-who-refers-to-blogging-mommy-as-mommy-blogger/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 00:01:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753481 berk

Here at TTAC, we have a job that consists solely of standing behind me every day and whispering “Remember, you are pro tem.” The EIC of Autoblog, John Neff, had no such reminder, but when he “retired” he turned out to be kinda pro tem anyway. His replacement is Sharon Silke Carty, who refers to herself in her Twitter caption as someone who “balances the glamor of auto reporting with the glamor of motherhood.”

When Carscoops’ John Halas referred to her as a “mommyblogger”, however, he learned in a hurry that there are some lines you don’t cross.

The article in question seems like pretty mild stuff to me, but let’s be forthright for a minute: although I was the Diversity Chairman for Dodds Hall in my days at university, in the twenty-plus years since then I’ve had a lot of time in the so-called “real world” and that time has scrubbed the insta-outrage out of my system. Unfortunately for Mr. Halas, there are still plenty of wow-just-wow types in this business and the minute he made the mistake of calling Ms. Carty a “mommyblogger” the knives came out.

It’s nice that there are still guys who enthusiastically expose their sexism to the world at large and try to pass it off as humor…

You can’t lurk behind “it’s a joke,” when the focus is so obviously sexist, and for no reason…

She’s not a blogger, let alone a “mommy blogger.” You start with a complete factual inaccuracy…

If the author of this lazy, sexist grotesquerie was truly confused as to who Sharon Silke Carty is, he could have asked any prominent person in the world of car writing–a set that clearly excludes him–every one of whom would have told him that she’s a top notch journalist, writer, editor, and person, and none of whom would have made such snide, baseless assaults on her character…

I’m trying to find something to measure how stupid this post is. Nope. Can’t find anything. I don’t think the measuring device exists. Sharon Carty is an accomplished journalist, one of the best in the business…

And finally, saying in as indignant tone as possible (as if that can really be conveyed), “I mentioned her credentials in the post” smacked solidly of “I’m not a racist! I have black friends!”

As Maurice White once sang, “Yow.” Meanwhile, Ms. Carty was busy thanking her defenders:

ssctwitter

As is often the case in the autojouro-cum-PR scene, everybody seems to be reading from the same script, but I’m having a trouble finding a copy of it. Is “mommyblogger” some kind of deadly insult? If so, then why do so many women call themselves “mommybloggers”? Are we to understand that the grand business of reprinting press releases is so majestic that it must not be tainted by conflating it with blogging about children and/or parenting? If someone chooses to refer to themselves as an autowriter/mother combination, is it beyond the pale to also refer to them as such? My Twitter description is, and has always been, “Writer, auto racer, musician, father, inveterate bad guy, hopeless romantic.” So if someone had written, “TTAC Loses Bertel Schmitt, Gains A Hopelessly Romantic Father At Its Helm” would anybody have cared in the least, including me?

Mr. Halas is in the process of learning that you simply cannot apologize quickly or profusely enough to obtain the forgiveness of people who derive their identities from being easily offended. When the person who is nominally being offended is also someone who has the power to hire in an industry known for lack of full-time employment, the indignation ratchets up by a factor of ten. As gratifying as it is to defend someone against sexism, it’s far more gratifying to do it in a manner which burnishes one’s resume and/or ability to get an article published at HuffPo. Which just goes to show: you can do anything you want in this business, as long as you don’t stand between a blogger, mommy or not, and the buffet.

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“Pssshhtttt”: The New Sound Of Performance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/pssshhtttt-the-new-sound-of-performance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/pssshhtttt-the-new-sound-of-performance/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 17:50:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=748937 Click here to view the embedded video.

The Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge was one of the more underwhelming concepts at NAIAS. Apparently we’ll find out what’s under the hood at the Geneva Auto Show. The video above shows off the concept’s engine sounds, and it has a distinct exhaust note that certainly doesn’t sound like a V8 engine. What’s most striking are the very audible wastegate sounds, confirming that it is a turbocharged engine. In the Baby Boomer era, the V8 rumble was the audible manifestation of speed and horsepower. For the new generation, it’s the wooosh and psshhhtt of turbochargers and blow-off valves.

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Mazda CX-5 Closes In On 100,000 Sold http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/mazda-cx-5-closes-in-on-100000-sold/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/mazda-cx-5-closes-in-on-100000-sold/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 16:15:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=748425 2013 Mazda CX-5. Picture courtesy motortrend.com

Mazda moved nearly 80,000 CX-5s from the lot to the highway in 2013. If the automaker has its way this year, the C segment crossover may break 100,000 units sold.

WardsAuto reports Mazda North American Operations CEO Jim O’Sullivan his employer can hit the 100,000-mark again with the CX-5, placing the crossover alongside the Mazda3 within the company, and the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V in the overall C segment crossover record books.

Factors cited by O’Sullivan in his hopes for the CX-5 include a recovering United States auto industry, brand awareness among U.S. consumers, reduced fleet volume, a new plant in Mexico that will build the Mazda3 while allowing more capacity in Japan to be used for CX-5 assembly, and a growing enthusiasm for the C segment and small crossovers:

We’re seeing really good, organic growth from our current-generation Mazda3 customers that have bought maybe (the old compact) Protege, then Mazda3, (and) now (are) moving into crossovers and the CX-5.

Speaking of crossovers, O’Sullivan says Mazda is looking at entering the B segment with a subcompact crossover slotted under the CX-5. The so-called CX-3, expected to be based upon the Mazda2, would see production in Mexico beginning July 2015.

Finally, the CX-9 will undergo a new redesign for 2016, and will make use of the automaker’s SkyActiv brand of fuel efficiency technology upon introduction late next year.

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