By on July 20, 2017

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (left) and Chrysler Pacifica (right) - Image: FCA

It’s a fact that California contains half of the country’s electric vehicles and a solid chunk of America’s hybrids, but that doesn’t necessarily mean residents of the other 49 states can’t tell a plug-in hybrid from a turnip.

As all-electric range grows, plug-in hybrids have begun eclipsing conventional hybrids in the U.S. marketplace, enticing buyers with the prospect of leaving the gas engine shut off (potentially) for the whole commute. After hopping on the green bandwagon with its Pacifica Hybrid, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was able to boast of having the only plug-in minivan in North America.

Only, it won’t boast about the “plug-in” part anywhere except California. Nope, you won’t hear the company call it a plug-in in New York City, or Seattle, or Chicago. Not in Vermont or Georgia, either. Apparently those people just can’t handle it. (Read More…)

By on July 18, 2017

LeBron James Kia ad, Image: Kia

If a famous person sways your purchasing behaviour, you’re likely an idiot. Actors and other celebs rake in great coin shamelessly hocking products to the teeming masses, be it life insurance, Preparation H, overpriced jeans, or underperforming vehicles. To them, the suitcase of cash emits the siren song, not the product. (Don’t start up about athletes and sports-branded clothing. We’re not going in that direction.)

No company covets celebrity endorsements quite like automakers. Whether it’s longtime Anglophile Tom Brady shilling for Aston Martin or LeBron James’ sudden love for Kia’s spectacularly slow-selling K900, nothing gets eyes on the product faster than having someone famous stand next to it. Surely, none of us would ever fall for such a thing.

Celebrity endorsements, if you want to call it that, only bolsters a non-mouth-breather’s buying decision if it reinforces a previously held position. Already angling for a Chrysler Newport? Well, your favourite star from, say, Barney Miller, agrees it’s a sensible purchase. And several dollars less than Caprice! However, if said celebrity is someone you desire, rather than just respect or admire, it could be argued that there’s some subtle, subconscious influence at work. It it enough to tip the scales in favor of a certain product?

That’s something only you can answer. (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2017

Ernie and Bert Sesame Street, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles/YouTube

Get to know me, even just a little, and you’ll quickly discover my seething hatred for the inexplicably popular and mercilessly long-running sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Given the chance, I’d banish the writers, producers and male cast to the barren wastes of Siberia, where the overpaid hacks could atone for their sins (and remain quiet) while braving the frigid winds in search of nutrient-rich mosses and lichens.

Maybe it’s the death of the sitcom that brought us to this point. Raised on the terrific sitcoms (and some guilty also-rans) of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, my childhood television experience was abundance in diversity. Still, despite my love for cars and guns and the like, my TV starting point, like that of so many others, was Sesame Street. America’s social barometer, it was, and continues to be.

Like now, strong options loomed large in little Steph’s brain. Never cared for Big Bird. Too big. Dull in conversation. Grover? Who is Grover really supposed to be? And frankly, I wouldn’t leave any child of mine alone with Elmo.

Still, certain characters hold a special place in my dark, shrivelled heart. Until, that is, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles got its hands on their innocent, soft upper halves. (Read More…)

By on July 11, 2017

GM Real People Not Actors Silverado ad screenshot - Image: Chevrolet YouTubeWith the July 10 launch of a new Chevrolet Silverado commercial, General Motors is once again using its Real People, Not Actors campaign in an attempt to tarnish the Ford F-150’s good name.

This methodology doesn’t appear to have had an impact in the marketplace in the past. Yet two years after General Motors displayed conversations between Howie Long and GM engineer Eric Stanczak discussing repair costs on the Ford F-150’s aluminum bed and one year after Chevrolet punctured a Ford F-150’s aluminum bed with 825 pounds of concrete blocks, General Motors is turning to admitted Ford F-150 owners as a means of casting aspersions on America’s top-selling full-size truck.

After earlier rounds, Ford gained ground in America’s full-size pickup truck market in 2016. Indeed, Ford is continuing to gain ground in that same market in 2017. Ford is selling more trucks than its rivals. Ford is selling more trucks with less incentivization. Ford is selling more trucks with less incentivization at higher average transaction prices.

So, GM sends the Chevrolet Silverado back to the same ol’ well. (Read More…)

By on June 30, 2017

Mazda Driver's Choice YouTube Screenshot - Image: Mazda YouTube ChannelThey’ve haunted you in your sleep. “The lines down here are seamless, like classic German design,” a British fellow says about the new Chevrolet Malibu.

You overhear them during the morning news breaks as you walk to your gate at the airport. “Business in the front, party in the back,” a young woman says, describing the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback.

“I am surprised that it’s Chevy,” a woman responds after being asked what she thinks about Bowtie victories in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study. You vomit a little in your mouth.

But in the eyes of General Motors, Chevrolet’s Real People, Not Actors campaign is working. And it appears Mazda thinks quite highly of the formula as well. (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

2017 Honda Keep The Peace Odyssey Commercial screenshot - Image: Honda YouTubeThey’re monsters, fighting over a squeezable toy bus before the journey has even begun. They’re inattentive rascals, wearing headphones and tuning out their parents before Mom is even in the van. They’re instigators and agitators, wholly dependent upon parents to keep the peace.

Or are they? Are children really so bad that Honda’s very first marketing campaign for the fifth-generation 2018 Odyssey has to present a negative slant on the life of a parent?

Maybe not. But in an age in which conflict is fostered during live news coverage all day long, in which children are perpetually entertained so they don’t need to entertain themselves, in which there’s not enough time before Zoey’s pottery class and Aiden’s play date to source a conventional resolution, Honda’s Magic Slide seats produce a brilliantly eye-catching commercial, with a little help from animation.

Of course, my kids would never tussle like this. (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2017

2017 Lexus IS commercial screenshotWe’ve got more than a few years of driving remaining, don’t you think?

It’s 2017. People still grasp steering wheels, still prod throttle pedals, still check blind spots (sometimes), still use their left hand to flick a signal stalk, and still stop for red lights by firmly pressing a right foot against a brake pedal. Last I checked, in my driveway sits a two-seat convertible with a six-speed manual transmission.

But in a 30-second spot that aired repeatedly during the final game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Hockey Night In Canada, Lexus strikes fear into the soul of drivers everywhere in order to get you into a 2017 Lexus IS today. Today, before they — whoever “they” are — come for your manual transmissions and your steering wheels and your pedals. Before your driver’s car is replaced by an autonomous pod.

“Enjoy the thrill of driving,” Lexus says. “While you still can.” (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2017

facebook mobile phone, public domain

Facebook isn’t just a hotbed of meaningless virtue signaling, thinly veiled racism, political rants, and overly serious arguments with people you haven’t seen in several years. It’s also a great place for advertisers to spend their money — at least, that’s what the platform wants automobile manufacturers to believe. The social media site is trying to establish closer ties with the industry, and went so far as to send COO Sheryl Sandberg to Detroit to host the first Facebook Automotive Summit in five years.

However, if you’re anything like me, your feed is probably already clogged up with car ads. This morning’s limited browsing yielded placements for Jaguar and Genesis before asking me when I last drove a Hyundai. Facebook thinks it can do more, targeting the subset of its 2 billion users which could benefit automakers the most. While the website has stepped up its game, future ad investments will still suffer from runoff to zero-engagement click farms in countries like India, Egypt, and Brazil.

A large company might deem those losses acceptable, but does it really matter when so few people buy new cars online?  (Read More…)

By on June 6, 2017

2017 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD, Image: General Motors

Like a rolling stone. Like a rock. Like a G6 (not the Pontiac version). There are many descriptors out there, but GMC feels nothing fits its owners quite like “pro.” The trucks are still Professional Grade (TM), but advertisements are supposed to be all about us, about we, about me.

And so, GMC plans to embark on an advertising campaign calling its owners just that. The all-utility brand’s “Like A Pro” campaign kicks off this month, with a number of tailored TV and online spots showcasing “those who reach higher in everything they do,” according to the automaker.

Marketing efforts are fraught with peril, so no ad counts as a slam dunk until the public gives it a resounding thumbs up or, alternatively, mocks it out of existence. Let’s take a closer look at one of these spots. (Read More…)

By on May 19, 2017

tom brady aston

The notion of American football being included in a non-pickup automotive advertisement is already ridiculous. I have nothing against the NFL personally. It has an exceptionally broad appeal, but it evokes a sort of blue-collar stars and stripes forever type of pride that makes it a superb platform to promote army recruitment and Ford’s F-150.

So, when I found out that Aston Martin — one of the most sophisticated brands in history — was making Tom Brady the face of its next advertising campaign, I was understandably upset. Not quite catching your girlfriend in the backseat of a Kia with your best friend upset, more like your dad telling you he’s starting an emo band upset. There’s an overwhelming sense of confusion and a pressing urge to do everything in your power to stop it from happening, because you know it’s all an egregious mistake and feel that — deep down — they must realize it, too.  (Read More…)

By on May 10, 2017

ff91

We’re not going to recap all of Faraday Future’s staffing issues, financial hurdles, or uncouth business practices. If you’ve visited this website within the last year, you already know the company has some serious problems to overcome.

Despite these hardships, Faraday remains convinced it’ll resume construction at its stalled factory site in Nevada and someday bring the FF91 to market. However, we haven’t seen much of the EV since the debut of the beta version at CES in January — and it was beginning to look like we never would.

Then, without much fanfare, a video of the electric crossover surfaced on the company’s YouTube page on Monday. The new video shows a decidedly less beta-looking vehicle than Faraday has previewed in the past. That doesn’t mean this is a production car, but it does seem to show what one might look like if FF can weather the storm.  (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2017

chevrolet real people

Not since “the Caddy that zigs” has a General Motors marketing campaign spurred so many jokes among the automotive punditry and public alike. GM’s much-lampooned “Real People, Not Actors” commercials have become the target of spoof videos mimicking the often eye-rolling exploits of ordinary human beings mistaking Chevrolet Cruze and Malibu models for taut, European luxury sedans. Expect more of those.

Despite the comedic backlash, General Motors claims it has no plans to back down from the ads, ensuring more spoof fodder for years to come. (Read More…)

By on May 4, 2017

Jeep Compass ad

The only thing missing is Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way bleating from the speakers, but songs from 1977 often don’t play well with those born after 1980. (Or 1982, depending on your source.) Slow, maudlin hipster “rock,” if you can call it that, is how you reel in those youngsters these days.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, knowing exactly what it wants the second-generation Jeep Compass to mean to the most sought-after segment of car buyers, is placing its sales pitch to scruffy Millennials in a new ad campaign.

As Millennial automotive marketing is usually a cringe-inducing affair, each new product launch and ad campaign targeting this generation sparks morbid interest in cynical observers. Hence, this post. (Read More…)

By on May 3, 2017

Ford EcoSport guardians of the galaxy ad

Advertising isn’t designed to help you make an informed purchasing decision. While some auto ads occasionally cherry pick information to highlight a vehicle’s strengths, you see this tactic employed less and less lately. Pathos-driving advertising sometimes results in innocuous gems, like Subaru’s “Dog Approved” campaign. However, there has been an obnoxious trend where cars, which are presumably for adults, are being marketed as if they are children’s toys.

One of the worst offenders of this phenomenon was Nissan. It tied the Rogue to the Star Wars franchise as much as possible — issuing television spots set in a galaxy far, far away, a special movie edition variant of the vehicle, crossover swag, and even a car modeled to look like an X-wing to display at trade events. It potentially worked, too — Rogue sales skyrocketed.

Taking notice, Ford has similarly decided to link the upcoming EcoSport to the new Guardians of the Galaxy film. The Blue Oval is taking that concept a step further, however. Its downright egregious marketing campaign feels like it belongs in the ad space reserved for Saturday morning cartoons, circa 1992, right next to a sugary breakfast cereal with a cartoon mascot. Ford has sweepstakes, comic books and a film cameo planned. (Read More…)

By on April 26, 2017

2017 Buick LaCrosse - Image: Buick

Native advertising is funny. Not because native advertising, the kind of marketing that appears as though it is the content of a specific publication aside from a disclaimer or two, shouldn’t exist. In a land of free speech, companies should be permitted to tell stories in just about any way they wish to do so.

No, native advertising humors me when it becomes obvious just how difficult it was for a company to strike the right balance. Honesty is key, or else credibility is lost. The Truth About Cars can’t say, “TTAC is the best automotive site on the internet with the best writers and the best design,” because it’s not believable.

On the other end of the spectrum, The Truth About Cars shouldn’t run an automotive website comparison test in which TTAC doesn’t win. “Golly, Jalopnik sure is some good car blog, and while we dun paid for this here piece of native advertising, we’re gonna give the victory to the Gawker folk.”

Somewhere in between is the proper blend, a blend for which Buick searched long and hard in a comparison test paid for by Buick in a Buick vs. Lexus comparison test for Automobile Magazine.

There are no secrets here. The article says “Sponsored Content” across the top. The author is listed as Buick.

The winner of the comparison test? Oh, you’ll never guess. (Read More…)

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