The big news this past week from Nissan: lots of old iron at Pebble Beach, concept car test drives for sympathetic journalists and a pledge to have autonomous cars ready (but not on sale) for 2020. More interesting than that is news of Nissan’s booming exports from America. Some say that this is the “new normal” – Japanese OEMs expanding their manufacturing base in America as they leave Japan en masse to both insulate themselves from a volatile yen, take advantage of America’s welcoming manufacturing climate and shed a reliance on Japan’s aging and declining population. And even more interesting than that is how it was presented.
Having failed to learn from previous mistakes, Volkswagen is inexplicably bringing the Phaeton back to North America, despite being totally contradictory to their push downmarket to appeal to mainstream American car shoppers.
While we get the Chevrolet SS with a naturally aspirated small-block V8 and a two-pedal transmission, customers in the UK get a much more aggressive package.
Weaker than expected growth in the United States has led Carlos Ghosn to issue an even more ambitious goal; double Nissan’s sales by 2017.
My girlfriend and I recently vacationed in Zurich. Anyone who’s ever been to Switzerland will be surprised by this, since it’s possibly the least romantic place in human history. Seriously: instead of flowers, stuffed animals and chocolate, Swiss couples exchange presents like a well-built lamp, oddly-shaped stainless steel kitchen utensils, and … chocolate. And then they shake hands and sleep in two separate very sturdy beds.
Those who watched the State of the Union address last night and have an interest in autos may have noticed a conspicuous absence; Barack Obama failed to mention his goal of putting 1 million EVs on the road by 2015.
Considering that it seems as though every other commercial on television follows the doofus male wise female plot, the new VW Passat commercial released just in time for the run up to the Super Bowl is hardly the most egregiously misandrist (yes, Virginia, despite what your spellchecker says, it is a word). With a tagline of “Pass down something he will be grateful for”, the ad shows a father in a shirt and tie teaching his son how to throw a baseball, in front of a Passat sitting in their driveway. Completely clueless about the mechanics of throwing overhand, but convinced of his knowledge of the subject, dad has form that makes “throwing like a girl” a compliment by comparison. He looks like a cross between someone putting shot and a gooney bird trying to land. The son dutifully imitates dad’s form, but with a skeptical look on his face. Neither can get the ball anywhere near the target. I’m not sure the ad is on target either.
Nearly everyone was unanimous in their assessment that Lincoln’s re-branding campaign is an unmitigated disaster unfolding in slow motion; from the name change to Lincoln Motor Company to the bizarre tie-up with Jimmy Fallon and the marketing-buzzword laden BS the whole thing reeks of inaction disguised in the form of sophisticated marketing efforts.
The most interesting angle in this mess is the fact that American luxury cars are in such a shambles that Lincoln’s biggest threat doesn’t really come from Cadillac, but from Ford itself.
When the news came out last night of American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I was glad to be validated in my suspicions, but sad that a potentially great opportunity had been wasted due to mismanagement and short-sightedness on behalf of its Japanese management.
In other regions, Suzuki does an excellent job catering to the needs of each domestic market. In India, through their long time partnership with Maruti (which has since turned into full ownership of the once state-owned automaker), Suzuki enjoys double digit market share that is the envy of every other automaker in the country. Maruti Suzuki has control over product, they understand the needs of Indians looking for new cars, and they have enough financial input into SMC’s bottom line that the executives in Japan have no choice but to listen.