The Truth About Cars » social media The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 » social media Piston Slap: Double A (Beep! Beep!) Em, Cee, Oh… (Part II) Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:06:29 +0000 TTAC commentator M0L0TOV has an update for us:

Hey Sajeev,

I figured I’d send you an update so people would know what happened to my situation. Well, I went ahead and tried to contact AAMCO. First I tried contacting them via their website but almost a week had passed and no response. So I contact them via their Facebook page, the next day I got a response with a phone number, name, and e-mail address of somebody at corporate to contact. I sent them an e-mail, I got a call from the owner of the Aamco where I had originally taken my car within ten minutes.

He stated he was notified by the customer service department and we had a disagreement. He offered to not charge me for the labor and I would pay for the part. I was perfectly fine with paying for the part, I wasn’t looking for a free ride. I thought their offer was fair because it would have been replaced when the work was originally being done. I picked up my car today and paid $214.00 and I get a 90 day warranty. So yes, the system works. I appreciate everybody’s advice on this matter and I was able to force their hand.

Thanks for all your help Sajeev and the rest of the TTAC readers!

Sajeev answers:

Behold the power of social media.


Between what you experienced, my firsthand experiences (disclosure: social media is my full time gig) and “little” things like the Arab Spring or whatever makes people love Justin Bieber, there’s no doubt social media is a powerful tool for customer service.  Or a service for powerful tools…but I digress.

The system works, with pleases me immensely.  So kudos to AAMCO for doing the right thing, once they heard about it.  And doing it rather quickly: it’s rare ’round these Piston Slap bloggy parts when a company interacts with one of us and does the right thing. So let’s relish this moment of (seemingly) good karma.

Happy Monday to you, Dear Reader.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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Barclays: GM Recall Parade To Last Into Mid-Summer Fri, 23 May 2014 10:00:04 +0000 Blurry Renaissance Center

Automotive News reports General Motors’ recall parade could, according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson, last well into the middle of the summer season. The data mining conducted by the automaker’s team of 60 safety investigators on 10 sources reporting potential problems — including consumer complaints and reports from its dealership network — will likely bring more recall requests before GM’s senior executives. Johnson adds that the investigators are working on likely defects on a per-issue basis instead of per-vehicle, which may mean a number of vehicles will be called back multiple times as the recall parade marches on; he also notes that its hard to discern if recalls of past vehicles have already peaked.

Detroit Free Press says GM product chief Mark Reuss will be leading a new team of five execs in choosing who all will be on the parade route, determining when and if a recall should be issued on any given vehicle with a potential problem. The team’s creation aims to accelerate the automaker’s response to said safety concerns, as well as better enable communication with its consumer base and the federal government. In addition, the 60 investigators, led by global safety boss Jeff Boyer, will comb social media to gather evidence of problems that haven’t been found from within.

Over in Canada, Reuters reports government officials are investigating GM Canada over the possibility that, much like the mothership across the border, it, too, delayed product recalls. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt instructed her group of officials to ask GM Canada “when did they find out” about the out-of-spec ignition switch, proclaiming that if they knew before the recall was issued, the Canadian subsidiary “could be in violation of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.” If found guilty, GM Canada could be fined anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million CAN depending on the conviction issued, far less than the $35 million levied against GM by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month.

The Detroit News reports those affected by the recalls of newer vehicles, including the 2014 Cadillac CTS and 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, are receiving free loaner vehicles much like those affected by the February 2014 ignition switch recall. In the case of Cadillac, however, the free loaners are standard practice for recalls related to the brand’s products, as they fall under warranty. Meanwhile, the Chevrolet and GMC loaner programs, according to spokeswoman Ryndee Carney, was at the automaker’s discretion; as the recall involves tie-rod defects — including a park-it-now notice — GM made the decision “to offer owners of those trucks courtesy transportation.”

Finally, Automotive News says those who purchase a 2015 Chevrolet Impala with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder will include stop-start technology as standard equipment, which aims to boost the engine’s fuel efficiency by 5 percent. According to spokesman Chad Lyons, the stop-start tech “will become more prevalent in GM vehicles” as time goes on; the 2.5-liter Impala is the second to have the tech standard, after the 2014 Malibu. Those who prefer their Impala to come with more power via the 3.6-liter V6, stop-start won’t be available standard due the engine’s heavier weight negating potential fuel savings.

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Porsche Dealer Turbocharges Local Marketing by Hosting 14 PSI 25 Bar Mitzvah Parties & Other Catered Events Fri, 03 Jan 2014 12:00:37 +0000 Porsche of Beachwood's service department set up to host a Bar Mitzvah party

Porsche of Beachwood’s service department set up to host a Bar Mitzvah party

Porsche of Beachwood, a Penske Automotive Group store outside of Cleveland, has come up with a new way of marketing the dealership and brand. The dealer makes its facilities available for free to groups and families putting on catered events. So far they have hosted about 25 affairs: bar mitzvah parties, runway fashion shows, fundraisers, dinners and after-parties. “We have not done a wedding reception yet, but I imagine it’s just a matter of time,” says Jason Grimm, the dealership’s general manager. 

Beachwood is an affluent suburb and Grimm wanted the dealership to stand out in a place where expensive cars are not unusual. About two years ago he invested about $8,000 to $10,000 on 100 chairs, 25 tables, linens and 400 to 500 wine glasses and started spreading the word that Porsche of Beachwood was available, for free, as a venue for events. So far they have hosted events as intimate as a 50 person dinner and as large as 450 people attending a bar mitzvah party. I’m sure that Adolf Rosenberger, a successful racer and businessman who, with Ferdinand Porsche and Dr. Anton Piëch, founded Porsche GmbH in 1931, would approve.

“We’ll be hosting a school fundraiser for a local high school” soon, with an estimated 500 people attending, Grimm said. The ongoing cost is minimal, paying a couple of the dealers’ porters to set up and knock down the dining facilities.

Grimm says the return on the investment in terms of good will and potential future customers is priceless, though they have sold some cars directly due to the program. “We have sold a handful of cars, probably three or four, directly from events,” Grimm says. “Now, how many more do you sell from people who say, ‘Hey, I was at this event one time’ or ‘I heard of an event my friend held there?’ Showroom drivers are what we’re looking for” he says. “What better way to do that than create a communal buzz on how beautiful the store is and how welcoming the staff was.”

Grimm got the idea at the Porsche dealership’s grand opening, then it germinated and sort of took off on its own. The grand opening was a spectacle with more than 650 people attending. They had professional lighting and catering and it generated a lot of buzz in local social media. Grimm realized “this place could really be a cool venue.”

He started by making the facility available to a regional Porsche club for their meetings. Within weeks he got an inquiry from a financial planning firm looking for a venue for a client appreciation event. “I think they would have paid if we’d asked, but we said, ‘Why pay?’” Grimm says. “I work from ‘yes’ anyway, so far be it from me to say ‘no’ to someone who wants to use our state-of-the-art facility to promote themselves personally or professionally. I checked the date and said, ‘Let’s do it.’” Word of mouth then spread the news of a cool new place to hold events in Beachwood.

So far there have been no problems and no damage to any of the pricey Porsches on the showroom floor and in the repair bays. “I have attended a lot of the events here and people tend to stay away from the expensive stuff,” Grimm says. The six cars that are usually on the showroom floor are worth about $800,000 total. They’re locked, as are all the offices, but other than that, guests have the run of the place.

“We have a general understanding with the person sponsoring the event that if there is a major cleanup, they do it,” Grimm says. “We have a cleaning company that comes anyhow so that is no extra cost.”

Events are usually after normal business hours but they have hosted events in the service department when it has been closed while the showroom continued to operate.

The porters who help set up also keep an eye on things during the events. They are “the eyes and ears” of the dealership, show event operators how to use the lights and the sound system, “keep an eye on everything,” and then lock up afterwards.

Grimm does screen the groups and the type of event before giving approval. No liquor or catering licenses are needed because the dealer itself sells no food or alcohol. The groups holding the events assume liability for any damage or theft. The groups are told that “it is in their best interest and recommended that they get proper insurance coverage for their liability because at the end of the day it doesn’t really come back on us,” Grimm says.

If demand for the venue increases, Grimm says that he’ll buy more tables and chairs and possibly assign a store employee to coordinate and manage the events as well as promotion of the venue.

“For this to work, you’ve got to believe it’s going to work long term,” Grimm says. “If you’re looking for a hard seven-month return on investment to it, you probably shouldn’t do it.”

This is a great marketing idea. Grimm has latched onto something here and I can see other car dealers selling high priced cars duplicating the program, though to be honest, I’m skeptical that any Ferrari dealer is ever going to give away any kind of service for free.

Though it’s an unusual thing for a car dealer to host catered events, it’s not at all unusual for a car museum. The GM Heritage Center outside of Detroit can be rented for some corporate events and while Porsche of Beachwood hasn’t yet hosted a wedding, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana is available for weddings and other events for as little as $300.

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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Just In Time For Christmas, The Driveable Lego Car Fri, 20 Dec 2013 13:00:21 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

An Australian entrepreneur and a Romanian inventor have teamed up to construct an air powered car built completely of Lego bricks (sans tires and wheels) that has proven capable of running at speeds in excess of 10mph.

The car features four interconnected engines and uses a whopping 256 pneumatic pistons. The mechanics would appear to be similar to steam piston engines that this author once worked with, with compressed air taking the place of high pressure steam. Air would flow from a pressurized tank, enter the piston chamber via some sort of valve gear and force the piston through its stroke. No combustion is necessary.

The project is one of those crazy things that can only happen over the internet. The car was originally proposed in an online conversation between two people who were literally half a world away from one another and crowd-funded after forty people responded to a late night proposal on Twitter. The car was built in Romania and then shipped to Australia where it was reassembled and then tested. There are no plans at this time to build another.

Video Used by permission of

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Ford Will Again Use Social Media, Remixed, To Launch Revised Fiesta Tue, 16 Jul 2013 12:00:42 +0000 14FiestaST_25_HRThough there were some critics who mocked their first go round with marketing cars through social media, Ford is apparently happy enough with the results of the 2009 Fiesta Movement that they’re bringing back the Fiesta Movement to help launch the newly refreshed 2014 Fiesta. This time they’re making the campaign even more focused (no pun intended) on using online communities, calling it the Fiesta Movement: A Social Remix.

The emphasis on social media means less money devoted to conventional advertising. Liz Elser, brand manager for the Fiesta line, says “TV won’t be a huge part of this campaign.” Social media has grown since 2009. Ford PR rep Dan Mazei explained that four years ago, “Instagram didn’t exist. We didn’t have these short-form video platforms like Vine. There are all these new ways they can get the content out there.”

As with the original Fiesta Movement, Ford is using 80 bloggers they’re calling “agents“, some of whom are professional entertainers. The advocates were chosen based on the number of online followers they have. For some reason, Ford selected fewer Fiesta agents than the 100 that they announced back in February. It doesn’t appear that many of the agents are over the age of 30. Ford says that they are not compensated with money but they do get free use of the cars, including gasoline and insurance.

The Fiesta Movement agents are expected to take to the streets and highways of America, shoot photos and make videos of their experiences in the mid-cycle-refreshed Fiesta and then post them on the aforementioned social media sites. As Elser said, Ford may be holding back on their TV buys for the Fiesta launch but since most people still do watch television in some form some of the agent created content will also end up as TV ads on shows with a youthful audience, like ESPN’s X Games or American Idol (for which Ford already is a major sponsor).

In the 2009 Fiesta Movement, Ford’s good will agents drove their Fiestas more than a million miles, created more than 50,000 pieces of content, and generated nearly 30 million views through social media. It’s not known exactly how many Fiestas they helped sell. Ford, obviously, was not displeased with the results since they’re doing it again.


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GM Is Back On Facebook Wed, 10 Apr 2013 17:06:20 +0000

GM will resume advertising on Facebook, nearly a year after it ceased running ads on the social network.

The return to Facebook will also bring with it some new marketing strategies, as Automotive News reports. Chris Perry, Chevrolet’s head of U.S. marketing is quoted as saying

“Today, Chevrolet is launching an industry-first, ‘mobile-only’ pilot campaign for the Chevrolet Sonic that utilizes newly available targeting and measurement capabilities on Facebook.”

The issue of targeting and metrics is significant. As previously reported on TTAC, GM had expressed concerns regarding the efficacy of Facebook advertising. Simple tools like third party tracking apps for Facebook ads were not allowed on the social network, something that rightly aroused concerns from many marketers. While Facebook briefly allowed them as a beta project, the program was quickly shuttered – sources say that this was because it proved that Facebook ads weren’t really effective.

Word is that former CMO Joel Ewanick had the right idea about Facebook. Rather than emulate Ford and blindly chase meaningless online metrics like “impressions”, Ewanick took a critical view of many online marketing programs and questioned what kind of ROI they brought GM. But we also hear that the current crop of marketing guys are desperate to scrub any remnants of Ewanick’s legacy at GM, and the astute stand on Facebook marketing is a casualty of that. Perhaps things have changed at Facebook and their clients are more empowered with regards to transparency. Or maybe GM has decided to go down the typical road and use Facebook just because everyone else, and they don’t want to be left in the cold.

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Why Would Nissan Ask Social Media Users For Product Planning Advice? Wed, 11 Jul 2012 15:56:39 +0000

A few years ago, a wave of internet-fueled utopian ideas were supposed to headline yet another “paradigm shift” (or whatever throwaway bullshit term you wish to substitute) as the Web 2.0 revolution made us all more “open” or “social” or “connected”. Then, most of us woke up and realized that this was all a scheme by a bunch of social maladroits to get rich using our personal data, and we all went back to living our lives.

Nissan hasn’t gotten the memo yet.  They’re hoping to take advantage of the “social space” by asking their “fans” on Facebook, Pinterest etc for help in product planning. The first question that comes to mind is “Why?” Have they not seen the infamous episode of The Simpsons, where Homer designs his own car, leading to the demise of Powell Motors? Do they not know that most of the people who spend their time talking about and looking at pictures of cars online have the most obscure tastes that are not reflective of the general public? Anyone who cares enough is going to agitate for the importation of the Elgrand minivan, or a revival of the Pao microcar, (because “…that’s what Americans should be driving“) or a return to body-on-frame construction for the Pathfinder (even though the new car-based platform will let it be a perfect competitor for the Honda Pilot).

It could be that Nissan, like Mazda, is just going to humor their fans by listening to their input and then do nothing about it. Mazda’s campaign to solicit suggestions for the upcoming MX-5 on Jalopnik was a great way to drum up publicity for the car, but at this point, the MX-5 is too far along in the development cycle for any meaningful changes to happen.

The bigger question for me is, doesn’t Nissan trust their own people to do these kinds of things without input from the unwashed masses? Carlos Ghosn took the company from a bloated, money-hemmoraging industrial heifer into the lean, profitable automaker that exists today. The Nissan folks that I’ve met are reflective of the current state of the company, and come from automotive backgrounds that keyboard jockeys like myself can only dream of.

Letting the customer dictate what they want leads to the current generation Volkswagen Jetta and Passat – although bland, it was needed to help revive VW’s underwhelming success in America. Nissan doesn’t need this. They manage to do big volumes with cars that are genuinely good.

The current generation Altima is both a sales success and responsible for dropping a match in the mid-size horsepower powder keg. Something like the Juke, which is so totally out of left field, and manages to sell fairly consistently (though it’s not exactly a volume car in America), could not have been designed by committee. Meanwhile, the sum total of the general public’s buying desires seem to be Versas or other beige sedans with an iPod jack. And the Sentra is still the worst new car I’ve driven.



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Generation Why: Cool Sponsored Story, Bro Tue, 26 Jun 2012 16:28:25 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Video NSFW for language

Automotive News features one of the better breakdowns of automaker Facebook campaigns, minus the breathless masturbatory social media buzzwords that so frequently surround any discussion of “engagement” or “conversations” . The consensus seems to be shifting in one direction; it’s worthless, even if Mark Rechtin and David Barkholz are too polite to say so.

Rechtin and Barkholz cite a few examples of using Facebook to promote automaker brands, but they appear to be outliers, with the most hardcore enthusiasts engaging automakers over extreme niche products. Witness Audi getting 12,000 fans to say they would buy a TT-RS at $50,000 a pop. Aside from the fact that Audi will never sell 12,000 of them in America (or the world), enthusiasts demanding obscure performance cars and then never buying them is one of the oldest in-jokes in the automotive community.

A high number of likes or Facebook fans doesn’t necessarily translate into big exposure for a brand either, as the AN article found

Owen Peacock, Scion’s manager of marketing communications, said that just because a company has 1 million fans, that doesn’t mean all 1 million will receive a company’s update on their News Feeds. Facebook’s algorithms and formulas don’t allow it — unless the automaker pays Facebook a premium

These, of course, are the “sponsored stories” that appear on our profiles, and oft go ignored as we view pictures of our friends’ pets, children, press cars and home-brewed beer. How effective are these ads? I spoke to a digital marketing professional, who put it to me this way; It’s hard enough to sell a car via a billboard or an ad in a car magazine. Selling one via a 90 character, 110 x 90 pixel ad is ridiculous.

Or perhaps “impressions” and “likes” are all that’s available. Facebook doesn’t allow third party tracking of ads, which can show not only who is viewing the ad, but if the ad is responsible for a sale. Marketing professionals seem to think that the only reason it’s not offered is because it would prove that Facebook really doesn’t help deliver tangible results. Facebook did allow it briefly as a beta test, but that program was quickly shuttered.

Ford is launching yet another social media campaign for the 2013 Fusion, and they appear to be sticking with social media despite the dubious results that past campaigns like the Fiesta Movement and Focus Rally have generated. Talking about millions of “impressions” sounds great at a social media conference, but ultimately means nothing. Just remember that Ford, a global brand and marketing machine, got 6.5 million Youtube views spread over 700 videos for the Fiesta movement, even as it touted the 3.4 million “impressions” it got for the car.

GM’s exit from Facebook may have caused a stir among those who believe that social media will bring freedom to the world (or at least make them cooler than the were in high school) but The General’s exit, in light of the new information being gleaned, may have been their smartest move of the year.

Rechtin and Barkolz sum up their article by stating  “…the fans are there and engaged. But turning that engagement into sales? That’s the hard part.”

How about “if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense”?


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Generation Why: I Don’t Want To Share Anymore Mon, 28 May 2012 13:00:14 +0000

My iPhone has no less than 7 social apps on it (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Tumblr, Tradyo and Instagram), not to mention Google Maps, which like the aforementioned programs, can utilize my phone’s built in GPS beacon to share my location with others (including Apple). My recently departed 1997 Miata was the anti-iPhone. No GPS, no traction control, a barely there ABS system, no electronic throttle. Everything mechanical. My next car will be similar. Simple, robust, resilient. What if we no longer have that option anymore?

Starting in 2015, new cars sold in the United States will, under proposed legislation, have “Black Box” electronic data recorders to help glean all kinds of data. Frankly, that’s the least of my worries, as much as I don’t like the idea of every event behind the wheel being logged.

In my own slightly paranoid opinion, the EDR program is a mere red herring, setting the stage for something else entirely. The end of driving as an autonomous activity. Market forces, like gas prices and car insurance premiums have slowly been putting a squeeze on the notion that getting behind the wheel and just going somewhere is the ultimate act of individual freedom. Now, we have Google’s autonomous (no irony intended) car program, which, as far as I can tell, is a great way for them to serve up more ads. If you’re not focusing on driving, you can watch Youtube content on your Google Android phone, check your Gmail, manage your social life with Google Calender and be totally engrossed in the Googleplex of targeted advertising using GPS beacons in your car and your self-driving Prius.

We all hear the canard that modern cars have never been safer, faster or more fuel-efficient, and it’s not only true, but a boon to the average consumer (perhaps at a cost to the enthusiast – but that’s another discussion for another day). More fuel-efficient cars means less fuel consumption – but it also means reduced revenue from the gas tax, which helps fund infrastructure projects like highways. Raising the gas tax in an era of economic depression would be like peeing on a political third rail, and even in good times, it’s challenging enough to do so. An alternative would have to be drawn up, and according to some well-placed D.C. sources, the inevitable alternative is cost-per-mile fees for driving.

Yes, that’s right. The government could track your every movement in your car (and it will be placed in every car) and bill you for it. I know that despite the best arguments from Grover Norquist & Co., we really do have to pay taxes to grease the wheels of society. Something is going to have to give. If it ever comes down to cost-per-mile taxation, there is going to be an absolute hellstorm of anger and vitriol, no matter who proposes it. I can remember as far back as childhood when Max Mosley and the FIA were showing off speed-limited vehicles based on GPS technology for European roads, and the British rags, already itching for a fight after the implementation of Gatso speed cameras, gave Max the kind of whipping that he’d have to pay £750 an hour for in a Knightsbridge dungeon.

Even if individual freedom is a distinctly American concept, the automobile is the main conduit for that all over the world; not the bicycle, not the motorcycle, not the bus or the train. Developing socities, like India and Vietnam, move on from the scooter and motorcycle as soon as their citizens can afford a car.

More than just a form of mobility, the automobile as individual transportation is a middle finger to the push towards communal living via the internet; “checking in”, “sharing”, “geotagging” and every other noxious form of soft exhibitionism that the tech nerd crowd craves (and, of course, uses to line their pockets – the more you share, the more data they have to help refine their “targeted advertising” systems). The rise of social networks is a constant theme in the media, yet young people are growing ever weary of social networks. Oversharing is frowned upon, and I’m far from the only one to have “nuked” my old Facebook profile (dating back from high school) taking with it all my valuable data, photos and status updates, while creating a new, more restricted account with a much smaller list of friends. The pendulum swing towards living one’s life publicly will not continue in perpetuity.

I spent the past 4 days in New York City, with a mandate to shut off all electronic communication, and enjoy what the greatest city in America has to offer; the grandest architecture, the most walkable streets and a culture that could not exist anywhere else in the world. I never once missed email, Facebook or Twitter, but I did miss driving. The streets of New York, crowded and brutal they may be, were filled with interesting vehicles. Town Cars and yellow cabs everywhere, vintage Land Rovers in Greenwich Village, sport bikes on Broadway, a British Racing Green Lotus Evora on Madison Avenue, a G55 AMG on Wall Street. All of them represent not just freedom of movement, but freedom of possibility. At 4 A.M., the Evora could hit well into the triple digits on one of those multi-lane boulevards. The G55 could drive all the way across the beach at Montauk without getting stuck.

These are, not coincidentally, the kinds of activities that are not meant to be “shared”. You can take someone along if you want to tresspass on protected land, or hit triple digits tearing through Midtown, but you’re not going to want to post photos or videos on Facebook. These things are the kind of experiences that stay forever in the imperfect recesses of the mind, to be discussed sotto voce for years to come among close friends. To “share” them would be profane, corrupting their very essence. Breaking the law isn’t always necessary, but we will always need a hedge against the utopian designs of those who want us all to ride bicycles and live our lives in the cloud. As I reach back into the caves of my mind, where the “Timeline” can’t yet reach, I recall the black NSX of my father, V6 at full song,and  that same car becomes ever more appealing. Maybe Honda will be kind enough to give it a factory re-furbishing, so that I can enjoy the comforts of an essentially brand new car, albeit one free of electronic throttles and data-loggers.

We’ve already seen how old cars are capturing the hearts and minds of our youth more than any of the shiny new stuff on dealer lots. Might there be a new avenue for bringing old cars back to new? How would a car with the retro cachet of something old, combined with a modern refresh from the factory do in today’s world? Yes, it will certainly disrupt the current model of pumping and dumping inventory and making it sell, but a two-fold pushback, against conformist, boring new cars and their monitoring devices, revive the radical, reactionary idea of the automobile as one’s ticket to freedom.


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Ford Ramps Up Facebook Ads In An Effort To Be “Social”, BUYS ALL THE AD SPACE Wed, 16 May 2012 15:32:24 +0000

Even as GM abandons Facebook advertising because of a poor ROI, Ford is going full steam ahead with Facebook spending and including more “sponsored stories” – i.e. cheesy advertorial content – as part of their “accelerated” spending. The problem is that it doesn’t work.

Ford’s social media head Scott Monty told Automotive News

“We’ve found that Facebook ads are very effective, and they’re most effective when we strategically combine them with great content and innovative forms of storytelling rather than a straight media buy,”

As we’ve seen with Ford before, lots of clicks, likes and other vague metrics under the vague “impressions” umbrella end up doing dick all to actually sell your product. The only Fiesta Movement occurring is a downward trend in sales, while the Focus lags behind Corolla, Cruze and Civic in its own segment.

In 2009, Jalopnik nailed it when it asked if all of Ford’s resources spent on social media and their SM guru Scott Monty really helped sell any cars.

I’d wager that based on the piss-poor numbers for Facebook ad click rates, the ability for internet-savvy users to block out advertising and the overall cynicism of consumers for even the most elaborate, narrative-driven advertising, that Ford is mis-allocating their ad dollars on Facebook, and with canned-advertorial reality shows like what were they thinking Escape Routes, a new reality show designed to promote the 2013 Escape.  Who in their right mind is going to spend half an hour watching this show? Take that money and find a way to go to every supermarket in areas where a small crossover is in demand (hint, they have Obama-Biden stickers on their CR-Vs) and let them know what you can open the tailgate by sweeping your foot under the bumper. More likely, it seems that these initiatives, undertaken by a number of OEMs beyond Ford, are what Ray Wert described as

“…another example of the dark side of “social media” — the masturbatory echo chamber re-twitting the same tweets …of the same piece of garbage over and over again to the same social media “gurus.”

Let’s go back to the Fiesta. Sales are in the toilet. Yet Ford seems enthralled with their apparently cutting edge marketing scheme that got 3.4 million Twitter “impressions” and 6.5 million collective Youtube views between the 700 videos produced by their team of 100 agents. To put that in perspective, a friend of mine directed a video for a B-List rapper who was a one-hit viral video wonder and it currently has 34 million views with basically zero promotional budget. By comparison, the number of views for the Fiesta Movement videos is laughable.

Any success that comes from Ford’s latest products will be in spite of whatever social media campaigns they end up running. Nothing short of shrewd product placement or simply having your vehicle out on the street will be truly effective in promoting the new Escape, or Fusion or any car really. A 110 x 100 pixel ad featuring a thumbnail image of a car and 90 characters of text isn’t going to snare anyone in, no matter how gripping the “story” about the car may be. Leaving a 2013 Fusion parked in a prime spot somewhere downtown and letting pedestrians do a double take to stop and look at “that four-door Aston…no, wait, it’s a Ford” costs $15 in parking fees and is sure to get them talking. Even if they don’t like cars, they know someone who does, and they will ask about “that new car I saw on the street”. I can tell you anecdotally that it happens all the time. It’s not worth much, but it’s worth more than a few million “impressions”.


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Ford Launches Reality TV Show To Promote Escape Fri, 09 Mar 2012 16:08:45 +0000

Ford is launching a reality TV show dubbed *groan* Escape Routes, which will run for 6 weeks on NBC’s 8 P.M. Saturday night slot and on mun2 (a Hispanic network) at 11 P.M, starting on March 31st. Participants will ostensibly drive around in the 2013 Escape as overly dramatic music and poorly scripted lines spew forth. As if the concept weren’t nauseating enough, participants on the show will apparently interact with fans of the show online to “tap into the fabric of the local culture”.

Ford’s previous campaigns, like the Fiesta Movement and the Focus Rally, were touted by a number of maladroit geeks social media experts, but for all the millions of” impressions” generated by the Fiesta Movement, for example, the Fiesta’s tenure in America hasn’t been the most stable. Sales were up in 2011, but Ford’s supply of the car was said to be 126 days at the end of the year. As for March 1st, Ford had an 82 day supply of Fiestas, but as of February 1st, it was still at 127.

The issue with campaigns like Escape Routes is that they have the potential to seem contrived, cheesy and worst of all today – inauthentic. One has to wonder what kind of ROI Ford expects with these sorts of campaigns. The Fiesta was an all-new product competing in a relatively immature segment in our market. But the Escape is a strong seller even after retaining the same design and packaging over the last geological era. There is significant brand equity with the nameplate even if the car is completely different. This TV show can’t be cheap to produce, and one has to wonder if A) people are really going to tune into this program B) if the show will be discovered as a giant marketing exercise by Ford C) if there will be a backlash against such an invasive marketing effort.

As optimistic as I am about the new Escape, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the whole notion of a derivative rally program designed to promote a new car that in all likelihood can stand on its own merits as an American-made, fuel-efficient SUV/CUV that has some very advanced technology. Is such a well, goofy, marketing strategy really necessary, or is Ford simply lost in another bout of navel-gazing, egged on by charlatans social media  and other nebulous “creative class” types?

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Saabistas Occupy GM’s Facebook Page Wed, 16 Nov 2011 17:07:38 +0000

Say what you want about Saab fans, the guys have some dedication. At a time when most have finally accepted the fact that Saab is at the end of the line, Saab’s hard-core “dead-enders” are taking up their social media arms to rescue their beloved brand. After all they have a perfect opportunity: after months of wading through a quagmire, uncertain whether to support Victor Muller, Vladimir Antonov, or one of Saab’s Chinese suitors, all Saab fans can now rally against their old enemy, GM. Long blamed for Saab’s decline despite the fact that the brand’s peak sales came under its ownership, GM has long been the bête noire for Saabistas. And with GM now taking the wheel of Saab’s fate, Saab’s rabid fans have taken over GM’s Facebook wall, posting images of their favorite Saabs and demanding The General “let Saab go.” Will it be enough to convince GM to go against its carefully-crafted Chinese relationships and interests by giving Saab carte blanche to ship its technology wherever its new Chinese masters want? Don’t count on it. But for the moment GM has to sit through the online equivalent of an “Occupy” protest.

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Quote Of The Day: “Negative Reviews Are Good For Business” Edition Thu, 03 Nov 2011 16:58:49 +0000

Like most corporate trends, the rush to social media is often little more than an opportunity for new consultants to sell common sense packaged in the buzzwords du jour. And though it’s easy to just laugh off the process as just another fad, it’s important to remember that common sense is in relatively short supply these days… if the only way to get it across is to punctuate it with words like “engagement” and “voice share,” so be it. And because social media is forcing companies to come to grips with every possible kind of feedback, the trend is actually helping validate the hard-hitting editorial approach that TTAC has long embraced. At Motor Trader’s social media conference, Richard Anson, CEO of the consumer review site Reevoo, explains the simple truth:

Social content will help drive sales so trust and transparency are vital; we all trust our peers more than any vendor or brand. Negative reviews are good for business. Retailing is all about transparency so perfection is not credible. Customers expect and want negative reviews and they give dealers a great opportunity to engage.

Hear, hear!

This is a lesson that the auto industry often struggles with, especially with in-house social media efforts like The Ford Story (now But even within the larger automotive media scene, there’s a lack of appreciation for the constructive powers of negative reviews. Due to a long and pointless tradition in the automotive media of trying to objectively evaluate all vehicles on a single rating or “star system,” there’s a sense that negativity in a review implies that a car is not worth considering. In reality, if someone is going to own and live with a car, aren’t they going to be as interested in its flaws as its charms? Consumers aren’t stupid, and if they feel like they’re getting a whitewash from any one review outlet, they’ll look elsewhere. And thanks to the internet and “social media,” they’ve got lots of options.

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Ask The Best And Brightest: Could The Toyota Recall Prove That There’s No Such Thing As Bad Publicity? Mon, 22 Feb 2010 22:57:48 +0000

The social media blog Mashable has an interesting theory: Toyota’s recall woes might actually be good (gasp) good for the brand. To back up this astonishing claim, they offer two premises, based on online social media data:

The first is that the increased number of conversations about Toyota are building greater awareness for the brand even though many of the mentions may be negative. While this may seem unusual, the fact that people are talking about the brand a lot more and sometimes in a neutral light (not just negatively) is increasing its exposure. More people are talking about Toyota than any other brand these days. And they’re talking about the recalls, but also the fixes being provided by the dealerships too. And some of the consumers are probably coming to the defense of the brand too. Maybe there is some truth to the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity after all.

The second answer comes via Jeremy Anwyl, the CEO of in an interview with CNN on February 5th. He explained that people have sensed an opportunity to pick up a bargain and are moving towards some of the Toyota models. Edmunds research showed that before the recall, 7.4% of the consumers in the market for compact cars were considering a Toyota Prius, and after the news broke, the number moved up to 8.7%. Edmunds’ research measures online purchase behavior against conversations on the social web.

What does this tell us? Firstly, that the SIM Score fluctuations and the related Edmunds user intent analysis have unearthed a counterintuitive trend with regard to Toyota; increased buyer interest even though there’s a lot of bad news about the brand. It also shows that there hasn’t been significant short-term damage to the Toyota brand on the social web, at least relative to its direct competitors. This of course is likely to change, as more news about Toyota’s troubles have broken since January, and more people are talking about it online today. I fully expect the Toyota SIM Score to start dropping again when the February numbers are computed. It is worth pointing out the SIM Score is a measure of a brand’s health on the social web and not always a leading indicator of sales, though it can be for certain product categories.

My take is that losing a halo of invincibility on the issues of quality and reliability is never good, although in Toyota’s case it was probably unavoidable. One point on which I have little doubt: Toyota’s fall from grace will probably help consumers make more informed car-buying decisions. Unfortunately for Toyota, that shouldn’t help them keep their sales numbers up. Ultimately, the available social media data doesn’t seem reliable enough to discard the conventional wisdom that most consumers buy on reputation… and with congressional hearings and federal investigations looming, there’s still reputational damage to be done. What say you?

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Last Night A Ranger Saved My Life Sun, 22 Nov 2009 19:29:01 +0000

Ford illustrates the ugly side of social media-based advertising: exploiting and promoting baseless prejudices by reprinting ignorant opinions. Like this misguided and misleading “thank you” posted at

I am here today because 5 years ago, I was driving my 1993 Ford Ranger XL. Thats a midsize truck, but not midsize in saving my life. I have not ever written about this before, but I thought Ford (and all its engineers) would benefit in knowing that they have been instrumental in saving my life. The reason I can say this with certainty, is because of the nature of my car crash. I ask you, if you were broadsided at 60+ ( I was on a highway in Ca) and all that saved you was your vehicles chasis..if you were driving say, a Honda..would you be here reading this?? Maybe, but not likely. All that happened to me was, I had a heck of a bent truck frame (rear suspension) and a minor seat belt bruise! I almost tipped the truck over on its side, I was hit that hard..but luckily, she righted herself in time! (I know its silly, but you got to name your trucks) This was my first Ford, and god willing not my last. I may have lost traction, due to the road being wet..but I tell you I would not be soo lucky driving anything other than a Ford. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. I just thought it would be nice to tell someone. Thanks..I could never be more grateful for your company, God bless you.

Your friend,


[Note: the Ranger pictured above is not the one from the wreck]

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