By on January 16, 2007

indexhero2007010922222.jpgAccording to yesterday's Yahoo finance, Apple juice is the Detroit’s drink of the moment. Mark Fields, FoMoCo’s Prez Del Americas: "I admire their pure understanding of the brand and the type of customer they're going after.” Mark LeNeve, GM’s Veep of SS&M (Sales, Service and Marketing): "We're really trying to be more like companies like Apple, where we can innovate and move faster.” Eric Ridenour, COO of the C in DCX: "I think a fresh, creative mind is something that you can appreciate and focus simply on some complicated things." While the Big Two Point Five’s top execs are happy to sing the praises of the iMac, iPod, Apple TV and iPhone, it's lip service. They’re unwilling to learn the true lessons of Apple’s recent success. 

Apple Lesson Number 1: Revolution, then evolution

When Steve Jobs returned to ailing Apple, he cut product lines into three core offerings, cut hardware licensing agreements with third party vendors, replaced Macintosh’s Operating System and orchestrated the ouster of the company’s CEO. AFTER Jobs consolidated power, stopped the bleeding and banked some cash, the company expanded its product line. Apple was then in a position to take a chance on a “game-changing technology” like the iPod. And keep improving it on a regular basis.

“GM expects the Chevrolet Volt to be a breakthrough product.” Uh, I don't think so. Although GM has no shortage of engineering expertise, GM is far too sick to realize anything even half this ambitious. Unless the company transforms itself, it will not survive to see its electric cars wean Americans from Arab oil.

Detroit’s pattern of gradual tweaks to the status quo will not rescue the languishing leviathans. They must cut or sell superfluous brands, focus product lines, restructure supply and labor contracts, and defenestrate the senior managers whose neglect drove these once great companies into the ground.

Apple Lesson Number 2: Lead from the front

The Yahoo article counsels the domestics to imitate Apple and focus on customer appeal. This Apple does not do. It doesn’t conduct customer clinics to ask specific demographic groups whether they like a potential product. It doesn’t float trial balloons; unveiling new ideas to trade show audiences YEARS before they begin production. Apple creates something inherently appealing and builds it.

At best, a fast-acting auto manufacturer needs three years to move from concept to production. By the time a new Camaro– sorry, car comes to market, the customer survey data it’s based upon has expired. AND it’s old news. If automakers want to live on the cutting edge, they must lead their customers. They must abandon auto show onanism and unveil complete and completely radical new products, coming to a showroom near you in months, not years. 

Apple Lesson Number 3: Put the visionaries in charge

Steve Jobs surrounds himself with top-drawer creative engineers that propose far out new technologies. When he sees a product that appeals to him (that conforms to his strategic vision for the company), Apple makes it.

A former CFO runs GM. A former airplane designer runs Ford (or not). A productivity genius (or not) helms Chrysler. While there are plenty of “car guys” charging around Detroit’s halls of power, they’re not in charge. No car guy would ever green light a Pontiac Aztek, Jeep Compass or Chrysler's new Sebring.

Apple Lesson Number 4: The brand isn’t everything; it’s the only thing

In general, Apple has stood by its brand identity and product naming conventions since it began business. The iMac started as a Bondi blue colored jelly bean-shaped computer. The name remained through numerous motherboard revisions and a LifeSavers roll of colors. Later, Apple repackaged the iMac as a floating flat screen design. Today it is the all-in-one unit. Throughout the configuration changes, Apple products have retained their identity as quirky yet reliable, user-friendly (yet expensive) computer-related products.

Mark Field’s paean to Apple’s “pure understanding of the brand” is a strange observation for an executive whose company has neglected and abused both brands (Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar) and models (Town Car, Cougar, S-Type) for decades. At the same time, GM is happy to slap the Caddy badge on a pickup, and Chrysler builds so many different products at so many different price points that the name has become virtually meaningless.

Let's do the math. Of the all the US nameplates Toyota produced in 1996, 55% are still for sale, including the continuation of the Camry’s 24-year run. Fifty percent of Honda's model names also extend back to that date. That’s a stark contrast with Chevrolet (13%), Pontiac (17%), Buick (0%), Cadillac (0%), Ford (23%), Mercury (17%), Lincoln (33%), Chrysler (40%) and Dodge (34%).

“If I only had a killer car, then I'd be as meteorically successful as Apple,” bleat The Big Two Point Five. Nope. If they were healthy companies with product guys at the helm, unwaveringly focused on the long-term development of their products, then they’d be prepared to seize upon new technologies and develop insanely great products– just like Apple. 

[Read the original Yahoo Finance article here.] 

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144 Comments on “GM, Ford, DCX: Big Three iPhone Home?...”


  • avatar
    bestertester

    interesting article, and a great improvement on the yahoo original.

    tidbits i would like to add:

    * odd, isn’t it, that jobs has repeatedly quoted bmw as the car company most like apple — small, sexy, innovative and profitable…

    * apple products often clinic badly, i.e. the majority dislike them, and many actively hate them. quite unlike bmw.

    * if there were an apple-designed car, wouldn’t it be like the ford 021c concept car designed by marc newson? i would love a car with such a minimalist, clean approach — but i suspect most of you pistonheads would not.
    http://www.conceptcar.co.uk/concept-cars/concept-car-59.php

  • avatar
    dwford

    I agree wholeheartedly. While Apple does take extended R&D time (iPhone took 2 1/2 years to develop), They start with a far out idea and work towards it. Many Big 3 products seem to start with the premise of “as good as” or “good enough”, but the problem is by the time the car comes to market, the “good enough” isn’t anymore. Apple also keeps it’s price points intact. When a product gets old, they don’t discount, they reinvent, keeping the price the same.

    As far as keeping the brand names, again I agree. Look at what Nissan did with the Altima. The 1st gen was a hit, but they botched the 2nd gen. Instead of scrapping the name, the reinvented what it stood for and in 2 years time, people forgot the previous model. Same with the Infiniti brand. 5 years ago it was a joke, now look at it! Same with Saturn (job almost complete). The day the Astra arrives, no one will remember the Ion.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    Speaking of car “releases”, where’s the point of announcing the product 5 years in advance? It ends up like Warcraft III – a decent computer game for which anticipation built up and then waned, as months and month passed. In the end, it failed to outsell it’s grandfather, Warcraft II, let alone Starcraft. Had they released it upon completion, it would have scored a lot more impulse sales.

    Same with cars like Camaro. Would I buy one now? Sure. Would I buy one when/if it comes out in 2009? Hell no, by then I’d get bored of it. Every website has a picture of one. Way to kill product anticipation.

  • avatar

    On the one hand, Apple had an easier time of it in one way: its industry only recently discovered design and branding. The auto industry is much more mature, and has many established brands.

    That said, this piece makes many good points. Especially the brands.

  • avatar

    Thanks William – I appreciate the reflection of Apple’s so-called success. Yet their products are made in Chinese factories paying sub-standard wages while American cars are made in union factories paying above-standard wages.

    Also – as someone who has been in the computer business for many years I can tell you that Apple’s very proprietariness – to which you allude as a tactical strength – has almost been their downfall many times. One could argue that Microsoft – a far more successful company than Apple on many levels – is more akin to the big three in terms of overall scope and direction.

    Further – Apple does not innovate, it largely thieves designs and even trademarks from other companies and aggressively brings them to market. It then sets the bulldog lawyers on the opposition to defend its stolen turf. Harsh but true my friend.

    Memories are often short in the corporate world. Before we start heralding Apple as some kind of model for other businesses one must be sure to get their facts straight. And the jury is still out on how well Apple can sustain their growth and success in a fickle consumer electronics marketplace where margins are slim and the next big thing can sink a company overnight.

    Now I do agree with your main assertion that the 2.5 need to get the fundamentals corrected before setting out on any bold initiatives. Yet, the speed to market that you suggest is probably not even close to plausible without the very things we tend to detest – like rebranding, platform sharing, model mirroring and the like.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    hire apple to design the exterior/interior of the next Cobalt and Chevy couldnt build enough of them regardless of how many union workers they have sitting in the job banks.

    Apple products are proof that ppl will buy products that look good regardless of how well the perform.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Carnut,

    Thanks, I was about to make this same point. A single success (iPod) does not necessarily indicate a superior product strategy overall.

    Also – as someone who has been in the computer business for many years I can tell you that Apple’s very proprietariness – to which you allude as a tactical strength – has almost been their downfall many times. One could argue that Microsoft – a far more successful company than Apple on many levels – is more akin to the big three in terms of overall scope and direction.

  • avatar
    1984

    Call me crazy but I think there is a large difference between a MP3 player and a 2 1/2 ton piece of machinery…

  • avatar

    While I certainly see the numerous disparties between Apple and The Big Two Point Five's business models, every iPod tells a story don't it? In part, the iPod is a success because Apple stuck with its look and feel branding (thievery if you must) over all these years. It is, without doubt, an Apple product. And that's a good thing, not a bad thing. If they keep refining the product, as they are, they will have a solid franchise upon which they can screw up from time to time. The Big Two Point Five don't "stand" for anything. So even if they come out with a great product (and let's not start THAT debate), it's out of context– because there isn't any. Meanwhile, the neglect/abuse/abandonment of their RWD core models (300, Town car, big Caddy thingie) is just short of criminal. Maybe Sylvan should sort out their corporate ADD. Anyway, there is ALWAYS a lesson to be learned from success. Very few businesses indeed wouldn't benefit from the ones described above.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    yournamehere
    would you want a soapbar looking car that looked worse than the self promoting, blandly and poorly designed 021C. It wasn’t a car it was an appliance.

    Apples success is down to a generation of designs that have no competition in their comparative markets. Apples look better than their competition, if HP Dell etc put the same thought/effort into their designs, given a year or 2 the perception gap would be a whole different story. As for macs they’re only really good for media, not the complete package the majority of the world need in their computers. As for my experiences with macs, maybe its just me but its been the most unstable computer i’ve ever used. For my experience i’ll never touch one of them again (sound familiar?).
    Yes the iphone is innovative, but design wise i’ve seen plenty of better stuff come from nokia and samsung. Wait for their similar product to come out and the games begin.

  • avatar
    BlueBrat

    The branding duration of American autos vs. imports is very astonishing. Yet, we have the re-introductions of old time classics (Charger, Camaro, etc…)

    Also, the iPhone was just announced, and the media is quite on edge about Apple because of its successful iPod. The continual updates to its line of computers & notebooks go without much fanfare. The iPhone remains to be seen as the amazing device the media is painting it to be. I believe it’s truly being overhyped, but time will tell.

    On the subject of Speed to Market in the automobile world, I do believe it needs to be improved, but also the pre-market hype you see about up and coming autos (re: Camaro) has some benefits. When the initial investment for introducing a new model (or re-introduction or resurrected model?) involves very large sums of money, and company profit (and lack of), the several months & years of initial market reaction is very important. I’m sure the press’ & consumers’ reaction has considerable weight in their decision to make it happen. I also wonder how much say the investors have in this decision.

    As someone who is also in marketing, the pre-hype is important. The market teasing of an expected product launch helps prepare consumers for the initial sales purchase. This is extremely vital in any product’s projection of success. Since the majority of sales are at its initial launch, you can see why the hyping is important. I also know that your target audience has a lot to say about its effectiveness. The youth of the moment have a much shorter attention span and less patience waiting for a hot item to arrive, than say a near-retiring consumer looking for that perfect retirement toy in a couple of years. The right formula for the perfect pre-market advertising hype is always a tough, desirable mixture. But listening to market reaction & adjusting for it does make for better management direction. :)

  • avatar
    Hutton

    Apple products inspire lust. They don’t sell people what they want. They MAKE people want what they’re selling. It’s pretty brilliant.

    If you think about it, the average consumer wasn’t clamoring for an Mp3 player. The demand wasn’t there…. UNTIL Apple made the iPod.

    The average consumer probably didn’t care about Blackberrys, and would never pay $500 for a cellphone. Until the iPhone. Now tons of people who weren’t even in that market are counting their pennies.

    Regardless of what you think about Apple, there is obviously alot that car companies could learn from them.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I basically disagree with the analogy to Apple and find it a little unfair to the Big 2.5 (and I rarely side with them).

    Apple is still a niche player, despite what their excessive promotional budgets would have you believe. 5% market share in an industry allows you a lot of room to breathe, since you have a pretty rabid core clientele. Apple is far from an mass-market appeaser that comes with the territory for the Big 2.5. And let’s say the iPod/iPhone are overpriced by 25% or so (my estimate) and over-featured for most users. Imagine a car that came out that cost $10k more than the competition, with a sleek design and very little else separating it from competitors. People have little buyers remorse for a $400 ipod vs. a $250 competitor, but when you are talking $25,000 vs. $40,000, that’s a whole different ball game. Of course, this all assumes you agree that the ipod is overpriced and overfeatured for most users. I think so, and I have a lot of Apple stock for that reason. It’s a marketing-driven fleecing of image-conscious consumers, IMO, but my voice is in a tiny minority.

    But I agree wholeheartedly with moving auto product launches away from “here’s the concept, now there’s a 10% chance we will build a watered-down version of this in 5 years.”

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Would the Big 2.5 really benefit from an brilliant but whimsical, autocratic leader who knows what he’s doing, but sometimes misses badly with his intuition (i.e. Mac G4 Cube)? Apple’s manufacturing strategy, the wholesale outsourcing to China, Singapore, and Ireland would no go over well with the UAW.

    In the auto industry, we have a Jobs equivalent in Ferdinand Piëch. As if he’s the cure for anything.

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    I guess I’m sitting comfortably on the ass end of the bandwagon here, but I think Apple is a poor model for praise. Being reborn as the maker of “cuteputers” is not grounds for long term stability. I think Apple is (in some ways) is a bit like DCX. They rise to profitability on an interesting, if not original idea and then run with it till people dont care anymore (the iPhone is a Hemi Magnum to me). Hell, that just makes them any old corporation come to think of it. They will fall again. Steve Job’s is not a god, no matter what his image of himself may be. Their quirky products sell because they are cute. The same can be said of Justin Timberlake CD’s. Let’s step back and wait 10 years to see what kind of praise can be heaped on Apple then. I was sick of “i” this and that years ago. Besides being pretty, not one of the products i’ve seen or tried could do what i wanted it to as easily, reliably, and cost effectively as some other brand. I’m sure i’m not the only one. I just don’t see how you can plan for long term profitability by creating a psuedo-elitest subculture who’s core are the easily amused by shiny objects crowd. Ah, crap. I just described BMW. Nevermind. Apple will outlive us all…..

  • avatar
    ash78

    Apart from Piech, do megalomaniacal leaders even exist in the auto biz these days? I guess there’s Maximum Bob, but I look at him more like Charleton Heston to the NRA– more of a figurehead than anything.

    Jeff Bridges is “Wagoner: A Man and His Dream” (or not)

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    The only reason Apple is held up as a model is a well packaged hard drive that became irrationally successful. Otherwise, the company is bankrupt. Comparing products is ridiculous, in that even a Cobalt or Focus is about 1,000 times more complex than an iPod.

    The iPod of cars is the Prius. It wasn’t the first hybrid in the US, nor does it get the best mileage, nor is there any particular reason for its overwhelming popularity, except for the fact that it is popular.

  • avatar

    Robert/William –

    While I agree that lessons can be learned from successful companies, and that Apple appears for the moment to be a template for brand crystallization, innovation and agility, the disparities between Apple and any of the 2.5 abound. Although it may be tempting to apply broad strategic principles to other segments, in practise this proves tricky.

    For example – I fully agree that Steve Jobs’ consolidation and housekeeping efforts served to revitalize Apple as a company and infuse it with synergy and direction. OK, so what if hypothetically Mr. Jobs went to GM or Ford with the same broad objectives and the same toolkit? How far would he get? Remember also that he is a major shareholder in Apple as well as CEO. His iconic status as founder also serves to empower him beyond any mere CEO. Yet apart from even all of this, could his strategies that seem so far to work for Apple help any of the domestic manufacturers? I say not really as again – the disparities abound.

    Now I am not arguing that focusing the brands is not a good idea – it is. Nor that bringing products to market quicker isn’t either – surely it is. But the complexities involved in automobile design, govt regulation, safety requirements, production, international anomalies etc would make CEO Job’s task hugely more troublesome. As a rule I generally believe that many pundits and drive by critics of the automobile industry (and the 2.5 in particular) typically underestimate the many factors that are entrenched and unmovable. At Apple Jobs was given a clean slate with few untouchables – heck the company was dangling inches from the abyss when he returned with much fanfare.

    Now rather than merely being a naysayer without offering anything constructive, in my next post I will lay down some reasons why the Apple Store model ( to me the bigger reason behind their resurgence – moreso than product even) may in fact be uniquely applicable and perhaps even doable in the context of the 2.5. Stay tuned…

  • avatar
    blautens

    Suffice it to say, we’re comparing Apples to oranges here…

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    ash78 and murphysamber–
    I was in the market for an MP3 player about 6 months ago. I assumed that iPods were overpriced and that I would be best served by another brand (creative labs or iRiver).
    To my surprise, dollar for dollar, nothing could match the 30GB iPod for size and weight. Add in the frequent software updates–imagine a product that gets *better* as it ages, and the fact that iPods in good condition have some resale value on ebay should I quickly decide that mp3 players are not for me–

    feature for feature, an iMac is now within just a few (as in three) dollars of a Dell. The iMac can run both OSX as well as windows.

    I thing GM did a good thing by removing the cladding from the pontiacs. I wish they’d clean everything else up and strip it all down. stripped down doesn’t have to look cheap–just look at the iPod. essentially no buttons.
    I just don’t see how it could cost more to make pretty cars. you’ve still got to stamp sheet metal.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Of course you cannot compare an iPod to a Chevy. But you can compare corporate philosophies. An iPod is just another overpriced gadget, but a Cobalt is just an automobile among a sea of automobiles. If Apple can make a re-packaged MP3 player stand out, perhaps GM could do the same with a well marketed/built/designed car.

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    The analogy goes even deeper than just the corporate Big 2.5. It wasn’t just the fact that my Dell laptop kept crashing that made me into a (very happy) Mac user, it was Dell’s refusal/inability to fix the problem, or even to acknowledge that a problem existed. Just as it wasn’t just the fact that my Dodge Grand Caravan’s electrical system kept failing that turned me against Chrysler, it was the dealership’s refusal/inability to fix the problem. Until the Big 2.5 fix their after sale support they will continue to hemorrhage customers.

    BTW, Apple’s after-sales support is excellent. They have replaced two failing Ipods no questions asked. I can’t comment on their Mac support, however. After four years and five Mac purchases I still haven’t had a single problem.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    I’m glad I don’t have to send my car away for three weeks when it needs a new battery :-)

  • avatar
    ctowne

    I’m sorry, but if someone can sit back, look at the success of the Camry, the Corolla, and the various other “evolved” products that Toyota builds and credit said success to a honing and polishing of a product until it’s right, where is ok to buck the mold and strike out anew?

    Revolutions within GM, Ford, et all give us such “revolutionary” nuggets as the Aztek, the Sebring, and the Compass. Which we ding them for. (rightfully so)

    So if a GM or Ford product, (say the Focus for example) is left without a major refresh, and instead is tweaked to make it more reliable, to fix quality control issues, and to make it cheaper to manufacture, we also ding them.

    The big 2.5 have their troubles, no doubt. But one if them isn’t whether or not they evolve one product or revolutionize another. It’s the prejudice that the media, most motorheads, and enough of the buying public have against them.

    They’ve rightly earned their reputations, but I continue to be amazed at the free pass that Toyota gets for turning out automotive tapioca and calling it shinola. For building an 8mpg Sequoia and touting their “greenness” in every TV ad I see.

  • avatar

    I enjoyed Williams article but I disagree on a few points. Lesson 3 put a visionary is more matter of prosepective.

    “Steve Jobs surrounds himself with top-drawer creative engineers that propose far out new technologies. When he sees a product that appeals to him (that conforms to his strategic vision for the company), Apple makes it.”

    GM for better or for worse has made Lutz their visionary leader. They are doing what you asked for. The problem is that what appeals to him apparently does appeal to many on this forum or in the market.

    In other words I find it rather unrealistic to simply say get a guy whose designs you like in charge as that is easier said then done and remember that the Camry is the best selling car in America and yet many on this forum find it also uninspiring.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    i have had two Apple computers. a iBook that wasnt turned off for 3 years and was used and abused. it still works expect my brother stepped on it and cracked the screen. i now have an iMac and its the best computer i have ever used. I am a graphic artist and this thing is just awesome. I work for a large sports apparel company and we use Dells to do all the design work. The IT guys are in my department constantly trying to keep this POS from falling over dead trying to do things that wont break a sweat on my Mac. AND by the numbers the Dell should be the better computer. There is just something about the way the resources are used in a Mac that makes it so much more smooth when its working.

    as for an apple designed car. If you saw my post yesterday, i drive an xB. and while you might not like it, its the iPod of cars. The designers went to length to make the exterior sleek. Recessed door handles, blacked out B and C pillars. No external antenna. No door moldings. it looks clean. it looks smooth. The interior also has the same minimalist approach.

    Im sure if Apple designed a 2dr coupe/sports car it would be stunning. Sleek. Smooth. Void of clutter.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Since the Detroit auto show, there’s been this backlash against the hype of concept cars. From Pete DiLorenzo to ‘Jehovah Johnson,’ critics are attacking automakers (the Big 2.5 especially) for their marketing efforts.

    Why don’t you just build the Camaro, and announce it when it comes out, rather than tease us for 2-3 years? Apple doesn’t tease its products.

    Except there’s a difference. Automakers spend $Billions to bring out new product. Apple and Dell spend ~$10M on new product, and leverage suppliers’ R&D efforts.

    A public company spending 100x to bring out a product is going to test it with the market, and building concept cars — and using them to gauge critical opinion and public buzz — are part of the equation that builds the business case.

    Somebody said he was not going to buy a Camaro because he already saw a picture of it a year ago. Really?

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Off topic – I see two Scion xB owners in a row. How many of you are there here on TTAC?

    My 5 year old calls it the “Box Car”. I sometimes ask him if he wants one, if only to drive my box-hating wife crazy.

  • avatar
    Captain Neek

    Apple is a 4 or 5-trick pony…

    The one trick they do know how to pull is to design products that people DESIRE…not products they need.

    The other trick they execute brilliantly is that their user interface is intuitive and easy to use. It’s also continually being improved.

    If we accept that there are no longer “bad cars” being manufactured, then surely the two points highlighted above are what all auto manufacturers should be focusing on(?).

    Would a car with “average” engineering, a pretty exterior and a class-leading interior sell? I would think so. Audi is a case in point.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    blautens: Suffice it to say, we’re comparing Apples to oranges here…

    Computers can be Apples. Cars can be lemons, not oranges.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    We already have an auto Apple: Subaru.

    The Waning 2.5 are more more Microsoft-> producing product for everyone who doesn’t want to pay through the nose for an iMac.

    However, what they seem to want to do is build iPods, and look how well this works for Apple’s competitors. They needn’t bother trying to compete with already well-established product, or even making their own niches. They will survive by building cars for everybody else.

    It doesn’t need to excel in ergonomics or be fun&funky. It just needs to be:
    (a) Powerful
    (b) Cheap
    (c) Compatible with everything

    Although I’m sure we won’t put up with our cars crashing as much as our computers.

    What’ll save the big 2.5? A machine that’s fills peoples needs.

  • avatar

    starlightmica go test drive an Xb if you can find one. I think you will find it an incredibly fun to drive car that also offers unbelievable utility. Although it is not for everybody. The ride may be a bit harsh if you are use to a larger vehicle. I plan on driving mine until the wheels fall off.

  • avatar
    JimP

    Either you have to have a good thing and make incremental improvements (Toyota, Honda), or you have to go Bold. If there’s no aura surrounding your mark, then you better win on the spizzarke front. You do even better when you can have both.
    I think Apple’s greatest key to their success is how their external design mates with really interesting and compelling user interfaces. The original iPod made my jaw drop. It invited you to play with it, and it somehow behaved exactly like I expected it would. Later iterations kept looking cool and refined their ease of use. I think that’s why they have dominated the portable music market.
    Problem: cars are a mature design. Drop me in a 40-year-old car, and I’ll know what to do. 40 years ago, personal computers didn’t exist. I don’t know how the big 2.5 can adopt a new external package and a new (intuitive) interface that will be accepted by the public and the government regulators. That leaves plodding along trying to improve your brand and your products. Based on past decisions, I’m not sanguine about the 2.5’s chances.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    If you like an unemotional vehicle like the xb fine, but shouldn’t cars have some inspirational aspect to them about them instead of looking like a postman pat van?
    And i want to see the gent who says he’d be bored of the camero, when it does make it into showrooms, lets see where he is in the cue.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    unless you have driven an xB you have no idea what your talking about.

    i think i may see my next door neighbors car less then i see the new Camaro.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    BostonTeaParty wrote, “… unemotional vehicle like the xb…”

    Go read the reviews on Edmunds. For an “unemotional” vehicle, it sure gets a whole lotta love.

    I think the xB is a lot like an iPod or other winner Apple product. It’s really good at what it does and pushes the limits in looks and execution. But how many does Scion sell in a month? 5K? The Camry is usually not so radical (the ’07 is perhaps more so than most) and it sells 40K per month or so (and it can sell 40K copies of one that looks a bit different because of the rep of the previous however many generations of Camrys).

    Apple’s model works for a niche player. I’m not sure it’s going to work for a mainstream manufacturer.

    BMW – or maybe Lotus – is the Apple of the auto industry. They both have their competition. While my iPod is insanely great, a Creative Labs or Rio of similar capability – but not as well executed – cost much, much less and they sell pretty well. Ditto the Beemer. I think they’re insanely great (based on a single test drive in ’05 of what I think was a ’94 318i with 110K miles on it) but you can get most of the capability elsewhere for a lot less. And most people do. I did.

    However, there is probably one thing that could be fixed. Bob Lutz is their car guy. OK, maybe he makes some good cars. But he’s just one guy with one set of ideas and tastes. Jobs has several top people working creative ideas. Maybe there should be a few Lutz-like guys at GM, each of them championing different product ideas.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    scion sells roughly 150k cars per year. i think its about 50k are xBs.

  • avatar

    BostonTeaParty you are making an assumption that if you find a car either boring unattractive or non emotional that other people also find a car to be so.

    You may find the the Xb to be unemotional. You may even find that after you drive one. (if you haven’t you don’t know what you are missing).

    I find that the Xb is very polarizing. Many people who have never driven one seem to hate it based on its look. Now thats emotional good or bad.

    The problem is that many people do like cars like the Xb. Which I believe Lutz charachterized as an angry appliance.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Does any automaker have the following of Apple, though? Innovativeness aside (I think Audi/VAG is the best analogy to Apple, both in market share levels and innovation–especially in playing to the minority of diesel and wagon fans), is there any brand that elicits such a rabid loyalty as Apple?

    Oddly enough, the domestics or Toyota probably have the closest thing to Apple’s loyal following. In cars, it seems like niche players all have pretty tenuous followers, since cars (unlike basic electronics) only require one bad experience before a customer defects, often for life.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    I guess thats design though for you, subjective and opinionated. I do like the way old people drive the Xb though, haven’t seen a target market young customer in this vehicle yet.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    CarNut: Yet their products are made in Chinese factories paying sub-standard wages while American cars are made in union factories paying above-standard wages.

    Of course, comparing any two companies in separate industries can never be completely analogous. However, there are always things that can be learned from successful companies. I did not

    I believe that it is inaccurate and misleading to dismiss Apple for comparative purposes because it runs Chinese sweat shops. True, it obtains many parts, subassemblies and some complete products (namely iPod’s) from overseas vendors, as do all computer manufacturers. So do all “domestic” auto manufacturers to a lesser (but growing) degree. Apple’s software development is all domestic. The company recently reversed plans to outsource some customer service to India, unlike many competitors. Apple also obtains its primary computer motherboard components from domestic suppliers such as Motorola, IBM and now Intel.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Saw this custom plate on an xB in Virginia, don’t ask how it got through DMV:

    WTF A BOX

    ShermanLin–
    I’m looking forwards to seeing the 2nd gen xB as well as the xD, as we’re looking to get a small car in a couple of years. Not sure if the wife will warm up to a box anytime soon, though.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    CarNut: One could argue that Microsoft – a far more successful company than Apple on many levels – is more akin to the big three in terms of overall scope and direction.

    One could argue that MicroSoft is on track to end up just like GM. The difference being that GM manufactured quality products for many decades before beginning to sell uninspired, half-baked, unreliable products. MS won’t last 75 years before it craters. But I digress – this is a topic for a different forum.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    BostonTeaParty:
    im 21. my friend is 23 and no one in our gang of owners (~20 of us) is older then 28.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    William C. Montgomery:

    “…a fast-acting auto manufacturer needs three years to move from concept to production. By the time a new Camaro– sorry, car comes to market, the customer survey data it’s based upon has expired. AND it’s old news. “

    Bingo! It seems that few in Detroit remember why the Edsel failed. The whole brand was created after Ford’s exhaustive market research in 1953-54 determined that more car buyers would be buying cars “like” Buicks and Oldsmobiles in the near future. A poorly conceived product and an unfortunate economic recession put the kibosh on that.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Brendan McAleer–
    we do have cars that fit peoples’ *needs* — they’re station wagons, and you can get them in FWD, RWD, AWD with low, normal, and high ground clearance.

    but where’s my AC Cobra shooting brake?

    JimP–
    Studies have been done on car interfaces, and steering wheels proved to be the most intuitive. one of the more interesting things to try would have been the bulldozer-type levers.

  • avatar

    starlightmica I saw one that had a rear bumper sticker that said “You have just been passed by a toaster”

    The current Xb may be a tad too small for anyone with a family. You can carry the family in realtive comfort or their collective stuff but not both.

    With the seats folded down I carried some 8 ft fences. I originally bought it because I was having difficulty getting my lawn mower into and out of my 2 dr accord. (really scrapped up the leather interior bad) . I also wanted to get better mileage. I tested a Element as I have had 2 new accords since 91. The element was really huge and versatile on the interior but was 4000 dollars more than than the Xb and actually had the same or marginally worse mileage than my V6 accord. The driving experience was an absolute surprise bonus. The traction control gives you unbelievable steering and manuerverability.

    The looks are very polarizing and many people do hate the look although I find it actually attractive. I also look forward to seeing Nissan’s Cube when it gets here

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Could you imagine all the Deathwatch editorials we’d see if Wagoner were caught evading income tax by backdating options the way Jobs has?

    What if GM’s market share dwindled from 20% to 3%, like Apple’s has in PCs?

    Could you imagine the outcry over a failure like the Buick Newton?

  • avatar

    (as promised – see my previous post about the Apple Store)

    Let’s take a short trip to the holodeck and imagine if you will –

    You’re in the market for a new ride, so you jump in your 9 year-old Camry and head to the local automall.

    What’s this – no Buick or Chevy dealers? And where’s Saturn or Cadillac? Has the General actually gone and done it?

    Hold on – what’s that over on the corner?

    “The GM Store”

    Hmmmm… let’s take a closer look.

    “Can I help you Sir?” – asks a smartly dressed young woman as you approach, still somewhat bewildered.

    “Er, um, maybe… but where’s Jim Bob Buick, and Galaxy Saturn, and Inner City Cadillac – has GM gone out of business?”

    “Why no sir”, motions the young lady amusingly. “They are all here. Welcome to the new GM Store!”

    “GM Store? So what, GM has folded all of its brands into one?”

    “Well no, not exactly. Buy we have decided to better serve our customers by crystallizing each of our brands and offering them all under one roof.” – replied the representative.

    Still somewhat dazed and disoriented, you have a million questions but don’t know where to begin.

    “My name is Janica, and if you may permit me, I would like to assist you in selecting the very best GM vehicle to meet your needs.”

    “Er, I am looking to replace my Camry, and I stopped over here to check out some of the new Buicks. I have heard some positive things about them. Any killer incentives on right now for the Lucerne?”

    Janica chuckles.

    “Oh I can see there’s lots I need to tell you about GM’s new way of doing things. For starters, all of our vehicles now come with “True Sticker” pricing. We have taken the very best price we can offer our customers and posted in each vehicle. No more haggling or jockeying over what you pay…”

    You interrupt, starting to get a tad excited.

    “But isn’t that how you sales folks make your money, by dickering over price, and upselling customers into vehicles they really can’t afford. I used to sell cars many years ago you know, I know how the system works.”

    Janica shakes her head gingerly.

    “Actually, for the record, GM has just changed the way all product specialists are remunerated. Now all vehicles are worth a single rate of commission. Our incentive is to sell more cars now, not only models that paid a higher rate of commission. And today I can show you any model in the GM Store – new, used, Cadillac, GMAC, Chevrolet, Saturn, even Buick. Would you like to go look at some now?”

    “Now hold on young lady. Doesn’t GM have a ton of models that are merely rebadged versions of another? How can you sell them side by side when they are essentially the same, with slightly different packaging?”

    “Ah, I’m glad you asked sir. What is your name by the way?”

    “Er. T.H. Wannabee.”

    “Well, Mr. Wannabee. A large part of GM’s new product strategy, in addition to offering all of our brands and models in one place, is to more clearly define the signatures of each of our brands, and to provide clear choices and options to our customers. For example, Pontiacs will stand for All American Design and Performance, Saturn’s for European styling and handling, Chevy will be – well Chevy, if you know what I mean. And Cadillac will offer a premium selection rivaling the world’s best in terms of elegance, performance and comfort.”

    “Ok my head is still ringing a bit, but I guess I can go over and see the new Lucerne.”

    You follow the polite and well-informed young lady over to the Buick area where, to your surprise you see a brand spanking new Toyota Avalon parked directly in the midst of a sea of sparkling Lucernes and LaCrosses.

    “Have you tested driven the new Avalon yet Mr. Wannabee?” – Janica enquires.

    “What” – you make no effort to mask your befuddlement. “Is this the Twilight Zone?” you think to yourself. “This sure as heck isn’t Jim Bob Buick. Beam me up Scotty!”.

    “Er, no, but what do you mean?”

    “Well sir, GM is proud of its new vehicles and we think they are as good as or better than anything out there. To prove it, every GM Store now has on hand the market leader in every segment available for customers to drive and compare to comparable GM models. We figure it will save you the time of time of driving across town to visit other dealers.”

    Janica hands you the keys to a shiny silver Avalon.

    Somewhat reluctantly you get into the Toyota and Janica scoots into the passenger seat. Your test drive begins, all the time the “GM” salesperson commenting on the commendable features of the Avalon, while also indicating where the Lucerne meets or exceeds such features. You then do the same in a brand new Buick Lucerne CXS.

    Lo and behold, to your surprise, you actually prefer the Lucerne’s more sure-footed road manners to the Avalon, and you think it looks better also. “But what about the quality” you think nervously to yourself”

    “Have I mentioned GM’s new 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty yet?” Janica interjects, seemingly reading the anxiety on your face. “Or our exclusive new 30 day “Drive and Return” policy?”

    “Ummm, well, er no”

    An hour passes, where you learn more about the vehicle, service offerings, the new GM Store, until finally you decide on the Lucerne. But lo and behold they do not have the exact color you want in the CXS model. You are all but prepared for Janica or her superior to come out and try to sell you what they have on the lot.

    Janica approaches with a smile on her face. In fact she has been smiling the whole time.

    “Mr. Wannabee, I have good news for you. We can have a gold Lucerne CXS here for you pick up in as little as 14-21 days if we place the order today.”

    “Oh you would get it from another dealer?”

    You’ve heard this before, and now things are finally starting to seem familiar.

    Once again, your car-buying experience takes off in a strange new direction.

    “Well”, responds Janica. “Actually GM’s new production methods permit us to custom-make any vehicle on the line and have it sent anywhere in the country in as short as a couple of weeks. And better yet, you can even go online and see your new Lucerne being made if you like.”

    By this time you have just about had enough.

    “Computer. End Program.”

    Just then Seven of Nine walks past and all thoughts of Buicks and cars in general fade into vapor.

  • avatar
    bborrman

    BostonTeaParty –

    Just because you haven’t seen anyone young ones in a xB doesn’t mean they’re not buying them. oth yournamehere and I fall into the target market. As do the thirty fellow owners I’ve traded parts with in three different states.

    In any case, the lesson from Apple comes from brand knowledge. The company and its designers know what the brand stands for and what it’s customers want. It is a niche player, but that is what each of the GM/Ford/DCX brands should be – niche players.

    The Big 2.5 are still struggling to overcome the dealership driven excess of the 80s and 90s when every dealer wanted whichever brand they were selling to offer products for every customer. That is the exact opposite of the Apple approach.

    The iPod is only revolutionary in its simplicity. You want a radio? You want customization? Go get someone else’s device. You want a clean design? You want small size? Here’s the iPod.

    What does Pontiac stand for? Buick, Mercury, etc., etc., etc. We all get the point. Apple’s lesson for the 2.5 is in how to manage a brand.

    Oddly enough, if you look at Scion and what they have done with the management of that brand, Toyota seems to get it.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    CarNut: Further – Apple does not innovate, it largely thieves designs and even trademarks from other companies and aggressively brings them to market. It then sets the bulldog lawyers on the opposition to defend its stolen turf. Harsh but true my friend.

    The way new technologies emerge in the computer industry is remarkably similar to the automotive industry. As for Apple, they have demonstrated a phenomenal capacity to synthesize technology and good ideas into highly useful and attractive products from a variety of sources including internal development, external partners, and through licensing agreements. It is libelously inaccurate to write that Apple does not innovate or that it steals all of its technology.

  • avatar
    MW

    I think the Detroit auto execs are actually smarter than some are giving them credit for here … the relevance of Apple is that they’re succeeding by building distinctive products in a commodified marketplace. If you recall, Apple almost went out of business trying to compete against Wintel machines, which could always offer more power and features for less money. At one point, Macs lost most of their market, until Apple realized that many people hated computers and computer-speak and would happily spring for something simple and intutitve that simplified the experience for them. Apple’s success comes from real marketing — in the sense of taking the time to understand what your customers actually want, rather than doing the same old thing and buying tons of ads to try to convince them they want it. No one really wants a Chevy Impala, though many people will buy one if it’s cheap enough.

    I think the Big 2.5 “get it” that offering content for dollars is a losing game — and the Koreans and Chinese are probably going to win it long-term with lower fixed costs. Their only hope for survival is to produce strong, distinctive products that rise above the clutter of functional but anonymous cars. Whether they can translate that understanding into actual vehicles is less clear. Their big challenge is that successful manufacturers of distinctive vehicles tend to live at the upper end of the market, which is a real stretch for Ford, GM and Chrysler in terms of engineering and brand identity.

    For what it’s worth, I think the Ford 021c concept posted above is brilliant. It’s a clean, distinctive design that’s radically different than the usual “me too” language car designers use (bulging & muscular / sleek & swoopy / derivative & bland) that also harkens back to the heart of Ford’s brand promise: to deliver a simple, sturdy vehicle the common man can drive with pride. I could see a big market for this among many of the “anti-car” people I know, just like the original Beetle captured that market for a prior generation.

  • avatar

    BostonTeaParty and yournamehere
    I am not sure why the demographics of Xb buyers always seems to come up on the Xb. A lot of people seem to want to knock the Xb as if it was Grandma’s car.

    It is my understanding that Scion still has one of the youngest demographics among auto makes although the Xb skews higher than the other scion models.

    I am 45 so I am not the target market but I am not grandpa either. I still have another 30 or 40 years (if I am lucky) of car buying to do.

  • avatar
    bborrman

    Sherman.

    Scion has the lowest average owner age in the US. But, to be fair, the tC is the one that really drives the average age down.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    CarNut: Let’s take a short trip to the holodeck and imagine if you will…

    LOL! That is good.

  • avatar
    ash78

    The tC is an interesting beast. A bland, mid-range European Toyota 5-door (the Avensis) finds new life in a 3-door US pseudo-tuner car. I say “pseudo” not because they can’t be made to go fast, but because they look ridiculous with stock super-low-profile tires and 6″ worth of wheelwell gap ;)

    Scion is the triumph of style and marketing over all other aspects, just like Apple. I think that’s the best Apple-auto analogy. I am an xB fan, but don’t want one for myself. I’m indifferent on the tC and xA.

    (I just wish more people would say the name right. It’s not “Sky-on”…apply directly to the forehead)

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    alot of older folks like the xB because you dont have to step up or fall down to get in the seat. the bottom of the seat is hip level with an average person. a close friends mother recently had knee surgery and when i brought my car over for the family to check out the 1st thing she said was how easy it was to get in and out of compared to her Durango or Corvette.

    PS..just because they arent 25 doesnt mean owners cant have fun with the car. there are plenty of 40, 50, 60+ year old owners who modify the cars and come out to shows.

  • avatar

    New cars: bought mainly by/for old, rich market.
    iPods: bought mainly for/by youth market.

    Of their respective markets, no vehicle will ever be able to get nearly the marketshare that the iPod has of music players–revolution or no revolution. The iPod plays media and that is all (for the most part). Vehicles have many, many more roles for many more segments of society. Even the most innovative vehicle has limited appeal. Additionally, it is an old and crowded market. This was not the case with the MP3 market. There were few decent products and tons of lousy ones–then came along the (decent) iPod.

    The iPod analogy is hard to make for many market-based reasons.

    I actually think that the “blockbuster”-style of thinking hurts the automotive industry. It leads to a “this next product will save us” mentality.

    I am also bothered by the idea that “good people in charge won’t approve products that are edgy and fail.” They do. They have to. You have to have the Echos/MacCubes to get to the xBs/iPods. I say “bring on the Azteks” in hopes that this sort of risk-taking will produce something meaningful. It should be understood that meaningful and successful vehicles will enjoy a limited scope of success (marketshare-wise) of the vehicle market, but that this is the only way the vehicle market can work given its demographic and usage characteristics.

  • avatar

    I just wish more auto manufacturers domestic and foriegn would follow the Saturn – Scion model for selling. Perhaps the dealership selling model is more apt to the Apple analogy.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    Alot of people who claim that Apple’s success is all style and marketing are discounting the Apple user experiance, which is impressive in its level of detail and ergonomics. Every tiny aspect of your Apple device has been designed to death, almost down to the molecular level.

    Kind of like luxury cars, where the switches in you Audi all make the same “click”.

  • avatar
    MW

    Good point about ergonomics. If a carmaker could apply Audi’s level of ergonomic intelligence to a mid-market car, they’d have a winner. I personally think Honda comes closest, thought they don’t always get it completely right.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Hutton
    I badly want to agree with that assessment, but I have a techophile buddy who feels no remorse about replacing ipod batteries every year or two as they fail (and they’re hardwired, no removable. WTF?) on all four or five of his family’s various iPods. Just like owners of classic cars, they can be easily blinded by reality when it comes to their toys.

    I don’t hate the iPod, I just can’t believe this many people suddenly love music and portable video so much that it’s worth $400 plus periodic $100+ battery replacements for the extra convenience (or extended warranty). I don’t want to threadjack any further, but there is definitely a correlation between the iPod and certain cars when the owner believes it’s the best thing ever. The little negative details are soon ignored. Maybe the Audi comparison is pretty solid :D

    One other point of contention is that I feel Apple updates their products TOO quickly. No sooner have I nearly purchased an iPod than a new model is introduced. It’s insane, and it’s driven me completely away from the market. What if carmakers had a 2-year refresh cycle instead of a 4-6 year one? As soon as a new model becomes available, you start hearing about the next one.

  • avatar
    MW

    What if carmakers had a 2-year refresh cycle instead of a 4-6 year one? As soon as a new model becomes available, you start hearing about the next one.

    The main difference is that new cars are only incrementally better than the previous model, while new electronics can be exponentially better. A 25-year-old car, if well maintained, can still be perfectly usable today. Try it with a 25-year-old PC.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    apple keeps all of there old tech useable…i would love to see car companys give me a new engine if they upgraded the one i have.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    What if carmakers had a 2-year refresh cycle instead of a 4-6 year one? As soon as a new model becomes available, you start hearing about the next one.-

    Wasn’t this the case in the body-on-frame days, when the domestics had just one or two cars per nameplate? I’m too young to remember, one of the resident historians please help out.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    Correct ash 78, With apple, particulary ipods, theres a lot of sheep out there who want what the Jones’s have got. Once the ball gets rolling its difficult to stop. The more of them you see, the more people want it.

  • avatar
    tincanman99

    I submit that Porsche is like Apple. Like Apple Porsche crawled back from the brink of destruction. Now like Apple, Porsche has a loyal bunch of enthusiasts. Granted at the price levels Porsche sells at its not the same animal but its a premium product just like Apple. Like Apple and BMW, Porsche barely discounts at all. They are a premium niche manufacturer that sells dreams. I heard this recently and this is the best way to describe them. Most Porsche owners do not sell their car because they hate them but rather because of lifestyle changes like kids coming along.

    Once you drive one you will want one kind of like the iPod. Do they have issues, sure. Are there faster cars around for less money. Sure. Is it a Porsche, nope.

    Same deal as Apple.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I think many of you are missing the point — obviously you can not directly compare an iPod to a Chevy Malibu.

    But, I would never even think of owning another MP3 player.

    And I would never even think of owning a Chevy Malibu.

    The point is make products people want to buy. Apple does that well. Very, very well.

  • avatar
    MW

    tincanman:

    I think the Porsche analogy is partly right. Definitely a distinctive, desired product. But Porsche sells at a price point far above what most people can realistically afford. Not so for Apple. Porsche is like Bang & Olfusen audio gear — a terrific product for a very small niche of customers with a lot of money and the desire to spend it.

    Bringing it back to the Big 2.5, they have to cater to the mass market. Their vehicles don’t have to be the cheapest, but they have to be affordable by most middle-class people. They’re just too big to pursue only the upper end of the market — plus it would require completely redefining their brand, which isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. I hear the VW Phaeton was actually a great car …

  • avatar
    CliffG

    I get really nervous about cross-industry comparisons, but there are two aspects to this comparison that are apt, one is to keep the Scully’s aways from the head honcho job – this is why Mulllaly is a terrible choice for Ford. Cross industry widget professionals (the classic MBA’er) do not have a good record in resurrecting companies in the long term, even though a hatchet man like Alfred Dunlop can do amazing things in a year before he flees with his money.

    The second is that “cool” is really tough, and the longer the time span between the thought and the realization the less likely it is to remain “cool”. The single most important trend in automobiles over the last decade is that the shelf life of models is very short and long product runs are a thing of the past. The problem with the Camaro is not that is still 2 years awat, buy Chevy probably needs a run of a half a million to make serious money on it. Chevy is looking for a homerun when it needs to figure out how to score a run off a walk, a ground out, and an opposite field single.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    again…scion is on a 3 model year cycle then they are replaced, keeping the “i want that” factor high. also increasing the value of the used cars. The resale value on an xB is stupid high! year old cars with 20k on them are selling for $500 less then a new one!

  • avatar
    Hutton

    Jonny Lieberman: But, I would never even think of owning another MP3 player.

    That’s the point, right there. Most people wouldn’t.

    It may not be the cheapest, or have the most features. But it’s the one people want. And for that reason, would-be competitors can’t defeat it with features, or price. You can only defeat it with desirability. And no one has done that yet.

    And people siting battery replacement, reliability or other iPod issues… well, these issues are as irrelevent to disireablitly in MP3 players as they are in cars. If you could have any car in the world right now, the car of your dreams… you wouldn’t pick the one with best reliability record, or the longest lasting battery. You’d pick sex on wheels.

  • avatar
    disgruntled

    Uhm, the photo at the top is not the new iPhone. That’s someone’s Photoshop concept that must have came out before the iPhone was revealed last week.

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare a tech company to an auto maker. I don’t think it’s fair to give credit to a brand for a products success unless it’s a $100 bottle of perfume. There’s nothing about the Toyota brand that makes it a success. What Apple has in common with Toyota is that their products don’t become headaches for their customers, albeit, Toyota’s service department has become a headache for me so I’m going to consider another brand for my next vehicle. Also, Toyota and Apple products feel better made with higher quality materials and plastics than the competitors. I have a Mac G5 at my feet right now and the fucker is built like a tank for some reason. Don’t know why ’cause it just sits on the floor. I’m thinking when the CPU is obselete in a few years, I’ll be able to melt down the steel case and mold it into a viking sword or something.

    Apple is a succes for a number of reasons. They have an entire industry of creative professionals and people who find their products are intuitive and easier to use than the competitions. No headaches. That’s why they’ve maintained 5% of the PC market for almost twenty years. The iPod is a success because it’s the right product at the right time—not because of the prefix “i” or branding for that matter. Yes, it’s a sweet looking sexy design that people seem to have a genuine affection for. But it’s also easy to use, and probably feels like a novelty to a Windows user. Ditto for the iTunes store. Apple has made it a breeze to buy online music and now movies. Again, no headaches. Microsoft was late in the game (like always) so their online music store failed, hopefully the Zune will too.

    The only thing that the big 2.5 can learn from Apple is not to make their products become a headache for their owners. Forget about all the branding and marketing nonsense—if I ever hear anyone use the word “synergy” again I’m going to beat them with an aluminum baseball bat. One thing the big 2.5 should not do, is copy BMW’s styling like the new Camry. That will be the death of them. Design wise, I think they might have an edge over the likes of Toyota, as long as they keep it simple.

  • avatar
    bestertester

    mw: thanks for the feedback, i am glad you like the ford concept. i think it has aged well, btw: it’s a 1999 design!

    lieberman: yes i agree: desirability is key!

    and what is desirability? well, i think it starts with: sexy style, smart engineering with little wastefulness / redundancy, and s&d in daily use.

    (sorry for the marketing lingo folks, that’s “surprise and delight”, i.e. pleasurable small experiences, such as when you find that you can scroll through an ipod directory exponentially, or when a boxster changes its engine note at 6800 rpm, or what i experienced 20 years ago when i took a stock peugeot 204 to a track).

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Also, real fast — My iPod got left in an Orchard for three rainy days — works perfect.

    Then it got stuck behind my glove box for a few months and baked constantly in the heat of my car during an LA summer.

    Still works perfect.

    Never had a battery issue.

    I LOVE it.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    Like that cool little pocket in the dash board that fits a cell phone perfectly…or the slot on the back of the counsel storage unit that hold business cards….

  • avatar
    MW

    Hey, good point about “surprise and delight.” That’s how I felt about the 87 Civic I owned — I bought it used expecting it to be a reliable commuter car, and its ergonomics and driving dynamics continued to impress me the longer I owned it. It’s amazing how fast you could drive that thing on windy back roads on stock 175/70 tires, and how much zip you could wring out of the little 1.5-liter motor.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    The lessons that the Big 2.5 could learn but won’t/can’t from apple are:

    1. One man/woman in charge with vision and drive surrounded by good designers and engineers. No committees no board, my way or the highway.
    2. Focus, cut the chaff from the wheat and focus on what you can do that is the best in its segment.
    3. Leapfrog the competition, you must lead the segment and wow your consumer.
    4. It’s the design stupid. Apple is only relevant because they have superior design and usability.

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    Good article, I am glad you mentioned the way the big three have abandoned the familiar model names which once meant so much. To me Chevrolet was/should be Nova, Malibu, Biscayne, Belair and Impala. These models are the real spirit of Chevy. An oversimplification prehaps, but if GM had produced a Biscayne for the rental market and kept a slightly dressier Belair or Impala for retail, there would be a distinction in the consumers mind. When the Solstice was introduced, I thought Tempest or Catalina would have been a more appropriate name. Ford Falcon is an iconic nameplate in Austrailia, The modern version has little in common with the original, but the name has history and people love it. How could Caddy turn it’s back on Coupe de Ville ? The big three don’t get it, they don’t have any appreciation of the emotion and sentiment we consumers attach to our cars. Oddly GM loves to recycle the names of really crappy cars,
    Firenza, Epic(a), Astre(Astro), Corsa, come to mind and I think if I wait long enough Citation and Vega will be back.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I suppose ash78 and BostonTeaParty aren’t iPod owners… too bad, they’re missing out on a nifty piece of gear. Yes, the problem of battery replacement is an issue but overall, the iPod+iTunes combo has no peer. My son has an old Dell Jukebox multi-gigabyte iPod-like device and it has given him good – make that great – service but he’s also seen the iPod way and he says the Jukebox is nowhere near as good.

    Can I get a bigger screen/more storage/longer battery life/repleaceable batteries/etc for less? Oh, yes, certainly. Can I get an equal or better personal music storage and playback device for the same price as my iPod? No. If so, I have yet to find it.

    “Surprise and delight…”
    The ’82 Cavalier had a change dispenser. No mechanicals, just three slots that held coins in exactly the right way for flipping EXACTLY what you needed into your palm without looking as you approach a tollbooth. It took me a year to realize that’s what the little structures along the side of the console storage bin were for (where is a helpful salesman when you need him?) and after that it was one of the best features in the car. I’ve never seen anything like it since.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    MW: Right on about the Civic, and really all Hondas.

    I mentioned this in my Accord review, but the amazing thing about the car was that the longer I drove it (and we’re only talking 700 or so miles in a week) the more I liked it. By the end it was love.

    My sister’s new Civic has similarly grown on me.

    Good product = the key to success.

  • avatar
    detroit9000

    BMW is the closest analog to Apple.

  • avatar
    hal

    I would have thought the relative success of Chrysler showed that GM at least can produce design led desirable cars for a premium price in a niche market. No doubt there is a lot to be learned about marketing and brand management from the example of Apple but it is in the mass market of price conscious consumers that the US automakers need to compete, unless they are willing to give up the majority of their remaining market share.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    I can help with the debate as to whether or not the car companies need to tease everyone for 3 years with a car design.

    They “clinic” all the designs they build, right? Right. We all know that.

    Yet, American Motors came out with the Gremlin. The Pacer.

    Chrysler came out with the Jeep Compass. The Chrysler Sebring.

    GM came out with the Aztek.

    See where I’m going with this?

    Better to have car-guys design a desirable car (you know, something they themselves would like to own), keep the thing under wraps and wow everyone with an unveil.

    Then watch the car either sell well, or fail. But, GM, Ford and DCX, at least, stop offering 29 varieties of vanilla!!!!!

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    apple is ultra-creative and it is most definitely devoted to producing desirable products of an exceptionally high quality.

    can’t say that with a straight face about any of the big 2.5.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Regarding the 2 year refresh, it used to be 3 years for Detroit.

    Think 1955-1956-1957 Chevrolet.

    1958 was an exception; GM had the pants scared off them by the 1957 Chrysler products, which were much more modern and lower, big fins, big glass area. GM thus “pushed up” their 1961 cars to 1959 in a crash program, thus the 1958 Chevrolet and Pontiac were one-year wonders.

    Yep, it was far easier to do with body-on-frame cars, because a frame could be used for 3-4 generations of car, or as long as 12 years or more.

    Yet, it is not impossible to replace cars with new cars in 2-3 years, or so. Look at the Japanese. They produce literally dozens of JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) variations on a them with different sheetmetal.

    One secret is using lower cost concrete and enamel dies in the body presses to keep costs way down (even cheaper than the old cheap kirksite dies used for lower production stuff up until the invention of the concrete and enamel dies).

    Plus the Japanese have automated dies going in and out of presses 2, 3 and 4 stories high – massive – and can swap out dies with robotics in 10 minutes instead of hours for a swap.

    This adds incredible flexibility to the process of building cars in smaller batches, maybe sharing engines/drivetrains in several lines, sharing suspension parts, even big expensive pressings such as chassis pans.

    But is it desirable to have every car line change so much every year or two?

    For example, the 1964 1/2 Mustang was virtually only lightly touched up for 1965 and 1966, pretty much reskinned (and enlarged) for 1967, touched up for 1968, facelifted for 1969, facelifted for 1970, redone for 1971, and touched up for 1972 and 1973. The 1974 Mustang II was all-new (and smaller).
    That was a unit-body car.

    The all-new 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle / Malibu was facelifted for 1965, reskinned for 1966, facelifted for 1967, all-new for 1968, touched up for 1969, reskinned for 1970, facelifted for 1971, touched up for 1972, and all-new for 1973.
    This was a frame-body car.

    Now, let’s be honest. Was a 1973 Malibu that much more car than a 1964, or a 1973 Mustang that much more car than a 1964 1/2? What exactly were the improvements, other than government mandated improvements? There were none, because essentially, the focus of car-making was in looks, not substance. Plus, costs are reduced when you build a car for a decade. The trick is, design the car to be able to last on the market for a decade!

    Do we want to return to that era when only looks counted? If so, maybe the big 2 1/2 might survive, except they’d have to pull a lot of decreped old guys out of Florida retirement villages to do the job… nah. Won’t work.

    Contrast that situation with Peugeot, just for an example. Peugeot came out with a beautifully designed (by Pininfarina) 404 family car in 1960, and built in for about a decade. The 504 came out and was built from 1968 to through the late 1970’s and up until the present present day, in Nigeria, it’s that good. The 404 was available alongside the 504 for awhile. The 505 came out and replaced the 504, both were offered alongside one another for awhile. The 505 was built for about a decade or more. (I owned one in the UK – good car).

    I say if a car is a good car design, build it as long as customers want to buy it, and it is economical to do so (as long as it still passes muster for the latest safety requirements, etc.)

  • avatar
    NickR

    Please not the Citation!

    Although I don’t know if the comparison to Apple is entirely apt, I agree with the assessment of the Big 2.5.

    They seem to always find themselves doing one of two things. Either sticking with a model long after it’s expiry date (e.g. Taurus) or they see someone else with something successful and they jump on the bandwagon (the new Camaro and Challenger). They are so desperate to create buzz to match their rivals they put something on the car show circuit three years before it hits the showrooms. By the time it’s launched, it’s old, whether or not it’s actually been on the road.

    Or they tease us with designs that look like they could really make an impact in the market and they disappear into oblivion, as do most of the elements that make them unique.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: starlightmica:
    January 16th, 2007 at 10:19 am
    “Would the Big 2.5 really benefit from an brilliant but whimsical, autocratic leader who knows what he’s doing, but sometimes misses badly with his intuition (i.e. Mac G4 Cube)?”

    there is a small but tenacious market for vintage apple computers – collectibles actually – and guess which mac is at the very top of their list? the cube.

    re: murphysamber:
    January 16th, 2007 at 10:22 am
    “I guess I’m sitting comfortably on the ass end of the bandwagon here, but I think Apple is a poor model for praise. Being reborn as the maker of “cuteputers” is not grounds for long term stability.”

    some news for you – the company just formally and officially removed the ‘computer’ reference from its name. its now just ‘apple, inc.,’ a move which would seem to confirm that apple has no intention of being perceived as a maker of ‘cuteputers,’ or even ‘computers.’

    by the way – the i-phone imagery used within this post does not do justice to the product’s actual appearance nor the innovations it contains. explore the site linked below to get a better feel for the real deal.

    http://www.apple.com

  • avatar
    gfen

    Computervergnügen.

    I don’t know how to explain it, but using a MacOS X based computer is like nothing else.

    The fact that they’re also innovative and sexy designs are just icing on the cake.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Glenn A,
    You are wrong about the Gremlin. I knew the CEO of AMC at the time. He sat on a plane with his head designer, who penned the Gremlin in a few hours as AMC’s answer to the energy crisis. No consumer feedback whatsoever.

    And the rest was history. Or, in the case of AMC, the French “histoire”.

  • avatar
    acx

    *Stimulating comparison of apples to kiwis.

    *Interesting abortion as the lead picture (is this the microsoft copy of the iphone?)

    *Interesting notion on the camaro which is to be an 08 model year no? The market on that car has hardly come and gone lmao. The only issue with it is marketing it to be a 100,000 plus unit car.

    *doesnt’ cisco own the iphone brand name? Nice vision apple.

    *I understand the iphone is not 3g compliant? Nice vision apple.

    *I understand the iphone is going to be expensive compared to its peers int he market. Perfect.

    Revolution, vision, lmao.

    Not in this case yet. We’ll see if it is in a year or more, you know like the camaro… which is so far in the future its useless to its market.

  • avatar
    Joe Chiaramonte

    Great article and excellent food for thought.

    I’m still mentally debating about the applicability of a cross-industry comparison like this, but I’m sure any of the 2.5 would love to have a hit like the iPod. For that matter, any product manufacturer in any category would.

    I’m not so convinced about the Apple:Toyota::iRiver:Buick chain of thought, though.

    Remember that a large part of iPod’s success was also linked to iTunes, the successful, proprietary and easily-linked music mart (2 billion+ tunes sold). If it had just been another stand-alone device using MP3, or if innovation had stopped at the first release, the excitement might have died long ago. But Apple has continued to innovate and build on its own success – and did so at a time when their core market (computers) was suffering from a loyal but minimal market share, where it has grown only marginally.

    I’ve never been one to swim with the other fish, though. When I decided I needed an MP3 player, I chose a Sony Core Walkman for a few key reasons:

    1 – Features: like a 50-hour battery with quick charge (my son is on his second iPod Nano, which spends half its life in a charger) – an incredibly sensitive built-in FM receiver, and intuitive controls I don’t need to look at while manipulating (my eyesight isn’t “compatible” with deciphering the little screens on iPods)

    2 – The Sony Brand: Sony has its own music mart, Connect, and the brand is associated with Sony BMG, which owns a large chunk of the world’s music catalogue (Sony’s in a much better position to compete on price, should things go down from 99 cents per track)

    3 – Price: You can get a 1GB Sony for $89, 2GB for $119, 8GB for $199 – all have displays, unlke the iPod Shuffle.

    When shopping for a car, I probably tend to follow the same chain of selection criteria at some level.

    If the 2.5 could start with an innovative product (it doesn’t have to be a sea-change, the new Malibu is evidence of hope, if it backs up design with performance), update and build upon it, focus on Features, Brand & Price, recovery could happen along the same path as Apple.

    Market share is another issue, since we’re talking about selling cars and trucks, not refrigerators, as your “breakthrough” product. None of the 2.5 would survive on 5-6% market share.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Great design sells. Ease of use sells. Sex sells. Wrap all 3 up in 1 package, and you have great consumer products. The iPod exemplifies this, as does a 3 series, a Euro Ford Focus, Yahoo! Instant Messanger, Google search, 911, Motorola Razor, Canon Digital Elph, etc. How much more does it really cost to make something beautiful? Answer: It doesn’t cost more, but it takes a desire to do more.

  • avatar
    ash78

    A direct comparo would be:

    “Whoops, we forgot to install a radio in our new luxury sedan! Oh, well nobody will ever notice, and if they ask about it, we’ll just indirectly call them stupid and old-fashioned. Nobody listens to radio anymore!

    “Also, our entry-level model has no windows on it, so you have to just drive around aimlessly. It’s still fun, though!” :D

  • avatar
    Hutton

    I think if you compared sales of MP3 players with radios, vs. iPods, I’d say that the people have spoken on the radio issue, and they’re saying they don’t want one. The choice is there.

    Also, I wish cars came without radios anyway. Thus giving you the option to install one you like, or go without. Most stock radios aren’t very good or flexible anyway. People aren’t carrying CD’s around with them any more, we have hard-drive music players (iPod or otherwise) so why do cars still have CD players? Just give me a hole on the dash I can plug my iPod into.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Hutton, I just wish cars all came with standard DIN slots! The move towards proprietary shapes just makes it harder to change it out. Everything should be modular wherever possible. I think that’s a pretty universal idea in product design, one that I support across the board.

    (re: no radio in ipod–I think that’s Apple’s only big mistake, despite what sales numbers show. There are millions of gymgoers that can’t listen to the TVs without FM and have to resort to a secondary, cheapo radio for workouts, along with an ipod)

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: MW:
    January 16th, 2007 at 2:23 pm
    tincanman:

    “I think the Porsche analogy is partly right…Porsche is like Bang & Olfusen [sic] audio gear…”

    as a long-time and current owner of two B&O audio systems plus an assortment of contemporary apple products, i believe that apple IS the new B&O. both offer premium products with excellent aesthetics that are very desirable and easy to operate [even though apple is intentionally a little down-market, comparitively speaking, ensuring its appeal to an even wider audience].

    and – because TTAC is, afterall, a car site – i guess i’ll once again reference my ‘wheezy’ ol’ 2.5 litre boxster, just to remain legit.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    good point about the gym. never thought of that.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I wish cars all had a slot you could shove your iPod into — just like an eight-track — and then access your tunes via simple controls.

  • avatar
    Joe Chiaramonte

    Jonny, that’s probably on the way soon.

    See the i-End from Margules Audio in this article:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16568002/

  • avatar
    Joe Chiaramonte

    ash78 & Hutton – that’s one of the reasons I like my Sony: When I’m in the gym, I can listen to FM (the tuner’s so good, it captures FM signal deep in a building) or my digital music.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Apple is the new B&O? Sure they both have visually appealing design, but B&O actually cares about music, just as Porsche cares about driving.

    iPod uses a proprietary and inferior compression algorythm.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Who listens to FM?

    ick.

  • avatar

    I have to agree with those above. Detroit never thinks about perfection as a goal. It is always good enough. Even the Japanese constantly revise their products, and if a product fails, they go back and try again and again until they get it. I can’t imagine the car manufacturers building a one-off, giving it to the CEO to drive for two years while he points out that the stitching on one side is slightly different than the other, and that it takes 0.2 pounds more pressure than it should to turn the wheel at 20 mph.

  • avatar
    Joe Chiaramonte

    Jonny, though digital players have taken a chunk of listeners away from radio, listening is trending back up.

    I find that, unless I tune into radio at least once in a while, I don’t hear new music – I don’t hear about it virally, like my son’s age group would.

    Without diverting too far from the point of this article, radio gave away its sole position of being the one-to-one media source to computers, instant messaging & iPods. But, it’s still relevant.

    You need to listen to an episode of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” on NPR:

    http://www.npr.org/programs/waitwait/

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    SherbornSean: iPod uses a proprietary and inferior compression algorythm.

    The AAC compression algorithm that Apple utilizes for iPod is neither proprietary nor inferior to the popular standard, MP3 format. (I apologize in advance for geeking out and diverting from the posted topic.)

    AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is the audio compression standard adopted by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) as part of their 4th suite of standards published in 1997 (aka MPEG-4). AAC was adopted to replace the organization’s previous standard, MP3, because AAC has higher fidelity and is slightly more compact. AAC files are sometimes expressed with the extension ‘.mp4’. Both MP3 and AAC (as well as Microsoft’s WAV) are lossy compression algorithms, which means they will never satisfy serious audiophiles, for whom only full digital audio will do. Nonetheless, AAC is measurably better.

    AAC is not proprietary to Apple. However, Apple attaches a proprietary FairPlay digital rights management (DRM) tag to AAC files purchased from the iTunes store to protect copyrighted material. This tag is not affixed to AAC compressions made when you scan songs from CDs. Furthermore, Apple does not tag FairPlay to any MP3s or other supported audio file formats you might add to your iTunes library. On the other hand, Microsoft’s WAV file format is a 100% proprietary creation of Microsoft. It too restricts file usage to protect downloaded copyrighted material like FairPlay. The difference is that Mr. Softy has sold licenses to multiple hardware manufacturers so that WAV files can play on a variety of non-iPod devices.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    Who listens to FM?

    ick.

    Love my Sirius satellite radio–no commercials, either.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Pay for radio?

    As for commercials, that’s why we have presets. If it’s not music, I push the button.

  • avatar
    BarryO

    What a great article –

    I think the key to success is to create a great user experience at all levels, meaning:
    1. Make the buying process straightforward.
    2. Product interactions should be clean, intuitive, predictable and rewarding.
    3. The service process – what happens after the sale – should be designed to get the customer back in front of the product quickly and at a reasonable cost.

    Apple hits the mark on 1 and 2. I’ve never had to get to 3 with them.

    Car dealerships almost invariably suck at number 1. I hate the whole purchase experience. An afternoon with a blind dentist would be more enjoyable.
    A number of cars offer a decent product interaction. That’s about comfort, controls, response, can I fit all that stuff from Home Depot, etc. But make it great in the ways that count for the buyers you’re going after, whether it’s comfort, mileage, utility, etc.
    Then there’s service. A real horror story a majority of the time. And why are service ‘advisors’ commissioned? Every time I took my Dodge in for whatever, even an oil change, they always insisted that I needed another $1200 worth of something or other. I’d walk away feeling like I was about to get taken, or that my vehicle had a blind date with disaster. Either way, Dodge created terrible user experiences regardless of what I had done.

    But there’s hope. Let me tell you about my Nissan dealer. He’s probably somewhat unique, but these guys have never upsold me on service. I bought 2 cars from them and they made it painless. When I took a rock in a side window and it shattered all over the insides, I called their service manager and he told me to bring the car right in. Even though they didn’t have the glass at that time, he had the car vaccuumed, taped the window with plastic for me, got me on my way and in the next day or so I had a new window. He quoted me a price for the window, and it sounded reasonable, but do you really think I cared what it cost at that point? THAT’S a great user experience.

    It’s got nothing to do with computers or cars.

  • avatar
    BarryO

    One more thing about the Apple comparison.

    William Montgomery said Apple was about revolution, not evolution. However, once Apple creates a revolution, they release significant updates or revisions continually, making the product continuously better. I agree they’ve been revolutionary, but the follow up has been very gratifying to watch. And rewarding for the end users.

    Toyota, Honda and even Nissan have done this very well, to the point that the 2.5 might need revolutionary product changes to move forward successfully.

  • avatar

    bestertester: if there were an apple-designed car, wouldn’t it be like the ford 021c concept car designed by marc newson? i would love a car with such a minimalist, clean approach — but i suspect most of you pistonheads would not.

    I thought that was a very interesting car. Newson, incidentally, got a writeup in this past sunday’s NYTimes Magazine

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    William C Montgomery,
    I stand corrected. Thanks.

    But is AAC better than a CD?

  • avatar

    Very interesting article. I don’t think the big 2.5 will pull through. the bureaucracies are too sclerotic. The revolution will come from some upstart(s), probably resembling Amory Lovins’ vision, and that will be it. The only hope for the 2.5 is that the Feds will come up with CAFE standards that force the 2.5 to get revolutionary. And as the French would say, that will happen when chickens have teeth.*

    * Some scientists actually tweaked some chickens into growing teeth. Long ago forerunners of birds had teeth, and so the genes were there, just repressed over millions of years. But like strengent cafe standards, this sort of thing happens VERY rarely.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    Pay for radio?

    As for commercials, that’s why we have presets. If it’s not music, I push the button.

    When I punch in any of some 60 “channels” on Sirius, it’s pure music–there are no commercials to avoid–ever. All for < $180 a year--compare that to a cell phone fee...

    I'd go on, but will defer to talking about the review. :-)

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Joe,

    OK, NPR is my weakness.

  • avatar

    ctowne So if a GM or Ford product, (say the Focus for example) is left without a major refresh, and instead is tweaked to make it more reliable, to fix quality control issues, and to make it cheaper to manufacture, we also ding them.

    Indeed we do. The original Saturn was called stale after 3-4 years, yet I find they still look better than most of the cars out there. Nonetheless, we didn’t ding VW for maintaining the basic old beetle for decades. Perhaps because of the way VW positioned the Beetle. (It’s like they say with respect to Presidential campaigning: define yourself before they define you.)

    Of course, most cars are so ugly, yet uncharming, and uninteresting that this might not have worked for them.

  • avatar

    BostonTeaParty:
    If you like an unemotional vehicle like the xb fine, but shouldn’t cars have some inspirational aspect to them about them instead of looking like a postman pat van?

    The xB unemotional???! You must be one of those Boston Blue Bloods! As a fellow Bostonian, I’m just kidding you about being a BBB. But I LOVE the look of the xB. It’s loaded with personality, like an old Beetle. I feel good whenever I see one of them go by. Despite my 53 years, it makes me want to buy one, and find someone in one of the local art schools to paint a logo on the side that says “Dave’s Rolling Cafe and Concert Hall.” ONe of my friends who’s not at all a car nut feels likewise.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    SherbornSean: But is AAC better than a CD?

    Not in terms of audio fidelity, but the drop off is so slight that it is largely imperceptible by the overwhelming majority of listeners. I am a lifelong music lover an I cannot tell the difference. Furthermore, AAC files are about 1/11th the size of uncompressed digital audio, which is good.

    By the way, Apple’s FairPlay DRM is ridiculously simple to subvert. iTunes allows users to burn AAC files to CDs as audio files, which strips them of their electronic shackles. The music can then be played from CD or uploaded into another digital jukebox unfettered.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Somebody may already have pointed this out–I’d be surprised if they haven’t–but I just don’t have time to read the zillion posts already made.

    Anyway, one of the most important thing about Apple is that its users/buyers are its salespeople. Ask a PC user what computer to buy and you’ll get a droning recitation of CPU speeds and memory and what drives to get. Ask a Mac owner the samm question and you’ll be buried under a blitz of BUY A MAC! information.

    I also find it amusing that the middle-aged white guys in Detroit–and Toyota City, and Munich, and Gothenburg–spent years wondering why everybody was walking around with white wires coming out of their ears. Now, finally, in 2007, we’re beginning to get MP3 jacks, which the carmakers are promoting as high technology that they’ve been SO hip to figure out.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    I also loved the Ford 021c… it looks like it could be a modern interperetation of the BMW 2002… another favorite of mine.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Stephan is right (as usual)

    Out here next to Hollywood, many (Jesus… almost all) of my close friends are involved with movies and/or composing music for movies. ALL of them use MACs. And they are zealous in their love of Jobs’s machines.

    i’ve pointed out to several that everything you can do on a MAC can be done on a PC for less money (except Final Cut Pro, I know, I know). They simply don’t care. MAC, MAC, MAC.

    Me? I have both, and haven’t turned the MAC on for over a year.

  • avatar

    Intriguing article! Especially for someone who’s followed both for a long time. I dont understand why some people cant accept a comparison of two companies’ strategies, even if they are in different industries. The concepts they teach in b-school arent for a specific industry are they?

    I agree that the general idea of the ipod is exactly what the 2.5 should be aiming for: a superior (revolutionary) product that stays superior for successive generations.

    Imo, the zune is a perfect example of detroit’s current way of producing things: a me too product that doesn’t really surpass the market leader in any way.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    steve jobs’ arrogance is his main shortcoming. i can’t stand the guy no matter how many good ideas he takes credit for. it makes me not want to buy apple products. and i like apple products… but i haven’t bought a single one because of that.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Dolo54

    You’re not serious, are you?

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Steve Jobs arrogant and you won’t buy his products? Amusing. Exactly how I feel about Bob Lutz.

  • avatar
    aakash

    I am amazed at BMW drawing comparisons with Apple.

    The USP of the entire Apple product line is its intuitive User Interface….compare that with iDrive?? fuhgeddit

    This alone makes any attempts to draw further parallels an exercise in futility

  • avatar
    rtz

    1960’s Mustangs getting changed up every two years. That’s the way to go.

    2005-2007 Stang: Will the 2008 model be exactly the same?

    How can they expect the same old car to sell well indefinitely?

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I am serious… for instance he claims the iPhone is revolutionary in its design and functionality, nevermind that LG had already created a very similar phone. He still claims that apple invented the mouse based graphic user interface, and that bill gates stole the idea from them, nevermind that both he and bill gates saw that type of interface in development at xerox park.

  • avatar
    Somethingtosay

    The air in here is thick with Apple Fan hubris.

    —————————-
    # Jonny Lieberman:
    January 16th, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    I think many of you are missing the point — obviously you can not directly compare an iPod to a Chevy Malibu.

    But, I would never even think of owning another MP3 player.

    And I would never even think of owning a Chevy Malibu.

    The point is make products people want to buy. Apple does that well. Very, very well.
    ——————————

    Well then, in both cases, it has nothing to do with the merits of the product itself, and more to do with the image it allows you to buy into.

    Or maybe I have a contrarian view of what an auto-enthusiast is supposed to be?

    There is no car that I would “never consider”–in any present or future iteration.
    It is my opinion that that is a very disturbing attitude for a car reviewer to have. You might want to consider adding such a rider to every subsequent review that you do.

    Or am I seeing too much in your statement?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Mr. Tosay,

    I you like, I can prodice you with an entire list of cars I would never consider owning from at least three continents.

    If RF will let me, I will attach to each and every review I write.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    dolo54: [Steve Jobs] still claims that apple invented the mouse based graphic user interface, and that bill gates stole the idea from them, nevermind that both he and bill gates saw that type of interface in development at xerox park.

    Apple does not claim to have invented the mouse or GUI but that the Macintosh was the first computer to utilize these technologies (i.e. other than in prototype).

    Apple obtained the legal rights from Xerox to utilize those technologies (and others). Microsoft did not.

    When Apple sued Microsoft for stealing the UI, Mr. Softy successfully convinced the court that Microsoft’s engineers developed Windows with complete independence and that the OS worked differently enough that it did not constitute theft. Go figure.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    dolo54:

    By the way, I’m not saying that Jobs’ is not a jerk. By all accounts he has certainly done some bastardly things. You are surely entitled not to buy Apple’s products for that or any other reason.

    Nonetheless, the man breathed life into a nearly dead company and brand. AAPL stock in 1997 vacillated around $15 per share. Today the stock is pushing $100 a share and the company has over $11 billion in cash and liquid assets.

    So, the Big 2.5 would do well to learn from Apple. Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about Steve Jobs.

  • avatar

    ^ Actually, AAPL was in even worse shape since there have been 2 splits since then. in ’97 the stock was hovering around $4/share at current prices.

    Job’s may be arrogant, but he’s made a lot of money for a lot of people. Aren’t CEO’s suppose to have a level of arrogance (if they’re right) by definition?

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Before this devolves into an argument about whether or not Jobs is a jerk, let’s all remember to imagine what it would be like for Detroit if they had a car (something other than the Corvette) that owners were as apostolic about as Mac users are, or a product as ubiquitous (whether or not it uses second-rate compression) as the iPod.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    William – I believe your understanding of the case is incorrect. Xerox sued Apple for copyright infringement right after Apple filed a lawsuit against Microsoft. I’m not saying he doesn’t have good management skills, I just can’t stand his personal style.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    dolo54: William – I believe your understanding of the case is incorrect. Xerox sued Apple for copyright infringement right after Apple filed a lawsuit against Microsoft.

    Xerox was paid millions of dollars in Apple stock for the demo of PARC’s Smalltalk System to Apple programmers for the express purpose that Apple would develop a commercial GUI product.

    Xerox’ lawsuit did not allege copyright infringement by Apple*. The bizarre legal action, believed to be a defensive action to protect Xerox interests in the Apple v. Microsoft & HP lawsuit, was dismissed.

    (* Source: S.M. Besen & L.J. Raskind, An Introduction to the Law and Economics of Intellectual Property, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 5, Issue 1, Winter 1991, pp. 3-27)

    This Xerox PARC episode is actually an excellent example of Lesson #3 above: Put the visionaries in charge. Just having great engineers and novel space age technology is not enough if the corporate leaders do not know what to do with it, ala the Big 2.5. Said Larry Tesler, a former Xerox PARC researcher, “After an hour looking at demos [Steve Jobs] understood our technology, and what it meant more than any Xerox executive understood after years of showing it to them.”

  • avatar

    I just went to carsurvey.org, on the above advice, clicked on reviews, clicked on Chevrolet, and then clicked on the first late model Chevy review I saw, a 2006 Equinox. Garthx, this conflicts with what you say both about GM and the xB. Here it is:

    What things have gone wrong with the car?
    I bought my equinox just a little over a year ago from Todey Chevrolet in Oxnard, Ca. 2 months after my purchase, one day my car just wouldn’t move. I checked everything and started pushing the gas pedal completely flooring it, and it still wouldn’t move. After getting it towed back to the dealer, the next day, I was so upset to find out that, there was a leak in the side panel of the driver’s side door. When they removed the paneling, all the wiring was rusted and the whole computer in my car had to be replaced.

    About 3 months ago, my breaks had to be replaced at only 20000 on my car.

    And most recently, my car is being serviced because the heat went out. Apparently, the little door that holds heat in/out was broken and needed to be replaced. In order to do that, they had to take out the whole dashboard of my car!! I honestly don’t know what to say anymore about my car, except that I wish I hadn’t traded in my scion!!

    Mad as Hell in Oxnard!!

  • avatar
    dolo54

    bleah – internet arguments… nobody wins. it’s pretty easy to google what you want, take a snippet out of context and post it to support your argument. back atchya (from anwers.com). Notice that the lawsuit was dismissed, not because it was “a bizarre legal action” but because they had waited too long:

    “The first successful commercial GUI product was the Apple Macintosh, which was heavily inspired by PARC’s work; Xerox was given Apple stock in exchange for engineer visits and an understanding that Apple would create a GUI product. Much later, in the midst of the Apple v. Microsoft lawsuit in which Apple accused Microsoft of violating its copyright by appropriating the use of the “look and feel” of the Macintosh GUI, Xerox also sued Apple on the same grounds. The lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality — Xerox had waited too long to file suit and the statute of limitations had expired. However, some dispute the degree to which the Apple interface was derived from Xerox designs[1]. Indeed, prior to Apple’s visits to PARC, its Macintosh project more closely resembled the Valdocs operating system of the Epson QX-10.”

  • avatar
    dolo54

    my point is… Steve Jobs tried to take credit for the GUI when he accused Microsoft of stealing his ideas. However he and Woz didn’t originate those ideas (just like he didn’t originate the ideas for the iPhone). Also, who is the real success here? Steve Jobs who runs a company that sells 1% of home computers, or Bill Gates who understood that the money was in the OS, not the hardware.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Actually, MAC’s share just went from 4% to 6% — but who’s counting?

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    CarNut:
    Thank you! You have somehow pulled the one of the two ideas out of my head that have been swimming around for the greater part of 5 years.

    The Ford store / GM Store / Toyota store while sounding far fetched makes perfect sense. In fact, I would take it a step further and have a fleet of ‘testers’ on the lot that were not available for purchase. After the buyer decides which vehicle they want, they simply enter their options into the network and Ford / GM / Toyota takes a vehicle that is 90% built, and adds the combonation of options each person wants.

    If one of the big 2.5 had the money and cajones to CTRL+ATL+DELETE their dealer network and start over, they could revolutionize the industry and make purchasing a car a joy instead of a nightmare.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    dolo54:

    Okay, my last comment on this…

    Xerox did not allege copyright violation. They filed two claims that Apple copyrights be invalidated. Implicit to that claim is the acknowledgement that Apple currently held copyrights for the technology at issue. Xerox also alleged three counts of unfair competition, seeking damages of $150-million. I called the case bizarre because the previously cited authors characterized Xerox’ tactic as highly unusual for a supposed copyright dispute.

    The lawsuit was initiated by Xerox executive, William C. Lowe, who joined Xerox about a year earlier – long after Xerox ceded the technology to Apple. Lowe, who previously oversaw production of the PC at IBM, realized what a boneheaded thing his predecessors had done and was attempting to wrestle the copyrights from Apple (i.e. so Xerox could earn megabucks through licensing fees). Apple, of course, was trying to keep proprietary control of the copyrights so they could make megabucks through computer sales and recoup the millions they invested in obtaining, refining and improving the product.

    The Xerox lawsuit differs from the Apple v. Microsoft/HP case because Apple alleged that the defendants infringed upon valid copyrights that Apple legally held. I believe the Xerox case was misreported as a copyright infringement because many in the press either did not understand the difference or thought that the distinction was too technical for the general public to comprehend. Of course, in the real world such distinctions do matter as it was just such a technicality that got the Xerox case thrown out of court.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I didn’t actually read your whole post, but I can see by its length that you want it way more than me… so congratulations! You win! bask in the glory of a long sought internet argument victory. However your triumph shall be short-lived when you realize that nobody else is reading these comments anymore… they’ve moved on to arguing about which c-pillar the suzuki minivan most takes after.

  • avatar

    I see a thread running through your posters , ( and even in your original story), about Mac stuff being more expensive, hyper expensive or worse yet being at all overpriced. ( Most often this is the bleat of the uninformed, and the clueless about computing).
    It isn’t true. The computers have all of the required items to operate included. The cut rate Dells and HP’s advertise a low end product and if you call in and order a comparable box to the Apple it usually costs more, does less and has the panache to come with no software; let alone the incomparable ilife suite the Apples all come with. Like all of their products the mac is seamless, it just works, and it lasts. I’m currently typing this out on a 1999 blue and white G3. As far as a comparable product to the ipod their aint any. Zune notwithstanding.

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