Piston Slap: Idolizing the Buzz, Forgetting Competitive Advantage

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC Commentator celebrity208 writes:

Can we get a critique of the Ford Fiesta ad blitz that was going on during the American Idol finale? (are they effective? Are they unique? Etc.) One of those commercials showed the SYNC system in the Fiesta.

TTAC has discussed Ford’s SYNC and GM’s tie up with Google. A follow up question is: Might the domestics be positioning themselves to be in the lead regarding vehicle telematics? BMW has iDrive and Audi has something similar but do any of them have cooperation with leaders in the tech industry like Microsoft, Google, and (yet still single) Apple? This is assuming that these types of pair-ups produce lasting developments that can net both companies increased sales and or competitive advantage?

Sajeev Answers:

Remember that anything posted on an automotive message board (that’s even remotely car related) is fair game on Piston Slap. With that in mind, what a cool query!

Regarding Fiesta: marketing for barely available vehicles is somewhat impossible to judge. I know there’s a measurement for “buzz” on the Internet, and the Fiesta’s social media strategy is pretty impressive. It’ll be the case study for social media’s impact on marketing. But this question is about Ford’s TV time on American Idol. Sure, this show is the right place for a car in this price point. Effective? Maybe.

Unique? The Fiesta’s promotional style is a skim milk, indie rock version of Scion’s once successful heavy metal marketing strategy. And like Scion’s current woes, the Fiesta has an uphill battle when the next Euro-Focus hits our shores. Either of the new Fords shall feel the “Mercury” pinch: too many players in the same price point, fighting each other’s incentives/rebates. In the same showroom, most importantly. But Jack Baruth’s time with the Ford Aspire is the proper precedent: even if it doesn’t blow like the Aspire, the Fiesta won’t make it past a few years of Foci mass consumption by retail and fleet buyers alike.

Regarding telematics: Short term exclusivity contracts aside, I doubt Detroit has the lock on it, just look at BMW and Google hopping in bed together. If there’s money to be made, tech providers will spread their goodness across all platforms. There’s no (sustainable or otherwise) competitive advantage if your tech partner isn’t 100% owned by…you. Just look at Delphi selling it’s Magnaride goodness to the likes of Ferrari!

Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com

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  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.
  • Craiger Honestly I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of steering feel. I dropped off my 530 at the dealer in New Jersey and picked up the Z. Driving all of my familiar roads I was just shocked at how much info wasn't coming through the wheel. Because of that I was never able to push the Z like I did the 530.