Thursday, January 01, 2004

Pontiac Ads

Quick note here...While watching the Bowl Games this New Year's Morning, Pontiac has been showing a flurry of ads. Samuel L. Jackson narrates. Truth be told, these ads seem quite strange and out of place. Yes they sell the high, cheap performance of Pontiac, but at the same time they seem to make a play for both the African American community with a black narrator, and a "cool" limerick being read over images of the different rims available for the Grand Prix, yet they're being shown on the most White-bread of shows: The Rose Bowl. I think it's apparent GM doesn't know what to do with Pontiac; what they should do is just let the product speak for itself. That is, cheap, competent, sports sedan.

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Introducing...the Chevrolet Corvette

This is the C6, the sixth generation of the Corvette. I've linked to an Autoweek article, so far the best writeup with pictures of the new sports car.

This blog is partially about talking about new cars, and how I think they're going to effect the auto industry, and the companies that make them. Will this car be a success? Undoubtedly. GM took the conservative approach. The C6 looks basically just like the C5, with just enough styling differences for their to be differentiation. This is nothing like the C4 change from the C3. This is a continuation of the same big rear, 4 rear light styling that started in the 80s. The biggest difference with this new model are Ferrari-style headlights, and more angles. In short, no new buyers, or continued Corvette buyers will be offended.

Perhaps the biggest complaint of the C5 was the Malibu-esque interior. That's gone here. The C6, I wouldn't say has a world class interior, but at least something that doesn't look like it was made with parts from the Chevy Cavalier bin.

GM, and probably Bob Lutz all knew that with a goldmine like the Corvette that averages 30 thousand units in sales a year, you don't mess with success, but make small improvements. This isn't the leap forward of the new Mustang, but it's a small step forward to at least maintain sales, and more than likely bring a few of those Porsche buyers into the fold, who insist on a sports car with a decent interior. Good job GM.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

On Loyalty

This article talks about what brands have the most loyal buyers. Chevrolet is at the top. What you'll notice however, is that the big Japanese companies are right behind, and like any poll done, there is probably a percentage difference of several points, meaning that it is not out of the realm of possibility that Toyota actually has the most loyal buyers. But it's good for GM that it has some of the highest.

The bottom brands, Oldsmobile, Isuzu, these are companies that are literally on death's door. Both are GM affiliates. Pontiac, and Suzuki, GM affiliates again are quite low too. So are Ford affiliates, Mazda, Volvo and Mercury.

Why the loyalty or disloyalty? Customers it seems are drawn to brands they know will be there for them. No one expects Toyota, or Honda, or Chevy to disappear from the face of the earth, and everyone expects that in every corner of America, a dealership or a mechanic that specializes in those brands will be found. Isuzu, Mazda, Oldsmobile, Suzuki, these are fringe brands that have poor inroads in the American psyche, or are brands that the public fears won't exist in a few years.

Just another article reinforcing the importance of brand status, and reputation. If the customers don't have confidence in you, they're not going to buy, no matter how "cool" your cars are. Mazda is a good example...

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May I recommend...GM/Ford stock?

This article details the disappointing sales figures for the 4th quarter for GM, with things not going to get better sooner. Reports like this drop the stock prices for GM, and pitch them to new lows. Time to buy and hold folks until the new models come out, and they will be coming out over the next few months for GM, as well as Ford. Off the top of my head, by the end of 2004 we'll see the Cobalt, new minivans for Ford and Mercury, Buick, and Saturn, the new Mustang, the new Corvette, the Pontiac G6, Chevy Malibu, Ford 500, Freestar, the list goes on. I plan to have a write up on the new Mustang, quite simply it is amazingly beautiful. From an LA perspective that views the Mustang as sort of a redneckmobile/girly car, this new Mustang is going to sell out. They will literally not be able to keep these on the lots. I'm waiting until official high gloss photos come out to link to, but having seen the stolen photos on the message boards already, Ford has a huge winner. I'm drooling so much over the car, I sound like a Ford employee, but I'm really not. It's that good. The influence of J Mays over exteriors isn't that promising, but over interiors is cause for celebration. If things continue, Ford is going to have interior design on par with the Europeans. I kid you not. See the Lincoln Navigator.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Presenting...the Chevrolet Cobalt

The Cobalt is GM's attempt to win in the marketplace of the Sentra, Civic, Corolla, 3, Aerio, ok, I think you can see that this is a crowded marketplace. This is a replacement for the Cavalier, and it is none too soon. Though pictures and statistics are being released now, the Cobalt will not see light for another YEAR. In the competitive small car market, this is a poor strategy. I'm wondering aloud whether or not Honda, or Toyota, the kings of this market have such a long lead in time before they release a new Corolla or Civic, and I highly doubt it.

But let's look at the car itself. The interior is a huge step forward from the rental Cavalier. I would argue that it is on par with the Civic's interior, but not the upcoming Mazda's 3's in terms of sportiness. There's also a faux wood version, to compete a bit with the Corolla's faux wood attempt. I'm a hater of faux wood, and how garish it looks, especially in small cars, which I see as invoking the old Cadillac Cimarron. Externally, the car is Civic like, and quite bland. Engine statistics aren't out, and neither is price, but the Detroit Free Press is predicting that it will be sold without rebates. People buy small cars not because they like them, but rather because it's all they can afford. Since Chevy is coming off the Cavalier, the buyers of this car are going to expect a very cheap and affordable small car. The Cobalt will be a shock in that regard, unless the car is an incredible ride. The jury is still out on that one.

I myself own an '01 Sentra. I bought it not because I wanted a small car, but because my parents wanted to give me a new car for school, and it seemed to be the best of that class. Obviously if I had the money I would have gone for something absurd like a Vette, or a Porsche. The Cobalt looks a great deal less "girly" than the the Cavalier, and a lot less cheaply constructed. If the Focus can do well for Ford in the small car environment, I don't see the Cobalt having much trouble either, but I would recommend for GM to keep the Cavalier around for fleet sales, so that people see a difference between it, and its predecessor. This would be similar to the move Ford made with keeping the Escort around for a few years for fleet sales. On the other hand, I feel the Cobalt won't have nearly the same success of the Focus, because the Focus's design was a sharp break from the Escort, and had a "European" feel to it. And a great ad campaign wouldn't hurt either.

To sum up, is the Cobalt a winner? Aesthetically it's not a failure, but not a blockbuster success either. The SS version isn't amazing either. We'll have to wait until people drive the dang thing to make the final judgement. The hardest people to please will be the rice-rocket crowd, who will take highly into consideration the car's ability to be modified, and how well it handles. If it passes the test with them, the hardest test of all, GM will truly have a winner. Aethestics aren't that important with that group, they'll just modify the car to their liking anyway. Winning with that crowd seems to be mostly luck anyway, just make a great, cheap, small car...

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Monday, December 29, 2003

Added some links

I'm taking things easy today, because later this week, it's going to get chock-full of news. The LA autoshow will be in full swing, and the Detroit autoshow is just around the corner. Between them EVERY major manufacturer, (and a couple not so major), will be issuing releases. I'm going to try to cover at least every release, and give a small review of it based on what is released (usually just pics), but if there are engine statistics or whatnot, then I'll go over those too.

Like the title of this entry says, I added some links to the right. Enjoy...more to come!

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Sunday, December 28, 2003

Here's an IDEA

Living in LA, the only domestic vehicles I tend to see on the road come in the form of SUVs. Jeep, Dodge, Ford, Chevy, GMC, to the West Coast, they are merely truck makers. Of course the Asian manufacturers are prominent as well.

But what's interesting is that the SUVs that are sold aren't hardcore, unrealistic, rugged vehicles, rather, they're big, clumsy, heated seat, headlight washer, traction controlled, behemoths.

Whatever happened to the young kids' relatively cheap SUV, that was offroad capable, adventurous, and wasn't a Wrangler? Whatever happened to this guy? It's a Toyota Land Cruiser from the mid-1970s. It's some guy's fan page. A quick entry of Toyota land cruiser pics in google comes up with these pages in Cardomain, not pictures of the fat bloated Land Cruisers they sell now, people don't care about those. What's even more interesting about that link is if you scroll down, you see pictures of the FJ Cruiser, Toyota's best Concept from last year's show circuit. It basically showcased what a modern, rugged, off road land Cruiser would look like.

This is something every manufacturer could get in on, even Jeep. When the Liberty comes up for rebuilding in a few years, instead of making an SUV that isn't "Trail Rated" and caters to women with cute bubbly styling, make something that is like the Land Cruiser of the 70s, essentially a large Wrangler with good safe doors, a real roof, and an A/C standard. People might not take it offroad, but if they think they can...trust me, it'll sell.

Well, I'll be at the LA autoshow on Friday taking pictures that I hope to have up in a week or so. I'll be updating as often as possible, probably every day. There are pictures out of the concepts at LA and Detroit already on the Net, but I'm going to wait until they're officially grouped to give my opinion on them. When I go to the Autoshow, I'm also going to give out awards in every vehicle class to the products I think are the best out there! Bye for now...

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