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Friday, February 13, 2004

Chrysler Cop cars?

It would show that the German ownership of Chrysler is capable of making clever decisions if they were able to pull the coup that Ford has been pulling for about a decade now. Allpar.com, one of the best sources for news about the Chrysler Group, thinks that the new Dodge Magnum might just be the replacement for the controversial Crown Vic. The LA Times had an article about the Crown Vic, unfortunately I can't find it on the net, but the gist of it was that the Crown Vic, by being built on an ancient Panther platform from the 70s, allowed Ford to make upwards of 7000 dollars on every sale. That's unheard of in the auto industry.

Of course, most people have heard how the Crown Vic is viewed as unsafe car due to it's alleged proliclivity to bursting into flames when struck in the rear at high speeds. I'm against automakers being sued for not making vehicles that are up to insanely high standards, but at the same time I realize that police make use of their cars differently than most. It is not uncommon for a cop car to be stopped on the side of a highway, and because of that, it is not uncommon for cop cars to get hit. The fact that policemen don't get to choose their cars, but rather are given vehicles, means Ford needs to take an extra step in their safety. Cop cars aren't like sports cars; those owners know they're buying something dangerous. The Crown Vic is supposed to be like a tank. Maybe it's time the Magnum stepped in, and took some business.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Expansion for dummies

I'm a pretty big opponent of expansion in the auto biz. To me, do one thing, and do it well rules the day. BMW and Hummer/GM aren't listening.

The BMW 1 series is a car that doesn't make any sense. It really doesn't. It's a hatchback, so to Americans it will make BMW look like VW. And that can't be a good thing, with sales of the new Golf doing dismally.

Whenever car companies expand into new market niches, with new vehicles, they always leave a core vehicle behind. VW went along with the Phaeton (German for Fool's Hope), and the Touraeg, and put together a lackadaisacal update for the Golf. In the heavily competitive hatch market of Europe, such a move is sure to be a disaster. Europeans have seen through it, and switched to other brands.

Hummer is trying to expand too, with the Hummer H3. With Hummer, you have a vehicle line that sort of is a fad in itself, and could very well disappear when America falls out of love with the SUV/military craze it is in. To expand on this is just silly. GM could make a hard, durable mid size SUV out of a GMC model, or a Chevy model. The H2, and H1 will look more and more mundane, especially considering that aesthetically, they all look like eggcrates.

The only brand that's been able to make a car that was out of the brand's market was Chevy with the Corvette. And the only reason the Corvette has succeeded is because the Corvette is an amazing vehicle with no real competitors in that price range (at least in America). Can anyone say the same thing about the H3? Or the Phaeton? Why buy a Phaeton when you can have an Audi A6? And consider the fact that if you squint, a Phaeton looks a heck of a lot like a Passat. It's hard to see that W8, or W-12 engine beneath aluminum and plastic. Why go to great lengths to create a luxury brand, and then try to usurp it with another vehicle?

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