Saturday, March 06, 2004

The road to luxury is paved with failure

Chrysler and Dodge dealers are demanding new product. And Chrysler is giving it to them in the form of the 300c and the Magnum. Both are expensive vehicles for their brand names though. I've written on the 300c before, and it is a step up in price to the 300M. It is thoroughly in the luxury sector for a car. The last time Chrysler tried to go luxury was quite recently with the Pacifica, and as the article I linked above shows, Chrysler failed there. Simply put, Chrysler is not a luxury automaker, never has been, and never will be.

What is the price for failure in this area? Ask Volkswagen. Here is a company that only three years ago was Europe's biggest, and most profitable. Now, they have headlines that could easily be confused with the dilemmas of an American manufacturer. Volkswagen's problems are completely due to competing with one of their own divisions, Audi, and not upgrading their core cars, like the Golf. Whenever a car company expands it risks diluting its ability to make a well made car, because the money it spends on research and development is spent elsewhere, then on making a car that doesn't break down. Volkswagen has never made the highest quality cars, but now with absurd vehicles like the Phaeton being made, their problems are magnified.

The moral of the story is, stick to what you know best, and do it well.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The first Car designed by Women

Is right here. It's part of the Geneva Auto show, the largest auto show in Europe, and quite comparable in size to the Detroit Auto show. I don't know what to make of it, but I'm skeptical it was completely designed by women. For one thing, I don't know what woman would have a flower print on the upholstery of her car. No liberated sane woman that is.

The press release emphasizes "easy" to use, easy to reach, easy to operate. I would think those would be important for all people, not just women. To emphasize them to me, would mean creating a car for something unintelligent, like a gorilla. It's more than a little patronizing.

Volvo knows where its bread is buttered, and they know that in America Volvo is viewed as the woman's/mother's car. All those stereotypes, that women prefer how well a car brakes, how safe a car is, to how fast it is, how sexy is it, are in place here. Volvo has made quite a lot of money selling to women unconsciously, rather than directly and patronizingly. The American manufacturers have tried to sell women's cars before, and it has usually failed. In some cases, like the Mustang, it actually reversed and was popular among men (at least in the 60s.)

This is a totally unsubtle, and somewhat insulting attempt to gain customers in an area that they have already staked out well. Volvo should try for customers who would never choose their vehicles normally: young men.

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