Posts Tagged ‘Audi’

JD Power’s 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study–It’s tough to buy a bad car.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

JD Power just released its 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study and there are some surprises.  Porsche is ranked 1st, Lincoln 2nd and Buick and Lexus are tied for 3rd. It wasn’t so many years ago that Lexus dominated the VDS study as the perennial number 1 and some may wonder what has happened?  Particularly in light of the well publicized Toyota quality issues.

The fact is that nothing has happened to Lexus, they design, engineer and build an extraordinary vehicle.  What’s happened is that the other manufacturers have improved to the point where every year it’s a genuine dogfight to get to the top spot.

There were some other surprises that weren’t so good….  (more…)

Can Cadillac succeed in Europe?

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Amid all the drama surrounding GM, every so often I see something that strikes me a smart.  In Geneva, Cadillac announced it’s aspirations for Europe (WSJ 3/8/10 Sub required,  NYT 3/2/10).

After a number of high profile failures to enter the European market in a big way, the folks at Cadillac want to be a niche player and are willing to accept the lower volumes that go along with such a strategy.  By keeping volumes low, and presumably margins high, they expect that they can be profitable from year 1.

I think this strategy is sound and will succeed.  Cadillac’s current design language is unique and appealing.  There has always been a segment of the automotive market that is interested in something different and Europe is no different than the United States in this regard.  In Europe where Mercedes-Benzes, Audis and BMWs are common and cover a multitude of uses including taxis, rental cars, executive cars and the vehicles of choice for captains of industry, there is an opportunity for something “different.”

(more…)

Unintended acceleration and driver error.

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Below is a letter to the editor from today’s Wall Street Journal that I think provides an important perspective on unintended acceleration.

Allegations of  UA and the media furor around it virtually destroyed Audi in the United States.  Audi was vindicated eventually, with UA and the unfortunate accidents associated with it attributed to driver error.

Toyota is now “in the barrel”  with the politicians and media all intimating that there is some sinister plot at work.  There’s a lot at stake.  If there have been genuine misdeeds then let’s prove it beyond a question of a doubt and hold Toyota responsible. If indeed, driver error was the issue, I hope that the media and our politicians will be as quick to acknowledge the fact as they have been to hoist Toyota on its petard.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below and here’s the letter:

(more…)

Super Bowl XLIV: Which automotive manufacturer got it done?

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The sentimental favorites won the Super Bowl…at least the football game part.

Generally speaking I thought the advertising game within the game was just OK, not great.  Within the automotive segment, six manufacturers stepped up for the Super Bowl:

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As I said in an earlier post, the tough part about advertising in the Super Bowl is that while the football game is the primary draw, the advertising contest comes in a close second.  As an advertiser you have to be willing to do work that will stand out and entertain because the very next day the “results” of the ad contest will be published in USAToday.

I always watch the Super Bowl hoping that one or more of the automobile manufacturers will break out of the category mold and amaze us.  Here’s my take on the automotive commercials, from best to worst:   (more…)

Toyota’s brand: People don’t love their refrigerator either.

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Toyota is in deep stuff given the allegations of unintended acceleration, several huge recalls that will cost BILLIONs of dollars, continuing investigation by NHTSA, civil penalties, reduced sales, weakening brand image scores and deflated residual values.

There has already been plenty written about the impact of this on Toyota’s brand reputation.  It certainly is going to set them back, some pundits say it’s a “speed bump” for Toyota, others say the situation will effectively “kill” the Toyota brand.  I suspect that the “truth” will be somewhere in the middle, the Toyota brand has been damaged, it will take a good deal of time and effort to recover, but it will recover.

Rather than debating the current health of the Toyota brand, I’ve been thinking about the discipline of branding in the automotive category and what its practitioners can learn from Toyota’s experience. Certainly the need to manage the media and to do so in a transparent way is critical.  Time is of the essence, the internet can take your reputation and spin it out of control in a heartbeat.  Beyond the crisis management learnings, I think that we are seeing the danger of having a brand that is based solely on rational underpinnings. (more…)

Muller said Saab can be “very, very profitable,” partially by staying true to its own DNA.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Mr. Muller and Spyker have finally got a deal to buy SAAB from GM (Automotive News 1/26/10).  It sounds like Mr Muller and his team understand the importance of a brand’s DNA.

By rebuilding the uniqueness of the SAAB brand they will be able to re-ignite the passion of their enthusiasts and build the business. SAAB will never be a quarter of a million unit business in the US but it can be successful.  Forcing SAAB into GM’s”success” model was the problem, now it has a second chance.

Congratulations to Mr Muller, Spyker, and SAAB loyalists everywhere. Finally, an automotive brand that will be coming back rather than disappearing.  Like Audi before it, bringing SAAB back in the US market place will be a labor of love and a “mission from God.”   Sign me up.

“Lexus’ plans: Not just big-bucks sedans”—Do you know where your BOHICA t-shirt is?

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Here it comes again, another automotive luxury brand seeking to have “wider appeal without tarnishing the image” (Automotive News 1/11/10).

Lexus is concerned that their customers are too old and they are not appealing to the next generation of luxury car buyers.  A reasonable concern.

Lexus appears to be addressing this concern in the usual way that automobile manufacturers do.

First,  you add product to your line-up that is designed to meet the requirements or interests of the new target group (after all, they’re very different from the current customers),  then you lower the cost of entry into your franchise (they don’t have as much money as the current customers) and finally use marketing to convince the younger target that your brand is cool (at least cooler than they think it is).

Unfortunately, this approach always has the same result, you may succeed in selling a few more cars to the new target group but you leave your current customers confused and your brand weakened.

The Automotive News article even quotes Jessica Caldwell from Edmunds.com who says: “Lexus was really strong, but they have lost their footing….BMW is the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine.’  We’re not really sure what Lexus is.”  I agree with her. The overheated luxury segment experienced so much growth in the ’90s and early ’00s, that many of the luxury marques that were fortunate enough to have clear positionings in the beginning were weaker and less distinct at the end of the run-up.

(more…)

Super Bowl XLIV—Will the auto industry carry the day?

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The 2010 Super Bowl may or may not be a good football game, but there will be a whole bunch of automotive commercials to watch. Here are the six manufacturers who will be advertising on this year’s extravaganza:

http://autoperspectives.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/superbowl-2010-150x78.png 150w, http://autoperspectives.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/superbowl-2010-1024x538.png 1024w, http://autoperspectives.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/superbowl-2010.png 1197w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

With 2009 behind us it will be fascinating to watch what each brand does with their piece of the most expensive advertising real estate in the world. The Super Bowl represents an incredible opportunity to reach the biggest television audience of the year.  Brands that have used the opportunity well, have in some cases changed their fortunes…Apple’s introduction of the Mac comes to mind:

Here’s the challenge with the Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl is not just the game that decides the NFL champion, it has become the crucible in which winners and losers are defined in the advertising business. USAToday will not only report who won the game, they rank the advertising gladiators. There’s a lot at stake for the agencies and their clients.

(more…)

Johan de Nysschen calls out Washington on EVs

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The question now is…will anyone listen to him?

As reported in today’s Detroit News, Audi of America’s Johan de Nysschen called out the current political leadership for “falling in love” with electric vehicles.  He’s absolutely right, EVs and Hybrids have become the fashionable automotive technology and Washington’s choice for the future.

The only problem is that EVs won’t make a difference for two decades.  The New York Times reported that “plug-in hybrids would not have a significant impact on the nation’s oil consumption or carbon emissions before 2030.” To be clear though, de Nysschen is not saying EVs and Hybrids are wrong or won’t play an important role in the future. What he’s saying is that Washington is picking winners and losers from a technology point of view rather than remaining agnostic, and he’s right.

Clean diesel remains the best near term technology available for reducing our dependance on foreign oil and CO2 emissions (the major cause of global warming), yet no one in Washington seems interested.  It seems that “diesel” is literally a dirty word. (more…)

LA Auto Show: Everyone’s talking about electric vehicles, but diesel is winning.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

It was ironic that virtually every manufacturer was talking about EVs in one form or another, yet the much less fashionable technology…diesel…took home the Green Car of the Year prize.

Don’t get me wrong, I think some of the electric cars and concepts are fascinating.

Chevrolet showed us a production version of the Volt and spoke about the fact that there would be no “range anxiety” because of the small motor that would generate electricity to charge the batteries. Audi showed the E-tron, an electric version of the R8 with an electric motor poweringeach wheel and delivering supercar performance. BMW’s “Vision” concept demonstrated where “Efficient Dynamics” might take the brand. Mini has been testing electric cars on America’s roads and had an example at their stand.

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EVs are being talked about as if they will solve global warming, reduce our fossil fuel consumption to zero and generally save the planet. EVs are the messiah of automotive technologies.

Here’s the problem, electric cars are expected to represent maybe 10% of sales by 2020. At that sales rate it’s hard to imagine the technology as a game changer from a fuel consumption or global warming perspective.

At least we have the folks responsible for selecting the “Green Car of the Year” to provide a reality check. For the second consecutive year, a diesel-powered vehicle was selected as green car of the year. Why? Clean diesel is a practical and “green” approach to transportation. It offers 25-30% better mileage, it emits less CO2 and particulate emission is now comparable to gasoline-powered technology. Today’s clean diesels meet the most stringent pollution standards and are sold in all fifty states.

The Audi A3 TDI is a terrific example of the modern clean diesel and a worthy “Green Car of the Year.”

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Modern clean diesels are readily available, offer the possibility of reducing fuel consumption by a third and emit less C02 than gasoline engines. Maybe after we’re done talking about technology that won’t make a difference for another 20 years, we’ll start to talk about one that can make a difference tomorrow.

I know it’s not fashionable, but we need to change Americans’ perception of diesel because it makes sense.

automobile industry is entering new territory as the recession wanes and consumers, who have been emotionally scarred by the last 18 months, remain cautious.  Many believe that consumers have been forever changed by this recession and that they will be more conservative with their money for years to come.
No one expects that the automotive industry will achieve the heady sales levels of the early part of this decade.
“By 2013, car and truck sales in North America will rebound to the new normal rate of 15 million to 16 million units”  Automotive News 8/5/09
At best, we will attain a “new normal” of 15-16MM units in 2013.
That means that competition for customers is going to be tougher than ever and no one’s business is going to grow just hanging on to the industry coattails.  Historically the manufacturers have reacted to these types of circumstances by using incentives.  These tactics artificially inflated sales earlier in the decade, pulling sales forward and contributed to the most recent “correction” that has pummeled the industry.  Using short-term incentives to steal share is not the answer to long-term prosperity, it’s merely a tactic that gives a franchise a quick shot in the arm.  Establishing a brand’s immutable points of difference and creating consumer affinity for it, is what creates value over the long term.
Last week, BusinessWeek published a piece by Ed Wallace about GM making the same mistakes; in it he made the case for branding:
“True, people want a “deal” when they buy a new car. But more important, they want to buy something exceptional….The automotive selling process, done right, has little to do with negotiation: It has everything to do with building value in the vehicle.”
It’s about time the industry took “branding” seriously.
You only need to look as far back as the last eighteen months to see the power of an automotive brand.  Subaru and Mini have survived the recession and some would argue have flourished under incredibly difficult circumstances while virtually every other manufacturer suffered.
The automobile industry has not made building and nurturing its brands a priority.  There are some exceptions like Subaru, Mini, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jeep.  But generally speaking investing in the brand has been the first thing cut by automotive marketers when things get tough.  The brand investment gets cut in favor of marketing efforts that will “make the doors swing.”  Frankly some of the above-mentioned brands have weakened in recent years, but clearly the marketers in charge of them have historically recognized the leverage created by a well-understood brand.
The first step toward having a well-understood brand is being able to clearly articulate it.  This is not a tagline or even a series of “core values,” both these approaches seek to summarize a brand.  The first step is a complete and full articulation of the brand, several pages perhaps, that explain its history, beliefs, behaviors, accomplishments, failures and contributions.  This document seeks not to summarize a brand’s essence but rather to capture it in detail; it describes the brand’s character, what makes it authentic.
The process of writing it down is critical.  A consultant friend used to say that: “nothing exists until it is spoken.”  In this case, if you can’t write this document about your brand, then you don’t have a brand.  Often it can help to have an “outsider” write this document, if you allow that person full access to your company and your people.  Either way, you need to articulate your brand in depth and in full, as it should form the underpinnings of all that you do.  It should drive communications, your use of social media, dealer experience and everything in between.
With this document in hand, you are ready to leverage your brand and give your customers the experience that will differentiate you from the competition.  Without it, you’re grasping at straws, hoping that somehow everything comes together.
In the hyper competitive “new normal” market of 12-16 million units, “guessing and getting lucky” will not carry the day.Opportunity knocks for well-articulated automotive brands.
The automobile industry is entering new territory as the recession wanes and consumers, who have been emotionally scarred by the last 18 months, remain cautious.  Many believe that consumers have been forever changed by this recession and that they will be more conservative with their money for years to come.
No one expects that the automotive industry will achieve the heady sales levels of the early part of this decade.
“By 2013, car and truck sales in North America will rebound to the new normal rate of 15 million to 16 million units”  Automotive News 8/5/09
At best, we will attain a “new normal” of 15-16MM units in 2013.
That means that competition for customers is going to be tougher than ever and no one’s business is going to grow just hanging on to the industry coattails.  Historically the manufacturers have reacted to these types of circumstances by using incentives.  These tactics artificially inflated sales earlier in the decade, pulling sales forward and contributed to the most recent “correction” that has pummeled the industry.  Using short-term incentives to steal share is not the answer to long-term prosperity, it’s merely a tactic that gives a franchise a quick shot in the arm.  Establishing a brand’s immutable points of difference and creating consumer affinity for it, is what creates value over the long term.
Last week, BusinessWeek published a piece by Ed Wallace about GM making the same mistakes; in it he made the case for branding:
“True, people want a “deal” when they buy a new car. But more important, they want to buy something exceptional….The automotive selling process, done right, has little to do with negotiation: It has everything to do with building value in the vehicle.”
It’s about time the industry took “branding” seriously.
You only need to look as far back as the last eighteen months to see the power of an automotive brand.  Subaru and Mini have survived the recession and some would argue have flourished under incredibly difficult circumstances while virtually every other manufacturer suffered.
The automobile industry has not made building and nurturing its brands a priority.  There are some exceptions like Subaru, Mini, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jeep.  But generally speaking investing in the brand has been the first thing cut by automotive marketers when things get tough.  The brand investment gets cut in favor of marketing efforts that will “make the doors swing.”  Frankly some of the above-mentioned brands have weakened in recent years, but clearly the marketers in charge of them have historically recognized the leverage created by a well-understood brand.
The first step toward having a well-understood brand is being able to clearly articulate it.  This is not a tagline or even a series of “core values,” both these approaches seek to summarize a brand.  The first step is a complete and full articulation of the brand, several pages perhaps, that explain its history, beliefs, behaviors, accomplishments, failures and contributions.  This document seeks not to summarize a brand’s essence but rather to capture it in detail; it describes the brand’s character, what makes it authentic.
The process of writing it down is critical.  A consultant friend used to say that: “nothing exists until it is spoken.”  In this case, if you can’t write this document about your brand, then you don’t have a brand.  Often it can help to have an “outsider” write this document, if you allow that person full access to your company and your people.  Either way, you need to articulate your brand in depth and in full, as it should form the underpinnings of all that you do.  It should drive communications, your use of social media, dealer experience and everything in between.
With this document in hand, you are ready to leverage your brand and give your customers the experience that will differentiate you from the competition.  Without it, you’re grasping at straws, hoping that somehow everything comes together.
In the hyper competitive “new normal” market of 12-16 million units, “guessing and getting lucky” will not carry the day.
VW & Crispin.  It was only a matter of time.
VW of America just announced that it is reviewing its advertising business currently with Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
VW is truly one of the world’s most loved automotive brands. While there have been a number of clever and in some cases intrusive commercials from Crispin there has been little that has built or even sustained the VW brand.
Crispin is without question one of the most talented creative agencies in the country but while they did a wonderful job helping to create the Mini brand, they never succeeded in bringing that power to Volkswagen.
At times the work was startling, stopping you in your tracks…remember the “Safe Happens” commercials.
Watch “Safe Happens”
Last year we saw Brook Shields introduce the Routan.
Watch Brooke
Most recently we’ve seen “Max” the talking Beetle.  In this commercial he introduces the Jetta diesel.
Watch Max
While the advertising has been interesting, sometimes funny, and at times talked about, what has it added up to?  Not much.
In an industry that is hoping to sell a little over 10 million units in 2009 and hopes to achieve a “new normal” of 12-15 million units by 2013, competition for buyers is only going to get more intense.  The manufacturers that actually have well-established brands (there aren’t many) have a leverageable asset that will enable them to “win” in this hyper-competitive environment.
Volkswagen is a brand with a well-defined value structure.  It started in the US with Doyle Dane Bernbach, Arnold nurtured it and now another team will have a chance to articulate the brand’s values to its enthusiasts and prospects.
VW has certainly had its ups and downs in the US but throughout it all, it has been truly loved by millions of loyalists.  That kind of devotion is at the heart of what makes an automotive marque powerful and it’s a good place for the next agency caretakers of the VW brand to start.
TreeFarm Partners: Automotive marketing consulting that makes a difference
We are an automotive strategy and implementation firm that makes a difference for our clients immediately and profoundly. We believe that a few senior level people working as a team can move mountains and make things happen quickly and productively. We’re here to partner with you, help you make smart decisions and get them implemented quickly Opportunity knocks for well-articulated automotive brands.
The automobile industry is entering new territory as the recession wanes and consumers, who have been emotionally scarred by the last 18 months, remain cautious.  Many believe that consumers have been forever changed by this recession and that they will be more conservative with their money for years to come.
No one expects that the automotive industry will achieve the heady sales levels of the early part of this decade.
“By 2013, car and truck sales in North America will rebound to the new normal rate of 15 million to 16 million units”  Automotive News 8/5/09
At best, we will attain a “new normal” of 15-16MM units in 2013.
That means that competition for customers is going to be tougher than ever and no one’s business is going to grow just hanging on to the industry coattails.  Historically the manufacturers have reacted to these types of circumstances by using incentives.  These tactics artificially inflated sales earlier in the decade, pulling sales forward and contributed to the most recent “correction” that has pummeled the industry.  Using short-term incentives to steal share is not the answer to long-term prosperity, it’s merely a tactic that gives a franchise a quick shot in the arm.  Establishing a brand’s immutable points of difference and creating consumer affinity for it, is what creates value over the long term.
Last week, BusinessWeek published a piece by Ed Wallace about GM making the same mistakes; in it he made the case for branding:
“True, people want a “deal” when they buy a new car. But more important, they want to buy something exceptional….The automotive selling process, done right, has little to do with negotiation: It has everything to do with building value in the vehicle.”
It’s about time the industry took “branding” seriously.
You only need to look as far back as the last eighteen months to see the power of an automotive brand.  Subaru and Mini have survived the recession and some would argue have flourished under incredibly difficult circumstances while virtually every other manufacturer suffered.
The automobile industry has not made building and nurturing its brands a priority.  There are some exceptions like Subaru, Mini, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jeep.  But generally speaking investing in the brand has been the first thing cut by automotive marketers when things get tough.  The brand investment gets cut in favor of marketing efforts that will “make the doors swing.”  Frankly some of the above-mentioned brands have weakened in recent years, but clearly the marketers in charge of them have historically recognized the leverage created by a well-understood brand.
The first step toward having a well-understood brand is being able to clearly articulate it.  This is not a tagline or even a series of “core values,” both these approaches seek to summarize a brand.  The first step is a complete and full articulation of the brand, several pages perhaps, that explain its history, beliefs, behaviors, accomplishments, failures and contributions.  This document seeks not to summarize a brand’s essence but rather to capture it in detail; it describes the brand’s character, what makes it authentic.
The process of writing it down is critical.  A consultant friend used to say that: “nothing exists until it is spoken.”  In this case, if you can’t write this document about your brand, then you don’t have a brand.  Often it can help to have an “outsider” write this document, if you allow that person full access to your company and your people.  Either way, you need to articulate your brand in depth and in full, as it should form the underpinnings of all that you do.  It should drive communications, your use of social media, dealer experience and everything in between.
With this document in hand, you are ready to leverage your brand and give your customers the experience that will differentiate you from the competition.  Without it, you’re grasping at straws, hoping that somehow everything comes together.
In the hyper competitive “new normal” market of 12-16 million units, “guessing and getting lucky” will not carry the day.
VW & Crispin.  It was only a matter of time.
VW of America just announced that it is reviewing its advertising business currently with Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
VW is truly one of the world’s most loved automotive brands. While there have been a number of clever and in some cases intrusive commercials from Crispin there has been little that has built or even sustained the VW brand.
Crispin is without question one of the most talented creative agencies in the country but while they did a wonderful job helping to create the Mini brand, they never succeeded in bringing that power to Volkswagen.
At times the work was startling, stopping you in your tracks…remember the “Safe Happens” commercials.
Watch “Safe Happens”
Last year we saw Brook Shields introduce the Routan.
Watch Brooke
Most recently we’ve seen “Max” the talking Beetle.  In this commercial he introduces the Jetta diesel.
Watch Max
While the advertising has been interesting, sometimes funny, and at times talked about, what has it added up to?  Not much.
In an industry that is hoping to sell a little over 10 million units in 2009 and hopes to achieve a “new normal” of 12-15 million units by 2013, competition for buyers is only going to get more intense.  The manufacturers that actually have well-established brands (there aren’t many) have a leverageable asset that will enable them to “win” in this hyper-competitive environment.
Volkswagen is a brand with a well-defined value structure.  It started in the US with Doyle Dane Bernbach, Arnold nurtured it and now another team will have a chance to articulate the brand’s values to its enthusiasts and prospects.
VW has certainly had its ups and downs in the US but throughout it all, it has been truly loved by millions of loyalists.  That kind of devotion is at the heart of what makes an automotive marque powerful and it’s a good place for the next agency caretakers of the VW brand to start.
TreeFarm Partners: Automotive marketing consulting that makes a difference
We are an automotive strategy and implementation firm that makes a difference for our clients immediately and profoundly. We believe that a few senior level people working as a team can move mountains and make things happen quickly and productively. We’re here to partner with you, help you make smart decisions and get them implemented quickly.