Posts Tagged ‘Volkswagen’

Deja vu all over again, here comes the VW Phaeton.

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Just yesterday Automotive News had an article that reported that amidst a cost cutting drive, Volkswagen has decided to re-introduce the uber expensive Phaeton model:

“…the “people’s car” maker plans to spend millions of euros upgrading a money-losing luxury sedan.”–Automotive News 1/28/15

The blogosphere has erupted with any number of industry observers pointing out the illogic of re-introducing an Mercedes-Benz S-Class competitor when you have announced that you’re cutting costs and, oh by the way, the Phaeton has been a huge money losing proposition ever since it was introduced at the 2002 Geneva auto show:

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I acknowledge the inconsistency of an austerity plan side by side with a re-jiggered luxo-barge but I admit to being a bit fascinated with the idea of the Phaeton.  The last time we went through the “we’re bringing the Phaeton back” phase was in 2009, right after the end of the great recession. At the time I wrote a post (“Has the VW Phaeton’s time come?“) and offered up the possibility that the Phaeton could be the luxury car for a new post recession sensibility.

I still think that possibility still exists, but the surging millennial generation adds a different twist to the idea.  After all, so many millennials grew up driving Volkswagens and we know for a fact that VW holds a special emotional place in American culture.  In five years millennials as a generation will be driving luxury segment sales. I think about a new generation of luxury car buyers, who are emotionally attached to the VW brand, who want to naturally separate themselves a bit from their parents and their parents’ luxury car choices (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus) and I say to myself that’s an opportunity!

Boomers were never going to drop $65 large on a VW, they remember the original beetle, and VW as an economy brand.  The millennials don’t have that institutional memory, for them VW is Jettas, Golfs, and Passats that were actually premium priced relative to their competitive set. Is it really such a stretch to think that this new generation of luxury car buyers might consider and buy a large luxury entry from VW? (more…)

VW’s Bulli concept, the VW Bus, Jerry Garcia and Yogi; deja vu all over again?

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Wow.  VW just introduced a new people mover concept in Geneva that has everyone talking.  Understandably so, it’s called the “Bulli” and it’s great:

Obviously this idea shares some genes with the original and iconic VW Bus which many of us associate with the ’60’s, hippies and perhaps a simpler time:

The VW Bus has such a deep connection with the ’60’s, the counter culture and baby boomers, that a tearful one was used in an ad by VW to commemorate Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995:

So a reincarnation of the iconic VW Bus is inherently exciting and interesting to many Americans.  The Bulli concept seems to be creating the kind of interest in Geneva that has everyone hoping that VW will decide to put it into production.

Unfortunately, we’ve been here before.   (more…)

Super Bowl XLV–Will the auto industry carry the day?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Last year, I asked the same question and I think the answer was “no.”

Audi’s terrific A3 TDI commercial led the automotive pack, ranked 6th of 65 by USAToday but all the others were also-rans. Here’s how the automotive participants ranked in last year’s advertising beauty contest:

A dismal showing by the auto industry.  Despite being one of the highest interest product categories with some often fantastic products, we seem to be unable to captivate the Super Bowl audience.

To be clear, getting highly ranked in USAToday’s poll has nothing to do with judging a TV commercial’s effectiveness, it simply is a measure of a panel of consumers’ reactions and “how much they liked each ad.”  But it is without question, ‘the game within the game.’  As a Super Bowl advertiser you spend $3MM or so for 30 seconds and the chance to get noticed and liked. It’s an opportunity to get tongues around the world wagging about your ad, your brand and maybe even your products.

But to make that happen, you have to do something amazing. (more…)

Is Fiat taking VW’s US positioning?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The week before last, I was in Los Angeles for the auto show.  There were a number things that were interesting, but for me, the most interesting was the introduction of the Fiat 500 to the US market. The Fiat 500 represents the re-introduction of the Fiat marque to the US and thus garnered quite a crowd at the press conference:

As we watched Laura Soave, Fiat’s head of marketing, introduce the Fiat 500, I couldn’t help but lean over to a colleague and say “Fiat is taking Volkswagen’s US positioning.”  The presentation was full of “Italian passion” which might have been code for a youthful, fun, engaged approach to driving.  Here’s a video/ad:

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Why buy a Volkswagen?

Friday, November 12th, 2010

VW is intent on becoming the world’s largest auto manufacturer.  To achieve this lofty goal, the company needs to sell a whole lot more in the United States.

“The company plans to triple annual U.S. sales of VW, Audi and Bentley models to 1 million units annually by 2018 as part CEO Martin Winterkorn’s drive to overtake Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. and become the world’s largest automaker.”  Automotive News 9/18/09

Based on the VW brand’s 2009 sales (213,454), volume in the US will almost quadruple: “By 2018, VW wants to sell 800,000.”  Automotive News 1/19/09

800, 000 is a heck of a lot of cars for VW.  Especially considering that VW’s biggest volume year in recent memory was 2001, when it sold 355,648 units (in the 1970’s VW did sell roughly 500,000 units).  Many industry experts have questioned the wisdom and even the possibility that VW might sell 800,000 units in the US.

Volkswagen believes that it can sell 800,000 cars in the US by specifically developing vehicles to meet Americans’ tastes: “VW has concluded that price-sensitive U.S. consumers simply aren’t willing to pay for the extras found in a mass-market European sedan.” Automotive News 7/5/10

Consequently, the “new mid-sized sedan, which will be built in Chattanooga, Tenn., is supposed to be bigger and cheaper than the Passat that it replaces… VW wants to make its Passat replacement competitive with the mid-sized segment stalwarts — the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion — and thereby boost sales sharply.” Automotive News 7/5/10

This strategy is also evident in the new 2011 Jetta, which has been de-contented to make it price competitive with the Japanese.  The 2011 US version of the Jetta will have drum brakes in the rear and a torsion bar rear suspension.  The interior has also been cheapened to enable it to reach a competitive price point.  The European Jetta has been dumbed down to meet the needs of the “price sensitive” US customer: “European buyers will get a more costly and more upscale version of Volkswagen’s new Jetta sedan than North American customers.” Automotive News 11/1/10

This approach is being mirrored in the Company’s US marketing. When recently searching for a new advertising agency, the VW CMO offered the following rationale: “The Volkswagen brand needs to inspire our base of enthusiasts as well as reach out and captivate those in mainstream America.”  Automotive News 8/18/09

So, Volkswagens will be more mainstream in the US, larger, less expensive and less European, more price competitive with the Japanese marques.  While I am tempted to go on a rant about the dilution of the VW brand and the dangers of chasing volume (see my earlier blog post), let’s skip all that, and ask a simple question:

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Is Mini moving out of its niche? How to avoid the automotive equivalent of a comb-over.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

An article in the April 2nd edition of the New York Times was headlined: “Despite Expansion, Mini Says It’s Still a Niche” and confirmed something that had occurred to me at the New York Auto Show.

In New York last week I saw the new Mini crossover, the Countryman, for the first time in person.  All the Mini design cues are present in the Countryman and I think you’d be hard pressed to say that it wasn’t part of the Mini family.  But I was struck by how “big” it seemed, it didn’t seem small and taut the way all the other models do.  Part of the difference was that the Countryman’s ground clearance is higher, so its stance is really quite different than the other Minis.

This got me thinking, at what point does a marque go too far and begin to lose its essential character?  Has Mini gone too far with the Countryman?

I suspect this is a little like losing your hair.  Little by little your hair recedes, almost imperceptibly, you make little adjustments as you go, thinking no one will notice, until one day you end up with comb-over and people are snickering behind your back. Little by little automotive brands seem to lose their way. (more…)

We should be embarrassed: Thoughts on the documentary “Art & Copy”

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Who should be embarrassed?  The auto industry and their communications agencies.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the documentary “Art & Copy,” you must.  Last night I saw it for the second time and enjoyed every minute.  If you have worked in the advertising business or are responsible for advertising on the client side it is well worth seeing.

It’s a chance to see some of the most talented people in the agency business talk about what makes great communications.  Hal Riney, Mary Lawrence, Jim Durfee, Lee Clow, George Lois, Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein, Dan Wieden and others talk about what they think represents great work and what inspires it.  They talk about great ideas: Braniff’s End of the plain plane, Apple’s 1984 and Think Different, Got Milk, Reagan’s re-election campaign, Nike’s Just Do It and VW’s Think Small among others.

At the end, these people and the work leave you inspired.  You’re reminded that at its best, advertising can change opinion, entertain, move people emotionally and to action.  Great work respects people and treats them decently.  Great work can build brands, companies and value.  Great work is really hard to create, get approved and execute, but when it all comes together, it can move mountains.

Here’s why we should be embarrassed.   (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:

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…)

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:

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.

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