Posts Tagged ‘Volkswagen’

A resurgence for Cadillac?

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Last year when I was considering what new luxury segment vehicle to purchase I had an experience that I think bodes well for Cadillac.

Keep in mind that my family has a long history with European imports.  In fact the last domestic product we bought was a 1986 Jeep Cherokee, just before the SUV craze really took hold.

Since that time we have had Volvos, a SAAB, a Mercedes Benz, half a dozen Audis and a couple of VWs.  For the last fifteen years my family has been happily ensconced in a series of Audis. As great as our experience has been with our Audis (we still have 2 in our household fleet) I thought it might be time for something new.

Growing up in my household, my sons could not help but pay attention to the automotive industry and both of them love cars.  So as I went through my deliberations concerning a new car, two conversations with my sons illustrated the change that is about to take place in the luxury segment.  The first with my then 22 year old, who when told I was thinking about a Mercedes-Benz, dismissively said “don’t buy a Mercedes-Benz, that’s an old man’s car.”

The second conversation, this one with my 25 year old, didn’t demean the possibility of a Mercedes-Benz, but concluded with “Dad, you should take a look at the Cadillac CTS, I think they’re cool.”

Now it was my turn to be surprised.  I admit that I have impressed by the design direction of Cadillac and I certainly recognize that the product is greatly improved but  “cool” from a twenty five year old’s point of view?

For 30+ years we have watched the Europeans and Japanese recreate the luxury segment as the domestics lost favor.  Very few baby boomers thought of Cadillac or Lincoln as marques they wanted in their garage.  Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus have been their first tier luxury brands of choice.   However, the preeminence of these brands is being challenged.

There are three reasons why the “Tier 1” luxury brands are under fire:


Has the VW Phaeton’s time come?

Friday, October 30th, 2009

A number of years ago VW introduced the Phaeton to the United States…a $65,000 tour2006_VW_Phaeton_ext_1 150w, 433w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> de force meant to take the brand up against the likes of Mercedes-Benz.  A true D-class car with all the luxury and performance the segment demands.  It was truly an excellent automobile and from a product point of view pretty darn competitive.  It was also a heck of a lot of car for the money.

The Phaeton failed miserably, with only a few thousand sold.

Many of us thought that VW had simply overstepped, and that the VW brand could not stretch that far up market.  Not unreasonable considering that many of the baby boomers still remember the original beetle and VW’s positioning as an inexpensive, small alternative to the behemoths Detroit was producing in the 50’s and 60’s.  In fact the “inexpensive” portion of the brand’s original positioning haunted VW for years as the cars became more expensive than consumers expected Volkswagens to be.  The Phaeton stretched everyones’ perception of what a Volkswagen could or should be. Most importantly the brand lacked the cachet, the prestige necessary to compete successfully in the Import High Group.  Luxury segment consumers were not interested in sporting the VW badge.

Within the last few months the trades have been reporting that Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen of America are more than likely going to bring the Phaeton back to the US market in MY2010.  Already industry pundits are incredulous that VW would try the Phaeton again.

I think the pundits are wrong.  I think the return of Phaeton will be a success. (more…)

Looking for a new agency partner? 8 critical things auto manufacturers should consider.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009


The following article first appeared in BusinessWeek’s “Brand New Day” blog on September 7, 2009

Volkswagen has announced that it is looking for a new advertising/communications partner.  Chrysler has just announced that they are considering non-roster agencies for projects.  Bob Lutz at GM has said that the agencies for the remaining GM brands have six months to demonstrate that they have the chops to remain part of GM’s stable of agencies.  A rash of car companies re-evaluating their agency partners.

So what should these companies, or for that matter any automotive manufacturer, look for in an agency?

The next five years are going to be the most competitive in a generation.  The “new normal” annual sales volume for the US will be 14-16MM units, nowhere near the 18MM the market achieved a few years ago, let alone the 20MM+ some forecasters anticipated.   The “new normal” is a mature market where the fight for share will be intense, the risk of commoditization ever present and the winners will be those companies who recognize that the only thing standing between them and commodity status is terrific product and a carefully crafted brand reputation.

The “winners” will be those companies with clearly differentiated brands.  Those companies that make establishing and/or nurturing their brands a priority will see their share of market grow, those who focus only on retail will be treated like commodities.  Automobile manufacturers do need agencies that can manage the retail side of the business but more than ever they need to take brand building seriously.

So here are some suggestions on what to look for in an agency:

1. An agency must demonstrate the ability to build a brand over the long term. Look for relationships and case histories that span years not months.  Look for strategic consistency that is grounded in a deep understanding of the client and its customers.  Make sure that knowledge turns into core values that form the bedrock of the brand’s communications.  Look for the “red thread” that holds all the work together.  Ask 2nd and 3rd level questions about the company and its brand.


VW & Crispin. It was only a matter of time.

Monday, August 17th, 2009


VW of America just announced that it is reviewing its advertising business currently with Crispin.

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: