Posts from ‘Brands and Marketing’
To truly excite the passions of the American automotive media, you need news that strikes close to home. International news, no matter how significant, is generally met with indifference among many U.S. auto writers. General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra and the GM board of directors opt out of the European, Indian, and South African new-vehicle markets—yawn. The Chinese government mandates that 12 percent of new vehicles retailed in China (the world’s largest new-car market) must be pure electric by 2020—whatever.
Why would Aston Martin, a British company known for building ultra-luxury high-performance coupes, contract with Japanese automaker Toyota to build an Aston-branded version of one of the smallest, least-powerful Toyota-built cars on the market? Turns out there’s a good answer to that question, but it gets a little complicated.
Ford is doing it right now with a subcompact crossover (EcoSport) imported from India. Cadillac did it with a German import badged on these shores as Catera. Honda did it with rebadged midsize SUV (Passport) that was actually built by Isuzu.
It’s getting hard to sell cars. And when I say cars, I mean cars specifically, because automakers are having no trouble at all moving crossovers. Take last year, for example. In an overall market that was down slightly, car sales slipped a significant 11 percent, while crossover sales rose a healthy seven percent.
By now you’ve heard plenty about the eventual death of the traditional automobile. Word on the street is that consumers are abandoning their coupes and sedans for crossovers at a startling pace. Further, margins on crossovers are significantly higher these days, meaning that makers are putting more incentive cash into car deals to help move them out the door.
Well into the early 2000s, Lexus vehicles still came standard with cassette players. I mention this because it’s an example of a classic paradigm clash. Almost 30 years after the first CDs were making their way into the hands of audiophiles, Lexus was still catering to conservative car shoppers who were in no hurry to replace their Robert Ludlum cassette audio books.
If you’re my age, you may have a few fond memories of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile making its way to your hometown or a nearby burg, replete with a seemingly endless supply of Wienermobile plastic whistles—which in the Sixties and Seventies passed for quality tchotchkes. The big fiberglass sausages on wheels were generally found stationed in grocery-store parking lots, where Mayer staff passed out coupons and whistles to a receptive audience. It was a simpler time.
By now we all know the Edsel story. It’s a brutal tale having to do with market timing, a recession, and a bunch of bad luck. If you’d like to read more about the Edsel end days, click here.
The premise underlying Cadillac’s decision to market a subcompact car in the U.S. beginning in 1982 was perfectly sound. The luxury division of General Motors was looking for a way to reach younger consumers, and a smaller, more affordable offering made sense. It would enable the brand to bring new buyers into the fold sooner rather than later, and hopefully those customers would move up to a larger, pricier Cadillac when trade-in time came.
One relatively easy way for an auto manufacturer to spur the sales of a given model is to play around with the trim levels offered.