Smart…..The death and return of the brand to the U.S.
Born from watches and bread in the same place as some of the best luxury cars, the Smart brand would seem to be coming from the best place it could. Well that was also said about Edsel and DeLorean, and we know what happened to them. Created as a way to escape the big car deal, without lowering its brand image, Daimler-Benz seemed poised to take on the word of small cars with its Smart brand. Although we have seen where the small car market has would up lately.
Maybe it was the marketing of the car, or maybe it could have been its price tag. Whatever it was, something just didn’t seem to click with consumers about this small car. Some people loved it, and others couldn’t be bothered by it. Yes there are lots of cars like this, but know as important as the Smart is to Daimler. Why would you ask that we say it is important. Well, if Daimler wants to reap the rewards of the small car industry, without damaging its Mercedes brand, then it would be best to start a new division. It work in the early 20th century with Ford’s, Mercury brand and Chrysler’s, Plymouth brand. But we all know how those stories wound up.
But of course if any one in the world could turn up the heat on the small car industry, then why not one of the oldest automotive companies in the world. Well for starters it is always easier to move up a ladder, not down. And when you’re near the top of the ladder trying to move a part of you down, it’s going to take some time. And on top of that, when you’re as big as Daimler-Benz trying to move down, then you’re going to have major problems.
Know why haven’t other companies had as many problems doing this as Daimler has. Well for starters, BMW bought a widely known inexpensive nameplate and moved it up a bit. And Audi is still known as being part of the Volkswagen group, a company known for making small efficient cars. But when your Daimler trying to do this, you have no past in small cheap efficient cars and you certainly don’t own any cheap automotive nameplates anymore.
It would seem that if Daimler had kept the Chrysler group around for awhile longer, they might have seen that they could have leverage the nameplate for smaller cheaper cars. Well at least within the European and Middle Eastern marketplaces. It would have been a hard sell back home in North America. Utilizing the now defunct Plymouth nameplate, Daimler could have revitalized the name as a new small car division. And why could they had done this, well its simple, Plymouth never really had a specific place at Chrysler. It was always the other car division. Sure it had some great cars in its history, but it never really had its own image. Of course this could also be said about the Mercury and Saturn brands as well.
In creating a new image for Plymouth, you could have saved millions. There was already a dealer network, well known name and strong following within the U.S. And considering you would be saving an American icon, they would have a great marketing ploy on their hands.
It seems hard to believe that in a car crazed nation, a small efficient auto company cannot keep their head above water, when the price of gas is on the rise. Other companies are seeing the rewards of small efficient cars, but still Smart cannot make enough to warrant staying in this marketplace. Maybe if they take a strong look at how American perceive the Daimler-Benz brand, then maybe they will see the error of their ways. Or maybe they will reconsider they’re way of advertising the brand.
May 11, 2011
Born from a dream to re-invent the high end market, Maybach has come along way in its quest of becoming a competitor to Bentley and Rolls Royce. Yes it seems that maybe this car did have a chance when it burst onto the scene. But like the many other cars of its kind, it quickly faded into the background. What went wrong you may ask well many things? And no it wasn’t the fall of the market, since that happened long after the brand was admitted to the emergency ward.
For starters, why would Daimler-Benz think they could resurrect a brand from the past, which had not been heard of in over fifty years? Well I guess they thought they could sell people on its rich heritage. But they forgot one thing. Most of us had never heard about Maybach and their rich past. This could be a problem when you’re trying to sell a half a million car on its history. And this could also pose a problem when you try to explain why you brought this name back. It may have been a better fit if they had brought back a more known of historic name like Duesenberg or Packard. Maybe then they would have had an easier time selling the car on its history.
Next major problem for the brand was the fact that the brand used the platform and design from a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This could pose a major problem when you’re trying to distinguish a new brand from another brands car. Most consumers saw the Maybach as just an over priced Mercedes-Benz. Considering the S-Class at the time cost a tick under half of what the Maybach cost, it would be hard to sway new customers to brand new brand and its models.
Now for one of the biggest problems this brand had, would be the lack of difference between its models and lack of models altogether. When you’re trying to take on the biggest high end companies, it’s hard to fight them when you only have one main model with two variations. Now if they had added in a coupe and convertible model to the mix they may have had a fighting chance. But since they did not, they really haven’t made a dent in the bottom line of its competition.
One of the worst things Maybach did to itself was the fact that it took nearly a decade before a new model emerged. And when the cover came off, all we saw was a 62 with the middle cut out of it. Really they thought this would bring in customers to the showroom. I don’t think so. Now if you wait a couple of years you may find that another company had a vision for this brand. It was created by tire manufacture Fulda to test a new high-performance tire, but was later scrapped due to the financial meltdown. Now why would a company who had never had a coupe and knew they need one, give up a free car. Well when you’re fighting off Smart for funds, you may have some problems. Considering that small cars are coming back.
Now if you still haven’t figured why Maybach is a dying brand, then maybe you need to start paying more attention to the high end market of the automotive world. Let’s just hope that Daimler will finally figure out what is going on Maybach and fix it before we lose another prestige mark.
May 10, 2011
When you spend years helping in the creation of a market, which helps you sell more product, you would think that you would never do anything to harm it. Destroying something that you created would seem a bit of a waste of time and money. But if you could make a full profit off of this market and your original market, then why not take advantage. Well for the big 3, this has been the case for the past decade. If you’re wondering which market we are talking about, and then look no further than the Ford Mustang line-up of specialty models.
Producing more and more specialty aftermarket versions of your car is good for moving more products off of your dealership floors. But where does that leave the aftermarket industry in total. Well out of the loop for one of the best selling muscle car line-ups, that’s where. Making specialty models of cars and trucks is nothing new, but more and more are coming out these days. Allowing more and more people to have powerful, customized cars without doing it themselves, may seem like a good idea, but this can erode the image of the industry as a whole. Since nowadays any high school kid with a big enough pocketbook can get a Shelby Mustang, which allows them to think they are king of the streets. Newsflash for these consumers, if you don’t do it yourself, then you don’t know what you and your car are fully capable of doing. Most consumers, who purchase aftermarket cars, have no basic knowledge of performance products, aerodynamics, tire grip, handling or even how to shift properly. A true tuner is someone who builds their own ride, not buys their own ride. As for the auto industry, all they are doing is helping rich kids kill themselves.
This new trend of aftermarket versions of automobiles is slowly going to eat away at the bottom lines of the aftermarket industry. Why might anyone say this? Well if you don’t get a contract with an automotive company for your product, then where does that leave you? Fighting for a chance within the shrinking aftermarket industry. Now if more and more auto companies gave people more options for aftermarket parts, then the industry would be a lot better off. This would allow for competition among sales staff and companies within a dealership.
Of course we know that something like this won’t happen within the doors of the big 3, but it could happen within the dealers of Japanese and South Korean dealerships. We have already seen aftermarket displays at certain Scion and Hyundai dealerships. Now if we could get some more companies on board we could reverse the effect of aftermarket model destruction.
March 28, 2011
When it comes to bringing back the dead, no auto company has done it better than Chrysler. Of course you could say that bringing back the 300, Challenger and the panel wagon design. But one zombie return was not done as well as the rest of these models. This would be the return of the Charger.
Yes we all know that some of the great features have been rejuvenated within the two generations of the Charger sedan, but still it is a sedan. Why was it a horrible thing when Chrysler decided to use the Charger nameplate for a sedan. Well for starters, the Charger was the “King” of the muscle car era, which meant lots of power and only two doors. Then they added this nameplate to a sedan, which hardly had any aspects of the original king of the streets. Now why would anyone in there right mind do this to such a name. Well when you have had more success with past nameplates, than your new ones, you start to think which past names may bring in even more money. Add this analysis to owning one of the greatest names of all times, and you have a recipe for doubling your money over your current sedan nameplate.
Well if you now have to ask yourself why they even thought about this, well they were owned by Daimler-Benz at the time, a company who only cares about the bottom line. When it came to choosing this name, you have to look at who was the owner of Chrysler at the time, then ask yourself, why Chrysler would even let them do this. Considering doing this to such a name, would be like Lamborghini bringing back the Countach as an SUV. This should be considered a crime against automotive culture, where Chrysler and Benz has to either release a two door version or pay a massive fine to all the Charger clubs of the world.
Yes we all know that we have no say in how our great automotive names are used and re-used, but when it comes to a nameplate which defines a car culture, we should have the right to vote. Of course now it seems that Dodge has listened to us in some sort of way, when it came to re-designing the Charger for 2011. They have made some good changes, but still they have not released a coupe version of this once great car.
Now that the 2011 Dodge Charger has been released, Chrysler has stated that there is still no plan to release a coupe model. If they really cared about what their customers wanted, they would pay attention to consumer blogs and feedback forms. For a long time know they have been told by thousands of fans that we want a true muscle car form of the Charger, and that we are willing to pay for it. If Chrysler really wants our support, they should start listening to their loyal fans, and give us our “King” back.
April 26, 2011
We have all seen them and all have heard about them, but really are they what’s good for this one brand. I am talking about the destruction of the Porsche brand, through the release of the Cayenne and Panamera models. Yes we know that Volkswagen is trying to make this little sports car manufacture more profitable, but do the really need to make it more mainstream. We all know what happens to bands when they become more mainstream, they tend to die out when their new fans move on to the next new band. You might have seen this happen to the Offspring when they became for mainstream. Now how could this pertain to the auto industry? Well consumers are a fickle bunch, moving about from one fad to the next. Sure your selling something more expensive than a $20 CD, but there are still fads within the auto industry. Remember the Minivan craze of the nineties, it faded out when the SUV fad started. Can you name the companies who still have a minivan within their line-up?
Know why anyone would want to create a fad out of a company which has a consumer base with expensive tastes. Well for one you can make tons of money and second you can help start a new fad. Yes the companies, who usually start a fad, are the ones who live on well after the fad has died out. But that is not always true. Remember the Ford Ranchero, it was the first crossover truck, but asks anyone about what a car based truck is and they will answer El Camino. So for Porsche to take on something this risky, is, well either really dumb, or really smart.
But there is one thing that this brand will never have again once this fad is over and done. It will never be seen as a sports car company again, well not at least until the following generation of consumers enter the market. This can be seen through Hyundai, since most consumers who were around when it started, still remember the horrible Pony and Excel models. So for Porsche to regain its spot against Ferrari, Lamborghini and even Lotus, it would have to limp along for at least a decade. And within the small sports car market, that could be long enough to kill a company.
Now the worst thing about all of this is not the fact that Porsche has these two models, it’s the fact that they are now planning even more mainstream models. Within the next decade Porsche is planning on releasing another smaller SUV, 3-series fighter sedan and an entry level sports coupe. Sure they can make you a lot of money, but when Lotus, McLaren, Ferrari, and Lamborghini are planning their own mainstream models, Porsche may want to rethink their product line. They may want to beef up their specialty models which they currently do not have, so that when the competition comes to play in their sandbox, Porsche can still fight back on the top tier of the sand castle.
If they want to still be seen as a sports car company within the next decade, they may want to keep the sports cars within their line-up. Soccer moms may be where the money is, but your history is no where near a soccer field. Got the picture Porsche.
March 24, 2011
If your one of those people who have a job where you think at any moment you may not have a job, then your one of the millions of people who are not part of a union. Sure unions are a good thing to have, especially when you have a boss who has the power to fire you when you piss him off. I for one work at one of those jobs, where everyday I wonder if my boss will let me go because I pissed off a supplier. This causes stress, which in turn can lead to hair loss, heart attacks, and even a nervous breakdown. But for some people out there, they have people who look out for them, when their boss is having a bad day. These people belong to what we call a union; an organization which helps creates a positive work environment for all employees. This sounds like a great thing, but when it comes to how much power a union has, it really can be a scary thing.
I say this because of what the UAW is doing now. With the power of millions of workers and millions of dollars from union dues, this super power has now decided to take on non-unionized auto plants. They are now forming an army of followers, which will stand up against non-unionized auto plants, stating that they are in breach of workers rights. Last time I checked, it was up to the workers themselves, if they wanted to form a union. And if they have not decided to form one yet, then maybe they have decided that the company they work for does not need a union. Why would you need a union if your workplace functions properly and you have everything you need. Well even if that is true, the UAW is not happy about what these people have decided to do. So instead of leaving these plants alone, they are now trying to force them to form a union.
To me, the UAW is starting to sound a lot like a dictatorship, telling you, that if you do not join them, then you will be taken out. Maybe they should look in the dictionary and see what the definition of a dictatorship is. Then they might see that forcing your beliefs onto people is not right and can lead to something even worse than a protest. If they continue to force their beliefs onto people, eventually someone powerful enough will make a stand and force them to back down. And when that does not go well, you will have an all out war on your hands. So when this finally does happen, the UAW might realize that with great power, comes great responsibility.
Now if they were to step back and take a look at the rights of all individuals, they might realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If they realized this they might realize that not everyone who is part of union wants to be part of it. It sort of like living in a country you do not love. You do it because you have to, but if you could leave then you would. Of course this also goes the other way too. Some of the people at a non-unionized plant may want a union, but the majority of their peers may not want it. So in both situations you are leaving someone out.
But if the UAW wishes to continue fighting non-unionized auto plants about the fact that they’re not there, they may do so by all rights. But if they are going to start forcing people to be part of their special club, then maybe someone will stand up against them with their own army and say “I will not assimilate”.
March 24, 2011
Read some other thoughts at the following site.
It’s been a long time coming, but it finally happened. Someone has seen the light in a great brand and is trying to revive it. Since the sale of Chrysler to Daimler-Benz back in 98, we haven’t really seen much good come from this brand. Sure there was the Crossfire and PT, but what else has come from Chrysler. Sales and quality decline where some of the things, but ever since Daimler got its hands-on Chrysler, the brand has seemed to have lost its edge. With the almost release of the Chronos executive model, it seems that the once great brand was dumbed down to being just an upmarket average brand.
Now if you look back at the models which Chrysler almost built, it seems that Daimler really destroyed a soon to be luxury mark. Of course why would they want Chrysler to compete with Mercedes. But still, they could have let some of the glory cars into the brand. Like the Firepower, 300 Hemi Convertible and maybe have released two SUV’s during the early 00’s. But when you let a company like Daimler make your decisions, it seems like your just a supplier to Wal-Mart, not a division.
But now we have a saviour, well sort of saviour. And he comes from a Canadian/Italian background. Now why would this be good when your reviving a brand. Well you need to know where you come from, in order to know where your going. This is said because Chrysler originally hailed from across the river in Windsor, Ontario. Now that’s Walter P. Chrysler, not the brand. Dodge was the brand that hails from across the river. So why is knowing where your from good for a company to revive itself. Well if you don’t know what you’ve done in the past or where you hail from, then its hard to know what to watch out for when you try to repair the past. Knowing why Chrysler has failed in the past, is the #1 way you can unlock the perceptions consumers have about its product.
Know when you add that to being part of company who owns one of the best supercar manufactures as well as one of the best performance brands in the world, you have a mix of sport and luxury you need. This of course is needed to beef up the sport appeal of the Alfa/Dodge brand, and add some luxury appeal to the Lancia/Chrysler brand. Now we all know that Lancia and Ferrari are not best known for their luxury appeal, but they do have one thing that some luxury marks may what. Religion and Desire. Yes religion comes from the use of Lancia’s at the Vatican and we all know where desire comes into play with Ferrari.
With so much emphasis on power, features and comfort these days, it seems that every luxury mark is looking at creating its own niche to set it apart from the rest of the pack. Audi has a foothold in China, BMW has performance appeal and Mercedes has history on its side. Now how can you make Chrysler a player in this field. Well use the same formula that Cadillac and Lincoln are using. RWD, V8 power fun cars tied to large desirable SUV’s. Now add some Italian styling and European fuel economy, and you have the makings of the perfect luxury brand.
First change came in the way of dropping the old cars from the line-up. Removing the Aspen, PT, Sebring and Pacifica from its line-up is just the beginning. Replacing the Sebring with a newly renovated model will be the first change. Next we get an updated Town & Country and 300. After this is all done, we start looking at adding some smaller models from Lancia to the brand. And lastly, we redo the complete line-up for the 2014 model year. Why is this a good strategy. Well its not, it’s a horrible plan, unless you add a sports model to draw a younger crowd, a large SUV for the affluent type, and then throw in a crossover to keep the undecided from leaving your showroom. After this is all done, its time to add a halo model which will make your brand desirable to anyone. Lexus has the LFA, Mercedes has the SLS, and Audi has the R8. Now when the new Viper is released in a few years, Fiat may see that a tuxedo version may be a great fit for Chrysler.
Now if you have to stop and think about what the Chrysler is and what it was, then you may want to take a look at their new tag line. “Imported from Detroit” is the best line you could use, since your not appealing to the world to purchase your cars. Your appealing to your own, home, consumers. Its time for change, and maybe this time someone will do what Lee Iacocca once did, or what Walter P. Chrysler had a vision of when he walked out of General Motors doors.
It’s time for change. It’s time to look forward. It’s time for Detroit to rise once again.
March 10, 2011
Well it was a little over a decade ago that Dodge made its grand return to the NASCAR stock car series. So why has the best Chrysler engine of all time been left behind. Was it GM and Ford complaints over the power produced by the Hemi, or is it the simple fact that NASCAR has lost its way. Well in a way it’s a bit of both worlds. Yes NASCAR has lost their way when it comes to the engines it allows manufactures to use. And as for GM and Ford complaining, well they did have a word with the board at NASCAR over the use of the exclusively patented Chrysler motor. Yes for all of you GM and Ford fans out their, your favourite brands are a bit of winers when it comes to competition. When you have to bring up the fact that one manufacture has a motor which can produce more power then yours, you can be seen as a complainer.
Now as for NASCAR, they did the worst of all. They made it so that every company had to follow strict guidelines for each product raced on any track. Yes you have to build a specific motor, which follows the same blueprint. Because of this you cannot use a hemispherical design in your blueprint for your engine, since it does not meet their specific guidelines. Well it seems that NASCAR should just scrap the use of different companies and just go it alone. Since most of the cars running on their tracks are built by the same people, they might as well just run their own cars with their own badges.
So as for the Hemi, it may be a long time before we ever see it run at Daytona again. And at this rate, we may never see it run there ever again. So for now we will just have to switch the channel over to drag racing or drifting, since they actually allow the use of the Hemi engine.
March 7, 2011
Well its hard to believe it that its only been 50 years since Enzo Ferrari made one bad comment to a tractor builder. I think if he could see what has become of his former customers company, he might want to re-track his previous comment made to Ferruccio Lamborghini. If your wondering what I am talking about well here is your history lesson of the day. Lamborghini had his own way to make his Ferrari more efficient, but when he told Enzo how he could make his car better, the Ferrari founder just laughed. Telling Lamborghini he should stick to making tractors and leave the car business to the automotive men. Well after hearing this, the wealthy businessman went out and created his own sports car company. Who ever thought that a little comment could give birth to the inception of the supercar and a company who prides themselves on being the benchmark for the supercar industry. Sure Enzo has had some great cars, but really when most think of supercars, the first company who usually comes to mind is Lamborghini. Tell me how many people had either a Countach, Diablo or even a Miura poster in their room. Or even how many people have drooled over the Revention. And as for a fan base, who could ask for more than the biggest name in late night television.
Throughout the past 50 years Lamborghini has changed hands a few times, with ties to both Chrysler and now Volkswagen. During its reign at Chrysler we saw the release of the Diablo and the use of their technology within one of the greatest American supercars, the Dodge Viper. Now did you really think that Chrysler could have built its own V10 engine from scratch when it just came out of bankruptcy just a few years before purchasing its stake in Lamborghini. Next came Volkswagen who seemed to be on a purchasing frenzy in the 90’s for anything good it could get its hands on. Too bad they missed the boat on Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. Of course they did manage to get their hands on Bentley, Bugatti, Skoda, SEAT, Porsche and now Suzuki.
Who ever thought that 50 years later Lamborghini would still be around do what it does best. Making the most desirable cars in the world.
Happy 50th Birthday Automobili Lamborghini
February 22, 2011