On its return visit to a skeptical Congress this week, however, General Motors bowed its head. “G.M. has made mistakes in the past,” Mr. Wagoner told Congress, and named three: agreeing to expensive union contracts, not investing enough in smaller cars and failing to convert its plants so they could build more than one type of vehicle.
Employees at the Silicon Valley design firm IDEO LLC spotted weaknesses in the current crop of electronic-book readers. So they did what came naturally to them and designed their own.
Car companies have long tapped high-profile celebrities to spread word of mouth about new cars by test driving them around town. Now they are turning to a similarly powerful but cheaper source: young social-media influencers who have strong online followings.
First it was bye-bye, Oldsmobile. Then General Motors deep-sixed the Saturn, Saab, Pontiac and Hummer brands as part of its cataclysmic government bailout last year. And now, GM is kicking one more old friend to the curb: Mr. Goodwrench.
Many North Americans would scarcely believe their ears if they heard what Gina Burton has done. A Toronto mother of two in her early 50s, Ms Burton drove a Volvo for 10 years. But, she says, “I just don’t think that the last Volvo drove as well as the others.” So in August, she traded in her Cross Country estate for a Buick Enclave, one of GM’s upscale crossover sport-utility vehicles.
Scott Monty is the global digital communications chief for the Ford Motor Company, and full disclosure, a force to be reckoned with in The Influence Project. He currently ranks at number 43. He likes to say that Ford subscribes to a combination Woody Allen/Yogi Berra theory for social media where 90% may be just showing up, but what's critical is what you do when you get there. Monty talked to Fast Company about Ford's strategy for combining online and traditional advertising, breaking out of comfort cliques to expand a customer base, and the trials and opportunities presented by living in a 140 character society.
As business professors at Kettering University, formerly General Motors Institute (GMI) in Flint, Michigan, we have focused on trying to identify strategic solutions for the automobile industry. Our search led us to Nashville, where unemployment runs only 4%, to talk with Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar. Juszkiewicz began his career as a student at GMI in an automotive engineering co-op program and later moved on to Gibson, where he revived the now-thriving guitar company. We asked him what he thinks the auto industry can learn from the music industry.
Part of Disney's brand magic is the company's ability to turn characters into profit-producing franchises. The Pixar hit movie "Cars," featuring animated talking car characters, is no exception. Though the movie was released in 2006, "Cars" has been a smash hit ever since in terms of merchandise spin-offs. A second movie, "Cars 2," is scheduled for release in the summer of 2011.
Daimler AG said Monday sales at its core Mercedes-Benz cars division rose 16% in November to 98,400 vehicles, as demand in many regions improved, with China showing particularly strong growth.
For some auto makers, the global recession has spelled bankruptcy or near extinction. For Volkswagen AG's Audi unit, it could be the biggest break in decades. Audi, founded a century ago, counts as one of the world's leading luxury brands. Yet it has failed to become a major player in the U.S. Now, the German car maker, based in this small city in Bavaria, is redoubling efforts to break out of its rut in the world's largest car market. Audi has invested heavily in the U.S. this year, a counterintuitive approach at a time when its chief rivals are cutting costs. The car maker increased 2009 marketing spending by 20%, pouring millions of dollars into Super Bowl and other high-impact ads, and has unveiled eight new models in the U.S. this year.
A top executive with the U.S. arm of Toyota Motor Corp said on Monday the automaker may expand the Prius nameplate into a marketing sub-brand for a broad family of low-emission, high-mileage hybrid vehicles. Speaking at the Reuters Auto Summit in Detroit, Bob Carter, the group vice president and general manager of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc, said the proposal was controversial within the company and that a final decision on the idea was more than a year away.
In less than two months, a new year will arrive, along with a new decade. Each year in the current decade has been spoken the long way, as in “two thousand nine,” rather than the short way, as in “twenty oh nine” (or even “twenty ought nine”). In 2010, however, another option will present itself, echoing how people referred to years starting in the second decade of the 20th century: “twenty ten,” just like “nineteen ten,” rather than “two thousand ten.” Most people will have a couple of months to consider how they will refer to next year — but not the automakers, because a model year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
When John B. Rogers was a Marine deployed in Iraq in 2004, he brought a book called Winning the Oil Endgame with him to the Gulf. The book, by environmental activist Amory B. Lovins, discusses how people can end their dependence on fossil fuels. Rogers says reading the volume inspired him to create a new type of car company, one he believes offers a more efficient and effective way of designing, manufacturing, and selling autos. "I realized it was possible to run an environmentally focused car company in different ways," he says. Most of today's auto entrepreneurs, such as Tesla Motors and A Better Place, focus on alternative fuel sources. But Rogers looked at another way of building a sustainable car business.
A four-door Porsche? Really? A sports car with room for four? Really? A luxury car with a name that sounds like a mash-up of Pan American, Panera and “Panamania,” a song once sung by Dorothy Lamour? Really? Porsche Cars North America and its agency, Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago, acknowledge the daunting challenges they confront. To be sure, the recession has decimated demand for cars, particularly higher-price models, and shoppers are loath to spend for anything other than groceries and gasoline.
You can buy a crossover SUV, or you can buy a Mini Cooper -- they have the same fuel-efficiency mileage. That's the message General Motors Co. is sending in a TV campaign for the 2010 GMC Terrain that's part of the automaker's "May the Best Car Win" push. The four-cylinder model, which has a direct-injected Ecotec engine and six-speed automatic transmission, is EPA-rated at a segment-leading 32 miles to the gallon on the highway.
Volkswagen-owned car marque Audi is changing its logo for the first time since 1990, to reflect a more 'pure and clear' identity and to emphasis the brand's focus on design.
Every luxury brand eventually faces a quandary. Growth is good but how much is too much? If you sell too many, then the brand becomes ubiquitous and loses its exclusivity. Mini isn’t at risk of selling to the point where it becomes common. Not yet. But the way parent BMW is growing it, the question is valid. OK, Mini is not a luxury brand in the traditional sense, but when a company sells subcompacts at prices that can top $40,000 then it is luxury among its peers. The brand also thrives on its exclusive nature. Mini owners tend to be individualists and even a bit eccentric, says Mini USA Vice President Jim McDowell.
Sales of luxury cars, once considered resistant to recessions, fell almost 21% last year -- double the decline in overall car sales -- and continue to slide this year. That raises a disturbing question for auto makers: Is it merely a reaction to the downturn, or a long-term change in consumer behavior?
An effort to sell General Motors Co. cars through eBay Inc.'s online market is generating some leads for participating auto dealers but hasn't yet sparked a spurt in sales, dealers said. The companies rolled out the four-week pilot program for California customers Aug. 11. Under it, shoppers using special eBay sites can purchase GM cars at a "buy it now" price, or bargain online with a dealer. GM and eBay said they would measure success based on the degree of customer interaction with the sites and the program's ability to generate leads, but also said they expected customers to "complete quite a few transactions."
As U.S. auto manufacturers whither, Hyundai--which once struggled to overcome a reputation for cheesy, entry-level cars--is on a roll. The Korean automaker spent the last decade preaching a necessary, if not boring, message of quality. Today it's taking bold moves with its marketing. Hyundai's U.S. arm, representing nearly one-fifth of total sales, is trying to convince shoppers that, recession be damned, they shouldn't be afraid to buy a Hyundai.
For many Americans who came of age in the ‘70s, diesel is a dirty word. BMW, however, is looking to change consumers' perceptions by prepping a new campaign designed to sell drivers on a cleaner-burning, eco-friendly fuel that doesn’t get in the way of performance. As part of its “EfficientDynamics” initiative, the automaker this month will launch a multi-platform effort promoting the 335d sedan and X5 xDrive35d crossover.
Fritz Henderson, CEO of General Motors Co., admitted this morning in a live webcast that the automaker was indeed behind the mysterious, unbranded website whatis230.com, as first reported here last week. The number's significance, Mr. Henderson said, is that the Chevrolet Volt plug-in car due later this year is expected to get city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon, or 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles.
Ford is making safety, infotainment and drivetrain technology important keys to driving consumer interest and sales. But Jim Buczkowski, the automaker's director of global electrical and electronic systems, says it isn't enough to load gadgets onto the dashboard. On-board technology, he argues, must be easy to use, functional and affordable -- because ultimately, he says, one's car is as important a living space as one's living room.
A number of dim bulbers emailed me this week to complain that it was dumb for spokesceleb Mike Rowe to add the phrase "why not?" to the end of Ford's tagline "why Ford, why now" in a new TV commercial. I actually don't like the "why now" part.
I have been watching the recent power struggle between Porsche and VW with great interest, because if this possible merger takes place, it has extremely interesting ramifications for both brand names.
General Motors Co. Chief Executive Frederick "Fritz" Henderson is launching a public-relations salvo this week, activating an online suggestion box called Tell Fritz. The initiative, part of a wider assault the auto maker is waging to repair its tattered image, is designed to enable the 50-year-old executive to further distance himself from what has become known as the Old GM, or the auto maker that existed before Mr. Henderson steered the company through bankruptcy court in about 40 days.
Dying to hear how the stereo system of an Infiniti convertible sounds? Check your mobile phone. The automaker has a mobile music application that runs on Facebook and plays melodies on mobile phones while users ogle pictures of the new G37 convertible. The Tokyo-based auto company is also buying text ads on mobile news feeds and embedded spots for mobile video.
Car companies like Hyundai and Ford have been showing solidarity with consumers recently, running ads promising that the companies will help them should they lose their jobs. Mercedes-Benz USA is trying a different way to get customers to buy cars as it introduces its updated E-Class Series.
As I’ve mentioned before I like my entrepreneurs risk-taking and a little crazy. Earlier this week on TechTicker, we ran an interview with a guy who fits that bill: Shai Agassi. at the end of the third segment (embedded below), Agassi said something that’s been sticking in my head ever since: America has to start making things or the economy won’t work. He argues you don’t have a country with just a service economy to support it. I’m starting to fear that he’s right, especially spending time last month in China and this week in central Africa, both places where manufacturing and consumer goods industries are being built fresh and in incredibly innovative ways. It’s a bit like what you kept hearing after the dot com bust: When things turn south it’s good to have hard assets to fall back on.
GM says it is reinventing itself. And what makes them or the government think they can do that on top of old infrastructure and old ways even with our billions? Good fucking luck.
GM's financial quagmire and bizarre labor and bureaucratic practices notwithstanding, branding (or lack thereof) was a big part of their problem.
I hear that executive search firm Spencer Stuart is looking for recruits to repopulate GM's board of directors. Here is my application for their consideration: Dear Selection Committee, You need me. Well, not necessarily me, personally, but certainly you need someone like me.
In its heyday, Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Truck plant generated up to $3.7 billion a year in profits building sports utility vehicles. On Wednesday, the auto maker will detail plans to convert the plant to produce a compact car that never made a nickel in the U.S. Building a profitable Ford Focus small-car line will require huge changes in how the vehicles are equipped and assembled. By one estimate, the earlier-model Ford Focus lost as much as $1 billion a year. But Ford believes it now has a new formula to turn those losses into steady profits.