Brilliant Ad – Controversy Worth its Weight In Gold Cadillac, once the Standard of the World, has aired an outstanding ad for the Cadillac brand and the Cadillac ELR electric coupe. It was first shown on the American broadcast for the Sochi Winter Olympics and more recently for the Oscars that aired on Sunday, March 2. And what a controversy has ensued. Cadillac’s agency Rogue created the Cadillac Poolside ad to espouse unbridled American confidence and showcase what Cadillac stands for. In the process, the spot has left leaners and right leaners sniping against each other on numerous websites. On Thursday, March 6, arch-conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh (click on the link to be taken to the transcript of the Limbaugh show about the Cadillac ad) devoted the top of his second hour to the controversy the ad has created. The Cadillac Poolside ad pushed a button that allowed Limbaugh to rant for about a half hour.
What Should Cadillac Do Now? The worst thing Cadillac can do now that the spot has aired several times is to be apologetic and try to over-explain the subtleties of the message. That is not who Cadillac should be. Use the controversy to advantage and heavyweight the Cadillac Poolside ad across the airwaves.
The Story Actor Neal McDonough (Band of Brothers, Desparate Housewives, Justified, Mob City) does an outstanding job of narration. He’s a bit cocky, clearly proud of being an American and what being an American has allowed him to achieve. He has a multi-million dollar post-modern house with a large lap pool out front. He has two cute young daughters and a wife who is probably number two and ten to fifteen years younger. The pace is great. The production values are great. The message is what Cadillac should be all about. American luxury. American achievement. American belief that anything is possible. Great stuff.
Only at the end, does MacDonough stroll out of the house in a well-tailored suit (during the first half of the commercial he is attired in shorts, a polo shirt and tennies without sox). He pulls out the J1772 electric charging plug, disconnects a Cadillac ELR EV coupe and drives off. The tag at the end does show the ELR – “The First Ever ELR”. Next shot is the Cadillac shield without the laurel wreath, but the car in the spot has the old logo – shield and wreath.
The TranscriptHere is the text of the commercial…
“Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? (standing in front of his spectacular, tasteful pool) For stuff? Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stop by the cafe. They take August off. OFF. Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that? Because we are crazy, driven, hard working believers, that’s why. Those other countries think we are nuts. Whatever. Were the Wright Brothers insane? Bill Gates? Les Paul? Ali? Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That’s right, we went up there and you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there and left the keys in it. Do you know why? Because we are the only ones going back up there, that’s why. But I digress. It’s pretty simple. You work hard, you create your own luck. And you gotta believe anything is possible. As for all the stuff, that’s the upside for only taking two weeks off in August.
N’est pas? (with a wink)”
AutoPacific Staff Comments Now, I am on the side of folks who really like this spot. But after passing it around at AutoPacific, the reactions were pretty fun. Here’s a sample (and we don’t edit for political correctness)…
Sixth Responder My first viewing prompted a major double take. The guy does come across as a robotic JO. We’re for sure not going back “up there” now that Ozero has gutted the program, in favor of Muslim outreach, etc. And Mars !!?? Oh, BTW, that’s a GM vehicle left moldering “up there.” Wonder if anyone writing the copy knew that? Just askin’
Fifth Responder Some left-handed thoughts.
First off, it’s a re-Volting ad.
If the actor in this commercial was the “Duke,” would interest Wayne?
Yes, those Soviets are Russian around sending Americans into space.
And I am a fan of SpaceX. But you do have to like the odor of Musk.
Final thought (or maybe not.) What does this Caddylack? A Volt price tag.
Everybody outta da pool!
Fourth Responder I really like the spot. It’s right where Cadillac should be in the minds of their buyers and their prospective buyers. Love the house. Kids are a bit too young for Neal and the wife’s probably his second because he was working so hard to get where he is with his first. I hope she got a good alimony.
Third Responder Forget the facts. Think about this as how the agency handled the challenge they were handed of selling an overpriced variant of a Chevrolet (something sounds vaguely familiar here…..hmmmm), and the mindset of the target customer. I think the spot is brilliant and the copy is spot-on for the prospect. It’s not for me, but I watch it with a sense of respect for the writer/production team. These folks fall very well on one side of the socio-political debate the spot has generated, and the emotional appeal will have some rising out of their Ekornes recliners to go check out the ELR. Great production values. Talent choice is excellent. Hats off to Cadillac marketing and their agency. The product strategy for the car…..perhaps another discussion.
First Responder Again How so? Also, even if we’re not talking about sending human astronauts, we’re certainly not the only ones sending stuff into space.
Second Responder See, I thought the space thing was a weird jab at SpaceX.
First Responder Yeah, it’s been controversial for sure! Personally, I think the guy comes off as a complete tool. He also gets completely wrong that “we’re the only ones going back up there” (to space). Nope. Our space program isn’t sending anyone into space. We pay upwards of $70M per astronaut to the Russians to send our people into space.
Anyways, if the result of the all that hard work is getting to drive a ridiculously overpriced Cadillac-badged Chevrolet Volt for $80K, I think I’d prefer a regular Volt, those nice cafes, and taking all of August off!
My Take The reference to the moon landing is pretty gratutious. Sure, only the USA has put men on the moon and we should be proud of that, but we didn’t leave a Lunar Rover up there so we could retrieve it and drive it again. Given fiscal and political realities, any thought of going to the moon anytime soon (in American vehicles) is inconceivable.
The comments on how stupid he is to buy an overpriced ELR (instead of a Chevrolet Volt) are noted, but I think this car is a very discretionary purchase and represents petty cash for this guy. It’s an asterisk in his budget. Anyway, Cadillac would like you to think he has an Escalade for Mom and the kids and an XTS for him to drive clients around in. Apparently, the ELR was a last minute switch to make the spot more palatable to some of the viewers. If they had an newly introduced Escalade in front of McDonough’s house, the howls would have been even louder.
Nothing in this ad screams GREEN, so he probably acquired his ELR for its flash and not for environmental friendliness. In reality, if he is really into EVs, one of the other vehicles is probably a Tesla Model S.
2001 Honda Insight
2nd Generation Honda Insight Fails The Honda Insight began life as a hardcore hybrid with futuristic styling. It was so revolutionary, different looking and so purpose-built it never sold in satisfactory volumes. The first Insight was a pure commuter car with extremely slippery aerodynamics. There was no rear seat and the body tapered off into a teardrop shape. The rear wheels were covered bodywork to improve aerodynamics. The Insight actually beat the Toyota Prius hybrid to the market, but once the Prius launched, the Insight was blown into the weeds. The Prius was more practical, had better performance and got competitive fuel economy. No wonder the Insight failed. After a hiatus, Honda launched the second generation Insight in 2009 as a 2010 model vehicle. While the 2nd generation Insight was a better attempt, its sales peaked at 21,000 units in 2009 and 2010 before dropping to below 5,000 units in 2013. A key aspect of the Insight is how poorly it fared in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The Insight was always in the bottom ten of the ratings out of more than 200 vehicles sold in the USA. Low sales and poor satisfaction do not make for a viable business case. The car simply did not meet buyers’ expectations and Honda dealers had a hard time moving them.
2014 Honda Insight
Honda Insight Killed A couple of weeks ago, Honda announced the Insight and two-seat Honda CR-Z hybrid were being cancelled in Europe. Following a week or so later, American Honda announced the latest version of the hybrid Honda Insight has been killed after five years on the market. About time, they were just cluttering up the sales lots of American Honda dealerships with over 200 days of inventory on hand in February, 2014.
1988 Honda CR-X
2014 Honda CR-Z
What is the Future for the CR-Z Sport Hybrid Coupe? Absent from the American Honda announcement was the CR-Z, a very sporty, small 2-seat hybrid – Honda terms it a “sport hybrid coupe”. Think of CR-Z as the ideological offspring of the original CR-X. So, is Honda killing the CR-Z as well? The story for the CR-Z is even worse than for the Insight. It has never sold more than 12,000 units in a year – achieving just 11,300 sales in 2011. By 2013, CR-Z sold only 4,600 units in the USA. While the satisfaction results for CR-Z are better than for the Insight, the car is still in the bottom 20 overall. Not good.
While Honda may have a gasoline version of the CR-Z under development, that may not be enough to save the car in the USA.
Hybrid Versions of Mainstream Accord, Civic and Fit Give Honda a Good Presence in the Alternative Fuel Arena From an hybrid point of view, Honda has the Civic hybrid and launched the Accord PHEV in early 2013 and the hybrid Accord later in the year. Honda will add a hybrid model to the Fit after it begins production in Mexico right about now. These new hybrids are much more competitive than the Insight or the CR-Z. So now Honda has competitive hybrid entries in more mainstream models that should sell much better.
GM’s 2015MY Full Size SUVs General Motors has launched its new-for-2015MY full size SUVs. While you might wonder why they care about launching these behemoths when the segment has fallen at the hands of expensive gasoline, these are mighty profit generators for the General even at relatively low volumes. Last year, GM launched the pickups upon which these SUVs are based – the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra. When they were launched these pickups were criticized because their styling was so evolutionary from their GMT900 predecessors. But, it turns out that GM planners and engineers really know their stuff and the pickups have won kudos for their capability. The Silverado was named the North American Truck of the Year.
Sheetmetal Unique to the SUVs Chevrolet’s full size SUVs are the Tahoe and Suburban. GMC’s are the Yukon and the longer Yukon XL. Unlike their predecessors, they share no exterior sheetmetal with the pickups – their doors are different which substantially improves the ingress/egress for the 2nd row seat on the shorter Tahoe and Yukon. Also, GM has corrected a serious faux pas in the GMT900 products. In the GMT900s, the 3rd row seat did not fold flat into the floor and at that time, GM management said that was OK, their buyers did not want the seat to fold. About the first thing a Tahoe/Yukon owner would do was take out the rear seat and leave it in their garage. Wonderful. Well, now they are not BSing us any more and they have found a way to get a flat-but-sloping load floor in the rear without resorting to the more expensive Ford/Lincoln solution of an independent rear suspension. Both the 2nd and 3rd can be had with a power folding feature.
Substantial Upgrade to Interior The interiors have been given a tremendous amount of attention. Materials have been upgraded to soft-touch on all surfaces you might touch. Ergonomics are top notch. The latest features are available including comfort and convenience features, entertainment features and safety and security features. GM’s full size SUVs are often targeted by thieves so a vehicle security solution is available that includes glass-break sensors, vertical movement sensors (is a thief is jacking up the vehicle to steal the tires and wheels), interior movement sensors and door lock protection. If a pet, for instance, is left temporarily in the vehicle, the interior movement sensor can be overridden by pushing a button.
GM Owns 74% of the Full Size SUV Market With the 2015 versions of these full size SUVs, GM looks likely to hold on to its commanding segment share of 74% (in the 2013CY). Competition includes the Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada and perhaps the Dodge Durango. Ford is freshening its Expedition and Lincoln Navigator for the 2015MY, but the changes to those vehicles are not as major as the GM entries. Ford has adopted a powertrain strategy using its 3.5L V6 Twin-Turbo EcoBoost engine as the sole power source. The others in the competitive set have V8-only powertrains.
EcoTec3 V8 Power The Tahoe/Suburban and Yukon/Yukon XL come with an 355HP EcoTec3 5.3L V8 that gets 16mpg in the city and 23mpg on the highway. The upscale Denali version of the Yukon and Yukon XL gets a 420HP EcoTec3 6.2L V8 that transforms the driving dynamics of these big vehicles. EcoTec3 technology includes direct fuel injection, active fuel management and continuously variable valve timing. The active fuel management system shuts off four cylinders when cruising under light loads. The shift from V8 to V4 is imperceptible.
Buyer Generalities The shorter Tahoe/Yukon tend to be everyday commuter vehicles getting the driver to and from work. The longer Suburban/Yukon XL serve as a very capable minivan doing family schlepping duty during the week and family activities on the weekend. A high percentage of both are driven by women. Median income ranges from about $100,000 for a Tahoe to almost $200,000 for a Yukon XL Denali owner. Age is between 45 and 55 years of age. These folks have the wherewithal to pay the hefty prices these vehicles command. On our ride evaluation in Napa Valley and across to Lake Tahoe, the loaded vehicles we drove were priced in the $65,000 – $75,000 range. You can get a base Tahoe LS for about $46,000 and stretch a Yukon XL Denali to about $80,000.
And So….. GM’s 2015MY Full Size SUVs are an excellent evolution of the full size SUV genre. General Motors did not plow much new ground here, but updated and upgraded the products substantially. They are immediately identified as General Motors’ SUVs. They look capable and purposeful. They are very serious about being able to do everything they are asked to do and more. Good job.
Big Bronco to Compete With Chevy’s Popular Blazer In the late 1960s, Ford Motor Company was competing in the sport utility market with the first generation Bronco a small hardcore vehicle designed to go off road in a big way. The 1st Gen Bronco was to compete with the Jeep CJ and International Harvester Scout of its day – off-road. Today, these 1st Gen Broncos are coveted by off-roaders all across the nation. At the same time, General Motors was thumping Ford with its Chevrolet Blazer SUV. The Blazer was a two door derivative of the four door Chevrolet Suburban and sold in impressive numbers. Ford had nothing to match the Blazer, but in the early ’70s began a program to develop a strong competitor to the Blazer.
For a primer on Ford’s 2nd Generation Bronco Program follow this link.
The Charter – Think Outside the Box I was in Ford’s Advanced Light Truck Engineering area at the time and responsible for the package design and coordinating the prototype build with a company in Inkster, Michigan – Carron & Co. The first priority was to build a vehicle to compete directly with the Blazer – a two-door sport utility vehicle derived from Ford’s F-Series pickup. The Corporate name assigner in Ford’s Glass House headquarters decided the code name “Shorthorn” would be appropriate – and it was. But the charter of Truck Product Planning and Advanced Engineering was to think outside the box. Somehow, to determine how the future Ford SUV portfolio should look there was enough budget to build a bevy of prototypes for proof of concept and conduct research with consumers.
Four Big Bronco Concepts In addition to the Shorthorn (Big Bronco), there was the four-door Longhorn (Suburban or Expedition EL), the four-door Midhorn (Expedition) and Widehorn (?). I can understand the Longhorn and Midhorn, but what was the Widehorn all about? The Widehorn was six-inches wider than the standard F-Series and had to have running lights on top of roof for clearance regulation reasons. All of these vehicles were painted and trimmed identically – Ford’s medium gold metallic paint with a light tan super soft vinyl interior.
The Shorthorn Big Bronco Prototype The Shorthorn was an interesting vehicle. The prototype was made from the 1973 Ford F-100. The wheelbase of the F-Series short wheel base pickup was shortened and inner and outer panel of the pickup box were shortened to meet up with the F-Series doors. We had an idea that just short-stamping the box inner and outer would let us marry the rear pieces to the B-Pillar. Not so fast, there was a 1/10th of an inch mismatch between the panels because of the sweep of the bodyside contour line. So, this idea was not feasible for production, but was OK for a prototype for proof of concept. To make the fiberglass rear roof, we stripped the top off of a Chevrolet Blazer and mated it to the top of the Ford pickup box. This roof retained the liftgate from the Blazer. The idea for the front of the roof was to have a pseudo Targa-style roof contour that swept across the roof. That this over-the-roof contour could be construed as a roll-bar was a great aggravation to Ford’s counsels, so the prototype did not have this design feature.
Big Bronco Finally Launched for 1978MY This group of concepts was built during the First Fuel Crisis. The Big Ford Bronco Concepts were researched and the Shorthorn, Longhorn and Midhorn did pretty well. But in those days, Ford was extremely risk averse and decided to put the program on the shelf until the dust had settled from the fuel crisis. Ford finally launched the Shorthorn for the 1978 model year. This 2nd Generation Big Bronco would be a program that lasted only two model years – 1978 and 1979 so the investment in a 4-door version was not made. In fact, it took until Ford introduced the Expedition in 1998 for Ford to have a 4-door full size SUV in its lineup.
By the way, the rear quarters of the production Bronco did match up and Ford did not go with the Blazer-style liftgate. The production Big Bronco was launched with a drop glass tailgate with a power operated rear window.
For this last Holiday Card, I included a non-holiday photo of an vehicle I worked on in my youth at Ford – the Ford Carrousel concept and asked who could identify the vehicle. A few who were working at Ford at the time correctly identified it, but all misspelled it. The prototype used an unusual spelling of Carrousel with two “Rs”. Many though it was Hal Sperlich’s MiniMax concept from the late ’70s at Ford, or a prototype of an early Chrysler minivan. Nope.
So, responding to the folks who guessed, I sent this response:
The Ford Carrousel project was a low roof seven passenger van based on the short wheelbase “Nantucket” platform. The Nantucket was the 1975 onwards big Ford van. The Carrousel was styled by the Ford Truck Studio, hardpoints by Light Truck Product Planning, package by Light Truck Advanced Engineering, fabrication by Carron & Company in Inkster, Michigan. I coordinated the package design and prototype fabrication for Light Truck Advanced Engineering.
This project was happening about the same time as Hal Sperlich’s MiniMax front wheel drive minivan design. The Carrousel had nothing to do with Sperlich or the MiniMax. In fact, Sperlich hated the fact that the Carrousel existed.
Using the Nantucket platform meant the Ford Carrousel was body-on-frame. It was powered by a 460CID V8 and had Ford’s Twin-I-Beam front suspension. The clay model was scanned at the Design Studio and Carron made kirksite dies. Most of the sheetmetal was hammer-formed, but in essence it was a sculpture in bondo. Ford Glass shaped unique float glass for each opening. The drop glass rear window exploded during its first lap of Ford’s Dearborn Road and Handling Course and was replaced by plexiglass.
There was a sliding side door on the passenger side. The rear auxiliary air conditioning was cobbled from the Nantucket and ran down the driver’s side of the vehicle.
The front power seats were straight out of the Thunderbird of the day as was the instrument panel and tilt steering wheel. The power windows and switchgear were also from a T-Bird. The folding rear seats were designed and fabricated by Lear and trimmed by Carron.
The woodgrain bodyside trim was unique to the Carrousel and provided by 3M.
The Carrousel was included in Ford product research in 1973 or 1974 (its colors were mandated by Research – gold exterior color and tan super soft vinyl for the interior – all research properties during this era were strip painted and re-trimmed to prevent color bias – imagine the cost!). The results of the research were not what Ford management hoped for. The Carrousel buried the Ford Country Squire wagon outscoring it handily in most measurements.
This $67 million program was buried likely because it did not have a defined segment to compete in. Ford management did not understand it and being very risk averse at the time (since GM had not already done one) they cancelled it.
If Ford had gone ahead with this product, they would have launched a segment that was to boom during the ‘80s and early ‘90s. While the Carrousel was rear wheel drive and not as space efficient as the front wheel drive minivans to follow (especially Sperlich’s Dodge Caravan), it would have set Ford up as a leader at a time when the company was a not-so-quick follower. But thinking of it another way, if they had launched it in 1978 or 1979 they would have launched a fuel-inefficient V8 into the midst of Jimmy Carter’s fuel crisis.
Years later, I saw the prototype behind Ford’s Truck Operations Building among a line of engineering hulks. It was on four flat tires and its paint was peeling.
By the way, Carrousel is correct… two “Rs”.
You can read some previous Ford Carrousel posts in VehicleVoice here and here.
My friend Gary Vasilash, Editor-and-Chief of Automotive Design and Production magazine published a great article about the Carrousel and what it represented. You can read “The Road Not Taken” here. Later, he got a letter from a man who lived with the Carrousel after its life as a concept vehicle was done. You can read the letter below the fold:
Has the 2014 Auto Show Season been a bust so far? Well, with the exception of the all new Ford F-150, there has not been much to justify all the fabricated hoopla at either the North American International Auto Show in Detroit or the Chicago Auto Show. You can almost count the significant new news on one hand. In order of importance to the United States market and their manufacturers here are the most significant: Ford F-150, Chrysler 200, Honda Fit, Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes C-Class in Detroit and the Subaru Legacy in Chicago. OK, that is six significant entries. Others that might have made the list are the GMC Canyon mid-size pickup and the Lexus RC-F coupe. The Detroit Show ended up focusing on performance models or concepts like the production-ready Subaru WRX STI, Toyota FT-1 super car, Chevrolet Corvette ZO6 variant, BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupe, Cadillac ATS coupe. The only other vehicles of note at the Chicago Show were the 2015 Lincoln Navigator with new front and rear styling and the Mercedes GLA compact crossover SUV,.
2015 Ford F-150: Ford sold over 700,000 F-Series in 2013 and about 500,000 of these were F-150s. With the upcoming F-150, the body becomes aluminum saving about 700 lbs and allowing the F-150 to achieve substantially better fuel economy than it does now. Using the term “military grade” aluminum, the structure, hood, doors, pickup box, pickup box bed, tailgate – basically everything above the frame becomes aluminum. The frame remains steel and steel alloys and is still boxed for additional strength. The styling is strong, but evolutionary from previous F-Series and the interior, while well done, probably does not match the quality of the upper models of the Chevrolet Silverado and the Dodge Ram.
The Economics of Ford’s Aluminum Move: Ford spends heavily to keep its F-150 ahead of the pack and this renewal proves they are continuing that strategy. The aluminum body will be substantially more expensive than the steel body it replaces, but Ford cannot afford to significantly increase the price of the vehicle. This will be the highest volume automotive application of an aluminum body ever so Ford will achieve volume efficiencies that keeps costs down. Profits for the present F-150 are very healthy and the aluminum body will take a piece out of it, but the investment in this material for the future likely is very worth it. Also on the cost side of the equation is the downtime required to convert Ford’s two F-Series plants to the new body construction. The flagship plant at the Rouge in Dearborn will be down for eleven weeks for the conversion. The Kansas City plant will be down for two weeks at the beginning of 2015. While Dearborn is down, you can bet Kansas City will be pumping out F-150 on overtime to keep the pipeline filled. So, for the end of 2014, expect to see both 2014 and 2015 F-150s on Ford dealers’ lots.
The Dynamics of Ford’s Aluminum Move: One of the primary benefits from reducing the weight of the F-150 so greatly in addition to improved fuel economy is the improved driving feel of the vehicle. We expect the F-Series to be much more nimble and fun to drive with the 2015 truck. The powertrain lineup will have a 3.5L V6 as base with the next step up being a 5.0L V8 or 2.7L EcoBoost V6. The top engine continues to be the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 that tops the F-150 now.
Other Implications of the F-150 Shift to Aluminum: Buy Alcoa stock. Alcoa (AA) will have to add capacity to handle the big requirement for aluminum from Ford and this will be a huge boost to aluminum usage in the USA. Dealers will have to purchase new tools and equipment for their body repair facilities. Bodyshop workers will have to learn new techniques to repair the aluminum body panels.
Prognosis: Solid hit. Maybe a homerun.
We at AutoPacific have just completed a week’s worth of driving the Thailand-built Mitsubishi Mirage. Now we know what drivers in a third world country experience when they drive locally assembled cars. And we don’t like it much.
A Little Background Don’t get us wrong. We love Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi was AutoPacific’s first client twenty-eight years ago and they remain a good client today. But, sometimes in a rush to get a new model onto the lots of their product-starved dealers in the USA, they choose poorly.
Mitsubishi has culled its lineup over the past several years dropping range topping Diamante premium mid-size sedan, the once very popular Eclipse sporty car, the Galant mid-size sedan and the Endeavor crossover SUV. Now they rely on the aging Lancer sedan, the fresh Outlander crossover SUV and the OUtlander Sport compact crossover SUV. Oh yeah, there is also the minuscule i (iMIEV) electric car. This is not enough product to satisfy the demands of Mitsubishi Motors of North America’s dealer body, so they have added the Mirage to the mix. MMNA has announced they will add a mid-size car based on a Renault D-Class sedan (Galant sized) and a C-Class sedan (Lancer sized). These will be built at the Renault-Samsung factory in South Korea.
It appeared for awhile that Mitsubishi had hit stride with the distinctive jet fighter nose of its vehicles. We saw it on the Outlander, Lancer and Outlander Sport. Apparently, in Japan, this distinctive face was considered too aggressive and Mitsubishi began to adopt a softer look. The first example of this is the 2013 Outlander mid-size crossover SUV. While there is nothing objectionable about the Outlander, it no longer turns heads. The new Mirage takes an even more anodyne approach to style.
Mirage is a Value Story of Sorts The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage we drove is an $15,990 ES model in Kiwi Green (while this color would not be our choice, there eight somewhat cheerful colors to choose from) with continuously variable transmission. The base car comes with equipped with features we call a “complete car”: Ppwer windows, locks and mirrors, keyless entry, rear window defroster and automatic climate control for $12,995 (right now there is a $1,000 rebate on the car). Moving up to the ES model adds 14″ alloy wheels, Bluetooth, FAST-Key keyless entry, steering wheel mounted controls, cruse control, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Mirage Has Some Sort of Style The Mirage is a very small car. We would classify it as an Economy Car and the international term would be a B-Car. Sometines it appears that companies designing a very small car have decided that style is not important until you look at the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio. Mitsubishi took the plain-jane approach when they should have gone a high personality route like the smart or Fiat 500. The face of the car is bland. Where the jet fighter nose would have added distinctiveness to its face, the face is more Pokemon than handsome. The side view has a rising beltline with a crisp character line running below it.
Driving the Mirage Driving the Mirage is reminiscent of driving a 1986 Hyundai Excel. Lets start with the powertrain. The Mirage is powered by a 1.2L 3-cylinder MIVEC engine. It has a whopping 74-horsepower (but it does get 44mpg on the highway). In order to get any performance out of the car you really have to mash on it. Pedal to the metal brings out very unfortunate booms, groans, roars. Mirage is not happy when pressed. Handling is substandard when compared to the more composed small cars of today. Body lean is very pronounced when cornering. Ride control is pitchy and its very short wheelbase does not help. The steering wheel seldom self-corrects. It feels like you are yawing the car up and down the freeway. This is a drive feel we have not felt for decades.
A couple of hurtful comments heard in the office… “I would want one in white so people would not think it was mine. It would be a car for a delivery service or pizza delivery”. “Maybe put big black numbers on the roof to guarantee they would not think it was mine”.
So, Mirage is not Mitsubishi’s best effort. At $15,990 for the car we drove, it seems a bit steep. But looking at even the base prices of other economy cars today, a Hyundai Accent GLS with a 138-horsepower 1.6L DOHC 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, power windows and air conditioning is $16,455. Similar prices are for the Kia Forte. Both would be bigger and more fun to drive than the Mirage.
Volvo Growth Strategy: Tony Nicolosi, new President and CEO of Volvo Cars of North America says 90% of the senior management of VCNA is new since he took over in October 2013. Volvo’s marketing strategy is also going to change with the arrival in January of Bodil Eriksson as executive vice president of marketing and new advertising agency Grey London starting in March. Nicolosi says Volvo will return to its roots emphasizing safety, the environment and the family. The marketing budget for 2014 is bigger by about 50% but its emphasis will shift away from television to digital messaging.
Prior to becoming head of VCNA, Nicolosi was head of Volvo Finance in the USA, so he is very familiar with the leasing game. About 42% of Volvos are leased, well short of the leasing penetration of Audi, BMW or Mercedes. Going forward, Volvo’s lease penetration should increase with more concentration on more car for the payment and regular replacement. This will give Volvo dealers the first shot at putting off-lease customers into a new Volvo.
So, are big things expected on the sales front? Not so much, and here’s why.
Lineup Thin, Core Products Aging Volvo has dropped the S40 small sedan and V50 small wagon. The C30 2-door hatchback and retractable hardtop C70 ceased production in late 2013, but if you want one, there are still some on dealer lots. This leaves the brand with its core vehicles of S60, S80, XC60, XC70 and XC90. The XC90 crossover is ancient in today’s auto world having been launched for the 2002 model year. But remarkably, it is still pretty competitive. Volvo showed the Concept XC Coupe at the Detroit Auto Show that hints at design cues for the 2016 XC90 which will be launched in Spring, 2015.
Once upon a time, Volvo was known as the premier wagon purveyor in the USA. Its wagons could be seen lined up in front of elementary schools all over the country with soccer moms waiting for their little darlings. Volvo began dropping its wagons as it added crossover SUVs – XC60 and XC90 – as crossovers pushed wagons out of favor. This was the right decision overall, but somehow, Volvo just did not seem complete without a wagon in the lineup (closest thing is the XC70). For 2015, the V60 (wagon, estate) that has been on sale in Europe for a couple of years now has been added, but is expected to sell about 4,000 to 5,000 units and some of those will cannibalize from other vehicles in the Volvo lineup.
New Drive-E Powertrains to Replace Legacy Units To meet regulatory and competitive pressures, Volvo is replacing its legacy five-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines with a family of 2.0L 4-cylinders they call “Drive-E” mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. This also is to give Volvo “technological independence” in the powertrain realm. There are diesel and gasoline variants of the Drive-E 2.0L, but the USA gets only the gasoline version. Understandable since diesels still have not caught on in the USA the way they have in Europe. While all Volvos eventually will get the Drive-E engines, the launch cars are the front-wheel-drive versions of the S60, V60, S80, XC60 and XC70.
All front wheel drive Volvos will have the 240HP T5 2.0L I4 Drive-E Turbo as standard equipment (XC90 is AWD Only). The front wheel drive S60 and XC60 are available in the T6 302HP version with a supercharger/turbocharger setup optional. All wheel drive Volvos use legacy engines for now – the T5 with 2.5L in-line 5-cylinder with 250HP (S60/V60) or the T6 with 302HP 3.0L in-line 6-cylinder (S60/V60/XC60/XC70/S80) or a 3.2L non-turbo in-line 6 putting out 240HP (XC60/XC70). Complicated? Yes.
The first Drive-E units are V60s on sale now. T5 Drive-E products will be in the showroom in February 2014 and T6 vehicles will arrive in June.
Driving the Drive-Es We drove the S60 sedan in T6 form with 302HP and the supercharged/turbocharged engine. Tractable, seamless, smooth. There was a slight shudder from the start/stop function on the engine when moving after a stop, but it was not objectionable. The supercharger/turbocharger combination quickly lets you forget this is a 4-cylinder engine. The V60 wagon with the T5 single turbo powertrain was the same. The fact that the T6 has 62 more horsepower was not really evident in the S60. Think of the T5 engine as the equivalent of BMWs excellent 328i 2.0L Turbo unit. Volvo has deliberately not changed the personality of the V60 to be a wagon. It rides and handles much like the S60 sedan, firmly planted and confident. Having the wagon cargo area is a definite benefit and those folks who like mid-sized European wagons will certainly like the V60.
We have to mention Volvo packaging a bit. The mid-size Volvo entries – S60, V60, XC60 – are about a half-size too small. While they are easy to live with, ergonomically excellent, they are not spacious. Even the top-of-the-line sedan S80 is small for its position in the market. The original S80 was a generous sized car. In fact Ford’s large cars and SUVs are based on the original Volvo S80 and the Fords are generously sized. It’s tough thinking big with fuel economy and safety regulations looming over the industry, but if Volvo truly expects to break away from other premium European brands, it needs to think bigger.
Satisfied With Acceleration If you are a lucky enough to own a Jaguar XJ, you likely are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of your car. In AutoPacific‘s new car and light truck research, 100% of XJ owners are extremely satisfied. Overall, 51% of new car and light truck buyers are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of their vehicle. About 86% of sports car owners are extremely satisfied. About 71% of sporty car owners and 70% of aspirational luxury cars are extremely satisfied. At the other end of the spectrum are owners of hybrids and small cars. Only 37% of hybrid owners are extremely satisfied with power and acceleration compared with 40% of small car owners. This might be expected since these products are biased toward maximum fuel economy usually at the expense of spirited driving.
Prius Plug In Hybrid Owners Least Satisfied with Power and Acceleration
Toyota Prius owners are least satisfied no matter which Prius is owned. Only 19% of Prius Plug-In Hybrid owners are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of their vehicle. Only 20% of Prius c owners are extremely satisfied. Only 24% of Prius v owners are extremely satisfied and only 27% of the Prius are extremely satisfied. Other Toyotas in the bottom twenty include the Matrix (21%), Lexus CT200h (29%) and Scion xD (30%). Ten of the bottom twenty are hybrids in addition to the seven models from Toyota are: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (24%), Honda CRZ (26%) and Honda Insight (27%). Four economy cars are among the lowest rated: Honda Fit (25%), Nissan Versa (25%), Mazda 2 (27%), Ford Fiesta (28%), Kia Rio (29%) and Hyundai Accent (30%). Completing the bottom 20 are: Mazda CX5, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Mitsubishi Outlander and Jeep Patriot.
How Important is Power and Acceleration? Of course, one of the key questions is how important power and acceleration is to these owners. Overall, 39% of owners say power and acceleration is extremely important to them. So the industry is overachieving slightly having 51% of owners extremely satisfied. Among hybrid owners, only 23% say power and acceleration is extremely important (compared with 37% satisfied). Among small car owners, power and acceleration is important only to 28% (compared with 40% satisfied).