December 6th, 2012 at 12:03pm
Looks like Buick is really starting to get some momentum, thanks largely to lowering one key number. The Cadillac Cue and MyFord Touch systems have been heavily criticized for being awkward to use; we’ve found that a key factor is how you use them. New York City is being sued over red-light traffic cameras. All that and more, plus host John McElroy talks with Lexus’ Mark Templin on the public’s reaction to its new styling.
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily, where we strive to keep you on top of what’s happening in the global automotive industry.
WOULDN’T YOU REALLY RATHER HAVE A BUICK?
Looks like Buick is really starting to get some momentum. Sales were up 22 percent in the US market last month, thanks to bringing in new buyers to the brand. In 2007 only 28 percent of Buick’s sales went to customers who had never bought a Buick before. Today that conquest rate is up to 43 percent, and on Buick’s newest model, the Verano, it’s 50 percent. And that conquest rate means all of those customers were coming out of non-GM products. Buick is the only brand that has lowered the average age of its buyers in the last 5 years. The average is now 57 years old, compared to an industry average of about 51.
ASTON MARTIN ON LOTS OF SHOPPING LISTS
Last month we reported that Aston Martin’s owners, Kuwaiti based Investment Dar, is looking to sell a stake in the company. Indian automaker Mahindra and a European private equity firm, Investindustrial, were the frontrunners to buy it, but now Bloomberg reports that Investindustrial is about to get it. However, the Chinese website autosohu.com reports that Geely and Toyota are also talking about buying Aston, and that could help drive up the price.
NEW YORK’S RED LIGHT DISTRICTS
New York City is being sued over red-light traffic cameras. According to Bloomberg, three men who were ticketed for running red lights filed a lawsuit against the Big Apple claiming the yellow lights are shorter than the minimum three seconds the law requires. They also claim the city has installed more cameras than state law permits. The plaintiffs want the city to refund fines it illegally collected since the cameras were installed in 1998. The lawsuit claims that last year alone, red light cameras generated $47 million in revenue for New York City.
GOODBYE 3, HELLO 4
BMW pulled the wraps off the new Concept 4 Series Coupe, the fourth generation of its sporty mid-range coupe. So we now officially can say goodbye to the two-door 3 Series. The 4 has classic BMW styling with its twin-kidney grill, long sweeping hood and set-back passenger compartment. It is also larger than its predecessor, its width and wheelbase extended about 2 inches. The interior of the 4 Series looks good too, with plenty of leather to go around, even the cup-holders in this picture are leather. BMW has not yet released which engine will power the new 4 Series, which will make its debut at the Detroit Auto Show.
GIVE THEM THE FINGER!
The Cadillac Cue and MyFord Touch systems have been heavily criticized for being awkward to use. And while we generally agree, we’ve also found that a key factor is how you use them. We are so used to switches, knobs and buttons that we expect everything to operate instantly. That doesn’t happen with these touch screens in cars. There’s a slight lag. So you touch the screen, nothing happens and you immediately touch it again. Guess what? You just tuned something on and immediately turned it off. I find if you chill out, slow down, hold your finger on the screen just a little bit longer than you want to, everything will work fine. I don’t like my solution, Cue and MyFord should work as fast as any smartphone or iPad. But if you have one of these systems and want it to work well for you, go a little bit slower and you shouldn’t have any problems.
The new styling look coming out of Lexus, especially with what they call the spindle grille has been pretty controversial. Coming up next, we’ll talk with the head of Lexus about the public’s reaction to what they’re doing.
LEXUS’ NEW STYLING LOOK
(Video for Lexus’ New Styling Look can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show)
Lexus has been known for making superb, but boring luxury cars. Now the brand is out to change that. It is dramatically changing the styling of its cars. Mark Templin is the group vice president and general manager and at the LA Auto Show I asked him to talk about how they’re going to roll out this new form language.
Lexus first signaled its new styling change with a dramatic looking concept sports car. Then it did a concept coupe, so I asked Templin if a concept sedan would be the next one up.
There’s no hiding the fact that the new spindle grille that Lexus is adopting is controversial. But since the brand has been accused of being boring, I asked Templin if being controversial could be good for Lexus.
Since Lexus is now getting into more and more markets around the world, I asked Templin what the reaction to the brands new form language is in other countries.
By the way, Mark Templin doesn’t just run Lexus in the US anymore. He is in charge of marketing and product planning on a global basis and keeps offices in Japan and Germany as well as the United States
Speaking of design, even though there are two preeminent automotive design schools in the United States, CCS in Detroit and Art Center in Pasadena, California, automakers felt they needed design students with more of an engineering background. So they asked Lawrence Technological University to start its own design school. Keith Nagara is the head of that school and he’s our guest tonight on Autoline After Hours. So join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider information in the business.
And that wraps up today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.