Episode 250 – GM’s Marketing Campaign, New Tata Sedan, Citroen’s New Promotion

October 15th, 2009 at 12:28pm

Runtime 7:20

General Motors’ latest marketing campaign has some surprising results. Indian automaker Tata launched a new sedan yesterday, called the Indigo Manza. To promote its new models, Citroen launched a webpage that features an interactive new technology called “augmented reality.” All that and more, plus biofuel producer Coskata makes a big announcement about ethanol production.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM’s latest marketing campaign has some surprising results. Tata tries to fill the gap in its lineup. And Citroen plays with “augmented reality.”

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, October 15, 2009. I’m Kate Linebaugh from The Wall Street Journal taking a turn in the Autoline Daily anchor chair. And now, here’s the news.

When General Motors unveiled the “May the Best Car Win” campaign a couple of months ago many observers wondered if that was the right strategy for this fresh-from-bankruptcy automaker. Well, according to its marketing chief Bob Lutz, we have a winner, and it is, in fact, GM. Ward’s reports that Mr. Lutz told reporters yesterday that the company sold around 150,000 vehicles since the program started with only about 100 customers who took the 60-day money-back challenge (subscription required). The rest opted for a $500 cash incentive. And in the end, only one General Motors car was returned during that two months – a Chevrolet Corvette – and that, according to Mr. Lutz, ended up as a swap.

So really, I guess Mr. Lutz is saying GM batted a thousand which is a good number no matter what team you’re playing for.

Making the rumors officially official, Autoblog tells us GM announced Buick’s new midsize sedan will be called the Regal. The nameplate has been off the market for six years, but the company says it still resonates with buyers. When the sedan comes to the U.S., it should be the same as the Chinese version of the car we’re showing you here, which is based on the Opel Insignia.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Indian automaker Tata launched a new sedan yesterday. Called the Indigo Manza, it’s designed to help fill the chasm between the company’s Nano and Jaguar models. It offers features like Bluetooth connectivity, a temperature sensor and power outlets. The Indigo Manza is designed to compete with cars like the Ford Fiesta and the Honda City.

From computer circuits to advanced batteries, rare-earth metals play a critical role in high technology. Right now China is practically the only source in the world for these minerals, and with talks that it may ban exports, the need for another supply is critical. Thankfully for technophiles and automakers alike, the LA Times reports that a Colorado-based company has embarked on a two-year program to reopen a mine in California. The 2,200-acre Mountain Pass Mine, located in the Mojave Desert, contains the world’s largest deposit of rare-earth metals. Concentrations of some elements are double what’s found in China. Reopening the facility should create some 900 jobs and provide a stable, domestic supply of these materials. The facility has been closed since 2002 because of environmental concerns and low-cost competition from – surprise – China.

Chinese automaker Chery plans to build a factory in Turkey. According to the AFP, the company will establish the plant with its dealer partner in Turkey and invest $500 million in the project. The plant would produce the Chery A1 hatchback. However, the deal still needs approval from the Turkish government.

French automaker Citroen is reviving its famous DS nameplate as part of a lineup of “near-premium” vehicles. To promote the new models, the company launched a webpage that features an interactive new technology called “augmented reality.” What you do is print a sheet of paper with a special pattern on it. Then you go to their website, and hold the paper up to your webcam. It recognizes what’s on the sheet, and lays a three-dimensional image over the paper. When you move it around, the image on the computer screen moves too. It’s pretty impressive. There’s even a neat little driving simulator game. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Coming up next, Coskata makes a big announcement about ethanol production, we’ll be back right after this.

Critics argue that biofuels are not a viable option to get us off our dependence on oil for a number of reasons.

But those concerns may all be answered thanks to biofuel producer, Coskata. The company just announced the start of its ethanol facility that will demonstrate its process for producing ethanol is commercially viable.

What makes Coskata’s process appealing is the fact that ethanol can be produced from virtually any carbon-based feedstock. Company President and CEO, Bill Roe explains.

Since it’s cost effective to produce, it will allow ethanol to compete with gasoline.

Coskata says the technology is ready to go and that the next step is to build full-scale facilities and begin licensing the technology.

In addition, the company is partnered with GM and will provide them with ethanol for the automaker to use at its proving grounds for its E85 capable vehicles.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours TONIGHT at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time when Mr. Autoextremist, himself, Peter De Lorenzo, flies solo as host. Joining him in the studio are Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics, Rod Meloni of WDIV Channel 4 news, Detroit, and of course as Frank Markus mentioned in yesterday’s Daily, Frank Markus from Motor Trend. It should be an action-packed show. Anyway, I’m Kate Linebaugh from The Wall Street Journal, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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32 Comments to “Episode 250 – GM’s Marketing Campaign, New Tata Sedan, Citroen’s New Promotion”

  1. T. Bejma Says:

    Take that all the critics of the 60 Day money back program from GM! Looks like most people just wanted the $500 but a 1% take back rate is pretty impressive.

    Nice to see that risk is being rewarded…

  2. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “From the GM website with some details:

    The Buyback Price does not include the costs of any taxes (other than sales taxes), licensing, titling or registration fees, insurance, dealer installed accessories, aftermarket products or add-on equipment (other than factory options ordered with the vehicle), dealer fees of any kind, ancillary products including without limitation extended warranties or service contracts, finance charges, any negative equity, etc.

    You must be able to deliver to the Participating Dealership a clean and unencumbered title to the Eligible Vehicle, which title has remained in Your name since the Delivery Date of the Eligible Vehicle.

    Your Eligible Vehicle must have no more than $200 of damage as determined by GM or GM’s agent. Such damage may include, without limitation, internal or external scratches, scrapes, dents, odors, rips, burns, etc.

    Your Eligible Vehicle must not have incurred damage or non-warranted repairs in excess of $200, regardless of whether such damage has been repaired.

    Oh, and you can’t get your trade-in back, or the value of it. Oops!”

    What a TOTAL Farce!

    GM wasted $500*100,000 =50,000,000 of OUR taxpayer Money to BRIBE the buyers NOT to take the 60 day warranty. The REASONS ONLY 100 people out of more than 100,000 buyers actually took it, despite the $500 bribe, are now 100% clear to all of you, detailed above, except for the clueless, blind and deaf GM cheerleaders.

    What a TOTAL farce at OUR, the long suffering US taxpayer’s, farce.

    PS I have no clue who was the person who did the broadcast today, but she sure does not seem to be a well-informed “car person”.

  3. C-Tech Says:

    Perhaps the reason why the GM plan is working is because they have designed (and UAW built) quality cars and trucks. Hopefully, the GM dealers who remain will also continue to treat customers right as they come in for service and the program is discontinued. Are you watching Chrysler?

  4. Tony Gray Says:

    @2: Jim, that is a rather harsh comment about Kate. I found her to be a pleasant change from the Dude of the Day rotation while John is on holiday.

  5. C-Tech Says:

    Ah… Have your DRIVEN a new Chevy or Buick lately? The program (like many marketing campaigns across many products) was designed to get people into stores. Obviously that’s working.

  6. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Yes it was. I checked and found she works for the WSJ, which I do respect a whole lot. But I was incenced when she acted like she was not an objkective, thinking person but just bleated the GM PR line 100%, with NO critical examination of the facts, as I provided in the previous post in detail, so you cna judge for yourself if this JOKE of a program, at Taxpayer expense, was a “success”.

    This is similar to John Mc and other Detroit-based types that are too closed to these losers (GM and Chrysler in particular) dancing their little victory dances after the utter debacle of the Cash-for-clunkers ripoff, and claiming it was another great success.

    Whoever still believes this and that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell them.

  7. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “Obviously that’s working.”

    The proof will be in the MARKET SHARE OF GM, which used to be close to 50% (!!) and now barely over 20%, and going down the drain to 10%.

    ANd my metric is when do I get this gigantic Welfare Queen and her cousin Chrysler off my back? Haven’t the US taxpayers suffered enough?

    Oh, and BTW, I need a new sofa in my LR. Will not B Hussein Obama announce a “cash for sofas” program too? The Economy sure could use it, and I don’t mind getting much less than $4,500 for my old, worn out sofa.

  8. Nick Stevens Says:

    “From the GM website with some details:

    The Buyback Price does not include the costs of any taxes (other than sales taxes), licensing, titling or registration fees, insurance, dealer installed accessories, aftermarket products or add-on equipment (other than factory options ordered with the vehicle), dealer fees of any kind, ancillary products including without limitation extended warranties or service contracts, finance charges, any negative equity, etc.

    You must be able to deliver to the Participating Dealership a clean and unencumbered title to the Eligible Vehicle, which title has remained in Your name since the Delivery Date of the Eligible Vehicle.

    Your Eligible Vehicle must have no more than $200 of damage as determined by GM or GM’s agent. Such damage may include, without limitation, internal or external scratches, scrapes, dents, odors, rips, burns, etc.

    Your Eligible Vehicle must not have incurred damage or non-warranted repairs in excess of $200, regardless of whether such damage has been repaired.

    Oh, and you can’t get your trade-in back, or the value of it. Oops!”

    Thanks, Jim. Good find. Now THAT, not reading GM PR announcements like Kate or John MC, is what a serious Automotive Journalist SHOULD be giving us.

  9. Alex Kovnat Says:

    Years ago, I would have advocated scouting the earth for oil. But now I’m advocating that instead, we scout and survey the earth (land and under the oceans) for platinum, rhodium, lithium (as in …. -ion batteries), neodymium (necessary for high performance permanent magnets), nickel, chromium, and of course the lanthanide-series (rare earth) elements.

  10. dcars Says:

    Kate may have been the one who predicted that 2008 would be the year that decides witch US car makers would survive. Seams pretty knowledgeable about the car business.
    I always thought that Regal was a good car and didn’t understand why GM didn’t continue the name. The Lucern/LaCrosse twins never gave me the impression that they were as good. GM should rethink re-branding Opels, they didn’t help Saturn.

  11. C-Tech Says:

    Ok if this was a “bad” idea, what would you do to get buyers back to at least look at GM cars and trucks after the lousy vehicles they sold in the near past? The program is what it is, and the $500 discount is better than the $1,000′s in rebates. Perhaps somebody was “thinking with their dipstick!”.

  12. C-Tech Says:

    I agreed with dcars. The multiple name changes does not improve the product. Why change the name of Chevy’s compact from Cobalt to Cruze?

  13. Jonathan Says:

    Jim Sachetti Says:
    “This is similar to John Mc and other Detroit-based types that are too closed to these losers (GM and Chrysler in particular) dancing their little victory dances after the utter debacle of the Cash-for-clunkers ripoff, and claiming it was another great success.”

    Remember this is Autoline DETROIT, not Autoline Tokyo, or Autoline Seoul. Of course the bias will be toward the US Automakers, it shouldn’t be any other way. Plus, I like Kate, she was a pleasant change.

  14. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “Kate may have been the one who predicted that 2008 would be the year that decides witch US car makers would survive.”

    She may, (I sure never remember hearing from her before today), but was her prediction correct? (even if she did not specify who would live and who would die?)

    Did we really learn, by end 2008, if GM and Chrysler will survive? Do we know even at this late time into 2009?

    For the taxpayer’s sake, I hope neither GM nor Chrysler survive. And we the taxpayers should never have bailed the loser of home games 35 years in a row to the imports (and blaming everybody but htemselves about it)! But Obama owed the UAW, and that was the only reason the death of GM and Chrysler will take many more months or years than a natural, free market, Darwinian “Survival of the Fittest” would do far more efficiently and without throwing $50-$100 BILLION of our hard-earned tax $ down the drain.

    I am still hopeful for a “cash for sofas” program, though. Hope springs eternal.

  15. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Jonathan (and all)

    It is good that you (and everybody else watching this broadcast) have that in mind, there is definitely a point of view, plus let’s face it, many of the sponsors who make this and other shows possible are Detroit and related businesses.

    But if you really want to get to the “Truth about Cars”, it is quite easy, go to the far more active site “TTAC”, read the obviously well-thought comments and facts, and add yours.

    Its manager RObert Farago was a guest at AAH a few weeks ago, and he had a very animated discussion with the Autoextremist guy. Since then he was replaced by ED Niedermyer.

  16. Chuck Grenci Says:

    S.O.S.,D.D. It wouldn’t matter if GM found the cure for cancer, our two above curmugeons would somehow find fault with that and lamblast GM for contributing to overpopulation. It’s just getting to be a little bit tiresome.

  17. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Remember this is Autoline DETROIT, not Autoline Tokyo, or Autoline Seoul.”

    I could not help but chuckle at the above. What is interesting is that all the furor is directed at ASIAN imports, as if they did the most damage to the onetime big 3.

    Actually, the data show otherwise. Autoline TOkyo should be accompanied by “Autoline STUTTGART” above! (or Autoline Muenchen for the BMW fans!). Because the big 3 have not suffered a more devastating defeat than in the LUXURY segment, where Caddilac and Lincoln used to own 90% of the market, and today they barely own 17%, while the rest was conquered sure by no Koreans, few japanese, and a whole bunch of top of the line Luxury, high quality and durability, Overengineered German cars.

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    There is a proverb saying it is better to lose your own EYE than your good name.

    This is the problem that GM and Chrysler face today. Even if they produce truly superior products to their competition soon, very few consumers will switch, before years pass, and both Car and Driver comparison tests AND years of owner-reported data in Consumer Reports show they are indeed superior.

    We did discuss this yesterday in detail, re the new Chevy Cruze. It was said it will be more expensive than the same-sized Corolla or Civic. Everybody knows that, until today, GM and Chrysler could only sell same size cars if they priced it, directly or after deep discounts, well below the Competition.

    This is terrible news for the taxpayers. But John and the others in Detroit could not care less if the taxpayers wasted $3 billion for the cash for clunkers program that accomplished very little, if anything!

  19. T. Bejma Says:

    “GM wasted $500*100,000 =50,000,000 of OUR taxpayer Money to BRIBE the buyers NOT to take the 60 day warranty.”

    We all will get “our money” (I use this term loosely because I, at least, had no control over where my tax money goes) when the IPO happens. Let the market tell us how much they are worth. I’m saving my pennies to buy a chunk of GM stock because everything I see in the pipeline is high quality, great looking machines.

  20. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# Chuck Grenci Says:
    October 15th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    S.O.S.,D.D. It wouldn’t matter if GM found the cure for cancer, our two above curmugeons would somehow find fault with that and lamblast GM for contributing to overpopulation. It’s just getting to be a little bit tiresome.”

    I never heard anybody equating a company losing home games 35 years in a row and blaming everybody but themselves for it, and being currently the greatest Welfare queen in history (except for the criminal banks in NY that blackmailed the US into bailing them out), with… “finding a cure for cancer”!

    You really, really need to get out of detroit more often.

  21. Jim Sachetti Says:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/gm-marketing-maven-maximum-bob-lutz-one-car-returned-under-60-day-guarantee/

    there are many more posters in TTAC than here, see what they say on the topic of just one car returned under the warranty program.

  22. Dan Clemons Says:

    Nice job Kate!! Thanks for filling in for John. You did a G R E A T job!!

    Dan

  23. T. Bejma Says:

    Looks like the TTAC posters at least don’t resort to the bashing posts here. I’m moving over…

  24. dcars Says:

    I think it was Kate, If I remember correctly the person said that 2008 would be the year that would make or break the automakers, if their plan was good they would survive, if not, look some or all to fail. I thought it would have been Ford. No prediction was given as to who it would be. Kate writes many articles for WSJ on the Auto industry. I thought she did a nice job. The one brand from GM I’ve never owned was Buick, but I’ve always thought that they were reliable well made cars.

  25. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    So, GM now has well-built, quality, reliable cars practically overnight? Why does this sound like Detroit advertising BS to me?

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    GM would obviously have “red tape” involved, and incentives not to return the cars. Nearly everyone would like to take a Corvette for a 60 day test drive, if it were free. If Corvettes aren’t your thing, a CTS might be nice to drive for a month for free.

  27. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Kit I agree with you, there’s gotta be something there, a lot of people would have just signed on for a free car for a month if no strings were attached, specially a car they cannot afford.

  28. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “So, GM now has well-built, quality, reliable cars practically overnight? Why does this sound like Detroit advertising BS to me?”

    Careful, those who cannot handle The Truth About Cars may start calling you a “curmudgeon” too. (Not that I care being called one)

    It may be true that they have improved since their dismal early 80s offerings, even from their 90s, but the best in the business did not sit on their laurels, they improved too.

    I don’t know if the gap narrowed, but this still does not allow GM to price its cruze more than civics or corollas, without losing badly in mumber sold and, unavoidably, profits.

    Losing one’s bad name is evident in the Toyota Matrix-Pontiac Vibe and the Geo Prism-Corolla comparison. the cars were essentially identical, but the average consumer still paid more for the Toyota-badged ones!

  29. John Says:

    “Coskata says the technology is ready to go and that the next step is to build full-scale facilities and begin licensing the technology.”

    “The facility is a demonstration of “minimum scale engineering”, an industry standard term which means it is the smallest size that will still allow the company to scale directly to 50 million and 100 million gallon Coskata facilities.” …

    “We invested in Coskata so that we could enable the rapid deployment of commercially viable and environmentally sustainable ethanol globally,” said Bob Babik, GM Vehicle Emissions Director.

    MY QUESTION IS WHEN ?

    Will you be ready before the “CRISIS” ?

  30. Bob Kinnee Says:

    Pedro why do you always bash GM & Chrysler …they do build great American cars & trucks & Ford also…& they have for a lot of years….I for one find most of the Asian vehicles very boring … I have owned Toyota’s & Nissan’s & many GM vehicles …I currently have a 2007 Chevrolet Impala LT3…which get’s 30 mpg hwy has 50 K on the speedometer …never had a single major problem …quality is very good…I love this car & will buy from GM again….the big 3 are as good as anybody else…cheers for GM…Bob.

  31. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    It took decades for the Japanese to build high quality cars, same for the Koreans, and just like that we’re supposed to believe the domestics can turn their problems around in a couple of years, please. patriotism is one thing, but all of a sudden even the automotive media that was hostile to the domestics is now a conspirator in this gigantic bs campaign.

  32. M Campbell Says:

    [Jim Sachetti Says:
    "But if you really want to get to the “Truth about Cars”, it is quite easy, go to the far more active site “TTAC”, read the obviously well-thought comments and facts, and add yours."]

    Bwahahahahahahaha!!!! Best joke ever!