January 22nd, 2013 at 11:19am
After striking out in China, Germany’s luxury carmakers plan on introducing small hatchbacks in India. Mercedes-Benz just introduced new technology that warns drivers when they are driving the wrong way on the road. On sale now is Honda’s 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid, the first of its kind for the company. All that and more, plus fill-in host Peter De Lorenzo gives his thoughts on what GM just doesn’t get about marketing the Corvette.
Hello and welcome to a brand new episode of Autoline Daily. It’s Tuesday the 22nd of January and I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, filling in for John. But now it’s time for the news.
GERMANS EYE INDIA
After striking out in China, Germany’s luxury carmakers plan on introducing small hatchbacks in India. According to Bloomberg, the Mercedes A-Class and the BMW 1 Series will be available by the middle of the year in India. And Audi may introduce the A3 in 2014. The companies hoped the hatchbacks would become popular in China, as they are in Europe, but the Chinese want large luxury vehicles. So now the Germans are turning to India to sell small premium cars.
YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!
And speaking of Mercedes-Benz, the company just introduced new technology that warns drivers when they are driving the wrong way on the road. The system uses a camera to identify “Wrong Way” signs, and then issues audible and visual warnings to the driver. It debuts in the new S- and E-Class and will migrate to other vehicles afterwards. For now it’s only available in Germany but Mercedes says it’s developing the system for use in other countries.
HYUNDAI’S SALES SLIP IN SOUTH KOREA
Hyundai and Kia have been one of the most successful automakers the last several years but they struggled last year in an unexpected place, South Korea. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hyundai and Kia’s combined sales dropped a little over 2 percent in its home market because of more competition from imports. Lower tariffs from new free trade agreements helped imported cars reach 10 percent of sales. And it’s likely to get even tougher for the Korean automakers since the tariffs will be eliminated over the next several years.
HONDA’S FIRST PLUG-IN HYBRID
Honda just introduced its first plug-in vehicle, the 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid. It’s powered by an all-new 124 kW two-motor hybrid system that’s mated to a 2.0 Liter 4-cylinder engine. It has an EPA rating of 115 mpge in full electric mode and a combined gasoline fuel economy of 46 mpg. The 2014 Accord Plug-In is now available in select markets and comes with a suggested retail price just under $40,000.
Coming up next, a few of my thoughts on what GM just doesn’t get about the Corvette.
CORVETTE MARKETING: WHAT GM DOESN’T GET
Now that the smoke has cleared from the frenzy of the Detroit auto show – and the scintillating debut of the new Corvette – it’s time to take a hard look at Corvette from a brand image and marketing point of view.
As I’ve said repeatedly, there are only two cars (and car names) in modern American automotive history that qualify as true icons in this business. One is the Chevrolet Corvette. The other, of course, is the Ford Mustang.
I’m going to focus on the Corvette today. Even though the Corvette has been around for 60 years, the Corvette has been on the chop list more than once. Students of this industry are already familiar with the monumental battles between the True Believers like Harley Earl, Zora Duntov and Bill Mitchell and the “suits” at GM who not only didn’t get the car but couldn’t be bothered one way or the other. That the Corvette has survived in the hostile environment created by the vacuous bean counter-driven “culture” – or at least what passes for one – at General Motors is a small miracle unto itself, and a tribute to the True Believers who kept it alive.
But the brand-spanking-new-generation C7 Corvette should fix that, right? You would think so but despite all of the hoopla surrounding the intro of the new Corvette, and all of the glowing words coming from within GM and from the assembled media, the same black cloud hovers over the Corvette that has always been there.
A cloud of indifference.
This cloud hangs in the air like a bad dream and it’s best exemplified by the prevailing attitude of GM upper management that ultimately the Corvette sells itself, and now that they’ve committed the funding for the development and launch of the C7, they can move on to other, more important things.
Yes, I won’t deny that GM has gotten better of late at image wrangling when it comes to the Corvette, but can you imagine what another manufacturer would do if they had an icon like the Corvette in their product portfolio?
Any other manufacturer would use the Corvette as the tip of its technological spear. But GM? Remember, the Corvette sells itself. This management attitude can be distilled down to this: why invest money in something that’s a niche, something we don’t sell that many of to begin with?
I can’t think of a more egregious example of people doing less with more in this business than what GM has done – or to put a finer point on it; hasn’t done – with Corvette. It’s a complete travesty when it comes right down to it.
Tomorrow, in Part II, I will present my plan for fixing the Corvette… and more.
But that brings us to the end of today’s show. Once again I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, thanks for watching and I will see you again tomorrow.