A view from Frankfurt

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By Stephan Franklin, Auto Show Global

Two words “Borgward Isabella” the concept 4 door coupe was unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show. The 4-door coupe electric car concept is stirring some automotive emotions as the idea of such a car could possibly hit the German market in the future.

Design Director Anders Warming, is inviting us to enjoy the surface entertainment that this car delivers. Ironically enough this looks like something that Warming would design, I have spent some time working with him in past and understanding his design philosophy, the Isabella Concept interior and exterior captures that.

Are The Auto Shows The Next Thing to Hit The Internet?

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By Stephan Franklin, Auto Show Global

Last week, Auto Week magazine reported that at least 8 auto manufacturers have pulled out of the Frankfurt Auto show next month. For some this is a beginning to an end of the auto show circuit as we know it, but it may be a sign of the changing times of media reporting of new automotive products. It’s nothing new, this trend has been evolving for the last couple of years, but now it seems everyone including the media is starting to take notice.

Automakers are trying to leverage the bang for the buck. We started noticing the trend years ago when luxury brands such as Bentley, Rolls Royce and Aston martin, and even Porsche, stop showing up and the (NAIAS) North American International Auto Show. Typically, back then, if there wasn’t a new product to unveil for that year or the market wasn’t as beneficial to the automaker, they would just skip the show.

Now that the automotive market has become more saturated and competitive, and automakers are leveraging virtual press releases through the internet, we are seeing more and more no-shows at the auto shows. The true winners in this new scenario have become the automakers. The reveals are more stand-alone than in the typical auto show schedule where there is a press conference every 15 minutes and the new product is a good as the next venue that is serving alcohol, expresso, and pastries after their press conference.

Because of the integration of technology, the (CES) Consumer Electronics Show has taken away some of the shine from NAIAS at the beginning of each year. Alternative venues and events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. is attracting auto makers, as the Texas State Fair is becoming popular for its market. The virtual press conference with multimedia press releases have leveraged the reach of the internet and social media to create the 15 minutes of fame on any given day, without having to share the day with any other auto maker.

Media event budgets are looking at a substantial cost savings. The displays are getting smaller, brands are targeting competition instead of being housed under one umbrella. The web-based press conferences have reduced the amount of money spent on actual travel and set-up. Limiting product exposure to relevant markets allows automakers to get more mileage from the core product to the core customers. Not only that, the extra space allows little known brands or technologies become part of the show as well. This past show at NAIAS was a notable example of leveraging, with a more technology focused show.

Peugeot, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Mitsubishi, Volvo, Jeep, Infinity, Nissan, and DS will not be at the Frankfurt show, I’m not losing any sleep over that. What makes me restless is that the complexion of the auto show circuit is changing, largely in part as to how we receive information and respond to it. Our habits are starting to change when it comes to access to information. I’m still restless at autonomous vehicles, A.I, data collection, and just the loss of interaction among human beings. Virtual press conferences take the place of one on one interviews, product interaction and touch. Technology tells us what to do and speaks our mind. The price of convenience, the cost of market share, what happens if the auto show goes away? The answer may well be, see you at the next electronics or special interest venue or maybe YouTube.

Happy Anniversary to the Lincoln Navigator

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Stephan Franklin, Auto Show Global

     This year we celebrate the release of the Lincoln Navigator. Heralded as the largest luxury SUV at its debut, it sent Cadillac into a design tail spin just to rebadge a GMC Yukon Denali. Of course, Cadillac claims the Escalade was designed in a under 10 months, but anybody with good design sense could see that GM and Cadillac clearly were caught with their pants down and was forced to rebadge a GMC.

     At the time, the Lincoln Navigator was released, I was working for Ford. In 2000, GM design had an opportunity to redesign the Escalade, and then I was working for GM in Cadillac. All I can say is that product cycle for the Cadillac was the beginning of the of the end of the large luxury segment dominance of Lincoln and the Navigator.
     Ford spent so much money structural architecture and sheet metal sharing between the Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, and F-series pick-ups, the Navigator began to grow long in the tooth. Ford began to place resources in other truck programs such as the Ford Excursion, F-350 series, Explorers, Sport-Tracs because they were proving to be profit builders. In the meantime, General Motors was creating a very strong iconic product portfolio that would be one of the face of Cadillac. General Motors was focusing on brand identity and product placement among its crowded and sometimes redundant portfolio, but Cadillac was coming in on its own terms. In the meantime, Ford was looking at putting products in every incremental segment while trying to create new ones, all at the whim of marketing, while slowly and unintentionally, letting Lincoln slip away.
     In 2002, the all-new Cadillac Escalade debuted, and literally snatched the luxury full size SUV crown from Lincoln. It was weird watching it all unfold. I had worked on the new Escalade and the old Navigator, and I knew Ford’s product cycle for the Navigator was weak, even with the minor enhancements, it wasn’t going to be enough to keep Cadillac from coming at Lincoln. Furthermore, Cadillac had a whole new portfolio of products to back up the brand, and Lincoln was losing its footing fast.
     Fast forward. hip-hop music, celebrity influencers, and athlete endorsements favored Cadillac. Virtually reference came to benefit Cadillac and passively promoted Cadillac as the premiere brand in the eyes of the customers. Lincoln’s mid-cycle enhancements could not keep up with the new updates from Cadillac. The Lincoln Navigator had always looked heavy and over-bodied, while the Cadillac Escalade was getting more and more athletic looking. The Navigator’s front ends kept getting uglier with more chrome and bars as Lincoln was searching for its new identity. Interior enhancements didn’t pacify the dated exterior. Design management shake-ups, and even recruiting and hiring former Cadillac design management could not resuscitate Lincoln. For almost 20 years Cadillac has dominated the large luxury SUV market.
     Next year may be different. Lincoln has changed its branding strategy which has become popular among car enthusiasts. With the return of the Continental, Lincoln is finally beginning to make sure the product line looks consistent. The Lincoln Motor Company looks as though it is poised for a hostile takeover with the new Navigator. Let’s hope the 20th anniversary leads to 20 more years of fierce competition between Cadillac and Lincoln once again.

My New Car Experience-Part II, The New Chevy Cruze

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By Jenny Haddo, Auto Sow Global

We’re back again with another installment of the Adventures of Jenny’s Cruze. It has now been a couple of months since I’ve had my Chevy Cruze and I love it more every day. It makes me feel safer with every drive. Even though it has only been a couple months, it feels like I parted with my Saturn a year ago.

Some great features the Chevy Cruze has that my Saturn did not are mostly technological. I love Apple CarPlay. My Saturn had a CD player which was great since I was a CD buyer, but after a while I would get sick of the same CDs, even the ones I made. With Apple CarPlay I can stream my music from Pandora, or any other application for music. I can even put on podcasts if I choose to. With hands free calling, when someone calls me I just have to hit answer on the dashboard, and when I’m talking I don’t have to raise my voice for the other person to hear me. OnStar gives me messages once in a while regarding my service with them and provides directions when I need them. My screen tells me when there is ice on the road and when to take caution.

I was super pumped to have Wi-Fi in my car for the first month, but it was only free for the first month. The ride and handling on the Chevy Cruze is very smooth compared to my Saturn. The Chevy Cruze doesn’t sound clunky when I drive like I did with my Saturn. By clunky I mean when you’re driving on a bumpy road and you feel like your car will fall apart at any second, and you can hear everything that is wrong with your worn-down vehicle. I feel a lot more confident driving on bumpy Michigan roads in my Chevy Cruze.

Why Buick, Why?-The 2018 Buick Regal Wagon

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Last week Buick unveiled the 2018 Regal TourX and the Sportback Wagon editions. While I’m sure Buick marketing and product planning had a great idea, the history is bound to repeat itself. Buick sold less than 20,000 Regals last year, with the crossover sales eclipsing the total sales of passenger cars. Now the may be an indication of paradigm shift from consumers, or the cars aren’t really moving the crowd.

The history of wagons, when are cross-overs in the product portfolio, have proven to be a thorn in the side of General Motors. Cadillac tried the crossover and wagon combination with the CTS, twice. It got axed once before it even made it to the public. The second time, the CTS wagon faded off into the sunset even with an V-series option, after one and a half product cycles. The foundation for creating the wagon alternative is that the European and Japanese brands have both wagons and crossovers in the brand portfolios. Buick as a brand, wants to hold a premium designation as it competes with the Volvo XC60, Audi A4, and BMW 3 series, for compact wagons.

As experimental as this design exercise may be for GM, time will tell if this move will sink the Regal or maybe the Regal maybe in star somewhere else.

My New Car Experience: A love, hate relationship with a 1999 Saturn (Part 1)

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By Jenny Haddo, Auto Show Global

Welcome to “My New Car Experience.” My name is Jenny and I am an intern for Thornhill Communications. I will be graduating at the end of April, so leasing a new vehicle could not have come at a better time.

For the last 5 ½ years, I was driving a 1999 Saturn that I acquired from my uncle’s towing yard. When I got the car, it did not shift into reverse, which for two years made parking more than a challenge until my uncle found a transmission from a different Saturn. From that point on, I would say that from the electrical problems to mechanical issues there was always something going wrong. Some days I was afraid of the car overheating as I sat in rush hour traffic. I was putting so much money into that car — in the end it wasn’t worth it.

I had never thought about leasing a vehicle until a few months ago when I weighed my options and laid out the pros and cons.  In the end, I figured that it was probably costing me more to keep fixing my Saturn than to lease a vehicle.

Jenny’s 1999 Saturn

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my first car; most of the time. It got me where I needed to go and I didn’t care about all the new technological features I was missing because I never had them to miss. There were plenty of upsides to having my first car like not having a car payment and excellent gas mileage. I can recall when gas was at its lowest point and I filled my tank up for $13!

On the other hand, my 1999 Saturn did not have any special features, except for a CD player. It had a sunroof, but of course that did not work. My driver side window had been broken since I acquired the car. The passenger side window was from a replacement door replaced from an accident, and could only roll down.

If ate a lot of fast food, I would have probably gotten it fixed. The back two windows worked perfectly, but did not harness the air of spring and summer for me. In my Saturn, it would take a good twenty minutes, on a chilly day, to get decent heat going. I kept a blanket in my backseat for frigid days. Last year, I had my water pump replaced, so it was a lot warmer than it had been, especially during the polar vortex. The air conditioning did not work on very hot and humid, summer days either.

Having air conditioning is something I’m looking forward to in the hot summer months, but right now I truly appreciate rolling my window down and feeling the breeze in my new car.

Stay tuned. next week I’ll reveal what I leased.

Saving the best for last? The 2017 New York International Auto Show

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Stephan Franklin, Auto Show Global

It’s almost over, the last of the North American auto shows are coming to a close. New York is the last major destination in North America for the auto show circuit. We believe that with this show, the automotive companies will be saving the best for last. I predict that Cadillac will reveal a new product update as will as possibly Buick, maybe the Enclave, the Jaguar lineup for 2018, an updated Acura TLX (a long wheelbase stretched version will be unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show) and a new, faster Honda Civic. Unless you live under a rock, you had to have seen all the teasers for the Dodge Demon, which will be a blur right out the gate with some obscene horsepower, I’m sure — the latest revealed from FCA. Some of the other companies have been rather quiet lately, but that’s the calm before the storm. Stay tuned for more.

Press Days for the 2017 New York International Auto Show are April 12-13.

Color Me Bad, Crayola Eliminates a Color — Automakers Take Notice

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Stephan Franklin, Auto Show Global

Word on the street is that Crayola the crayon manufacturer is eliminating a color from its 24 color pack line. While I’m sure that this is causing some anxiety somewhere, I wish the automotive companies would take a cue. I have some recommendations of my own of colors that need to get the axe:

  • Only five shades of Silver please
  • No Green of any shade, particularly Lime Green
  • Mauve, enough said
  • Anything that is a shade of sorbet
  • Flesh tones
  • Robin Egg Blue
  • 1960’s household appliance colors
  • Split Pea Soup

If you have any other suggestions, email them to autoshowglobal@gmail.com.