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: 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.

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.

The Longest Mile

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Stephan Franklin Auto Show Global

Automakers are in the process of trying to coax the new head of the EPA to reduce the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for vehicles for 2025, that were put into place by former president Barack Obama. I’m not going to go into a long drawn out explanation of the rules and the history of CAFÉ standards and the struggle of the automakers. What may or may not happen possibly could create all stakeholders involved, particularly the consumer and the automakers.

New technology costs money which is gladly passed to the consumer. Convenience costs money, and consumers have proven that they are willing to pay for it. With the plethora of new SUVs and crossovers revealed over the last year by the automakers, it doesn’t appear that there is any Intention of meeting the 2025 CAFÉ deliverable. The major component in the face regulation average involves production. To meet the CAFE average, (X) number of total vehicles produced must meet the average the set by the government. For example, a company produces 100 hybrids that gets 100 mpg and 100 SUV’s that get 20mpg, the average is 60mpg.

Hello world, hybrids are not the cash cows. Cars aren’t selling at the rate everyone would like them to compare to SUV’s, and provide a lower profit margin than SUV’s and pick-up trucks. CAFÉ standards are still based on what’s produced, not sold. That like cooking dinner for 100 people when only 4 people live in the house, you are eating the cost as well as the food. Currently, most automakers are making good money, and are making what sells. This new target may ultimately threaten the bottom line for automakers, which will drive up vehicle cost to the consumer. No one is letting go of a tree, to stand on Capitol Hill and protest the regulations. I’m not sure how much lobbying is going to have to be done to move the needle, but the money talks and the automakers are going to pay one way or another, but who really pays for the longest mile.

Wow, Really? the wind in the “Windy City”

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Stephan Franklin, Auto Show Global

I can see right now, this auto show season is not going to be with out a little drama. We are already a little tense about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)  coming on board and taking up media space for automotive debuts. February 10, Forbes reported that Chicago auto show organizers blamed the media for the lack of attention and promotion of the show. When really there wasn’t as much product to promote in the first place. Laughable.

My views are a little different. In as much as the Chicago show was once competing with Detroit to host the North American International Auto Show, especially when McCormick Place, in downtown Chicago  is larger than Cobo Hall in Detroit. Let’s not excuse the fact that the automotive companies have ties in Michigan and California. Lets all together agree and admit that it’s cheaper to announce a new product online than to stage an elaborate show. What company wants to spend millions of dollars on a product reveal only to be a fleeting afterthought when your competitor reveals their new product 15 minutes later. In this life, its about owning the spotlight, not sharing it. This year, the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit, had one media day for the automotive companies and a media day for “Automobility”, We, in Detroit… survived.

Basically, there are 4 major shows in North America from November to April; Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, and New York. Every show has it own niche of reveals and product launches. The auto shows were designed for the dealers to showcase the products under one roof for the customers, not the media. Often times when manufacturers decide not to display vehicles is when when there is a small market for the product or there is not a significant addition or change to the product line. Now maybe because the hottest thing that showed up to Chicago was the 2018 Ford Expedition or the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT, which really got its media buzz before the show. If there is a complaint to be directed, direct it at the companies, or even the folks at CES, but not the media, for lack of coverage and product

 

What Car Would You Like To See Under The Tree For Christmas?

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Stephen Franklin, Jenny Haddo, Auto Show Global

The child in us believes that if we are good, Santa will give us what we want for Christmas. I know I have been good. We asked our intern, and her friends what car would they like to see under their Christmas tree? Now what I immediately realized is the Millennials and Gen X’ers, men and women have totally different expectations and needs. Here are our desires for under the tree, this year.

“On Christmas morning, I would like to find an energy efficient vehicle under my tree. It also should be something that can help me truck through the snow in Michigan. I would like a remote starter, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel. It would feature a sunroof for warm summer evenings and have all of my favorite music installed every time I drive it. An ideal vehicle would fit my whole family inside for road trips as well.”

Jenny, 24

The car I would have liked to see under the tree this year would have been the Chevy Suburban. The Chevy Suburban’s luxury features and elegant body style, appeal to me. Also, its support for Android Auto, a seamless integration of software that bonds your phone and your car is an excellent feature. Furthermore, the 2017 Chevy Suburban has the power of a V8 with the cargo space and towing capacity to haul pretty much anything you want. That’s my kinda vehicle. Continue reading