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Post-Fine Hyundai and Kia Aim, Ambitiously, for Global Green Leadership

Posted by Dale Buss on November 6, 2014 06:23 PM

Hyundai has lost much of its mojo in the U.S. these days, with a declining share in a booming market and a relative paucity of significant product and brand news—as consumers have continued to snap up everyone else's new vehicles at a thrumming, 1990s sort of pace.

But leaders of the Hyundai-Kia group in South Korea want to change that. Now, they're embarking on at least one big strategic step: trying to establish Hyundai as the U.S. leader in fuel economy. Yes, even though Hyundai and Kia were just slapped with $350 million in fines by the US government's Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the Clean Air Act for inflated mileage claims.Continue reading...

bc q&a

Turnaround Engineer: 5 Questions with Prius US Brand Manager Erica Gartsbeyn

Posted by Dale Buss on October 2, 2014 10:48 AM

Toyota has begun executing one of the most significant turnarounds ever attempted for its iconic Prius brand, and Erica Gartsbeyn is in charge of making the new positioning work in a market that has seen interest wane in the vehicle and category.

In the next year or two, Toyota plans to unveil a significantly improved Prius family, with overhauled exterior design and improved electric- gas powertrain. But in the meantime it'll be up to Gartsbeyn, who is vehicle marketing and communications manager for Prius, and her colleagues to attempt to reverse the brand's 11-percent year-to-date sales decline in the United States.

Toyota also is more willing than before to make deals in the showroom for its Prius family: the regular model, the larger v, the smaller c and the plug-in.

The brand's current campaign, "Let's Lead the Way," underscores what Prius has accomplished in establishing the US market for hybrids as well as highlights aspects of the car and the brand family that are underappreciated by those who don't share the high "green" motivations of the main Prius customer base.

In one of its TV ads, "Family Portrait," a character discusses the hybrid's durability, with a voiceover intoning, "Sometimes the most daring ideas are the ones you can count on the most." A real Prius owner featured in one of a trio of onliine-only ads says she is "pleasantly surprised at the power Prius had." In another testimonial, a firefighter whose family owns two Prius models says, "I honestly feel very safe in this car."

Gartsbeyn shared the brand's US turnaround strategy with brandchannel.Continue reading...


Toyota Reboots Prius with Fresh Marketing Approach

Posted by Dale Buss on September 24, 2014 12:25 PM

Peer over the auto industry's electrified fence and you'll see more than just Tesla rising; you'll see Prius declining. The Toyota brand that became synonymous with hybrids when it launched in 2000 has seen US sales slump by 12 percent so far in 2014, while overall light vehicle sales have grown by 5 percent.

Blame a lot of things, including hybrid fatigue by American consumers, more competition selling hybrids, and the lack of any more major tricks up Toyota's sleeve to keep interest going in the original, pioneering automotive hybrid brand.

"The Prius was at one point a status car, but it's lost some of that special appeal," Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds.com, told Automotive News. "You look at all the [internal combustion engine] vehicles and their increasing fuel efficiency, and you have to ask, 'What is the unique selling point of the Prius anymore?'"Continue reading...


Tesla and Prius Leave Others in the Dust as Hybrid Trend Falls Off

Posted by Dale Buss on May 19, 2014 05:12 PM

Electrified vehicles may—eventually—become the future of automotive transportation, but EVs actually seem to be slowing down in a takeover that many still believe is inevitable. In fact, except for Tesla and Prius, no hybrid or EV brand has really proven itself, and many remain in trouble or may become stillborn.

Because of Tesla’s success with its $70,000 Model S all-electric vehicle, traditional premium car marques believe there’s enough of a market at the top end for their own growing incursions into EVs to be worth the risk. BMW, for example, continues to grease the skids for the introduction of two electrified vehicles this year.

This month, BMW is rolling out its i3 city car, an extremely light-weight, small entrant that is available in an all-electric version or, for those afflicted by range anxiety, in a version with a small onboard gasoline engine. And later this year comes the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid supercar, which it will position as a worthy rival to the Tesla Model S—even though the latter is fully electric while the i8 won’t be. 

BMW is using an extension of its DriveNow car-sharing program in the San Francisco Bay area, which competes with Zipcar and other car-sharing services, to promote its EV lineup by injecting the program's available car lineup with a few dozen new ActiveE electric cars.Continue reading...

olympic effort

BMW Anchors Its Future in Headlining Olympics Campaign for Team USA

Posted by Dale Buss on February 10, 2014 09:47 AM

To kick off its huge Olympics sponsorship of Team USA and launch its new "i" EV sub-brand in grand style, BMW called on Arthur C. Clarke to talk about the far future in order to make an important statement about the automaker's near future.

While Volkswagen is the official automotive brand partner of the Sochi Olympics, BMW officially introduced its new, Tesla-fighting i3 EV and i8 plug-in hybrid with a TV ad, "Hello Future," that ran during the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics on NBC on Friday.

The spot uses a 1964 recording of the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey talking about the future. Clarke spins it as inevitably more fantastic than humans could imagine, and soon the ad is showing the gull-winged BMW i8 as proof of the futurist’s prediction.

"We thought it was a perfect match, because 'i' in our sub-brand stands for 'innovation,' and Clarke's speech even from 50 years ago speaks perfectly to today's challenges, that require innovation," Michael Jobst, national marketing manager for BMW of North America, told brandchannel.Continue reading...


How Do You Sell a Non-Japanese Car in Japan? Global Automakers Couldn't Tell You

Posted by Dale Buss on December 19, 2013 12:41 PM

The world benefits from a variety of Japanese exports ranging from anime to sushi cuisine to Toyotas. But its auto market remains a redoubt of isolationism a generation after American carmakers made a political issue out of it. More than 90 percent of cars sold in Japan are still Japanese brands.

And this, according to the Wall Street Journal, has hurt Japan's automakers in ways similar to how Japanese smartphone makers have been handicapped around the world by gearing the features of their phones, sold globally, to the particular tastes of Japanese consumers.

"Their shortcomings led to the coining of the term 'Galapagos' to describe the market," the newspaper said. "Like the group of islands catalogued by Charles Darwin: uniquely evolved and ultimately at a disadvantage because of its isolation."Continue reading...

green shoots

Hyundai Keeps Pressing Change, Now with Plans for Fuel-Cell SUV in 2014

Posted by Dale Buss on November 25, 2013 01:47 PM

Hyundai continues to be practically unsurpassed at doing interesting things in the US car market. The latest is its vow to debut for retail customers a fuel-cell version of its Tucson SUV by next spring.

Interestingly, such a showing would leapfrog the plans of both Toyota and Honda to introduce a retail fuel-cell vehicle in the United States. And while the fuel-cell Tucson will be extremely limited as a Hyundai sales opportunity for at least the first few years, the move does indicate that Hyundai wants to go hard and establish an unassailable foothold in fuel-cell technology as Toyota did over a decade ago with Prius to gain early dominance of the hybrid segment.

"Today, right here, the hydrogen fuel cell is making a shift from a research project to a real consumer choice," John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said at the unveiling of the fuel-cell Tucscon at the Los Angeles Auto Show, according to Automotive News.Continue reading...


At Frankfurt, Volkswagen, BMW Express Interest in Electrified Fleets

Posted by Dale Buss on September 11, 2013 05:46 PM

Volkswagen has been pounding the drum for clean-diesel power so vigorously for a while that it's an interesting change-up these days when company and brand executives are promoting other green technologies.

So while Volkswagen of America executives have been pushing the company's clean-diesel TDI versions in comments to the automotive press and lobbying in Washington, D.C., among other places, it's been a somewhat different story at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week. About half the cars bought by Europeans are diesel-powered, of course, so the technology isn't very new to them.

But the idea of investing more heavily in electric and hybrid vehicles is only now catching on with Volkswagen and its German automotive rivals. And VW CEO Martin Winterkorn gave EVs and hybrids the company's biggest rhetorical backing ever at the show, promising that 14 models from several VW Group brands will be offered worldwide as EVs or some form of hybrid by 2014, according to the Detroit News.Continue reading...

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