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car talk

Toyota Holds Tight to Global Sales Title, But Chief Promises a Quality Comeback Too

Posted by Dale Buss on November 14, 2013 10:49 AM

As recently as five years ago, Toyota was the unchallenged 800-pound gorilla of the global automotive business. Now after a few years that disproved its invincibility, the company finally looks menacing again to its competitors.

The company posted a 70 percent increase in third-quarter profit and once again is the world's largest car maker by number of vehicles sold, pushing 10 million units a year—a level no company yet has reached. It arguably finally has put behind it the series of crises that enveloped the company beginning in 2008, including the Great Recession, pricey yen, a recall and safety scandal, and some boring products.

And now, while he won't quite shout it from the top of a Tokyo skyscraper, President Akio Toyoda—grandson of the founder—has made it clear that Toyota "is finally ready to go on the offensive again," as Automotive News put it. At this point, the New York Times pointed out, Toyota clearly is ahead of Japan-based rivals Nissan and Honda in its recovery and growth.Continue reading...

auto motive

Nissan's Google Glass-Like 3E Could Help Put Tokyo Motor Show on the Map

Posted by Dale Buss on November 11, 2013 04:34 PM

Japanese auto brands have rebounded from the Great Recession and 2011's tsunami and earthquake to re-establish their relevance in the global auto industry. But the Tokyo Motor Show hasn't fared as well, suffering since then by comparison with auto shows in China, even as Japan itself has suffered as a center of automotive production by comparison with growth in North America and other markets.

Now, with the 43rd edition of the biennial Tokyo show that kicks off on November 20, organizers aim to change the perception of a fading industry platform with an emphasis on "smart mobility" and a big boost from the biggest of home teams, Toyota. The effort is meant to move the show beyond the unfavorable realities, which now include the fact that the Detroit Three automakers don't even bother to exhibit their wares at the show anymore and the formidable competition from the Los Angeles Auto Show that also occurs this month, half a world away.

While Toyota's doing the pushing, it could be another Japanese automaker—Nissan—that helps put the country's annal auto show back on the map with its cutting-edge (wearable) technology.Continue reading...

car talk

Toyota's Rolling Aquarium Featured at Biggest SEMA Customization Show

Posted by Dale Buss on November 6, 2013 07:27 PM

An under-appreciated aspect of the car business these days is the continued boom in customizing. Between the strong recovery of "stock" car sales in the US market and hand-wringing about Millennials taking the zing out of car ownership, it's possible to lose track of the fact that, for many Americans, customizing—or "tuning"—their rides remains a driving passion.

That fact is being restored this week at the 47th annual Specialty Equipment Market Association show and convention in Las Vegas, which show organizers have said promises to be their biggest ever. It's only open to people in the auto business, not the public—but if the customizing crowd and original-equipment auto brands didn't know there was a still-growing crowd of enthusiasts to buy the wares they're displaying, they wouldn't bother.

So Ford, for instance, is crowing about seeing its Mustang and F-Series named "Hottest Car" and "Hottest Truck" of the show. More Mustangs and F-Series are on display on the show floor than any other car or truck, the company said, leading to the award—and testifying to the popularity and appeal of each vehicle. And indeed, F-Series trucks remain America's most popular vehicle, and Ford is expected to launch a new 50th-anniversary version of the iconic Mustang sports car next year.Continue reading...

brand news

In the News: BlackBerry, Kellogg, American Airlines and more

Posted by Dale Buss on November 4, 2013 09:02 AM

In the News

BlackBerry sale to Fairfax falls apart as $1 billion in funding is secured, CEO Thorsten Heins steps down and shares plunge.

Kellogg plans to trim 7% of workforce by 2017 as part of global restructuring.

American Airlines and US Airways merger cleared in US, but only with broad divestitures.

AB InBev sees strong growth for Budweiser in Russia.

Alcatel-Lucent seeks to raise $2 billion for turnaround plan.

Apple's gold iPhone 5s continues flying off shelves, while Apple CEO Tim Cook backs LGBT anti-discrimination bill.

Billabong sells Canadian retail chain West 49.

Chevron pumps up spending to boost production.

Dr Pepper finds formula to Facebook success.Continue reading...

auto motive

Fiat's Biggest Problem isn't UAW, it's Fiat's Frustrated US Dealers

Posted by Dale Buss on October 7, 2013 11:15 AM

California isn't always a bellwether; just ask Fiat dealers outside the Golden State. California consumers buy about one-quarter of all Fiats sold in the US now, but enthusiasm for the brand decidedly has not spread eastward like bell-bottomed jeans or bleached-blonde hair.

And that's a growing problem for Fiat and Chrysler. While the companies are locked in a game of chicken with the United Auto Workers over the value of Chrysler stock, CEO Sergio Marchionne is hearing increasing complaints from American Fiat dealers that instead of being a silk purse from a sow's ear, the Fiat brand has proven to be more like a pig in a poke.

"It's sad to say, but [Fiat has] become a stepchild," one Fiat dealer anonymously told Automotive News. "Chrysler doesn't want to hear that, but that's the reality."Continue reading...

car talk

Toyota Allows Dealers to Give Up on Scion After Brand Runs Out of Gas

Posted by Dale Buss on August 19, 2013 01:36 PM

"Scion may not be the hip, must-have import accessory it once was," Edward Sanchez, an editor at MotorTrend.com, has written this week. And of course, that's the problem. So Toyota has decided to let its dealers off the hook about selling a once-promising brand in a still-hot segment—whose sales nevertheless peaked seven years ago.

Toyota has told dealers that they're free from penalty if they decide to walk away from the Scion franchise, whose sales peaked at about 173,000 units in the US in 2006. For this year to date, Scion sales were only 41,300 vehicles through July, down by nearly 2 percent from a year ago, and sales in July were down by 9 percent year-to-year. Toyota executives didn't even make any planned mentions of Scion in their most recent monthly sales conference call with journalists.

About 1,000 of Toyota's 1,225 US dealers still carry the Scion franchise, according to Automotive News. That is a far higher percentage than Toyota initially expected, but Scion's early product successes encouraged more Toyota dealers to jump into the game.Continue reading...

brand news

In the News: Penguin Random House, Harley-Davidson, Toyota and more

Posted by Dale Buss on August 19, 2013 09:21 AM

In the News

Penguin Random House diversifies to TV.

Harley-Davidson launches biggest new product initiative.

Toyota lets dealers drop sagging Scion brand.

AB InBev and MillerCoors bet on boozier brews.

Al Jazeera America vows sober look at news when it debuts Tuesday.

American Airlines and US Airways are left in lurch by US over merger.

Coca-Cola begins marketing herbal drink in Thailand.

Cosi admits its service stinks.

Eight O'Clock Coffee ups marketing to refresh brand.

Eli Lilly enters unusual patent dispute.

Five Star Feature Films finds a flop in Jobs.Continue reading...

car talk

Mazda Wants To Move Upscale, Too

Posted by Dale Buss on April 8, 2013 05:54 PM

It seems every auto brand wants to move upscale these days. Mazda is just one of the latest.

The company said it's developing a new look for its US dealerships even as many of its dealers are continuing to adopt a showroom-renovation program that Mazda launched 10 years ago. Such is the importance for car brands of creating a "retail experience" that fits consumers' self-importance as well as developing and introducing upscale vehicles that can boost a brand into an upscale neighborhood.

Mazda dealers are abuzz about the new design direction—discussed by Mazda executives with Automotive News at the New York auto show last month—in part because dozens of them already are in the process of investing $2 million to $4 million in bringing their enterprises in compliance with a program Mazda called Retail Revolution when it launched the facility-upgrade program a decade ago. Retail Revolution facilities feature two-story, glass-enclosed vehicle displays and metal elements with green and orange accents.Continue reading...

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