Toyota, Honda Look to Build on September Sales Momentum

Posted by Dale Buss on October 3, 2012 09:43 AM

Toyota and Honda have come roaring back in the U.S. market this year, as many predicted when both big Japanese brands were hamstrung by last year's supply-chain disasters. Toyota's 42-percent gain in September sales and Honda's 31-percent increase underscored their resurgence.

The question now is: What's the long-term trend line? Are the Japanese Big Two going to manage not only to recoup the market share they lost last year but perhaps even renew their old practice of taking still more U.S. market share from other players?

It's too soon to tell. But over the last several months, Toyota and Honda have left no doubt that they are back indeed.Continue reading...


VW and Fiat Go Toe to Toe at Paris Auto Show

Posted by Dale Buss on September 28, 2012 06:14 PM

The Paris Auto Show is beginning to look less like an internationalized extravaganza of automotive glitz, glamor and haute sheet metal than a European summit meeting convened to solve some geopolitical crisis.

Brands still showed off all of their new and proposed hardware to automotive journalists this week. But as the show opens to the French public, there's a lot more attention being paid to the auto-industry CEOs — as they huddle to confront European-market sales that have fallen to a 17-year low — than to any particular concept car or new production model.

As the press preview week wound down, in fact, all eyes were on Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne after they emerged from an early-morning meeting today — what had been openly billed as a showdown between the two industry titans over differences on whether European automakers should respond collectively or only individually to industry overcapacity.Continue reading...


Paris Auto Show Opens With Feuds, Gloom and Lana Del Rey

Posted by Dale Buss on September 27, 2012 06:18 PM

Auto executives from around the world, car journalists, and thousands of other hangers-on are flocking to the French capital for the Paris Auto Show which is kicking off with an end-of-the-week preview of new models and concept vehicles for the media.

One automaker after another is primping itself for the Parisian catwalk — such as the renascent Volvo, which is unveiling new variants of its V40 at the exhibition, and the snazzy new Jaguar F-TYPE, which was feted at the Musee Rodin Thursday night with celebs on hand including American chanteuse Lana Del Rey, above.

But unfortunately, a pall is hanging over the hall and the show's participants: the growing distress of Europe's auto market, which seems to be worsening not only quantitatively but perceptually every week.Continue reading...


VW's Resident Minimalist Disses Rival Cars as Overdesigned

Posted by Dale Buss on September 26, 2012 12:09 PM

Design dictates so much — perhaps the biggest share — of purchase descision-making by car-buyers. So the automotive-design world is a highly competitive crucible and that rare arena inside the industry where individual creative genius often is allowed to shine. Marketing is the other such place.

So Walter de Silva, global design chief for Volkswagen, caused a bit of a sensation when he criticized many other automakers' current design languages, and actually an entire reigning school of automotive design, as outdated and on the decline.

And what, does he believe, is ascendant in automotive design? Well, said de Silva at a VW product launch in Tokyo, that would be, of course, his brand's approach to design.Continue reading...


Marchionne Wants Alfa Romeo to Graduate to Bigger Role in U.S.

Posted by Dale Buss on September 24, 2012 06:13 PM

Think Sergio Marchionne doesn't thank the American taxpayer every day in his heart that his Fiat was able to pick up Chrysler for a song three years ago? As the Fiat part of his company sinks ever lower into the morasse of the European auto market, Chrysler has revived under Marchionne's leadership to become the financial workhorse of the merged entity.

Now, the CEO of Fiat (who was recently profiled on 60 Minutes) is executing the next phase of his company's ever-increasing dependency on Chrysler, with plans to use Chrysler engineers, plants and dealers to help relaunch Fiat's sporty Alfa Romeo brand in the United States in 2014.

Marchionne plans to give the brand some of its own engines and a spicey Italian identity with American consumers even as he economizes by having one of the first new Alfa Romeo models, for example, built in the same Chrysler Illinois plant that now assembles the Dodge Dart.Continue reading...

brand news

In the News: iPhone 5, Foxconn, Fiat and more

Posted by Dale Buss on September 24, 2012 09:02 AM

In the News

Apple flirts with first trillion-dollar valuation for a company as iPhone 5 first weekend sales top five million and Apple tops YouTube and Aston Martin as "coolest UK brand." Apple also halted production at Foxconn factory after mass brawl, and seen hogging new iPhone for its own stores. Its legal team has also asked CA judge to boost award from Samsung.

Alfa Romeo plots return to USA, with Chrysler helping Fiat.

American Airlines racks up flight delays and cancellations.

Applebee's reboots its marketing with inflatable dolls.

Boeing struggles with makeover of 777.

Conde Nast launches French Vanity Fair into economic headwinds and skepticism.Continue reading...

sex sells

Thanks to Automotive Body Painting, China Auto Shows Are Now Peep Shows

Posted by Abe Sauer on September 18, 2012 02:08 PM

In Chinese, they have become known as "breast milk exhibitions" (乳展). Except, the shows have nothing to do with babies. Nor are they promotional events for plastic surgeons or any of the sketchy breast enlargement centers commonly found on China's streets. "Breast milk exhibitions" is the colloquial name that mainland social web wags now use for China's auto shows. All it takes is a look at a few photos from recent events to understand why the moniker makes sense.

China should probably have seen it all coming almost exactly a year ago when one Heilongjiang Province VW dealer used naked women to move product off the floor. The authorities are upset. But so far, the punishment bark is worse than the bite, which assures that China will only soon see more "breast milk exhibitions," no matter how pointless the promotions are. Continue reading...


"Why VW"? Volkswagen Promotes Fan Stories, Brand Values in New US Campaign

Posted by Dale Buss on September 17, 2012 06:18 PM

Volkswagen has taken another step in mainstreaming its brand in the U.S. market, where new models and high hopes have made American consumers more important than ever. The brand has launched a new marketing campaign, "Why VW," and a social microsite featuring all ages and ethnicities in a bid "to capture and share the stories of Volkswagen owners and fans in a whole new way as well as draw new consumers into the Volkswagen experience," as Volkswagen of America put it in a press release today.

The ad campaign and the social hub, designed to encourage storytelling and spark conversations on Facebook, Twitter, PinterestGoogle+ and YouTube, represent two new facets of a broadening effort that the brand has been undertaking for about three years now after VW Group honchos in Germany decided that the U.S. market — which had suffered on a side burner for decades — would indeed prove important for their dreams of leading the globe in auto sales.

"We have a lot of new products right now; we're not just a Jetta and Beetle company," Justin Osborne, general manager of marketing communications for Volkswagen of America, told brandchannel. "We're resonating with a much broader and larger base, and we have products that are aligned with consumer tastes."Continue reading...

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