Monthly Archives: February 2015

The All New NSX Is Amazing

Wow, the result was the spectacular NSX shown at Detroit’s motor show. The NSX embodies the latest possible in a 21st-century supercar, though it’s not from an exotic car maker. And not from Ford, either.

Ford’s GT super car, with its Kardashian rear end, also arrived in Detroit, yet it seems more Model T than GT compared with the slim-hipped NSX.

Why? Electrification.

The rear-drive GT is powered by a twin-turbo V-6 mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Nothing new or novel there. The NSX is an all-wheel-drive advanced hybrid with two electric motors at the front and a third between the gas engine and the nine-speed gearbox. Acura’s 550-horsepower drive technology is a generation ahead of Ford’s 600-plus hp, period.

Of course, both designs are sleek, but the Acura’s is an impossibly low creation wrapped around an aluminum-intensive space frame to which are attached an aluminum hood and doors. The feathery body panels are made of sheet moulding composite (SMC); the floor is carbon fibre.

Klaus will not confirm the 550-hp number, but promises performance to please the enthusiastic, sophisticated driver. The fact this NSX is a hybrid may be incidental to the car’s broader mission – the perfect integration of man and racy machine – but it’s nonetheless a step up from the GT. Klaus, however, won’t be drawn into comparisons with Ford’s super car.

“I am agnostic towards what type of [drive train] technology,” he says. “A modern NSX – the X stands for experimental – has to maintain the fundamentals of a light and rigid chassis, but then you have to still experiment with technologies. Just throw them on there? No, no, no, no, no. But if they prove to be good, then use them.”  Will this new experiment pay off?

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Bringing Cadillac Back From The Dead

Cadillac’s brand has been on a steady decline for a few years.  Cadillac executives are taking a huge risk in the branding campaign that is illustrated in the first TV ads for their new “Dare Greatly” positioning. They will air Sunday night during The Oscars telecast on ABC, and General Motors GM-0.13% is hoping they score the kind of emotional connection with viewers that was achieved by Chrysler in 2011 when that brand telecast its now-iconic two-minute commercial starring Eminem during the Super Bowl. That ad, titled by insiders “Born Of Fire,” catapulted Chrysler into its new “Imported From Detroit” identity, and the brand has never looked back.

Certainly the moment could be that big for Cadillac, CMO Uwe Ellinghaus and even CEO Johan de Nysschen. They have reached an important intersection in their efforts to turn around the General Motors luxury brand, whose U.S. sales trailed off by 6 percent last year amid an overall market — and, especially, a luxury segment — that was up strongly. In the wake of some price cuts on its vaunted sedans, and with the the lack of a compact sport-utility vehicle leaving a gaping hole in its product lineup, right now Cadillac hugely needs to redefine its brand in a way that stands out.

“The Cadillac brand needed to change,” Ellinghaus told me. “We’ve lost some of our old customers and we’re not conquesting enough new customers — because we lack relevance. We need to have a new point of view to show why we’re relevant and to get across how much Cadillac has changed. You can’t just put product — even great product, which we have — in front of people. If the brand isn’t relevant, people don’t care.”

But as admirable and out of traditional character as this bit of risk-taking might be for Cadillac, even to “Dare Greatly” alone won’t cut it; Cadillac needs to succeed greatly with this effort. The brand has been in tatters for a while. Cadillac owners, dealers, GM executives and third-party arbiters have agreed that its sedan lineup comprises the best the brand has ever had, and an expanding line of  “V” super-charged versions is enhancing the credibility of that assessment. Meanwhile, on the large-SUV front, Cadillac is selling every Escalade it can make.

Fortunately for Cadillac, the actual merits of its vehicles add up to a huge advantage enjoyed by the brand as it nears its moment of reckoning in the 87th Annual Academy Awards broadcast this weekend, compared with the threadbare lineup that afflicted the Chrysler brand when Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and CMO Olivier Francois took a huge gamble on brand elevation with the “Imported From Detroit” campaign.

And Cadillac will be unveiling its new top-end CT6 sedan at the New York auto show in a few weeks, the first fruits of a $12-billion commitment to new products — including a hurry-up small utility — that de Nysschen managed to secure from GM CEO Mary Barra.  Will this be enough to bring their brand back?

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The New Trend In The Auto Industry

What’s the new trend in the auto industry?  Oh, those millennials. Car company bosses and media types are obsessed with these children of baby boomers born between the early 1980s and 2000, or so. And with good reason.

A new Deloitte study found that the typical millennial car buyer cares three times more about the customer and buying experience than the actual design of the car. Old school boomers who grew up embracing a love affair with cars will collectively cringe at this.

Pat Ryan Jr. and Patrick McMullen of the retail consultancy MAX Digital write millennials “are a generation that is more into technology than cars – there just aren’t a lot of ‘car guys’ and ‘car gals’ in this age group.

“Because millennials aren’t that into cars and haven’t necessarily been dreaming of buying that particular car anyway, their focus is instead on the buying process, which puts tremendous pressure on dealers to rebuild their process around this emerging majority of car buyers,” they argue in a research note.

The consultants point to how the baby boom echo generation, or Generation Y, have been raised – “buying products on Amazon and music on iTunes” which has trained them to expect “a streamlined, fact-based, convenient (buying) process, and find the idea of the stereotypical car buying experience repelling.”

Some – perhaps their Baby Boomer parents – might have the temerity to suggest millennials are petulant, impatient and spoiled. It’s clear boomers, their parents and their Gen Y kids all want the same things when shopping for a new ride: a high quality, convenient experience.

Ryan and McMullen suggest dealers learn to speak the language of millennials, in the showroom, on the web and in advertising. Strip out all that “car guy talk” in ads, and replace it with objective “evidence” gathered from across the web “to build value in each car and trust in your dealership.”

Match the focus on objective evidence with a sales staff who are product experts, “practiced and certified in the walk-around for each model.” The “deal” should be easy to conclude with a minimum of negotiation, they add, noting 65 per cent of millennials don’t want to dicker with a salesperson.

Finally, these young buyers embrace technology and so should every dealer and salesperson. Get over the fact that millennials are pulling out their mobile phones in the showroom.

“It is naïve to think that they won’t use the computer in their pocket to help them level the playing the field when spending tens of thousands of dollars,” they argue.

The obvious conclusion: if you are a millennial looking for a deal, you’ll be happiest at a retailer staffed a well-informed professional sales staff who embrace technology, recognize that today’s shopper has done plenty of pricing and product research, and who back up their recommendations with strong evidence. Millennial will continue to change the market.

Read the full article here

The 2017 Ford GT

Cars like this only come around once in a blue moon.  Bombshells like the 2017 Ford GT don’t come often.

Few within Ford even knew much about the mysterious hypercar before its surprise revelation at the North American International Auto Show.

“We actually had a little skunkworks in the Dearborn studio downstairs that no one knew about,” said Moray Callum, Ford’s vice president of design, in a one-on-one interview following the GT’s debut in Detroit. “And it was done on the quiet, with a limited amount of people.”

The 2017 Ford GT was conceived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company’s legendary victory at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race, in which three Ford GT40 race cars swept first, second and third place. It had to be fast tracked from concept to production, with testing and development compressed into the next 18 months in order to go on sale by the end of next year.

“We’ve done this in record time,” Callum said. “I tell people it’s the ‘fastest’ car we’ve ever designed”—he means, the fastest in terms of development time, and the fastest in terms of acceleration and speed.

Ford says the GT will have one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production vehicle, thanks to ultra-light carbon-fiber construction and more than 600 horsepower from a new 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6—an engine derived from a similar one used in Ford’s IMSA Daytona Prototype race car, which recently won The Rolex 24 at Daytona 24-hour endurance race.

The GT is revolutionary in it promises to elevate Ford to a level with Ferrari, McLaren, Porsche and other high-clout makers of seven-figure hyper cars. Like the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder, the Ford GT’s body is made almost entirely of carbon-fiber, and it features exotic technology like an adjustable suspension system similar to that of a race car and a huge rear spoiler that raises and lowers to increase downforce depending on the car’s speed.

But unlike other luxury automakers and their million-dollar machines, Ford aims to eventually democratize the technology showcased on the GT. For example, it announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and DowAska, is a joint venture between The Dow Chemical Company and Turkish carbon fiber manufacturer Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii. They will collaborate on ways to develop high-volume, low-cost ways to produce carbon fiber.

Ford has not released full specs or pricing for 2017 Ford GT, but it will likely cost a fraction of a hypercar such as the Porsche 918 Spyder, given that the GT’s predecessor, built from 2005 to 2006, had a starting price of $149,995. Granted, the new GT forgoes the complicated and costly hybrid-electric systems used on the Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche hyper cars.

The design of the Ford GT is perhaps a bit of a paradox: familiar yet otherworldly, aggressive yet somehow restrained. It was striking enough for a panel of noted automotive designers to award it the Eyes On Design award for best design at the Detroit auto show.  The design is what will push this super car over the edge.

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