Chevrolet: From “Like A Rock” to “The Dollar Menu”

2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ
AlBargan / Foter / CC BY-ND

Chevrolet has been launching campaigns to attract an assortment of consumers for years by offering cheap prices for those who have poor credit or can’t afford buying a new car due to their financial situation. While that is a noble cause, one that has probably been successful, there are major implications the auto manufacturer faces by making such offers. After the launching of their latest marketing campaign, “Chevrolet’s Dollar Menu”, they’ve unofficially solidified their fate as being the McDonald’s of the automotive world.

The deal is one dollar down payment in a lease offer for the Chevy Cruze and Chevy Silvarado, making them the cheapest lease offers on the market today. Forgetting about the incentives, limited mileage because of a lease, and the deal itself, let’s take a step back for a minute and let this sink in. A dollar menu for an auto brand, not a fast food restaurant, but an American auto manufacturer.

With all the recalls Chevy has had to endure, and now offering some of their lineup for a dollar, they’ve now opened themselves up to the perception of being the car equivalent of McDonald’s. When it comes to the food McDonald’s offers, you could say, “It’s cheap, but in the long wrong could cause obesity”. Chevys are now cheap, but could break down 2,000 miles later. This is not the best approach for a struggling auto maker and completely makes the brand look bad by subliminally saying, “Our cars are lemons and no longer of good quality”.

Chevrolet was once a proud American auto maker, the Camaro and Corvette were highly coveted by young adults, the Silverado was a very popular and durable pickup truck, and the Impala and Malibu were decent four door sedans that could hold their own against their American counterparts. Even the commercials sent better messages by going with the slogan “Like a rock”. In a matter of 15 years, Chevrolet has gone from being a respected manufacturer, to being the prime example of not buying American when it comes to cars.

Instead of the dollar menu approach and sounding like a fast food restaurant, Chevy should try a strategy similar to Honda. The Honda Fit is being marketed as an affordable, yet fun and efficient compact hatchback that fills every need for young adults, as they’ve been the target of this recent advertising effort. Chevy has the Spark, Sonic, and Cruze, all with starting prices under $20,000, and this should be the basis of a marketing campaign. Honda isn’t playing the Chevy game by being a Burger King or Wendy’s, and instead has a sound marketing strategy to a specific audience who are in the market for the hatchback.

The Sonic is a fun, hot, little hatchback for Chevy, and they should roll with it as being the backbone of affordable cars in their lineup. In all honestly, if a Cruze is only $1 down, I don’t think I’d be willing to pay the $169 a month as it doesn’t seem worth it, and would then think that the Sonic or Spark should be offered for $.50 or $.75 down on a lease offer.

When it comes to the automotive world, there should never be a dollar menu. ‘Like a rock” was a better slogan as it promoted a durable and quality vehicle lineup by an American automaker. Chevy has a lot of work to do when it comes to brand image after the countless number of recalls, but if they really want to be respected again, they need to drop the dollar menu immediately.

Auto Marketing: Are Car Manufacturers Becoming Too Much Alike?

Let’s go back in time for a minute to the late 1990’s to early 2000’s in the automotive world. What has changed since those days? Are consumers more confused now than ever? Are car manufacturers becoming too much the same, losing that individuality and no longer catering to the loyal customers they’ve had for probably generations? These are the questions that no one is asking, and in an industry that is constantly changing, why have blurred lines appeared where consumers can’t decide on what the better brand is, and instead just go along with tradition?

In the late 90’s if you wanted luxury you probably would buy a Mercedes Benz, BMW, or Cadillac. For the average family vehicle that was reliable and safe you’d go with the Honda, Toyota, Subaru, or Volvo. The young and dangerous teenager who wants speed would maybe look at a Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, or Pontiac Firebird. And for the person that wanted a pickup truck, Dodge, Chevy, GMC, and Ford were constantly advertising on TV to appeal to that specific person.

However, today there is such a variety of vehicles in the same price range that often get forgotten, not because they’re of poor quality, but they’re neither marketed correctly nor presented as an individual car manufacturer that stands out from the competition. For example, the average consumer who has no loyal ties to one specific brand will look in multiple categories such as, fuel economy, safety, performance and price. Yet most likely, they’ll only compare the car brands and models that are most prevalent in their lives that have been marketed to them constantly over the years.

As I wrote in a previous article, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is priced from $21,000 to $31,000, putting it in the same price range as the Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Civic and Accord, the Mazda 6 and the list could continue on for a while. What the average consumer who wants performance while still owning a four door sedan doesn’t realize is that the 200 comes with a V6 engine that supplies 295 horsepower, completely blowing away the competition in it’s class in performance. Any one of the cars listed are also subjected to the same reality that poor marketing and a person’s personal preference completely drives their buying habits.

Let’s take a look at the new crossover SUV market that is constantly growing that includes the BMW X1 and the all new Audi Q3. Besides looking good, and for BMW and Audi the brand recognition, what do they really have to offer that other manufacturers can’t? Because luxury brands are now entering markets that are now rivaling Ford, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Mazda, consumers will now look to just the luxury brands and skip over what the traditional brands in that price range offer.

What used to be a black and white market has now become an array of colors, and while that is great news for the consumer, the manufacturers may end up losing in the end. If the consumer wants a small compact sedan, they’re going to be attracted to the Audi A3 or Mercedes Benz CLA without looking at what the other auto brands have to offer. The sports car market has remained the same over the years, as there is still a price margin wide enough where younger consumers will look to the American muscle cars over the BMW 2 series and others in that category.

The auto market has certainly become competitive, but along with it is the loss of individuality. Most have LED lights, leather seats, MP3 capability, power windows, keyless entry, and other technologies and comforts that were only found on the most luxurious of brands in the late 90’s. There needs to be better marketing strategies from auto manufacturers, whether that be target advertising, or mass marketing that reaches a variety of different people. BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz will be catering to a whole new audience; the audience that once bought Hondas, Toyotas, Volkswagens and Fords. TV commercials aren’t enough anymore as brand recognition is enough for consumers to get fixated on one manufacturer.

Right now there are multiple options at all different price ranges, but the consumer doesn’t know it. These auto manufacturers need to become unique again and cater to the specific audience they knew would buy their brand for many years to come. For the time being, the German luxury car segment is taking over, and if the other manufactures don’t step up their game, they’ll be in a for a rude awakening if and when Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz introduce the smaller vehicles they’ve been selling in Europe.

Could Chrysler Market the 200 Better?

Being a car enthusiast, I’m always researching vehicles that might be worth my money when it’s time to look for a new car. While there is already one manufacturer that I’m loyal to, I won’t let that limit my choices to better options if they should present themselves. The Chrysler 200 is a sedan that should get much more attention than it has, but because the US automaker takes the luxurious approach, they’re missing out on a major consumer group that would definitely consider the 200 if it was marketed to them correctly.

Knowing the 200’s history, it was a shock to find out that Chrysler has a V6 engine version of the sedan that is priced close to $30,000. This V6 engine supplies a whopping 295 horsepower, which is uncommon considering the class that the 200 is in among it’s competitors. The Volkswagen Jetta GLI has 210 horsepower, is in the same price range, and isn’t even remotely close to competing with the 200 when it comes to power.

It’s this angle that Chrysler hasn’t exploited. Yes we know the 200 has class and styling, yes it offers the newest technology to it’s buyer, but nothing is ever said about it’s power, not even subtly. The millennial generation are the buyers of the future, and what do the young guns want in a car? Speed and power, luxury, and relative affordability. Chrysler can offer that, but they’re taking the wrong approach when it comes to marketing the 200. As a millennial who wants that in a car, my future car buying decisions have been altered thanks to further research into what Chrysler has to offer.

The brand new look of the 200 is appealing; it has a European and futuristic look while also maintaining the tradition of Chrysler, which is to be an American auto manufacturer. A company that is trying to portray itself as being caught up with the times must not market as if they’re Lincoln or Cadillac and appeal to the younger generations. No one in their mid 20’s knows that a Chrysler has this power, instead they look to Dodge and their Charger for a powerful four door sedan.

If fuel economy is what the consumer wants, the lower trims offer mpg’s of 23 in the city and 36 on the highway while having a four cylinder engine that supplies 184 horsepower.

Chrysler must look at their marketing strategies for the 200 from all angles. A 295 horsepower car is not going to be passed up by an adult in their mid 20’s or 30’s. From the commercials I see class and the promoting of a luxury vehicle that offers comforts much cheaper than the luxurious car brands. By covering all angles, Chrysler will reach all age groups and consumer audiences that are in the market for a car such as the 200. Finding out about a 295 horsepower car around $30,000 was an eye opener, and it will have the same affect for others who learn of the secret power underneath the hood of a Chrysler 200.

Using CarFax Alone Isn’t Going to Guarantee Finding a Quality Car

Volkswagen Golf 6 2008 26
Janitors / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

CarFax is a great tool for the 21st Century car buyer who is looking for a Certified Pre-owned or used vehicle that is still in good condition. However, there is still no guarantee that you’ll find the perfect car that has years and thousands of miles left in it’s lifetime. There are multiple factors that come into play, such as the previous owner’s driving habits, the car’s seasonal wear and tear, and more importantly where the vehicle was manufactured. The country(s) in which the car was manufactured can be the difference between buying a quality vehicle and a lemon.

To dig deeper into this, think about your favorite automotive brand, or even the current car you own and drive on a daily basis. Where was the car manufactured? Shockingly, some of your favorite everyday purpose cars may not be built where you think they are, even if it has a reputation of being an American, German, or Japanese car.

Volvo has just announced that their new S60L which is manufactured in China will be sold in the United States. With this story being only a few weeks old, it’s already stirred up controversy as the company’s reputation of being a safe, reliable brand may be thrown to the gutter if Volvo plans to go through with selling a Chinese Volvo in the states, which they have every intention of doing.

Volvo’s are known to last a very long time, in fact people joke saying that they’ll outlive the owner if kept in good condition. Who knows how long the 2015 S60L will last, and there will be many questions raised by consumers when you find it in the pre-owned list on your local Volvo dealer’s website.

Another popular car brand is Volkswagen, and it might surprise some that a majority of their vehicles that are sold in the US aren’t made in Germany. Yes, the same Volkswagen who owns Audi, Porsche, and Bugatti doesn’t manufacturer all their cars in Wolfsburg. The VW Beetle, Jetta, Golf, and soon the Golf GTI are or will be made in Mexico. It wasn’t until 2005, when VW changed the appearance of the Jetta, that they started assembly and production in Mexico. Whether this changes the quality of the vehicle itself, that is still to be determined, but the perception customers have of the car is certainly different.

To make sure you’re getting a top notch used car, do extensive research on where the vehicle was manufactured. Not only is the assembly of the car different, but you’ll find that the electrical components and interiors will be substantially different. Road noise or lack thereof will be noticeable, and even the suspension and how it takes bumps on the road could determine where it really came from.

The badge on the front of the car may say it’s from Germany, Sweden, or America, but there is the possibility that it’s originally from some factory in Mexico, or China if you intend on buying the new Volvo S60L. We have no power to improve the driving habits of drivers so we get a used car in great condition, but we can research and make sure we’re getting a car that was built in a factory that has a reputation of producing quality and long-lasting vehicles.

Maserati is Launching the “Cheaper” Ghibli Starting at $68,000

Maserati Ghibli en México DF
Daniel Palestino / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With Maserati’s sales up 357% from last year, the Italian automaker is looking to enter a new market; luxury sedans in the price range starting close to $68,000. It is no secret that Italian cars are slowly becoming more prevalent as they’re becoming cheaper and more models are storming the American shores every year. The Ghibli will be competing with the likes of the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera, giving consumers a dilemma whether to go German or Italian.

If you still prefer German engineering, maybe a Ferrari engine and a chassis and suspension of the more expensive Maserati Quattroporte will persuade you to at least consider buying the Italian sedan. However, even with the lower price, the Ghibli still doesn’t offer the more powerful twin-turbo V6 that supplies 404 hp that can be found on higher end trims of the Ghibli that are no doubt more expensive.

This is really where the problem lies. To get performance and luxury you must pay more to get it. While owning a Maserati puts you in a more exclusive club, there are other options out there that won’t completely drain your bank account.

Now of course you’re not going to get the same ambiance and perception that you will in a Maserati, but the Audi S4 and BMW 535i X-drive do offer a relatively cheaper alternative and you’re not sacrificing much horsepower with the “cheaper” German sedans. As an added plus, fuel consumption is much better with the Audi or BMW as opposed to the gas guzzling Maserati Ghibli.

The engine in the base model Ghibli supplies 345 hp, while the Audi S4 receives 333 hp, and the BMW 535i X-drive gets 300 hp. We’re not talking about a major loss in power, as both the Audi and BMW offer the same luxury and sports car appeal the Maserati does; the name however does make all the difference.

It really comes down to preference, but with the looks of things, maybe waiting a bit longer to buy an Italian car might pay off. Slowly buy surely prices are receding and if you do want a Maserati, the price tag is entering the realm of possibility.

Audi S4

• MSRP Starts at $48,100
• HP 333
• MPG 17 in the city – 26 on the highway

BMW 535i X-drive

• MSRP $60,000
• HP 300
• MPG 26 in the city – 37 on the highway

Maserati Ghibli

• MSRP $68,000
• HP 345
• MPG 15 in the city – 25 on the highway

1998 Pontiac Firebird vs 1998 Chevrolet Camaro: Which is Better?

At the time there was much debate over which car was better, the 1998 Pontiac Firebird or the 1998 Chevrolet Camaro. There is no doubt that in the 90’s, both of these American muscle cars were special in their own way, re-igniting the passion that had been lost with muscle cars over the years. In 1998, owning a Firebird or Camaro was a must; they were American, fast, and both came as convertibles or hardtops. They were the Goliaths of their time when it came to sports cars under $35,000, and even today, they still hold the same significance and might.

Both the Z28 Camaro and Firebird Trans Am had V8 engines that supplied 305 hp; the SS Camaro was given 320 hp. What also made them special was that they were customizable, which wasn’t too common with American cars at the time, as Japanese automakers were cheaper and so were the aftermarket parts. From a younger generation’s perspective, both the Firebird Trans AM and SS Camaro became the ultimate sports car that gave them the power they wanted without spending too much. These two muscle cars had the upper hand on the Japanese models that were popular with young adults, something that had been lacking until a few years ago with the reemergence of the Chevy Camaro, and Dodge Charger and Challenger.

To be fair, the Firebird and Camaro weren’t all that different. The body shape was similar, both had models with T-tops, and they were cars built by GM. It really comes down to personal preference, which if you didn’t own either of them, you’d probably still be debating whether the Camaro was better than the Firebird.

With their similarities, it might be safe to say they were both great, and still are. The roar of the V8 engine, combined with the T-top, and the appeal of a sports car, put them on every kid’s and adult’s wish list for sure. They will forever be classics, something that’s not usually said about cars manufactured in the 1990’s, but the Camaro and Firebird were very special and one of a kind.

Chrysler Sales Rise 17% in May as Jeep and Dodge are in Demand

Chrysler reported strong earnings in May, as Jeep, Fiat, and Dodge carried most of the momentum heading into June. Jeep sales alone rose 58%, Fiat up 18%, and Dodge Ram trucks up 17%. Surprisingly the Chrysler brand itself didn’t report any gains, in fact sales were down 22%. The hope is that the redesigned Chrysler 200 can reignite sales as it will be the first model to get a whole new makeover that will be present in all Chrysler vehicles.

The Dodge Journey and Dart both had a great month, putting together a 33% gain in May. The Challenger on the other hand barely managed a 4% increase in sales, as subtle changes to the body didn’t seem to phase consumers.

With GM having their own problems, this is great news for the Chrysler group as confidence in their brand appears to be growing. The Jeep Cherokee is a favorite among buyers as it brings it’s all-new design and reputation as being a strong and durable SUV.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the 2015 Dodge Charger will sell. After the Charger’s unveiling at the New York International Auto Show, it didn’t get a warm reception. Some consumers didn’t like the fact that Dodge basically put the body of the Dart on the chassis of a Charger, making the once fierce-looking four door sedan look tame.

Despite Chrysler being owned by Fiat for a few years now, the company is still evolving and making major changes to their lineups. If sales continue to grow, there will be a bright future for them as their five year plan heading into 2018 looks very promising.

Products for your Volvo S40

Volvo S40
Volvo S40 in the sunlight

With the summer right around the corner, now is the time to buy some products for your Volvo S40, both for the interior and exterior.

1) Sunshade for VOLVO S40 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 HEATSHIELD Windshield Custom-fit Sunshade

  • Custom-fit sunshade – MADE IN USA!! Endorsed by the Car Pro, Jerry Reynolds!
  • Rolls up with a velcro tie when not in use
  • Comes with a Heatshield Logo so you know you are receiving a genuine “Heatshield Product”
  • 2nd Generation S40
  • PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: HeatShield – Advanced Windshield Reflector HeatShield is an automotive windshield reflector, “sun shade,” or “sun visor,” custom designed to fit the shape of each car model’s windshield. The HeatShield material is simple and unique. A special metallized polyester film, laminated to a thin layer of closed-cell foam, with a clear polyester film back. HeatShields are custom cut using the latest in computer-aided cutting technology. Then they are sewn around the edge with a cloth binding. So HeatShields are reflective, insulating and custom fit for every car. INSTALLATION HeatShield installation is easy and quick. Lay the Heat Shield across the dash. Lift up to the windshield. Drop the sunvisors for support HeatShield is stiff enough to be supported by the sunvisors alone, but it is flexible enough to be bent around the mirror. Once installed, HeatShield will reduce the interior temperature at the dashboard by as much as 40 deg. F. (25 deg. C.) HeatShields are simple to use, but they are just as easy to store! PRODUCT STORAGE When not in use, store your HeatShield like this: Lift sunvisors and pull HeatShield down. Roll up from end to end. Wrap the attached Velcro strap

This will help keep your S40 cool during the hottest days in the summer, which in-turn will allow you to use less of the AC, saving you some dollars at the pump.

2) OxGord 17pc Tan Flat Cloth Seat Cover Set for the Volvo S40 Sedan, Airbag Compatible, Split Bench, Steering Wheel Cover Included

Includes: (2) 3pc Bucket Seat Set Including Head Rest Covers, (1) 2pc Bench Seat Set, (1) Bench Bra for 50/50 or 60/40 split bench option, (3) Rear Seat Head Rest covers, (4) Seat Belt Pad Protectors, and (1) Steering Wheel Cover
Protects your vehicle’s seats from every day wear and tear with a comfortable mesh fabric
Simple installation – no tools or professional experience required
Easy to clean, just throw them in the washing machine
Fits year(s): 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

What Has Dodge Done With the Charger? From Fierce to Tame

 

Last week at the New York International Auto Show, Dodge unveiled the new 2015 Charger, that ultimately got mixed reviews. What was once known as a proud muscle car in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, to a formidable sedan used by countless police forces in the United States, has now become a bigger version of the failing model, the Dodge Dart. The question that must be asked is, “Why did they do this?” With the Challenger remaining relatively the same, there was no need for Dodge to go the full nine yards and change the Charger. What do you think? Like the new changes or no?

The only reasonable explanation for the sudden and drastic change to the Charger was the failing sales numbers the Dodge Dart has been posting as of late. Unfortunately for the American automaker, the Dart isn’t selling, as it’s having difficulty contending with the Ford Focus and the Toyota Corolla, two compact sedans that are fighting for the top spot in most sold cars around the globe.

IMG_0512

Reading the comments on social media, people find the Dart a bit bland, which is why combining it with the body and looks of a Charger probably wasn’t the wisest move, but only time will tell.

This does however raise questions whether Dodge will continue the compact sedan past 2015 as sales are low, and putting the looks of the Dart with the Charger brand might help turn around the numbers. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if anyone buys the new look Charger, especially police forces around the country. I don’t know about you, but seeing the 2008-2014 Charger as a police car is intimidating enough, but with the 2015 model, I just don’t get that same sense of fear.

 

The Volvo S40 2.4i: 2 Tons Of Swedish Magnificence

The Volvo S40 2.4i: 2 Tons Of Swedish Magnificence

Being an owner of the Volvo S40 has been an absolute pleasure. The comfort level, style, and feel of luxury is what makes this car so great. It’s a Volvo. Should we expect anything less?

At the height of it’s sales back in 2006, the Volvo S40’s starting MSRP was roughly around $25,000. However, for the price paid for it, you got a lot more than what the competitors were offering. A sunroof, power windows and locks, 16″ aluminum rims, and climate control.
The interior was clean and open, and for a compact sedan, you didn’t feel entirely close to you front seat passenger as shoulder room was quite impressive. Radio and temperature controls took time to get used to, but in the open backside, there was an added cargo space and a neat feature that hadn’t been seen in other vehicles.
With a five cylinder engine that supplied 168 horsepower, you never felt too underpowered and could always rely on the S40 to get you out of tricky situations. From 0-60 it took 8.1 seconds, but let’s remember, it’s a Volvo, and unless you bought the T5, there was no turbo charged engine. Fuel economy could have been better, but if only used on the highway the S40 had the potential to close in on 300 miles on a tank of gas. Premium unleaded always hurts the pocket, however the miles and hours spent driving are well worth the price.
Overall this car was and still is nice. For students and young adults it can be the prelude to bigger and better vehicles, but it’s hard parting ways with a small sedan that introduces you to luxury. Cargo space for the Volvo S40 isn’t the best for it’s class, but that’s not what this car was meant for. The drives on a beautiful warm day with the sunroof open and the windows down is what creates the lasting memories. This car is great to cruise around in and not feel uncomfortable while sitting in it.
Volvo got it right when they produced the S40, and if they ever decide to reintroduce it to their lineup, there would be no hesitation, I will buy it.