Is Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz Styling Becoming Lazy?

Remember when you were walking back to your car with groceries and saw a Mercedes Benz and knew exactly what model it was? Have you seen two Audis parked next to each other and could distinguish the difference between the two from a distance? Do you also remember when BMW’s numbering system actually made sense? Those were the days. Now German automakers just extend or shorten the length of models, stick on a different number, and sell it with some added gimmicks or lower price tag. Anyone else see a growing problem from the German luxury market?

Needless to say, the interiors that Mercedes Benz offers is in a league of its own. A comfortable and welcoming environment could make the idea of living in an S-Class sound reasonable. Audi’s updated cabin that’s now noticeable in the 2017 Q7 and A4 will put them in the upper echelon when it comes to stylish and luxurious interiors. But when you take a look at the outside of most of the models the big three German manufacturers offer, you begin to realize just how lazy automotive design has become.

Starting with BMW, the 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series all had a slightly different face a few years ago. You could tell they were from the same family, but the siblings were not identical. Today with the recent addition of the 4 Series, the two door coupe and convertible are essentially the sportier versions of the 3 Series sedans. But it doesn’t stop there. With the 435i Gran Coupe, BMW has effectively created a dilemma where a four door has been given a number that was supposed to symbolize the difference between the coupes from the sedans. There’s no value proposition that the Gran Coupe offers, in fact you pay more for what is a 3 Series with an extended trunk.

Lately, car enthusiasts have had to ask themselves, “What is Mercedes Benz doing to their lineup?” There was once a time when the C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class were all distinctive. As recent as 2014, the C-Class and E-Class from front to back were completely different, with the C-Class clearly being more of an entry level sedan, and the E-Class having a very upscale presence, both in terms of the exterior and interior. Now with the 2017 models hitting showrooms, the C-Class sedan, and more noticeable with the coupe, have the same body style as the S-Class. The redesigned E-Class has become the middle child, having a very similar appearance to it’s bigger and smaller siblings. Mercedes Benz has defined the term “German luxury” for the past decade; there was no reason to make carbon copies of their models

Audi might just be he laziest of them all, despite BMW and Mercedes Benz attempts to claim the thrown on producing identical cars. Park an Audi A6 and A8 next to each other, same color and year, and you’ll have a 50% chance of guessing the correct model. If you subtract the A7, TT, and SUVs from the Audi lineup, you’re left with three sedans and one coupe that all have similar body styles and faces, but only differ in size. At some point, an executive at the corporate level must take a look at the lineup and think, “Maybe we need to stop being so mundane”.

The lack of creativity and originality is frightening to say the least. Yes the Mercedes Benz AMG’s, BMW M-Series, and Audi S-Line make our mouths water and we crave more power, but at the end of the day, the German automakers are beginning to lose their speciality. Right now we’re living in an era where the i8, R8, and GT-S are the only iconic cars that we’ll look back on and remember. Twenty years ago, the BMW M3 and Mercedes Benz 190E Cosworth were attainable sports cars that we could all enjoy. Today there’s not a special car within the reach of the average American.

German cars will always be looked at as the very best in luxury. However, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for a car that is unique. Jaguar and Volvo are beginning to find a foothold, and once their new and updated lineups are completed, the Germans will have stiff competition coming from Britain and Sweden.

BMW Says No More Manual Transmissions, A Sign Of Things To Come?

Save the manuals! Right? Well, BMW doesn’t think so, in fact they’re planning on getting rid of manual transmissions in their performance cars, and replacing them with automatics and paddle shifters. If that wasn’t enough heartache for car enthusiasts, BMW also has plans to limit horsepower to 600. To many car purists’ dismay, this is a sad reality, and the future of the automotive industry isn’t going to be putting a smile on their faces either.

Manual transmissions now make up less than 15% of new car purchases in the entire automotive market in the United States. For a car manufacturer to tailor to a niche market that is shrinking every year, they’d see very little revenue in return. While the car enthusiast community is vast and still very large, car brands have to remember that 85-90% of their consumers prefer automatic transmissions. Let’s also remember that the consumers who are part of the save the manuals campaign are more likely to by used, leaving the dealerships with the profits, not the manufacturers.

As with any niche market, there’s always a company that comes to the rescue, picking up those along the way who prefer tradition over the reality of where the market is heading. Ford is finally bringing the Focus RS to the United States, which will appease drivers who prefer manual transmissions. Along with a stick, the Focus also comes with a drift mode button, making this car highly coveted among enthusiasts who want to enjoy every aspect of their vehicle.

Alfa Romeo is going one step further with their new Giulia sedan. Not only does it come with a manual transmission, but it’s also RWD. For every car manufacturer that begins to tailor to larger markets, there’s the companies that can prosper from entering niche markets that are dwindling.

The reality of the automotive industry is that automatics now get better fuel consumption, have faster gear shifts, and are easier to drive. While car enthusiasts would say that the only way to fully experience driving, you have to own a manual. However, there are plenty of vehicles on the market that offer a great driving experience with or without a stick.

This is strictly about business, profits, and the realization that manual transmissions are outdated in 2015. Unless the American population drastically decides that they’re going old school and will learn how to operate a manual, we’ll continue to see new cars with paddle shifters and automatics. Purists can say until the end of time that, “Only real car enthusiasts own a manual”, but the fact is, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, and now BMW have all moved away from traditional transmissions. Are we now going to consider owners of those brands just average drivers, and not enthusiasts?

The future is here, and like it or not, manual transmissions are becoming extinct. The manufacturers know this, which is why so many are now putting new technology under the hood.

You Have $15,000, Do You Buy Or Lease A Car?

If you have $15,000 in cash, do you buy or lease a car? Actually, I’m going to make it more interesting. If you have $10,000 in cash would you buy or lease a car?

Having scanned through forums and Reddit, there are many young, and even older consumers, who ask the same question, usually with the same amount of money in hand asking for car buying advice. Now, if your commute to work and weekend trips make your annual mileage higher than 12,000 a year, then buying is the better option. But what about those who are driving around 8,000 – 10,000 miles a year. Would you still be so hasty to buy instead of lease?

Most people feel that leasing costs you more in the long run. But does it really? True, your car payments could be higher per month, but because it’s a new car, you won’t have to factor in major maintenance costs. At $10,000 – $15,000, you’re not going to end up with what you want. Certified pre-owned, you’re looking at the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, or Toyota Corolla to name a few. Used can be a case of trick or treat. There’s always diamonds in the rough, but more often than not, you’ll end up with someone else’s problem. Mechanical failure is likely, factoring into the overall cost of the car, while it’s aging, and every year the resale value is slowly tanking. You either wind up with a money pit, or a decent car that will last you a few years before maintenance issues could arise.

Now let’s look to leasing. You have $10,000 – $15,000 in hand and you’re visiting local dealership websites comparing lease offers and deciding which one works best for you. You stumble upon a great deal. Your local Ford dealership down the street has a lease offer for a new Ford Escape SE; $4,173 due at signing, $159 a month for 24 months. If my math is correct, for those 2 years it will cost you a grand total of $7,989, not including oil changes and annual maintenance. You’re saving $2,000 in the long run, which will be two grand more saved up for your next lease. If you buy a $10,000 car, you’re looking at a world of unknowns.

So the choice. A new Ford Escape SE or an 8 year old car with 50,000+ miles on it. $8,000 overall in 24 months, or $10,000, plus maintenance that will inevitably happen sometime during your ownership of the car.

Another example; this time you have $15,000. Now I’m sure you can find some sweetheart deal for a 6+ year old Infiniti G35 or G37 or an older BMW 3 Series, but again let’s factor in unforeseen maintenance. But you decide, “I’ll lease instead because I want to drive a new car”. Here are the potential options you have. Let me just say this is all predicated on what the dealerships in your area are offering. Here’s a few from my neck of the woods.

Audi A3: $2,694 downpayment, $299 a month for 36 months = $13,458

BMW X1: $4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604

BMW 320i X-Drive: 4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604 (Same offer as the X1)

Infiniti Q40: $1,499 downpayment, $229 a month for 39 months = $10,430

Lexus IS 250: $1,599 downpayment, 349 a month for 36 months = $14,163

These are just some of the deals that are out there. They all cost under $15,000 within the three year window you have the car. Most come with leather seats, heated seats, bluetooth, navigation, and electric sunroof. So think about it for a minute. You can have a luxury car for the same price, or less than if you bought a certified pre-owned Honda Civic. There are even better offers out there if you don’t want to spend $15,000.

After seeing this, would you still buy or would you lease?

What Are Your Thoughts On Cadillac and BMW?

Over the past few weeks Cadillac has become very bold, and rightfully so, with the unveiling of their new ATS-V Coupe. This has lead to a lot of banter on the Internet, with some going as far to say that BMW should be looking in their rearview mirror because Cadillac is catching up with the German luxury car manufacturer. The BMW faithful are defending their favorite cars, while fans of the new Cadillacs are beginning to believe GM’s luxury branch has finally made a comeback in the luxury car market. What do you think? Is Cadillac inching closer behind BMW, or should the people in Munich just laugh at Cadillac’s show of force?

The BMW product line has certainly been extended the past few years, and with the BMW M4, and the highly anticipated four-door BMW 435i Gran Coupe, it doesn’t look like they’re going to give up ground easily. While Cadillac’s newer designs and breath of fresh air is encouraging, can they compete with a luxury brand that seems to be sticking their nose into every market in the automotive world? BMW continues to push their SUV and crossover models, the new 2 series is sure to be a hit with the younger generations, and their 3 and 5 series sedans are still experiencing strong sales figures this year.

What are your thoughts on Cadillac and or BMW? Is Cadillac ready to take the stage? Or do you not like both and prefer an Audi, Mercedes Benz, or maybe even Volvo due to what they’ve been doing lately. The great thing about the automotive world is that it’s constantly evolving. What might be exciting and popular today, might be old news by tomorrow. Right now BMW is still riding on their popularity over the past decade, while Cadillac is trying to revitalize their sluggish sales figures and create a buzz for their cars that hasn’t been seen in years.

Lower Gas Prices Are Still Not Enough For Consumers To Buy Big SUV’s

Cadillac Escalade SUV
Bruno Rs / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The national average for gas is below $3.00 a gallon which has affected different markets in the automotive segment of the economy. Electric and hybrid cars have seen lower sales figures since the recent nose-dive oil has taken the past few months. However, with these lower gas prices, sales figures for large SUV’s still hasn’t improved, and just as the sports car market, the bigger SUV market may never recover.

Ian Robertson, a Sales Chief for BMW said recently that the age of the sports car is coming to a close and that we’ll probably never see that market recover. While he only mentioned two-door coupes, it appears that the recession has also put another segment of the auto industry on life support. Larger SUV’s such as the Cadillac Escalade and the Chevrolet Tahoe are only maintaining a 7% share of the market, which that number has flatlined since 2009. Not even lower gas prices are helping this segment. Since the recession and the days of $3.00 a gallon, car companies have had to adapt to a new economy, one in which the consumer is very careful about spending and expenses.

The crossover SUV’s have taken a bite out of the traditional SUV’s market share which could explain why we’re not seeing improving sales figures. Crossovers and small SUV’s such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, BMW X1 and X3, Mazda CX-5, Audi Q3 and Q5, Ford Escape, Volvo XC60, and Honda CR-V, are all eating away at the sales figures of their bigger siblings. Car companies aren’t just stopping there, they’re continuing to grow the crossover segment as Mazda already has a CX-3 in the works, and seeing the competitiveness of the Germans, who knows what they’ll think of next.

Consumers have also adapted to the new economy that we’ve lived in for the past seven years. They’re learning that they don’t need a huge SUV to get around and that even with a smaller vehicle, they can still carry their groceries, drive their kids to school, and while doing that, saving money at the pump. Smaller SUV’s and crossovers have become the new practical. While Americans won’t admit it, they’ve become more like Europeans since the recession, as Europe has been living with high gas prices way before the economy had it’s downturn.

We live in a new world. The economy may or may not have recovered, or some sectors have while others are still lagging behind. But one thing is for sure, the auto market will not change the direction it’s heading in unless there is a major swing in the markets and on Main Street. In 5-10 years, we may look back on the recession as the killer of the big SUV and sports car markets as we once knew them.

Are Sports Cars Becoming A Thing Of The Past?

Er hat bestimmt eine tolle Klimaanlage.
ingrid eulenfan / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As we’re heading into the fifteenth year of the new millennium, the automotive world has changed quite a bit from twenty years ago. Sedans have more powerful engines, which means more horsepower, smaller SUV’s and crossovers can be found in almost every car manufacturer lineup, and technology in both the engine and the interiors of vehicles have now taken precedence over power. When it comes to the traditional sports car, is their time coming to and end? BMW’s Sales Chief Ian Robertson thinks so.

“The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be,” Robertson told Bloomberg. “Post-2008, it just collapsed—I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover.”

To keep his comment in context, he’s not referring to the exotic luxury sports car market that includes Ferrari and other premium brands. Two-door coupes in general have been waning, and to take their place, sedans which used to be seen as for the average adult, now have sports packages that certainly would make a consumer question the long term value of buying a coupe.

Two-door coupes really aren’t that practical for families, or young adults who want to drive their friends around town. There’s less carrying capacity for both people and groceries which could definitely be a hassle if you’re moving into a dorm or shop frequently. Looking at how the automotive world has evolved over the past decade there are certainly better options out there for the average consumer.

Hatchbacks and sedans today offer everything the car enthusiast and everyday driver wants from a car. Cargo space, seating capacity, and more importantly stronger engines with more horsepower. While some would say sports car have a better center of gravity and can take turns better, how important is that to people who just want to get from Point A to Point B?

Sports cars have been on the downward trend. However, while the sports car market is slowing down for automakers, Ford, GM, and Dodge have re-introduced the muscle car to the American driver. Ford’s new Mustang that has the body style of the 1960’s, Dodge’s Charger and Challenger Hellcats that pack a whopping 707 horses, and Chevy’s Camaro are all grabbing the attention of sports car drivers. But other than the Americans, many car companies have turned their focus to serving the consumer who wants a four-door.

Even Porsche has slightly strayed from their identity as they’ve come out with to SUV’s and the four-door Panamera. Volkswagen is discontinuing their Eos, Volvo stopped producing the C30 and C70, Mazda has no plans to remake an RX-8, Chrysler is putting more focus on the 200 sedan rather than the coupe which they do offer, BMW is adding a four door to their 4series, and Audi has released sketches of a four-door TT. The trend in the automotive market is moving towards sedans and SUV’s, and whether that has anything to do with the fact that they’re more practical, or manual transmissions (which are usually found on sports cars) are becoming a thing of the past, we can’t lie to ourselves and think that Ian Robertson is wrong.

As I said before, he wasn’t saying anything about the exotic sports car market which is seeing strong sales numbers; he’s referring to the market that BMW is in. Consumers want smaller four-door cars, and that’s what we’re seeing car companies building. While Ian Robertson might be right about the sports car market, the four-door sedans of today have that sports car identity built in them that makes the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 200S, Audi S4, and the Lexus IS-F very popular cars.

The Issue Cadillac Faces, Whether They Produce Nice Cars Or Not

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
That Hartford Guy / Foter / CC BY-SA

Prior to the past decade and a half, Cadillac was always held in high regard as the premier luxury car brand in the United States. Fifteen years later that same luxury brand now faces stiff competition from Mercedes Benz, Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Infiniti, and is usually forgotten when it comes to facing these competitors head on. Cadillac is now suffering from it’s own brand and the marketing that went on behind the scenes that got them to this point in their history.

Cadillac has always been known as the old man’s car to younger generations. It doesn’t help when Cadillacs are often seen in funeral processions either, as this easily dictates how millennials perceive the American luxury brand. From the commercials 10-15 years ago with the Rolling Stones music chiming in near the end of the ad, to even the appearance of the car itself, Cadillacs were meant for the older population, even if that’s not the intention of the car manufacturer. With baby boomers getting older, it’s time for GM’s luxury brand to start appealing to younger generations. But how do they do that after decades of targeting the affluent aging population?

The new Cadillac ATS V Coupe has turned heads, making some believe that it could take on The BMW M4. But here’s the underlying issue. Whether the ATS V Coupe is faster or more luxurious than the M4 or not, younger people are more likely to go with the BMW, that’s just a fact. As a single, 21 year old, the last car I see myself being behind the wheel of is a Cadillac, unless they can prove to me that I will get noticed and get the attention I want. A BMW on the other hand already turns heads. The German engineering along with the fierce appearance makes the driver feel powerful and ready to take on the world. The Cadillac’s image is more of retiring from the workforce and signing up for AARP. That might be a crass statement, but it’s the perception, and the belief that people from my generation hold against the automaker.

Sure the new ATS looks great, but would I buy it if I had the money? No. Cadillac is however moving in the right direction, you have to give them that. The newer models are a bit more refreshing than in years past, and the 0-60 acceleration times along with the engines that Cadillac uses certainly makes the car more appealing, but until the old man perception is gone, that’s all young people will think about.

Lastly, Cadillac needs commercials geared more to younger generations. For instance, the Escalade commercial shows Cleopatra, a stage coach, presumably in England, and a powerful leader on an Elephant, and to brutally honest, I could see a 2000 year old Egyptian queen and a 300 year old wig wearing gentleman driving a Cadillac. That’s the real problem. With better ads directed to younger generations and creating a buzz, it will certainly help their long term perception and image.