Mazda Is Putting The Driver First With “Driving Matters”

While everyone is looking toward the future of the automotive industry and the inevitable development of autonomous cars, Mazda is focused not only on the here and now, but more importantly, the driver. For any car enthusiast, the thought of having a computer take control of the wheel and drive you to your destination is not something that makes you feel good. As drivers, we believe that having the car in our control is not only the best way to transport ourselves, but it’s a freedom and a privileged to drive and own a car that we enjoy and love. For the time being at least, Mazda is marketing to the car enthusiast that drives for fun, not because it’s a chore.

Mazda’s new tagline is, “Driving Matters”, replacing the old and very worn out “Zoom zoom”. By coming up with ads that create an emotion and desire to drive, consumers who love getting behind the wheel now have an automaker who has their best interest in mind. Starting with the new MX-5, Mazda wanted to recapture the youth and memories of former Miata drivers by making a commercial that’s basically a flashback to all the major milestones throughout the owner’s life. With the redesigned MX-5, they can relive their 20’s now that the kids are older or out of the house.

Another ad from Mazda has a businessman who’s been travelling for work, spending far too much time on planes and not enough time with his car. Once he lands ands gets back to his Mazda 6, it seems as though everything is right with the world. This isn’t just about driving, but a pride in ownership of a car that you love. “Driving Matters” and unfortunately, not many other auto manufacturers are putting the driver first, and instead focus on the technology they put inside their interiors. When it comes to daily drivers, there’s only a few features that should be noted when advertising to consumers. Is it comfortable, does it have a decent amount of horsepower, and is it reliable? That’s it. Thankfully Mazda’s commercials have a simple concept, and that’s putting you, the driver first.

What is Scion’s Identity? Do They Even Have One?

This week at the New York International Auto Show, Scion unveiled their all new iA sedan and iM hatchback that will be going on sale at the end of 2015. Scion, which is owned by Toyota, really has only one car that they can truly call they own, the tC, while the rest of their lineup is either rebadged Toyota’s that are sold in Europe and Asia, or they have cars that aren’t even built by their parent company. The FR-S was a collaboration by Toyota and Subaru, and can be bought as a Subaru, the BRZ.

What is Scion? Were they originally Toyota’s cheap brand that sold to younger consumers, or are they now a combination of cheaper vehicles and a lab rat for other car companies to see what they could come with without putting their badge on the car? The iA is essentially the new Mazda 2 sedan, and was also a collaboration with Toyota by Mazda. The iM is a rebadged Toyota Auris and will be what takes the place of the Toyota Matrix, and will give Scion the opportunity to try increasing sales in the hatchback market. Both cars will be starting anywhere between $16,000 – $20,000 when they hit the market, and with a very lackluster group of vehicles that are currently within that price range, the iA and iM could see some strong sales.

The biggest issue facing Scion is that their sales figures aren’t as strong as they were back in 2005. Scion was the new kid on the block offering cheaper cars for younger drivers, but today, the tC and FR-S are the only Scions that younger consumers want to get behind the wheel of, and when it comes to the FR-S, they can choose to visit a Subaru dealer instead.

Out of the two, the iM has a better chance of succeeding than the iA. While great fuel economy and cheaper starting price for the iA might go a long way in helping consumers decide whether to buy the car or not, the iM being a hatchback, might be more appealing to younger consumers.

Toyota has a lineup consisting of cars that compete with Honda, Ford, and Chevrolet, while their luxury division, Lexus, is taking on BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, and Infiniti. It would be great if Scion became both cheap for younger consumers, while being the performance division for Toyota. The tC and FR-S are good starts, but if Toyota could offer a Celica (which in essence is the tC) MR-2 or some original sports car badged as a Scion, the perception of the brand would change completely overnight. Right now it seems like Scion is everyone’s ginny pig, and that’s what is confusing consumers. The Toyota owned company is now 13 years old, it’s time to start maturing and offering original cars that aren’t rebadged by other Japanese brands or Toyota itself.

Are Consumers’ Demand For Luxury Interiors Driving Prices Up?

In an age of living a luxurious life, even for those living well beyond their means, we’re seeing prices gradually moving up, pinching middle class consumers in the process. The automotive market is one of those industries in which we’re witnessing the inflation of car prices. Vehicles that shouldn’t be priced any higher than $16,000 – $18,000 are nearing $20,000+, and consumers are beginning see how buying a 1-2 year old used car is a better fiscal decision than walking into the dealer and driving off the lot in a brand new car. But are consumers partially to blame for the uptick in vehicle prices?

Europeans are known to prefer luxury and driving experience over flat-out performance, which is why European auto makers produce more expensive cars that capture the very best in what the automotive world has to offer. Over the years we’re seeing this trend beginning to grow in the United States as flat-out performance is not selling as quick as luxury, something Cadillac refuses to see as they’re marketing performance first and their sales figures are dropping because of that. Muscle cars have made a slight rebound with the emergence of the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats, the new fastback Ford Mustang, and the Chevrolet Camaro which will be sporting a new look next year.

If you’ve been to car shows recently you’ve noticed that interiors of low-end cars now have an upscale appeal. The Mazda3 and Mazda6 have very comfortable and luxurious interiors, which is a slight shock considering that they’re not a luxury brand. The Honda Civic EX-L, priced around $25,000, has an amazing interior, and if you forget about the engine that it has, you’d have to say that it’s a very impressive car. This leads me to the Toyota Yaris, which some trims cost near or exceed $19,000. That’s absolutely outrageous as this is the Hyundai Elantra GT’s price range territory. True, it gets less gas mileage than the Yaris, but why buy a micro hatchback when you can buy a full size for the same price?

The interiors and their infotainment systems are partially to blame, but so are the consumers. Bluetooth, navigation systems, electric sunroofs, touch displays, and premium cloth or leather seats all factor into the price. The reason why cars like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris are considered economical cars is because they’re supposed to be cheap while also offering great gas mileage. Not in 2015. While you have the option to buy the base model, $16,000 is still no drop in the bucket either. Which raises the question as to why consumers would buy new in this current market? Leasing offers have become more appealing than buying, and you actually end up with a better car for 24-36 months than if you bought a car for $18,000.

The luxurious lifestyle is great, but are we living way beyond our means? The Mazda3 was once affordable, a rival to the Ford Focus. Now a top trim Mazda3 is impeding on the Chrysler 200’s territory. For those who do have the money to buy a $25,000+ car, this is a great time to buy. Instead of spending $40,000 on a Mercedes Benz or BMW, you can get an upscale interior for a fraction of the cost. In the sure sense of practicality, a top trim Mazda3, Subaru Impreza Premium, or a Honda Civic EX-L is a much better option, and you don’t break the bank buying a car that offers every infotainment system on the market.

Car companies have their reasons for spiking the prices of cars, but consumers’ demands for luxury interiors and infotainment systems have been a cause for more expensive cars that were once affordable. Whatever happened to the days when we’d get in our cars, turn on the radio, roll the windows down, and enjoy the driving experience? Owning a luxury car is by no means a bad thing, but we’re continuously outdoing ourselves by demanding luxury in cars that are nowhere close to being upscale.

Debunking the “Leasing is a Bad Option” Opinion

Go on any online forum, Facebook page or group, Twitter, or Reddit and you’ll find an overwhelming majority of commenters and members of groups discouraging many people from leasing when they ask the question. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Some people prefer buying outright, some would rather buy certified pre-owned or used, and a growing percentage of consumers are looking at leasing rather than buying. Every consumer has their motivation as to how, what, and why they buy the cars they do, but why is leasing always ripped when someone asks the question?

One of drawbacks of leasing is the annual mileage limit that typically ranges between 10,000 – 12,000 miles, depending on the car brand. You’re also looking at a higher down payment on a lease. But there are other factors (I’ll get to that in a moment) where the $2,000 – $3,000 down payment doesn’t look so bad in the long run. You will also not have the option to trade in the car after your lease is up, but you can buy the car or look at leasing again. Lastly, any extra miles that go above the annual limit, or scratches and dents, will cost you at the end of the lease, so you must be more careful than if you bought new or used.

Now that we’ve got the negatives out of the way, let’s take a look at why leasing is actually better.

As a used car buyer, I’ve experienced dealing with maintenance due to owning an aging car. I have monthly car payments, and I had to put a $2,000 down payment on the car. Right there we’re looking at close to $4,000+ (not including the monthly payments) with the down payment and maintenance. I’m paying $200+ a month on car payments, and to put that into perspective, the payments are more than if I leased a new Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback, Toyota RAV4, or a Honda CR-V.

The payments are a concern for people inquiring about the costs of leasing, and the advice givers always go back to the payments as a strongpoint to oppose the idea of leasing. However, if you’re in the position where you can’t buy a used car outright and put a down payment on it, you’re still dealing with monthly payments. Unlike with leasing, you could be locked in for 48 – 60 months depending on how much you want to pay per month, as opposed to being committed for 24 – 36 months with a lease. So right there you’re putting in an extra year or two on an older car that could be subject to mechanical failure due to high mileage or age.

Some dealerships are now offering free maintenance with a lease. That’s huge, especially if you’re thinking longterm. There are dealerships out there that also offer competitive prices when it comes to oil changes and wheel alignment. Also with a lease, you’re less likely to have to deal with major maintenance bills with the car being so new. There are no previous owners, so the entire time you have the car you know it’s history from your first drive to the last time you’ll ever see the car.

The last positive is that dealership’s leasing offers are always changing, especially during holidays. Herb Chambers BMW of Sudbury had an offer for the BMW 328ix that you couldn’t refuse. It was $275 a month with a $3,000+ down payment (usually you’d be paying close to $300+ a month). I know the down payment would scare anyone away, but if you have the money, you can’t tell me you’d rather buy a $3,000 early 2000’s Honda Civic with 180,000 miles that’s been owned by 3 different people, than a new 3 series. Now again, it’s all about where you are financially, but whether you’re a parent or college graduate, you would prefer something new or newer than having to deal with the headaches and hassles of owning an older car.

It doesn’t have to be a BMW, but a new Mazda 3, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and RAV4, or Subaru would be a better option than buying used and dealing with the unknowns.

Yes, leasing has it’s downsides, but so does buying used. It really depends on what you’re specifically looking for. As someone who owns a nine year old car, driving a new car with a lower monthly payment sounds great. Also, the peace of mind of owning a new car with no mechanical issues or aging equipment would make me sleep more soundly at night.

Mazda: The Face Of A New Trend In The Auto Industry

Mazda 6
AlBargan / Foter / CC BY-ND

The past five to ten years for the auto industry has seen countless innovations and changes, from cars being more economical, smaller SUV’s, to auto manufacturers changing their identity to keep up with the times. Mazda is one of many manufacturers who changed their lineup to appeal to all generations with their new designs and models that range across the spectrum of the auto world. A company that was primarily sports car driven with the Miata and RX-7, is now continuously finding ways to add on to what they’ve built in the past decade.

The Mazda 3, Mazda 6, CX-5, and CX-9 have created a solid foundation for the Japanese auto maker to build on. The 3 and 6 are beginning to compete against tough competition, as sedans priced between $20,000 – $30,000 have become extremely competitive. Because of this, auto brands are releasing some of the best looking cars in the segment. The Chrysler 200, Ford Focus and Fusion, Honda Civic and Accord, Subaru Impreza and Legacy, and Mazda’s 3 and 6 might just be the most options consumers have ever had in the compact to mid-size sedan segment. With that being said, a new trend in the auto industry is here, and you can thank the Germans for that.

Mercedes Benz, Audi, and BMW are in a battle of their own, fighting for position and dominating the smaller luxury car market. This fight for a majority stake in the $30,000 – $40,000 range has trickled down to companies who primarily sell cars $10,000 cheaper. Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Subaru, Mazda, and Hyundai know that if they don’t start jockeying for position in their respected segment, they’ll become victims to the big three in Germany. Consumers are beginning to see the opportunities that BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz have opened up and are now buying A3’s, CLA’s, and BMW X1’s. After two strong years for the Germans, the other auto manufacturers have had to throw a few punches of their own.

Think about it. Did you ever think you’d see the day when a Honda Fit or Civic would have a touch screen in their dashboards? Mazda’s, Subaru’s, and Hyundai’s are looking more high class which is making the consumer very bold in this segment. Four-door sedans, hatchbacks, and crossovers are the new, hot toys on the market. Sports cars are seeing a decline in sales, and despite lower gas prices, consumers aren’t buying bigger SUV’s like they once did.

We are going to continue seeing the auto industry changing, but for the better. Right now, as consumers, we’re like kids in a candy store and the auto manufactures continue coming out with new things to try. Mazda is about to unleash the new CX-3 which will take a bite in the small crossover segment, Honda is still going strong with the models they’re selling, Subaru continues to change their model’s appearances to entice buyers, Ford is pushing the Titanium trims of the Focus and Fusion, and Chrysler’s 200 not only looks classy, but now offers a V-6 engine under the hood that supplies 295 HP.

This is an amazing time to be in the market for a car. You can buy new or used, or lease which will put you behind the wheel of these new cars. Best of all, dealerships are offering great lease deals, especially around the holidays. Heading into 2015, you don’t have to own a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes Benz to drive a nice a car that provides luxury and a quiet interior.

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.

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.