Detroit Bureau on Twitter

Archive for February, 2011

Infiniti Partnering with Red Bull F1 Team

Nissan’s luxury brand betting on Formula One as it stages global roll-out.

by on Feb.28, 2011

Infiniti will partner with F1 champion Red Bull Racing.

Infiniti will be teaming up with last year’s dominant force on the Formula One circuit, the world champion Red Bull Racing team.

While its Japanese rivals have found the F1 racing circuit too rich for their taste, the Nissan luxury brand is betting the world’s most popular motor sports venue can provide an affordable platform to help Infiniti continue its long-awaited global roll-out.

The new deal also pairs Infiniti with its French alliance partner, Renault, which provided the engines that helped Red Bull drive to the Formula One World Championship last year.  It was, in fact, a twin victory, the Red Bull team taking both the team and driver’s championships.

Your Independent News Source!

“Over the mid-term, Infiniti will be simultaneously expanding its global presence and broadening its product range,” explained Senior Vice President Andy Palmer.  “Given these twin ambitions, it is clear that Formula One offers us an unrivalled global communications platform.”

(more…)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia: Fiat Meets Gucci

Two of Italy’s best combine in a new logomobile.

by on Feb.28, 2011

Two Italian legends team up in the Gucci Fiat 500.

Fashionistas, devotees and logo lovers of style, elegance and panache can now rejoice: the most famous fashion logo in the world, Gucci’s double G, is now an official part of Italian automotive heritage, history and haute couture.

Ciao e benvenuto to the ‘500 by Gucci’! Bellisimo.

The international fashion press went ga-ga last week during the Milan Fashion Week when  Gucci’s Creative Director Frida Giannini introduced the new Gucci edition 500 during the packed Gucci fashion show in Milan. She stated, “In the 50s, the Fiat 500 created a style revolution when it first hit the road. It quickly became the must-have car of its time. Travelling in style has also been at the heart of Gucci ever since Guccio Gucci founded his company as a producer of leather trunks, suitcases and handbags in 1921.”  (Click Here for a video clip of an interview with Frida Giannini.)

Subscribe Now - It's Free!

In fact the introduction of the 500 by Gucci is more than the usual auto brand and designer licensing deal (remember the Bill Blass Lincoln?) paying a six or seven percent royalty. It is a celebration of Italy’s 150th anniversary as a nation and the founding of Gucci 90 years ago. Gucci and Fiat, arguably are the two best known Italian brand names in the world.

(more…)

Volvo Planning $10 bil Investment

Swedish maker focusing on China as it sets out to double sales by 2020.

by on Feb.28, 2011

Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby wants to double sales.

China will play a key role in the planned doubling of global sales for Volvo Cars, the maker’s top executives revealed, as they outlined an ambitious plan to invest at least $10 billion in the company’s future.

That strategy will require a hefty investment by its new parent, China’s Geely Holding Group, said Geely CEO Li Shufu, though he stressed the two firms will continue to operate as “completely independent automaker(s).”

But increasingly, industry observers stress, the future of Volvo and Geely will become inextricably linked.

Your Free News Source!

“We plan to invest $10 to $11 billion over the next five years globally,” Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby told the Associated Press.  That money will go towards not only a new assembly plant in China, but also help the maker develop a critical new platform and a new line of powertrains – both of which would be shared among a variety of future Volvo products.

(more…)

First Look: 2012 Ford B-Max

To B or not to B…

by on Feb.28, 2011

Ford European designer Stefan Lamm shows off the maker's new B-Max multi-purpose vehicle.

If Ford was hoping to make a splash with its newest microvan, the 2012 B-Max, it couldn’t have lucked into a better time to pull off the covers.

With the Mideast in turmoil and the Libyan crisis, in particular, pushing oil prices back up towards record levels, small cars are poised to become big business.  The question is just how far buyers are willing to downsize.

The new model, officials dubbed a Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or MPV, in Europe, will make its formal debut at the Geneva Motor Show, tomorrow, though Ford gave a handful of media a preview of the 2012 B-Max a day ahead of schedule.

News You Can Use...Subscribe Now!

For those unfamiliar with industry logic, the “B-“ refers to the size of the van’s underlying platform.  It also reveals that the Ford B-Max shares its “architecture” with the subcompact Ford Fiesta, which made its return to the U.S. market last year.

But there’s a double-meaning, in that the B-Max doesn’t have the normal B-pillar.  More on that in a moment.

(more…)

Opinion: Left-lane Bandits Cause Congestion

Drivers need better education about freeway lane use.

by on Feb.28, 2011

Left-lane drivers making you crazy? Left Lane Drivers of America sells window stickers designed to encourage left-lane bandits to use the other lane.

For the first time in my career, I’m commuting by freeway and it’s not pretty.

Every day, I travel a 30-mile section of freeway, some of it six lanes, but mostly four, meaning there are three or two lanes going each way. So what have I learned during all this driving?

This country has a serious need for improved driver education. People don’t know how to drive and the problem really comes to light at 80 mph.

Battling for the Left Lane!

The biggest issue is that many drivers all but refuse to leave the left lane. Drive up behind these people, even flash your lights, and they just refuse to leave the left lane. It’s a laziness issue. Stay in the left lane and you rarely have to change lanes. Talk on your cellphone and you can basically put the car on autopilot. Just steer through the curves and tap the brakes in those rare instances when you have to slow down.
(more…)

First Look: Toyota Yaris HSD Concept

Japanese giant downsizes battery power.

by on Feb.28, 2011

Toyota will unveil the Yaris HSD Concept in Geneva.

Toyota officials have often suggested that they’d like to make their Hybrid Synergy Drive system available as an option on just about every product in their line-up.  They underscored that commitment at last month’s Detroit Auto Show, and even more battery news will be coming at this week’s Geneva Motor Show.

Making its world debut at the PALExpo conference center, the Yaris HSD Concept shows it’s possible to put a version of Toyota’s hybrid technology in one of the maker’s smallest models – which happens to compete in one of the biggest market niches in Europe.

Your Workhorse News Source!

Specific details are being held for the Toyota news conference but sources say that the Yaris HSD Concept is just a thinly-disguised version of the production car we’ll be seeing in European showrooms in the very near future.

Toyota will have a variety of Synergy Drive-powered offerings on display, including the Prius+, the first model to compete in the 7-passenger multi-purpose vehicle, or MPV segment.

(more…)

First Drive: 2012 Mazda5

Mini to the max.

by on Feb.28, 2011

For 2012, the Mazda5 gets its most complete makeover since its '05 introduction.

American waistlines aren’t the only things getting bigger and bigger by the year.  Perhaps fittingly, our automobiles have steadily grown in size, so many models that once fit comfortably into the compact category are now classified midsize – or even larger.

That’s especially true when it comes to minivans, today’s models having grown to such massive proportions that the modifier, mini, no longer accurately applies.

News and Reviews You Can Use!

Parked side-by-side, Mazda’s newly redesigned Mazda5 seems downright puny compared to industry mainstays like the Honda Odyssey or Dodge Grand Caravan.  But, in reality, the 2012 Mazda5 remake is a full four inches longer than the original 1984 Caravan and just one inch narrower.  And like those early minivans, Mazda’s offering makes surprisingly good use of its seemingly limited space.

Packing in three rows of seats, and plenty of cargo – including some trick storage beneath the sliding center row seats – the Mazda5 puts a premium on flexibility.  But it also emphasizes styling in a segment where form usually takes a back seat to functionality.

(more…)

Shortest Month Brings Strong Sales

Despite storms, consumers surge back to showrooms.

by on Feb.28, 2011

"Nobody's buying," said Ford marketing czar Jim Farley, during the blizzards of early February.

It may have been frigid cold in much of the country, but things were only heating up inside the nation’s new car showrooms, this month.  Despite blizzards that led to a slow start, car sales for February will wind up well into the plus column, according to a preliminary report by J.D. Power and Associates.

Using data from dealers across the U.S., the research firm estimates sales will come in about 17.3% above year-ago levels – and 11.7% above January sales.

That’s a significant turnaround in just a matter of weeks.  Speaking to TheDetroitBureau.com at the Chicago Auto Show, earlier in February, Ford’s global marketing chief Jim Farley lamented, “Nobody’s buying.”

Your Automotive Source!

It didn’t help that much of the country was being hammered by frigid temperatures and a series of winter storms, but the Ford executive also worried that consumers were waiting for a new round of hefty incentives before signing on the dotted line.

(more…)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Why Hyundai is saying, "Hooray for Hollywood!"

by on Feb.25, 2011

Not quite the Super Bowl, but the Oscars are a great venue for advertisers, this year starring Hyundai.

The most popular man in Hollywood Sunday night is not the usual source of material for TMZ, Entertainment Tonight or similar shows.  It’s a male named Oscar.  Actually, that’s his nickname. What few people know is that his real name is The Academy Award of Merit.

The aging octogenarian of 83 is small even by traditionally diminutive nature of Hollywood leading men, at a diminutive 13.5 inches tall and weighing only 8½ pounds. Oscar costs just $500 – the Armani tuxedos some men will wear for the awards ceremony are ten times more expensive — but when won by either a man or a women it’s worth several million dollars in terms of earnings impact. It verges on the erotic when a winner is seen holding and fondling the little man after insipid acceptance speeches.

The Academy Awards ceremony is Hollywood’s biggest night of the year.  But the film industry isn’t alone in its interest.  While it doesn’t deliver quite the impact of the Super Bowl, it’s still an evening advertisers – notably including those in the auto industry – take quite seriously.

(more…)

First Look: Smart ForSpeed

Two-seater emphasizes green performance.

by on Feb.25, 2011

Who says you can't have fun driving a battery car? Smart ForSpeed puts a premium on performance.

Daimler’s Smart brand is clearly plugging into battery power.  The maker’s new ED – short for Electric Drive – has just gone on sale here in the U.S.  And at the Geneva Motor Show, next week, Smart will offer a hint of where it might plan to take the technology going forward.

The intriguing news is that the Smart ForSpeed puts as much of a premium on performance as it does on energy efficiency.  The lithium-ion-powered two-seater reportedly can launch from 0 to 60 (kilometers an hour, that is) in just 5.5 seconds.  Getting to 60 mph takes just under 9 seconds.

Your All-Season News Source!

The concept relies on a compact 41-horsepower electric motor.  That might not seem like much but it helps to realize that electric propulsion generates maximum torque the moment the motor starts spinning.  But there’s also a “boost” switch on the center console that unleashes an extra 7 horsepower when you’re really hoping to burn rubber.

Smart anticipates a top speed of 75 mph for the ForSpeed and, if you’re a bit less aggressive with the throttle, range of about 85 miles.  A quick charger, it claims, can yield an 80% recharge in as little as 45 minutes.

The ultra-thin seats come with four-point belts to keep you firmly in place when you’re challenging that old-style muscle car in the next lane, by the way.

(more…)