Free Spirit and Cars

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Advertisers tend to have a problem marketing products to the free spirited, but not so much with cars. It’s understandable, the idea of having a car and obtaining your freedom.

kombi-2400356_1920No one likes to think they are susceptible to advertising, least of all the Free Spirit. That’s why advertisers go to what they call “the Sage” or “the Yoda.”

When selling to the average car consumer its all about luxury, so the standard advice is “sex sells.” The Free Spirit tends to desire living within your means—not they always do so, but its an ideal to hold up to. So this needs a work around in any campaign.

Honda’s Power of Dreams campaign might be one such example. It is based on making our dreams a reality, which is slightly different campaign from just marketing to a free spirit but is still in the same ballpark. It uses 3,000 illustrations in a flip book animation of an engine turning into a real car in the hopes of inspiring innovators to come and work for Honda. Many innovators can be found among Free Spirits.

It’s always nice when you can advertise a job and reinforce your brand at the same time. But does Honda’s Power of Dreams work? It probably depends on what you’re measuring. For sales, yes, Honda is the most sold car in many markets, including the U.S. Not so much on the race course, it seems. In the recent Red Bull race, Honda took third place.

Maybe too much success is a bad thing, as noted by Honda’s advertisement called “Failure: The Secret of Success,” set in Honda’s race industry. It consists of many interviews with engineers, which doesn’t sound like a riveting advert to me, but then I’m not an advertiser.

adult-2822644_1920What kind of Ads you ask?

The free spirit and the open road are a theme on TV advertisements but also can be seen on billboards. One local billboard entitled “raise the roof convertible” depicted a man in sunglasses driving and a woman with a parasol sitting on the hood of the car. Talk about mixed imagery. So sex and free spirit work together in some adverts.

Cars names Free Spirit

On the subject of marketing a number of brands have used the Free Spirit name, though you might not have heard of any of them. The Buick Century Free Spirit Pace Car for example was created to celebrate the bicentenary of the United States. Obvious the colors were red and blue the design was wavy lines, bringing to mind the Stars and Stripes which almost everyone associates freedom—except Hippies, the biggest Free Spirits of them all. Rather something more associated with patriotism than “anything goes.” Ironically, despite being a “free spirit” car it seemed to be made for roads, rather than being an all-terrain vehicle. Definitely designed for someone tied to the system rather than a free soul.

 

Free spirit car movies

Linking a film about a free spirit and a car seems like a good idea, though as with most things nowadays it started off on social media. A road movie about a school dropout making the journey across America, the van has a fiery design with a symbolic coyote. If you haven’t heard of Free Spirit, that may be because it was a short film and wasn’t shown in most theaters. Nevertheless the use of vans with the Free Spirit images worked well as a promotion. It was especially popular at Universities.

So even if you are free, prepare to be targeted by car advertisers! And watch out for tricks by “the man.”

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What’s News: Electric F-150?

The top selling truck in the US is F-150. In 2017, Ford decided to create an all-electric pickup truck. Their hybrid version comes out in 2020, which moved both the company and the market toward an EV truck. Ford’s video Tuesday demonstrates the electric truck’s remarkable towing capacity.

Original story

The video shows a prototype pull 10 double-decker rail cars over 1,000 feet. Are the rail cars empty? Well, yes, the 1st time. The 2nd time they’re loaded with over 40 I.C.E. F-150s weighing roughly 1.25 million pounds. As impressive as this is, Ford is behind Rivian and Tesla in tackling an E.V. pick up.

Future of Cars – Steel or Silicon (Part 2)

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In the first post in this series I discussed that America’s future might not depend on steel and aluminium but more in terms of silicon. Certainly there is a number of competitors vying with America over who can make the most efficient and profitable cars.

The West has ruled the world of cars for almost a century, seeming to own the “Internal Combustion Engine” (ICE). The East can only compete if the combustion engine becomes redundant, and unfortunately for us, this is the way things might be going.

The country which makes the most cars is currently China with approximately 28,000,000 being made in 2018, while the US made 11,000,000. (Largely due to Chinese tax breaks and subsidies.) You won’t have heard the cars made in China though, the Wuling Sunshine for instance as is it made only for the domestic market.

Chinese computer industry has often relied on re-engineering technology invented in the US and Europe. However, as the car market blends with the computer industry greater investment is justified in original R&D. Self-driving (or AV) cars are spurring much greater investment. Electronic Vehicles (EVs) are also driving this new interest. China has factories dedicated to making lithium-ion batteries, a necessary part of all electronic vehicles.

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Japan

The biggest player in the East around the 1970s was Japan – it was one of the Big Three countries (the other two being the US and Germany). In the 1980s they remained popular, but they now had competition from China. The autonomous driving is big here, with technology creating self-driving buses and trucks.

While Japan focused on exports, China had to build a domestic economy so they could sell something as expensive as a car to their own people. In other words China was rich in people and the more affluent the people become the more they can sell cars without shipping them great distances. That allows them to come from behind in the car sales race.

South Korea

In the US they have Detroit. In South Korea they have Seoul. 15 million square feet is dedicated to five factories which produce Kias, Hyundais and Genesises. Although South Korea’s rise is about cheap cars, which does come to the price of steel and aluminium, it is all about innovation too, they have even created an innovation center in Silicon Valley itself.

 

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As far as cars go, the investment seems to be in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and self-driving. The Korean government is funding what is known as a “K-City”, a testing area for self-driving cars and buses with a number of urban areas and other features built in.

India

The Indian car technology might be looking at more sustainable systems. One such idea floated in recent years is a car that runs on water. This could be India’s chance to get ahead of China and Japan. There are also a number of hybrid and electric vehicle factories planned.

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Other Competition outside the East

The US’s competition might also lie with Brazil, which is the biggest manufacturer of “flexible fuel cars” in the world. Flexible fuel cars shouldn’t be confused with hybrids, they are designed to work on either gasoline or ethanol (note the price of ethanol makes them more efficient to run a car than gasoline). Though I did say don’t get confused with hybrids, I should warn you that the Toyota Corolla will work on hybrid flex-fuel, in other words, either electric energy or ethanol.

So can the big giants in the US take on these innovative countries? Maybe, if they stop thinking it’s all about the substance of the car. It’s how it moves, how it operates too, what it runs on, and how you build it.

 

Best of the Web: New ‘Vette unveiled, but radical new look

Chevy released the new design of Corvette for public display but it’s the biggest shift we’ve ever seen in Corvette design.

As hinted at earlier this year, Chevy’s moved to a mid-engine design allowing the hood to go lower. This will give better handling but also completely changes the traditional profile of what Americans think of as an iconic American sports car.

Will Americans embrace a radical new look if it brings better performance? Perhaps, but sadly the look isn’t really new. It’s common for high end European sports cars and this may not be a great year to make that specific switch to the US buyers. Time will tell.

Link to story

The Project

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OP-ED by Paul Wimsett and A.R. Bunch

The Project, or low buck car, is that vehicle in your driveway or garage that’s falling apart even as you try to get it running. It may need certain bits which are impossible to find, it may be lacking the right paperwork to go on the road. Or, maybe its lacking some bits which ARE possible to find, you just haven’t got round to them yet.

Maybe you have a project house, or a house full of projects really; it’s just something that consumes all your time and money. So it’s a good idea before you commit to buying the project car you work out how much it’s going to cost to restore—then add 25%.

So what kind of project do you want? Something vintage; something sporty; something a bit more obscure? There are so many choices, which is why you need to plan.

What type of car can become a project car?

Well any car, although a search online refers to Mustangs, Chevrolets, Buicks and old Fords. These may take a great deal of work but it seems that you’ll find the parts easier than more obscure car makes.

vehicle-2096104_1920One special type of project, called a rat rod, imitates the hot rods of the 40s, 50s and 60s. The idea is to create your own style using previous designs often leaving it rustic, or just rusty. The goal is to have a car which runs for a bit cheaper than a vintage restored 1940s hot rod, (in truth not much cheaper).

Where to do your Project?

Whether you chose to restore your project immediately or not, you’re probably in need of some off-road storage. Have you got somewhere permanent? It’s no good just storing at a friend’s garage because sooner or later they will want the space back.

Here’s a crazy mistake made way too often—is the garage too small for the car? Yes, it does sound obvious, and yes many a homebrew wrencher has moved their project across town only to find it won’t fit! The more time you spend making arrangements for you project the less time you have to work on your project.

Transporting your Project

When it comes to picking up the car you’ll need a trailer and (if you’ve thought about this carefully you’ve probably already realized this) another car. Could you lease a car and a trailer? That’s possible, but again it eats into your budget.

Time

The next part of it is time. You’ll need time to work on fixing the car true, but you’ll even need time to plan when things go wrong or circumstances change. You may need to say goodbye to your friends for a while. And how long really do want to spend fixing the car? After all, you might only be doing it to impress your circle of friends.

Speaking of which, have you told your spouse what you’re up to. How many hours will this project take per week? Is that the same number in your spouse’s brain? Don’t lose a partner over a car. Well maybe, but don’t lose it over not communicating about a car. There, that’s more like it.

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What will you use the car for?

When you do finally fix the car will it work on normal gas or does it need premium? If the latter there’s another debit you need to account for. Lots of people make vehicles they can’t really afford to show off. Do you need special insurance, or special licence plates?

How safe will the car be on the road? Remember, it’s unlikely you will have all the proper paperwork about the car. Even if you do fix some problems will the car be as safe as a regular car? Check your local DMV’s website or talk to other restoration specialists to learn the local process for getting your car declared roadworthy.

It’s definitely a commitment and not for the faint-hearted. If you stick it out to the end you may have the car you always dreamed of for the price of sweat equity. But if you pick your project because it’s a good deal and you haven’t yet thought up how you’re going to use it, well, you could end up with a black hole that absorbs your money and time.

What’s News: Tesla price cut on standard models

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(Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) has dropped the standard-range variants of its Model X and Model S from its product lineup and adjusted prices across its range, in a sales push that comes days after the U.S. electric vehicle maker reported record deliveries.

To simplify its offerings, the automaker on Tuesday limited variants of its Model X sport-utility vehicle and Model S sedan to “Long Range” and the more expensive “Performance”. It also trimmed the price of its now entry-level Long Range variants.

The discontinuation of the standard-range variants, however, means a rise in starting prices – to $84,990 for the Model X and $79,990 for the Model S, excluding potential buying incentives.

Story link

The American Story of Car Business (Part 1): Dodge

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When you look at the auto industry as it exists right now, it’s easy to get confused when talking about cars because there are so many brands, makes, and models. It’s like joining a movie halfway through. Many of the household names we associate with automobiles have a fascinating origin story and a fairly logical evolution. Knowing a little trivia about these names can help you wow you’re your friends and co-workers on trivia night, but more importantly it can really clear up your own understanding of cars.

As part of our effort to entertain and inform the on-line generation about the integral part the auto industry has played in the development of modern America, The Kicker Blog is pleased to spin off a series looking into the story behind names like Oldsmobile, Dodge, Nash, GM, Chrysler, Ford, Mercury, Saturn, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Benz, Audi, Opel, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, etc.

If there’s a theme to the auto industry it’s that successful car companies swallow up less dominant car companies. This accounts for several of our mystery names, but it doesn’t explain why those names continue to this day. Sometimes the reason lies in the fact that an innovative designer or quality auto maker might not be the most successful business person. Like the auto industry as a whole, often the backseat role a particular brand plays now belies the crucial role it played in American history.

We kick off our series with a deep dive into Dodge.

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Dodge

Compared to other names, some folks consider Dodge an “also-ran” in the story of the American motor industry, but that’s not the real story. Unlike many of the names we’ll cover, Dodge is still a major player who has remained a fairly constant brand.

Dodge began in 1900 with the Dodge Brothers, Horace and John. While many automakers started as wagon or bike makers, instead the Dodge brothers began as a parts supplier for Detroit’s growing number of car manufacturers. That was until they made their own car–the Model 30.

It could be a coincidence that the Model 30 bore a strong resemblance to the Model T, but it wasn’t. The Model T Ford dominated this part of car history and unlike modern times, in those days you didn’t improvement your existing design each year just to beat your competitors to it. In short, Ford wasn’t eager to fix what wasn’t broken. So the opportunity was there for the Doge brothers to beat Ford at his own game.

Although both cars used chromium steel, the Model T has a wooden framing underneath and the Model 30 didn’t, improving the suspension immensely. The Model 30 also had 35 horsepower, compared to the Model T’s 20.

This was truly the hay day for Dodge as they were in second place to Ford between 1916 and up to the early 1920’s. 150 Dodge vehicles were used in the Mexico border war in 1916.

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Unfortunately the Dodge brothers would not live to see how their brand would develop, they both died in 1920, John from pneumonia, Horace from liver damage.Because there was no relative the company went to an investment bank.

One theme you’ll notice in the car industry is that auto-manufacturing is a unique animal and it’s easy to lose your shirt trying to do it. Although the bank branched out the business to also make trucks it seems that the bank wasn’t taking enough risks. Ultimately the Dodge moved from the second biggest car company to the seventh biggest company; they needed an investor who was wise in the ways of the auto market.

The investor finally arrived in 1939, when Chrysler came to the helm. What Chrysler wasn’t interested in was competing with itself, so they began to look into more profitable areas like sedans and tanker trucks. All in all, Chrysler allowed Dodge to flourish.

The billboards and magazine adverts touted a new golden age for Dodge. The 53 Dodge was marketed as steadier, more level, and softer. It seemed no one cared about the price, or nothing could be done about the price. So it was better to concentrate on making the ride smoother. Chrysler poured money into marketed the all-American Dodge, suggesting thronging crowds visit it’s showrooms. Nowadays you won’t find an exclusively Dodge “showroom” but given the amount of money spent on advertising they must have been popular back then.

Dodge still make vehicles today and seem to be still proud of their Michigan roots. Having said that, Italian Car maker now owns Chrysler and with it, Dodge, having acquired it in 2014, but that’s Chrysler’s story for another day.

What is it with America and Pickups?

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OP-ED by A. R. Bunch & P. Wimsett

When you talk about the all-American car you might picture the Cadillac, but really it’s the pickup.

pinup-girl-1967007_1920The American romance with a pickup began, no doubt, with our roots in farming. Actually a lot of the world has farms, but in America they’re spread out. The distance between farms and the condition of the roads are a factor when you have a lot of privately owned farms spread about the less populated areas. You need a vehicle that can transport a variety of goods for long distances but can also traverse rural roads. They are the successor to the horse and wagon really.

The original roads in America were long but incredibly muddy and full of potholes, so early features desirable in a truck were 4×4 and V8 power. The 8 valve engine allowed for power, and fast acceleration and it became the most commercially successful engine for decades.

classic-pickup-4215684_1920Could manufacturers have gone to V10? Sure but the added weight didn’t boost the power enough justify the added cost to build. The V12 did become a thing, but usually in sports cars, because the only reason for a vehicle to have 12 valves was for the smoother operation. If you needed more power than a V8 gas engine, then buy a V8 diesel.

As technology improved the power you could get per valve and gas prices climbed, we got the V6 truck and eventually the “four banger,” but that’s a topic for later in the post.

Why are Pickups more Popular than Ever?

Whereas the old pickup trucks which simply about basic transport, the modern type look more to luxury, one example being the GMC Canyon which Caranddriver.com believe the manufacturers have a model which “spruces up the interior and imbues the exterior with some bling.”

Clearly the buyer is not just the rural yokel, anymore.

In 2018, sales of “large pickups rose by 2.1%, according to Carsalesbase.com. A “large pickups” has a carrying capacity of one half-ton or more. The basic size categories of large pickup are half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and one-ton.

Examples of the large pickup include the Chevrolet Silverado and the RAM 1500. The biggest seller remains the Ford F-series.

pickup-2699155_1920A new player in the market is the Nissan Titan. Although launched about fifteen years ago sales have yet to reach the heights of the Chevrolet, much less Ford. It may be that people associate the name Nissan with vans more than pickups. The Titan is not without its good points, apparently, comfortable seats and a new “infotainment unit” as they call the audio/video system.

My sources are confused as to whether the Frontier is a large pickup (Carmax.com) or a small pickup (Forbes.com); let’s call it mid-sized.  The sales seem to be stalling and the automatic transmission of the Frontier and the choice of three different color schemes might not be enough to save it. While it is floundering in the US market, it should be noted that it wasn’t especially targeted to garner US sales.

Nissan may have felt it the psychology of a US truck-buyer was probably not going to buy a non-US truck, no matter how affordable they make it.

Speaking of Mid-sized and Small Pickups

The fact that smaller pickups exist makes it even more confusing as to why Americans are still snapping up large trucks. While the fuel economy of pickups has radically improved there are still more practical options for urban drivers.

Why are so many city dwellers giving themselves heartburn trying to find a parking spot? Why are they making King Cab pickups so a family can use them, when a minivan is a clearly better fit?

pickup-truck-3566293_1920The answer may be that a pickups true competition is the sports car. This is counter intuitive, but a pickup is primarily a second vehicle (that’s brain twister I know). Someone in the nuclear family must drive a primary vehicle, which will either be a family transporter or a small fuel efficient car. That leaves the second person to choose between a small ports car or a truck. As nice as it is to save gas on a sporty little vehicle most people would rather have a nice truck then the third favourite sports car (which is the one they can afford).

Since the truck comes in handy for fetching furniture or moving your home, etc. it becomes the more practical choice.

PS: What about an SUV though? Well, the SUV is really todays version of the 90s minivan, which is in turn the remake of a70’s & 80’s station wagon, which only exists because car-makers shrank the sedan.

LOL, now that we’ve offended just about everyone, let’s end this post. Ya’ll have a good night, ya’hear?