Paris Auto Show: The Highlights Page 2

September 23, 2004


2005 Mazda5

2005 Mazda5

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Think of the new Mazda5 as "a practical car that can dance," declared the automaker's marketing chief, Steve Odell. The vehicle he referred to combines attributes of both a sporty hatchback and a pint-sized minivan. The Mazda5 features dual sliding rear doors - a first in the segment Europeans call MPVs - and a highly flexible interior package that can seat up to seven. There's plenty of storage space, even some hidden below the second row of folding seats. But for minor changes in bumpers, and a seating package configured for six, the version of the Mazda5 shown in Europe will also wind up in the U.S. sometime in 2005. Initially, Mazda expects only limited sales, explained Odell. "It probably starts out as a niche, but I think there's an opportunity for vehicles with flexibility in the U.S."

Benz CLS Arrives in January

2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS 500

2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS 500

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The sleek-bodied 2006 Benz CLS 500 will arrive in the U.S. in January of 2005 wearing a pricetag between that of the similar E-Class sedan and the range-topping S-Class - roughly the low to mid-$60,000 range, Mercedes-Benz USA execs said at the launch of the vehicle prior to the Paris auto show. However, the low-volume "four-door coupe" won't be coming over with all-wheel drive or with a six-cylinder version, at least not for now. The AWD option is definitely off the radar - at a worldwide total of 30,000 units planned each year, 10,000 destined for the States, the volumes aren't there to justify the addition. However, a V-6 version with a lower bottom line is expected since it's already offered in other markets. A 476-hp AMG version, the CLS55, arrives in February.

Toyota Readies New Ad Strategy

Toyota Motor Sales next week will break a new brand campaign featuring a new slogan, "Moving Forward."

It will be the third ad strategy and theme by the Japanese carmaker since 1998.

Toyota joins a string of car companies that have launched new ad slogan in recent weeks and months. Buick, Pontiac, Mercury, Chevrolet and Ford are all trying out new ad strategies and slogans in the hopes of re-grounding their brand communications.

While the other brands seem to be flailing with their new slogans in an attempt to give direction to wayward and ill-defined brand images, Toyota's only problem seems to be that the average age of its buyers are creeping up. Toyota sales certainly don't show signs of a drifting brand, as sales are up slightly this year to 1,138,048 through August. That's good enough to pass Chrysler's retail sales most months.

Toyota is scrapping its "Get The Feeling" tagline, which replaced a short-lived "Everyday" slogan launched in 1998. Before that, Toyota for more than a decade had advertised "I Love What You Do For Me" and "Oh What A Feeling."

Dealers drove the slogan change, said one Toyota insider. "The dealers have been clamoring for something fresh," said the Toyota executive. Ads are created by Saatchi & Saatchi.

Toyota briefed reporters on the campaign Thursday with an embargo of Sept. 28. But learned of the change independent of the briefing.

The decision to change ad slogans and strategies used to be tougher than it seems to be today. Pontiac has had three strategies and slogans in as many years. Buick has had three in five years. Ford is changing is creative strategy for its car line for the third time in four years next month.

While consumers don't buy a car based on an ad slogan, as any sales manager will tell you, people do identify better with a brand that is consistent in its communication. "Several car companies have simply become slaves to the sales guys who like to shake things up, but without regard to the longer term brand consequences of flop-flopping and flitting from lily pad to lily pad," says marketing consultant Dennis Keene.

BMW is the exception, using The Ultimate Driving Machine" since 1973. And Toyota's sister unit, Lexus, has barely deviated from its ad strategy since its launch in 1988. Lexus launched with The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection," and has altered it to "The Passionate Pursuit of Perfection." -Jim Burt

2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner by John Pearley Huffman (9/6/2004)
Link by link, Toyota builds a bigger Tacoma.

Mitsu Names Truck "Raider," Details '06 Eclipse

2006 Mitsubishi Raider

2006 Mitsubishi Raider

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The Dodge-sourced truck Mitsubishi will put on sale next year will be dubbed the Raider, in a nod to Mitsu's SUVs past. The ailing Japanese carmaker told its dealers in New Orleans on Thursday that the truck will get a standard V-6 with a V-8 option, two different cab configurations, and distinct style to keep confusion with the Dakota on which it's based to a minimum. A 500-watt sound system and Bluetooth integration of cell phones will please the techno-addicted.
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