Marketing Report: Feb. 13, 2006

February 12, 2006


MotorWeek Gives Civic the Nod

The Honda Civic walked away with "Best of Year" award from MotorWeek, the weekly PBS show that bills itself as television's "Original Automotive Magazine." John Davis of MotorWeek said that "the suite of Civics" that Honda brought out last fall were "the right vehicle for the right time." The Honda Civic also walked off with a Drivers' Choice award from MotorWeek as the Best Small Car, while the Hyundai Sonata was named the best family sedan. The Honda Odyssey was named the best minivan while the Pontiac Solstice was named the best convertible and the Infiniti M was named the best luxury sedan. The Ford Mustang was named the best peformance car and the Toyota RAV4 was named the best small sport-utility vehicle, while the Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer walked off with a Driver's Choice Award as the best family sport-utility vehicle. The Ford F-150 was named the best pickup truck; the Toyota Highlander Hybrid was named the best eco-friendly vehicle; and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe, and Ferrari F430 were named the best dream machines. -Joe Szczesny


Press: Fuel-Economy Numbers "Misleading"

Press's skepticism could also reflect the fact thatToyota has been betting its environmental reputation on its growing lineup of hybrid-electric vehicles - products that have generated some controversy of their own. The EPA is proposing changes in mileage tests, and some observers estimate products like the Toyota Prius could see their own fuel economy ratings dip by 20 to 30 percent. Press said he supported the new rules because, "the advertising (of current mileage estimates) is misleading." Toyota is investing $7 billion a year on the development of higher-mileage and alternative fuel vehicles, Press added. Ultimately, he suggested, there is likely to be a "matrix" of different powertrains - gasoline, ethanol, hybrid, diesel and even hydrogen - filling the varied needs of American motorists.

2007 Toyota Camry by Bengt Halvorson (1/30/2006)
Ready to spoil a new round of frugal family buyers - and keep its best-selling title.


Ford Ditches Zephyr In Favor of Letters M, K, Z

2007 Lincoln MKZ

2007 Lincoln MKZ

2007 Lincoln MKZ

2007 Lincoln MKZ

Mere months after it went on sale, the Lincoln Zephyr is getting a name change to go with the Lincoln alphanumeric makeover now underway. With the new MKX crossover and MKS concept sedan in the pipeline, the Zephyr will take on the initials MKZ for 2007. At the same time, Ford says, the MKZ will get a mild styling update on the front end of the car and inside, where metallic inserts will be available in the place of standard wood finishes. The MKZ gets its power from Ford's new Cyclone 3.5-liter V-6, which is expected to make 250 horsepower. All-wheel drive will be added to the MKZ lineup as an option at the same time.

Flint: Memo to Mark Fields by Jerry Flint (12/12/2005)
Some things you might want to consider before chopping away.


Collins Among Nissan No-Goers

Nissan North America knows which of its 60 top executives will not follow the company in its move from Los Angeles to Nashville. Jack Collins will be one of 12 senior execs not making the trip. The 59-year-old executive will retire rather than move with the company to Tennessee, Automotive News reports. A Nissan spokesperson would not confirm the other 11 execs who have already let their decisions be known to Nissan's transition team. The News says that Nissan gave those 60 execs until last week to decide whether to move or not - with 48 accepting the relocation, three retiring, and nine leaving the company. Other employees have until April 15 to decide whether to move to Tennessee .


Lexus Has Most Useful Web Site, Power Says

J.D. Power's latest Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study finds that is ranked as the most useful site by car shoppers online. The twice-yearly study evaluates sites based on appearance, speed, navigation and information and content. On the 1000-point Power scale, Lexus scored 874, with only 6 percent of users ranking it below 700. The industry average for the survey rose to 834 this year, and no manufacturer scored below 800 for its online site. Other Power studies cite data that 57 percent of new-car shoppers visit at least one manufacturer site while shopping, with most visiting a number of them.


Camaro and Camry Top Buzz Meter at Detroit/LA Shows

According to analysis of online "buzz" about new cars introduced at January's Detroit and Los Angeles auto shows, consumers were most chatty about muscle-car concepts Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger last month. And when it comes to production cars, the Toyota Camry was the buzz leader.

Intelliseek, which is about to join firms BuzzMetrics and Nielsen to offer the Nielsen BuzzMetrics solution, analyzed thousands of online discussions (Dec. 1, 2005 to Jan. 23, 2006) that originated on auto forums and blogs, including "buzz" about production vehicles and concept cars introduced at the auto shows. Among the top ten concept vehicles, the Chevrolet Camaro captured 26 percent of consumer "buzz," followed by the Dodge Challenger (24 percent), Buick Enclave (16 percent), Chrysler Imperial (10 percent), Nissan Urge (7 percent), Infiniti coupe concept (5 percent), Mazda Kabura (4 percent), Lincoln MKS (4 percent), Ford Super Chief (4 percent), and Ford Reflex (3 percent).

And among the top ten production vehicles, the Toyota Camry captured 17 percent of buzz, followed by the Honda Fit (13 percent), Lexus LS 460 (10 percent), Ford Edge (8 percent), Chevrolet Tahoe (8 percent), Nissan Sentra (8 percent), Jeep Compass (8 percent), Chrysler Aspen (7 percent), Dodge Caliber (6 percent), and Jeep Wrangler (4 percent).
Carmakers more and more are tracking online buzz to find out what consumers and influential bloggers and online communities are spreading about their brands. And in the case of greenlighting auto show concepts, online buzz has become as valuable to companies as show floor interviews and chatter. -Jim Burt

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