Marketing Report: Mar. 27, 2006

March 25, 2006

Nissan Plans New York Debut for New Altima

2007 Nissan Altima

2007 Nissan Altima

The New York auto show will be the first public display of the new 2007 Nissan Altima, the company confirmed on Wednesday. A new body style arrives in 2007 on a new "D" platform, promising better body rigidity and a newly penned suspension. Nissan's Xtronic CVT will be standard on all models, while the 3.5-liter V-6 and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines will remain on the roster. On sale in the fall of 2006, the Altima, Nissan says, will be one of the best-performing front-drive sedans on the market.

Scion's tC Release Series 2.0 Coming to N.Y., Too

Scion's latest Release Series 2.0 will show off its goods at the New York show, too - but this time the special edition is based on the brand's two-door tC coupe. On sale in mid-April, the tC 2.0 gets Blue Blitz paint, 17-inch wheels, side and curtain airbags, and a new stainless-steel grille. A Pioneer sound system is outfitted, too, and comes with three months of standard XM service, along with an iPod jack. Scion says only 2600 copies will be built, to be sold for $18,260 each.


Isuzu's Changing Fortunes

Following up on my recent report about General Motors' global alliance strategy, Isuzu Motors took exception to comments I made about their financial outlook. Isuzu officials note the Japanese maker posted operating profits in each of the last four fiscal years, including an 87-billion yen operating profit in 2005, and was profitable in the U.S. for the first time since 2000. Now I admit that saying "Isuzu is all but bankrupt" was going too far. Even so, we must also add, Isuzu's model lineup has been shrinking, along with U.S. sales, which fell from over 100,000 at the beginning of the decade to about 12,000 last year. So while Isuzu argues it is in robust health, there have been recent news reports speculating that it may pull out of the U.S. auto market entirely. The company denies that. Meanwhile, other reports speculate that GM will sell off its remaining stake in its long-time Japanese partner.-TCC Team


Honda's Fit Starts Under $14K

2007 Honda Fit

2007 Honda Fit

The new Honda Fit subcompact will start at a base price of $13,850. The 2006 model goes on sale on April 20 nationwide with a long list of standard safety equipment, including dual side and curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes. The standard powertrain-a 109-hp, 1.5-liter four-comes with either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. With the automatic, the base price creeps up to $14,650; a Sport model with a hatchback spoiler, for lights, cruise control and a 160-watt audio system, starts from $15,970. Honda promises the most features in its class and 111 cubic feet of interior room, once the rear bench is folded flat.

Car News: GTO Dead, SL Goes to 55 by TCC Team (2/27/2006)
Honda preps hybrid Fit, Street Names Contest Winners and more.


Girls Play With Dolls?

Chevrolet and its advertising agency have pushed the wrong button in their time machine, and they've ended up back in the Fifties.

Chevrolet's brochure "Men, Women and the Truck," has a message:  "Girls Play with Dolls, Boys Play with Trucks." Talk about being dated!

Wait! It goes on: "Men are born with the horsepower gene.  Just as some women are born with the shoe gene."

Ad agency Campbell-Ewald's answer: So what's the problem?

"What we were striving to do with this piece was to appeal to men.  Ninety-one percent of our buyers are men," says Andrea Wells at Campbell-Ewald. "We asked what could we do that would be engaging.  We wanted to poke fun at the stereotypes that are out there and we felt it was an engaging and charming way to draw people in."

Campbell-Ewald says the brochure tested positive with its focus groups. Positive for what, we wonder? Alienating women?

"We don't think we've put women back in the dark ages," says Wells.  "We embrace the diversity of all people who buy Chevrolets.  We are very progressive in the breadth of communications that we do."  Conversations with other senior advertising women at General Motors did not produce the same enthusiasm.  "This is bad," said one top female advertising executive.

Would they do it again?  "Absolutely," says Wells with unfailing confidence.

Women purchase 30 percent of all trucks, according to J.D. Power. Someone should tell that to the folks at Chevy and Campbell-Ewald. In the meantime, gals, Chevrolet thinks you play with Barbies. Doesn't that just tickle your innards?  And now you know that men who drive Silverados are muy macho­­ and have claim to the horsepower gene.-Kate McLeod


Acura, at 20, Enjoys Record U.S. Sales

The Acura luxury brand is maintaining a steady growth rate of three to five percent a year in the U.S., even though it does not offer a hybrid model as does its sister Honda brand, says American Honda senior vice president John Mendel. As the first Japanese luxury brand, introduced in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago with only the Legend and Integra to sell, Acura has climbed the U.S. sales ladder steadily to a record 209,610 new-vehicle sales last year, Mendel told the Automotive Press Association in Detroit Thursday.

Mendel said Honda executives approached the proposal for a luxury brand cautiously in the mid-1980s, as did Toyota and Nissan. "Entry premium vehicles accounted for only 17 percent of the market in 1985 and now take up nearly half of all premium vehicles sold," Mendel pointed out. 

A technology pioneer since its inception, Acura will unveil its first turbocharged engine in the new RDX SUV, which will "go on the market soon, going head to head against the BMW X3 SUV," Mendel says. A concept presaging the next MDX will be unveiled at the New York auto show in April, in its first full model change.

Mendel also announced that ground will be broken later this month in California for an exclusive Acura design studio. The West Coast studio will be integrated with Acura's vehicle development center in Ohio.  Acura has no plans to add U.S. dealerships in conjunction with its volume growth, said Mendel. It has 264 dealers now. -Mac Gordon


AFA Relaunches Ford Boycott

The American Family Association, unpleased by Ford's continued outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual (GLBT) groups, says it will urge its members to boycott Ford Motor Company and its brands. The AFA, based in Tupelo, Miss., had trumpeted victory earlier this year when the Rev. Donald Wildmon, AFA leader and Methodist minister, said Ford had agreed to pull advertising from GLBT publications, ads mostly geared toward its Jaguar and Land Rover and Volvo brands. The AFA says Ford has gone back on a promise to stop advertising in GLBT venues and says that "Ford has every right to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups promoting homosexual marriage. But those who oppose homosexual marriage have every right not to buy automobiles made by Ford Motor Company." The group is urging members to send emails through its Web site as well. Previous efforts by the AFA to set corporate policy-such as a boycott of Disney over its support of events like the Gay Days gatherings held at its theme parks-have failed to make significant dents in companies' bottom lines.

Daily Edition: Dec. 15, 2005 by TCC Team (12/14/2005)
Nissan Urge concept, Ford reverses on gay ads, C-Class spied.

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