Archive for February, 2011

LOTW: How prototypes stay secret

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

GM Prototype Car

A great article about what car companies do to disguise their top-secret prototype cars to gain a competitive advantage in a highly competitive industry.

Weekend entertainment: How cars were made in the 1960s!

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Made by hand was the early Porsche 911.

Check out this archive footage from the early 1960s. If you were to tour Porsche now, you wouldn’t even recognize the place!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

LOTW: DIY Electric 911

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Do you love Porsche 911s but fear oil? Yeah, us too, but now there’s a solution!

VOTW: Lamborghini’s Balboni talks cars

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Fabled test driver Valentino Balboni on Lamborghini’s latest creations…

Weekend entertainment: a visit to Jay Kay’s garage…

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Jamiroquai front man Jay Kay has some impressive toys. Known to Top Gear enthusiasts as the former Board-Topper (twice), Britain’s Fifth Gear took a tour of the superstar’s garage and play land, which includes everything from a Segway to a Rolls-Royces to any number of Go-Karts…

Video of his first appearance on Top Gear:

Video of Jay Kay’s 2nd record breaker:

Also, check out his review of the Lamborghini Miura on Top Gear:

Analysis: Regulation is not the mortal enemy of automakers

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

I was recently visiting a new Porsche web site called 911 Nation. On the site, there was a new post arguing the U.S. President Obama and the Democratic Party, which presently controls the U.S. Senate, is working to take certain high performance cars off the road, much to the detriment of the car-buying public.

This is hyperbole and conjecture and it’s apex. They only one putting an end to the Porsche is those that own the company. CAFE standards do not nor will they ever prevent a company from operating. At worst, they charge a sort of fine for each vehicle that does not meet requirements. Though the OEM pays this fine, it is effectively passed on to the consumer, at the risk of that automaker being less competitive. That said, Porsche like every automaker has every incentive to develop state-of-the-art technology that provides us with both a great driving experience and the comfort of know that we are polluting ourselves to a lesser degree as the world population continues to climb.

Obviously, CAFE has nothing to do with extremism of the environmental or other kind. Extremism might dictate that none of us use powered vehicles of any kind, which is clearly not the case here. Indeed, one could further argue that generations of people who have lived in an era of fossil fuel consumption are cheating future generations by consuming resources that are not sustainable.

We need look no further than the new Porsche Panamera Hybrid S, which according to sources has a CO2 g/km of only 160. Indeed that is a competitive number, especially for a car capable of great handling and performance.

I might further posit that America is the follower, not the leader, in developing improved environmental standards with respect to the automotive industry.

Some big ideas for automotive OEMs: How a dealership can offer an ideal buying experience for customers – Part 1

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Porsche Zentrum - Dortmund, Germany

Having been an observer of auto dealer operations for the last eight years, I’ve been terribly displeased with the lack of innovation and improvement in the dealer sales process. The following series is a set of ideas outlined that I believe can make automotive customers, staff, and dealers much happier.

The first big idea that dealers must implement is to emphasize stress free buying in advertising and more importantly, in the showroom. What does this mean? We need to look at it from the buyer’s perspective. First off, people want and NEED to be treated with respect. A 75-year-old with wads of cash falling out of his pockets should be treated no differently than the 18-year-old looking to finance their first car purchase. Indeed, the value of an 18-year-old is far greater when we look at the sales potential over the lifespan of that individual.

To illustrate, let us take the “average” Porsche owner. Because of the relatively high entry-price, they are likely to start buying at age 30 or perhaps a bit older depending upon income level (versus age 22 for a Scion), starting with perhaps a used Boxster or Cayman. We might calculate that profit on such a car is $4000, give or take. Fast-forward 4 years, and they might opt for a new Boxster/Cayman or a used 911 at perhaps $6000 profit. So already from 4 years, a Porsche dealer in this example has profited to the tune of $10,000, or $2500 per year NOT including service profits. Now if  the dealer plays their cards well, they will have sold two excellent cars and still have, on average, 41 years of Porsche driving experience left. So let us assume that the buyer gets married and either keeps their car, or replaces it with something roomier for the young children. For the sake of this illustration, they will buy an entry-level Cayenne – a car that has plenty of room and is safe and sensible for a young, successful family. Such a car might earn the dealer $5000. Repeated again after 4 years and the dealer profits another $5000. Now age 42, the successful father may want to consider moving up to a Porsche Panamera, which while sporty, can shuttle the children around in style now that they are out of child seats. Let us chalk up $7000 profit for that purchase. Then $8500 for a Panamera S another 4 years down the road.  By age 46, $30,500 of profit may be garnered directly from vehicle sales. Hitting a mid-life crisis at 50, your buyer may feel he deserves a sporty Carrera convertible to drive, and so the dealer sells it to him with $10,000 profit.

20 years into the relationship, the dealer has garnered a whopping $40,500 in profit from sales alone. Taken at 20% of profit, the sales person would be well happy to have and extra $8100 into their pocket, on one customer, just for treating them right. If we assume another six Porsche 911s are in that person’s future before they can no longer drive, and if we upsell and retain an average of $12,000 per car, we end up with a lifetime total profits of $112,500 in sales on that one buyer alone, to say nothing of service profits. At a 20% commission, even the stodgiest salesperson is unlikely to turn down a paycheck of $22,500.

While not an actual example, we can use this story to illustrate the importance of getting the buyer into the door at an early age and giving them a great buying experience while relatively young. By continuing to foster that relationship through respect, patience, and knowledge, a company like Porsche can retain a customer for life.

The rich keep getting richer…

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

If you look at the sheer number of exotic car models out there, then estimate the sales of those models ranging from a few dozen per year produced by a company like Bugatti to ten thousand a year produced by sister company Bentley, you might be forgiven for assuming that the global economic downturn never existed.

McLaren, of Formula and McLaren F1 supercar fame, is back with a new car to be launched in early 2011. The new car is the McLaren MP4-12C. It was borne out of the dissolution of the longstanding relationship between Mercedes-Benz and McLaren. The cooperative produced such fabled cars at the Mercedes-Benz SLR and SLC. It will reach 124 mph in fewer than 10 seconds, but will be able to stop in less than half that amount. From the moment the first example is rolled off the production line, it will be an instant hit and a sure-footed supercar. Much cheaper than the original F1, the car should run about £175,000, with both cheaper and more expensive models to follow-up in subsequent years.

For more than a quarter of a million dollars, you might think that such a car would have a very limited following, yet McLaren has just announced that they already have 2700 interested buyers. That is more than two years worth of production. That figure is astounding when you consider the number of people out of work in the US and the EU – the likely primary markets for these cars.

Yet, the figure may not be an anomaly. Rolls-Royce, a unit of BMW Group, has announced record monthly sales since its relaunch in 2003. The company produced 300 hand-made vehicles from its Goodwood facility in June 2010. Sales were up 400 per cent, with strong growth in Asia-Pacific, particularly China. This may cause some to ponder whether the Chinese really are communist!

But that’s not all. Mercedes-Benz also has reported a record June sales month. 113,200 vehicles were moved with strong results from the high-end E-class and S-class models. Interestingly, on the low end of the totem pole, the über-cheap Smart ForTwo has seen a continued slump in sales, even in the new U.S. market. Smart hopes to turn around their sales decline by launching an updated Smart later this summer.


2011 Super Bowl Adverts: a look at the good and the bad

Monday, February 14th, 2011

This year’s automotive ads during the Superbowl were a bit of a mixed bag. BMW for example had an interesting ad promoting its diesel lineup, but that ad should have been done last year to compete with Audi’s “green police.” BMW did, however, make an interesting statement by reminding us that though German by design, the SUVs we buy from them are made in South Carolina. I’m not even going to bother discussing the pickup truck ads as they all blow much in the same way that the vehicles themselves blow. The Kia Optima ad was also bizarre and left me wishing I had that minute of my life back…it felt like 10.

For me, though, the biggest disappointment at all comes from VW. VW had teased us earlier in the week that they were going to be airing an ad promoting the new VW Beetle. When I heard this I made the decision to watch the whole damned Super Bowl, which bores me to tears, just to see the new VW Beetle. You can imagine my disappointment and anger then when the age, while well done, lacked any photography of the new Beetle. So I ask, why toss their money away? Why wouldn’t VW use the occasion to announced what is probably the most iconic car in America? The answer: it beats the hell out of this reviewer.

VW’s Superbowl ad for the new VW Beetle:

On the bright side, while silly, the Audi ad did get me to go to their web site and check out the full-length ad, so I guess that’s money well spent.

They actually had several, but the two I’ve chosen were pre-game, unless I am mistaken:

The second comes to us featuring the smooth saxy sounds of Kenny G, aka the Riot Suppressor:

But the big winner is a toss-up for me. Chrysler came up with a surprisingly good commercial – the best “buy America” auto ad I have ever seen. Meanwhile, VW’s new Passat commercial took a hilarious page out of Star Wars. See below.

Chrysler’s ad

The Force ad for the VW Passat:

And the “making of” the Passat ad:

VOTW: One fast Ferrari

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

LOTW: Can you really fit in a Lotus?

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Ugh… how can something be both creative and disgusting at the same time?

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Click to find out!

This is why some people shouldn’t be on the road…

Monday, February 7th, 2011

So I’m out bicycling in sunny Scottsdale and I pull up to a grocery store and see this Mercedes R-class:

Are those Betty Davis eyes? I’m guessing it is not driven by a male, but who knows. Some people have no business driving an automobile.