techshake

The Chevrolet Volt and the Price of Success
Aug03

The Chevrolet Volt and the Price of Success

By Charles Krome

On the odd chance Techshake readers haven’t yet heard, GM will be launching a new, extended-range electric vehicle in a few months, with that product slated to offer both a 40-mile all-electric range and the ability to go a further 300 miles by leveraging an on-board, gas-powered generator.

Now, the Chevrolet Volt is far from perfect, but it surely doesn’t deserve the vitriol being spewed in its direction by certain members of the media. I mean, some of these people seem to think the Volt rollout will be the worst thing to happen to this country since the BP oil disaster.

Take the Volt’s sticker price. Sure, $41,000 looks kind of steep, and for some of the GM haters, the federal tax credit of $7,500 only makes things worse. For these people, the car is priced artificially low, preventing the free market from determining the Volt’s fate. On the other hand, other analysts claim the Volt is priced too high and that GM should be following the strategy used by Toyota when it introduced the Prius. When that car first went on sale, the automaker sold it at a $15,000-per-vehicle loss to ensure it would be popular, giving up short-term profits for long-term success.

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The Naughty Volvo Goes on Tour
Aug03

The Naughty Volvo Goes on Tour

By Kevin Miller

For a reason I cannot comprehend, Volvo is marketing their new S60 sedan as “The Naughty Volvo”. In an attempt to build enthusiasm for the car among loyal Volvo customers ahead of the on-sale date, Volvo has literally taken their show on the road, with the Naughty Volvo Tour.

Being held at Volvo retailers across the nation, the Naughty Volvo Tour (hereafter, NVT) is a road show featuring two S60 sedans, a bunch of interactive displays which are set up in a showroom with catered hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks. I was recently able to attend the NVT at a Seattle-area retailer, which gave me a chance to check out the new S60 without the throngs of people who were surrounding it at recent international auto shows.

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Patent Drawings Show Chrysler 200C Taking Shape
Aug02

Patent Drawings Show Chrysler 200C Taking Shape

By Chris Haak

Ten years ago – heck, even five years ago – few companies made a bigger splash at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with its concept and production car reveals than Chrysler did. Some of the more notable ones were Jeeps crashing through glass walls, or even the 2008 Ram 1500 making its debut on the street in front of the Cobo Arena with the help of a few dozen amorous cattle.

Chrysler also managed to display some fantastic concept cars over the years – many of which became full-fledged production cars (Viper, Prowler, Intrepid) and many others that may not have reached production in their own right, but that inspired other Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles in one way or another.  For example, the Dodge M80 pickup concept from 2002 shares many of its design features with the production Dodge Nitro SUV introduced five years later.

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Volvo Pegs the Naughtymeter
Jul30

Volvo Pegs the Naughtymeter

By Charles Krome

A recent study in cultural anthropology sought to evaluate human behavior in five different European capitals to determine which city was the “naughtiest.”  The outcome was announced on July 28 and, unsurprisingly, the winner was Paris. More surprising: The whole thing was actually part of a Volvo marketing campaign.  For the full version of the lead photo in this story, click here.

Yep, those wacky Swedes are still at it.

In my very first piece for Techshake, I took a look at how Volvo is trying to widen its appeal by developing unexpected marketing campaigns aimed at attracting new customers. In that story, I mentioned the automaker’s efforts to reach the much-coveted vampire segment through some nifty product placement work in the latest “Twilight” movie.

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What Does an Inside-Out Volkswagen Look Like?
Jul29

What Does an Inside-Out Volkswagen Look Like?

By Chris Haak

This is a few days old, but kudos are in order to Volkswagen and its ad agency in Brazil, AlmapBBDO for the creativity shown in promoting the Latin American-market VW Fox’s all-new interior.  Rather than using the standard methods of showcasing a new interior – through things like cutaway views, birds-eye views, or studio shots – the pair turned advertising norms inside-out.  And the result got the automotive press and many customers to stop what they were doing and to take notice.

How did they turn advertising norms inside-out?  By turning the car inside-out!  They didn’t actually turn the car literally inside out, but through very creative use of Photoshop or another graphic-arts program, they kept the silhouette of the Fox’s exterior, but stuck every interior detail like seatbelts, seats, gauges, floormats, instrument panel, and even sunvisors on the outside of the car.  And, if you look carefully, you can see that the “interior” of the inside-out car has red paint, and is in fact the car’s usual exterior (note the door handles, mirrors, and tail lights).  It’s almost an M.C. Escher-like take on illustrating a car, and like Escher’s head-scratching works, it makes you stop and stare for a few minutes to delight in the details and creativity behind the photo.  So, wanna see it?  It’s after the jump.

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Geely’s Volvo Purchase Expected to Close This Week

By Chris Haak

Alan Mulally’s “One Ford” strategy is now nearly complete.  After several years of unwinding the Jacques Nasser-era purchases of European luxury brands (first Aston Martin, then Jaguar and Land Rover), the final step is completion of the transaction to sell Sweden’s Volvo to China’s Geely.  And with the approval of China’s powerful Ministry of Commerce, the Volvo deal is expected to close this week.

With the impending closure of Mercury and last year’s divestiture of a controlling stake in Mazda, Ford Motor Company’s portfolio of brands have now shrunk from eight (Mazda, Aston Martin, Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar, Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury) to just two (Ford and Lincoln).  Too, the removal of regional fiefdoms in Ford’s global structure means that European Fords, Australian Fords, American Fords, and Asian Fords will be more alike than ever before.  Take the 2011 Fiesta, the 2012 Focus, the 2010 Transit Connect, or the upcoming C-Max minivan, for example.

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Porsche Gives 918 Spyder Supercar the Green Light

By Chris Haak

Porsche AG’s supervisory board just gave the company approval to develop the well-received 918 Spyder supercarfor sale.  The company had previously announced that it had to have firm commitments for 1,000 cars in order to justify the 918 Spyder’s production.  Apparently, that milestone has been achieved, and the company actually received 2,000 non-binding commitments, of which presumably at least half were binding.

The car will be developed in Stuttgart at a research facility near Porsche’s headquarter, and will be produced at Porsche’s main plant in Zuffenhausen.

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Review: 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC
Jul28

Review: 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC

By Chris Haak

Mitsubishi has been having a tough couple of years in the US market.  Last year, when the overall light-vehicle market was down 21 percent, the three-diamond company’s sales tanked more than twice as fast as the overall market, with a 45 percent drop.  This year, when the rising tide is supposed to be lifting all the boats, Mitsubishi’s US sales are basically flat.

There are two bright spots in Mitsubishi’s sales figures, though:  the Lancer compact sedan and the Outlander compact crossover.  Not coincidentally, those two models are Mitsubishi’s freshest ones, and the company’s most competent, most normally-styled vehicles.  While the aging Eclipse on pace to sell just 5,000 units in 2010, and the fleet queen Galant sedan selling at just about double that pace (and far from the pace of the sales-leading Camry), it seems that Mitsubishi needs to refresh its lineup to have any hope of increasing sales from their depressed levels back to the heady days of zero percent financing loans with no money down to unqualified buyers early in the last decade.

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