The NEW Automotive BIG THREE
There’s a NEW big three in town. No, I’m not referring to LeBron, D’Wade and Chris Bosh. I’m referring to the automotive world. Through most of our lives, there has been a ‘big 3’ of auto manufacturers, Chrysler, Ford and GM are the American Big Three. Typically though, Toyota, Ford, GM and Honda lead automotive sales in our country. The tide is shifting though, DRASTICALLY and there’s a new ‘big 3’ in town. Honda, Toyota and GM are NOT on that list, nope, instead they are replaced by companies that are making a shift in the right direction. HYUNDAI, FORD and VOLKSWAGEN.So what are they doing right? Well the real question is, what AREN’T they doing right. Hyundai and Ford are positioning themselves strategically to succeed for years to come. I’ll break it down for you, one by one.
While Chrysler and GM were in the process of horrible PR, bland lineups, and taking HUGE government loans (coming from YOU the taxpayers), FORD was in the process of righting the ship. Nobody at Ford will lie to you and tell you that as recently as 5-6 months ago, they were doing well. In fact, Ford looked like it was going elsewhere. Their brand image was down, sales were flatlining and the lineup was stale and boring. So what did they do correctly?
First and MOST importantly, they DID NOT take a government loan. In fact, they went ahead and said they could survive without it and to their credit, they most certainly did. In fact, with sales flourishing now Ford looks smart as ever, and rightfully so.
Second: SOCIAL MEDIA. Something I repeatedly tell people. DON’T OVERLOOK SOCIAL MEDIA. Truthfully, if I had to make a list of the top 5 companies using social media right now, Ford would most certainly make my top 3. They hire a man named Scott Monty, who quickly builds Ford’s social media presence and in the process makes himself a Social Media GOD. He gets it too, he’s approachable, often answering fans questions and being genuine. Fords use of Twitter, Facebook and their FANS is really clutch and it’s really helping them win. They launched a program for the Fiesta prior to its launch, where fans were given the role of Fiesta ‘Agents’. They were given the car, for free, for a set period of time (prior to its US launch) and Ford assigned them missions. They would report, generally in video form on the outcome of their missions. BRILLIANT. Worked like a charm too.
Third: European Styling. Something Ford fans had desired for a really long time, were Fords European designs. It seemed, for years, as if Ford was cheating the US by sending these amazing looking and performing cars to Europe, while we got more bland, larger versions here in the US. That’s all changed now. Many of Ford’s offerings are World cars now, offered both here and overseas and that is a huge bonus. Not only that, but the new design language looks fantastic. With it, Ford has positioned itself for greatness and the sales figures don’t lie. With double digit sales increases year over year for the last 4+ months, it looks like Ford has discovered the winning formula.
Hyundai (The Underdog):
I honestly can’t say enough about Hyundai. Many of my friends know me as a huge advocate of the Hyundai brand. I’m almost certain that my next car will be a 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE or Turbo. I’ll try not to go too much into how Hyundai got to where they are today. I really want to discuss WHY Hyundai is poised to destroy the competition and take over the automotive world. And personally, I think Hyundai’s new slogan should literally be “BUY ME. I DARE YOU.”
Hyundai was just the forgotten brand years ago. They made solid vehicles that were semi-reliable but bland at best. No one really took notice. The word Genesis though must mean a lot to the people over at Hyundai. See, everything changed for them not too long ago. Sure, internally they knew how good they were and how GREAT they were going to be. Nobody else did though, and they would be lying if they told you otherwise.
When Hyundai released the Genesis, it was not just a hopeless foray into a price bracket they had no hope of competing in. NO. The Hyundai Genesis meant BUSINESS. It was just the beginning. Hyundai successively released essentially an entire lineup of new cars and is currently in the process of continuing that. The Elantra Touring, Updated Santa Fe, Genesis Coupe, Tucson, and what is easily the most important product launch in Hyundai history, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata.
While the Genesis (aptly named) may have started Hyundai’s meteoric rise to the top of the automotive industry, the Sonata is far more than the exclamation point. In fact, I’d argue, at this moment, the Sonata is the best mid size sedan available on the market, at ANY price point. Hyundai’s dedication to offer us the best value, styling, fuel economy, warranty and reliability is unmatched. The Sonata absolutely trumps it’s competitors in styling, initial quality, safety, warranty, fuel economy and VALUE. The car is advertised to get around 34 MPG on the highway, BUT most people that have the car report fuel figures far beyond that number. In fact there reports of people getting upwards of 45 mpg on highway trips.
I’m not going to ramble on about how much this company is doing right. Know this though, while Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Infiniti, Chevy and many other stand pat, Hyundai is bobbing and weaving. The Sonata signals all the good that is to come. They have identified the industry trends. VALUE, styling and fuel economy are what people want right now. There’s no denying it. Hyundai is here to stay.
People love German cars. With good reason, they’re fun to drive, powerful, beautiful and fantastically engineered. Make no mistake, people are badge whores, even in this economy. Although other car companies are catching up in many ways, a BMW and Mercedes will always be a status symbol. Then, theres VW.
Historically, they’ve made great cars. The Jetta, Passat, Golf, GTI and Wolfsburg and of course the Beetle, are all nameplates that most Americans recognize as VW. Recently though, VW has been better than ever.
What VW is doing right now is really interesting, and after I talk about their cars briefly, there’s another point I’d like to bring up, so bear with me. See, VW is dedicated to a few things, design, reliability, fuel economy and german design and engineering. It seems that all their cars look damn good in that candy white shell. Well enough, because all of their cars are very handsome cars. They are in the midst of updating some of their vehicles, and what is important, is that they have kept their lineup interesting. The GTI is THE hot hatch. for 2010 it was restyled, and with it’s new face, upgraded power and fuel economy numbers, it’s not poised to lose that position. The Jetta is about to be released as a completely re done car. The great thing about it though, is that it will look more audi like, be slightly larger and be priced CHEAPER. Yes, for almost the first time in history a car manufacturer will release a successor to a wildly successful car and price it lower. Impressive to say the least.
The crown jewel of VW’s lineup though, is the CC. It looks INCREDIBLE. It’s packed with value (even the base Sport model comes loaded with features, trust me, I drove it and subsequently fell in love) gets great gas mileage and it’s a real head turner.
The cool thing about VW is that they are focused on design. From the little details in their cars, to their website, you can tell that they have some excellent industrial designers on staff. Their website is very clear and easy to understand, much like their cars. All in all design is what they are focused on, and it shows.
Here’s the additional thing about VW that I wanted to talk about. The Business side. Toyota and GM were the mega car manufacturers not too long ago. GM especially, stockpiling assets, successfully making it the biggest car manufacturer. Well, VW is now poised to take on that role. In fact, I think they’ve made wiser business acquisitions. Let’s look at who is in this VW group, shall we? Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti. Why is this important? Think about it. VW owns at least one automotive company in each competitive segment in BOTH Europe and the US. That’s just smart. They are certainly poised to take the top spot on the US auto charts, it’s just a matter of when.
There it is folks. The NEW automotive big 3. Don’t believe me? Go test drive one of their cars. Cross shop it with other cars you are looking at. You’d walk away surprised and most likely with the keys to a new Ford, Hyundai or VW in hand.