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An Auto Industry Insider’s View…From A Woman’s Perspective

Archive for January, 2013

Navi Savvy

Posted by carsdiva on January 26, 2013

“You have arrived at your destination. Route guidance is now finished.”

Sound familiar?  With the gaining popularity of smartphones, what will happen to factory-installed navigation systems?  Or portable GPS devices?  Better yet, with so many options, what should you opt for when purchasing your next vehicle?  Read on to learn about some of the advantages and disadvantages regarding the various systems, and hopefully it will help you make an informed decision.


Ford’s MyFordTouch system with Navigation

Factory-installed navigation, nowadays, can be operated with the voice-activated features that accompany the system.  In most cases, you can modify your route while “en-route”, it’s unobtrusive and seamlessly integrated into the vehicle, and therefore fairly resistant to theft.  Furthermore, it’s covered under your vehicle’s warranty, should anything go awry.  If you’re looking at the big picture, having a factory-installed system improves the vehicle re-sale value of the vehicle. On the flip side, systems can be expensive and are often bundled in packages with other features that you may or may not want, or are only available at higher trim-levels. And when it comes to updating the map systems, typically via a CD/USB purchased through your dealer, it can be quite costly.


Portable GPS

Portable GPS systems like Garmin, Magellan, TomTom, and so forth, are just that- portable.  So you can use them in a multitude of vehicles…that is if you have several vehicles, or bring the device with you when traveling, and use it in a rental car.  As far as updating the maps, many manufacturers are offering low-cost options, and some even come with lifetime updates. (I also like that there are several voice options…particularly the one with the English accent.) The screens are typically smaller than factory-installed navigation systems, but definitely larger than a smartphone.  If you’re not careful to hide the device when leaving your vehicle, it can become prime target for theft if seen on the dashboard, or basically visible anywhere else in the vehicle.  For the minimalists out there, well you may be frustrated looking at the dangling cords, or the extra piece of hardware sitting on your dashboard or suction-cupped to your windshield.


iPhone navigation

Smartphones feature the latest and greatest map systems.  (Well, some beg to differ when it comes to the iPhone’s latest map system.) However, given the real-time aspect, they do feature the most updated info.  You can update your phone within minutes, free of charge, so in regard to map-updating convenience and cost, this is your best bet.  And obviously, [most] people carry their phones with them, so portability is on track. On the other hand, the screens are smaller and can be a distraction while driving.  Unless you pay the extra cost to set-up a mounting system in your vehicle, you have to pick-up the phone to see the nav, (an obvious and unsafe distraction while driving), or hope that the volume is loud enough to hear when you set it down somewhere. I had my phone on my lap on one occasion and it fell, and given I was driving and couldn’t reach it [safely], it caused a bit of a fiasco. Some don’t come with voice-guided directions, in which case setting it down is not even an option. Plus, it’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll receive a phone call, which can make it challenging to follow the nav simultaneously.  Portable GPS and factory-installed nav systems are volume controlled and definitely loud enough to compete with your stereo system, or wind/outside noise if you have the windows down.  Even if they’re tied in with the phone (i.e. Bluetooth paired), they’re typically pretty seamless– meaning if you receive a phone call, the map will still appear on the screen, and even though the volume may lower in some instances, you’ll somehow be notified of your next turn.  Lastly, there are the signal and battery factors. If you lose your cell signal, you also lose your navigation, and using the nav also drains the phone battery more quickly.  (Though now they’re making longer-lasting and add-on accessories to increase the life of the battery.)  And of course, you can always opt for a car charger for your phone.

In a JD Power & Associates U.S. Navigation Usage & Satisfaction study, it was found that users are less satisfied with their factory-installed systems, based on 6 factors:  ease of use, routing, navigation display screen, speed of system, voice directions, and voice activation. According to the study, the top performers are the Chrysler 300 series, Dodge Charger and Porsche Cayenne.  Although I have to say, having used many systems myself, I think it’s a matter of personal preference. They also found that in 2012, 47% of the people surveyed downloaded some sort of navigation app on their smartphones.  Furthermore, a whopping 46% said that given their phone’s nav could be displayed on their vehicle’s screen, they “definitely would not” or “probably would not” purchase a factory-installed navigation system in the future.

Either way, it’s a challenge that auto manufacturers are facing, especially as smartphones continue to evolve and improve. Manufacturers have already taken steps, by improving the functionality of their navigation systems, making them fully voice activated, and lowering their prices.  Basically, what it comes down to at this point, and I’ll reiterate what I said above– it’s about personal preference.  Personally, I use all of them (for now at least), depending on the situation.  I like the convenience of my phone, but especially in unchartered territory, I find the in-car systems to be more comforting/reliable, as I can see the map and route on a big screen.  And if for some reason there’s an issue with the in-car system, I like to keep a portable GPS as back-up.  (Ok fine, that may be a bit excessive, but I’ll admit, my sense of direction is not always on target…though I do always end up at the right place.)

My advice? When you test drive a vehicle, test out the navigation system as well, and make sure the sales consultant walks you through how to use it.  And ultimately, check out all of your options, and determine what’s most important to you before you decide.


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Movin’ On Up… highlighting what’s sure to entice at the 2013 NAIAS

Posted by carsdiva on January 13, 2013

Luxury and performance seem to be the buzz words of this year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).  Commencing as an international event for the 25th year, chairman, Jim Seavitt, says “the international media registration is up 15%, and the energy is back.”  The future looks promising for Detroit. Keep in mind the Press Preview days are January 14th & 15th, Industry Preview is January 16th & 17th, Charity Preview is January 18th, and the show is open to the public from January 19-27th.  The following are some highlights to watch for in the luxury and performance realm.


Lincoln MKC

As Lincoln proceeds to reinvent itself, it aims for the largest luxury segments with the most growth potential.  Keep on the lookout for the Lincoln MKC Concept car, targeting younger, upscale buyers.  It falls into the compact luxury crossover segment which grew 60% in 2012 and tripled over the last four years.  The MKC features the latest version of the iconic “split-wing” grille, as seen on the new MKZ, and part of the new language of design for Lincoln.  Known for his admirable work at Cadillac, design director Max Wolff leads the initiative for Lincoln, along with his team.

The Lincoln MKC is built on Ford’s global C platform, which serves as the basis for the Ford Focus sedan and the 2013 Ford Escape, however, Lincoln is clearly working to  differentiate itself from the Ford family.  Welcome to the world of the “progressive luxury customer.”

Cadillac ELR

General Motors will debut their long awaited 2014 Chevy Corvette, marking the 7th generation of the all-American muscle car in 6 decades.  Redesigned, it’s projected to reach dealers in late summer.  As to Cadillac, the 2014 ELR should be a hit, as General Motor’s first luxury hybrid.


Maserati Quattroporte

Maserati aims to increase their sales worldwide, with the stunning 2014 Maserati Quattroporte as a hopeful catalyst to their success. The vehicle shares its platform with the Chrysler 300, boasting a twin-turbocharged V8 engine, with a 523 horsepower output.  Dealers should expect to see it in June.

Known by their tagline, “the ultimate driving machine”, BMW will showcase their 2014 M6 Gran Coupe, a 4-door, V8, 560 horsepower, high-performance sports car.  I venture to say that this alone will attract the performance-minded show-goer, but they also plan to unveil their concept 4-series coupe, a mid-range coupe, larger than the 3-series, though characterized by a lower roofline.


Mercedes CLA

Mercedes-Benz has upped the ante with updates to the E-class line-up to showcase revised styling and updated engines, including the E63 AMG sedan and wagon.  What I really look forward to seeing, (Mercedes is only providing a preview for journalists at the show), is the 2014 Mercedes CLA.  The small, sporty sedan will also be the centerpiece of their 2013 Super Bowl TV ad.

The 2016 Acura NSX sports car concept is expected to go into production in 2 years.  It’s a two-seater, AWD vehicle, boasting a V6 gasoline engine and 3 electric motors.  (Look out Tesla & Fisker, the traditional automakers are headed into your domain.)

Expected to go on sale in the fall, the Audi SQ5 is a powerful and sporty crossover.  Of course I can’t leave out the R8, (one of my personal favorites,) with its “aesthetic adjustments” and a new 7-speed S tronic transmission.  Already on sale in Germany, and virtually identical to the coupe version, the RS 5 Cabriolet is bound for U.S. showrooms this spring.


Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible

The pinnacle of luxury and performance is the 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible.  Über-luxurious, the soft top convertible has a 12-cylinder, 616 horsepower engine.  Reaching a top speed of just over 200 mph, Bentley expects it to be the world’s fastest convertible.  And here’s some food for thought– did you know that every Bentley is hand-built?  A distinguishing characteristic for the British manufacturer, it may help to justify the price tag.

Particularly for the tech-obsessed, I must mention that new for this year is a FREE, (always a good thing,) mobile app, presented by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association and WDIV-TV Local 4/  Available on both the iPhone and Android platforms, the app brings a virtual show floor map to your fingertips… literally.  Meanwhile, you can access breaking news, photos, and live-stream videos of vehicle unveilings.  For the out-of-town visitors, it also features a city guide of Detroit.  Yes folks, we’re making progress– auto show coverage has been brought to a new level!

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