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

Archive for the ‘Car News & Trends’ Category

TRED this way

Posted by carsdiva on July 4, 2013

In a society that demands instant satisfaction……along comes Tred.  Couple that with the factor of limited time, and the general aversion to car shopping, and you have a genius solution.  Think about test driving a car in your comfort zone, on your own turf, without having to go to a dealership.  Yes.  It’s true.  And it was launched last month.

TRED logoTred delivers vehicles (up to four) to the shopper’s home.  For $19, the shopper gets a15-mile test drive, along with the company of Tred Auto Experts, of course.  They, much like the traditional sales consultant at a dealership, ride with the shopper to answer their questions about the vehicle, and the overall sales process.  Furthermore, Tred then provides a price report to the shopper that compares the participating dealer’s price with third-party sources— think Edmunds.com and TrueCar.com.

So who’s involved?  Well the company is led by CEO Grant Feek, a Harvard MBA grad who grew up working as a porter at a BMW dealership.  And then [some] of the money backing the venture– $1.7 million to be exact, comes from Rick Wagoner, former CEO of General Motors.  (I’d wager to say that having his automotive background and expertise on board helped to push this along.)  Dealerships pay a subscription fee to participate, and about 40 have signed on so for, beginning in the King County, WA (Seattle area).

Brilliant.  And the car biz continues to evolve……

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The New(er) Kid on the Block…. TESLA

Posted by carsdiva on May 26, 2013

I’m sure by now most of you already know, but just in case, Tesla Motors is an American [electric] car maker, headed by co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Elon Musk, (who’s prior claim to fame was as co-founder of PayPal.) The car maker gained attention first with the Tesla Roadster, the first fully electric sports car, followed by their current hot commodity, the Model S, an electric luxury sedan.  Tesla also supplies components to major auto makers like Toyota and Daimler, helping contribute to their bottom line, but back to the Model S….

Tesla front viewWith a driving range of between 208 and 265 miles, a full charge for the Model S takes 6 hours (using an ordinary 240 volt outlet.)  They’re in the process of installing Supercharger stations in high-traffic corridors throughout the country, to enable consumers to make long distance trips. Depending on the battery, the power output ranges from 302 – 416 hp, coupled with 317 – 443 lb-ft of torque. Pricing starts at about $70,000, and that doesn’t include any incentives, federal or state, for the electric car.

Now here’s some food for thought…..Did you know Tesla Motors is named after the renowned Nikola Tesla?  An inventor, engineer, physicist, and futurist, he is best known for his contributions to the AC electricity supply system.  The AC induction motors found in the Tesla Roadster and Model S descend from the original 1882 design.

Recent Happenings

After announcing Q1 profits for the first time, Tesla’s shares surged 24% (and have since continued to rise.)  Net income was posted at $11.2 Tesla side viewmillion, quite the contrast from last year’s loss of $89.9 million.  However, a large chunk of profit did come from ZEV (zero-emissions vehicle) credits, sold to other automakers. In any case, Musk plans to exceed their initial forecasted performance of 20,000 vehicle deliveries.

Furthermore, Tesla recently announced that they’ve paid off their entire [original] $465 million Department of Energy loan with interest, and 9 years early.  The final payment of $451.8 million was made this month, making them the only American car company to have fully paid back the government. (Well, I should add there is some controversy there as Chrysler claims to have done so prior to Tesla, but needless to say, the point is they’ve paid off their government debt.)

Elon Musk and his outspoken demeanor seem to jive well with Wall Street these days. His influential tweets about the company are becoming synonymous with a boost in Tesla’s stock, as well as well-timed to prevent dips.  The company is now valued at an astonishing $8.8 billion. Quite an effective use of social media, if I may say so myself.

Tesla and Elon MuskAffirmative Word on the Street

Although often looked at as being a controversial company, the positive press is definitely flowing. Consumer Reports claims that the Tesla Model S is the best car ever tested, earning a 99 out of a possible 100 points. According to Jake Fisher, head of auto testing, the car’s performance is “off the charts.”  Consumer Reports has yet to recommend the vehicle as it’s too soon, and furthermore, they’re waiting to receive crash test scores from the government and IIHS to determine the vehicle’s reliability.

Motor Trend calls the Tesla S a “truly remarkable car” bestowing upon the vehicle the title of 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year.  They say it “drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive. But it’s also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius… and it’ll sashay up to the valet at a luxury hotel like a supermodel working a Paris catwalk.”  Well, I couldn’t have put it better myself.  I’ve seen more and more of them on the road and they’re definitely head turners– at first glance, sleek and impressive… but that would be an understatement.Tesla rear view

In a realm where the competition continues to drop off– Fisker is in financial turmoil, and Coda Automotive already went under, I’d say they’re on the right track. (No pun intended.)  And what about the challenge of long-term sustainability? Well for now, plans for the Tesla Model X crossover are in the works, and then there’s talk of a future, less expensive vehicle.  Perhaps a partnership with Google to add driverless technology?

Stay tuned……

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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/ClickOnDetroit.com.  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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Siri, Can You Integrate With My Car?

Posted by carsdiva on December 6, 2012

I’m a bit behind on posting about the integration of Siri into vehicles, however, given the recent announcement by General Motors at the Los Angeles Auto Show, I found it a fitting time to elaborate on the topic.  Apple announced back in June at their World Wide Developer’s conference that they were working with several auto manufacturers to build-in Siri, the “Eyes Free,” voice-activated technology featured on the iPhone.  At [that] time, they were in discussions with General Motors, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Honda and Toyota.

Siri

Siri

So What’s the Good Word?

BMW expects to have Siri integrated into their vehicles by mid-2013, to complement their “ConnectedDrive” system.  They’ve been known to be on the forefront of technology, specifically as it refers to voice-command and the integration of smartphones, (like the iPhone).  This integration would allow drivers to interact with their iPhone, via Siri, tune to their favorite music, send a text, create reminders, set alarms, and create events. (Like many other vehicles, you can already make voice-activated phone calls.)

Mercedes-Benz  had mentioned earlier this year that they expected to introduce the integration of Siri with their future [European] A-Class models.  Users would plug in their iPhone (4S or higher) and access an MB app.  This would provide access to everything on the phone, using Siri, while allowing them to keep their hands on the wheel.  I find it to be an intelligent move, as despite the laws and penalties meant to prevent texting while driving, I still see people doing it all the time!  (And I drive a lot…that’s an understatement.)  Mercedes did confirm that they would not implement a specific “Apple” button, but would continue to use their own.

And it’s been confirmed!  GM officially announced that they will integrate Siri early next year, beginning with the Chevy Spark and the Chevy Sonic.  So how will it work?  Well, users will have to connect their iPhone via Bluetooth, and then use the voice-activated button on the steering wheel to access Siri’s “Eyes Free” mode.  This will allow them to do things like make a call (which is already possible through the MyLink infotainment system,) switch audio sources and play

Chevrolet © 2012

Chevrolet © 2012

songs from the iTunes library, send a text message, and access the calendar and make appointments.  While Siri will answer questions, the line is drawn if the answers are “complex”, requiring a web page to display.

Cristi Landy, Chevrolet’s Marketing Director for small cars said, “…Siri’s Eyes Free capability will be available in the Spark and Sonic well before the luxury brands.  Safe, easy, reliable and portable connectivity is a top priority for our customers, and Siri complements MyLink’s existing capabilities to help deliver an incredible driving experience.”

Maybe, maybe not…

As to some of the others– Honda, Chrysler, Toyota, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi and Toyota, say they’re working on the integration, or there may be future potential, or they have not commented on the subject matter.  Stay tuned for further information.

There’s been quite a bit of talk about banning the use of mobile devices all together while operating a motor vehicle, but hey, let’s be realistic— smartphones have become an integral part of people’s daily lives.  Not going to happen.  I think a work-around or alternative is a bit more likely to surface, and the facts speak for themselves.  Trends in the auto industry tend to have a domino effect. “Lead and they will follow…”

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See It, Saw It….SEMA 2012

Posted by carsdiva on November 5, 2012

After two days of walking [part of] the over 2 million square feet of exhibits, I was exhausted and my feet were swollen…but it was well worth it!  To give you a bit of background, SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association), the auto industry’s premier specialty products trade show in the world, attracts more than 100,000 people and it’s not open to the general public– it brings in auto industry people from the all over the world.  The show is held at the quintessential adult play-land– none other than Viva Las Vegas, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  (I mean really, what other destination would attract so many car guys and gals?) Here are a few of the highlights from my experience, (the show is so massive so my apologies, I didn’t get to see it all,) and lots of pics:

SEMA 2012

For those of you that don’t know, the SEMA award is awarded to those vehicle models that are viewed by specialty equipment manufacturers as the best platform to accessorize, and also showcase the year’s coolest products.  Kudos to Ford, for being honored with two awards– the “Hottest Car” award went to the Ford Mustang & the F-Series was chosen as the “Hottest Truck.”  Other recipients included Scion FR-S (Hottest Sport Compact), Jeep Wrangler (Hottest 4×4-SUV).  And speaking of Jeep, how about that recent auto-industry targeted commercial from Romney?  Struck up a bit of controversy, to say the least.  But enough about that…

EF-65 hand cleaner— AMAZING. Tried and tested. I heard the whole story from the guy behind the product, and it was quite compelling nonetheless (more to follow at a later date).  In the meantime, to give you a brief overview, I did watch him scribble ink on a piece of velour, then use the product to remove the stain in a matter of seconds.  (I almost felt like I was part of an infomercial.) Plus, it’s eco-friendly– buzz word in of the moment in every industry.  Therefore it’s non-toxic, biodegradable, good for your skin, and won’t dry it out. Admit it guys, I know the latter may be more appealing up front to the ladies, but you don’t want dry hands either– and the “ladies” in your life sure don’t want your hands to be dry. Furthermore, I received a sample, so of course I tried it when I got home to really see the action (i.e. mysterious red stain on my carpet that wouldn’t come out for nothing).  And guess what, it worked….carpet is now white again, and my hands are still soft.  So yes, it’s also multi-functional.  Made in the USA, it’s a gem in the garage, but fabulous for everything else too.

GoPro—  I’m sure most of you have read the recent articles on the launch of the HERO3, and the excitement at their SEMA booth was not disappointing. The HERO3– the major showcase, is 25% lighter, 30% smaller, and features WiFi capabilities, and the most coveted “Black Edition” offers ultra-wide angle HD video streaming at 1080p-60fps, and captures 12MP (megapixel) photos at 30 photos per second.  Silver and white editions offer a more affordable price point. In the GoPro booth, you could find the rest of the on-fire line of GoPro products, celebrity autograph signings, giveaways, and so forth.  It was huge, and at any point you walked by the vicinity, there were tons of people milling around.

Ford— Inside the convention center, Ford took up an entire wall of one of the halls, showcasing their latest models, customized and accessorized to the max, and outside, you could find “Ford Out Front.” Featuring their current star drivers and racing vehicles, in this area were also high-performance drivers drifting and doing all kinds of tricks to keep you entertained.

General Motors— Seeing the much anticipated debut of the Chevy Camaro Hot Wheels Edition— the first-ever, production Hot Wheels vehicle, was exciting in itself, and brought me back to my childhood.  Then outside, between the South and Central Halls, General Motors had quite the ensemble set up with their proving ground, giving attendees the opportunity to take a hot lap in vehicles like the Chevy Camaro and the Chevy Corvette, amongst others.  Unfortunately the line was super long and I didn’t have time to wait, but I sure did smell the tires burning all day!

And now for the best part… the pictures.  Enjoy!

Oooh La La Ferrari….showcasing Seibon carbon fiber.

It wouldn’t be Vegas without the showgirls presenting Ford with an award.

Vehicles of the future…driving themselves.

Kia and DC Entertainment = superhero themed cars

One of the KIA “superhero” themed cars.

All-new Ford Fusion!

Ford F-Series receives the SEMA Award for “Hottest Truck”

The GM Proving Ground– checkout the Chevy Camaro and the Chevy Corvette….

Quite the Dodge display- red carpet all the way.

Ford showcases a classic!

NASCAR!!!

This guy seemed pretty excited to be here….

Check out the paint job and the rims on this Cadillac!

And one of my favorites- the Audi R8….

Miss Painless Performance….what exactly that refers to, I’m not sure.

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The Mobile Movement in Automotive (no pun intended)

Posted by carsdiva on October 30, 2012

There’s no denying the trend in mobile marketing is growing rapidly.  Virtually everyone has a cell phone– in fact, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, more people in the world own a mobile device than a toothbrush!  Furthermore, smartphones are quickly becoming the mobile device of choice. Pre-orders for the iPhone 5 topped 2 million in 24 hours, and Apple sold over 5 million iPhones within 3 days of the phone’s launch. Clearly this isn’t just a technological fad, but an integral part of daily life. Meaning– it’s not just about using a cell phone as a means of traditional communication anymore- i.e. making a phone call (or texting– the now more common method of communication.)  It’s a lifestyle– being “tech-savvy” is no longer exclusive to a select demographic. The general public uses a smartphone to access the internet for daily news, sports’ scores and updates, social media, shopping, and the list goes on.  By 2013, it’s estimated that smartphones will be the primary way people access the Internet.

So what does this mean for automotive?  Well according to a Greystrip Media Study and eMarketer, 8 out of 10 auto shoppers use their smartphone in the car buying process. Therefore, this presents a huge opportunity for business/e-commerce via mobile– that is, for those keen enough to ride the [mobile] wave.  The bottom line is that mobile apps represent a critical avenue for conducting business in today’s society.  So what are some of the automotive industry leaders doing?

Ford

As part of a nationwide program, Ford is equipping dealerships (essentially the sales staff) with iPad devices and an app that brings the showroom to their fingertips.  (Yes, Apple continues its quest to rule the world, even in the automotive industry.)  Called the Ford Showcase app, it’s customized to each dealership, and uses real-time information to indicate which vehicles are in stock at that particular store.  The idea is to help the customer find exactly what they’re looking for — trim level, price, etc…, in a quicker, more efficient manner, by providing a method to do so at the fingertips (literally) of the sales consultant, no matter where they are in the lot or store.  Much like a virtual brochure, inventory, videos of available technology, and general product information are all included in the app, and can also be sent directly to the consumer.

So what’s next?  There’s an app for everything, and there’s no exception when it comes to the automotive manufacturers.  However, it’s all about raising the bar. How do you further engage a customer beyond the “traditional” application?  It’s all about the transition from the digital world of experiencing the brand and/or product(s), and connecting it to real life.  In the case of the Ford app, it will hopefully result in a quicker sale at the dealership.  However, [some] manufacturers are doing this via augmented reality experiences.

Augmented Reality (not to be confused with virtual reality)

Let me first explain, augmented reality is, (per wikipedia) “a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data.”  Virtual reality, on the other hand, is when the real world is replaced by a computer-simulated world.  To further clarify, augmented reality is, essentially, a melding of both virtual reality and real life.  That being said, this happens to be the latest trend in automotive mobile applications– what a better way to market to potential consumers, enthusiasts, and brand loyalists than to actually engage them with your product(s), or brand in general?

To mention a few “Leader(s) of the Pack”….

Audi

The first in the auto industry to provide an augmented reality experience was Audi, launching an app for the 24 hours of Le Mans. Integrating the brand with the race, the app allowed consumers to test drive models that have won previous races, including the R8 (one of my personal favorites), R10 TDI, R15 TDI, and R18 TDI.  Designed for the iPhone, iPad & Android devices, the app also provided info about the various teams, as well as technical info on the cars. And the ultimate goal– engaging the consumer (in this case, specifically racing car and sports car fans) on a new level.

McLaren

McLaren Automotive has created an augmented reality mobile app that allows users to “interact” with their P1 concept aero car.  Users can download the app from the App Store or Google Play if they have an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android device.  Then they must go to McLaren’s Facebook page and print off a sketch of the vehicle, which allows them to view the model anywhere around them.  The app uses the smartphone camera to detect the image on the paper, and therefore, by moving the smartphone around the paper, they get a full 360-degree view of the vehicle.  Ok, ok, so I was a bit skeptical of all of this myself, so I tried the P1 app……and YES, it works!  No, it’s not exactly like seeing it live, but I’ll admit, I was impressed!  Kind of reminded me of my younger days and the first time i went to an iMax theater…(but that’s another story.)

Cadillac

The “ATS vs The World” program was a nationwide tour, that included 4 cities- New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco.  Cadillac provided a series of augmented reality experiences in that users could download an app to a smartphone or tablet, then aim their device at a specific mural created for each of the respective cities and “experience” driving the ATS through a course by moving their device. The murals each represented an international city/venue on some of the world’s most challenging roads where the ATS was tested, including the Monaco Grand Prix speedway, China’s G Tunnel, Morocco and Patagonia.

At the end of the day, it’s all about engaging the consumer on a new level.  Not just traditional marketing/advertising, conventional applications, or test driving the car, but experiencing the vehicle in a real-world meets virtual world sort of setting.  Does this help sell more cars?  Only time will tell, but I know one thing, according to VP of Marketing at Cadillac, Don Butler, the ATS augmented reality experience has been activated over 30,000 times.  That’s quite a bit of brand awareness, wouldn’t you say? And I can attest from personal experience, I now know more about the McLaren….

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A Christmas Fantasy… 2013 McLaren 12C Spider

Posted by carsdiva on October 17, 2012

And it’s back again– the Neiman Marcus Christmas book!  The 2012 edition has been revealed, and yes, several things have caught my eye, but I’d like to highlight one item in particular, featured in this year’s catalogue (fantasy section, of course) — a special edition red 2013 McLaren 12C Spider!  Yup you heard it folks.  And only 12 of them will be available, for the mere price of $354,000.

In addition to the vehicle itself, the lucky recipients will get the opportunity to wine and dine VIP-style with the automaker’s Chairman, Ron Dennis, as part of their 3-day, business-class trip to England. (Would you expect anything less?) And along with this, included is a tour of the McLaren Technology Center. Furthermore, they’ll all receive a Neiman Marcus luggage set.

On a charitable note, for every vehicle sold, Neiman Marcus will donate $3,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters– a charity that focuses on mentoring children.

Now for a bit of info on the vehicle… it’s a volcano red convertible (Spider), equipped with special-edition features, and a 616 horsepower (443 lb-ft of torque), V8, twin-turbo engine, paired to a 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission.  Speed tops off at 204 mph and it can go from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds.  The black leather interior is stitched in red, the exterior trimmed in gloss black, and the catalog labels it as “the drive of a lifetime”……no doubt.

Do you have someone special in mind? Or are you interested in being on the “receiving” end?  Well you may want to drop the hint early this year.  Neiman Marcus will begin taking phone orders on October 24th, and delivery is expected in early 2013.

Hmm…yup.  Adding this one to my [fantasy] list!!

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The Greener Side of Things…

Posted by carsdiva on October 14, 2012

In the U.S., there are over 250 million cars, and we all know that cars produce a great deal of pollution, thus the trend toward alternative fuels, [and typically more expensive] hybrids and electric powered vehicles, which are, indeed, more eco-friendly.  BUT, the questions arises, how much greener is an electric car?  Well, did you know that it depends on what city you live in?

The info-graphic below, courtesy of carinsurance.org, illustrates how green your [electric] vehicle is, depending on where you live.  You see, it takes power to charge an electric car, therefore, the energy expended in charging could be leaving quite a significant carbon footprint in the environment.  Do you know if your city is powered by coal?

Are you in the market for a new car and want to do your part to help save the environment?  Check out the graphic below, to determine how much impact an electric vehicle makes on your city.

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A League of Its Own: 2013 Porsche Boxster S

Posted by carsdiva on July 9, 2012

When I received the invite to the Porsche Exchange’s launch of the new 2013 Boxster S, I was initially super excited, only to find out I wouldn’t be in town for it.  After talking to my friend, Faris Nijim, Sales Manager of this Highland Park, IL store, and hearing about the success of the event, he invited me to the store to take the vehicle for a spin. Score!  VIP treatment all the way…

The WOW Factor

ImageI arrived at the store and after chatting for a brief moment, we went right out to the vehicle.  Exterior styling is superb– classic Porsche-esque, but nonetheless, distinctive from last year’s model.  The doors are now unique from the other Porsche models, boasting a distinctive character line– something a Porsche aficionado would definitely notice. There are 5 wheel options, including the 20’s that this S boasted.  Yes, I like my big wheels.

We jumped in the vehicle, and Faris pulled it out of the lot and drove a few miles before we switched seats, so I got a chance to really take in the vehicle and experience the ride as a passenger, (which was comfortable and smooth), before focusing on the thrill of the powertrain first-hand. High-quality materials adorn the interior space, and clearly attention was paid to even the smallest details.  Being the fashionista that I am, I noticed the fine leather and even the stitching.  The center console is elevated, and for those of you lacking in NBA-caliber stature like me, this was [ergonomically] pleasing. I could reach everything without feeling like I was going to Imagepull a muscle in the process, or overall exerting too much effort.  And for those of you that are a bit taller, an extra inch was added to move the seat back for your comfort, probably made possible since the wheelbase was increased by 2.36 inches.  We aim to please.

Numbers, please…

Falling in the mid-engine range of Porsche’s model line-up, the new Boxster S boasts 315 hp and 266 lb.-ft of torque at 6700 rpms for both the 6-speed manual transmission and PDK versions.  (The Boxster produces 265 hp and 206 lb.-ft of torque.)  With the S getting from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds with the manual, and 4.7 seconds with the PDK, (Boxster does in 5.5 seconds with the manual and 5.2 with the PDK version), there’s no denying this is a serious vehicle, though personally, I didn’t get to try this on the regular streets– maybe next time…on a track.

PDK

What is PDK?  It stands for Porsche Doppelkupplung and it’s their true dual-clutch, 7-speed automatic transmission, essentially giving you the benefit of the manual transmission with the ease of an automatic.  It uses two separate clutches, for the odd and even gears respectively, but functions as one unit.  It operates in automatic mode, but also gives the driver the ability to shift manually, if they so choose.  To be perfectly honest, I was leery about driving an automatic model, as a true “car girl,” I want to switch my own gears, and basically, I want to be in control.  Most females do, right?  However, I have to admit, my expectations were clearly surpassed.  The sportiness and fun-to-drive aspect were all there–  even without using the paddles I didn’t feel like I sacrificed anything by driving the PDK. We took a route that was full of winding roads that allowed me to really feel how the vehicle handled going in and out of corners (at various speeds), and how quickly it shifted with my maneuvers.  The cornering also reflected the precise steering, (as a result of my driving skills, of course,) but also with the help of PTV (Porsche Torque Vectoring), which transfers torque from the inside to the outside tires to help with stability.

There’s been some hype about the electric motor-assisted steering, but in my opinion, I found that the road feedback was still there.  Plus, the system is not always active- it merely kicks in when necessary, and furthermore, it requires less work and saves weight, thereby improving fuel efficiency. One thing that did take a bit of getting used to was the automatic start-stop function.  It helps with the [amazing] fuel economy numbers– 30 mpg!!  However, I’ll have to admit, when I came to my first stop, it was so quiet that I worried for a split second that the vehicle had stalled, albeit we were in the PDK automatic.

At Your Fingertips

Ahhh, technology.  Wonderful and useful in so many ways, yet the bane of my existence.  So what about the PCM (Porsche Communication Management)?  Well I found it intuitive and very easy to use.  I may be a bit of a “techy” Imagemyself, however, I found that it was simple enough that someone like my father would grasp how to use it.   The mastermind of the system is the 7-inch, hi-res, touchscreen, coupled with a few conventional buttons (which seem to be disappearing in vehicles). New for this year’s model is the hi-res 4.6 inch screen on the right side of the instrument cluster, which allows you to control functions such as the navigation, audio system and vehicle settings with a toggle switch on the steering wheel. I found this uber convenient, as it keeps your hands on the wheel, and your eyes forward, rather than engaging your peripheral vision to look at the center stack.

There is a voice control system that’s also available, which allows you to control most of the PCM via voice, however the S version that I drove was not equipped with this functionality, so I can’t really give my perspective as to how well it functions. (Though I hear it’s good…no pun intended.)

“Ridin’ with my Top Down”

Much to my pleasant surprise, we put the top down while driving, (under 31 mph), to get the full effect of the cabrio, of course.  I wanted to test out the Bluetooth capability, and figured why not really test the waters and do it with the top down, especially since this model had the optional wind deflector to help reduce ambient noise. I decided to call my best friend (figuring she’d share in my thrill of driving the new S.)  I found it easy to dial using the new TFT screen, along with the toggle on the steering wheel. The ring was loud and clear, followed by her clearly heard voicemail message… probably better she didn’t answer (for safety purposes, of course.)

Yes, music is my mantra, (especially with all of the driving I do), so the audio system is crucial in my evaluation process.  I’m delighted to say that the S was equipped with the BOSE Surround Sound System (not standard, but an Imageavailable option), and it didn’t disappoint, even with the top down.  I feel like sometimes with convertibles, you have to blast the sound system to an ungodly [disruptive] level in order to hear your music, which either distorts the sound quality or leaves you with a headache.  This did neither– loud or soft, top up or down, the sound quality was exceptional.

With the temperature gauge reading 103 degrees, and feeling the sweat accumulate on my back even with the ventilated seats, the top didn’t stay down for long.  I’ll admit, I didn’t want to feel like those silly people that keep their windows up, blast the heat–or AC for that matter, only to keep their top down.  A bit illogical if you ask me.

Size Matters

As for the trunk space, well let’s be realistic– you’re not buying a Porsche for the cargo room, (or if you are, you may want to opt for the Cayenne.) However, for those of you golf fanatics, a full set of clubs does fit in the rear– tried and tested.  Oh yeah, or you could always opt for the front seat.  And no, I’m not a connoisseur, but a novice-in-training at best.  Somehow I often find that Porsches and golf go hand-in-hand.

Just a reminder you, do get both front and rear trunk space, and for those opting for the convertible, when the top is lowered it doesn’t hinder the space as it sits on top of the engine bay.

Gimme a “Brake”

Porsche claims that “braking performance is as essential as driving performance.” And if you’re a car guy/gal, or simply concerned about safety, you’d agree. Both the Boxster and the S models are equipped with four-piston aluminum monobloc fixed calipers at the front and rear.  Discs are internally vented and the diameter of the front discs on the S have increased by .59 inches.  Larger brake pads and a new brake booster improve braking and component stability.  For those of you looking to quickly distinguish the two models (other than looking at the blatant “S” on the rear,) calipers on the Boxster are black, while those found on the S are red.

ImageFor performance-minded drivers, an optional PCCB, (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake,) is available, which enables shorter braking distances in the toughest road and/or racing conditions.  Its extremely low weight helps to increase performance and fuel efficiency simultaneously.

Another interesting fact, as pointed out by my friend, Faris Nijim, is that the e-brake is now electric, saving a whopping 26 lbs than the former [traditional] e-brake.

Porsche Stability Management (PSM), is standard, and it includes sensors that monitor speed, yaw velocity, and lateral acceleration of the vehicle.  Utilizing this information, the PSM applies the brakes to individual wheels to maintain or restore stability of the overall vehicle.  Specifically on wet or low grip surfaces, PSM helps to improve traction.  I can attest to this as during my test drive, I “accidentally” encountered major road construction, (inevitable in the city of Chicago.) I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it actually ended up being positive, for-the-first-time-ever, as I got to first-hand experience the system in action. (Much more effective in validating the functionality, than just hearing about it.) If you really want the sporty drive, you can turn the PSM off, but given I wasn’t on a track and had real-life obstacle like the CPD to worry about, I left it on.

Additionally important safety features to note are the engine drag torque control (EDC), pre-charging of the brake system, and brake assist.  And no, for those of you control freaks out there, calm down, it doesn’t stop the car for you.  Key word: assist.  Basically the brake pads are placed on the discs when the system detects a “panicked” braking situation, thereby increasing brake power and maximizing deceleration quickly and effectively, when the need arises.

“Expect the Exceptional”

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If you’re impatient, I’m sorry to say, but there’s a four month waiting list for the new Boxster, with a base price of $49,500, and dealers like the Porsche Exchange won’t be seeing more vehicles in their showroom until August (and October for the S, which starts at $60,900.)  But hec, they say the best things in life are worth waiting for, right?

For those of you that haven’t read my previous post on the GT2 RS launch at the Porsche Exchange, I must add that this store is the number ONE Porsche dealer in the Midwest, and ranks amongst the top in the nation.  Their motto is “you will be treated as we would like to be treated,” and it’s clearly evident from their sales performance, customer loyalty, and numerous accolades, classifying them as a “premium” Porsche dealer.

Funny, I remember my mom teaching me something like that when I was a little kid.  If only more people would take that into consideration, the world would be a bit better off.  Perhaps more car dealers should take note and follow suit. And here’s something revolutionary, it may help mitigate the negative stigma that accompanies the auto industry. Just sayin’…

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