No. 955
July 18, 2018
 

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Autoextremist.com, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  witchhuntbook.com). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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Monday
Apr022018

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE MOSTLY UGLY FROM THE NEW YORK AUTO SHOW.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. In the aftermath of the New York Auto Show, it’s clear that just showing up still counts for something in this business in some circles, which is beyond unfortunate. But being present and accounted for doesn’t constitute a marketing strategy, or a bold reach – it’s just showing up. 

This was most evident in the introduction of the Cadillac XT4, which is an homage to the uninspired and expected, and living, breathing proof that Cadillac is utterly lacking in originality at this juncture. One look at the cohesive visual brilliance of the Jaguar I-Pace will tell you just how much GM Design phoned it in with the XT4. (See more of Peter’s comments about the New York Auto Show in “On The Table” -WG) 


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The Cadillac XT4.

And the CT6 V-Sport doesn’t change my opinion of Cadillac one iota. It’s a niche of a niche machine that means nothing for the brand’s tenuous upward trajectory, because Cadillac is now mirroring Buick in that it exists for the Chinese market, and everything else is just going through the motions. Which is why its racing program is vaporware and why its entire high-performance push exists in a vacuum that means exactly nothing. I have been saying this for at least four years now: Corvette should become its own division within GM and all of Cadillac’s V performance cars – which are outstanding – should be rebranded as Corvettes, because those cars are nonsensical with a Cadillac badge. 


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The Cadillac CT6 V-Sport. 

But then again that’s not all that’s wrong with Cadillac. You only have to look at the new 2019 Lincoln Aviator to see that Cadillac is about to get its ass handed to it in the market. Everything about the Aviator is slick and silky smooth, from its tapered profile to its exquisite interior, this SUV has hit written all over it. And Lincoln’s rejuvenated embrace of real, actual names for its vehicles is going to pay massive dividends in the market as well, while Johan de Nysschen’s continued quest to remake Cadillac in Audi’s image – complete with coldly uninvolving alphanumeric nomenclature – is resonating with no one. Just a reminder: what is Cadillac’s most sought-after product (besides the internally ignored old school XTS sedan)? The Escalade. There’s a reason for that, but it’s just too bad that Cadillac operatives simply don’t get it.


(Lincoln)
The Lincoln Aviator.


(Lincoln)
The Lincoln Aviator.


(Lincoln)
The Lincoln Aviator.

And another thing wrong with the XT4? Cadillac PR minions chose to use the hoary "First Ever" moniker in its communications, which is hands-down the most tedious and unoriginal buzz phrase in current PR speak. Sad to say that they are not alone, because Ford is running launch advertising for its EcoSport subcompact SUV with the words “First Ever” figuring prominently. It’s like a plague or something and I find it depressing that a total lack of originality seems to be running rampant throughout the business right now. This just in: “First Ever” means absolutely nothing, you unmitigated hacks. Get a new idea, and quick.

In other news from New York, Hyundai unveiled a magnificent piece of vaporware for its Genesis brand with its Essentia Concept. (See it “On The Table” -WG) It’s nicely rendered and executed, but it does nothing to quell the feeling Genesis dealers have that the brand is in disarray and that the whole thing is hanging by a thread. They’re right, of course. Hyundai arrogance and hubris – which are so deeply ingrained that they are part of the brand's soul – have led Hyundai operatives to botch the introduction of the Genesis brand from the get-go, and they’re still throwing ideas up against the wall to see what sticks. If Genesis continues floundering the brand will disappear into the ether by 2020. 


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The Genesis Essentia Concept.


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The Genesis Essentia Concept. 

Other brands were either worth mentioning for the right reasons, or the wrong reasons. GMC blew their brand conceit to smithereens with its Sierra AT4. I only have one simple question: Why? And a follow-up: WTF were you guys thinking? Never mind, clearly you weren’t. The Sierra AT4 is apropos of nothing to do with the GMC brand.


(GMC)
The GMC Sierra AT4. 

And I don’t have to ask what Acura operatives are thinking anymore, because they have been lost in the Twilight Zone for years. The RDX is abysmal, proof positive that they don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing. Honda needs to press the reset button for Acura and start over. It’s the only hope for the brand.


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Acura RDX.

And the new Hyundai Santa Fe was simply forgettable, which means more of the same from the Korean brand. The Nissan Altima seems better overall, but since Nissan deploys some of the consistently worst designs in the business it’s more of a sigh of relief than a rousing endorsement. And the Toyota Corolla Hatchback is a significant upgrade and nicely done.

My final comment today is about Porsche. I knew this was coming and it was probably inevitable, but we have reached Peak Porsche. This isn’t about the fact that it’s predominantly a truck brand, because every automaker worth its salt is a truck brand now. There was something missing about Porsche at the New York show, a hollowness that was palpable. 


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Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

The German manufacturer had on display a yellow 911 T, a lime green 911 GT3 RS, a silver Cayenne and two white Panamera Hybrids (one of them a Sport Turismo). The most alluring Porsche on display? A beautifully restored white 356 Cabriolet from Porsche Classic. What does that tell you? My feeling is that endless variations of the 911 is a product strategy that has been played out. And the modern Porsche models on display felt calculated and oddly uninvolving. The GT3 RS seemed like it had been done 1000 times before, because well, it has, and the 911 T is yet another blatant money grab adhering to the traditional Porsche marketing formula, which goes something like this: De-contenting + Limited Production = Piles of Ca$h. And the Panamera models were coldly antiseptic and off-putting, like they showed up to a party that they weren’t invited to. 

Memo to the brainiacs at Porsche: you have reached a critical juncture in your history, and I'm not even sure the much-touted, all-electric "Mission E" machine will be enough to save you. Porsche has become ubiquitous in the leafy suburbs and urban centers all across the country, but is that a good thing for the long-term health of the brand? I will answer that for you, no, it isn’t. We watched as BMW strategists embarked on a strategy of putting a BMW in every neighborhood in America, chasing niches both real and imagined, and the result is that the brand has lost its luster (see Peter’s comments about the BMW 440i in “On The Table” -WG). And now Porsche seems to be doing the same. 

Porsche operatives need to ask themselves the following: What is Porsche? Why does Porsche exist? Where do we – as a company – go from here? And why should we – as enthusiasts – care? And remember one very important thing, just having hybrids and BEVs does not mean the brand will survive.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

 

 

 

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