Editor-In-Chief's Note: Five minutes ago, the toughest automotive marketing job in the world was convincing import-oriented consumers that Cadillac is worth a serious look. Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen and his chief marketing honcho Uwe Ellinghaus have a tough slog that will still be going on long after they depart to other stages of life. But that challenging assignment has been eclipsed - in terms of sheer scope and difficulty - by the VW mess. As I said last week in this space, VW's image among its loyalists - TDI buyers in particular - is toast. But it goes much deeper than that. The VW brand has dined on the legacy of its counter-culture roots in this country for decades, even though VW quietly transitioned to being a fairly predictable car company long ago, and it has been amazing to see older customers cling to an aura for VW that plainly didn't exist, except in their minds. Yes, VW made a solid case for itself over the years with its many GTI and R iterations (still some of my favorite cars), but that niche wasn't enough to sustain the brand here, and their product cadence meandered in fits and starts as the brand's German overlords stumbled about, arrogantly thinking that they had it all figured out. Well, they clearly didn't and now the brand is toxic, a symbol of corporate malfeasance on a grand scale. And there aren't enough cute TV commercials or precious marketing and PR efforts that will turn things around for VW in this market. I see VW taking a deep slide here, and I predict that a large chunk of their dealer network will either walk away or simply close. As I said in my column, not only did VW customers get screwed by “The Man” - the realization that “The Man” was in fact VW itself made it a thousand times worse. The only thing that will save the VW brand at this point are breakthrough product entries that stand alone in the market. Products that march to a different drummer and attract consumers with their authenticity and indisputable merits, much like the original Beetle did, come to think of it. VW is embarking on a long, hard road, and it's going to get uglier and tougher before even a sliver of light will appear. -PMD
The newly refreshed 2016 Chevrolet Silverado was officially unveiled at the State Fair of Texas last week in Dallas. Tweaks (besides the new front end, of course) include standard LED lighting accents, but when you order the LTZ, LTZ/Z71 or High Country models you get LED technology for all lighting, including the headlamps, daytime running lights, fog lights, park/turn signal lamps and taillamps. Other stuff? Expanded use of 8-speed automatic transmissions, updated available Chevy MyLink with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and additional safety technologies.
BMW has given its X4 the "M" treatment. The new BMW X4 M40i is powered by a newly developed M Performance 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline 6 cylinder gasoline engine which delivers 355HP between 5,800 and 6,000 rpm with maximum torque of 343 lb-ft. BMW says the X4 M40i will go 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Exterior features include exclusive Ferric Gray metallic accents on the front of the vehicle and side mirrors, exclusive 20-inch M light-alloy double-spoke wheels with optional Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, and a sport exhaust system with valve control and Black Chrome tailpipes on both sides. Other stuff? A sports chassis with stronger springs and stabilizers, increased camber on the front axle, and adaptive dampers specifically tuned to M Performance specifications. The BMW xDrive all-wheel drive system has been recalibrated with more power routed to the rear wheels during normal operation. The Performance Control ensures responsive steering with more road feedback. Inside the X4 M40i has a M leather wrapped steering wheel, M gear shift lever, sport seats, model-specific door sills and “X4 M40i” digital lettering on the instrument cluster. A bunch of other stuff completes the package. Pricing details to come.
Porsche has released a special Black Edition of the Cayman, to complement the Boxster and the 911 Carrera Black Editions. The Cayman Black Edition features - you guessed it - a Black on Black design and an added level of standard equipment including a Sport Design steering wheel, door sill guards with Black Edition logo, auto-dimming rear view mirrors, and headrests embossed with the Porsche crest. Black paint is standard, while Jet Black Metallic is available as an option. Other enhancements include 20-inch Carrera Classic wheels, Bi-Xenon headlights with PDLS (Porsche Dynamic Light System), two-zone climate control, heated seats, the Porsche Communication Management system with navigation, the upgraded Sound Package Plus and Park Assist for front and rear. The Cayman Black Edition is powered by a 2.7 liter flat-six engine with 275 hp. The Cayman Black Edition will reach showrooms in January, 2016. The MSRP of $59,200 does not include the $995 destination charge.
"Stand out from the mid-size crossover clutter and go Rogue!"
So said the local dealer radio announcer...just as I happened to be driving down Woodward Avenue in this week's tester - the 2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD. First off, I can't exactly say I was standing out from the mid-size crossover clutter - quite the opposite in fact. Small, mid-size, large, super-size ---- crossovers and SUVS all sort of blend together in my mind, except for the Escalade of course, which exists in a world of its own. Not that blending in is a bad thing. Choosing to drive a crossover, either out of necessity or pure desire (really?), pretty much ensures you're more at the utility end of the spectrum than the excitement end (of course, being able to haul stuff with ease can indeed be exciting - I'm using "exciting" here in the "versus a Porsche Boxster" kind of way). Which is a very long-winded way of saying, I kinda like the Rogue. It is surprisingly well done, inside and out. And in contrast to last week's BMW, which stickered for 50% more than its base MSRP because of option overload, this Nissan automatically gets extra points for exceptional standard content - all-wheel drive, power driver seat, leather-appointed seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, navigation with 7" touch-screen display, Bose, Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights and turn signals, heated outside mirrors, power liftgate, etc., etc. - and a total price that's just about 3k over base MSRP. Yes, it's a bit underpowered and no, it will not make your pulse race. But it is amazingly competent - and just reassuringly good. It does seem to be misnamed, as there is really nothing Rogue-like about either its looks or its personality, but then, the automotive name game has never been one that makes all that much sense. Bottom line? You may not "stand out from the mid-size crossover clutter" in the Nissan Rogue, but you can sure haul a lot of your own clutter around town - with more than a modicum of style and comfort. -WG
2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD: $32,715 ($29,630 Base Price; Arctic Blue Metallic; Almond interior; 2.5-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine; 170HP and 175lbs-ft of torque; Xtronic CVT with Sport & Eco Mode switch; All-Wheel Drive; 4-wheel front and rear disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS); Vehicle Dynamic Control; Traction Control System; Electronic Brake Force Distribution; Brake Assist; 18" alloy wheels with all-season tires and temporary spare tire; Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control; Active Trace Control; Active Engine Braking; Active Ride Control; 6-Way power driver seat with power lumbar support; E-Z Flex seating system, 40/20/40 folding and reclining, 60/40 sliding 2nd row; Around View monitor; Leather appointed seats; Quick Comfort heated front seats; Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; NissanConnect with Navigation and mobile apps; 7" color touch-screen display; Nissan Voice Recognition for Navi & Audio; SiriusXM Satellite radio; SiriusXM NavTraffic; SiriusXM Travel Link; Bose AM/FM/CD audio system with nine speakers; USB connection port for iPod interface and other compatible devices; Bluetooth Hands-free phone system; Streaming audio via Bluetooth; Hands-free text messaging assistant; Auxiliary audio input jack; Advanced drive assist display; Three 12-volt power points; Dual-Zone automatic temperature control; 2nd row seat A/C vents; Illuminated and adjustable visor vanity mirrors; Divide-N-Hide cargo system; Power door locks with auto locking feature; Power windows with DR auto up/down; Nissan Intelligent Key with push button start; LED DRLs; Halogen headlights with auto on/off; Fog lights; Outside mirrors with LED turn signals; heated outside mirrors; Privacy glass; Roof rails; Power liftgate; Floor mats with cargo area protector, $210; SL Premium Package - Power panoramic moonroof, LED headlights with auto levelizer, Blind spot warning, Lane departure warning, Forward collision warning, Moving object detection - $1,990; Destination charge, $885.
Adherence to Brand Image: It's hard to decipher what the Nissan brand image is, exactly. The brand's tagline - Innovation that excites - is about as lackluster and cumbersome as it gets. And, come to think about it, the tagline is completely irrelevant, too, because Nissan products as a rule don't excite at all. I know the fanboys in the automotive media tend to gush about Nissan's new design direction, but I find it to be, for lack of better words, lackluster, cumbersome and gimmicky, so at least there's some consistency there with that resounding thud of a tagline. Nissan has a huge technical presence here in suburban Detroit but I have never warmed up to the brand, because it always seems to be aiming for the vast, gray, mediocre middle of the market. But the American consumer public doesn't care apparently, as they seem to buy the shit out of 'em, which proves to me that for a lot of people, mediocrity is bliss. -PMD