Mazda Premium is the objective for the Mazda brand in the future. Mazda realizes it is a mainstream brand but wants to become premium. In the minds of the car buyer, Mazda competes with Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Mazda has limited resources and needs to husband them. To achieve Mazda Premium positioning, its products must be executed to meet or beat premium brand competitors. This requires targeted benchmarking against more expensive vehicles in the same product category.
CX-5 Latest Mazda Premium Vehicle At the press launch of the 2017 Mazda CX-5 mid-size crossover SUV (XSUV) in San Diego, Mazda detailed its competitive strategy. The Mazda product development team did not closely benchmark the usual suspects. The CX-5 will be sold against Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. To go against premium brands, the CX-5 team benchmarked luxury brand XSUVs like Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX, Mercedes GLA. To show how deep they have benchmarked premium XSUVs, the Jaguar F-Pace was even included on one comparison chart.
The new Mazda CX-5 is a 5-passenger XSUV slotted below the 7-passenger CX-9 introduced last year. The CX-5 completes Mazda’s evolution to its Kudo design theme that stresses the “soul of motion”. The styling is striking and clearly differentiated from its German and Japanese competitors. Mazda states that “every element has been designed to be in a class above”.
To demonstrate the superiority of the premium-designed CX-5 over its luxury competition, Mazda provided these premium vehicles as comparisons to drive through downtown San Diego. While we cannot yet discuss the driving experience, we can reveal that the CX-5 arguably looks and drives better than premium brand XSUVs costing about $10,000 more.
In reality, it will take years for Mazda to achieve premium brand status. Executed consistently and effectively, Mazda Premium will ultimately achieve a stronger image with Mazda dealers and customers. Mazda Premium will allow Mazda to achieve higher per-unit profitability. Ultimately, Mazda Premium will allow Mazda to be positioned at a premium brand like Acura or Buick if all goes as planned. Competing against Audi, BMW, Lexus, Jaguar and Mercedes is still a ways off.
This is the second time I have attended The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering and it did not disappoint. Held at The Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel, California, the event drew 5,000 attendees. Cars and motorsports are supposed to be the highlight of the event, but food, drink and people are even more interesting. The attendees were enthusiasts, collectors, owners and motorsports personalities. Some of the vehicles on display had their owners hovering nearby. Other vehicles had their attendants close to make sure spectators did not touch them. Some of the restorers had worked on the cars for years and were bringing them out in public for the first time since the restoration was complete. Getting more popular all the time are “barn finds”. These are vehicles that have not been restored to a level never even attained from the factory. They have their fifty, sixty, seventy or eighty year patina intact.
There were over 250 vehicles to gaze at. Most were luxury and sporting marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Bentley. One of the highlights was the new Bugatti Chiron in a deep French blue with a highly chromed character line sweeping up the A-Pillar along the door and then down and back forward towards the front fender. Very dramatic. Framing the Chiron was a “sea” of Bugatti Veyrons in a rainbow of colors.
While The Quail is an event for individuals to showcase their vehicles, corporate displays seem to be on the upswing as well. Bugatti showcased the Chiron. Bentley showed off the Bentayga and the new Mulsanne. Acura was there celebrating 30 years on the market. BMW was celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Cadillac was featuring its CTS-V. Alfa Romeo featured the 4C and upcoming Guilia sedan. Singer, the classic Porsche upfitter, had a small display and a large crowd.
My favorite display was the Bowlus travel trailer hitched to a Bentley Bentayga. This all-aluminum $219,000 travel trailer is reminiscent of an aluminum Airstream but is totally high tech. The Bowlus folks say you can live off the grid for two weeks in their travel trailer and be totally comfortable.
The Quail is a signature event for Peninsula Hotels. Six Peninsula hotels had a spectacular pavilion with gourmet food appropriate from their cities – Bangkok, Beijing, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Paris, and New York. Most people probably couldn’t get through all six pavilions. While all six of the Peninsula pavilions were outstanding, perhaps the best was Beijing with great food and music to set the ambiance for a truly luxurious experience.
The Genesis G90 is the flagship of the new Genesis lineup. It will be on the market in September, 2016. Genesis is positioning the G90 against the top-of-the line Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus sedans. The question is can it compete?
Size is Competitive with Lexus, Mercedes, BMW From a size perspective, the Genesis G90 is within inches of its competitors. It is a bit bigger than the Lexus LS460. It is about the same size as the Lexus LS460L, however. That is the extended length LS. It is a couple of inches shy in wheelbase and overall length to the BMW 7-Series. It is a couple of inches shorter than the Mercedes S-Class. Its interior volume is a bit bigger than the S-Class. Let’s call it a toss up when looking at size.
Powertrain Choices – Base V6 TT with Optional V8 The base Genesis G90 powertrain is a 3.3L Twin-Turbo GDI (gasoline direct injected) V6 with 365 horsepower and 376 lb.ft. of torque. About 80% of G90 volume will be the V6. Base-to-base, G90 loses to the competition with standard V8s. Lexus’ 4.6L V8 has 386 horsepower. The Mercedes 4.7L bi-turbo V8 has 449 horsepower. But Genesis’ V6 has more horsewpower than BMW’s base 3.0L Twin-Turbo V6 that has 320 horsepower. The optional Genesis engine is the 5.0L GDI V8 with 420 horsepower and 383 lb.ft of torque. The BMW 750i with its 4.4L Twin-Turbo V8 has 445 horsepower. So Genesis’ V8 is a bit below the German V8s.
So what? The Genesis G90 with the Twin-Turbo V6 performs very well. Teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the G90 has excellent performance. Power is delivered smoothly and continuously. The powertrain is seamless and unobtrusive. There are only two options – V8 and All wheel drive. Driving the V6 with both rear and all wheel drive, we did not feel any noticeable difference. It wasn’t snowing.
Genesis planners want to have an interior that is “whisper quiet” and the NVH of the car delivers. The interior is quiet. Conversation is easy at any speed.
Rumor has it that Hyundai called in Lotus Engineering to help fine tune the G90s suspension. True or not, the suspension feels biased towards a German feel – purposeful and taut. It is not the cushy, absorbent feel provided by the Lexus LS. Handling is stable with little body lean. Nothing not to like.
On the Road to Autonomous Driving The Genesis G90 is loaded with standard driver assist and safety features. Many standard features on the G90 are in optional packages on the competition. As more and more is being written about autonomous driving, the G90 has some features that qualify. With standard adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist the G90 can cruise in heavy traffic pretty much autonomously. But, if the driver has their hands off the wheel for longer than 13-seconds, the car insists you touch the wheel again.
I found the lane keeping assist pretty accurate on twisty mountain roads in British Columbia, but there were a couple of times the car was obviously going to overshoot a lane marker and I had to take over. I would be confident in using this in heavy Los Angeles Freeway gridlock, but would stay attentive when on the twisties.
Base Pricing Guess – $65,000 – $70,000 Genesis is not ready to divulge pricing for the G90 yet. As brands usually say at a press event prior to introduction, pricing will be set closer to the release date. But the pricing of the competition can show the general area the G90 will be priced. The more-powerful V8-only S-Class has a base price of $95,650. G90 will not be that high. The less powerful in-line 6-cylinder BMW is priced at $81,500. A 750i V8 is priced at $97,600. The lowest priced facing competitor is the Lexus LS at $72,520. But lets look at the Genesis sister ship the G80. The G80 starts at $41,400 with a 311-horsepower 3.8L V6. Check all the boxes and you get the G80 up to $50,350. The V8 G80 is $54,550 fully equipped. Any guess at what the base price for a rear wheel drive G90 with the V6 would be? Our guess is the base price will be between $65,000 and $70,000. For a V8 G90 with All Wheel Drive? Maybe $75,000. I could be high.
Image Source: Genesis Motors USA
The new Genesis brand of luxury vehicles has been launched with Hyundaispeed! Bbalee! Bbalee! Quick, quick in Korean.
Finally, Hyundai Launches a Luxury Brand After years of deliberation, argument, and negotiation, Hyundai has launched the new Genesis brand. Hyundai officially announced the new Genesis brand in November 2015. Erwin Raphael was appointed head of Genesis in March 2016. The new Genesis brand goes public in September, 2016. That is quick – bbalee, bbalee!
In reality, the new Genesis brand is not a big deal. The brand will have only six vehicles by 2021. This does not approach the dozens of models offered by Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.
But wait. That is wrong, Genesis is a BIG DEAL! Genesis is the only luxury car brand launched after 1990 that has a deep pockets major manufacturer behind it. Tesla, launched in 2004, is questionably viable in the long term.
Hyundai has decided after years of consideration that a stand-alone luxury brand is a BIG DEAL. The resources of Hyundai are committed to guarantee its success. Hyundai presently has about 835 dealers in the United States. The new Genesis brand will launch with about 300. These have been selected with great care. The Genesis Institute will train dealer salespeople across the country.
Aggressive Launch Marketing The new Genesis brand launches with all guns blazing. Genesis launches as the luxury car sponsor for the National Football League. They are the sponsor for the Los Angeles Open golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club. These sponsorships are sure to make a splash. By early 2017, awide cross-section of American car buyers will know Genesis as a brand. They will know Genesis now exists as a brand rather than just a few car lines resting atop the Hyundai Motor America lineup. This will get the new Genesis brand and the two vehicles it will initially have to sell – the G90 and G80 – on the radar of people who have money to spend on their next new vehicle.
While Genesis vehicles promise to be outstanding, the brand’s commitment to its customers is a cornerstone of its existence. Genesis wants to take the customer experience to a whole new level beyond Lexus, Mercedes and BMW.
Respect for Time Respect for the Genesis Customers’ time is of paramount importance. Time is precious and cannot be replaced. So lets call this the Genesis “Respect Initiative”. Tthe features of this “respect initiative,” hovever, last only for 3-years and 36,000 miles. The 3/36 commitment results from Genesis management estimates that up to 80% of Genesis vehicles will be leased and the majority of those leases will be for 3-years and 36,000 miles. During the “respect period” Genesis owners/lessees will get full maintenance, valet service, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, navigation map updates, 24/7 roadside assistance with concierge service, and Genesis Connected Services. It would not be a surprise if Genesis has a comprehensive CPO (certified pre-owned used car) program in place by the time the first vehicles come off lease that would extend the “Respect Period” for subsequent owners.
Genesis Uses Hyundai’s In-House Advertising Agency – Innocean While Genesis is a stand-alone brand, it accelerated its launch by using Innocean as its advertising agency. Innocean is owned by Hyundai and also handles advertising for Hyundai brand vehicles. By using Innocean, Genesis gets a known quantity without lengthy reviews to select from numerous agencies vying for the job through lengthy and expensive reviews. Also, there is likely a “family discount” for using the in-house agency in there somewhere.
When asked by an advertising-savvy media member how the new Genesis brand will target its buyers after the NFL and LA Open hoopla, Genesis and their agency will “respectfully” target anyone who can afford to buy their cars. Genesis head Erwin Raphael contends they have no specific target buyer in mind – no age range, gender, or ethnicity. They are just targeting the ability to pay a certain lease fee for their G90 and G80 sedans. And after the brand is launched with heavy advertising and sponsorships, specific groups will be emphasized using Internet messaging and social media.
Product is the Foundation Leading to The Genesis Customer Experience Presently, there are six vehicles planned for the Genesis lineup. There are four cars and two SUVs. The G80 luxury sedan is on sale now. It is a 5-Series/E-Class competitor. The all new G90 (formerly Hyundai Equus) luxury sedan goes on sale in September. It is a competitor to the Lexus LS, Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series. Later comes a BMW 3-Series competitor – the Genesis G70. Then a near luxury sport coupe is launched. There will be a mid-luxury sport utility vehicle and a near luxury SUV. Frankly, they cannot get these SUVs on the market quickly enough.
Based on driving the G90 and G80, Genesis products promise to give the best entries in the competitive set a solid run for their money. Initially, they will be value propositions. You will get more features and content for your money. Such a deal!
Image by: George Peterson
Infiniti QX30 Launched One of the fastest growing product segments is the Luxury Small Crossover SUV (XSUV) category. Infiniti has been a bit late to the party as there are already 33 small XSUVs on the market. Eight of those are luxury brand XSUVs: the Acura RDX has been out since 2013 in its second incarnation, Audi Q3 out since 2014, BMW X1 out since 2014, Land Rover Discovery Sport out since 2016, Lexus NX200t out since 2015, Lincoln MKC out since 2015, Mercedes GLA since 2015, Range Rover Evoque out since 2012. Launch of the Infiniti QX30, while a bit late, pretty much has every brand in the fray.
Infiniti enters the fray with the Infiniti QX30, making it the 34th member in the small XSUV market and 9th luxury brand XSUV. Remember, QX is the Infiniti nomenclature for SUVs whether they are body-on-frame SUVs (QX80) or crossover SUVs (QX70, QX60, QX50). Infiniti cars carry names that begin with a simple “Q”.
All USA QX30s Classified as Trucks The Infiniti QX30 is a highly styled small crossover available in front wheel drive and all wheel drive powertrain configurations. In other markets the all drive model is called “Q30” indicating Infiniti is classifying it as an hatchback car. In the USA, both versions are classified as trucks.
Dramatic Infiniti Design Cues Differentiate QX30 The Infiniti QX30 is sporty and curvaceous like most Infiniti models. It has bulging front fenders sweeping back and down with a strong character line. Infiniti decribes the character lines as “dramatic and turbulent”. The windshield is very fast flowing into a steeply dropping roofline. The front end is instantly recognizable as an Infiniti with its unique “double-arch” grille. In the side view, Infiniti’s signature crescent-shaped C-pillar further differentiates the vehicle. There is a lot going on there, but it works very well in this small XSUV.
Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes GLA Share Platform To keep the investment in line the Infiniti QX30 is assembled in Sunderland, England alongside the Mercedes-Benz GLA. QX30 and GLA share platforms, but Infiniti has loaded its entry with all the latest high tech electronic gadgetry available.
Engine Power at the Low End of Competitive Range The 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine is shared with the GLA and is manufactured by Daimler in Kolleda, Germany. Power output is 208 horsepower with 258 lb-ft of torque. Compared with other luxury XSUVs this power output is anemic. Driving the QX30, the performance is adequate, even pleasant, but a power output of between 230 and 240 horsepower would be more expected from an engine with these specifications.
The engine is mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.
This article was first published on Forbes.com on June 9, 2016
Tesla Tops Auto Brand Satisfaction for Second Year in a Row Tesla owners are the most satisfied overall among all car and light truck owners according to the results of AutoPacific‘s 2016 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The annual study includes over 65,000 respondents for 2016 and covers 273 vehicles sold in the United States.
Tesla owners are almost unanimous in agreeing the Tesla is fun to drive, powerful, eco-friendly, upscale, safe, distinctive and expensive. These are not people who are really looking for the greenest car around, they want a car that makes a statement and can tear away from almost every other car when the light turns green. The fact that Tesla has been the top-ranking brand in AutoPacific’s research two years in a row is testament not only to how much Tesla buyers like their product, but at how well the brand has been positioned. Of course, Tesla today is a one-car brand and that one car has really resonated with its owners. Things may be different when data for the Model X and Model 3 are included in the years to come.
Other luxury brands trail Tesla. Cadillac, Lexus and Lincoln are next in satisfaction, then comes a surprise.
Kia Top Ranked Popular Brand Kia is ranked fifth overall and is the top popular brand in the research. This is quite a feat for a Korean brand that was just an asterisk fifteen years ago. Clearly, Kia products are capable of competing with the best. The Kia Optima mid-size sedan was third overall behind the Cadillac Escalade Luxury SUV and the Mercedes S-Class Luxury Car. These cost about three times what the Optima would cost. Kia owners see their vehicles as safe, fun to drive, comforting, a good value from a trusted brand. While these attributes are above the results for the industry as a whole, they bear little resemblance to the magnitude of the Tesla results.
Here are the top ten most satisfying brands:
Check most of the boxes needed to win in the highly competitive compact car segment and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra does not miss many chances to excel. Following the mantra of “democratization of technology” Elantra has most of the high tech infotainment and technology features available. When you pop for them all, the retail price is $26,750. This is a lot for a compact car of a decade ago, but not bad for the fully loaded Limited model of the all new Elantra. For those not wanting or needing the full equipment load, the starting price is around $17,000.
Good Ease of Use For a person reasonably familiar with today’s cars, the Elantra is easy to figure out. It might not pass the rental car test where you should be able to start the car, turn on the headlights, adjust the radio and air conditioning system on a stormy night at Hertz, but it comes close. Easy to understand and use are the keynotes of Elantra design.
Created to provide a destination for buyers wanting to downsize, Elantra has all the features with the possible exceptions of cooled seats and adaptive cruise control that brings you to a full stop and then proceeds when traffic moves forward. For buyers wanting to upgrade, everything is there. For a price.
Easy to Drive Elantra is quiet, solid, comfortable. It handles very well on aggressive back-California roads. It is acceptably fast. It has an automatic 6-speed transmission with its base 147-horsepower 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. (There is an eco model available with higher fuel economy powered by a 128-horsepower 1.4L 4-cylinder turbo mated to a 7-speed EcoShift dual clutch transmission with limited feature availability).
The interior package is similar to a mid-size car of the prior generation (it is rated mid-size by the EPA). In fact, Elantra has about the same interior size of a Cadillac CTS and is bigger than a BMW 3-Series or Audi A4. Interior materials are a notch above what used to be expected in this class of car. The upper surface of the instrument panel is soft, but adjacent materials are hard while pretending to be soft. The trunk is large, but accessed through a small opening due to its relatively fastback design.
Comprehensive Feature Availability There is a 4.5-inch multi-color display between the gauges in the instrument cluster. In the center stack, there is either a 7-inch or 8-inch monitor depending on features selected. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces are avaiilable. To enhance the sound of your music there is Harman’s Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology. Nice… very comprehensively done.
No Longer Head-Turning Elantra is good looking, but not head-turning like its predecessor. In the rear view, Elantra gets lost in traffic. Its distinctive front view is highlighted by its large trapezoidal grille opening and LED accents on higher trim models. Functional outboard vents in the front fascia direct air over the front wheels and help aerodynamics. Vertical LEDs accent the outboard vents in top of the line models. But overall, like the larger Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai has become more timid with its new compact car entry.
Elantra GT Coming Coming in Fall 2016 is the Elantra GT with a 200HP 4-cylinder turbo and distinctive front and rear styling and unique interior trim. The GT model will have a DSG
Owners rate Kia K900 top car, Ford F-150 top truck. Tesla Top Brand
TUSTIN, Calif. (July 8, 2015) – AutoPacific today announced its 19th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs), identifying the most satisfying vehicles on the market. An industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied an owner is with his/her new vehicle, VSAs are based on survey responses from over 66,000 owners of new 2015 model year cars and light trucks.
“2015 represents a year of diversity,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “Competition is fierce and no one automaker dominates the results.” The 2015 winners are spread across nearly every manufacturer, with wins by 9 out of 11 automakers. General Motors receives the most wins with 5, followed by Kia and Nissan, with 4 and 3 wins, respectively. Honda, Toyota, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobile), Volkswagen and Ford follow with 2 wins each. Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai each take home 1 win.
“For the 2015 model year, there are 274 models and 33 brands from which to choose a new vehicle,” says Peterson. “It can be daunting for consumers to sort through all of those options and try to predict which one will work best for them in the long run. AutoPacific VSAs help to give them a strong starting point.”
The average VSA score for 2015 is 25-points higher than in 2014 confirming products and customer handling are improving markedly. The brands with the greatest year-over-year improvements are Jaguar – improving eleven positions; Volkswagen – improving ten positions; Ford – improving nine positions.
The Kia K900 – Kia’s range topping luxury car – set an all time high and wins AutoPacific’s President’s Award. This award is given only when the overall score tops the previous high score. Interestingly, the all-new aluminum bodied Ford F-150 would have won this award if the Kia was not in the running. The previous President’s Award winners were the 2014 Mercedes S-Class and the 2010 Hyundai Sonata.
Korean Manufacturers Take Over Top Spot in Satisfaction
Tesla, a domestic brand with only one vehicle, is the top scoring brand overall. General Motors’ GMC division is the top scoring mainstream brand. In aggregate, Korean brands are the top source of high scoring vehicles. With 5 winning vehicles, including the top ranking Kia K900, Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai come out on top in combined average score, taking over the position previously held by European manufacturers. “Kia and Hyundai are continually improving owner satisfaction in key areas like reliability and quality, yet are also hitting the mark with safety, braking, handling, styling and seat comfort, not to mention a very satisfying warranty program,” explains Peterson.
AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards objectively measure owner satisfaction with 50 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and styling to fuel economy and performance.
“In many cases, an extremely satisfying vehicle is not the car or truck that has the best absolute build quality or the best safety rating,” says Peterson. “VSAs look at the big picture, which includes owners’ experiences with their vehicle’s quality and safety, but also goes deeper into the heart of the ownership experience.”
AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Additional information about AutoPacific and the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: www.autopacific.com and www.vehiclevoice.com.
Dan Hall firstname.lastname@example.org 714.838.4234
2017 Lincoln Continental
The 2014 BMW 3-Series GT is the highest scoring Aspirational Luxury Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The planners at BMW have decided that a sub-niche strategy is good and have developed the “Gran Turismo” version of their venerable 3-Series. The designers and engineers have developed a product that provides owners with 3-Series goodness combined with wagon utility. The 3-Series GT is at the top against some very impressive aspirational luxury cars such as the Audi A5, Audi A4, Volvo XC70, BMW 1-Series, and the Hyundai Genesis. The 2014 3-Series GT also won AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award. Winning both awards in one confirms that the 3-Series Gran Turismo is a very special car. George Peterson, President of AutoPacific, concludes: “BMW is sub-niching the market with different bodystyles to appeal to a narrower and narrower group of buyers. With the 3-Series Gran Turismo they have provided a very satisfying product that hits the target buyers’ requirements precisely.”
Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle survey, the 2014 BMW 3-Series GT leads or ties in four satisfaction categories and was within three percentage points of another three.
The top five highest ratings by 3-Series GT owners are: same exterior size, same passenger room, same tires, same wheels, and the same cargo space. These results confirm that the Gran Turismo buyers, specifically, appreciate the spaciousness and utility the GT bodystyle gives them.
Although the 3-Series GT is at the top there are several things owners would change. Owners would like different interior lighting, have better visibility, a more snug driver seat, more or better interior storage compartments and a different information and technology center.
There is a story to be told with the information and entertainment system. BMW was one of the first to implement the Human Machine Interface (HMI) – or iDrive system. They have continually struggled with their HMI system. While iDrive has improved substantially over the years, for this year seventeen percent of 3-Series GT owners want a more advanced system while twenty-two percent want a simpler one. BMW still has a way to go with their HMI system.