The following letter arrived from Ms. Caryn Griffith of Winfield, Illinois. She has had an ongoing issue with replacement headlamps on her 1999 Mercury Cougar. As you read her comments you can feel her frustration with the way her dealer(s) and Ford Motor Company are handling her problem. She details problems with replacement parts for an older car. Replacement headlamps are in short or no supply for her car. Her insurance company has told her that her car is dangerous to drive without the headlamps being replaced. And she is unhappy with the way Ford has reacted. Read on.
“Anger, frustration, no results…this is what I’ve experienced over the past several months. Over the past 3 ½ months, I’ve been without my car, due to lack of organization and stocking of headlamps by the Ford Motor Company. What aggravates me the most is that the Ford Motor Company doesn’t seem to show any remorse for the inconvenience I’ve endured as a customer. Nor have they had an initiative to take responsibility for their company’s actions. It is also implied that because they are such a large company and seem to have so much influence over the economy and society, it seems that no one is willing to take a stand for the consumer.
This is a shortened version of my very unpleasant story.
On October 2, 2006, my 1999 Mercury Cougar was damaged due to the flooding rains that we had that evening in the west suburbs of Illinois. When I took my car in for repairs to the Westgate Lincoln Mercury Dealer, on October 9, 2006, I wanted to have the headlights looked at because they contained puddles of rainwater inside them. I found out that the entire headlight casings would have to be replaced due to the water damage, so I was glad I placed a claim with my insurance company. Little did I know how long repairing my car would take.
My car sat at the Westgate Lincoln Mercury dealer in Lombard, IL for one month, until that site was closed and merged with Elmhurst Lincoln Mercury. My car was then transported over to that dealership for the remainder of the 4 month span. Why did it take 4 months just to replace headlamps? I’d like to know that answer as well, but Ford claims it’s because of a nation-wide back-order and faulty manufacturing of previous headlamp assemblies. I have found over the past several months that the various levels of the Ford Motor Company do not work together or communicate with each other.
I have also found that I’ve been lied to, pushed around and brushed off; all signs of poor customer service. The following list is a brief overview of what I’ve been through:
Continued below the fold…
Over the years, AutoPacific has conducted a considerable amount of research on tires and tire advertising. One of the biggest blunders we have seen in recent years has been the shift by Michelin from its baby in the tire advertising to a refocus on the Michelin Man – Mr. Bibendum.
We can only guess that this change was brought on by new management at Michelin (not invented here – the previous management didn’t know what they were doing philosophy) or present management just growing weary of the same old successful baby in the tire advertising. Remember, advertising is only as strong as the management directing it.
Michelin’s Baby in the Tire Extremely Persuasive
In focus group after focus group one of the first things people remember about tire advertising is Michelin’s baby in the tire campaign. The second is Goodyear’s blimp. Michelin’s baby-oriented theme ran for years – maybe decades and was respected for continuity almost as much as BMW’s Ultimate Driving Machine message. The baby clearly communicated safety and security and hit the heart stings of every woman in the research.
One advertising critique describes the Michelin baby campaign this way: “The message here, of course, is “if you don’t lay out the extra cash for Michelin tires, you are going to kill your own child.” Too obvious and crude to fool anybody? Nope. “We are so proud of the impact the baby campaign has had over the years,” remarks a Michelin “brand manager.” “It’s rare for an advertising campaign to have this kind of longevity and influence on an industry.”"
So, faced with a long running successful campaign, Michelin shifted to the Michelin Man and killed the baby. Not that we don’t like the Michelin Man, we do, but there probably was room for both.
Advertising Age Review of Michelin Advertising Over the Years
Advertising Age describes the Michelin Man advertising in glowing terms. Introduced in 1898, the Michelin Man was an idea conceived by Edouard Michelin. Advertising Age explains:
“Andre Michelin commissioned the creation of this jolly, rotund figure after his brother, Edouard, observed that a display of stacked tires resembled a human form. The artist’s sketches of a bloated man made of tires was exactly what the brothers had in mind.
One in particular, picturing the character lifting a beer glass and shouting, “Nunc est bibendum! (Now is the time to drink!)” seemed to embody Michelin’s slogan at the time, “Michelin tires swallow up all obstacles.”
The artist reworked the hulking figure, replacing the beer bottle with a goblet of nails and glass that the character rose in a toast to all road hazards.
Today, the Michelin Man is one of the world’s oldest and most recognized trademarks and it represents Michelin in over 150 countries.”
In researching this brief blurb on Michelin’s advertising, we found Google overflowing with links. A scholarly book has even been written on Michelin advertising. The review of the book is found below the fold.
Acura (click here for our story) wasn’t the only manufacturer exploring themes for more than ten years out at the November 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, and not the only manufacturer who may have missed the mark.
Form Follows Function? Not Here
Mazda developed the Nagare (pronounced na-ga-reh) concept to describe their future design themes, as an expression of where Mazda styling might be in 2020. Nagare is not only the name of this concept, but the name of Mazda’s future design language. The word, according to Mazda, is Japanese for flow and the “embodiment of motion.” Nagare is the first of several show properties being prepared for this year’s auto show season that will explore this new surface language, each of which will take a different interpretation. Mazda promises some of the concepts we see this year will be closer to production; this Nagare is a design rather than a production expression.
Nagare has a sleek, aerodynamic shape, but one that is difficult to reconcile with the concept of an “urban cruiser” for 2020 or any other decade. For one, the extreme aero look didn’t leave much room for people, the most basic reason for having a vehicle. Placing the wheels at the extreme edges of every corner does promise strong and nimble handling and give the concept an aggressive stance. This concept stressed the soul of the sports car over the ability for people to ride in it. Though Mazda didn’t actually show the concept property with doors open, it is designed with two forward-hinged double-length doors that open like butterfly wings. Nice and pretty and a configuration found on lots of concepts, but one that is rarely used in production, and even then typically for low-volume sports cars.
Maserati Teases Auto Press With MC-12
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers dutifully attended the Maserati press conference, but you get the feeling that Maserati executives felt compelled to have a press conference at the 2006 (2006.5?) Los Angeles Auto Show. With a full 30% of Maserati’s US Sales coming from California, we would have expected more
While little news was shared, the press did have the opportunity to view a street version of the MC-12. The vehicle $1.5 million vehicle was provided by the Riverside Automotive Museum, which gives you the sense that it is more of a “piece” than a machine. US sales of 14 units are testament to its rarity… in fact, is it a real car?
Honda‘s design facility in Torrance, California, has developed much of Acura‘s current lineup, including the TL, MDX, and RDX. And as Acura moves forward to become a global brand instead of only a North American one, Honda opens an Acura advance design studio in Pasadena, California, in 2007. It was that team that brought us the Advanced Sedan Concept at this November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, and the studio that will be responsible for Acura’s future design. The Advanced Sedan Concept is the first look at some of the studio’s thinking.
ASC: A Controversial and Amateurish Cartoon of an Acura Flagship
The Advanced Sedan Concept is a possible direction for “the biggest and baddest luxury/performance sedan we could possibly” build, according to head of the new Advanced Design Studio Dave Marek. No specifications were given for this pure design study, which did not have a finished interior or running gear, but its proportions indicated a possible front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. As a dream of a car that maybe twelve years from now could rival Bentley or Maybach for presence as well as performance, a rear-drive orientation is the one expected by those buyers.
Though the most controversial design execution at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Acura ASC lacks maturity needed for a range-topping flagship. Even though it hints at an urgently needed rear-wheel-drive V8-powered platform that could propel Acura into the top tier of luxury brands along with Lexus and Infiniti, the design cues are amateurish at best. The grille is almost cartoonish. Perhaps Acura designers have overcompensated for past milquetoast efforts here.
In fact, this concept could be qualified to appear in the VehicleVoice “What Were They Thinking?” category.
The introduction of a new coupe is usually a controversial affair. We struggled whether to include the new 2008 Altima Coupe in the VehicleVoice “What Were They Thinking?” category and here is why…
1. Coupes are a struggling bodystyle.
Coupe sales have been deteriorating for years and only when there are really significant new entries does the sales in the segment spike. Mustang is the big dog and even though the Altima Coupe is officially a “Premium Mid-Size Coupe” sales will not be robust.
2. Altima Coupe is a me too.
Maybe Nissan has extra investment dollars in the kitty that they can spin off a highly differentiated bodystyle off the Altima. No big deal. Not too expensive. But the Altima Coupe follows the Honda Accord Coupe and the Toyota Camry Solara Coupe and Convertible. In the future we can also expect a coupe from the Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan.
So, not much original thinking here.
3. Coupes are package-challenged sedans.
Once upon a time General Motors decided that a coupe should have a shorter wheelbase than a sedan. Looks sportier, you see. (Note the Pontiac G6 sedan and coupe have identical wheelbases). So, the Altima Coupe has worse ingress/egress, worse visibility and worse headroom. What’s good about that. Well, I guess you can argue that it looks sexier.
4. Coupes are ego cars for management.
Think about it. Auto designers always are the most proud of the coupes and sporty cars they have designed than of great sedans. More sex appeal. “Let’s design a car that a young guy would really like to buy. He doesn’t care if he can get into it, or out of it, or can see out of it. He just cares about style.” Car company management lusts to have the development of a successful coupe on their resume.
With that anti-coupe flailing around, assuming that a coupe is OK, the 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe is a worthy competitor. The style behind the B-Pillar is what counts and Altima’s stylists have done an outstanding job. The resulting style has familiar Nissan coupe cues found on the Z-Car and the Infiniti G35. If they had to do it, this is a good job.
As a completely biased Expedition driver, I feel it is important to comment on some of the design features on the new 2007 Ford Expedition that fall short. In fact, these are designs that fall into the category of “What Were They Thinking?”.
Four Expeditions Over the Years
First a little history. I have had four Expeditions since 1997 – 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003. Each was on a two-year lease and performed great. All were 4x2s – two-wheel drive. Don’t need 4×4 in California. The first three Expeditions were the from the initial platform and the 2003 was all new with independent rear suspension and the power fold flat third row seat. In the first three, the first thing I did was remove the third row seat and stow it in the garage. The 2003 (and current) solution is so slick that every Mid-Size and Large SUV should adopt it.
Why didn’t I get a fifth Expedition? Well, even though I thought the Expeditions were exactly what I needed, I couldn’t bring myself to get another (or even a Lincoln Navigator). So, I leased a CAR and missed my SUV for the two years I had it.
2007 Expedition Limited 4×4 = $39,925 base MSRP
Ford was good enough to give us a 2007 Expedition Limited. This is the model with the body color grille and chrome wheels. The MSRP is $48,485 equipped with moonroof, reverse sensing system, navigation system, satellite ratio, power liftgate, rear entertainment system and load leveling suspension. So, what’s not to like? Here you have the ultimate Expedition with all the boxes checked. Should be perfect.
Today marks the final Saturday morning Crystal Cove mini concours in Newport Beach. Starting at 0700 each Saturday morning for years, Crystal Cove has become the spot for car owners and enthusiasts to gather over coffee and donuts on Saturdays. Unlike Donut Derelicts up Pacific Coast Highway that has a hot rod flavor, Crystal Cove had a exotic car flavor even though there were a few hot rods and classics thrown in. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents and many local auto industry folks were on hand to bid farewell.
Irvine Company Crushes Crystal Cove Car Event
Seen here is Barry Meguiar of Meguiar Waxes and Freeman Thomas of Ford. Meguiar is explaining what has gone on concerning the weekly Crystal Cove event. He describes typical Irvine Company “gestapo tactics” in shutting down the event. An approach to local upscale mall – Fashion Island – led Irvine Company to warn the retailers there not to discuss holding the event at Fashion Island.
What were the reasons for kicking the event out? Apparently there was too much traffic congestion. The Newport Beach Police said traffic was not a particular problem. The cars were too high performance and unsafe at speed. Newport Beach Police said that they had not given out an extraordinary number of tickets before, during or after the event for the years it has been held. And finally, the local residents complained of noise and congestion. Heck, the local residents were some of primary participants.
The event was over each Saturday at 9AM a full hour before the retail stores in the upscale Crystal Cove strip mall where there is a Starbucks, nice pastry shop and Trader Joes. The Starbucks and pastry shop will sorely miss the Saturday morning crowds – business they wouldn’t get otherwise.
Ford to the Rescue
Ford circulated flyers at the final Crystal Cove event and opened their Premier Automotive Group and Mazda Campus to the Crystal Cove enthusiasts. PAG and Mazda is adjacent to the Irvine Spectrum – another upscale shopping area, but without the oceanside ambiance of Crystal Cove. The Ford venue promises to be more spacious and more inviting… but I think it is on Irvine land as well.
As part of Ford’s semi-annual Way Forward plan, Ford announced that they will not cancel the venerable Lincoln Town Car after all. They made the sensible decision to move the Town Car from its decades-old home of Wixom, Michigan to the Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis Plant in St. Thomas, Ontario.
You can see what we at VehicleVoice think/thought of Ford’s plans for Lincoln in our Lincoln commits suicide blog
of August 24, 2006.
Keeping the Town Car around helps Ford’s revenue picture, keeps the livery business happy and increases the utilization of the St. Thomas plant (where Ford just dropped one of two shifts). Apparently, the transition from Wixom to St. Thomas is not as easy as many believed. There will have to be some substantial changes to the cars to accommodate all three on the same line.