Each year there are several surveys of Vehicle Satisfaction in the United States marketplace. Two of the most respected are from Consumer Reports, the widely read consumer buyer guide and automotive-specialist research company AutoPacific. Consumer Reports results were released on December 22, 2016. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction results were released on June 1, 2016.
The results are similar in some ways. The differences between AutoPacific’s “Future Consideration” results and Consumer Reports “Would Buy Again” results can be dramatic. AutoPacific’s “Future Consideration” measures owner loyalty. That is what percentage of the brand’s present owners would consider the brand again? AutoPacific also assumes vehicle buyers may be considering more than one brand in the future. This makes the percentage of consumers considering any one brand usually higher than the more definite “will buy” results from Consumer Reports.
Tesla is tops in all three measurements from Consumer Reports and AutoPacific. Then the comparisons diverge dramatically. In AutoPacific’s consideration results, popular domestic brands Ford (4) and Chevrolet (6) are in the top ten. In CR’s “will buy again” results Chevrolet is 9th and Ford is 15th separated by one percentage point. Second ranked in CR’s results, Porsche is 8th in AutoPacific’s consideration. Cadillac is second in AutoPacific’s consideration results but 22nd in CR’s rankings.
An interesting result in AutoPacific’s two measurements is that Ford and Chevrolet are very strongly considered while scoring below the industry average in their vehicle satisfaction scores. This is testament to the strength of their brand image.
So how can consumers use these divergent messages? Compare the brands at the top and the bottom of the list and see where there are similarities. In both Consumer Reports and AutoPacific results, Fiat is at the bottom. Ram, Fiat Chrysler’s truck-only brand has OK results from CR, but is on the bottom of the AutoPacific future consideration results. Hot-selling Jeep is towards the bottom in all the measurements. Should the buyer consider buying a Jeep a risk if owners are hesitant to buy another one? Would a new Jeep get lower satisfaction scores? Infiniti gets a pretty good satisfaction score from AutoPacific, but both CR “will buy” and AutoPacific consideration scores are very low. Something is going on there.
For each brand there is a story. Data compiled by organizations like Consumer Reports and AutoPacific can go a long way in helping consumers fine tune their consideration set when they are in the market for a new car or light truck.
Source: teucy.com – 2016 Lincoln MKS
Source: Lincoln.com – 2017 Lincoln Continental
The Lincoln MKS luxury sedan has not been an overwhelming success. Year to date through November 2016, the MKS sold less than 5,000 units. Lincoln dealers must be breathing a sigh of relief as its replacement, the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental, arrives at their dealerships. Already in 2016, the Continental has sold almost 3,500 units. The Continental is also out-selling the all-new 2017 Cadillac CT6. While the early sales results are promising, let’s see if the new Continental is an improvement over its predecessor.
Each year, AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers to determine what changes they want in their vehicle. It is particularly interesting to compare the changes that owners want to their vehicle when it is just about to be replaced by the next generation. In this case we will compare the 2016 Lincoln MKS with the MKS’ competitive set (Cadillac XTS, BMW 5-Series, Acura RLX, Audi A6, etc. – $50,000 to $70,000 mid-size luxury sedans). We will also provide AutoPacific’s evaluation of how much the 2017 Lincoln Continental will move the needle.
It becomes immediately obvious, however, that the owners of the MKS are much more traditional in their desires than the likely buyers of the all-new Continental. Compared with the competitive set, MKS owners are ten years older, less likely to be college educated and earn $50,000 less. About 76% of MKS owners are retired compared with 38% of the competitive set.
AutoPacific’s research shows that over 20% of MKS owners want more safety features (40%), technology that is easier to use (36%), better driver’s seat visibility (36%), more distinctive styling (34%), better ease of getting in and out (31%), improved roominess (27%) and better driver’s seat comfort (23%). AutoPacific’s assessment of the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental is that the new car will substantially improve the results for the car over the MKS. We predict that the owners of the 2017 Lincoln Continental will be a very satisfied bunch.
Here are the results of the major areas MKS owners want improved and our take on Continental compared with the outgoing MKS and its competitive set:
Source: AutoPacific – Changes Owners Want to 2016 Lincoln MKS
Safety Features: 40% of MKS owners want more safety features than now compared for 27% of the competitive set. The outgoing car has blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist available in an expensive technology package. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has the totally modern driver assistance suite available as well, but the features are more seamless in the new car and are available as a $3,100 Technology Package on the $54,000 Reserve model. This package includes: 360-degree camera, Active park assist, Lane-Keeping System, Lane-Keeping alert, Lane-Keeping aid, Driver Alert System, Adaptive cruise control, Pre-Collision assist with Pedestrian Detection, Collision warning, Brake support, Active braking, Auto-dimming rearview mirror, Rain-sensing wipers and Windshield wiper de-icer. Unfortunately, the totally cool LED headlamps are only available as part of a $5,000 Luxury Package that also includes the $1,130 REVEL sound system. Egads! Does this mean the LED headlamps are $3,870?
Technology: As with many vehicles these days, technology is a love it/hate it affair. Compared with the competitive set, the older Lincoln MKS buyer is much more likely to want technology that is easier to use (36% compared with 18%). The MKS uses Lincoln’s much-maligned MyLincoln Touch infotainment system that was glitchy and difficult to use. The 2017 Lincoln Continental uses the new Sync 3 system that is much easier to use and has includes Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. The new system is much more intuitive, faster, and seems more stable. We wish Lincoln had adopted a larger center stack screen mounted higher in the center of the vehicle. Also, the gray tones Lincoln uses in its graphics are difficult to see because the contrast is subtle. It would be much more satisfying if more vivid colors were used.
The Continental’s instrument cluster is reconfigurable and can provide an overwhelming amount of information or a very simple amount of data. AutoPacific’s complaint with the instrument cluster is that it cannot be made bright enough to see clearly on days with heavy sun loads.
Driver’s Seat Visibility: About 36% of MKS owners want better driver’s seat visibility compared with 22% for the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has good forward visibility, but the visibility to the sides is restricted by the high passenger seat back and headrest and the rear sail panel. The backlite is relatively high and rear seat headrests restrict visibility. The Continental is likely competitive, but not better than its competitors.
Styling: About a third of MKS owners want more distinctive styling. Only about 20% of the competitive set want more distinctive styling. While some criticize the 2017 Lincoln Continental as looking too much like the Bentley Flying Spur, the Lincoln certainly has more presence than its predecessor. We believe the 2017 Continental will be judged as distinctive or more distinctive than its facing competition in next year’s research.
Ease of Getting In and Out: As a person gets older flexibility becomes a challenge. About 31% of the older MKS buyers want the car to be easier to get in and out of. This compares with 23% of the competitive set. The new 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very fast A-Pillar which could interfere with head clearance when getting into the vehicle. The A-Pillar is pushed forward enough that this should not be a problem with the new car. Continental is at least on a par with its competitive set.
Roominess: About 27% of MKS owners want more passenger roominess compared with 22% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very spacious seating package. Its rear seat is very luxurious and accommodating especially with the $4,300 Rear Seat Package. Since Lincoln is making a concerted effort to sell the Continental in China where it likely will be driven by a chauffeur instead of the owner, the Rear Seat Package is very important. Cosseting the Chinese CEO in the rear seat is what this package is designed to do. Overall, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is more than competitive in terms of passenger roominess.
Driver’s Seat Comfort: About 23% of MKS owners want a more relaxed driver’s seat compared with 10% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental evaluated by AutoPacific had Lincoln’s 30-way power seats. Like many features with multiple adjustments, you can adjust it to any position but great. Several AutoPacific staffers loved the adjustability of the seats and especially the adjustable left and right leg thigh support. Starting with the default position may be result in the best overall seat feel. The new Continental’s seat firmness may be a bit too stiff for the traditional Lincoln buyer.
Engine Power: While MKS owners do not particularly want more power or better fuel economy, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is available with powertrain selections that would satisfy almost any type of driver. The base engine is a 305-horsepower 3.7L double overhead cam V6. The mid-level engine is a 335-horsepower 2.7L turbo V6. The top engine is a 400-horsepower 3.0L twin turbo V6. For a company that used to provide only one engine per vehicle, the choices offered are excellent. Driving the all-wheel drive 400-horsepower Continental can be an exhilarating experience.
Trump wins predicted by VehicleVoice survey
Trump Wins In February 2016, AutoPacific fielded a VehicleVoice survey to see how the 2016 Presidential Election would fare.
Ten months ago, VehicleVoice panel members predicted that Donald Trump would win the Presidency. To refresh your memory, here are the results:
Trump Wins Overall Among the presidential candidates of any party, Donald Trump is the top preference (24%), followed by Hillary Clinton (18%), Bernie Sanders (17%), Ted Cruz (9%), and Marco Rubio (7%). The remaining candidates are all under 5% with Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina having pulled out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.
Brand Owners Most Likely to Select… The owners of brands most likely to select Donald Trump are GMC (31%), Mitsubishi (31%), Scion (30%), Ford (25%), Jeep (25%), Buick (25%), and Cadillac (25%). No FIAT owners would prefer Trump. The brands most likely to select Hillary Clinton are Mercedes-Benz (25%), Infiniti (25%), Tesla (25%), BMW (24%), Cadillac (24%). The brands most likely to select Bernie Sanders are FIAT (44%), MINI (41%), Tesla (35%), Volvo (32%), Mazda (28%), Volkswagen (28%), Scion (27%), Subaru (27%), Toyota (25%).
Trump Profile Vehicle owners who prefer Donald Trump are likely to own domestic mainstream brands. About 57% have a college education and about 36% have a household income over $100,000. Contrary to other surveys, Trump does well among the youngest vehicle owners capturing about 33% aged 18-29 years old. The lowest preference for Trump is among vehicle owners in their 30s at 15%. All other age groups prefer Trump in the 22%-28% range.
Clinton Profile Brands with stronger preference for Hillary Clinton tend to be luxury brands. About 76% have a college degree and about 45% have a household income over $100,000. Preference for Clinton by age group is strongest among the 60-69 age group with 22% preferring Clinton – about equal to Trump in that age group. Lowest preference for Clinton is among the youngest with just 9% of the 18-29 year old group preferring her.
It is uncanny that so far in advance this relatively unsophisticated VehicleVoice poll of vehicle owners in the United States could predict the overall winner of the 2016 Presidential contest. At the time, these results seemed like an out-lier. In the final analysis, the results were very telling.
The 2017 Honda CR-V goes on sale in December 2016. It’s predecessor, the fourth-generation 2016 Honda CR-V, is on track to sell about 380,000 crossover SUVs in 2016. It is the highest volume crossover SUV and one of the top selling vehicles in the market. In AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award Research the CR-V achieved a score of 690. This is a fourth place showing in the Mid-Size Crossover SUV segment. Nissan Rogue (712), Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester place ahead of the 2016 CR-V. In AutoPacific’s 2016 Ideal Vehicle Award Research the CR-V was tied with Rogue in third place (1134 points). The class leading Subaru Forester (1175) and Mazda CX-5 scored higher.
Each year, AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers to determine what changes they want in their vehicle. It is particularly interesting to compare the changes that owners want to their vehicle when it is just about to be replaced by the next generation. Also, AutoPacific’s research can be measuring stick on how well a manufacturer’s product planners, engineers and designers understand their customers. Using AutoPacific’s research to determine what changes people wanted in their CR-V, let’s see how well Honda did with their update.
Source: AutoPacific – Radar Chart Showing Changes 2016 Honda CR-V Owners want Compared with Competition
Technology – Still a Challenge as With Most New Generation Vehicles: As with many vehicles these days, technology is a love it/hate it affair. About 25% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more advanced technology than now. About 30% want the technology they have to be easier to use. The 2016 CR-V has the HondaSensing suite of driver assistance technologies available. The 2017 version expands on that adding a blind spot information system to the affordable EX model. Technology is still an area that requires a great deal of work, and the 2017 Honda CR-V improves on its predecessor. About 25% of CR-V’s competitors want more advanced technology as well. Among competitors, about 34% of 2016 Ford Escape owners want easier to use technology.
Driver’s Seat Visibility – Excellent View: Visibility is a key component in the acceptance of new crossover SUVs. About 29% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want better driver’s seat visibility compared with 27% for competition. The previous CR-V was very competitive, but AutoPacific concludes the fourth generation CR-V is better. The driver’s seating position is excellent. The hood has been redesigned with more character that gives the driver more reference points in front. Honda has always been generous with glass and it appears the windows are larger. The 2017 CR-V should see better results next year.
Power and Fuel Economy – Going Turbo: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more power and acceleration and about 10% would sacrifice power and acceleration for better fuel economy. About 29% of 2016 Nissan Rogue owners want more power and acceleration. The 2017 Honda CR-V adds a 190-horsepower turbocharged 1.5L 4-cylinder in all but the base LX model. The turbo 4 gets both better fuel economy and acceleration and feels sprightlier than its predecessor. 2017 results should be even better than 2016.
Ride and Handling – Improved Dynamics: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want easier handing and a softer ride. This compares to just 14% of the owners of its primary competitors wanting easier handling and softer ride. Honda has improved the ride and handling giving the 2017 CR-V a solid ride with crisp sporty handling. It is not a pillow-soft ride by any means, but gives the confidence that the vehicle will do what the driver demands.
Passenger Roominess – More Rear Seat Room: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more passenger room. This compares with about 24% of competition (about 32% of Ford Escape owners want more passenger room). The 2017 Honda CR-V has 2.1-inches more rear seat legroom while increasing the overall length of the vehicle by 1.2 inches. The rear seat seems much more spacious and the 2017 Honda CR-V should fare even better in AutoPacific’s 2017 research.
Exterior Styling – More Distinctive – Upscale: Looking at the all new CR-V, the at-a-glance impression is “more of the same”. CR-V, however, adopts Honda’s more aggressive and distinctive front end design with a heavy dollop of chrome. The taillights are a blatant evolution of the 2016 CR-V. About 16% of 2016 CR-V owners want more distinctive styling. 23% of owners of the 2016 Ford Escape, for instance, want more distinctive styling. It is probably safe to say that the 2017 changes to the CR-V will move the needle towards the more distinctive area.
Cargo Area – Even Better: 2016 Honda CR-V owners are less likely to want more cargo space than the competition – 14% compared to 28%. The 2017 Honda CR-V adds almost 10-inches to the length of its cargo space. This makes the all-new CR-V even better than before and substantially better than each of its main competitors.
Overall: The 2017 Honda CR-V has incrementally improved in almost every area. The styling is more distinctive. The powertrain more responsive. The interior is larger within a vehicle that is no bigger than before. Combined with Honda’s outstanding ergonomics, the CR-V, as a product, should be able to sell at about capacity especially at the aggressive pricing Honda has adopted.
Competition does not stand still. The Ford Escape has a substantial upgrade for 2017. The Nissan Rogue is all new for 2017. The 2017 research will show which vehicle’s product development team understood its customers the best and executed the product for them.
Honda has imposed an embargo for the new Honda CR-V on technical specifications, driving impressions and pricing, so we can only describe the vehicle and its competitive position in generalities. The embargo lifts on November 30, 2016.
New Honda CR-V – all new for 2017 with distinctive front end styling.
Honda Assures Continued Success in Entry XSUV Market The all new Honda CR-V is an impressive compact crossover SUV. A pillar of Honda’s product lineup that includes Accord, Civic and Odyssey, the CR-V sells almost 400,000 units per year. Strong competitors include the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. The Nissan Rogue is starting to make waves as well. The entry crossover SUV category has become the best selling class of vehicle in the United States. Entry crossover SUV sales are higher than mid-size cars. The popularity of the segment, and how good this new CR-V is, has led Honda to add more assembly capacity at its Indiana assembly plant in 2017.
Sport utility vehicles have evolved from the hardcore 4x4s of the 1970s to the very easy-t0-live with crossover SUVs of today. Responding to customer demand for better ride, better fuel economy, the latest electronic and infotainment features, the new crossovers have taken the market by storm. They are now the vehicles of choice for most female buyers.
In the development of the new Honda CR-V, Honda benchmarked the European BMW X3 to give this mainstream crossover a luxury feel. They clearly have higher aspirations for the vehicle. Also, given the sales volume of the CR-V, Honda added standard features in lower trim levels. Cost efficiencies are substantial when a product approaches the 400,000 unit volume level.
New Honda CR-V – all new for 2017 with more muscular styling
More Aggressive Than Past Hondas Sounding like a Big Three manufacturer of yore, the new Honda CR-V is longer, wider and higher than before. It has a new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission on all but its base LX trim level. The looks of the new Honda CR-V are an upward evolution of its predecessor. Styling is more aggressive with more character in the hood and body panels. The grille is much more aggressive than previously and follows the trend adopted by the new Honda Pilot XSUV and Ridgeline pickup. The wheel openings are more muscular to accommodate larger tires and wheels.
More Upscale than Typical for This Class Comparing the new Honda CR-V with the RAV4 and Escape, the CR-V comes across as a product in a class above. The finish is outstanding, the interior has been substantially upgraded with soft touch materials in critical areas. As usual, the new Honda CR-V is an ergonomic tour de force. Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent. Reach to the controls is intuitive. The large electronic instrument cluster is brilliantly lit and provides necessary information. Responding to customer complaints, the new Honda CR-V adds back a volume control knob for the audio system replacing the slider used previously. The rear seat is larger than in its predecessor and Honda describes the interior space in the new Honda CR-V as being best in class.
High Volume EX Trim Loaded with Features The highest volume trim level will be the EX one step above the base LX. The level of equipment on this model is impressive. Honda includes Honda Sensing, blind spot warning and cross traffic warning as part of the EX trim level. Honda Sensing includes adaptive cruise control with low speed follow, collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation, and lane keeping assist. The Honda-exclusive Lane Watch video camera system has been abandoned for the new Honda CR-V. Blind spot information replaces Lane Watch because owners want blind spot information on both sides of the car and the right-side-only Lane Watch system couldn’t be adapted to show the left side as well.
Best Selling Honda? Given the excellence of the latest generation CR-V, and the additional production capacity being added, it would not be surprising if the CR-V becomes Honda’s top-selling vehicle.
The Midterm Evaluation of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards report issued in July 2016 by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) set the stage for comments on 2022-2025 CAFE standards. The comment period ends on September 30, 2016 and some congressional leaders have asked for a further 60 day extension to receive comment. Reading the details of the report is very enlightening and has largely been overlooked by the media.
Fuel Economy to Double from 2012 to 2025 In the rules established in 2012, fuel economy is to double by 2025 and green house gas emissions are to be cut in half. This would save 12 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of 2012-2025 model year cars and light trucks and save consumers billions of dollars in fuel costs.
Report Under-Estimates Truck Percentage of Light Vehicle Market At the time the initial rules were set, the truck mix was assumed to be 33% of the light vehicle fleet. Given today’s low gas prices and the popularity of crossover SUVs, the light truck mix is over 60% of the market today and is projected to grow to over two thirds of the market by 2020. In the Midterm Evaluation the government agencies show the highest truck mix to be 52% with low fuel prices continuing. If fuel prices return to peak levels seen during the last decade (not projected), the light truck mix is assumed to be 38%. Given the reality of the market, both of these estimates are conservative and very low.
Automakers Ahead of Schedule in Meeting Future CAFE Requirements To date, the Midterm Evaluation concludes “auto manufacturers have over-complied with the program”. This is a surprising statement from agencies that often accuse the industry with foot dragging in fuel efficiency and safety technologies. They note that “fuel economy technologies are entering the market at rapid rates” and that the costs of adding these technologies have not been as high as estimated back in 2012.
Consumers Have Accepted Enhanced Powertrains The report also notes that consumer acceptance of advanced fuel efficiency technology has largely been positive. Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged powertrain technologies have been well accepted (and strongly advertised). Stop/Start technology is becoming more accepted according to AutoPacific’s consumer research. Stop/Start shuts the engine off when stopped and then restarts the engine immediately when the accelerator is applied. Some Stop/Start systems are seamless. Others are rough on start-up. As the systems improve acceptance will improve.
Enhanced Gasoline Powertrains Can Meet 2025 CAFE Standards To meet 2025 CAFE requirements, the agencies identify several technologies that will play an important part. Most are enhancements to gasoline powertrains. Tops on the list are transmissions with 8-speeds or more (70%) . General Motors and Ford are working together to develop multi-speed transmissions. More engines will be turbocharged (54%). Stop/Start will become more commonplace (38%). The most interesting fact is the report assumes less than 2% of the vehicle fleet will be full electric vehicles and less than 1% will be a plug-in hybrid. Mild hybrids are estimated to be 14% and full hybrids will be 14% to meet 2025 CAFE. There is only passing mention of fuel cell vehicles.
Substantial Cost Increases to Meet Future CAFE Standards Improving fuel economy is not free. Back in 2012, cost increases of over $3,000 per vehicle were estimated to meet 2025 standards. The cost is now estimated by the agencies to be around $1,250 (over a 2021MY vehicle). Nowhere in the report does it mention how much the cost to get from 2012 to 2021 is. The report estimates that meeting the 2022 to 2025 standards will increase lifetime vehicle costs by $87 billion. This is estimated to be offset by fuel savings of $120 billion and other benefits of $55 billion. The net benefit is estimated to be $88 billion. Like many government reports, the arithmetic is vague and the conclusions are shaky.
AutoPacific’s bi-monthly Fuel Price Impact Study shows that consumers are not particularly willing to spend more for a vehicle that is more environmentally friendly. Consumers also say that their present vehicle is clean enough and the focus should be on cleaning up other sources of pollution. The Midterm Evaluation does not mention that there has been any research conducted to determine consumers’ willingness to pay substantially more for higher fuel economy vehicles.
Plug-In Electric Vehicles Not Needed to Meet Federal CAFE Perhaps the most interesting conclusion in the report is that plug-in electric vehicles are not needed to meet the Federal 2025 CAFE standards. This is not welcome news to Tesla’s Elon Musk or Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn. The primary reason electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) will impact the overall vehicle fleet are to satisfy California’s mandate for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) in the fleet. California’s regulations also are shared with northeastern states.
Even Tougher Standards in the Future? The report is very complimentary of the auto industry’s progress in adopting enhanced technologies to meet future fuel economy requirements. While some might hope that this would lead to a reduction in future standards, it might result in even tougher fuel economy goals.
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!
AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers annually to determine how satisfied they are with their vehicle and what changes they want made. Based on this owner research, AutoPacific calculates the vehicles that owners want changed the least. The people who have purchased the vehicle are the people it was designed for. The data result in the AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award. Every year there are some results that stand out. The 2016 awards are no different. Here are some highlights:
• The top brand overall is Tesla – a one car brand at the time of the research, but that one car is on target with its buyers. The Tesla Model S is the top ranked Luxury Car.
• The top popular brand is GMC – for the third year in a row.
• The most ideal vehicle, overall, is the Volvo XC70.
• Subaru swept the crossover SUV categories in which it competes with the Outback winning the Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV category, the Forester winning the Mid-Size SUV category and the Crosstrek winning the Compact Crossover SUV category. That is a very impressive sweep.
Multiple year winners include:
• Jeep Grand Cherokee – winning the last six years in a row
• Volkswagen Golf – winning the last three years in a row and six of the last ten years
• Chevrolet Colorado – for the second year in a row
• Subaru Outback – for the second year in a row
• Subaru Forester – for the second year in a row
That Tesla has won so early in its lifetime is a testament to its planning, design and engineering teams. Maybe Tesla does not have the bureaucracy that bogs down bigger companies and allows it to effectively target the affluent buyers of its first vehicle.
Jeep has been fine-tuning the Grand Cherokee since the early 1990s. The fact that it has won the Ideal Vehicle Award for six years in a row shows that Jeep really does know what Grand Cherokee owners want.
The string of Ideal Vehicle Awards won by the Volkswagen Golf over the past ten years is impressive.
Finally, Subaru has solved the equation of successful small and mid-size crossover SUVs. Subaru sales have been steadily increasing and the Ideal Vehicle Award wins show the company understands crossover SUVs. Of course their “LOVE” advertising and dog-centric messages don’t hurt either.