Dodge Avenger:

2008 Dodge Avenger SXT: MyGig in Action

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One feature we were looking forward to experiencing on our own home turf is the Chrysler Group’s voice- or touch-screen-operated MyGig infotainment system. MyGig uses a 20GB hard-drive to manage music, navigation (including real-time traffic capability), space for storing photos, and operating UConnect and Sirius satellite radio. Chrysler Group offers MyGig with the latest Dodge Avenger and Nitro, Chrysler Sebring sedan and convertible, the upcoming minivans, and Jeep Wrangler and new Liberty. Though we first covered MyGig after seeing it in the Chrysler Sebring, we recently spent a few days with a MyGig-equipped 2008 Dodge Avenger SXT.

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2008 Dodge Avenger: Stuck in the Middle With You

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We brought you coverage of the Dodge Avenger concept reveal at Paris (click here), then the production reveal in Detroit (click here). We recently had the chance to drive the Avenger around Phoenix, and now we bring you the first VehicleVoice and AutoPacific driving impressions. Avenger relies on its looks to draw buyers in and close the deal, as it settles mid-pack among its mid-size sedan competition (Ford Fusion, Pontiac G6, Saturn Aura, new-for-2008 Chevrolet Malibu, Mazda6, Kia Optima) by nearly every other measure. Inside and out, it is better than some, but not so good as others. Avenger is head and shoulders above the 2001-06MY Stratus, but Stratus had been allowed to slip into mediocrity, and Avenger competes against modern offerings instead of the past.

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Detroit News Article on Vehicle Naming

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VehicleVoice managing partner and AutoPacific president George Peterson contributed to this Detroit News article on vehicle naming. Much of the discussion at this week’s Chicago Auto Show is about name changes around the industry.
A moniker can make a car, but there’s no secret formula
February 9, 2007: Sharon Terlep / The Detroit News
Changing names:
• Ford changed the names of Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego to Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. It also renamed the Freestyle the Taurus X.
• incoln moved to an alphabetical system, Zephyr became MKZ.
• Dodge is replacing the Stratus sedan with the Avenger.
• GM’s Pontiac division is replacing the Grand Prix with the Pontiac G8.
CHICAGO — Cars of the future are supposed to take center stage at auto shows, but it was names from days past that generated some of the biggest buzz in the Windy City this week.
Ford Motor Co.’s decision to revive the Taurus name and give it to its slow-selling Five Hundred sedan, announced this week at the Chicago Auto Show, had journalists, analysts and executives alike critiquing the strategy and wondering whether it would become the latest trend.
It’s not an idle question. Naming vehicles is a major undertaking, with automakers spending millions to cultivate and market each new moniker. The brand equity of mainstays like Civic, Camry and Taurus is valued far beyond that of any high-priced advertising blitz.
And with the U.S. auto market crowded with vastly more models than even a decade ago, finding the right name is more difficult — and more vital — than ever.
“Naming is a big, big deal,” said George Peterson, president of consulting firm AutoPacific Inc., a Tustin, Calif market research and product consulting firm. “You can always argue with the names they use. But you can’t beat a good name.”
Detroit’s Big Three automakers have been criticized for their habit of trying to launch new names to revive tarnished brands rather than sticking with the names and improving the vehicles.
“Even if the car has kind of run its course and started to wane, you’re better off investing in marketing the current product than coming up with a brand new name,” said Karl Brauer, editor in chief of Edmunds.com, an online auto shopping site.
Bringing back an old name is a compromise of sorts, offering several benefits over creating new monikers, notably eliminating the need to spend a fortune trying to create brand awareness.
Ford is hardly alone in this back-to-the-future strategy.
DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group hauled out its old Avenger name this year for the vehicle replacing its Dodge Stratus sedan.
General Motors Corp.’s Chevrolet resurrected the Malibu name in the late 1990s and Impala in 2000.
The Chevy Camaro and Dodge Charger were gone, but the Charger is back and Camaro is coming.
The allure of old names is growing as some automakers discover that alpha-numeric titles favored by luxury brands don’t work for everybody.
Those almost code-like names are meant to build recognition for the brand rather than the vehicles. And it can work. The mega-success of the 300 sedan put Chrysler back in the spotlight. And Cadillac’s STS, CTS and SRX, helped remake the brand’s image from old and worn to edgy and cool.
Other attempts have been disastrous, however. Honda Motor Co.’s Acura lost an estimated $1.5 billion in sales by renaming its Legend sedan the RL, Peterson said. “The joke was that RL stood for Ruined Legend.”
Reviving old names can backfire, too. If a name is good enough to resurrect, the argument goes, it probably shouldn’t have been buried in the first place.
“You can bring back names from the past,” Brauer said, “but unless the product is good, it’s going to be a short-lived run.”
While many companies tinker with names, Ford’s high-profile financial problems coupled with the Taurus’ iconic status made its move a major attention-grabber. Many at the auto show probed other automakers for hints of similar moves:
• Will Pontiac’s G8 rear-wheel-drive sedan get the Grand Prix name? (No)
• Does Toyota regret going with the xA, xB, xD naming system for its Scion brand? (Not at all)
• What do the folks at Chrysler think about bringing back old names? (Won’t say)
GM product czar Bob Lutz was peppered with name-related questions after the unveiling of the G8 Thursday. Critics have said Pontiac’s letter-number theme drains some of the feeling from a brand meant to trigger an emotional response in drivers.
GM is sticking with the strategy. When asked about Ford’s decision, Lutz said he would not comment on “bringing back a name that was killed for good reason.”
Other Ford rivals declined to speak on the record, while making it clear they thought the idea was misguided.
Ford, however, could very well be vindicated. Most analysts say the Taurus revival makes sense and dealers love the idea. So do drivers who became fans of the Taurus when it redefined the family sedan in the 1980s.
More than 80 percent of consumers recognize Taurus as a Ford product, compared to about 9 percent for the Five Hundred, according to research by Art Spinella of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore. “Ford did the right thing reviving the Taurus and Sable nameplates,” he wrote in a note about his study.
Just ask consumer Michael Wheatley of Bardstown, Ky.: “Smart move,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Very smart move.”


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Return of the Avenger

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Revived Avenger Takes Charger Cues in Sheetmetal and Hobbies: Avenger Race Car Part of 2007 NASCAR Car of Tomorrow Program
At the 2006 Paris auto show, Dodge showed off an Avenger Concept. At the time, we offered up our first impressions of the new sedan (click here for our story). A mere four months later, Dodge revealed the production version at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. Avenger is important to the Dodge franchise and promises to be a far better competitor than the defunct Stratus was in its end days, but VehicleVoice readers will not be surprised that the Avenger name replaces Stratus, or that the production car is much like the concept, minus the concept’s SRT-like bodywork.

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Dodge also reinforced their commitment to motorsports with a Car of Tomorrow Avenger NASCAR also on stage. NASCAR driver Kurt Bush helped Dodge introduce the updated Viper, but Juan Pablo Montoya was on hand to help introduce the racing Avenger.
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Dodge needs Avenger to play an important role in its car lineup, replacing the Stratus, which dropped after the 2006 model year. Despite initial comments about some confusion in its styling details, the Avenger is more successful at incorporating the Dodge family elements than the Sebring is for Chrysler, but that would not have been difficult. The two share nearly the same overall dimensions, but Avenger’s Charger-inspired shoulders give the rear a more finished look than the truncated Sebring’s short deck allows. Avenger’s competition will include the Ford Fusion, Saturn Aura, and Chevrolet’s all-new 2008 Malibu (also revealed this January in Detroit), as well as the older Mazda6 and the even less expensive Kia Optima. The mid-size sedan segment has historically been highly competitive, and the 2007/2008 model years are no easier. The Detroit reveal gives us the chance to bring you more details on the production car and its available equipment, but in February we’ll have our first driving impressions.
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Dodge Avenger Gets European Reveal

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At this year’s Paris Motor Show (public days are early October 2006, after a press preview in late September), Dodge will reveal the direction for its next-generation Stratus, a sedan sized for the European D-segment and North American mid-size market. Ahead of the official launch, Dodge released teaser information and photos, and VehicleVoice and AutoPacific are here to share them with you. (Since publication, we’ve added photos we took at the Paris reveal to the stock pictures initially posted.)

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When the production version arrives, which is expected in spring 2007 in the States and summer or fall in Europe, it will continue the North American Dodge Stratus’ relationship to the Chrysler Sebring. This means production continues in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and the platform is the Chrysler Group’s new D platform, which borrows much from the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot and Compass.
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Avenger Name Replaces Stratus
Naming this concept Avenger all but confirms that long-standing rumors about dropping the Stratus name in favor of Avenger are true. This 2006 near-production model has little to do with the 2003 Avenger concept (remember this?), but picks up cues from all over the current Dodge car lineup (Magnum, Charger, Caliber). The result we hope looks better in person than in these initial photos, which are not particularly flattering. But it does look very much like its Charger sedan stablemate.
Chrysler’s new Sebring goes on sale in October 2006 and shares a platform, powertrains, and assembly space with the new mid-size Dodge, no matter what the name. The Sebring offers the new global 152HP 2.0L and 172HP 2.4L I4s, an updated 182HP 2.7L V6, a 235HP 3.5L V6, and a 2.0L diesel, depending on market. The diesel and 2.0L gasoline I4 are offered in international markets only. North America gets the 2.4L I4 and both V6 units. Dodge is likely to offer the same lineup. Dodge is working to create a space for themselves in Europe, and whether called Avenger or Stratus, this D-segment sedan is part of the mix.
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