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Wednesday
Dec072016

Seeking Eyeballs

We always mention for years now that we are not in the eyeball business. That you should be your own editor, since there is a ton of "stuff" that is published on a daily basis.

The models change, many folks are on a mission to monetise whatever platform they have with whatever content they can find.

Have noticed "social media" has become a generic term meaning anything and everything. Its a huge sandbox with a gazillion players with all sorts of "instruments" to move the sand around. Obvious that everyone has a strategy, a vector to attract more eyeballs, to better monetise their position.

Almost a decade ago "social media" like the Internet a decade prior was this quasi idyllic place where folks connected, actually met in person, exchanged ideas, and so on. Similar to the Internet the initial idealism has long departed "social media".

We are now at the cross roads where "social media" and "media" are becoming one huge "media bubble", and the distinctions are at times clear and other times opaque.

Not only is the auto business involved with social media, the entire North American political system is a vigorous participant in social media.

We are certain that you can see our thought process here.

In the meantime if you are seeking eyeballs in one fashion or another, you need headlines that capture immediate attention and/or content that is out of the mainstream to again capture attention. Since most folks have no time to read especially on a mobile device. It has to be short, to the point, capture a ton of fleeting attention for a few seconds. Then hopefully start a chain reaction with ash tags.

One way to find eyeballs is to have "sound bites" with appeal even if it lasts only a few seconds or nano seconds.

With increasing competitiveness the sound bites must stand out, must trend, must have ash tags. This thing "trended", generated a ton of momentary interest, was controversial, and so on and on.

Lately there are more questions about "media" and "social media" and what some folks are doing to attract eyeballs, to trend, to have a nano second of fame.

Will it change? What do you think?

 

 

Tuesday
Dec062016

CLA and a V8 Sedan

We always urge you to connect your own dots in a fashion that resonates and makes sense to you. Obvious that when you connect dots, it might just disrupt some of your previous thoughts.

Some background...

As you probably know, we have been driving Benzes for a few decades, and have our own ideas of what is a Benz. Within the Strada Crew we have our own preferences regarding luxury sedans. Usually its at least mid size, ideally with a V8, ideally rear wheel drive, with a superb interior, a killer sound system, and a serious level of waftability, as well as some technology toys.

Every so often we engage in dinner discussions facilitated with barolo, brunello, ripasso and depending on the number of participants one bottle might not suffice.

One of the V8 sedans required service, and our local Benz dealer provided a CLA courtesy car for a few days. Its a huge event we have a CLA for a couple of days. We tried to get a CLA, but Mercedes-Benz Canada abides to pre historic, close minded guidelines for their press cars (you must be a member of a medieval guild). We do not agree with their guidelines, and they probably think that we are obtuse in our position.

At the end of the day Strada is our publication, we uphold our position.

The deal...

The CLA looks good, and you can quickly see where the cost savings have been applied to arrive at a price point. Agreed...most if not all experts, journalists, folks that have reviewed the CLA all have reservations about the car for one reason or another.

In our dinner conversation which started with a bottle of Tomasi Ripasso, and continued with a Fontanafredda Barolo and the simple question

"What is the difference between the V8 (twin turbo) sedan that is in for service and the CLA?

We could give a lenthy point by point comparison, which is also not accurate since the V8 sedan is double the money of the CLA. The engine in the CLA sounds like a coffee grinder (awful), its a mini CLS (good thing), its agile on surface streets, not much power until it hits 4,000 RPM. Its always in "sport mode" to get it to pull.

It rides rough, but still fun on surface streets. Reasonable power on the highway, will not get you in trouble like a V8 sedan. The visibility is challenging, some of the materials for the interior are cost conscious. The seats are comfortable.

What was surprising

Comparing a CLA to a V8 sedan of double the money, this CLA is suddenly not so bad (compared to a bunch of reviews). Agreed...there are numerous sedans the size of the CLA that are probably just as good. But its not a Benz, now the all important branding kicks in.

Its a generation thing

You could say that a V8 sedan is a "Boomer" car, while the CLA is a "Millennial" car. Now the demographics kick in.

Bottom Line

If you are seeking the classic and enduring Mercedes-Benz V8 sedan feel, performance, interior appointments the CLA is abosolutely not for you. It will come short in every parameter, starting with the coffee grinder sound when you start it.

If you are seeking a fun, stylish, 4 cylinder car for surface streets, with reasonable highway performance (compared to a V8) and luxury credentials. Then the CLA is worth considering especially for half the money.

 

Monday
Dec052016

Canadian Sales November 2016 

At the end of October we were observing the "tea leaves" and wondering if sales in Canada were pivoting downward, or would continue their upward climb and set another record for 2016.

Although still ahead for the year at the end of October the signals were mixed with a few downward months starting in July.

One vector, every manufacturer will simply continue in their path and have minor increases or slight devreases...its already an almost record year.

The other vector, November is the last month of the last quarter with no interference from the Christmas season, and there is the real possibility that a few manufacturers will throttle up to gain sales. Especially that in reviewing the year there might be left over funds for incentives, and might as well use them to conclude the year.

Here is General Motors that was a laggard for the entire year finally decide to seriously throttle up with an appreciable increase in November and sort of stay ahead of the curve for the year. You have to wonder what finally possessed the folks at GM to make the throttle up decision.

Obvious that Ford merely continued on its 2016 strategy with an interesting increase for the month.

If you are wondering GM and Ford generated over 70% of the increase in sales in November from the previous year. Do you think trucks had something to do with the increase?

Wondering about FCA...by now its obvious that they have hit a wall of reality with their ever increasing sales story line. Still give them credit for moving a ton of iron in Canada.

VW continues to struggle for the month and year, although the situation seems to be improving.

MerBimAu (Mercdes-Benz-BMW-Audi) continue to increase their sales.

The success story that is rarely mentioned is Subaru which continues to reinforce its brand, and increase sales.

Honda and Toyota are always in the "game" its a constant.

The Koreans as usual also stay in the game.

November was a record month in Canada, better than a ton of previous Novembers.

 

 

 

Saturday
Dec032016

Jaguar XKSS

An informative walk around of a new XKSS with Jay Leno...enjoy.

Fascinating to see a new 60 year old car.

 

 

 

Friday
Dec022016

Vroom Room

Good Morning,

Its Friday, its the Vroom Room, enjoy the cappuccino and biscotti, join the conversation and please tell your friends.

Its the last month of the year, only a few weeks to Christmas...a bit of a WoW moment.

Are you somewhat fatigued about all the talk and more talk, and even more talk about the US President elect? We agree it takes your breath away...

Safety

Have you noticed that we have the safest vehicles on the planet. It took decades to arrive at this level of safety in vehicles. At the same time we have some lethal folks driving those safe vehicles.

Are we reverting back to the days of "no seat belts" and a "solid steering column"? What do you think?

Technology

A few days ago we made a reference that in showrooms there is asymmetry in technology. In case you missed it...click. Reflect on this...when you have a conversation with anyone "its eyeball to eyeball" and a when you take out a sheet a paper (think tablet) to visualise a "deal" its one sheet (symmetry).

Pipelines

They are a hot issue in Canada...really hot. At the same time we know that rail cars filled with crude can turn into hot issues too.

Engines

If you have been around racing long enough, you surely remember small block Chevies painted "porch grey" with an Traco sticker on the valve covers. A brief history of Traco...click. The modern Tra-Co take a look...click. Way back in the day Traco was short for Travers and Coon, and if you are a Chevrolet fan you surely remember the porch grey engines.

If you have been following drag racing for a few years (decades) you surely remember "Elephant Motors" (Hemis) and Ed Pink...click. The web site is here.

Still with drag racing, if you are familair with a yellow dragters with Greer-Black-Prudhomme on the side, you surely heard of Keith Black the engine builder for the dragster. A fascinating video of Don Prudhomme firing up the Keith Black motor in the dragster...click.

Our usual old race cars, a stunning photo galley of the Goodwood Members Meeting.

 

 

 

Thursday
Dec012016

Inline 6 Cylinder

During the past few days, there has been talk on the various web platforms that Mercedes-Benz is resorting back to an inline 6 cylinder engine. Its interesting to see the level of "pedestrian knowledge" that immediately gets disseminated regarding an inline 6 cylinder engine.

A V configuration for a 6 cylinder is not ideal, its not inherently balanced. We have known this for decades. At the same time a V configuration is ideal for any front wheel drive platform where the engine is transversely mounted.

Will every manufacturer revert back to an inline 6 cylinder? Its doubtful, since most platforms are front wheel drive with a transverse engine. As you can imagine an inline 6 transversely mounted in any vehicle is cumbersome, and takes up a bunch of space.

Mercedes-Benz having a rear wheel drive platform with a longitudinal engine, its easy for them to revert back to an inline 6 cylinder. Imagine for a moment a 4 liter inline 6 cylinder with a turbo...reflect on this.

As you can appreciate inline 6 cylinders have been around for generations (decades). The Chevy 216 on the photo was a work horse for countless years.

A modern inline 6 is a dramatically different engine.

It will be interesting to see what Mercedes-Benz announces as an inline 6 cylinder engine that is responsive to 2017.

 

 

Wednesday
Nov302016

Steering Wheels

Are you of an age that you remember steering wheels with horn rings? 

If you are wondering what an horn ring is all about, the above photo clearly shows an horn ring.

Its also the time when most cars had column shifts be it for a manual transmission (usually a 3 speed) or an automatic (again a 3 speed).

Those horn rings had a character of their own, and very often only worked half of the time. Push on the ring and nothing happened. The crest in the center of the steering wheel was always an attention grabber with the fine details, and design.

From a safety perspective, those old steering wheels were not very safe towards whoever was sitting behind the wheel (driver).

At some point this steering wheel captured the imagination.

 

Was it the steering wheel, the aluminum spokes, the Nardi signature, or that very often there was a prancing horse on the horn button.

Nardi steering wheels captured the imagination for numerous years.

Lets not forget the driving gloves which were almost "de rigueur" if you had a wood wheel in the car.

Then this became popular...

It was a case of lets wrap the steering wheel with leather, and perhaps forget the driving gloves.

Yes...Momo steering wheels captured the imagination similar to Nardi wheels.

Then airbags were introduced and steering wheels altered.

 

 

 

Monday
Nov282016

Is Technology the Elephant in the Room?

We are all empowered by technology in one fashion or another. Agreed some days its a good thing, others not so much.

 

In the auto business we have been talking about technology for the past 20 years, the Internet, social media, and a ton of software to do a bunch of stuff. Stack on top of it big data, and a gazillion ways to look at the data to make it even more interesting.

A few decades ago, vehicles were lethal weapons with technology they are much safer in 2016. Now factor in distracted driving which has become a lethal weapon in its own way. Fascinating paradox, make vehicles safer, while distracting the driver.

You can get a 27+ inch monitor for your PC, while most folks do their business on a mobile device with a 5 inch screen. Reflect on this for a moment...

Agreed a bunch of stuff is facilitated with technology, its easier (most of the time), faster (usually), intuitive (sometimes). Technology offers a myriad of platforms to spread "pedestrian knowledge" (stupidity).

In the dark ages of technology, dealers would refuse to provide a PC to sales consultants for fear that they would be all over the Internet, while wasting time. Customers would do their due diligence on their PC and bring a spread sheet at the dealer to feel empowered.

Today in any showroom there is at least 1 screen on every desk with a PC somewhere under the desk. Obvious there is the Internet, software for this thing, that other thing, and more software to provide product training. While the customer walks in with a mobile device.

Suggest to a dealer that they should provide a tablet to sales consultants..."are you nuts they will spend their time on Facebook". These are the same dealers that spend money going to a ton of conferences on technology where they are advised to have a Facebook page.

The customer is often staring at the back of a screen, or the screen gets turned, or there are 2 screens on a desk to make it easier. While the same customer is perusing his mobile device further empowering himself.

Is there a technology asymmetry between the sales consultant (dealer), and the customer? You could make a case that its only an issue of hardware (PC vs mobile).

Hopefully you can see the direction of our vector. Everyone is empowered, while there is an asymmetry in communicating with technology, closing a deal, and customer satisfaction.

Is technology the elephant in the room?

What do you think?

 

Saturday
Nov262016

Old School Drag Racing

If you remember the days of front engined top fuel dragsters.

Enjoy....

 

 

Friday
Nov252016

Vroom Room

Good Morning,

Its Friday, its the Vroom Room, enjoy the cappuccino and biscotti, join the conversation. Please tell your friends.

Yes...one month to Christmas, our friends in the US are enjoying their Thanksgiving week end. Lets not forget Black Friday which as migrated to Canada.

This past week we featured more videos than usual, we must be in a video mood lately, or it must be content that caught our attention. Perhaps a mix of both, and hopefully you enjoyed the videos.

Don't know if you follow NASCAR, you have to admit that Jimmie Johnson becoming 7 time champion last Sunday is a huge accomplishment, and only the third driver to be a 7 time champion. Its immense, and Jimmie was emotional and speechless at the end of the race.

We first saw the S Class cabriolet at the CIAS in Toronto. The car caught our attention...its one of those when the metal resonates. A few days ago we were quickly perusing an S65 Cabrio in a showroom. You can understand the various options, its AMG, its supposed to be sporty. It seems someone does not understand the difference between a C63 (boy racer) and an S65 Cabrio (waftability).

This S65 looked like a truck and the stuff that made it look like a truck were all options. Who is going to buy or lease this thing?

To make it even more interesting, next to it is an SL63 in a colour combination that would be more fitting on the S65. The AMG performance package on the SL has a Renntech flair to it, the best one is the deletion of the electronic speed limiter.

When the metal does not resonate...

In case you missed it there is a new car company that started in Canada this past week...Genesis Motors Canada, with no brick and mortar only digital, and they will come to you with the car. It will be interesting to see how this business model evolves and disrupts.

This Mercedes-Benz metal resonates to this day...When M-B Dominated Sports Car Racing...its from 60 years ago.

Our usual old race cars from the Monterey Motorsport Reunion.