Acura vs Mercedes

acura-v-mercObvious competitors.

Acura is winning the race, in terms of their literature. Notice the size difference between their brochures. And the Acura brochure’s design is far nicer than that of the Mercedes. It has more pages as well.

The cars themselves? I can’t say that I have ever driven an Acura, though I have driven (and owned) several Hondas. I have driven a few Mercedes cars. The feel of quality is in the same ballpark.

Mercedes had a very dark time in the 90s. I remember when their ML-Class SUVs were at the very bottom of the JD Powers survey in the UK. But supposedly their quality has improved. Maybe leaving Chrysler behind has allowed them to focus a bit more. But Mercedes still has the edge in terms of their image and name. Honda made the mistake (in my opinion) of launching a separate brand in the USA. (Acura does not exist outside the borders of the US of A – whereas Lexus, Toyota’s equivalent, does.) And what’s the brand of choice for any African dictator? Mercedes.

I just wondered why Mercedes decided to cut their brochure budget. Maybe they feel secure enough that they don’t think they need brochures to sell their vehicles.


Some really GOOD copywriting

car-copyCar magazine has a section at the back that lists all the new cars sold in the UK. That could be a boring list of facts and tables.


They injected it full of life and fun. Each car is categorized as being either “Good”, “Bad” or “Ugly”. Read the fine print here. Each brand (or UK-speak, “marque”) is described as if it were a rock band. And the descriptions of each car can be hilarious. (These are two random cars in a row.)

They make it very easy to pick a good car. If you trust their judgement.

Takeaway: How can you inject life and fun into what might otherwise be a boring aspect of your job of life?

By the way, an interpretation for those of you in America… A “Zanussi Twin-Spin” is a washing machine.


Some really really bad copywriting

crosstourThis appeared in the American edition of the new Honda Crosstour ads. (That’s a new car that is basically a bloated Honda station wagon. I like it on some levels and hate it on others. The same footprint could yield far more utility than the Crosstour delivers.)

Incidentally, the ads are really unappealing, design-wise. (My suggestion? Use regular color when visually describing a product.)

And by the way, there is a much cooler Honda in a similar vein that one can buy if they live in Japan: the Stream. It doesn’t have America’s unfortunate SUV aspect in its flavor mix.


Nairobi vs. Denver

toyo-doorhandleThis lovely door handle broke. Toyota took almost two months to ship us a replacement. I thought that length of time was amazing.

Sometimes the “western world” has disadvantages compared with the “developing world”. If I had a broken door handle with this same car in Kenya, I could have gotten a replacement the same day. (Our Corolla is perhaps the most common vehicle on their crowded roads.)

Having said that, if we had an obscure vehicle in Kenya, we could have waited a year for the replacement. One of the aspects of my job when we were there last was to advise people about which car to buy. I always said go for the most common model… parts are easier to get.

The problem with having lived in a different country is that you can never experience the best of each place at once. I guess that is why there’s heaven to look forward to.


Secure in themselves


Car manufacturers need to take a lesson from Alfa Romeo. This Italian car company offers the Mito, at about the cost of a Honda Fit – and the 8C Roadster, at $300,000.

How can they span such a wide spectrum in their offerings? Because they are not afraid of their image. They 8C shows the public what they can do when money is no object. The Mito shows what they can do when money is constrained. More of the adoring public can have the Mito – while dreaming of driving an 8C.

It used to be that you could buy a BMW or a Mercedes in Europe with wind-up windows, while the same cars in the States were offered with only power windows. Why? In Europe, those cars are more “normal”. In America, they are luxury brands. My contention would be that if BMW and Mercedes offered a cheaper range of cars here, it would not tarnish their image – only improve it. When an entry-level buyer bought their first BMW, it would whet their appetite for a more expensive model, when in the future, their budget allowed.

(The only thing I object to about my story is that my last point buys into that “american dream” thing – we always need more, bigger and better. That’s a bad way to live your life!)


A face only a mother could love


Acura went wrong, a few years back. They introduced this snake-like beak to the front of their vehicles. Now it’s on all their models.

It is positive to have unity in your family – but only if that unity is based around something good.

Admittedly, they must have chosen this new direction to distinguish themselves from the rest of car offerings. But different is not always good.


Beating my mom


Don’t get the wrong idea – I’m talking about a contest.

My family has always been into fuel economy. My dad started our focus by keeping track of fuel economy in a little book that stayed in the glovebox. Every time he filled the tank, he would figure out the gas mileage. My mom continued that tradition, all the way till just before she died, about twenty years after my dad passed away. I did it until I got married, about 20 years ago. Heather couldn’t be bothered with that habit, so I ditched it in the interest of fidelity.

We inherited my mom’s Toyota Corolla, due to the generosity of my three siblings. It’s a basic model – with a 3-speed automatic transmission – not the best fuel-saving option.

Mom got in the low-to-mid 20s. I have kept track since getting the car, and we have consistently gotten in the low 30s. Why? I can’t be sure – I hadn’t been in a car while she was driving since maybe high school. But I can tell you the ways I save fuel…

  • Treat the accelerator pedal like it’s your enemy. When you see a stop light ahead, immediately take your foot off the pedal. Anticipate slow-downs in traffic and take your foot off the pedal whenever you see a slow-down ahead.
  • Treat the brake pedal like it’s your enemy. Coast to a stop when possible.
  • Put it in neutral when you are going down a big hill. (Combining this with the brake-enemy measure may be dangerous. And try not to break the speed limit!)
  • If you’re at a traffic light that waits two minutes to change, shut your engine off before the beginning of the cycle. (At the end of the cycle, be sure to start it quickly enough that your neighbors behind don’t know you had it off!)
  • If you have a ski rack, take it off. Those sap mileage due to the aerodynamic drag they create.

I have many more tricks, but I didn’t want to take up your whole day.

I admit most of these measures are extreme. And they will require retooling your brain to make them work well. You will need to exercise caution at all times. When traffic is thick, you’ll have to quit doing most.

Have fun! Your results may vary.


Celebrating the obscure


…In this case, Saab.

A loyal reader told how she appreciates that I celebrate obscure aspects of life in this blog. (Thanks for appreciating that, Johanna!) It’s true – I enjoy noticing and highlighting the oblique aspects of life that many others either don’t care about or gloss over.

While one sister and her family were visiting recently, we had to take them up to the mountains, to celebrate an aspect of Colorado that is not obscure – our beautiful mountains.

We chose a day trip to Copper Mountain, because their chair lifts run for free in the summer. That gave all of us an easy way to quickly enjoy incredible views. Two of our party were under four, so the lack of a long hike was a major benefit to them!

After we returned to the resort, I enjoyed savoring an obscure aspect of the automotive kingdom – Saabs. The company held its national convention at Copper that weekend. We got to see more Saabs in one place than is normally possible (outside of Sweden). Many came from their US headquarters in Michigan.

My favorite was an ancient station wagon. It so clean that you could eat a meal off the air cleaner cover. Though it was very small, there were three rows of seats. My fantasy machine kicked into gear – I thought how perfect it would be for our family car. But my logical side said that it really doesn’t get much better fuel economy than our Honda minivan. And I’d have to develop a close personal relationship with a Saab mechanic to keep that baby on the road.

Maybe when I get to heaven, I’ll be driving a prehistoric Saab.