Auto DNA < An Interesting Viewpoint

Worth reading.
Backseat Driver Auto Quality, Reliability, Identity Jerry Flint, 12.02.03, 11:00 AM ET
*Consumer Reports' "New Car Preview 2004" issue is out. These reviews
aren't the Bible or the last word, but they are good. One can learn a lot about the state of the auto industry by reading this issue.
More From Jerry Flint -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Of the 81 "Recommended Models" in the latest Consumer Reports roundup, Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ) and its luxury Lexus division have 20 vehicles, Honda (nyse: HMC - news - people ) and its luxury Acura division have ten and Nissan (nasd: nsany - news - people ) and its luxury division Infiniti have eight. So 38 of the 81 recommended vehicles--nearly half the total--are from Japan's big three, with Toyota taking the lion's share.
What about the United States? General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ) has ten vehicles with the seal of approval; Ford Motor (nyse: F - news - people ), eight; and DaimlerChrysler AG (nyse: DCX - news - people ), five. So all the GM domestic divisions match Honda, while Ford (based on Ford, Lincoln and Mercury) also comes close to Honda. This is pretty good for Detroit.
Hyundai, Subaru, Saab and Mazda all have a handful of recommended vehicles. BMW, Suzuki, Porsche and Volkswagen have one each. In short, most everyone is building good stuff.
Among the surprises: three Buicks--the old LeSabre and Park Avenue sedans and Rendezvous sport utility--are in the recommended category. We used to have this joke: it's not that the Buicks are so good, but the owners are so old they can't remember their cars' problems. Forget the kidding; this is a plus for Buick.
The Chevrolet Impala sedan also passes muster with Consumer Reports, and is one of the year's success stories, as its sales are now approaching those of the Ford Taurus, which along with the Thunderbird and Lincoln LS entry luxury model are also recommended. Interestingly enough, not a single Mercedes-Benz model makes this list.
Consumer Reports has separate rankings on reliability. The tabulations for these rankings are based on surveys of Consumer Reports readers, who are asked how well their older models are performing. It is here where the American manufacturers still need to do more work--lots more work. All but one of the 32 "Most Reliable" vehicles are foreign nameplates.
Once again, Toyota and Lexus grab nearly half (15) of the top spots. The only U.S. car to gain recognition here is the Buick Regal.
What about the "Least Reliable" category? Of the 35 of vehicles on this list, 17 carry foreign nameplates including four Volkswagen Audi models and four from Mercedes. There was even one Toyota, the 4Runner sport utility vehicle. Nobody is perfect.
It is clear that many consumers pay attention to these ratings when shopping for a new car. But what also sells vehicles is the DNA--the characteristics and heritage of the nameplate.
What do I mean? Take BMW for example. Spend a few minutes in any BMW and you know what makes the brand so special. Great cars, even good cars, have their DNA. Hondas, Toyotas, Mercedes and Jeeps, for example, have it.
Such DNA can be lost. I remember decades ago when the Chrysler brand stood for powerful, well-engineered, cars. The cars also had an image of being a little stodgy--tall when others were low--but they had that Chrysler DNA. Then the company destroyed it by slapping the Chrysler name on almost anything--cheaper cars, cars from Mitsubishi and even four-cylinder cars that should have been Plymouths.
Eventually the Chrysler DNA was gone. Today the Chrysler people are trying to restore that image with cars such as the rear-wheel drive sedans that will be here next spring. But it's a tough job.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the resurgence of Cadillac. But something still is missing: Cadillac DNA.
I recently drove the new Cadillac SRX, a $50,000 sport utility vehicle and station wagon. It was fine and will be successful. But it didn't have enough Cadillac DNA. Little things weren't right:
The glove box didn't have a light. It had fake wood trim in the interior. The doorsill didn't have a shiny metal protective plate (all the fancy cars have this now). The problem is the people working on Cadillac don't have Cadillac DNA. I'm not saying that Cadillac's designers and engineers just transferred in from GM's Korean Daewoo subsidiary, but GM has been through so many reorganizations that there doesn't seem to be enough people who know what a Cadillac should be.
It's not just Cadillac. I'm convinced that this is one of the problems at Chevrolet.
At least General Motors has someone--Vice Chairman Robert Lutz--who understands what makes a Pontiac a Pontiac. The new Pontiac GTO, with a big throaty V-8, coming next spring is the first Pontiac in a long time that is true to the division's old slogan: "We Build Excitement."
GM isn't the only company struggling with its genetics. Some Chrysler executives want to breed out Jeep's DNA with cheaper "sissy" models. Ford's Mustang has its DNA intact, but Ford people clearly forgot what Mercury was and even tried to kill the line until Bill Ford (now chairman) took over the company and stopped them.
Recognizing the DNA, understanding what it is and returning it to the brands, must be a part of any Detroit revival.
Thoughts, anyone...?
Patrick '93 Cobra '83 LTD
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I can definitely identify with DNA, but what about car buyers in their 20s, or even 30s? I suspect that DNA is totally lost on them, or that it's a hazy idea at best.
As time goes on, DNA as we (old farts) know it will be long gone. A lot of the values that used to hold true are lost on the current generation of consumers.
Joe Calypso Green '93 5.0 LX AOD hatch with a few goodies Black '03 Dakota 5.9 R/T CC
snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (Patrick) wrote in

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I'm not sure what this "DNA" thing is. Sounds like a little over-intellectualizing about whether a car feels solid and of good quality. That's what people want and that's all a maker has to aspire to. Sure, there can be certain things that characterize a make, like igntion switches in the floor on older Saabs or like efficient but boring products from Toyota. But no one dares stray too far from the middle path if they hope to sell vehicles in large numbers.
(And what's this stuff about "decades ago when the Chrysler brand stood for powerful, well-engineered, cars. The cars also had an image of being a little stodgy--tall when others were low--but they had that Chrysler DNA"? We are indeed talking about decades ago, like three at least. That "Chrysler engineering" stuff was just an advertising slogan from the late '60's, mostly based on the fact that Mopar made the first big unibody cars, it was the only one to use torsion bars on the front, and of course it had THE HEMI (whale and elephant versions). (Amidst all the advertising hoopla about this new Hemi engine, I'd like someone to point me to a single four valve engine, or even a 2-valve sohc, that ISN'T a hemi.) Worse yet about this author's foggy memory of "tall when others were low", it was actually Chrysler that introduced "longer, lower, wider" with its '57 models, two years ahead of the '59 GM's and three years ahead of the '60 Fords.)
Anyway, this DNA thing is beside the point. Joe has the right idea. The problem is not that Detroit products lack a brand identity. The problem with the domestics is that all of us with warm fuzzy childhood memories of Detroit cars are not getting any younger. I'd say most folks 35 and younger have very little experience of good times and good memories in a Detroit car (present company excuded of course, this being a Mustang NG after all). This is the real doom of Detroit, and they'd better turn it around quick and start making cars that can compete with the cars that kids love nowadays, like Hondas and Acuras and BMWs. Folks in their 50's and up just aren't going to be buying many more new cars, and that's a fact. How many more new cars do you suppose a 70-year-old is going to buy before he takes that last ride in the black Cadillac? Less than one, on average, I'd guess.
180 Out TS 28
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (180 Out) wrote in

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Philly, believe it or not, the best display I saw at the SoFla auto show was Cadillac. They had a concept that looked like a Lambo. Mid- engine with something like 600 hp. Unreal. Have to dig up a link on it. Think it was called Cien or something...
Joe Calypso Green '93 5.0 LX AOD hatch with a few goodies Black '03 Dakota 5.9 R/T CC
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Here's a link for starters:
http://www.edmunds.com/news/conceptcarspotlight/articles/51600/article.html
Joe Calypso Green '93 5.0 LX AOD hatch with a few goodies Black '03 Dakota 5.9 R/T CC
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Yep, it looks like a square edged Diablo.
Scott W. '66 HCS

http://www.edmunds.com/news/conceptcarspotlight/articles/51600/article.html
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Scott, did you check out the engine? A 750hp Northstar V12 ain't too shabby...
Joe Calypso Green '93 5.0 LX AOD hatch with a few goodies Black '03 Dakota 5.9 R/T CC

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Problem would be keeping the rubber on the street. EESH!
Scott W.

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I like those kinds of problems. ;)
Joe Calypso Green '93 5.0 LX AOD hatch with a few goodies Black '03 Dakota 5.9 R/T CC

to
http://www.edmunds.com/news/conceptcarspotlight/articles/51600/artic
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Again, I say, EESH! :)
Scott W. '66 HCS Let it be known that we are no longer the knights who say NEE, but are now the knights who say... EESH! Bring me....A Shrubbery!! (I know, I know it's different in the movie) :)

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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (180 Out) wrote in message
All I can say is, very very well said.
Patrick '93 Cobra '83 LTD

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