Auto industry drives most intimate brand relationships

The four highest ranking automotive brands are: BMW, Toyota, Harley-Davidson and GMC.

NEW YORK — Four out of the top 10 most intimate brands are in the automotive industry, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2015 Report, which examines ultimate brand relationships.

“Automotive is the highest ranking industry across all three of our markets, the U.S., Mexico and the UAE. That’s pretty suggestive of the strong bonds people have with their cars and the ability of this category to connect with consumers,” stated Mario Natarelli, MBLM’s managing partner. “Car brands are more than one of our most significant purchases. They represent our sensibilities and our status in life. As important as these values are to consumers, fulfillment of the brand (how well it exceeds expectations, delivers superior service, quality and efficacy) remains a top factor. Recent experiences by brands like Volkswagen will likely have profound effects on the bonds with their consumers.”

In the auto industry, the top 10 is rounded out by:

  • Jeep
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Chrysler
  • Honda

“With all the dramatic evolution in this category enhanced by technology and from trends like car sharing and autonomous driving, intimate brands will win in the long term,” added Natarelli.

This year’s report contains one of the most comprehensive rankings of brands based on emotion, analyzing the responses of 6,000 consumers and 52,000 brand evaluations across nine industries in the U.S., Mexico and UAE. MBLM’s reports and interactive Brand Ranking Tool showcase the performance of almost 400 brands, revealing the characteristics and intensity of the consumer bonds.

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2014 Chevy Sonic RS is a surprising, solid ride from the Bowtie Boys

2014 Chevy Sonic RS

2014 Chevy Sonic RS

BY GERRY MILES

So-called sport package editions for various cars leave me cold. They often indicate a slow selling car, traditionally put few upgrades or “spiffs” in dealer parlance on them beyond new wheel covers, decals, maybe a spoiler atop the trunk, an exhaust that sounds like it’s falling off the chassis to sound “sporty,” different fabric and red blazed “RS” letters on the dash and shifter to indicate it’s a rally sport. Of course, it costs more cash but hardly the cache one desired.

Imagine the surprise sliding behind the wheel of the 2014 Chevy Sonic RS that wiped away all of those premonitions.

Yes, the RS had the aforementioned upgrades, but this time it has the sizzle to muscle to match the marketing. While the court of public opinion will easily agree that a turbo, in and of itself dropped into an car does not a go-kart make, the ability to weave, pass and stay at speed from the South Shore up Route 495, 24, 128/95 and 93, not to mention the underground race track that is the Big Dig’s tunnel, handle the expansion joints on the upper deck or play with the lines, swerving through Storrow Drive are bona fides that the Sonic RS can handle Boston’s most notorious roads and motorists.

The Sonic, the only subcompact car assembled in America says Chevy, got another boost when it was selected as one of the 10 Best Back-to-School Cars of 2014 by Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com.

The RS cues were immediate upon sliding behind the wheel: firm supportive seats and bolsters, black dash panel and instruments, padded steering wheel and accents all around.

Sonic Dash

Sonic Dash

Sonic’s dash was a neat cluster that seemed up-to-date in today’s wired world yet intuitive. Befitting this model the tach is extra large, underscoring the car’s intentions, speed is displayed in eye-friendly digital blue light, there’s a large information screen in the middle of the dash and knobs for fan speed, temps and the like. Although Sonic bears an irritating up-shift arrow, it was in a small space that’s hard to notice, so why bother?

On the outside there’s a sportier front fascia that’s curved to create wheel well space for standard 17-inch wheels. Two round headlights on each side standout for the fact that they’re not small LEDs, and a large grille opening, which a neighbor’s child thought would suck up the road, is tied off with a garish gold Chevy “bowtie” in the middle. The logo would be better if it matched the grille’s color was the size of the smaller trunk logo not a leftover piece from the Avalanche parts bin. A single, bright exhaust pipe is subtle as is a single, red RS on the trunk to announce its athletic pedigree.

Under way the RS is always fun to drive, sliding the six-speed manual to and fro to make the engine growl or adapt to a twisting road that invites you to want to carve the apex and hit the go pedal on the way out. Fear not, an automatic transmission is also available for those who have no idea what the third pedal next to the brake.

Sonic engine

Sonic engine

The 1.4-liter Ecotec turbo feels stronger than its listed 138 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque that arrives between 1,850 and 4,900 rpm. That’s prime power for passing, merging or scuttling past slower commuters. There’s no discernable turbo lag from days bone by and I experienced little torque steer as well.

Sonic stays composed and calm, due to the lowered suspension and sport-tuned dampers, adding to the fun, feeling as well built as a mid- or full-sized car.

Even more surprising is the estimated 40 mpg and constant reading of 33.78 mpg that was displayed on the dash. During my drive I pulled 34.48 mpg in more than 200 miles of mixed driving.

What you’re left with is a car that doesn’t feel like a compromise to get the fuel economy or the composed, spirited ride and comfort. The lack of wind noise on the highway and road noise even over milled roads waiting to be repaved was another surprise.

An optional safety package provides lane departure warnings and forward collision alerts on the dash.

Sonic isn’t a tarted up pretend toy to take to the track and wrung what you brung. It is a spirited, well-composed, efficient daily driver that will take the monotony of the daily coffee commute.

One could make comparison to the Ford Fiesta ST since you’ll be in the low $20s but with nearly 200 horses in the ST, the cross-check stops there. Sonic is also more fun and roomier than say the Mazda2, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, and Honda Fit.

While it doesn’t force you into the seatback like a Corvette, the RS Sonic does surprise and give you a drive that’s more than expected while breaking the mold of special editions that really weren’t special.

2014 Chevy Sonic

2014 Chevy Sonic

2014 Chevy Sonic RS

THE BASICS

Price, base (with destination): $19,705 ($825)

Options: $620

As Tested: $21,150

Fuel economy: 27-mpg city/34-mpg highway.

Drivetrain: 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. Body: Four-door sedan

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 138 hp @ 4,900 rpm.

Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 1,850 rpm

Overall length: 159 inches.

Wheelbase: 99.4 inches.

Height: 59.7 inches

Width: 68.3 inches.

Curb weight: 2,847 lbs.

THE GOOD

Fun to drive, composed, balanced ride. Fuel economy. Available with automatic or more versatile hatchback.

THE BAD

Gaudy large logo on grille, upshift light, $55 smokers package (ash tray) available. The black granite metallic paint cost $225.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A subcompact car that delights, more than meets its mission with comfort, economy and pizzazz.

Also consider: Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2

 

Chevy sweeps North American Car, Truck Awards

Chevrolet was the only brand to be recognized as this year's recipient of the prestigious North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and the 2014 Corvette Stingray were crowned as victors by 48 automotive jurors from among dozens of competitive vehicles. The announcement was made during a press conference at the North American International Auto Show.

Chevrolet was the only brand to be recognized as this year’s recipient of the prestigious North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and the 2014 Corvette Stingray were crowned as victors by 48 automotive jurors from among dozens of competitive vehicles. The announcement was made during a press conference at the North American International Auto Show.

BY GERRY MILES

It’s been more than 16 years since Chevy’s Corvette was coveted here and a lucky seven since its Silverado pickup drew separate honors. Today they both shared the winner’s platform as North American Car and Truck of the Year winners, respectively at the Detroit Auto Show.

“Chevrolet is in the midst of the most aggressive product transformation in the brand’s more than 100-year history,” said Alan Batey, General Motors senior vice president, Global Chevrolet. “The Corvette and Silverado truly embody the passion, commitment and focus that is driving us to deliver the most expressive designs, innovative technologies and engaging performance in every vehicle that wears the bowtie,”

The Corvette received 211 points topping the Mazda3 with 185 points and the Cadillac CTS with 94 points. The Silverado received 219 points to the Jeep Cherokee with 174 points and the Acura MDX with 97 points.

It’s hardly a shock that the Corvette, arguably one of the most recognizable cars in the world and an icon for sports cars compared to the Mazda3 and Caddy CTS. With rave reviews on its performance and handling, it was a foregone conclusion to this auto watcher and many more.

The new Corvette Stingray is the most powerful standard model ever, with 455 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque from a 6.2L V-8 engine – and 460 horsepower /465 lb-ft with the available performance exhaust system – enabling models with the available Z51 Performance Package to sprint from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds.

The Mazda3 is a very nice new car that’s nothing like its past. That it received nearly twice as many points as the CTS shows how far it’s come and how plebian the Caddy name is.

Caddy, which makes nice, sportive sedans, has vehicles that sport homogenous shapes and styles that could bear the badge of any import maker. They no longer have a distinctive shape that proclaims it is a Cadillac: they instead rely on a wide-gnarly garish grille with the wreathed logo as its sole calling card.

Forty-nine automotive journalists from the United States and Canada vote to recognize the most outstanding vehicles of the year based on factors including innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.

The Silverado has upped the truck’s image and its sibling GMC offering, with an optional 5.3-Liter, 355 hp, EcoTec3 V-8  for confident towing and hauling that switches to four cylinders to save fuel during light-load driving. With an EPA estimated highway fuel economy of up to 23 mpg, Silverado offers the best fuel economy of any V-8 pickup.

I’m not surprised the Acura dipped to third place because it looks like so many other hi-lux, comfy crossover models with leather interiors. Yawn.

I had high hopes and after having driven the Jeep Cherokee that it could win based upon its ability to change its styling and hold on to the basic motoring tenets off-road as found in the winning Grand Cherokee in its younger offering. It can do everything big brother does just as well without yielding any rock-crawling ability. The polarizing style is another issue … but you don’t see it from inside where you’re safe and warm.

2015 Chevy Colorado takes aim at midsize truck market

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 shown as a concept vehicle

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 shown as a concept vehicle

BY GERRY MILES

Who is Chevrolet trying to be? If you read their press release, they want to be the Baskin-Robbins of the midsize truck market based upon their unveiling of the 2015 Chevy Colorado at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

With the lack of a small pickup, since Ford stopped making Rangers and Dodge dropped its Dakota line, Chevy hopes its new Colorado offered only in 3 midsize versions and looking every but like the old Ford SporTrac or a Chevrolized Toyota Tacoma in what it hopes will be a grab on the active lifestyle market place.

However, as Nike has found out the hard way many times, trying to be everything to everyone does not always work. Some models were hits and some fell flat. Diversification may be great in a mutual fund but not so much in a product line. Staying with what works often works best.

In that regard, Toyota’s Tacoma and its variants have a long, established posture in the midsized market and a rock solid reputation for reliability.

Other “sport trucks” or variants that have come and go include Subaru’s Baja, Ford’s SporTrac, the Ranger and Dakota to name a few.

Chevy is betting that the void provides an opportunity and it might provided its priced right.  With the 4-banger engine and larger optional motor and the diesel due in 2016 Chevy could prove its hunch is right if it’s priced right. Prices of course weren’t released yet.

“Our strategy is simple: meet the needs of the broadest possible customer base, and let them choose precisely the right truck to meet their needs,” said Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president and president of GM North America. “The all-new Colorado benefits from the solid foundation established by the Silverado, and it reinvents the midsize truck while reinvigorating the segment at the same time.”

The 2015 Colorado’s configurations are:

  • an extended cab model with a 6-foot bed
  • a crew cab with a 5-foot bed
  • a crew cab with a 6-foot bed.
  • a single cab config is not offered.

To promote the active lifestyle, there’s the cargo net to add two feet from the 6-foot bed with 8-foot items before the gear hangs over the end in space.

Power comes from one of two engine choices:

  • 2.5L, 193 hp,  I-4 (standard) 184 kb-ft of torque
  • 3.6L, 302 hp, V-6 (optional) 270 lb-ft of torque

Each engine hitches to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2.5L is available with a 6-speed manual transmission on extended cab 2WD Work Truck models.

What might be the most interesting part of the presser that’s buried down deep is its offering the segment’s only diesel engine: a proven Duramax 2.8L I-4 turbodiesel.

Colorado is expected to have a class leading payload capacity and trailering capacity of more than 6,700 pounds.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 trim

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 trim

WT, LT and Z71 trims are available, all in 2WD or 4WD. The Z71 is the brand’s off-road- rugged branded model, featuring gunmetal grille surround – a change from the chrome standard on the other models – projector headlamps and unique 17-inch aluminum wheels.

To keep its weight down, Colorado features an aluminum hood. It also features the segment’s only active aero grille shutters, which close at certain highway speeds to enhance aerodynamics.

As one might expect after the new intros of the Silverado, many neat features migrate down to its stablemate:

  • Standard CornerStep rear bumper design pioneered on the 2014 Silverado
  • Available EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate that uses an internal torsion bar to make raising the tailgate easier with one hand, and a damper for more-controlled lowering
  • Standard two-tier loading that allows a platform to effectively split the bed into upper and lower sections, making it easier to haul, store and conceal items such as tools
  • Thirteen standard tie-down locations throughout the bed for use with available, movable cargo tie-down rings
  • Standard bed rail and tailgate protectors
  • Available factory-installed spray-in bed liner.

Keeping up with the refinement of pickup trucks, there are more interior upgrades than one might have imagined in the past of slab vinyl bench seats with stark interiors. The connections one finds in most of our gadgets is expected in today’s top vehicles.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado interior

2015 Chevrolet Colorado interior

Colorado Interior details include:

  • Sculpted door panels that make it easier to enter/exit the vehicle
  • Upper-instrument panel storage bin (when not equipped with the uplevel audio system) and large glove box
  • Standard center console with room to store a tablet
  • Rear under-seat storage.

For connectivity there’s an:

2015 Chevrolet Colorado interior

2015 Chevrolet Colorado interior

  • 8-inch diagonal color touch screen (LT, Z71) and multiple USB drives
  • A 3.4-inch diagonal driver information screen in the instrument cluster
  • Available next-generation OnStar and MyLink enhancements with gesture recognition and natural language voice recognition
  • Available navigation

Safety times include:

  • 6 standard air bags, including head side curtain air bags designed to help keep occupants from being ejected in a crash
  • Large rearview mirrors and standard rear-vision camera system for greater visibility
  • Available segment-first application of forward collision alert
  • Available segment-first application of lane departure warning
  • Standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with rollover mitigation, trailer sway control, hill start assist and hill descent control (Z71).

The Colorado has a short turning radius of about 41 feet (12.5 meters), enabling easier turning in tight areas such as city streets or backing a trailer into a camping spot.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

Chevy has an attractive offering, but with the strength of the crossover market, I’d expect more variants in the mold of its Buick Encore to be more competitive than the midsize truck market that the stalwarts have abandoned. This could be interesting.

Chevy, GM join to fight breast cancer – but only on selected dates, at selected dealers and only up to $130,000

Danica Patrick and Kasey Kahne give rides to Cancer survivers at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton GA. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

Danica Patrick and Kasey Kahne give rides to Cancer survivers at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton GA. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

BY GERRY MILES

For the third straight year, General Motors, its employees and Chevrolet will team up to fight breast cancer with the support of the American Cancer Society through the Making Strides walks. This money helps fund research, wellness, breast cancer awareness education and support for breast cancer patients and their families.

For every customer to test drive a Chevy, during October, the automaker will contribute $10 up to $130,000 to the American Cancer Society for every eligible test drives take nationally on select dates at participating dealerships. (Drivers must be over 21 with a valid driver’s license. The promotion is limited to one test drive per person.)

While this sounds all warm and fuzzy on the outside, the devil is in the details.

However, if GM and Chevy will really willing to toss in to fight cancer – it should sponsor test drives during the entire month of October nationally – not just at participating dealerships on selected dates. To me, that’s just a trumped up way to drive showroom traffic on the back of national awareness.

By comparison, when Toyota undertook an effort to send lunches to victims of Superstorm Sandy up to a certain, the wide spread reaction was so great they boosted the donation level…twice!

For each view of a short film on youtube, Toyota set a pledge goal of 250,000 meals for 250,000 views.

After an overwhelming response, the import carmaker soon prepared to send up  to 1.25 million meals from Toyota as a result of the video views for a great cause without conditions of the views having to be on a certain day or participating dealership.

Chevrolet will donate $200 for every lap run under caution during select NASCAR Sprint Cup and IZOD IndyCar Series races throughout October and not just selected races. A special pink Chevrolet Camaro SS will pace select NASCAR Sprint Cup series races. A 2014 Corvette Stingray will serve as the pace car for the IZOD IndyCar Series event at Auto Club Speedway in October.

Anyone interested in participating in a Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk in their community can visit www.makingstrideswalk.org.