Friday, 27 April 2012

Celebrity endorsments, the latest fleeting misguidance of the automotive industry?

If you thought the number of celebrity endorsements in the auto industry was peaking, then you’ll realise that you may have jumped on the wrong bandwagon. A new special edition Range Rover Evoque is on show for the first time today at Beijing’s 2012 Auto Show. But it’s not just any baby Rangie, no, it’s the posh moon buggy designed by Victoria Beckham.

The VB signature alone would probably be worth its weight in gold, but fear not as Mrs Becks has seemingly gone all out on a car which she already designed “from the ground up”. Yeah. Outside the special edition Evoque is finished in two-tone matt grey paint with a black roof, plus it’s fitted with 20-inch gloss black forged alloys and there are rose-gold touches on the front grille.

Inside, there are four Vintage Tan leather seats stitched in a baseball kind-of-style plus mohair (yes, mohair) mats aimed to be super soft and luxurious for your tootsies inspired by Posh Spice taking her shoes off in her father’s Rolls. There’s even a luggage set which fits nicely in the boot and an owner’s manual in leather with rose-gold bits.

Mrs Beckham’s Evoque has the range topping 2.0 all-aluminium petrol engine producing 237bhp through all four wheels mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Standard kit includes an 825W Meridian sound system with 17 speakers, satellite navigation, surround camera system and park assist. Options include digital or satellite TV, digital radio, DVD playback and a 10-disk virtual CD player.

This 2 door special edition Evoque Coupe ain’t cheap. VB’s autograph coupled with the fact that there will be only 200 in existence means this will set you back £80,000. That’s nearly double the price of the top spec Dynamic model.

Other manufactures are taking note of this sure to be success story, Volvo recently enlisted the help of Jeremy Lin, whoever that is. I recently passed Volvo Chelmsford dealer, am I suddenly want to own a Volvo because of Lin?

What are your thoughts on this latest automotive trend? A fleeting misguidance or a sign of things to come? Comments below...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The importance of social media to franchise dealerships

Ford dealers are ten a penny these days, so what sets these common dealerships apart and how do they survive in such a saturated Marketplace? Torque Auto looks at why these dealerships still operate and how they make a profit, we wrote here about the UK automotive economy on the up, they're governed by Ford so they can't undercut each other, can they?

No, in a nutshell.

Ford dealerships have a pre-determined location based target market. A contractual agreement between the dealerships and Ford, limiting their marketing and advertising reach and their marketing communications are heavily dictated by Ford.

Ford dealerships now tend to be owned by a dealership group. The benefits here being obvious, if one location is performing badly, another can help prop it up however, this is not a fufilling business strategy.

The only focus of franchise dealerships should be customer service and relations - thus why Social Media is so important. Would anyone care to disagree?

Monday, 23 April 2012

Part of the problem? Be part of the genuine solution

Today we travel into the shadowed world of auto parts, along the thistle road and under the iron bridge; we look at what is best for your car. Have you been tempted in the past by cheap non-branded parts, only to be stung 3 months down the line with a bill for a replacement plus damages incurred by its faults? Torque Auto would suggest buying genuine parts, every time, and here’s why.

Not all parts are created equal, and that’s why “the same parts” vary so much in price. But after shopping parts you can get a feel for what the average price should be for a particular part. Be wary of drastic differences: Higher isn’t always better but cheaper almost always means inferior quality. Brand parts for instance Ford Parts are created in fulfilment, therefore they have every part for your Ford car, always and probably at a close distance dealership, especially if you have a used car.

Let’s take a look at some of the common replacement parts and what the effects of “fixing it on the cheap” can be.

1. Brakes - Brakes are one of the most common repairs people have done on their cars, and one of the common areas in which corners can be cut. Brake shoes and pads are friction materials that rub against brake drums or rotors, slowing the rotation of the wheels. The friction material is usually made of a semi-metallic mixture (ground up metal mixed with other stuff). The friction materials of cheaper pads or shoes tend to contain more metal and thus are of a harder composition. Pads and shoes are bonded to a steel backing and in cheaper pads the bonding material is often inferior, unlike the more expensive pads that are riveted or bonded with a high quality bonding.

Poorly bonded brake pads and shoes wear out faster and can possibly fail to stop your vehicle for several reasons. The harder composition of the cheaper pads and shoes generates more heat when the brakes are applied and doesn’t dissipate the heat as well. This heat crystallizes the glue, which causes the pad or shoe to separate from its backing. The use of inferior glue speeds up this process in a vicious circle. In addition, the hard composition of the cheaper friction material tends to crack when heat is applied. To top it all off, the contact of the harder friction material on the drums or rotors wears out these parts more quickly.

In choosing drums and rotors, you should always buy the best products available. Cheap drums and rotors are made of sub-standard steel and therefore wear out prematurely, especially when they come in contact with sub-standard friction materials, as mentioned above. Rotor and drum warpage and premature wear are common when cheap parts are used in a brake job and warped rotors result in decreased braking performance, which is a safety hazard.

2. Batteries - In a cheaper battery, the case is less sturdy, the quality of the posts is compromised, there are fewer internal plates and poor plate connection can cause the battery to fail when it is subjected to vibration. Just because it “looks the same” as your old battery doesn’t mean that it matches the performance of your OEM unit. Furthermore, installing a battery that is rated at fewer cold-cranking amps than what is required by the manufacturer is just asking for trouble.

3. Oil Filters - The oil filter keeps dirt out of your engine, which is an important job if you want it to last. Quality oil filters have a check valve, designed so that the engine has oil pressure immediately upon cold start up, preventing wear. Many cheap filters lack this critical element, or even worse, don’t have the fine filtering media necessary to capture the smallest particles of dirt. This is not an area to try to save a few dollars.

4. Alternators/Starters/Water Pumps - Alternators, starters, and water pumps are the sorts of parts that, when they fail, can be rebuilt. When this is done right, the end result is pretty much a brand new part, although it is sold for less. Cheap rebuilt parts, however frequently lack attention to the details that result in dependable performance. The companies that produce low quality rebuilds replace only what is obviously bad and leave the rest, hoping the part will outlast its short warranty. Selling these sorts of parts as “rebuilt” is really a misnomer, as it would be more accurate to describe them as “repaired.”

5. Spark Plugs and Ignition Components - Spark plugs and ignition system components power the engine, and low quality products usually result in poor performance or a car that doesn’t run. Years ago I did an investigative report for a local TV station. It involved taking two GM ignition modules, one an OEM part, the other, a knockoff. Both units looked the same and had the same electrical connections and mounting configuration. Even the cases looked the same. But once I opened them up, the similarities came to a screeching halt. The OEM part was stuffed full of electronics, whereas the knockoff had a mostly empty case. You only had to look inside these units to understand the significant price difference.

We hope this helps guide your future part purchasing decision-making, share with Torque Auto your parts stories and tips!