Detroit auto show: Jaguar aims to rebuild image

Jan 14, 2008 00:08 UTC


Jaguar, on the brink of being sold to an Indian automaker, has worked to sharpen its brand image after earlier strategic missteps, the Ford Motor Co unit’s managing director said at the Detroit auto show. 

According to Mike O’Driscoll, Jaguar’s image was hurt in the 1990s by plans to broaden the British luxury brand’s appeal to a far broader luxury audience. In the end, analysts said the plan backfired and hurt sales.

“We have refocused our efforts on restoring the caché of the brand that was tarnished,” he told Reuters, adding the brand is once more positioned as a premium luxury car.

Ford bought Jaguar in 1990 and looks set to sell it and its Land Rover brand soon to No. 3 Indian car maker Tata Motors.

O’Driscoll and CJ O’Donnell, the company’s global marketing director, say Jaguar was not only hurt by Ford’s plans for reaching a larger audience, but also by a perception that Jaguars were cars for older, out of touch drivers.

Detroit auto show: Scion says ‘What me worry?’

Jan 13, 2008 23:37 UTC

scion.jpgScion, the Toyota brand aimed at younger buyers, is not losing its edge and becoming more mainstream, Jack Hollis, head of the unit said.

“Quirky is in the eye of the beholder,” Hollis told Reuters at the Detroit auto show, responding to criticism the brand’s designs are getting safe and boring.

Some critics have said Scion has lost the design cache that has been its trademark and morphed into a safer, less interesting brand — a criticism often made of its parent. Last year, The Truth About Cars Web site blamed Toyota for dumbing down the brand.

Detroit auto show: Ford, Keith croon for remodeled F-150 pickup

Jan 13, 2008 23:19 UTC

ford2.jpgIn a blaze of loud music and louder fireworks, and using a cast of personalities led by country music star Toby Keith, Ford today unveiled the latest reincarnation of its F-150 pickup truck.

Keith, leaning nonchalantly against the side of one of the hefty, squat new trucks and dressed in denim and sporting a cowboy hat (pictured right), was effusive if more than a little scripted in his praise of the revamped truck, the top-selling U.S. vehicle last year.

“The F-150 gets my stamp of approval,” Keith said in his relaxed southern drawl. “I love this truck.”

Detroit auto show: Here comes Speed Racer’s Mach 5!

Jan 13, 2008 20:54 UTC

mach5.jpgSpeed Racer may be a “demon on wheels” as the carton theme song proclaims, but the real-life version of the beloved Mach 5 (pictured right) proved a disappointment to some at the Detroit auto show, including the auto enthusiast Web site Jalopnik.

The teen driving sensation, whose popular cartoon adventures were dubbed into English in the late 1960s, is set to get live-action treatment this year from the Wachowski brothers of “The Matrix” trilogy fame. The movie, starring Emile Hirsch as the title character and Matthew Fox as the mysterious Racer X (psst, really Speed’s long-lost brother Rex) is set to race into theaters in May.

The Mach 5 show model in Detroit lacked many of the features the cartoon version sported, including saw blades, jump jacks and a gull-shaped homing robot. It even lacks a trunk, which every true fan knows is where Speed’s younger brother Spritle and his pet chimpanzee Chim Chim often hid.

Detroit auto show: Toyota plugs in

Jan 13, 2008 19:54 UTC

priusplug.jpgThe streets outside baseball’s Comerica Park in Detroit were never so quiet — even on a cold Sunday in January — from the inside of Toyota’s early prototype plug-in hybrid (pictured left).

The extra battery in a 2007 Prius means the gasoline motor didn’t kick in until 62 mph. The single-battery Prius  on the road today switches over at roughly half the speed.

Toyota, the global leader in hybrid production, is working to advance the technology with University of California’s battery and transportation programs.

Detroit auto show: Group calls for more “green” cars

Jan 13, 2008 19:09 UTC

greenprotest.jpgAutomakers dressed in “green” at the Detroit auto show, but it wasn’t enough for a vocal band of Michigan college students (pictured left) aligned with the Freedom from Oil Campaign.

Donned in green hard hats and gathered under a big blue balloon a long block from Cobo hall, the 50 activists flashed their enthusiasm. They beat their bucket drum, danced on the concrete sidewalk and fired up their megaphone, promising: “We will not drive cars that drive climate change.”

Urging the biggest U.S. and overseas automakers to go all out to arrest fuel inefficiency, the demonstrators — under the watchful eye of a few police — agitated for zero oil, zero emissions and more environmentally friendly jobs.

Detroit auto show: Chrysler’s moo-ving experience

Jan 13, 2008 18:42 UTC

In Hollywood, the old adage is “never work with animals or children.” dodgecow.jpg

In Detroit, the new adage — after today’s unveiling of the updated Dodge Ram (pictured right) — might be “never work with cattle.”

When Chrysler LLC on Sunday unveiled an updated version of its best-selling pickup truck at the Detroit auto show, it drove a herd of Texas longhorn cattle down a Detroit street.

Detroit auto show: GM takes top car…again

Jan 13, 2008 17:31 UTC

malibu.jpgGeneral Motors might be struggling in the North American car market, but it is still managing to impress the automotive media that hands out awards at the Detroit auto show.

For the second year in a row, the No. 1 U.S. automaker took the North American Car of the Year award with its Chevrolet Malibu (pictured above), while Mazda’s CX-9 SUV took truck honors. It was the 15th year for the awards, which are chosen by 45 U.S. and Canadian auto journalists.

Road & Track has said the Malibu sports European flair, while Car and Driver calls it a “no-excuses mainstream domestic sedan.”

Detroit auto show: GM kicks of show with Kid Rock, new ‘Vette

Jan 13, 2008 16:27 UTC

kidrock1.jpgGeneral Motors opened the Detroit auto show with an event, dubbed GM Style, that blends new cars, fashion, music and Hollywood stars.

The Saturday evening event culminated with Michigan musician Kid Rock (pictured right) performing a series of songs, including one with rapper Rev Run of Run DMC, and introducing GM’s 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.

GM holds the event to cast a spotlight on its cars and trucks in the hopes of sexing up its image, although the Detroit News pointed out the number of GM cars in the valet line for the event were few.

Detroit auto show: Mercedes strikes up the band for small SUV

Jan 13, 2008 14:12 UTC

Mercedes came back to Motown after its divorce from Chrysler and brought along a band of German musicians.

mercedessuv.jpgIn a former car dealership turned into the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the Mercedes star, a concept small sports utility vehicle dubbed the GLK Freeside (pictured left), was suspended high in the sky by a crane at a media event Saturday night ahead of the Detroit Auto Show. Liveried assistants gave guests the red-carpet treatment and champagne flowed freely.

The Palast Orchestra of Max Raabe played songs in German and English from the roaring ’20s with brass and violin, including “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” and more modern renderings like “Sex Bomb” and “Oops! … I Did It Again.”