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Auto Brand Loyalty

The Contemporary Sports Car

**A Milesperhr Exclusive**

Let’s talk about sports cars.

First, a definition: a sports car sacrifices utility for driving pleasure, comfort for cornering speed, fuel-efficiency for fun-factor. A sports car has been a purpose-built tool without any concessions to added objectives…at least until recently.

A ‘Hybrid’ or ‘Electric’ production sports car just a decade ago wasn’t just “future-talk,” it wasn’t really discussed at all. There were a few loonies tinkering away in their garages, but manufacturers were not involved in anything more than projects like the original Honda insight…and that couldn’t roll faster than a child’s pedal-powered Big Wheel. Yet presently, we have several of these technological marvels in our midst with many more on the way: the Porsche 918 Spyder, the new McLaren P1, the Ferrari LaFerrari; they all promise remarkable performance and fuel efficiency (get the full specs on these cars by visiting Autoblog Canada). For the first time, a sports car offers every bit of driving euphoria we’ve come to expect, without requiring its own oilrig.

Federal regulations calling for drastically increased fuel efficiency and decreased CO2 emissions mean electric vehicle (EV) technologies have breached the performance car market urgently. Enthusiasts fear these hybrid and EV sportscars are neglecting the passionate engineering and visceral connection that has positively characterized the auto industry for decades. Fortunately, do the concepts of being a performance-vehicle enthusiast and being environmentally conscious are no longer mutually exclusive. A range of new resources, engineering methods, and devoted contributors has made alternatively powered sports cars incontrovertibly cool.

For decades, the emissions and fuel efficiency regulations seemed to apply to every new-car segment in the market, except sports cars. Now, with more governmental regulation and more stringent standards, these exclusive machines must adhere to years of developing regulations, almost immediately. According to the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, all passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States must get an overall average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. Comparatively, the average combined mpg for a 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera, the company’s iconic sports car, is 22mpg. The Obama administration is considering bumping these regulations to 54.5 mpg’s for all cars and light trucks by 2025, as reported by the NHTSA. These requirements seem excessive compared to the current 27.5 mpg US standards, but with environmental benefits, brand image, and legality to consider, US automakers are finally adapting their engineering methods to their performance models, with impressive results.

In an article by Daniel Neil of The Wall Street Journal, he notes that, “Pedigreed manufacturers from Mercedes-Benz to Ferrari are ‘fettling’ the next generation of mind-blowing sports cars, and they all have some kind of whopping battery on board.” Several analysts have negative opinions of these “whopping batteries,” but this technology doesn’t have to interfere with a sports car’s soul. Adrenaline-pumping forward motion is what the majority of enthusiasts are after, and cars like the Capstone CMT-380 with a 150-mph top speed and a 0-60 mph run below 4 seconds (which is quick enough to embarrass a Maserati Gran Turismo S), deliver that rush. Lithium-ion batteries power the CMT-380, which doesn’t contribute a single CO2 emission to the atmosphere.

Many other electrically-aided performers are currently available or are set for production, including the Lotus 414E Hybrid, a first for the manufacturer. There’s also the Tesla Model S. Yes, by some definitions it isn’t sports car, but if you consider the 2012 BMW M5 a world-class performance vehicle, you might want to watch Automobile’s drag race between these rivals. If a battery-powered four-door saloon embarrassing Bavaria’s best doesn’t objectively prove that the auto world has changed, maybe the model S’s sub-$80k price-tag will.

Some enthusiasts complain the lack of engine roar and exhaust burble is enough to make them ignore arguments for hybrid/EV sports cars. Admittedly, the only sound to be heard from the new Tesla model S is a queer whine. Still, if you can call upon the same childish emotions that make you giggle when driving a V8 muscle car, you might imagine that strange whine sounds like a bolt-on supercharger. Manage that, and you’ll permit your other senses to enjoy the performance. If not, try not to be too surprised when a Tesla spanks you between the next pair of stoplights. The reality is this: the public demands more efficient alternatives and stone-aged enthusiasts’ desires for traditional driving factors need an update.

Alas, the largest hurdle for some is the added expense for these innovative models. Presently, this is a valid concern, though great automakers like Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, GM, and Ford, along with EV technology manufacturers are applying their best minds to these new mechanics, meaning accessibility will broaden and prices will drop. Already, Porsche has the 918, Mercedes has the SLS AMG E-cell, BMW has the i8, and Ferrari has worked KERS in its upcoming LaFerrari. The results are coming, rapidly.

Enthusiasts can and should embrace emerging hybrid and EV technologies. By all means, keep the 428 Shelby Cobra (if you’re lucky enough to own one) for primeval fun now and then, “save the manuals”, and bore out those cylinders, but let the nouveau sports car show you what it’s made of…I promise you’ll be shocked.

 

**Do you think auto enthusiasts should be worried? Will EV or other technologies ruin the soul of the sports car?**

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Saturday, February 23rd, 2013 Auto Industry News, Car Talk, MilesPerHr No Comments

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek: “It’s What Makes A Subaru, A Subaru”

 

 

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do a vehicle launch, especially through a distributor.

The wrong way includes drawn out product demos and extensive PowerPoints proclaiming the “innovative” characteristics of the newest vehicle from _____ automaker. There will be food and beverages and maybe some entertaining displays, though you will never convince yourself that the entire event was done in a way that encouraged conversation about the vehicle. It’s always about pushing the refined message.

With this in mind, the experience surrounding Subaru of New England’s XV Crosstrek “Tweetup”  was resfreshing. Yes, the event was not a presentation, rather a social-networking-driven engagement, branded by the hashtag #SNEXVTweetup.  A dozen Subaru corporate and SNE distributor employees welcomed over 90 registered guests to the Rattlesnake Bar & Grill on Boston’s famous Boylston street, including “BostonTweet” (Tom O’Keefe). The brand new 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek was parked outside the restaurant, along with a product specialist and vehicle developer. These gentlemen were primed to answer any questions you had about the vehicle. The most enjoyable part of the event was the vibe: never once did you feel that when you spoke with a Subaru representative, all you would hear was scripted commentary about the “amazing new Subaru XV Crosstrek”. Instead, it felt like a natural Tweetup, with live updates posted on a screen in the restaurant and plenty of conversations to be had with Boston-area professionals -auto-related or not-. Points to Subaru, and especially this event’s organizer, Guy Mitrano, for a consciously-crafted event. Now that you know the setting of the vehicle launch, I’ll get right into the XV Crosstrek.

The 2013 XV Crosstrek was NOT meant for the US market. It was actually built for the European roads, especially when the pavement ran out. However, US distributors like SNE thought the crossover would be perfect for the younger families who already loved the Subaru brand.  The Subaru product specialist I spoke with at the Tweetup did not deny that this vehicle isn’t much more than a lifted Impreza with some revised bumpers, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Impreza is quite a good starting point, and the only things I haven’t liked about the revised model were…the body panels.

The Basics

The utility 2.0 liter flat-four boxer engine serves in the Crosstrek as the Impreza, adding just 100 pounds onto a Impreza hatch’s curb weight. It should match the Impreza’s EPA estimates for fuel consumption of 25 mpg city and 33 highway with the manual or 27/36 with the optional CVT, so that’s a plus. By comparison, the Forester SUV only manages 21/27. Also, the Crosstrek trumps the Forester in the style department without question. Personally, I found the Tangerine Orange Pearl exterior really bitchin’ rather than annoying, and I’d love to see the “Sahara” color one of the developers described at the event.

For the Northeast, AWD is a huge bonus, but so is ground clearance. The XV offers 8.7 inches of clearance, 3 inches better than the Impreza. This is great for getting through snow, but with only 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque at your disposal, this is not a drivers car in good weather. It’s a bummer that a more powerful turbocharged option is not available, but if you’re considering the Crosstrek, it’s the price and looks that will really sell you. A fully loaded model with the CVT transmission will run you $27,290, but the entry level model comes in at just $22,790. That base model is considered premium trim and includes standard AWD, 9 airbags, and other goodies. Not a bad deal. The Suzuki SX4 undercuts the XV by over $4k, but you couldn’t pay me to park that thing in my driveway, so the next closest competitors would be the Mitsubishi Outlander (also a let-down), the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV-4 (those these last two aren’t for the off-roading enthusiasts). Personally, this XV is the best looking of the bunch, and if unique is important to you, the XV will be the clear choice.

What The Crosstrek Means For Subaru

For the Subaru brand, this model is an exercise in creative development more than a sure-sale product. The Forester and Outback Sport will serve just fine as practical AWD SUVs for the majority of buyers, but for those folks who want a touch of flare from the same chassis and bulletproof engine out of the Impreza, the Crosstrek might be a great option. I’m glad the decision-makers within the Japanese automaker approved this model, because it inspires faith that the brand is still listening to its distributors and consumers. If the Subaru BR-Z was the purist’s ride for driving pleasure, the Crosstrek is the soloist’s ride for aesthetic joy.

Moreover, other automakers could learn a thing or two from Subaru and SNE in particular about a product launch. I learned everything there was to know about the model because they made informed Subaru representatives available to answer questions in a casual environment, not because I sat through an hour-long presentation about how many different climates the vehicle endured before it was approved for production.

Marketed as a separation from the mundane SUVs of the urban environment, the XV Crosstrek should be a success in the crossover segment and as a representation of the Subaru brand.

 

**NOTE: I was not compensated by Subaru nor any associated distributorss to compose this review. All content and opinions are my alone. **

 

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Monday, September 3rd, 2012 MilesPerHr No Comments

The Bentley Plan: Tactics #3

-Objective three: To heighten brand visibility for the primary and secondary audiences from televised content by 80% by December 2012, at a cost of $500,000.

1)    Product Placement in season 8 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. This show could be a great opportunity for Bentley to display its newest models on a popular program that portrays the life of a rich and famous individual, Larry David (HBO, 2011). Bentley vehicles would be perfect to reflect the style of the brand’s target audience. Curb Your Enthusiasm has prompted extensive online dialogue from the show’s fans over the past decade, which can allow Bentley to track noticeable increases in brand mentions online (HBO, 2011). With the show’s audience covering a diverse range of demographics, Bentley can spread its visibility, while narrowing its image. People will come to associate Bentley vehicles even more with wealth and success, while discussing the cars and the show on social networks and chat forums. To execute this initiative, Bentley needs to make a product placement deal with Wildfire Studios, the production house of Curb Your Enthusiasm. From there, Bentley PR representatives would need to publicize the deal in digital entertainment magazines, so the target audiences could access the news on computers, tablets and phones.

2)    Develop an online show, “Becoming Bentley.” Ford Motor Company created an online show that followed teams of couples as they completed challenges in the 2012 Ford Focus. This show, Focus Rally, was a major success with Ford’s target audience of young, technology-savvy adults, scoring 30,000 at-home followers (Ford, 2011). Bentley could be the first luxury automaker to develop a web show that generates online interactivity from contestants and viewers. The show would be composed of 8 teams of two people who would “re-live” Bentley’s development as a company. For example, the first challenge would be to race a new Bentley GT at Le Mans in honor of the company’s first visit to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race with their 3-liter in 1923 (Bentley website, 2011). The slowest teams would be eliminated. In another challenge, contestants would chauffeur some celebrities around in a classic 1952 Bentley Mark VI (Bentley website, 2011). The teams that offered the most luxurious driving experience would move on to the next challenge. The show would conclude with a single team that had successfully navigated the entire history of Bentley and would win $50,000. To promote online engagement, Bentley would create a special website where viewers could vote on upcoming challenge options, could give his or her preferred team an advantage of some sort (like time bonuses) and could play online games and answer trivia. This tactic would be a bit more costly and labor-intensive, but Bentley would see a surge in online engagement, especially with its primary audience. The web show would run from September to November 2012.

3)    Pitch an interview with Bentley Motors North American President, Christophe Georges on 60 Minutes. In an effort to reach Bentley’s secondary audience, the brand should arrange to have its U.S. chief be interviewed on the show, discussing the brand’s latest activity online and offline. The executive could answer questions about the new technology in the vehicles, the company’s growth since the recession, and how the brand is making itself a two-way communicator online. This could be a perfect way to reach its secondary audience, which is similar to the show’s target demographic, that may want to interact more with Bentley, but has yet to reach out to them online (Journalism.org, 2005). Bentley’s PR team should do media relations to publicize the 60 Minutes feature, and follow up the interview with online content for the primary audience who may not watch the show, but may still be interested in the interview. With this tactic, Bentley can merge its audiences to its consolidated online presence.

 

Sources:

“Curb Your Enthusiam: Forums and News.” HBO. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://www.hbo.com/curbyourenthusiam/talk.html>.

“Focus Rally: America Wraps up 6,000-Mile Road Rally on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’” Blog.Ford. 17 Mar. 2011. Web. 4 Dec. 2011.

Bentley Motors Website. Nov. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://www.bentleymotors.com/>.

“Nightly News Audience Demographics.” Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). Journalism.org, 15 Mar. 2005. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://www.journalism.org/node/884>.

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 MilesPerHr No Comments

The Bentley Plan: Tactics #2

** Part 5 of an 8-part Bentley Motors Campaign Plan**

-Objective two: To increase Bentley vehicle video sharing and feedback 120% by June 2012 at a cost of $400,000.

1)    Launch a user-generated video contest for aspiring owners to describe, in three minutes or less, the Bentley brand and the status vehicle ownership would bring to their lives. The winner would receive a brand new Bentley Continental GT for a month. The contest would run from April to May 2012. The restrictions include: no profanity or violence, three-minute maximum and single-camera production. Those who submit videos would receive votes on a specially-designed contest website and the winners after one month win the grand prize. The top five videos get the car for a month while the five runners-up get VIP passes to the 2012 Concours D’Elegance show at Pebble Beach in California. This tactic encourages the primary target audience to share their submissions with friends, vote on the Bentley website and comment on videos. Essentially, the only costs for Bentley are the prizes.

2)    Designate a team of three people to operate Bentley’s social networking profiles and engage with both secondary audiences via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other networks. With targeted engagement, Bentley can reach out to its audience that spends hours each day on social networks. This is a great opportunity for Bentley to become a thought-leader in the niche of vehicle technology and luxury manufacturing. From the Twitter account, Bentley can share its latest activity, answer customer questions publicly, share interesting bits of information about what goes into building a Bentley, educate consumers about auto industry trends and communicate its history as a brand. From its YouTube account, Bentley can make brief videos with exclusive interviews with upper-management and engineers. From its Facebook page, the brand can hold minor contests and help cultivate the brand’s image through testimonials, etc. The only cost to Bentley is staffing the community management team, yet the digital engagement rewards are vast.

3)    Launch the event: “Build a Bentley Challenge.” Students from the leading engineering programs across the U.S. will compete to design a new Bentley to current luxury, safety and design expectations in two weeks. Bentley Motors would fly five teams of ten students from Stevens College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Georgia Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley (US News, 2011). For two weeks, these teams would learn how Bentley engineers design and build the models. Then, the two-week contest would begin to build the next great Bentley model. Winners would receive $200,000 in funding for their engineering program. All expenses would be paid for the participants. By recording the contest and offering video logs online to the public, Bentley would receive great publicity and the videos would circulate quickly. Though this initiative wouldn’t come cheap, Bentley would receive attention from its primary and secondary audiences through digital interaction and publicity. The span of the event would be February 1st to March 1st 2012.

**What Does Bentley’s Social Media Need To Drive Engagement?**

Sources:

“Top Engineering Schools In The U.S.” US News. 2011. Web. 5 Dec. 2011. <http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-engineering-schools/eng-rankings>.

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Thursday, March 1st, 2012 MilesPerHr No Comments

The Bentley Plan: Tactics #1

TACTICS

            -Objective one: To increase interaction with primary and secondary audiences by 20% within the mobile communication arena by January 2012, at a cost of $10,000.

1)    Build a mobile application which features a beautiful UI interface and interactive features. Bentley will outsource the app development to VentureFizz, a database of Boston area mobile app developers who will bid on the project. As more of Bentley’s target consumers spend hours each day on their smartphones, Bentley can capitalize on this trend by developing a sleek, free application that allows users to build their dream Bentley model and share it with friends or learn about Bentley’s heritage from brief, in-app videos (Mashable, 2011). The app will be easy to use, so the secondary audience can enjoy it, while offering cutting-edge graphics and video to appeal to the primary audience. Developed to operate on iPhone and Android platforms, this application will reach the majority of smart phone users. To spread the news about the app, Bentley PR will speak with Boston tech. publications like Boston Innovation to reach the primary audience initially.

2)    At the March 2012 Geneva International Auto show, place QR code platforms around the show that, when scanned with a smart phone, offer an exclusive bit of information about the new model that will be revealed that day. This tactic is a good way to generate buzz about the new model reveal and encourage smart phone interaction (Korhan, 2011). Exclusive information is a great way to reach the target audience and the new communication QR tactic shows Bentley has a contemporary approach (Korhan, 2011). Bentley will not announce the QR code tactic at the event, to raise the sense of exclusivity. The only other way people could find out about the information is to check into the Bentley booth on Foursquare, which will have a hint placed by Bentley PR about where to find the QR code stations. To develop the QR code, Bentley will recruit contentdeveloper for a customized interface.

3)    For Bentley dealerships, hire MacroSolve to create a mobile phone tool that functions as remote vehicle lock, engine ignition and alarm trigger. Surprisingly, this is a very inexpensive tool to develop, though the technology is very innovative (Maxwell, 2011). To increase the digital communication goal with the secondary audience, any Bentley consumers who come into the dealership to receive service on their vehicle or purchase a new Bentley can get this tool on their mobile device for free. Unlike the mobile application discussed above, this tool is kept within the Bentley owner pool and is a great way for current owners to be personally shown (by dealership staff) how innovative and accessible Bentley has become. Within the tool, there will be a quick link to interactive customer service. Any questions owners have could be answered without ever having to dial a number or drive to the nearest dealership. Obviously, this tactic doesn’t extend brand presence beyond current owners, but it is a great way for consumers to show off Bentley tech. and for brand interaction through mobile devices. Auto industry publications would pick up on this tool and generate buzz online as well.

**Are there some better tactics for this objective that I’ve missed?**

 

Sources:

11, July. “More U.S. Adults Own a Smartphone Than Have a Degree.” Mashable. 11 July 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://mashable.com/2011/07/11/one-third-of-us-adults-owns-a-smartphone/>.

Maxwell, Aaron. “Is Developing a Mobile App Worth the Cost?” Mashable. 24 Feb. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://mashable.com/2011/02/24/mobile-app-dev-cost/>.

Korhan, Jeff. “How QR Codes Can Grow Your Business | Social Media Examiner.” Social Media Examiner: Social Media Marketing How To, Research, Case Studies, News and More! 7 Feb. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-qr-codes-can-grow-your-business/>.

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Sunday, February 12th, 2012 MilesPerHr No Comments

The Bentley Plan: Objectives & Evaluations

OBJECTIVES & EVALUATIONS

1)    To increase interaction with primary and secondary audiences by 20% within the mobile communication arena by March 2012, at a cost of $10,000. Bentley understands smart phone use and general mobile activity is surging year after year, so the automaker must forage into the mobile environment to dominate luxury auto brand presence. The most effective way to evaluate the success of this objective is to track web site traffic now and immediately after the March 2012 deadline. Results should reveal a 20% increase in mobile-driven site traffic. With more than a third of U.S. adults using smartphones, it is critical that Bentley capitalize in mobile communication soon (Mashable, 2010).

2)    To increase Bentley vehicle video sharing and feedback by 120% by June 2012 at a cost of $400,000.  Besides show room and auto show visits, Bentley has a difficult time engaging with its target audience. It has done well with getting Facebook “like’s” but needs to boost its interaction (Facebook, 2011). In addition, it hardly uses its Twitter account, and when it does, the tweets are not interesting (Twitter, 2011). By optimizing social media engagement, the automaker can cheaply and effectively link itself to consumers’ online engagement practices. By tracking mentions, comments and Bentley-branded video online, the automaker can see before and after figures that should reflect the objective’s success by June 2012.

3)    To heighten brand visibility from televised content by 80% by December 2012, at a cost of $500,000. Most of the U.S. population rarely see a Bentley on the streets, but are almost as unlikely to see a Bentley in an advertisement. The automaker relies on word of mouth and exclusivity to sell vehicles (Gibson, 2011). This has been a successful business model for the brand, though it is time to adapt to the changing communication landscape, scrap the print ads and assert the brand in more communication channels. Instead of relying on ads, Bentley should look into hybrid messaging like product placement or develop and inspire its own video content. For this objective, it would be best to track which and how many online destinations generate Bentley’s brand mentions now and after the December 2012 date. With more people watching TV shows online from sources like Hulu, there is an opportunity to assert the Bentley brand on televised programming (Newsline, 2011). Then Bentley should encourage online interactivity like chat forums and social networks.

**What would you suggest for Bentley’s Objectives and Evaluations?**

sources:

11, July. “More U.S. Adults Own a Smartphone Than Have a Degree.” Mashable. 11 July 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://mashable.com/2011/07/11/one-third-of-us-adults-owns-a-smartphone/>.

Gibson, Ken. “La-la Land (Rover).” The Sun | The Best for News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities | The Sun. 18 Nov. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011.

“Online Video – TV but Smaller?” Newsline. 8 June 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://mediatel.co.uk/newsline/2011/06/08/online-video-tv-but-smaller/>.

 

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Monday, January 30th, 2012 MilesPerHr No Comments

The Bentley Plan: Goal & Target Audience

** this is part 2 of a multi-part feature on how Bentley can successfully navigate a new marketing plan**

GOAL STATEMENT

The goal of this plan is to become the leading luxury automotive brand presence through digital communication and engagement with Bentley’s target audiences.

TARGET AUDIENCE

Primary audience: Cultured, aspirational young adults. Men and women, ages 18-28, who appreciate digital communication, luxurious lifestyles, brand presence and technology innovation. These young adults would like to own a Bentley vehicle one day and enjoy the status that accompanies a car of that caliber. On the cusp of the digital revolution, these young professionals can relate to Bentley’s goal of transitioning its marketing and PR efforts to the online and mobile landscape.

Secondary audience: Upper-class individuals between the ages of 40 and 65. These customers expect to spend over 150 thousand dollars on a vehicle with modern conveniences, luxury, refinement and presence. Most are looking for a large, powerful luxury coupe or sedan. They want to make a statement of elegance with their vehicle from a class leading brand. They have money to spare and do not fret over large purchases. These consumers refuse to drive a chintzy car. These buyers attended undergraduate and graduate school, and reside in wealthy, prominent social circles. They are not bargain hunters, but understand value for money. They are married with children who are in college or graduated to wall-street positions already. The primary audience consumes most of their media from the internet and television.

**Do you think Bentley would be successful targeting these audiences and using this goal?**

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 MilesPerHr No Comments

The Bentley Plan: Situation Analysis

This will be a multi-part post detailing steps Bentley Motors North America should consider to engage with stakeholders in the modern communications environment. Enjoy!

SITUATION ANALYSIS

Bentley Motors, Inc. operates out of its North American headquarters of 3 Copley Place, Suite 3701, Boston, MA 02116. As one of the most recognizable luxury automakers, Bentley produces elegant, hand-built, powerful vehicles to the one percent of consumers who can afford them. With the majority of Bentley’s sales coming from the US, this contemporary headquarters of 25 employees sits in the heart of wealthy downtown Boston (Auto Channel, 2007). Since it was first established by O.W. Bentley in Crewe, England during 1919, Bentley Motors grew from its racing heritage into a major auto brand and was absorbed by Volkswagen AG in 1998 (Bentley website, 2011).  Vehicle sales in 2010 were just shy of 5,000 cars (Gulfnews.com, 2011).

As a young auto-racing pioneer, O.W. Bentley sought to develop a brand that proved its worth on the track. Over the years, Bentley racing became a separate aspect of the brand, while consumer vehicles continued to develop as hand-crafted, refined machines. The 20th century molded heavier, more powerful and more luxurious Bentley models. Finally, by the turn of the 20th century at the hands of its new Volkswagen parent company, Bentley became a global icon of luxury and status (Bentley website, 2011).

The auto industry began struggling in 2008 during the recession and though Bentley’s consumers were wealthy, the luxury automaker was not exempt from the economic woes. This meant Bentley Motors sold 50% fewer vehicles in 2009 than they did in 2007 (4wheelsnews.com, 2011). Since before the recession, emerging markets have pulled Bentley out of lack-luster sales periods. China and the Middle East have lunged at the massive vehicle status symbols in the 21st century (4wheelsnews.com, 2011). Though Bentley has struggled to recover since the recession, the company has been financially supported by Volkswagen’s massive market presence (VW AG owns Audi, a percentage of Porsche, Bentley, and Lamborghini).

The rich and famous gravitate to Bentley vehicles, with the media in pursuit (Gibson, 2011).  Bentley’s media center of its website archives press releases and “Bentley Magazine” issues. Newspapers, auto industry magazines and websites serve as the majority of Bentley’s media coverage. In the U.K., Bentley vehicles are featured in stories within “Evo” magazine and “Top Gear” magazine consistently. In the U.S., “Motor Trend”, “Car and Driver” and “Autoblog.com” feature Bentley cars several times each year. International auto shows like the Los Angeles International Auto Show bring quality coverage for Bentley, especially when the automaker has a new model revealed, like the recent 2012 Continental GTC (LA Times, 2011).

With its cheapest model starting at $190,000, Bentley’s competition is very light. Vehicles in this price range are the definition of specialty goods. Jaguar/Land Rover Cars, Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz) and Rolls-Royce Cars are the only competitors who mimic Bentley’s luxury, status and performance (Yahoo! Finance, 2009). Jaguar and Mercedes have a range of models with much lower starting prices, so those in the market for a Bentley will usually consider Rolls-Royce the immediate alternative. Considering Bentley and Rolls-Royce were once under the same ownership, the distinctions between the two brands are minimal (VW Group, 2011).

Bentley Motors has an iconic brand that is recognized across the globe, though this PR plan will address the need for Bentley to find and measure its digital and online audience, targeting the young adults who will be the next generation of owners. With the majority of Bentley’s resources going to traditional communication, the automaker has been behind in the industry and global transition to digital communication. Bentley needs to gain market capitalization on mobile devices and internet sites that generation Y use frequently. With increased activity on the digital front, Bentley Motors will prompt engagement and interactivity between its brand and publics. By doing so, the auto maker can educate its young adult audience about its brand heritage, modern vehicle technology and refinement. At the same time, it can improve its customer experience for current owners.

**Now before I go further, what do you think Bentley needs to be a successful automaker in the future?

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is the Content Manager and Writer for Fast Lane Daily, the longest running automotive news show on the internet.

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Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 MilesPerHr No Comments
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