Showing posts with label Smart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smart. Show all posts

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: July 2011

The struggling brand smart grew more than any other brand, at least on Facebook where their global page had a 109% gain of 25,821 fans while only selling 327 cars in the United States in July. Therein lies a problem that is growing in this report. Several European brands have created USA based pages, smart being one of them. BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Volvo all have USA pages now and perhaps it is time to modify this report to show a United States view of fan growth by brand.

My only issue with switching to the USA pages is that the USA pages have much smaller budgets, lack a lot of the organic growth that happens. Why? Because people looking for a brand's Facebook page are far more likely to click on the one with the most fans and the cleanest page name. You follow BMW, not BMW USA especially when you see all of the fans and activity on the BMW page. This is a behavior I've seen for years on Facebook and so I tend to focus on the primary brand page.

With so many USA pages, is it time to switch this report to a USA focused report, especially considering I don't track non-USA brands like Peugeot or Citroen.

Let me know your thoughts. Should I switch to this tracking the USA focused fan pages?

One other thing of note last month is Mercedes-Benz overtaking Audi's page in the race for fans. One of the big pushes for the brand is their "Mercedes-Benz & Friends" event coming August 25-28 bringing together all international official Benz clubs.

But most of the fan growth likely came from the marketing efforts of their Drive & Seek game helping to launch the all-new Mercedes C-Class Coupe. The game is centered around the player being a special agent who is trying to outsmart a security system.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: July 2010

BMW and Audi are definitely proving all it takes to drive significant Fans on Facebook is a healthy marketing budget. Both brands had over 40% gains in July and both crossed the laudable 1 Million-Fan mark. Considering it took BMW years to cross the half-a-million-fan mark back in February 2010, where they celebrated the milestone by launching a YouTube video, it is interesting to see how ad impressions on the social media site can drive significant gains for aspirational, luxury car brands. (Note: the BMW Facebook Fan page was assumed by the brand in November 2009 where it had been managed and originally created by a BMW dealer in Spain. So, the first 1/2 million fans was dominantly, if not entirely, gained organically.)

Some of the smaller volume brands like Mitsubishi, Smart and Scion also experienced over 40% growth leading me to believe both also ran Facebook advertising this past month.

Toyota gained an impressive 38% fans in July. They were actively promoting their latest social media user generated content idea called “Auto-Biography” where the social media team selected a few stories to be “animated with the help of [their] artistic friends”… i.e. ad agency. This is interesting, as Toyota has been running several safety videos in response to their much publicized recalls.

Here we finally see Toyota recovering from the bad public relations and turning to the voice of the customer, which I think is a good move based on where the brand is today. Let the consumer voice showcase their passion for the products. It was a risky bet, except that Toyota approves every story before it is posted on the Facebook tab.

The only odd thing in July was a negative fan dip for the Infiniti brand. It would be interesting to see why this is happening. My guess is that some Infiniti fans are a bit turned off by the social media team’s wall posts promoting the Cirque du Soleil promotion; though, this guess is just that a guess. Looking at the fan page comments on the Cirque posts, several fans do enjoy the association. It still could be due to an increased frequency of the team pushing every marketing promotion on the page's wall. Without knowing the Facebook analytics and insight data, it is difficult for me to assess what is going on, perhaps their Facebook team should look at frequency of posts and also when the fan drop may have occurred since it is pretty rare to see a brand page lose fans in a month.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Part I: How Cash for Clunkers Impacted 2009 Sales & Advertising to Attract Bargain Shoppers

There are a lot of articles out talking about a resurgence in automotive sales. As a recent LA Times article claims, “U.S. car sales are out of rut.” While there certainly is some very positive momentum that all started with Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) or more commonly known as “Cash For Clunkers”, Ford posted a pretax third-quarter profit of $357 million and General Motors has improved its market share for four straight months, the market is far from recovery.

All of this talk about improvements in the automotive market has left me wondering what is really going on, since we recently crossed 10% national unemployment and little has changed with economic fundamentals.

Did Cash For Clunkers wake people up and get them interested in car buying? Or was it simply a temporary spike where numbers returned to pre-Clunker sales? Or is something else going. Of course, I’m curious if the sales momentum in late 2009 is advertising or product related or a little of both or not really a momentum at all.


Most of the analysis done by the media is year-over-year comparisons. But if this year is highly unusual and looking back at the tanking of sales in late 2008 is naturally going to provide what looks like a surge in sales, how can we judge sales performance post Cash for Clunkers?

This analysis looks at 2009 only. I looked at sales through the first six months of 2009 (January-June) and then took an average of sales for those months to obtain an average month in 2009.

The chart looks at percentage of change from a six-month average, against the months where Cash for Clunkers was active and the following two months post the end of the Clunkers offer: September and October.

The data also only looks at non-luxury automotive brands for the companies included in the analysis. Why? The legislation applied only to cars priced below $45,000. Cash for Clunkers had a negative or non-impact on luxury car sales, so I decided to exclude it in this analysis.

One company that may seem odd here is Smart. I only included them because they were running a high profile $99/month Cash for Clunkers promotion. I was curious if it had an impact on sales.

Sales During Cash for Clunkers

Honda, Nissan and Toyota saw the most significant increases in sales in August when Cash for Clunkers was at its peak. Honda had a 90% increase while Nissan increased 89% and Toyota 78% over the 6-month 2009 average.

U.S. brands Ford, General Motors and Chrysler saw decent gains, but almost two-thirds or half the gain of their foreign counterparts. General Motors led with a 60% gain, Ford saw a 45% increase and Chrysler performed the lowest across the major brands with only a 19% improvement; though, many Chrysler dealers were caught without adequate inventories.

Truck sales were one area where American brands did fairly well. “The single most common swap - which occurred more than 8,200 times - involved Ford 150 pickup owners who took advantage of a government rebate to trade their old trucks for new Ford 150s,” according to the Associated Press.

Not surprisingly, Hyundai received a nice bump especially with some low-priced value alternatives for SUV traders with significant sales of the Tucson and Santa Fe. The Elantra, their economy car, doubled sales in August as value seekers sought alternatives to the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla which all ran into availability issues.

Smart saw a negative change in July as Cash for Clunkers started, but eventually turned positive, barely, as the program peaked in August. Unfortunately for Smart, their sole product only allows for a driver and one passenger and while the 33/41 mpg fuel-economy at first is appealing, it comes with giving up a lot like interior space and concerns for safety.

The program did what most expected it to do. It increased sales and spurred a lot of interest in new car sales. Who benefited more is really more of a political concern and caused a lot of discussion as it is easy to see the Asian automakers did very well from the program.

Marketing To Clunker Sellers

There were various efforts as automakers tried their best to attract clunker sales. Hyundai was the first out of the gate by offering trades a few weeks before the program officially started, good thing for Hyundai the government accepted the early trades.

Ford Motor Company went with their “Let Ford Recycle Your Ride” site that simplified the process for figuring out if a car qualified and then returned a list of qualifying Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicle choices. The site also included manufacturer incentives. All of this made for a very easy understanding of cost in a few simple steps. Ford was the third most popular car brand that consumers visiting this website have requested calls from a local dealer.

Chrysler had by far the easiest, most effective message with its Cash for Clunkers advertising. Their program simply promoted a “Double Cash” incentive where Chrysler matched the government’s incentive. If one qualified for a $4,500 rebate from CARS, Chrysler added another $4,500 to the purchase allowing for a $9,000 incentive! It was very impressive and a clear, effective way to communicate their offer. Unfortunately, Chrysler is suffering very low consideration due to its bankruptcy and ran into supply issues even if customers wanted a vehicle.

Toyota was “proud to be part of the US government’s program.” They promoted their most fuel efficient and most dependable car company in America message in the TV spots for the program.

GM did a Cash for Clunkers qualification experience from their corporate website. The site was similar to Ford’s where one entered in their car information and it said what GM products were eligible for trade. It however did not include additional manufacturer incentive information.

Smart, as I mentioned earlier, provided a very interesting effort to gain some interest from bargain shoppers. They promoted a $99/month payment when a clunker was traded in for a new Smart car. The low monthly payment was definitely attractive and looked great in large print. Unfortunately, many were quick to chastise the offer as it came with a large $6,667 balloon payment at the end of the 36-month term. The full cost of the deal and the limited appeal of a two-seat car that looks like a death trap next to a Chevy Cobalt, probably caused most buyers to look elsewhere.

It was no surprise to see the small car; fuel-efficient leaders gain the most from the program. Truck sales were strong which definitely helped the home team along with a couple shining examples like the Ford Focus which led the program as the Number 1 buy of shoppers.

To be Continued (Article should be up no later than Dec 2):
Part II: Examining Post Cash for Clunkers

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Courting the Clunker Demographic

If you drive a clunker, you are the darling of the auto world, at least until the $1 billion runs out or November 1st arrives which ever comes first.

That’s right Cash for Clunkers was signed into legislation on June 24 and is expected to be active on July 23. The CARS (Cash Allowance Rebate System) legislation is a convoluted version of several European Cash for Clunker programs that have spurred automotive sales. The US has been considering adopting a similar program and finally passed a complex version that was signed by President Barack Obama.

With so many rules and restrictions to determine if your clunker is eligible, several automakers have rolled out their own initiatives to attract these shoppers and help them navigate through the requirements. The requirements include poor fuel economy numbers, model year of the car or truck, and the newly purchased vehicle must get better, though not much, gas mileage than your clunker. If you want the gory details checkout the website.

When searching Google, I received the following results with paid search results from GM, Toyota, and Ford. Mazda, Nissan and Kia also occasionally show up in the paid search results. Several OEMs are highlighting their sites as helpful ways to lead you into a particular brand’s products.

The most interesting marketing example comes from SMART with its full product line of a whopping two cars that fully meets the CARS requirements, no matter what clunker you are scraping to give you the maximum $4,500 credit.

Combined with SMART’s $99 payment promotion, the SMART Cash for Clunkers marketing pitch seems like a good blend of reaching cost conscious and green minded consumers. Of course, this means you have to be willing to risk your life driving a fortwo; though, this may not be a problem if you have been flaunting with death in a 1986 Dodge Omni with bald tires and a oil leak that leaves a trail from your home to work every morning.

SMART is also actively building up their contact database to keep interested buyers informed the minute the plan goes live. “Sign up today to receive notification of available inventory and details regarding smart fortwo express delivery to a dealership near you,” reads the SMART Cash for Clunkers page where people can leave their contact information to get a follow up when details come out.

So the battle to get those clunker dollars is in full swing and brands are trying their best to help you navigate if you qualify and help you navigator you and your clunker into their dealership.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tiny Products Warding Off Big PR Problems

After $4 became a reality in the summer of 2008, there has been a progressive push to build smaller, fuel-efficient cars for the U.S. market. Advocates, like author Thomas Friedman, have dedicated significant pages to greening the US car industry by raising CAFE standards and promoting more Euro-like auto choices instead of behemoth SUVs.

So it was a bit disheartening yesterday to read about some rather poor crash tests performed by theInsurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). They reported that three popular small cars - SmartForTwo, Honda Fit, and Toyota Yaris - all received a Poor rating when in a front, off-set crash with a midsized sedan.

From Kicking Tires: "What these fresh results from IIHS spell out is that in a frontal collision, physics dictate that the larger vehicle in the test will fare better than the smaller one. Force is distributed unevenly, making the small car lose out in any matchup versus a larger car.

Crash statistics prove this to some degree. In 2007, small-car crashes resulted in a 17% higher fatality rate than midsize-car crashes."

One company was especially irate about the test they criticized saying, "IIHS devised a test that no automaker has designed to and that they claim only represents about one percent of real world accidents."

Safe and Smart is a site Smart car is using to generate user content about their owners real-world experience with the car's safety capabilities. The site is very interesting, for many reasons. First it features real crash photos and stories from owners detailing what happened to them and how they walked away. You can also "Share Your Story". (Yes, I was tempted to write a story of how I was involved in an offset front crash with a Mercedes C class and upload the picture from IIHS.)

The site also provides product details about the safety measure Smart has taken with the car's technology and design. I also found in Smart's press release to the IIHS study that the promoted this site as a more informed response to IIHS's approach.

Toyota ignored the report, from what I can tell; however, their online Toyota Community did not. Someone started a threaded discussion entitled, "What is 'wrong' with these new subcompacts?" where several people shared their thoughts on the topic.

on Twitter did not comment on the story nor did Honda release any statements on the Honda USA website.

The good news for Toyota and Honda (and Smart too) is that other outlets are responding to the study with contempt. Some reader comments on blogs found it interesting that no American car company cars were featured, like the Chevy Aveo. This lead to comments like this on Edmunds, "I wonder if this is an attempt either by the media or domestic manufacturers to smear foreign automotive manufacturers."

Motor Trend
had another theory: "Yes, our highways would be safer if we removed anything smaller than a midsize car, and larger than a half-ton pickup, too. Buses and semis included. Of course, IIHS doesn't expect that to happen -- it doesn't want that to happen. It simply wants to make sure that the money you save by buying a small, fuel-efficient car goes into the pockets of your auto insurance company."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is Smart the Right Product at the Right Time?

It was just announced today that the new Smart car fortwo surpassed the 15,000 units they expected to sale and not by an insignificant margin in a down market. They sold 25,000 units overall and had 100,000 people send in their $99 checks to reserve a Smart car in 2008.

The reservation approach was part of Smart’s marketing push to get people to pre-order a vehicle prior to the car’s launch in the United States. Smart did no TV and went with an online campaign approach, similar to what Mini did back when it launched its brand in the States. Apparently, if you are a stylish, European, small car you will launch with an online campaign and avoid the expense of TV since word of mouth is bound to drive your sales.

Smart is constantly hailed as a car for the consumer looking for high mpg economy in a world of unstable gas prices. But a lot of cars are being offered for this new shift to fuel economy conscience customers. Toyota has the Yaris. Honda has the Fit. The Yaris and Fit are not attractive cars. They are pure economical choices for a cost driven customer. Meanwhile, Smart and Mini offer high mileage choices but with the added benefit of being stylish and iconic.

After finishing a tumultuous 2008 in automotive sales and crazy up and downs at the fuel pump, it is interesting to see how a car is correlate to the gas pump. The Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris are definitely following the behavior of bouncing gas prices while the Smart and Mini keep a relatively steady, almost predictable, sales stream.

It really makes me wonder two things:

1.) Is stylish and fuel-efficient the perfect combination in today’s market?
2.) Do Mini and Smart simply sell a consistent number of vehicles because they limit supply so much that we do not see the sales swings found in higher production unit vehicles?

What are your thoughts?

Note: The chart's nameplate sales by month come from Automotive News and the gas prices come from the Energy Information Administration. Official Statistics from the US Government. 2008 Data on Average US Retail Gas Prices