Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Toyota "learns" from Detroit

Yesterday Toyota unveiled the 2012 Camry to the press at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California and webcast the event online for all to see. After watching the entire video live during my lunch hour (I've embedded an edited version for you here), I have just one question, why?

Why would they hire dancers, actors, acrobats, free runners, and bmx riders, dress them in red and have them pretend this is the coolest car they've ever seen?

Why would they have Bob Carter (a very nice man, I'm sure) act as the main presenter and not coach him on the proper pronunciation of the word hybrid?

Why would you have the chief engineer, Yukihiro Okane drive the car to the stage, introduce him and then not let him say a word to the automotive journalists gathered there?

This kind of "theater" is what Detroit excelled at years ago when they'd introduce car after car with nothing new to say. The lame jokes, the pointless pomp, the obligatory indie L.A. rock band, they all add up to nothing.

I understand the new Camry is a big deal to Toyota. It's a big deal in the auto industry. It's been the best-selling car in the U.S. for the past seven years. Everybody – Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Kia – has it in their sights. But an event like makes it feel as though Toyota has nothing to say about the product so why not just put on a show.

Most automotive journalists I know are a pretty jaded bunch. They see events like this and roll their eyes while accepting the free travel, food and other entertainment from Toyota that surrounds the launch. But none of that is part of the story. None of it will make the pages of their magazines or the posts on their site.

And that's what's wrong with a launch event like this. The redesign looks good (if still a little on the blandtastic side). The performance numbers look good. The fuel economy has been improved. They lowered base prices across the line. All good things. Yet, it's all made a little less credible by this incredibly irrelevant event.

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