Monday, July 16, 2012

The more things change...

If you think your business is competitive these days, try the car business.

In the compact segment alone, there are more than 20 competent choices for a new car buyer.

Enter the 2013 Dodge Dart, driving full-speed into a field that includes perennial favorites like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Ford Focus as well as fearless challengers like Hyandai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze and VW Jetta.

The Dart is an important car for Fiat/Chrysler. There's a lot of volume in this segment. In many cases an inexpensive compact is the first new car experience buyers have with a brand. Thus the first impression can make or break future purchases of Chrysler products. And finally, Chrysler needs to sell a lot of these high mileage vehicles to achieve ever more strict CAFE standards.

With all this riding on the Dart nameplate, it's no surprise that the Chrysler marketing folks have fallen back on the most overused marketing strategy in automotive history: hyperbole.

"How to change cars forever" is a pretty bold promise for a car that has four wheels, four doors, burns gasoline and doesn't fly.

Claiming the Dart is "a ground breaking car" takes a lot of guts when you consider this about the three features touted in the spot:
  • The stated 41 mpg is lower than that of the Chevy Cruze Eco.
  • GM, Ford, BMW and Nissan introduced smartphone apps two years ago.
  • You'd be hard pressed to find a car without a touch screen display at the highest trim levels of any category.
The only thing that separates this spot from the overheated automotive introductions of years past is the wry tone, which is hardly a new advertising technique.

So while the Dodge Dart may be a fine car. It's going to have trouble living up to the promise made by its advertising, something it has in common with just about every other small car Detroit has ever launched.

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