Sunday, February 22, 2009

Saving the U.S. Auto Industry


It's finally time for the big reveal on "How I, someone with no automotive industry experience can save the U.S. Auto Industry with singularly great idea."

You'll recall, that I teased you about 2 months ago (I've been busy in my underground lab working on this) and threw out some clues to my idea. The first was that regular folks don't give a crap about performance. Yes, certainly some do, and the auto industry and the magazines would have you believe the opposite. The truth is though, that average folks worry more about car payments than how fast their depreciating hunk of metal goes from 0-60. Blasphemy, I know, but hey, I'm saving an entire industry here folks!

Second was a remark about the theater of cars is the most important factor... I'm a marketer by profession and am constantly blown away when I see superior designs and user interfaces winning over better technological solutions. Case in point... the iPod. There isn't a person on the planet that would have guessed that music that sounded worse than competing technologies would become so successful (well, maybe the guys at Apple knew, but no one else knew it!).

Lastly, you'll remember that I'm fully aware that my solution will require a completely new business model and futuristic (or even Alien) technology.

Enough already!

I'm going to tell you a story of how a person of the future (a future where the U.S. auto folks listen to my idea and/or alien technology helps us) buys a car.
Joe is 28 years old and needs a new car. One night, he happens to catch a showing of "Bullitt" on TV and remembers watching it with his dad years ago. Joe remembers the feeling he had as a kid, thinking when he was old enough, he'd own that car.

After some searching on the Internet finds that the car from the movie was a 1968 Mustang GT 390 but he decides that driving a '68 anything is either too expensive or impossible practically speaking.

Joe gives up his brief dream to drive the Mustang and starts poking around on Ford's web site. He finds a new program on the site that promises that he can "design" his own car, selecting from several classic designs.

Each design is based on a classic car and includes a wide selection of muscle cars, movie cars and some really insane looking future cars. Each car comes on one of three different chassis (small, medium or large depending on the design choice); all of them hybrid or electric.

Additionally, he can custom order the colors (or select from pre-designed templates like "Road Warrior" or "Bullitt"). After selecting the Bullitt template, he further customizes the interior (leather, Bluetooth, DVD, Satelitte radio etc). Joe completes his order by shopping online for the best financing deal he can find (Lending Tree anyone?) and orders his car.
That's it...

Awesome, right?

The U.S. auto industry (all the manufacturers as a single entity or on their own) all own an amazing set of brands that people LOVE. Who wouldn't want to buy a Gremlin that doesn't catch on fire and that gets hybrid or electric like efficiency. How about a '69 Dodge Charger (Dukes of Hazzard in your own colors), or a pimped out Caddy?

The trick here of course, is to design a transformers like set chassis that are extensible (3 should cover all the possibilities, small, medium and large). That way, each design could be tweaked a little to fit the right sized chassis.

If that wasn't crazy enough, how about this.. how about you can buy the chassis but lease the design... make the designs themselves extensible so that once you are sick of the Gremlin, you can upgrade to any other design that fits that body style. Come to think of it, this could be the real idea here... think of the secondary market for "Car designers"... Threadless for autos! Sweet.

While I do believe that performance is secondary, I do think the cars need to feel and sound like their classic counterparts... this means designing each car to handle and make the same noises as the original... no idea how you'd do this, but I want my car to rumble and rock (or putter and puke like the real deal.

No, it's not easy, but yes, it would totally save the U.S. auto industry by bringing the romance and theater back into the cars we drive.

Personally, I want the car from the Road Warrior... Ford Falcon XB Coupe, V8 351.

What car do you want?

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