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Car Industry Chronicles

Empathy and effort have made companies like Buick and Fiat adopt a second home country over the years

  • Some automakers work harder than usual for regional customers
  • When they appreciate that effort, the relationship quickly spirals up
  • Fiat has just taken its own with Brazilians to yet another level
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The 2018 Fiat Fastback Concept kickstarted Fiat’s rebranding process

Most companies use their nationality to help establish their public image. They often rely on the respective country’s positive stereotypes to make people believe that those will be extended to its products. For example, Italian companies will be passionate, French ones will be sophisticated, German ones will be precise… Some countries have become international symbols of that.

Automakers sell very expensive products which will be used for years, so they have to do whatever they can to keep their customer, more than simply attract them. When it comes to making them want their car models, some companies have gone so far to understand and support them that they’ve ended up being rewarded with a much deeper level of connection than what’s seen in general. …


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Car History Chronicles

Between 1954 and 1987, American Motors Corporation graced the market with models quirky in ways we’ve never seen elsewhere

  • The abridged version of the automaker’s history skips the best parts
  • Over 33 years, it had innovations from body style to foreign partners
  • Many of its business strategies are still interesting references today
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A coupé with opera windows, tall ride and AWD? That’s the Eagle

This automaker’s history is well-known. AMC was born from the merger of Hudson Motor Car Company and Nash-Kelvinator in 1954, which was the largest operation of this kind ever executed in North America. It started with compact cars and moved to larger ones later, but the increasing competition of Chrysler, Ford and GM and the oil crisis made its financial health spiral down.

Sadly, the well-known history of people and companies is usually a shortened version of what actually happened. If we took the time to properly research it, we’d notice that AMC had quite an interesting interpretation of how to design and advertise cars — some parts manage to still be relevant in nowadays. This Chronicle shows why AMC was much more than “the smallest of the Big Four”. …


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Car Style Chronicles

Nissan is the latest automaker to redesign its logo in a long time. What implications does this type of change have?

  • The logo is one of the most influential symbols of any company’s image
  • Some automakers are changing their to better adapt to the new times
  • Doing that well earns them new consumers while keeping the current ones
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2020 Ariya is the first Nissan to sport the new logo

The concept of brand is complex enough to exert influence over a complete company when it’s well-executed. It may affect production, supply chain, advertisement, customer care… as a result, it’s common to say that brands are much more than meets the eye. Nevertheless, the easily visible parts exist for a reason, of course. The logo represents much of what its company stands for.

Having that said, it’s easy to understand how important is the moment when a company changes its logo. While the action always represents change, the real question is which direction will that change follow. Will the company pursue a greener operation? Will it turn to wealthier customers? Is it simply attempting a fresh start? …


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Car History Chronicles

Branch is so invested in its reinvention that it’s even abandoning the trim version which set one of the biggest local market trends

  • Light off-road trim was released in the late 1990s and became a hit
  • Crossovers rose and encouraged Fiat to make serious decisions
  • Current lineup divides tasks with Jeep to better cater to all drivers
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2016 Fiat Strada Adventure

Many Chronicles published here prove that the automotive world is made of trends. New brands emerge, existing brands rethink themselves, new body styles appear, new technologies are created… since trends come and go, we can quickly understand that the concept of car changes all the time. This is so certain that even affects the trends we come to consider too strong to fade.

The body style we now know as crossover was born from the new desire to put together urban comfort and handling with off-road styling and capabilities. In the early 2000s, that desire was taken to practice through a light off-road trim that could be applied to urban cars. After being one of the leader users of that trend in Brazil, Fiat’s newest releases show it’s finally abandoned it altogether. …


Car Style Chronicles

Visual identity introduced in the 1990s caused problems that went much beyond the Taurus and the Scorpio

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“Honey, that’s why I don’t let you buy cars by yourself”

Visual identity is an essential component of modern car design. In short, it consists of creating styling guidelines to apply to every car of a company’s lineup. In general, the lineup features from small hatchbacks to large pick-ups, so the key to get at least a chance of success is to make the visual identity easy to adapt to car models of several body styles, sizes, purposes and price ranges.

Why does such a complex operation only have a chance of success? Because it works with a highly subjective topic. Design is directly influenced by people’s cultural, historical and social background so, if you present a given product to a hundred people, you’ll probably get a hundred different opinions. …


Car Trend Chronicles

What looked like a routine lineup update actually has potential to reshape what we know about generalist and specialized brands

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Dodge Challenger SRT Widebody, Charger Scat Pack, Durango SRT Hellcat

Among all the divisions the car market has, some are more important than the others. Body style, for example, is usually tied to buyer profile, so it’s interesting to group cars according to it. But we can also mention powertrain type (combustion, electric etc.), purpose (luxury, high performance etc.) and country as divisions, although the latter has been blurred by globalization.

Over the years, we’ve also divided makes and models in generalist and luxury. Basically, each one offers body styles, performance standards and purposes of its own, so they’re like two car markets within one. This division is particularly interesting because many automakers have tried to move its borders back and forth and, more recently, Dodge appears to have drawn a whole new border. …


Car Industry Chronicles

Life cycles are so complex to manage that automakers end up forced to act in counterintuitive ways every now and then

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2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad

Products, much like people, spend a finite time in the world and this time is divided into sequential stages. They demand a lot of attention at first but, if you nurture them properly, they’ll soon experience a boost in life. Over time, they’ll reach a healthy plateau which encourages investment in multiple other projects for a long time until they ultimately suffer the effects of getting old.

While that timeline is pretty much what the BCG matrix establishes to analyze life cycles, we can only use it on products because it’s possible to choose when will theirs end. That represents a major concern for companies because it adds several variables to consider and occasionally encourages them to take actions which may seem absurd especially if we have people’s lifetime as a reference. …


Car Industry Chronicles

Technology has improved, efficiency has increased, demands have changed… have our minds already opened enough?

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The Daihatsu Taft is a modern example of kei car

When we talk about cars, we tend to think of what I like to call superlative cars. Models focused on delivering the best at performance, luxury, off-road capabilities, and/or fuel efficiency. I’ve already written about superlative cars on this other Chronicle, although for different reasons. We spend so much time on those cars that we usually forget how interesting the other end can be.

Small cars are interesting feats of engineering. They make miracles out of tiny dimensions and powertrain to provide efficient transportation as a whole. In other words, they cater to the needs of single people and small families using as few resources as possible. However, though they’ve improved a lot over the years, they’re still underappreciated. …


Car Design Trends

Public displays of support not only respect how customers think and act today but also help establish a safer work environment

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FCA North America’s corporate photo in support of the 2020 Pride Month

If you’ve read this page for a long time, the picture above might give you a feeling of déjà vu: the Chronicle published last year focused on the Pride Month had a very similar first one, featuring a Fiat 124 Spider surrounded by FCA North America’s staff. Comparing them shows two important facts: more workers than last year and the lack of similar photos from other automakers.

Both facts help represent how the automotive industry is taking a stand when it comes to supporting diversity: we see more and more actions every year, but there’s still a long way to go. Considering that the 50th Pride Month came at a very unusual time of our lives, to say the least, the importance of debating this topic and the related ones once again cannot be understated. …


Car Design Trends

The necessary technology has been created. The people have learned how to use it. Now, the reason to hurry with it has come

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The car enthusiast whose story you’re reading used to be thrilled to visit car dealers. Years ago, my father would gladly spend some of his hard-earned off-work Sundays not only driving around town to let me see the latest models beyond the magazines, but also going in with me pretending he was actually looking for a car. The stack of brochures I accumulated wasn’t exactly short.

Automobile Magazine sides with me: car dealers are awesome. Their potential customers don’t look for a new car all the time nor make up their mind quickly so, once they stepped inside, everything had to contribute to create a pleasant experience for them, from the greeting at the lobby to the coffee served while debating payment methods. …

About

Danillo Almeida

Writer and future engineer striving to work with car design. If you like cars but not the stereotypes that surround them, give my articles a try.

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