Scion tC Picks Red, Buick Picks Peyton Manning, And Nissan Has A Job For You

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1st Gear: If You Want An Actual Truck To Win Truck Of The Year, There's One Choice
Inside Line brings us the head-scratching, long list of nominees for North American Car and Truck of the Year, which will be announced at the Detroit show. There are a bunch of cars on it that no one is yet able to buy, like the next version of the Honda Accord and the Kia Cadenza, and a car that no one has really been allowed to drive for very long, the Tesla Model S. (That was for Matt.)

The truck list is equally puzzling. It includes the Ford C-Max Hybrid, and exactly one pickup truck: the Dodge Ram 1300. I realize that by the time the awards are announced in January that the lineup will mostly have arrived, but there are two things to point out here. By putting these absentee vehicles on the list, journalists are essentially making bets that customers can't make. Also, since there's only one pickup, and most others in the category are crossovers, is it fair to keep calling the winner "truck of the year?"


2nd Gear: Nissan Wants You To Do Its Work For It
Automotive News has a story about Nissan and how it's going to use social media for help in planning future products. This summer, Nissan brand managers will begin asking followers on Facebook, Pinterest and other outlets for help in planning future products. Erich Marx, Nissan's director of interactive and social media marketing, thinks the online world might be a real time focus group. "We want to take our social media engagement to the next level," Marx says. It's going to ask social media users what kind of vehicles and technology will be coming over the next 10 years, and follow up with more product related questions.

I know Nissan thinks this is a great outreach idea, and smart ideas can come from anywhere, but this kind of crowd-sourcing strikes me as second-guessing its staff. I am a big admirer of the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the quality expert who helped the Japanese get back on their feet after World War II, and briefly advised Ford. Dr. Deming spoke to one of my classes at Columbia University, and was asked by a student how he felt about getting customer input. "The customer didn't invent the light bulb," he told us. The best thing a company could do, he went on, was to trust its employees and empower them to come up with innovations and answers. It's totally fine for Nissan to talk to customers — that's what a car company is supposed to do — but a car company also is supposed to have smart people whose instincts it trusts. Otherwise, why are they there?



3rd Gear: Scion tC Release Series 8.0 Comes In Red
Car and Driver has the details of the Scion tC Release Series 8.0 (is it possible that we're up to 8.0 already?) This version comes in red — make that Absolutely Red — and there will be only 2,000 available. The sticker is $22,545 for a six-speed manual. That's about $2,000 more than the regular tC, and you can add an automatic for another $1,050. Now, if you'd rather have this than the rear-wheel drive FR-S, the 8.0 will be arriving in showrooms next month.

4th Gear: The All-Star Game Becomes A Mini-Super Bowl Of Car Ads
Last night's Major League Baseball All-Star Game is probably going to be remembered more for Bryce Harper missing a ball, Justin Verlander melting down and the nice ovation that Chipper Jones received than it will for any car ads. But, several companies used it as a testing ground for new commercials. We showed you the Dodge Dart ad yesterday. It zipped by, caused a little social media flurry, and drew this tweet from NBC's Luke Russert: "I'm a Ford guy but I'll never buy a Dodge after seeing Tom Brady in that commercial #billsmafia."


Meanwhile, Ford came forth with an ad in its Random Acts of Fusion series. This one featured Ryan Seacrest sending a fleet of 100 Fusions to Joel McHale, whose responsibility it now will be to unload them. It actually seemed like the kind of stunt McHale would mock on The Soup, except that he is in this one. In other car ad news, Buick is debuting a new commercial featuring Peyton Manning during tonight's Espy Awards.


5th Gear: As August Approaches, Deals Return
The Wall Street Journal (sub. required) writes about two new promotions that carmakers have come up with to move metal in their summer clearance sales. General Motors is offering "Love It Or Return It," allowing buyers of 2012 and 2013 Chevrolets to return their cars within 60 days of purchase, as long as it's not banged up and has fewer than 4,000 miles. GM also is introducing "no haggle" pricing on its left over 2012 vehicles. Meanwhile, Chrysler is going to waive payments for 90 days to customers who buy through Ally Financial. The Journal says the deals are in lieu of cash discounts, though there is still plenty of time to roll those out if these ideas don't work. Given the relative strength in auto sales, it might seem like big incentives aren't necessary. But stubbornly high unemployment and tepid consumer confidence threaten to back up onto auto sales, and it's smart for the companies to clear out inventories before the market slows.


6th Gear: Canadians: Don't Drive With Your Dads
CBC News has this rather alarming story: 30 percent of Canadian fathers admit in a new survey that they've nodded off behind the wheel. The survey by pollster Angus Reid found just 14 percent of moms say they've fallen asleep while driving, meaning if you have a choice while visiting our neighbor, let your friends' mom drive. The survey says 25 percent of the drowsy dads say they've swerved because they were tired, and almost one-third said they worried about injuring their families in an accident. Stopping at Tim Horton's doesn't seem to help: 54 percent say they regularly take breaks for coffee and a snack, and get sleepy anyway. Apparently, Canadian parents do all kinds of things to keep the kids occupied (there's a long list in the story) but wear themselves out getting ready for a trip. That's definitely going to keep us more aware on the 401 the next time we drive to Toronto.


First Pictures Of The Opel Adam [Car Magazine]

Did Hyundai Mislead On Elantra's Fuel Economy? {Los Angeles Times]

Bill Gates Pours More Money Into EcoMotors [Forbes]

Gas Prices Are Going Up Again [Federal Reserve]

CAW Wants Detroit Carmakers To Commit To Investments [Detroit News]

Consumer Watchdog Seeks A GM Stock Exit Plan [Reuters]

In keeping with our new discussion system, here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS.


Today, we'd like to know what you think of Nissan's strategy to tap its Facebook and other fans for their predictions about the future of the industry. Is this a smart way to use social media? Or is Nissan simply passing the buck? Remember, there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.


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