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# Marketing in the US automotive market

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VP
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Marketing in the US automotive market [#permalink]

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06 Jun 2007, 11:48
I'm currently in the US on a short-term visit and have been (among several other things) watching local TV.

I've been puzzled by an ad running regularly about the Ford Escape. The add goes something like this: "you did not buy the sedan for the excitement, you bought it for the mileage. But what if you would have the mileage of the sedan with the excitement of a SUV? Ford Escape..."

The two things I got from this add are:

a) I have yet further evidence to support what I've been told by a Kellogg adcom about marketing career tracks. She basically said that foreigners are not usually employed to work in marketing in the US, as US companies would typically like to have someone who really understands the culture work in marketing their products. Foreigners recruited for marketing positions are usually recruited to market products in their home regions, rather than in the US.

b) Having acknowledged the point above, what exactly is the "excitement" the typical US-customer gets from a SUV? I mean I could understand the excitement you could get from a convertible or a sports coupe or an actual off-road vehicle (if you enjoy going off-road). But the Escape seems to be in the used-for-the-mall-run-by-moms SUV category. Or maybe I'm wrong? Please help.

Thanks. L.
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06 Jun 2007, 12:04
Sounds like a terrible ad in my opinion. I wouldn't picture a Ford SUV as exciting at all. Thats something I would think of being in a BMW or Audi ad for a sport sedan or a Subaru sport compact like the WRX.

American car company ads are a terrible representation for good ads in my opinion. Right now they must be tough to market since they are doing so poorly. You can't say we are offering 15K in rebates since then people will view them as junk...but thats the real reason people buy a Ford 500 not a Camry. They still mostly sell trucks as being American with country songs and american flags in the background.

I dont think nationality will hurt you as long as you can show an understanding of what you are trying to sell and the market who you are trying to sell it to...it could actually help if you are in from a community that is growing rapidly in size and is someone that companies are trying to court business from. I would imagine someone who is Hispanic with a Marketing MBA from a top school would probably be pretty desirable in certain markets these days. B2B marketing might be a strong point if you are Indian or Chinese and want to sell major American companies products and services to Indian companies.
Director
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06 Jun 2007, 14:47
Lepium - You're right, Ford Escape's are used for going to the grocery store and the mall. That's what 95% of SUV's are used for, but the pretense is that they're used to carry surf boards and skis and mountain climbing equipment.

It's kind of like sneakers. I'm sure there are millions of pairs of sneakers owned by fat slobs that haven't exercised in years, but NIKE will still advertise by saying their shoes are for athletes who need top performance gear.
Director
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06 Jun 2007, 18:16
I agree that it seems assbackwards, but for some reason people in the US view big cards as more fun, exciting, macho, whatever,...and sedans are viewed as vanilla and boring (unless you're talking about something at least a little more high-end). Personally, I have more fun driving a Camry than a Suburban.
VP
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07 Jun 2007, 22:16
Thanks for the replies. What I didn't get was the association between SUVs and fun stuff such as skis or surfboards or whatever else.

Back home, we classify SUVs in 2 classes: the ones that can actually go off-road (and whose owner should regularly take them off-road to keep the "cred") and the poser-SUVs which spend their lives on paved roads. Poser-SUVs usually have negative connotations.

L.
SVP
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08 Jun 2007, 07:05
Any Ithacan worth their salt is driven mad by all the SUVs on the road. Here's a story for you:

A few years ago, I knew a woman named Sandy. She'd recently gotten a divorce from a guy whom she supported all through school. Now, she was unsaddled from him, but still had two kids to take care of. She had a decent job and was driving a small Saturn 4-door. That car was getting on in mileage, so she decided she needed something a little newer. What did she buy? A Ford SUV.

When she told me, I raised my eyebrows at her. She doesn't camp or haul stuff, and she's a die-hard liberal who believes in saving the whales, etc. So why on earth did she buy it?

She said it was all about asserting her independence, and the freedom that the car represented. Was she really going to drive it up into the mountains and live free as a bird? No, of course not. But it was the symbolism that mattered.
Director
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08 Jun 2007, 08:13
That's a terrible ad. It seems like it was created by an old geezer.

First off, the sedan view that it is a slow, family, car is replaced by the relatively new car category, sport sedan.

And second, there are so many weak, 4 cylinder, non 4x4 SUV wannabe's in the market today.

This ad would've worked 10 years ago, when there were no sport sedans or no weak SUVs.

But the Kia, Hyundais, RAV 4 mini suvs have been in the market for a long time now.
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08 Jun 2007, 08:37
My brother actually works for an ad agency and is director of market positioning or some title like that; basically his group does the research on who they should try to sell to and the basic idea of how to sell to them. They run all the focus groups and market analysis. So judging by what he does and all the work they put into figuring the best way to sell anything, that ad if it is not from a local dealer but rather the car company itself went through a whole lot of thought about who buys the vehicle and what makes them want to buy it.

So while it probably is being sold to soccer moms and dads, those people want to buy the SUV so they can think of themselves as sporty and adventurous….not murderers of the environment, road hogs, and wasteful consumers with 1 kid in the back of their mammoth vehicle. That maybe what I see, when I see a 30 year old woman with a single two year old kid in the back of her Suburban but I am sure that’s not how she views herself.
VP
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09 Jun 2007, 14:34
I found a related article about some kind of movement in Paris. Had you guys heard about it? Despite agreeing with some of its ideals, I don't agree with their methods.

http://www.cicle.org/cicle_content/pivo ... .php?id=85

L.
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09 Jun 2007, 14:54
There's one thing about big SUVs that nobody has mentioned yet, but anyone who has lived around LA or SF or somewhere with really bad traffic will really appreciate this fact. when you are in dense traffic, driving in a huge SUV is exponentially more relaxing than driving in other cars. It can make a huge difference in your personal stress level and sanity if you have to commute an hour or even more each way every single day.

I really like cars, and I have owned lots, including BMW & Lexus sports sedans, 2 V8 Mustangs and several different SUVs. I've had auto and manual transmissions and even a couple of motorcycles. I currently drive a Porsche and I just gave up my Toyota Sequoia in preparation for heading off to school. I have commuted in both LA and SF. I can tell you from experience that it is much more relaxing to drive in dense traffic if you can see over everything else.

I love sports cars, but in stop-and-go traffic, the large cabin area of a big SUV makes a huge difference. Trust me, you feel 100% different after driving for an hour in traffic. In my Porsche, stress levels just build because the car wants to run. In a big SUV, you just sit back, understand that it will be an hour of stop-and-go, and it's just a lot more pleasant. Being able to see over everything feels much better than feeling surrounded on all sides, as you would in a smaller caller. There's no doubt that more space in the cabin is just plain nicer if you're more or less just sitting around waiting for traffic to move. When you think about it, most of the bigger SUVs are not replacements for 4x4 trucks because 95% of them never go off-road - they are taking the place of large sedans as a more comfortable way to get around.

So, if I ever have a job where I must regularly commute in heavy traffic each day, I will almost certainly do it in a big truck. Nothing beats a sports car (especially a convertible) on the open road. But in thick heavy traffic, there's no comparison. Personally, I don't believe the little car-based SUVs like the RAV4 and the Escape fit this purpose, but the slightly elevated seating and additional room (compared with a smaller car) is probably a little nicer.
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09 Jun 2007, 15:16
lepium wrote:
I found a related article about some kind of movement in Paris. Had you guys heard about it? Despite agreeing with some of its ideals, I don't agree with their methods.

http://www.cicle.org/cicle_content/pivo ... .php?id=85

L.

If I caught one of those guys deflating my tires I would cut his fingers off to keep him from deflating any other people's tires, I figure my reasoning for doing that would be about as valid as his reason for deflating my tires.

I guess I'm annoyed in general by self-righteous types that impose their views on others. I drive an SUV and I recongize that it's not the most environmentally-friendly vehicle, but my friends who give me a hard-time about it are hypocrites. How can someone driving a Prius or some sort of hybrid car act like they're being "environmentally-friendly"? They're still using gas and polluting. They just happen to "draw the line" where it works for them. If Prius's and hybrids didn't exist, they would be driving what they call "gas guzzlers." Their morals conform to fit their most convenient options.

I have a friend with a Camry who calls my car a gas-guzzler. I mean isn't that like someone who takes a ten-minute shower every morning accusing someone who takes a fifteen-minute shower of wasting water?

I guarantee that the people in the article who ride around on those bikes are people who love riding bikes. They are most definitely NOT people who would love to be driving SUV's but decide not to so that they can help the environment. For the most part, people just draw lines and pass judgements that are convenient for them.

Meanwhile I'm sure they don't consider the fact that deflating someone's tires is only going to cause people to call a tow-truck (how many miles-per-gallon do you think those get) and the SUV will be back on the road.
VP
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09 Jun 2007, 20:38
pelihu wrote:
There's one thing about big SUVs that nobody has mentioned yet, but anyone who has lived around LA or SF or somewhere with really bad traffic will really appreciate this fact. when you are in dense traffic, driving in a huge SUV is exponentially more relaxing than driving in other cars. It can make a huge difference in your personal stress level and sanity if you have to commute an hour or even more each way every single day.

I totally agree with this point. I guess you won't see this point mentioned in marketing materials because nobody wants to accept that their vehicle is optimized for traffic jams. So they go for the excitement spin instead.

Now, what about minivans? Don't they provide the same height / ample view than a SUV? And aren't they cheaper?

L.
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09 Jun 2007, 20:42
johnnyx9 wrote:
I drive an SUV and I recongize that it's not the most environmentally-friendly vehicle, but my friends who give me a hard-time about it are hypocrites.

C'mon Johnny, an SUV in Boston? Shame on you... Well, you'd better get rid of it when you head to NYC. That sounds like a city where an SUV won't fit.

I agree that people choose to draw the line where it suits them best. I personally think that the whole hybrid movement is overrated. I mean we could all be riding small vehicles (as they do in Europe, where gas costs a lot more than in the US) and save way more energy than what we save by selling a few Priuses and other hybrids.

L.
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09 Jun 2007, 20:59
lepium wrote:
pelihu wrote:
There's one thing about big SUVs that nobody has mentioned yet, but anyone who has lived around LA or SF or somewhere with really bad traffic will really appreciate this fact. when you are in dense traffic, driving in a huge SUV is exponentially more relaxing than driving in other cars. It can make a huge difference in your personal stress level and sanity if you have to commute an hour or even more each way every single day.

I totally agree with this point. I guess you won't see this point mentioned in marketing materials because nobody wants to accept that their vehicle is optimized for traffic jams. So they go for the excitement spin instead.

Now, what about minivans? Don't they provide the same height / ample view than a SUV? And aren't they cheaper?

L.

Ahh the infamous minivan arguement. Yes most people would be better off with them but they have a negative image...which slowly SUVs are getting due to the new found awareness to global warming. Its amazing how many guys I work with have gotten station wagons in the last couple years...I think filling up for $75 gets old pretty fast. As for being able to see better in traffic, if SUVs didn't exist then you wouldn't need a tall vehicle to see over anything cause no one would have cars that are 6 feet tall. By half of all Americans driving an insanely oversized vehicle they are just adding to the blocking out of the sky for those of us who drive cars. I am not anti-SUV, I do realize that some people need them. If you have a boat, trailer, camper, or something heavy to tow. Enjoy going offroading. Live on a 20 mile long dirt road that routinely washes out...there are people who do have a need for them. Some people dont care they want to get rid of them. This is all off topic...but the above arguements are part of the reason that a non-american may have a hard time marketing stuff to americans. If you haven't figured it out you can never do anything in this country without offending 50% of the population. Its tough to sell something to people who can't agree on anything...You have to aim directly at the segement you are selling to and when doing so your attempts will be reviewed on blogs and messageboards for how terrible it is. I was recently told about a proposed ad campaign that is purposely making terrible ads with the idea to put them on the net...these will then be discussed as how horrible they and/or offensive they are. Thus generating lots of buzz about the product. I am not kidding, this is the modern thought process...make something so bad its actually effective advertising. Only in America SVP Joined: 31 Jul 2006 Posts: 2303 Schools: Darden Followers: 44 Kudos [?]: 475 [0], given: 0 ### Show Tags 09 Jun 2007, 21:07 lepium wrote: I totally agree with this point. I guess you won't see this point mentioned in marketing materials because nobody wants to accept that their vehicle is optimized for traffic jams. So they go for the excitement spin instead. Now, what about minivans? Don't they provide the same height / ample view than a SUV? And aren't they cheaper? L. Yeah, I believe that minivans by and large do not offer the elevated seating position. I think that minivans are cheaper, but some of them do get up into the$30k+ range. You don't see any $50-70k minivans because I don't think there's really such a thing as a luxury minivan. It's hard to market minivans as exciting, but they can try to extract bigger profits by promoting a capable rugged image for SUVs. I guess minivans can run between$15-30k, while SUVs can range between $15-100k. Range Rovers, Land Cruisers and Hummers might be the most capable vehicles around, but I doubt many people actually take their$70k SUV off-road over rocks and through rivers.

From the perspective of a car company, all that matters is that people are willing to pay for the image. Some vehicles actually deliver amazing capabilities, other vehicles clearly don't. If people are willing to pay extra for that image as it relates to less capable vehicles, it's a marketing victory for the manufacturers.
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09 Jun 2007, 21:11
riverripper wrote:
This is all off topic...but the above arguements are part of the reason that a non-american may have a hard time marketing stuff to americans. If you haven't figured it out you can never do anything in this country without offending 50% of the population. Its tough to sell something to people who can't agree on anything...You have to aim directly at the segement you are selling to and when doing so your attempts will be reviewed on blogs and messageboards for how terrible it is.

So we've made it full circle back to the original post, which was: that internationals are usually not recruited to market products in the US. By having used the SUV example, I have gained some knowledge of the process and understood why.

I like the phrase: "you can never do anything in this country without offending 50% of the population." I was partially aware of the situation but you've made it clearer.

Thanks. L.
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10 Jun 2007, 11:04
Lepium - Yeah an SUV in Boston probably sounds weird, but a funny thing about Boston (probably similar to other big cities) is that on any given weekend I have friends who need help moving, friends who need help picking up furniture, people/luggage to be picked up from the airport. And then on weekends I can fit two friends and three snowboards in the back. I'm also tall and the extra leg room and head room is great. Even if my SUV used polar bears and bald eagles for fuel, I'd still keep it!
10 Jun 2007, 11:04
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