What makes a great auto commercial? A lot of things can make an auto ad or TV spot “good” but to be truly great a commercial needs several things. It must be memorable so that people know what the ad the car was for. It also needs to speak to a wide range of people (without being offensive) and strike an emotional chord that ads rarely do. The follow commercial fit all of this criteria at least in my expert automotive opinion.
The Parisian Pinball Park – Ford Active Park Assist
I wrote about the Ford Parisian Pinball Park commercial before on this blog and it might be the greatest auto ad of all time. It's clever, funny, memorable, awesome, and shows how creative Europeans are with ads. (I have never seen a Ford TV spot this good in the US.) Most importantly it shows Ford Active Park Assist and how useful it can be to a driver who is not good at parallel parking in Paris, where parking space is worth it's weight in gold.
Rear-View Camera – BMW
This is an absolutely brilliant! Not only does it get across the technology behind the car but nobody talks in the commercial. Even if you muted the sound this would still make you laugh.
The Force – VW
Come on! What kid hasn't seen Star Wars and tried to use the “Force?” You probably did the last time you watched Star Wars. VW is known for making great ads but this one is truly great.
Cog – Honda Accord
It looks computer generated right? The crazy thing is it's not! The whole contraption was real and they used real parts from the Honda Accord to do this. The best part is you can watch this commercial a few times and it doesn't get old.
Baby Driver – Subaru
While this Subaru commercial will speak to parents a lot more than someone like me who doesn't have kids (that I know about) I think a wide range of people find it appealing.
What do you think of the commercials I choose for this list? Do they deserve to be recognized? Do you think I missed a great auto commercial in this list? Let me know with a comment below.
Consumer Reports at the National Press Club in Washington DC today announced the magazine's well regarded Top 10 Picks from the magazine's much anticipated April Annual Auto Issue. They presented their findings on vehicle and quality rankings on a wide range of automakers and vehicles.
Jake Fisher, Director of Auto Testing for Consumer Reports, and Rik Paul, Consumer Reports Auto Editor, presented the non-biased and independent findings to an eager audience of Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) members, various well-known media outlets, and reps from most of the leading automakers. Jessica Anderson, the President of WAPA, even commented it was a noticeably large turnout. Hey it's Consumer Report's and a lot of people turn to this information when shopping for a new car.
Consumer Reports Top Pick's for 2013
Honda Accord (Midsized Sedan) – Consumer Report's really felt that Honda “nailed it” with the redesign of the Honda Accord. The reliability, roominess, comfort, reasonable pricing, and fuel efficiency all helped the Honda Accord earn high marks and a Top Pick this year. ($23,270 to $30,860)
Subaru Impreza (Compact Car) – The Subaru Impreza won the Compact Car category last year and now takes the “Top Pick” title this year too. Consumer Report's noted that both the sedan and hatchback are great values and have great features. This includes nimble handling, a compliant and absorbent ride which the editors note rivals luxury sedans. Along with impressive fuel economy for an All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) car the Subaru Impreza is hard to beat.
Hyundai Elantra (Budget Car) – This one of the Consumer Report's top rated compact sedans and it is clear why. Hyundai offers a really great value for those on a budget. The Hyundai Elantra is more roomy, provides decent handling, a comfortable ride, smooth powertrain, a nice interior with good fit and finish. ($18,445)
Toyota Prius (Green Car) – The Toyota Prius can't seem to be dethroned from winning this category. It has been named a Consumer Report's “Top Pick” 12 times before and this now this is the 10th consecutive year it has won a Top Pick. The editors noted that it is hard to beat the fuel economy, hatchback versatility, practicality, affordability, and value the Toyota Prius offers consumers. Environmentalists and liberals can rejoice and can continue to feel proud of the beloved Toyota Prius. ($26,750)
Audi A6 (Luxury Car)– This comes as a bit of surprise since Audi has not had a car be named a “Top Pick” be Consumer Report's in over 10 years. The Audi A6 received good marks for having a stunning supercharged V6 engine, smooth 8-speed automatic transmission, and a ride you would expect from a German automobile. Handling is also quick, precise and agile and driving an Audi A6 is a sinful pleasure. The interior and high-tech features also impressed the Consumer Report's editors. ($56,295)
BMW 328i (Sports Sedan) – The BMW 328i edged out the Infiniti G37 which took the Sports Sedan category for 4 years. Like the Audi, BMW had not had a Consumer Report's “Top Pick” for 10 years. What made editors change their minds? The redesigned BMW 328i is roomier, more luxurious, and has better fuel efficiency with the 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Like all BMW's it still retains fun-to-drive characteristics. ($43,195)
Honda CR-V (Small SUV) – A smooth ride, responsive powertrain, excellent fuel economy, a great ride, roomy interior, standard backup camera, and Honda reliability make the Honda CR-V a Top Pick. ($26,455)
Toyota Highlander (Midsized SUV) – The Toyota Highlander returns for 2013 as it won this category last year. Consumer Report's notes that it has the practicality of an SUV with the refinement of a great sedan. The Toyota Highlander provides a quiet cushy ride along with secure handling and a smooth powertrain. With Toyota reliability it is hard to go wrong with the Toyota Highlander. ($38,578 to $47,255)
Honda Odyssey (Minivan) – Consumer Report's renamed the “Family Hauler” category to Minivan this year. That's probably because you can't get anything better than a minivan for a family hauler! 🙂 Editors noted that Honda Odyssey provides a comfortable ride, roominess, and versatile cabin that is quiet. Rik Paul noted that is provides a rear backup camera as standard which Consumre Report's that was an essential safety feature around a car that is going to have small children around it. With Honda reliability the Honda Odyssey takes the Minivan category. ($36,830)
Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ (Sports Car) – These twin sisters might have different names but are the same car underneath. The super-sharp handling, fabulous braking, a powerful engine, and Rear-Wheel-Drive (RWD) make this a true driver's car. (I know since I have drove a Subrau BRZ quite fast at the WAPA Rally.) Reliability, good fuel economy, and good fit and finish all at a reasonable price earned the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S a Top Pick. ($25,025 and $27,117)
To earn the coveted Top Pick from Consumer Report's they must meet high criteria in 3 areas: road test, reliability, and safety. The vehicles must rank at or near the top of the vehicle category and earn above average reliability grades. Reliability data is calculated from the Consumer Report's survey that non-profit organization send out every year to subscribers. In the last survey data on 1.2 million vehicles was collected. Vehicles should also perform adequately in testing conducted by the government or insurance industry.
What is interesting is that last year no Hondas were on the Top Picks list. Honda seems to have adjusted quickly though and has come back into the ring fighting strong earning 3 Top Picks for 2013. Hyundai earning a top pick shows how far the automaker has come in a few years. It is also nice to see the Audi A6 and BMW 328i earn Top Pick selections, but it will remain to be seen whether they can retain the title next year.
Noticeably absent on the Consumer Reports Top Picks list were vehicles from domestic automakers, which means Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors (GM). Jake Fisher commented during his presentation that while domestic automakers have made significant strides and impressive improvements to their vehicle lineups over the past couple years, they still have quite a long way to go. Japanese, German, other automakers are also improving their lineups making it somewhat difficult to compete and catch-up so to speak with the competition’s quality and reliability.
Interestingly though during the Q&A after the press conferences I asked Jake Fisher and Rik Paul, “What car would you the two of you personally buy with your own money?” To my surprise they were willing to answer the question and did not say “No!”
Rik Paul commented he had been recently driving the Ford Fusion and really liked it but said that it does depend on a someone's priorities. Notably the Ford Fusion scored just below the Honda Accord in Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue this year. If he was going to get a Ford Fusion he would probably opt for the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Rik Paul did mention to me that he changes his mind every other week since he gets to test drive so many different cars. If only we could all be so lucky!
Jake Fisher reply to my question was that he really enjoyed the VW Golf TDI since it is a lot of fun-to-drive. He did mentioned that it would of course have to be a stick-shift, like any auto enthusiast would want. Although squeezing kids in back would be tough. (By the way he said “That's a good question!” in case you were wondering!”
The Consumer Reports auto testing is widely regarded in the auto industry as the best. The cars that Consumer Reports uses in testing are not given to them by the automakers as press fleet vehicles, like most auto publications get them. Consumer Reports buys the cars anonymously to make sure the cars do not have any special “tweaks” to them. They go through an extremely comprehensive testing procedures and all ratings are non-biased.
While there might be disagreement and hard-feelings about the ratings and the Top Picks list…it is hard to deny the impact the Consumer Report's Annual Auto Issue has on the auto industry.
I have gotten a few emails about this so I thought I would talk about what a Vehicle History Report will and won't tell you.
I am sure most people have seen information and advertisements for a Vehicle History Report, such as Carfax and Autocheck, but are they worth it and can you trust what they say? Well … the answer is bit mixed.
In my opinion you should it is always good to try to get all the information about a used car before you buy it. These Vehicle History Reports hardly give you the whole story of a used car most of the time though.
Let's say you are looking at a used car, such as a Honda Accord. This Honda Accord looks fine and good to you and you can't see anything wrong with it. Hell mechanically the car seems to be running fine and the Carfax or Autocheck report come out clean. So should you buy it? My answer to this question, “Hell NO!” You should ALWAYS get a used car checked out by an independent mechanic before you hand over any cash, check, credit card, money order, wire transfer, etc. Even if that report comes out clean.
The reason? What you may not realize is that a vehicle history report takes data mostly from insurance companies and dealerships. That means only cars that have been fixed via an insurance company claim will show up on a Vehicle History Report. Sooo, it can tell you data that is useful but you must realize something. Body shops are not required to report to any state agencies or databases the work they perform. That means it is easy for a body shop to repair a car and sell it to you even if you check a vehicle history report. Dealerships and body shops do it all the time actually.
I have a friend and his dad used to paint cars in NASCAR back in the day. If I took a car that I had to him that needed some bodywork or had been in an accident, he could make my car look like new. It would be hard to tell if the car had been painted and it wouldn't be reported to anywhere and therefore wouldn't show up on a Carfax or Autocheck report.
Besides most vehicle history report systems can never keep up with the amount of cars getting into accidents. (That sounds unfortunate but true!) Bottom line, cars should be checked out by a professional mechanic before you bu no matter what.
The other day I went to the auto parts store to pick-up some Trico Flex Wiper Blades I had purchased online for my Mom's Chrysler van. (I usually do this to save time and hassle.) I assumed spending money on the frameless wipers, like the Trico Flex Wiper Blades, would be a good investment. However, when I went to install one of the Trico Flex wipers on one side of the van, I noticed that it wouldn't fit. I thought for a minute I was doing something wrong and starting fuss with the wiper arm and the wiper blade. This is when I noticed what the problem was.
The Trico Flex has the wiper attachment mechanism on one side of the wiper blade instead of being embedded in the into it the body, like most wipers. This makes the Trice Flex line of wiper blades not usable for a lot of vehicles like my Mom's van. Talking with the girl at the auto parts store only confirmed this. She told me when I returned the wiper blades, “Yeah, I need to exchange a lot of those because they won't fit on customers vehicles.” I returned the Tricos and got another frameless wiper for the other side. It was kind of ridiculous and a waste of my time. Wish I had taken a picture before I returned the blades so people could see what I am talking about.
Some stupid Trico engineer probably thought this was a smart move. I am fairly sure he/she has never actually every installed wiper blades on a car though or they would have realized this serious design flaw. Bottom line Don't But Trico Flex wiper blades and save yourself hassle.
I recommend Bosch Icon frameless wipers and have them installed on my Honda Accord. They are usually expensive, but worth the cost and investment since they last for quite a long time. The set on my Accord have been installed for a year without a problem.
Last Friday I attended the 2012 WAPA (Washington Automotive Press Association) Rally at Indigo Landing. The WAPA Rally was quite a lot of fun and I got to test drive a lot of cool cars, all on the same day! The vehicles I got to drive at the 2012 WAPA Rally included the Lexus GS350, Mecedes-Benz GLK, Ford Escape, Hyundai Veloster, Jaguar XF, Kia Optima, and the Subaru BRZ. I probably would have driven more cars if I had gotten to the WAPA Rally on time. I got held-up on the I-83 on ramp heading South, due to this.
Not sure how this Honda Accord got into an accident, just glad I didn't get into an accident getting on the freeway. Anyway I drove about 1/4 of the vehicles there that were available to drive. I wanted to drive the BMW 640i, Audi A8L, Dodge Dart, and VW Golf but most of these were being driven by other auto journalists. I just didn't have time to test drive them all but hopefully I will be have a chance in the future.
By far my favorite car that I drove at the WAPA Rally was the Subaru BRZ. The handling is tight, acceleration amazing, and the car seemed to fit me like a glove. I joked with a guy who came back from driving the Subaru BRZ, “I was almost tempted to drive it home!” his reply “Oh yeah! Me too!” I only wish it was a stick shift. The PR rep from ESI, the company that was handling the fleet vehicles, said they have a Scion FR-S (same car as the Subaru BRZ) that is a stick shift but most are automatics.
The car I was most impressed would have to be the Kia Optima. Compared to other Kias I have driven the Optima I was drove actually felt like a car and not a toy car. Kia has definitely stepped up their game and it showed. The Optima wasn't fast, but was agile and responsive and the interior was quite nice. My only gripe would be the audio and navigation controls are a little confusing. Still I am sure the other PR reps were looking over at the Kia and thinking, “How did Kia get that good so fast?” That is something everyone is wondering.
The Ford Escape Titanium I drove was also much better then any other Ford SUV I have driven in the past. The interior felt plush and well-appointed and the handling wasn't bad either. It still felt like an SUV but a capable small SUV which is exactly what Ford was aiming for. At $33,000 for the Ford Escape Titanium model I drove, I guess you get what you pay for.
My favorite luxury car at the WAPA Rally was definitely the Jaguar XF. I mean it just looks sooo pretty and when you get in you feel great about yourself. In my opinion this is just what luxury car should do. The Jaguar XF also felt fast and responsive compared to some of the other luxury cars I drove at the WAPA Rally. It's not a driver's car, but it sure fools you. Like most people, I don't like the dial shifter for changing gears. Seems cool at first until you use it. If I owned a Jaguar XF I feel I would go into the wrong gear by accident a lot.
After the driving the cars there was a nice catered lunch. Jessica Anderson, President of WAPA, handed out awards for Best Tweet, Best Picture, and a few other awards I can't remember. You got points for filling out a questionnaire and driving as many cars as you could. As well you were supposed to spot WAPA signs that were set out on the 3 different driving routes. Apparently there were 10 but I only noticed 3. Also I hardly took any pictures or tweeted since I was focused on driving as many vehicles as possible. I guess I was having too much fun!
I love my Toyota Camry since it is a great and reliable car. However, it is a bit disappointing when you get back into your own car after having driven so many other cars you want to own, all on the same day!