Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Cars That Helped Redefine Their Brands

Over the years, car brands become known for certain traits. Volvos have a reputation for safety, BMWs and Mercedes are refined, while Ford has always had powerful trucks and muscle cars. Yet as the auto industry changes, brands are looking to shake up consumer's perceptions as well.

Car and Driver recently examined some of the top cars set to debut in the next few years that may alter drivers' perceptions of a brand's reputation. At the same time, the news source also mentioned a few of the older vehicles, which can now be found on the used market, that were similar game-changers for their company.

One of the cars chosen was the new Hyundai Equus, as the South Korean automaker typically known for more affordable automobiles is looking to jump into the luxury market. With a $58,000 price tag, Apple iPad owners manual and valet maintenance service included, the brand just might have hit on the small details that many luxury drivers are willing to pay extra for.

The news source says that Hyundai is looking to avoid the pitfalls of the Volkswagen Phaeton, the automaker's attempt at a luxury model. This $70,000 extra-roomy car was a catastrophe in the U.S., although Volkswagen successfully sold the car in Europe, where its still popular. Instead, Hyundai is hoping that the new Equus will go the way of the Lexus LS400. This classic car was Toyota's first attempt at a luxury vehicle and it succeeded beyond the company's wildest expectations, eventually launching an entire brand that is still the most popular luxury nameplate in the U.S. today.

Speaking of Lexus, the luxury brand is looking to go even more upscale with the introduction of its $375,000 supercar, the Lexus LFA. Lexus' cars are typically known for their smooth ride rather than their race-day chops, but the LFA is looking to change that. The car is a substantial upgrade for anything the automaker has offered before, including the IS F, which was previously the fastest Lexus.

Mercedes took a similar strategy with the SLR McClaren, but the news source says the car was too conservative and not enough of an upgrade over the existing vehicles in the lineup. One car that Lexus might be hoping to emulate is the Ford GT. Ford had never made a supercar, but the GT sold like hotcakes and Ford still produces plenty of them today.

Buick is looking to change its reputation as an "old-man car" with the new Regal GS. The new offering from GM features a turbocharged engine, manual transmission and all-wheel drive, making it a performance-focused machine that Buick is not typically known for. GM could be hoping to duplicate the recent success it has had with the second-generation Cadillac CTS, which continues to be a bonafide smash hit for the company.

Innovation is great, but ultimately a good car is a good car. That's why so many of these classic vehicles succeeded. Drivers in the market for a vehicle may want to wait and try out one of these "game-changers" when they hit showrooms, but they should keep in mind that they can likely find the critically-acclaimed cars of yesteryear on the used car market for a substantially lower price.

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