Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chrysler PT Cruiser: Saying Goodbye to the Retro Icon

In today's market, ten years is a solid run for any model vehicle. With only a minor facelift on exterior design and interior trim, the Chrysler PT Cruiser ends its reign as the number one retro-styled vehicle in America this year.

Introduced for the 2000 model-year, the PT Cruiser was Chrysler's answer to the popularity of the retro-styled Ford Mustang. Taking design cues from Art Deco-inspired Plymouths and Chrysler Air Flows of the 1930s, the PT stood apart from the generic, bubble-ish cars of the late 90s with accentuated fenders, a waterfall grill, and a rounded "Touring Sedan" profile common in the pre-war era. The raked-back look, Frenched-in head and tail lights, old-school chrome door handles and five-spoke alloy wheels gave the car a custom, hot rod style that became an immediate hit with retro design lovers. This also led very quickly to a large aftermarket of custom and performance parts, making the PT Cruiser one of the most easily and extensively customizable vehicles on the market. Chrysler marketed this vehicle to both the retro crowd and everyday people, calling it "the small car alternative".

The first PTs had a four cylinder, 2.4 liter engine that topped out at about 150 horsepower. That was the major complaint for many buyers who dreaded the zero-to-sixty time of nearly ten seconds in a car that looked like a hot rod. The fact that the vehicle got less than twenty miles per gallon city didn't help. Even though the public loved the styling, that wimpy engine was responsible for the first couple of years of soccer moms and rental companies buying the car...until 2003, when the GT Turbo version was released.

The 2003 PT Cruiser GT Turbo (sometimes referred to as the GT Cruiser or PT Bruiser) boosted the horsepower to 215, giving the retro-rod the fast kick it needed. Combined with the "Four on the Floor" manual transmission, the little car could now rocket from zero to sixty in around 6 1/2 seconds from the factory. An AutoStick automatic transmission was also available, allowing the driver to choose between manual (clutchless) mode or auto. A lowered, stiffer suspension, wide performance tires and traction control added to the GT's handling and hot rod looks.

2005 saw the next, and probably most important step in the PT's evolution. Designed by Daimler-Benz, the PT Cruiser convertible debuted to a much appreciative public. The car was reinforced to accommodate the convertible top, and a stylish yet functional roll bar was incorporated to add stability and rollover protection. The top-of-the-line model was the GT Turbo High-Output, a car capable of reaching horsepower in the 215 to 225 range stock. A sporty leather interior with chrome accents, factory navigation, chrome grill and special GT Turbo High-Output badging distinguished it from the flock. Unfortunately the car carried a hefty price tag - over $30k for a decked-out GT-HO version - which prohibited sales, making the GT ragtop a rare bird.

2006 saw the first and only design change for the Cruiser. A slightly modified front end and back bumper, along with a newly designed dash and center console was all that was done to update the PT's appearance. The engine was modified to give a little better performance. The Turbo could now churn out 230 horses, but the gas mileage remained woefully low at a time when gas prices were climbing to $4.00 per gallon, and competitive small cars were getting upwards of 35 mpg. By 2007, the novelty was wearing off, and Chrysler found themselves selling a lot of Cruisers as fleet vehicles for rental car agencies. The recession and Chrysler's merge with Fiat doomed the PT Cruiser from evolving any further, and in 2008 it was announced that production of the then-dated car would cease by 2010, to be replaced with a Fiat-based, more economical vehicle.

Today, a handful of 2010 Sedans are still available from Chrysler as "classic" PT Cruisers, but when they're gone, they're gone. Remaining vehicles are basically base models, without an option for the turbo or the convertible. An optional "Couture Edition" features a two-tone paint job, red leather seats and a much higher price tag. The Couture production is limited to 500, meaning a few die-hard PT lovers will buy them and store them as future classic investments. But without that Turbo, there's little hope for much interest by the future collector market. If anything, the 2005 PT Cruiser Convertible stands out as the first PT ragtop, and the only year with the original styling. The '05 GT-HO Turbo version should be the one to watch.

So we say goodbye to ten years of the much-loved retro rod, just as retro-styled vehicles like the Chevy Camaro and HHR are gaining popularity, along with the Dodge Challenger and continuation of the Ford Mustang. Today, even vehicles like the Cadillac CTS, Chrysler 300 and Infiniti G37 are utilizing a considerable amount of classic retro styling. Designers are incorporating some of the greatest styling elements of the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s into today's vehicle...And so though the little PT Cruiser may be gone, it's certain its influence will be around for a very long time.

Christopher Pinto, Creative Director
Engelhardt & Partners Automotive Advertising

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fiat returns to the USA

There hasn't been a Fiat showroom in the USA for over 25 years, but that will soon change. Fiat's merger with Chrysler last year has laid the groundwork for the Italian auto maker to sell Fiats side-by-side with its American Mopar counterparts.

The first Fiat vehicle to be sold in the US will be an Americanized version of the popular European compact, the Fiat 500. Starting at around $15,000, this little car will be going up against vehicles like BMW's Mini and Ford's Focus.

Fiat is currently taking pre-orders for a special edition of the 500, but no target date is given. It will be offered in Pop, Sport and Lounge models. What's a Lounge model? No idea.

Something interesting to ponder is that Fiat is introducing this very small car as the 500, next to the Chrysler 200 and 300. Traditionally, in America, the larger the number, the larger the car (That's why an F-350 is larger than an F-150 truck). This will probably confuse a few people at first, especially those who aren't familiar with the 500's popularity in Europe. But I believe a year from now the Fiat 500 will be as common a name as the Mini is today.

-Christopher Pinto,
Creative Director, Engelhardt & Partners Automotive Advertising

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Auto Industry sales up 17.3%!

According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, US auto sales are up 17.3% overall for January. This is, of course excellent news for anyone in or tied to the automotive industry.

The article goes on to say that new cars sales could hit 12.5 to 13.5 million units this year, and that most of the sales are coming from individual buyers as opposed to lower-profit fleet sales.

Read the full article here at Detroit Free Press.

Engelhardt & Partners Advertising

Friday, January 14, 2011

A few of the worst advertising slogans I’ve ever heard

I’ve always had an eye (and ear) for great advertising. Even as a kid, I’d critique the toy commercials that played during Saturday morning cartoons (to the point I’d change the channel when those annoying ads for My Little Pony would come on). So just for fun, I put together a list a few of the worst advertising slogans I’ve ever heard, IMHO. Some you’ll recognize, some were regional, hopefully all will make you smile. Here goes…

Folgers: “The Best Part of Waking Up is Folgers in Your Cup.” A gentle jingle, coupled with homey, artistic footage of sleepy people smiling as they enjoy the aroma and taste of Folgers freshly-brewed coffee. A very nice commercial…until you think about the statement. Seriously, if the best part of waking up (and consequently living your life another day) is a cup of coffee, you’ve got major problems. Skip the coffee and see a therapist.

H. I. Rib & Company: “Put a Little South in Your Mouth.” This was a regional restaurant in the Atlantic City, NJ area that specialized in…you guessed it…southern cooking. But really, they didn’t. Their main menu items were ribs, chicken, burgers, steaks and New Jersey seafood. The only real thing they had that was ‘southern’ was the cornbread that came with the platters. And the slogan…well, I can’t tell you how many muffled giggles by embarrassed women, along with hoots and hollers from randy men were released whenever that slogan was heard on the radio. Catch my drift? Oh, one more thing… The restaurant featured an “H.I.” Burger. Just a ½ pounder with cheese and bacon…but “H.I.” was the owner’s initials…causing us to wonder if we were cannibalizing him.

Winn-Dixie, “The Beef People.” I’m always afraid the employees are going to be half-man, half-cow monsters.

eSurance, “The Saver.” Ok, I get it…eSurance started out with the slick, animated retro-style commercials with that sexy young “Erin”, the eSurance girl as their spokesperson. The point was to show you could save time, money and trees by buying your insurance entirely online (with the great slogan, “Quote, Buy, Print”). This got them a lot of attention, but no doubt alienated a large percentage of older or less web-savvy (or just plain dull) consumers. After years of success with the “hip” internet-buying crowd, they realized they needed to also appeal to people who don’t know a web page from a grain silo. So, enter “The Saver,” a pudgy, pasty guy with clothes that don’t fit quite right, and the vernacular of a 14-year old. The whole point of the commercial is to show you don’t have to get eSurance online, that you can in fact call them directly and talk to an actual human, if you really want to. But that message is lost among the muck of this goofy guy and the clever writing, pushing how much he can save you more than the fact you can actually talk to someone like him the old-fashioned way.

Ford: “Quality is Job 1.” Really? You have to say that? It doesn’t sound like you’ve always had a great quality product. It makes it sound like your cars have been crap for years, and you just woke up when Honda started kicking you butt. They dropped it years ago, thankfully.

Camels: “More Doctors Smoke Camels Cigarette Than Any Other Brand.” This is an oldie, dating back as far as the 1940s. As soon as people started hearing rumors that smoking could be bad for your health, the cigarette companies started spending millions to convince us it is not. This campaign ran for years in both broadcast and print, and assured us (without saying it) that smoking Camels was just nifty, since doctors loved them to death (no pun intended. Ok, it was intended). The commercials also appealed to the younger and less sophisticated crowd that thought they’d look more like rich doctors if they smoked Camels instead of those nasty Chesterfields. Whatever. Even without the health issues, why the hell do I care what doctors smoke???

AT&T: “More Bars in More Places.” I’ll have a Jack and Coke.

Office Depot, “What You Need, What You Need To Know.” Office Depot had one of the BEST advertising slogans ever…a line that was already known for years, as it was the title of a hit song, “Taking Care of Business.” How in the world could they think they could ever come up with a line that was not only instantly recognizable, but summed up their entire existence in one sentence? Well, after a regime change in 2000, the newbies thought they could…and failed miserably. Laughs flew as the negative connotations referring to “You’re on a need to know basis, and you don’t need to know that” jokes were passed around even among OD employees. The public didn’t respond well to the “new” Office Depot either…as they promised to help customers with simple things like choosing toner, and couldn’t deliver. Profits dropped, store closings and layoffs followed, and a few years later they picked up the old “Taking Care of Business” again, with success.

Honda: “Bigger Than a Breadbox.” Back in the 1970s when Honda was known for motorcycles and the only Americans who bought their cars were aging hippies and college kids, Honda tried to introduce their tiny, tin-can cars as being sort of “cute”. Back then Hondas were not known for their safety, comfort or quality, and certainly not for their reliability. They were known for good gas mileage at a time when “gas crisis” was a household term. But once the gas started flowing again, sales dropped as people went back to buying Ford LTDs and Buick LeSabres. Hence, “Bigger than a Breadbox.”

The Press of Atlantic City, “Gotta Get It.” No, I don’t. There’s something about a newspaper using the non-word “gotta” in their slogan that somehow makes them seem less than reputable. The public agreed, and the slogan was dropped.

-Christopher Pinto, Creative Director
Engelhardt & Partners Advertising

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


When it comes to gadgets, everyone wonders, what will be the next big thing? Every year in Las Vegas, the International Consumer Electronic Show (CES) challenges manufacturers and electronic geniuses to find the answer. From home appliances to new cell phones to gaming and software, CES brings the future to the present for one week and shows the world what electronics are capable of.

Lucky for us, car technology is one of the biggest innovative categories of the year. This year proved to be a record breaker, with over 150 automotive electronic gadget and manufacturing companies making their presence known to salivating car lovers from all over the world.

One major player in this year’s showcase was Hyundai.

Hyundai is getting closer and closer to releasing the first worthy opponent to GM's On Star.

Called Blue Link, the tele-matics service will offer Hyundai owners innovative features including remote control, automated vehicle diagnostic, recall advisory, stolen vehicle recovery, vehicle immobilization, gas station locator, gas prices, up to the minute traffic and weather and even restaurant ratings, all with voice or manual activation.

Hyundai Blue Link will be available soon on all models produced by Hyundai. The first cars to get the system will be the Sonata and the Veloster 3-door coupe, which will be launched later this year.

Be the first to see innovation in action!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is Ford Bringing Back The Edsel?

Is it possible after 50+ years, Ford will be bringing back the Edsel? Although ridiculed as a funny-looking, poorly-built car, the Edsel was actually well ahead of the competition in styling, engineering and technology. What it lacked was marketing foresight, coming out several years too soon - a mid-sized, junior executive level vehicle (without fins) debuting at a time when everyone wanted more sheet metal, more chrome...and more fins.

But the Edsel, had it been named something that sounded, and the timing been right, may have been a sure hit. It incorporated powerful engines with an electronic push-button transmission (the buttons were built into the center of the steering wheel, a la Speed Racer). It's styling was bold and completely new. And rode like a dream.

So why not bring it back? After all, today's cars are all about technology. A push-button transmission is only a designer's mouse-click away. And the styling? Well, it seems the '58 Edsel front end would fit perfectly on to a 2011 Taurus. Orders, anyone?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gearing up for Halloween

Advertising-wise, Halloween is already here. The stores are full of Halloween costumes and decor, and some are even carrying Christmas decorations next to the pumpkins and skulls. Here at the agency, we've already nailed down creative for the Halloween season and are starting to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The best part of advertising for Halloween is we get to cut loose a little, and do some really fun stuff. Even with limited space in print and time with broadcast, we can still squeeze in some cool graphics and clever tie-ins. One of my personal favorites is "Dawn of the Deals", playing off the old horror flick "Dawn of the Dead." We've also done "House of 1000 Bargains", and "{Vincent} Price Breaker Sale". Kooky stuff.

Here are a few of our ideas for Halloween 2010: