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2007 NAIAS :: Detroit Auto Show :: Reviews + Interviews

AutoWeek hosts "Design for Success" conference at Cobo


Charlie Hughes is the author of Branding Iron and owner of Brand Rules, LLC.

by Jason Rzucidlo


DETROIT -- Keynote speaker Charlie Hughes described the problems facing the Big Three automakers and offered advice on how they can become profitable and gain market share in this highly competitive industry.

Hughes believes the main problem is Detroit is the leadership of GM, Ford and Chrysler. He said that everyone wants the companies to be successful. Worker buyouts are going well accorinding to the author and brand expert.

He said that GM did well by winning the car and truck of the year awards. However, GM CEO Rick Wagoner doesn't agree with Hughes' book because manufacturing capacity exceeds output. Hughes wants GM and the other U.S. automakers to "start by seeing the world as it is."

"Branding must permeate everything a company does. Many of Detroit's brands live in commodity hell," Charlie Hughes said. "You gotta be best in something."

The branding expert said the U.S. can build 24 million units per year. The goal for the Board of Directors of automakers is to make sure revenue is up. One thing that GM, Ford and Chrysler hate about their competitors is that they are doing better job than them.

Consumers are being flooded with more automobile choices than ever before. On average, there are 45 to 50 new car launches each year. At the 2007 NAIAS, there was 50 concept cars on display.

Hughes explained that Toyota is one of the best automotive brands on the market. Their goals and expectations are clear. They know where they want to go and how to get there. Their brand image is clear in the minds of consumers.

"My belief is Toyota has a very clear vision. They do better products better than other people. It shows the power of focusing."

Another problem with the automotive industry is the number of multiple brands. The Big Three own and operate multiple brands within their portfolios. The best portfolios are ones that do not have overlaps. For example, much of the Mercury line is a duplicate of the Ford division with just a few minor differences. This type of overlap will create competition within the automakers. They are trying to market the same models and consumers are not being fooled.

"Ford should focus on three brands -- Ford, Jaguar, Volvo trifecta," Hughes said. "Customers seek authentic brands. To stand out, you must first stand for something. Success demands and apetite for risk."

The expert believes that automakers should discriminate themselves. They should choose a target customer and focus on them. Automakers are spending too much on appealing to everyone. They need to sit down and decide on who they want to sell their vehicles to. Will it be a college student, a parent, a lawyer or a doctor. Is the target customer rich, poor or somewhere in between?

Hughes said Ford should eliminate the Mercury brand. "Mercury takes up time and resources. They spend $300 million on advertising." By removing Mercury, Ford will allow itself to concentrate on itself more. They will be able to design more attractive vehicles, target the right customers and sell more units. Ford should keep Jaguar and develop the brand more.

What about Mustang? According to the brand expert, Ford should definitely keep Mustang. He says it is a very unique line. "Mustang is another example of knowing who you are. It's more consistant. It buys Ford credibility."

In terms of DiamlerChrysler, Hughes said they have to focus on inventory. In 2006, the automaker built too many cars and trucks and had a surplus. "They've taken more risks."

With respect to General Motors, the expert says they have more cutting to do. "There is no clear GM brand. Get them down to five brands in the U.S. Get Chevy and Cadillac to work. We believe they should sell Hummer. It's a great brand." Hughes also suggested that GM should sell Saturn to one of the Chinese automakers. Although more work lies ahead for GM, the expert says they are doing better.

Many analysts expect Chinese automakers to hit the U.S. market in the next few years. According to Hughes, the U.S. should give them some respect. He said without them, there would be a worldwide depression. "Many of them play by fair-game rules."

AutoWeek Editors' Choice Awards handed out

Rick Rogers is the President of the College for Creative Studies. "This is the biggest crowd ever, it speaks hugely for the auto industry. I am very impressed by the auto show. The designs are amazing."

Six students from CCS visited the auto show to select the 'concept car that must be built.' The award was given to the Jaguar C-XF. Rogers said, "It is a lot more proud than previous models. It's on the cover of AutoWeek."

Dutch Mandel is the Editor and Associate Publisher of AutoWeek. He was on stage to announce the winners for each of the awards.

The first category was the Most Fun Car. "That's the car that AutoWeek editors would love to just climb into. The 600 hp Dodge Viper," Mandel said. Sam Locricchio accepted the award for Chrysler. "We really appreciate the relationship with AutoWeek. We truly appreciate getting the award from them. We thank you very much for it."

The second award was for the Best Concept. "When you come to an auto show, you think of concepts," Mandel said. One that AutoWeek hopes they would build. The award went to the Ford Interceptor. Peter Horbury accepted the award for Ford. "Thank you. I would like to thank the whole team. I know their faces, Freeman knows their names." Freeman Thomas is a designer for Ford who said, "doing a car like this takes a great team. We're gonna take this thing and run."

The next award was the Most Significant Vehicle. "This one stood out among all. I am delighted and pleased to present this award to the Chevy Volt," Mandel announced. Anne Asensio accepted the award for General Motors. "The collaboration. It was just not a design story. I am very pleased to accept this award."

The final award was the Best of Show. "AutoWeek editors look at it and say. This is amazing. It's the kind of vehicle you would remember five years from now," Mandel announced. The award was given to the Jaguar C-XF. Ian Callum accepted the award for Jaguar.

Callum said, "Thank you to AutoWeek. On behalf of Jaguar, one a personal point of view, this means so much. We are going to produce a car similar called the XF. It didn't just come from anywhere. The funny thing with Jaguar: everybody wants to help. They all have opinion. You will see Jaguar turn into a very modern car company." has the BEST Pictures of the 2007 North American International Auto Show. See all the hot new cars, trucks, crossovers and SUVs. Click here to view our Auto Show Photos section. Rated #1 on Google and Yahoo! for the past five years.


Dutch Mandel is the Editor and Associate Publisher of AutoWeek.



Rick Rogers is the President of the College for Creative Studies.


Click here to see more pictures from the AutoWeek Design Forum.


This page was last updated on Fri, January 19, 2007 7:11 PM

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