My Favorite Car Spot in Years – Dodge’s “Uncle” Spot

For at least a decade, my single favorite TV spot ever has been the Volkswagen “shopping cart” ad from their iconic “Drivers Wanted” campaign. Arnold Worldwide did a fabulous job with that campaign.

It’s still my favorite but, recently, Dodge ran a spot for the Challenger/Charger that I love almost as much. For anybody who knows me or follows me on Twitter, especially at Super Bowl time, I’m no Mopar fanboy. Here’s the spot:

It’s fun. It fits perfectly with Dodge’s slightly cocky, irreverent sense of humor and with those two cars, especially the Charger. Instead of the safe choice of an Avalon, Taurus, LaCrosse or Impala, go with the brash, rear-wheel drive, (available with a) honkin’ V8 choice.

My uncle is the one that ignited my passion for cars after a fast ride in a 1997 Mustang Cobra convertible at age 15 (“if you tell your mother (my sister) how fast we go, I’ll kill you”), so the “crazy uncle” part of this one makes it even more fun and personal for me. Love it.

Nice work Chrysler/Dodge team – see, I’m not always negative about you guys ;) If anybody who reads this knows what agency did the spot, I’d love to give them a shout out too, being an agency guy myself.

2011 Ford Mustang GT – the 60,000 mile review

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 945 days (a little over 2.5 years) since I fulfilled a dream I’d had since age 14. That dream was to own a Ford Mustang and I fulfilled that dream on September 2, 2011. Appropriately, I started that day by hearing a fantastic presentation by Ford’s social media maestro, Scott Monty, at a Social Media Club of Kansas City event at Union Station. Just after lunch, I flew out of KCI up to Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Int’l Airport where I met two guys from B&B Ford to pick up my dream car.

I’ve already posted a long entry about that day so I’ll leave it there. However, having driven Lucy a ton and being almost to 60,000 miles, I figured it was time to do a review from an ownership perspective. So, here we go:

The Pros

  • You’re part of something: by that, I mean you’re joining a massive group of enthusiasts, as the Mustang is probably the world’s most-loved car. Because of that, there’s awesome clubs like the Mustang Club of Greater Kansas City and shows, events, cruises, etc. going on every weekend all over the country. If you truly love cars and didn’t just buy a Mustang for the style, being part of a community like the Mustang one is a fun perk. I’ve been in three St. Patrick’s Day parades with this thing and the smiles, the kids screaming “rev the engine” and the envious looks from some are such fun. Or little moments like a five-year-old kid walking by the car holding hands with his Dad and hearing him ask “Daddy, can I have a Mustang like that someday?” You will never have that happen in your Accord or Camry.
Pretty cool to see this many kids crowded around my car - makes you remember what it was like to be in their shoes.
Pretty cool to see this many kids crowded around my car – makes you remember what it was like to be in their shoes.
  • The Attention: when you own a Mustang, it’s hard to be shy. No, it’s not like owning an exotic but for a car that’s as affordable as a Mustang, there’s nothing like it. So many people have stories to share about their experience with a Mustang in their youth, or questions to ask like “how’s that five liter run??” It’s fun to feel special even though you’re driving something that frequently costs less than the car the person you’re talking to is driving.
  • The Style: I still find myself looking back at Lucy as I walk away. I get compliments constantly. And even though the completely redesigned 2015 Mustang is coming soon, I don’t think my car will look dated too quickly, which you definitely couldn’t say about the ’87-’93 or ’94-98 cars when their replacements came along.
  • The Power: having 412 horsepower at your disposal in a daily-driven car that runs on 87 octane and gets good mileage was nothing but a fantasy 20 years ago but it’s reality with this car.
  • The Transmission/Shifter/Pedals: for anyone that drove a pre-2005 Mustang, this shifter and pedal setup is a revelation. Short, direct throws. Pedals set up well for heel & toeing. The only negative is that the stock shifter works terribly in cold weather, even after the TSB Ford issued to try and fix the problem. I want a MGW shifter but just haven’t saved the money to do it yet.
  • The Mileage: no, you don’t buy a Mustang for its practicality, but mileage doesn’t have to be the reason you don’t. My previous car, a 2003 Mazda6s, got 22 MPG average over the 90,000 miles I owned it. Not great, but pretty normal for a V6 4-door sedan from that era. In almost 50,000 miles of driving this car, I’m averaging 21.7 MPG. And I have 200 more horsepower and two more cylinders under the hood than I had in that Mazda. On the highway, it’ll do 25-28 MPG.
  • The Noise: it was ok stock, but when I added a Borla S-Type axle-back system to it, wow. Start at 3:09 of the clip below:

The great thing about the Borlas is that they’re loud when you want them to be, but on the highway cruising, they’re no louder than the stock mufflers and there is zero drone. None. Not a bit. That’s why they cost twice as much as some other aftermarket systems and that’s why they’re worth every penny.

  • The Comfort: I’ve daily driven this car since I bought it. I’ve driven it from Kansas City to Silverthorne, Colorado in a single day, comfortably. No, it doesn’t ride like a Lexus and yes, I have minor quibbles I’ll mention later but, overall, it’s a great car to drive every day.
  • The Cargo Room: for what it is, the Mustang has a pretty darn big trunk. With the fold-down rear seats, you can take home 8′ stuff from the hardware store if you need to. Yeah, the trunk opening is a bit small but that’s the tradeoff for the styling.
  • The Tech: I purposely found a car without the dual climate control, built-in navigation touchscreen version of this car. Didn’t want it. The most advanced tech this car has is electric power steering, heated seats, auto up & down windows, stability/traction control and the base Sync system, which I love. Yeah, I’m a bit bummed Ford hasn’t upgraded it one bit even though they keep promising to, but it works great with my iPhone via Bluetooth and my iPod via USB connection. And that’s all I need.
  • The Winter Driving: yes, I’m complimenting a Mustang on its performance in the snow…with the caveat that I have a set of dedicated winter tires (Bridgestone Blizzaks). For anybody that lives in an area with regular snowfall, they’re a great investment to make. With those tires and the traction/stability control, I’ve driven through three winters now without a problem. Handling and braking are excellent on snow and, as long as you’re gentle with the go pedal, acceleration is not an issue either.
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Yes, this car does just fine in the white stuff.

The Cons

    • The Solid Rear Axle: lots of Mustang guys are lamenting the fact that Ford is finally dumping the outdated solid rear axle (SRA) for the 2015 car. For non-gearheads, the only non-pickup truck you can still buy with a SRA is the Mustang. That’s it and there’s a reason for that; it’s an outdated technology kept alive in this car to save a few bucks and placate the tiny percentage of owners that drag race their cars. Not a drive in my car goes by that I don’t notice the SRA in a negative way. Whether the noise it makes going over bumps or the way your head gets jarred from side to side, it’s noticeable.
    • No telescoping steering wheel: my 2003 Mazda6 had it. My wife’s 2008 Mazda3 has it. For a car that cost $37,000 new to not have one is a bit ridiculous, in 2011. It would make the comfort level perfect for me.
    • Little Problems: here’s what’s gone wrong with my car so far. It’s not a ton but I wouldn’t call it bulletproof either.

19,967 miles: Check Engine Light (P0446) came on – Vapor Wire Circuit at Cannister Vent Solenoid corroded in two pieces. Replaced pigtail at the cannister vent. ($0)
25,014 miles: squealing noise from under the hood happened. Water pump replaced along with thermostat seal and clamp. ($0)
43,457 miles: Air bag light was on – Found B0028:13 in RCM hard fault. PP Test G found high resistance in airbag 4.780HM (passenger seat side airbag). Replaced RF seat side airbag and RF seat trim. ($0 cost but would have been $800+ if out of warranty)
51,653 miles: inconsistent starting problem diagnosed with two fixes – replacement of original battery and PCM programming update (TSB 11-3-32) ($350)
Unrepaired yet but broken since last fall: driver side power seat track in need of replacing. ($750 quoted cost)
Unrepaired as of yet: one of the blend door actuators in the dash is going bad. (Will fix myself for <$50>)
Unrepaired as of yet: Ford has had a ton of problems with lower control arms on these cars, to the point where they’ve created new part #’s for replacements three times so far, I think. I’m fairly certain the squeaking under braking I get from them means I’ve got bad ones too, but since I’m out of warranty, I’m avoiding that $800 repair as long as possible.

  • Cheap Details: one of the reasons this car is affordable is that savings have to be found somewhere. In this car, a lot of that is in interior trim. The stock floormats barely qualify as carpet. The carpet doesn’t go up high enough on the passenger footwell. The trunk carpet’s fit borders on laughable. It’s a $37,000 car with a hood prop. Minor things and not a big deal, but still.
  • Lack of Interior Storage: one thing I loved about my Mazda6 was the interior storage. The doors could hold bottles. The dashboard had a door that opened up to hold a ton of stuff at the top. The glovebox was big. The Mustang has a small center console that holds a lot but beyond that, there’s a small glovebox and that’s it. The storage in the doors is useless beyond holding trash and the cupholders work but only if you don’t need to shift the manual transmission much.

Final Thoughts

My boss asked me the other day if I still love this car like I thought I would and the answer is unequivocally yes. Every time I drive it, I smile. When I get it on an open road with the windows down and hear the motor roaring, I giggle like a little kid still. When I drive down the street, I still feel a little special. The few cons I listed above are so incredibly outweighed by the pros that they’re hardly worth quibbling over.

At some point, my wife and I are going to have kids. Yes, I’ll be able to fit a rear-facing child seat in on the passenger side, but it’ll be almost impossible for someone to sit in that front passenger seat. Forward-facing seats will be ok but still, it ain’t a family car. I’m already dreading that day and just hoping I’m financially able to keep the Mustang when I buy the Ford Flex I’m already eyeing for family duties.

I love my Mustang. It was worth the wait.

Here’s that fun history part of it. This is my car next to my cousin-in-law’s 1967 Mustang GT – siblings separated by 44 years of history, but still with the same soul.
Below the 12th Street bridge in KC
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Track touring at Road America – heading through turn 6 with a 911 and an Exige on my tail!
My uncle and I with our fast red cars - 2011 Mustang GT and 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena
My uncle and I with our fast red cars – 2011 Mustang GT and 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena – waiting to cross the Wisconsin River via the Merrimac Ferry.
Credit for this shot goes to Digo Rajbhandari (digoraj AT
In the midst of a Sports Car Club of America road rally. Credit for this shot goes to Digo Rajbhandari

Chrysler Super Bowl Ads – As Brilliant as the Masses Say?

Well, yesterday was the Super Bowl and Chrysler showed a beautifully-produced, visually-engaging spot that utilized an American celebrity and got people talking. If you missed it, it starred Bob Dylan and can be seen below:

It started three years ago with Eminem and the “Imported from Detroit” tagline’s debut. Then, in 2012, it was Clint Eastwood and “Halftime in America”. And last year, it was a repurposing of a Paul Harvey speech about Farmers along with a Jeep spot that bugged me because it felt like Italians were trying to tell Americans how to be more American.

Each time, I’ve railed against the near-universal applause for the ads, to the point where friends of mine know it’s coming before I even say it:

And I’ve had an ongoing back & forth with friend and media expert Sheree Johnson on this too:

So what’s my issue with the ads?

In short, I don’t like that Chrysler has gone the direction of making patriotic, “buy American” ads when they’ve been taken over by an Italian company (Fiat) over the past five years, a takeover that just reached 100% in the past 30 days.

The ads are all designed to elicit an underlying feeling in the viewer of “I need to buy a Chrysler because they’re an American company that supports American workers”. And yes, it’s true that Chrysler employs approximately 65,000 Americans currently. Thankfully, that’s likely not going to change, even with Fiat ownership, since a huge chunk of the worldwide organization’s profits are being delivered by two basic things: RAM trucks and Jeep SUVs.

However, General Motors and Ford, the two car companies that genuinely could wave the stars & stripes in every spot they run, don’t. Just as Ford could have run huge campaigns saying “we never took your tax dollars”. But both of those companies believe their vehicles don’t need patriotism to sell, and I admire them for it.

Today, Chrysler is no different than Toyota, Honda, Nissan, VW, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai/Kia and any other car company that manufactures cars in the USA because it’s the 2nd biggest market in the world (behind China for the past few years) and it makes business sense to do so. Chrysler’s profits are going back to Italy to make up for the countless shortcomings of parent company Fiat, which has been almost run into the ground thanks to mismanagement and Italian labor challenges.

You might say that’s ok and I agree…with the caveat that misleading the public with the patriotism makes it a bit slimy, to me, and that’s why I don’t like it.

One spot from last night that I thought was great was the “Villains” spot from Jaguar.  Here it is in case you don’t remember:

You might be saying, “Kyle, you hypocrite – that commercial is all about being British even though Jaguar is now owned by their former colony!” (Note: Jaguar is owned by Indian car conglomerate Tata Motors, along with Land Rover – you’ve got to smile at that irony)

Well, here’s why I’m not: the Jag commercial does a fabulous job of reminding people of the brand’s British origins without resorting to the over-the-top flag waving of Chrysler. It’s tongue-in-cheek and fun…and Jaguar doesn’t try to hide its current status:

Final thoughts: yeah, I’m probably overanalyzing this a bit but I’m a marketing guy and a gearhead, so it’s fascinating to me. So what do you think?


Opinions and anecdotes on mostly cars+racing, plus some marketing here & there