The Intersection 3-12-23

Last fall, I wrote about Automotive News’ ongoing mission to cover diversity, equity and inclusion in the automotive business. This week’s issue has stories that are intended to inspire and provoke thought.

■ Vince Bond Jr. tells the story of Daniel Mekuria, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia during college to realize his business potential. After years of honing his skills in automotive retail — including turning “a good, sleepy dealership into a very, very, very good dealership ” — he now owns a piece of one store and has been approved to own another. The Ford store he manages has also embarked on another form of inclusion: Providing opportunities for addicts who need a job and support to stay clean. One convicted felon is now a master service technician and helping the dealership recruit others for potentially life-changing jobs in auto retail.

■ I recently spoke with Hyundai Motor America marketing executive Erik Thomas and Eunique Jones Gibson, CEO of Culture Brands, the automaker’s first Black agency. We discussed how their partnership is helping improve Black consumers’ awareness and perception of the brand through uplifting marketing campaigns.

■ In a guest commentary, Rebecca Rom-Frank, senior creative insights researcher at Getty Images, challenges the industry to reevaluate gender stereotypes and the lack of inclusion of minority racial groups, LGBTQ+ families and disabled people in their marketing and advertising campaigns. She makes a case for the transition to EVs being an ideal time to readjust marketers’ thinking.

■ Automotive News sibling publication AdAge and Harris Poll produce a quarterly report on the corporate brands that are resonating the best with Generation Z. In their latest study, five automotive brands were in the top 20 spanning a range of industries — in part because these young adults are interested in electric vehicles. Which brands are capturing their attention? Click here to find out.

■ A satirical ad for the Ford Explorer “Men’s Only Edition” imagines what the SUV would look like if it were missing parts created by women — turn signals, GPS or heater, for instance. The automaker used its website and social media accounts during March, which is Women’s History Month, to recognize the achievements of female innovators.

— Omari Gardner

In Monday’s Automotive News:

Hacking for good: Automakers are so worried about vehicle and software security gaps, they are paying hackers to uncover vulnerabilities. These bug bounty programs reward friendly digital invaders, known as white hat hackers, who look for breaches and notify automakers and suppliers, although the auto industry pays them considerably less than some other sectors do. As cars increasingly rely on software, sensors and computers for operations, infotainment, automated driving and safety, cybersecurity has become a huge issue. This Automotive News story explains that automakers want to find problems before hostile hackers uncover vulnerabilities they can exploit, which could allow them to gain access to a driver’s personal information or even control a car for ransom.

Nothing easy about it: Installing EV chargers at car dealerships is complicated and expensive. Since it involves coordination with utilities and city planning departments, meeting various automaker requirements is even more complicated. Automotive News explains that while dealers have extensive experience with facility upgrades, the technical nature of installing chargers at commercial scale is often beyond their expertise. Depending on the age of the building, the proximity and capacity of their current transformer and other factors, over the next few years dealers are going to have to develop custom solutions to meet their brands’ requirements, including requiring dealers to install several Level 2 and Level 3 chargers.

Weekend headlines

Gotion floats bigger battery plant plan: The Chinese battery parts manufacturer has presented a revised plan to local officials that would increase its initial footprint by a third, calling for the addition of two 500,000-square-foot plants on the site near Big Rapids, Mich.

Ford’s Michigan development boom creates opportunity — and uncertainty: For some residents of Marshall, Mich., an hour and a half west of Detroit, Ford’s planned $3.5 billion EV battery factory is seen as a business boon. But for others, it’s a threat.

Lexus shines in service survey: The growing volume of EVs being serviced at dealerships has led to the first decline in service satisfaction in 28 years, according to the 2023 J.D. Power U.S. Customer Service Index Study. Lexus, which offered no EVs in 2022, is a bright spot, ranking the highest overall for the second-straight year. Among mass-market brands, Mitsubishi ranks the highest in dealer service satisfaction.

Ford’s EV battery variety: Ford in the coming months will offer two different battery chemistries on its electric vehicles as the automaker introduces a lower-cost, shorter-range alternative to the packs it uses today.

Infiniti chairman retires: Peyman Kargar, who has led Infiniti since June 2020 and was preparing for a wide-ranging brand reboot centered on the QX80 SUV, will retire from the position March 30, the end of Nissan’s fiscal year. Olga Filippova, general manager in charge of global sales and marketing, will be acting head of Infiniti.

Top Five U.S. Lease Deals

What are the best deals nationally this week across the U.S.? Market Scan’s Payment Value Index (PVI) analyzes the relationship between MSRP* and the monthly payment to determine which lease deal delivers the best “bang for the buck.” For more information, visit* Average MSRP is the average of the MSRP of all the individual trim levels for each model, and includes all taxes, registration and average dealership fees. Based on 36-month lease, 12,000 miles per year, 720 credit score, customer cash = 5% of MSRP, Selling Price = MSRP

Source: Payment Value Index (PVI)™, a trademark of Market Scan Information Systems, Inc.

Available through captive lender

Available through non-captive lender

March 17, 2020: John Grettenberger, who helped restore Cadillac’s flagging image during his 13 years as general manager in the 1980s and 1990s, died of cancer. He was 82. Cadillac was reeling from technical and marketing missteps in the 1980s, including failed diesel engines, problems with Cadillac’s V-8-6-4 engine and a period of stodgy designs. But within three years of Grettenberger’s arrival in 1984, the brand’s image was changing. In 1990, Cadillac won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. New products and new engines were on the way, and Grettenberger began lobbying General Motors directors to approve bold plans for an ultraluxury SUV to take on Range Rover and other upscale off-road vehicles. The seed he planted grew into the Cadillac Escalade SUV that debuted in 1998.

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