San Francisco Auto Show marketing highlights

Yesterday I attended the San Francisco auto show to geek out over the latest cars. A few companies stood out in their marketing efforts to connect their brands with passive customers.

  1. Chrysler had special photo zones around popular cars such as the Dodge Viper, a Chrysler 300 Dubs Edition with gull-wing doors, and the Chrysler Phaeton concept car. The company setup special floor mats as photo zones and attendees lined up to have their picture taken. Chrysler representatives handed special cards to everyone they photographed with a URL and access code to retrieve their digital photograph the next day.
  2. Subaru highlighted their Impreza WRX with a special immersive gaming experience playing Gran Turismo 3. Children got into a special pod with a motion simulator and 3 LCD displays. They raced around a virtual track in a WRX, stepped down from the ride, and jumped into a real WRX STI next to the game pod. Mom and Dad followed behind, learning about the car.
  3. Volkswagen brought Stanley, winner of the $2 million DARPA Grand Challenge autonomous robot race covering 132 miles in 6 hours and 54 minutes. Stanley was created by Stanford students based on a VW Touareg R5 with contributions from VW’s electronics research lab. Kids love robots, and they were being lifted high by their parents to check out the range finders and cameras on the front of the vehicle. Showing off Stanley increased the technology cool for Bay Area geeks.

It was interesting to listen to what the average shopper was looking for on the floor of the auto show.

  • Comfort of the back seat in a sporty car.
  • Fuel economy.
  • Center console configuration. Navigation systems should be featured on any display model to drive interest.

Honda’s line of hybrids seems to be popular among shoppers wanting a hybrid that feels like a car. If customers can think of a hybrid as a $3000 option on any model and not just a special buy the technology will really take off.

XM Satellite Radio was highlighted at multiple booths as a factory installed option but I did not see any promotion of Sirius. XM was cleverly marketed as a dealer-installed option providing both audio content as well as data such as real-time traffic data updated every 3 minutes.

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