Wheels: Identity Crisis | News from local businesses


Some vehicles suffer from identity confusion. Badge engineering certainly contributes to this difficulty, but other factors also come into play. Transitions from one brand to another or when a brand is absorbed under a different corporate umbrella play a role. Was an Ambassador a Rambler or an AMC or both? What is a Nissan Datsun? What makes an Acura better than a Honda?

Some brands like Datsun, which was Nissan’s original American brand, eventually adopted its parent company’s namesake as the global economy grew and economic boundaries softened. When Toyota, Nissan and Honda wanted to go upmarket, they introduced Lexus, Infinity and Acura respectively, but the American car-buying public had to be convinced to pay a premium for a more sophisticated version of a car known as the name of “cheap”. .

Other brands still did not know where they fit in the great project of their family of companies. Some models have experienced a definite identity crisis. A product that was looking for a demographic or maybe a concept that needed an audience.

Some of these were well-established brands in other parts of the world without strong support on our shores. Opel was a brand of General Motors in Europe and was the perfect small car for a new gas-conscious America in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, GM was unsure of what to do with its economy Euro range in the United States and gave it a try. to market it through Buick dealers, who could not be further from Opel’s demographic potential.

Ford faced a similar problem with their Capri, a European Ford staple brought to America to fill the void of an economy and sporty car, but they squeezed it into the Lincoln-Mercury franchise where most consumers were looking. luxo-barges rather than fun thrifty ones. cruisers.

The Capri was a proven, capable car, but it didn’t receive the hype it needed to appeal to the American consumer.

If Ford hadn’t confused Lincoln-Mercury marketing gurus enough with two generations of European Capris, then another as a rebadged American Mustang with flared fenders and a bubble glass hatch, they really took the plunge into introducing Merkur as a stand-alone brand in the United States in the 1980s.

Merkur, German for Mercury, was an attempt to take over executive-level European transport, competing with BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Building a brand’s following takes time, and perhaps the United States was not ready for a truly American German product, which would only last four years and sell only two models. Merkur was discontinued after the 1989 model year, earning it the distinction of one of the most ephemeral brands in modern American automotive history, only surpassing the Edsel brand by a year. The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history.

Exotic classics are not immune to identity confusion. You could call it a story of two Dinos. Although, in my opinion, it is largely a matter of semantics and food for forum contributors to flex their trivial automotive knowledge, the Dino is a car that doesn’t know if it’s a Ferrari. , a Fiat or just a Dino.

It was named in honor of the late son of Enzo Ferrari, who was credited with designing the lightweight aluminum V6 engine for Formula 2 competition. Homologation rules stipulated that 500 cars were to be built for the road before the engine can be used. Ferrari therefore struck a deal with Fiat that could produce this volume of cars much faster. Fiat, in turn, put the engine in the front of a sleek, light, well-balanced fastback or roadster and called the car “Dino”.

Ferrari, after successfully racing the new V6, designed a mid-engined sculpted road car designed as an entry-level sports car and named it “Dino” (nowhere on the car was there badge “Ferrari”, which was reserved for the V12 engine, top-performance cars, although many mistakenly refer to this vehicle as a “Ferrari Dino”). The V6 would later grow from two cylinders and become the Ferrari 308 V8 engine (think “Magnum, PI”).

There was fierce competition between Ford and Ferrari, but I think somewhere above Edsel and Dino are having a good time.

Eric and Michelle Meltzer own and operate Fryeburg Motors, a full-service licensed automotive sales and service facility located at 299 Main Street in Fryeburg, Maine. More than a business, cars are a passion and they appreciate everything that rolls, rolls, floats or flies.

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