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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here's a topic I haven't seen seen discussed much here: What value is auto branding stratification to the carmaker and to the customer?

By that I mean Toyota has the Lexus Brand, Nissan has Infiniti, Honda has Acura, Ford has Lincoln, General Motors has Chevy, Buick, and Cadillac, etc. And while this all started way back when with domestic brands and was probably best done as a business model by General Motors under Sloan's leadership, we've recently seen the domestic brands retreating on the concept, with Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Mercury, and Plymouth brands all biting the dust.

But Subaru has no stratification, never did, and neither does Mazda, Mitsubishi, or Suzuki, for that matter.

My take? Stratification does little to get a better product to the customer, and is pretty much a marketing game. To the contrary, Subaru not having it I think pushes some features onto the car at a forced lower price point, e.g. eyesight. And there's often a larger choice among features offered by Subaru. Toyota can always say "you need to buy a Lexus to get that feature", Subaru has no such option. And while Subaru can command some premium with the option pricing, they are not able to command the kind of premium that the "luxury" brands could - simply because it says Subaru on the badge.

Maybe I'm missing some benefit to customers that such brand distinctions produce, though. Opinions?
 

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look at the rise and fall of toyota's Scion name plate,

US/Canada market only? young = hip.

buy your XB and have it your way with LED footwell lights in your choice of colors.

____

now the name to be swallowed by big toyota,

not unlike Geo rebadged imports > swallowed by big Chevy.
 

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from what I've read, there was a time - maybe along through the 80s-90s ?, when the thinking was - well, we can make big fancy cars, but everyone thinks of Japanese cars as small, cheap rice-burners from the 70s oil embargo and before - they don't want to pay $40000 for a Toyota or Datsun ! so, clever marketing to get around 'bias' in the US. The Nissan sports car is called a Fairlady in most of the rest of the world, but it was decided that wasn't 'macho' for the US market. So the 'Z' came into the picture. That was in the 60s (Datsun 1600/2000 instead of Fairlady, then 240Z, etc.)

I for one think Subaru 'could' (maybe too late now?) have stratified - use 'Legacy' for the luxury brand (Outbacks, Tribecas, maybe BRZ ?) , keep 'Subaru' for, Impreza sedan, Crosstrek, WRX/STI, Forester, and perhaps introduce a new line from the Rex or similar, 'Fuji' , (or w'ever) sorta like the Scion line was for Toy. Put electric/hybrid/new tiny car - type stuff in that line? - just depends on pricing and where to draw the lines between product.

dunno if it would have helped or hurt them, they sell only a fraction of what Acuar/Honda, Toy and Nissan do so.....
 

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look at the rise and fall of toyota's Scion name plate,

US/Canada market only? young = hip.

buy your XB and have it your way with LED footwell lights in your choice of colors.

____

now the name to be swallowed by big toyota,

not unlike Geo rebadged imports > swallowed by big Chevy.
Bringing back the Nova name on a Toyota platform was an insult to the history of the Nova. I don't think it was a terrible car but giving it the Geo name was more appropriate for the short time it had left.

Of course that pales in comparison to GM trying to make a Cadillac out of a Chevy Cavalier with the Cimarron. No idea what they were thinking with that one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Of course that pales in comparison to GM trying to make a Cadillac out of a Chevy Cavalier with the Cimarron. No idea what they were thinking with that one.
That's one part of this whole luxury branding game, wherein the entire change involved pretty much amounts to a nameplate change - there's nothing fundamentally different between the luxury car and the base model other than the name on the trunk. I suppose that represents the pure marketing ploy at work here; they're counting on gullible buyers thinking there's better design, build quality, etc. present because of the history of the upscale name used, whereas in actuality all you really have is a Chevy Cavalier. That works until you've diluted the name so badly that buyers catch on to the scam.

And Toyota is guilty of this as well - when they discovered the Prius had a celebrity following in the early 2000's, they quickly turned out a Lexus version that was nothing more than a Prius with the cheap plastic interior redone to a better material quality and finish level. Don't recall what they called it, but essentially what you got was still a Prius.
 

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My perception is that the US automakers presented brand stratification early on with the suggestion that someone might for example start out with a Chevrolet, then later get a Buick or Pontiac, and eventually graduate into a Cadillac.

Meanwhile it looks like the Japanese automakers saw the car model as the brand, and changed the model over time to match what their buyers were looking for next. Thus, someone could go back and buy the same model over and over again, and each successive iteration would represent an age-appropriate upgrade over the previous one.

...and then they bolted on the luxury labels to stake out the very high end and use the best of both strategies.

I think your original assessment is correct- there isn't any real benefit to the consumer and it's just a marketing game.

And if there was a real benefit, it likely got cancelled out by parts interchangeability. Lots of 90s Acuras and Lexuses got stolen and stripped because the seats (for example) directly fit a Civic, Accord or Camry somewhere.
 

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Bringing back the Nova name on a Toyota platform was an insult to the history of the Nova. I don't think it was a terrible car but giving it the Geo name was more appropriate for the short time it had left.

Of course that pales in comparison to GM trying to make a Cadillac out of a Chevy Cavalier with the Cimarron. No idea what they were thinking with that one.
well corolla / prism / novas were made in the San Diego area "nova" plant. (in the 80s and 90s).
edit: and maybe corollas still are?

______

and the Cimarron idea, remember this is coming out of the same cadillac making the worst front drive GM anythings in 1990,

across the board except the old school RWD Fleetwood / Brougham.

I moved a Cimarron once when it was newish around 1995. and remember it was the nicest turd caviler.
(it was senior citizen owned, about 4 years old, in mint low miles shape,...but yeah a pokey turd caviler with some sound proofing, a bose stereo, and gold crap stuck on it,....and EXPENSIVE for what it was, which was the only goal).
 

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My take? Stratification does little to get a better product to the customer, and is pretty much a marketing game.
Maybe I'm missing some benefit to customers that such brand distinctions produce, though. Opinions?
Realistically, I think the only benefit is to the car company.

To the customer, it's all about status. So they're paying for the name. An Infiniti QX80 is basically a Nissan Armada, for example.

Where that helps us as Subaru is that it makes our customers good stewards of their money. I can tell someone that under the Toyota or Honda name badge, they don't have something that compares to our limited Outback, you have to move up to Lexus or Acura to get that, and spend close to $10,000 more. Sure, you might get cooled seats for that $10,000, but is that worth it?

Which is why we're seeing what's called a defection in the business - people who've never bought Subaru before are moving to our brand. And then once they drink the Kool-Aid, they tend to stick with us ... forever ... >:)
 

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Realistically, I think the only benefit is to the car company.

To the customer, it's all about status. So they're paying for the name. An Infiniti QX80 is basically a Nissan Armada, for example.

Where that helps us as Subaru is that it makes our customers good stewards of their money. I can tell someone that under the Toyota or Honda name badge, they don't have something that compares to our limited Outback, you have to move up to Lexus or Acura to get that, and spend close to $10,000 more. Sure, you might get cooled seats for that $10,000, but is that worth it?

Which is why we're seeing what's called a defection in the business - people who've never bought Subaru before are moving to our brand. And then once they drink the Kool-Aid, they tend to stick with us ... forever ... >:)
I'm one of those that moved to Subaru, never having previously owned one. Bought based on my wife and SIL raving about Subaru. And you are correct, they offer a pretty good value.

But I'm not a convert. Mine will be gone in the next several months. Just too pedestrian a vehicle. I prefer something a little more upscale.

My wife and SIL on the other hand will most likely be long term Subaru customers.

As Meatloaf sang.....don't be sad, 'cause 2 out of 3 ain't bad....
 

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I'm one of those that moved to Subaru, never having previously owned one. Bought based on my wife and SIL raving about Subaru. And you are correct, they offer a pretty good value.

But I'm not a convert. Mine will be gone in the next several months. Just too pedestrian a vehicle. I prefer something a little more upscale.

My wife and SIL on the other hand will most likely be long term Subaru customers.

As Meatloaf sang.....don't be sad, 'cause 2 out of 3 ain't bad....
Great, now every time I get into my Outback I am going to be singing to it:

I want you
I need you
But there ain't no way
I'm ever gonna love you
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The Nissan sports car is called a Fairlady in most of the rest of the world, but it was decided that wasn't 'macho' for the US market. So the 'Z' came into the picture. That was in the 60s .....
Actually there's a very interesting story back of this; this wasn't some corporate marketing think tank deciding this; it was an impulse decision by this guy last minute, who ripped the "Fairlady" emblem off the first Z car that arrived with his bare hands:

https://www.caranddriver.com/news/yutaka-katayama-father-of-the-datsun-z-dead-at-105

He also was the guy who assured one year earlier that the 510 sedan was equipped with IRS, which is why that little econo-sedan could be suspension-tuned to perform so well on the track.

RIP, Mr. K. You will be well remembered for your contributions here in America.
 

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Actually there's a very interesting story back of this; this wasn't some corporate marketing think tank deciding this; it was an impulse decision by this guy last minute, who ripped the "Fairlady" emblem off the first Z car that arrived with his bare hands:

https://www.caranddriver.com/news/yutaka-katayama-father-of-the-datsun-z-dead-at-105

He also was the guy who assured one year earlier that the 510 sedan was equipped with IRS, which is why that little econo-sedan could be suspension-tuned to perform so well on the track.

RIP, Mr. K. You will be well remembered for your contributions here in America.
The Z would have most likely been a dismal failure if Datsun insisted on calling it the Fairlady in the US.
 
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