Hands on with the Subaru Impreza WRX STI

I’ve been very curious to drive the Subaru WRX STI since I heard they were releasing the 4 door STI again, not just in the wagon.  You rarely hear someone talk about the STI without mentioning it’s competitor the EVO (and vice versa) but most people I know seem to favor the STI.  All in all, they are very comparable vehicles.  I would have to check specs, but I felt like the STI was longer than the EVO and the salesman confirmed the STI sedan was longer than it’s wagon counterpart.

The STI has some nice lines, but truth be told, I think the last few years’ models have been very boring in comparison to previous years.  When they first changed to the new body style I often found myself trying to figure out if I was looking at a Subaru, a Mazda or something else.  The WRX just wasn’t as distinctive to me any longer.  This is a common complaint I hear from a wide variety of people though… that car design has become to homogenous with everyone trying to copy everyone else until everything looks the same.

But I digress.

The STI unlike the EVO MR comes with a standard transmission, not a dual clutch (aka dual transmission) system. Since so many manufacturers are only producing automatic and dual clutch transmissions, I found this both surprising and slightly refreshing.  There’s just something about a standard transmission… especially one with six gears and a short shifter.

The interior was nice.  The model I test drove was one of the limited editions with heated leather seats and a moon roof.  Subaru has moved the radio higher on the dash, putting it above the heater vents instead of at the bottom above the heat controls and auxiliary jack.  Not only is this a better use of space, it’s also less cumbersome to access.  Although oversized, the radio isn’t integrated any more so than most cars making it easy to upgrade to an aftermarket system if so desired.  Another nice change Subaru has made is they have moved the auxiliary and USB jacks into the jockey box.  This makes them much easier to use because you no longer have to worry about cords getting tangled around the gear shift nor having your MP3 player go flying because there isn’t a good place for you to put it and keep it connected to the ports.

The differential adjustments are near the gear shift with a knob allowing you to select between automatic, sport, super sport and manual. The adjustments were difficult to see on the dash as they seemed to try and use the least amount of space to highlight it.  But it’s cool that while in manual you can completely adjust the weight displacement essentially turning the STI into a rear wheel drive car.

There’s also something to be said for the EVO’s road specifications “snow, tarmac, gravel” vs the STI’s sport, super sport etc.  The STI’s dash feels very classic with the three standard gauges compared to the EVO’s very computerized display.  The tachometer is extremely prominent though which I found as rather odd.  Usually the speedometer is the biggest gauge or they are the same size.  I could see it being much easier to speed and not realize it because your gaze naturally falls on the tachometer instead of the speedometer.

The front seats were comfortable, but I felt like they didn’t hug you anything like the EVO’s Recaro seats.  In fact, they felt very similar to the seats I currently have in my Explorer sport.  They pretty much felt like most high end bucket seats, not sport bucket seats.

Back seats were roomy and the STI has a huge trunk.  One benefit the STI has over the EVO is the back seats fold down in a 60/40 split providing extra room.  The EVO’s trunk is definitely smaller and the seats don’t fold down.

But with 305 hp 2.5 liter DOHC turbocharged engine, what you really want to know is how did it drive……

It was nice.  I liked the way it shifted.  With a lot of cars, it seems like 1st gear is either wound too high so you’re redlining while barely pressing on the gas pedal or it’s so low that you’re stomping on the gas pedal and barely moving.  The gears were smooth as were the gear changes.  I felt like 2nd gear was a bit stickier and therefore problematic than 1st gear, but not too bad.  I definitely like the way the STI shifted much better than when I test drove the EVO GSR.  The GSR felt like it was geared oddly or something.  I really couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t like the way it felt, especially as I liked the MR so much.

The STI had a tighter turning radius than the EVO.  Just making a right hand turn in the EVO required me to have both lanes clear because I couldn’t turn tight enough and a u-turn would require more than one movement.  The STI on the other hand had no such issues.  I was able to turn right and stay in just the one lane as well as flip a u in one movement.

Cornering was nice and smooth, acceleration as well.  It’s always nice to be in a responsive car and the STI didn’t disappoint but…… There’s just something lacking.  I really can’t seem to place my finger on it.  The car was nice and I would be content owning one, but that’s just it.  I’d be content.  It didn’t give me permagrin, nor did I find myself dwelling on it.  Maybe it was just the mood I was in that day.  Either way, it was a nice car and it’s still on the list which may make for a very difficult decision down the road.

Hands on with the Nissan Juke

The Nissan Juke is one of those cars that really polarizes people.  Either you like its unusual look…. or you don’t.  Either way, the car is distinctive in its style.  It was much taller than I expected it to be.  From the photos I had seen online, I wasn’t sure if it was intending on competing against the Kia Soul, the Ford Edge or the VW Rabbit.  Standing next to it I felt like it was on par with some of the smaller SUVs such as the RAV-4.

The seats were comfortable, a molded bucket seat, but I felt like I was sitting really high.  The interior was clean without a lot of clutter.  However, I could not wrap my head around what the designers were possibly thinking with the dash instrumentation.  Every time I looked down at my gauges, I felt like I was looking at Wall-E.  The instrumentation is two large gauges, but instead of being set back into the dash, there’s this slight cover that sticks out that looked like a separate piece, but wasn’t.  Thankfully the steering wheel was adjustable, otherwise because of the Wall-E eyes, I wouldn’t have been able to see my instrumentation while driving.

Since the seats were already down in the back, I didn’t bother to put them up and see how comfortable the back seats are to sit in, but it is nice that the back seats fold flat.  Although, because of back pillar curves, when the back seats are up, I felt like there would be virtually no storage space.  You’d have to put the back seats down just to go grocery shopping!

The Juke is available in a 2 wheel drive version with a standard or automatic transmission, or an all wheel drive with a dual clutch system.  Since I can’t imagine having a 2 wheel drive vehicle in Colorado, I test drove the all wheel drive.   Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover if that meant the 2 wheel drive Juke was a 2×4 or a front wheel drive. (My salesperson didn’t know and I had nothing but issues with the Nissan site).

1st gear was extremely sluggish and I felt like it red lined easily without me pushing it very hard so I was already up to 4th gear despite me only going 45.  The turbo whine was really obnoxious and was definitely a contributing factor in quick gear changes despite a lower RPM.  The Juke had a nice turning radius and would easily pull a U-turn which is definitely a plus.  Especially as I see this really only being a car for someone who just wants to drive around town.  One of the other salesman promised me the Juke would put a huge smile on my face…. he was wrong.  It’s a cute little car and well loaded for the price, but I wasn’t very impressed with it.

Update 1-12-2011

After reading this review on Car Throttle and reviewing some of the Juke specs, I have begun to wonder if the salesperson had put the car into the economical mode.  Unfortunately, I really don’t feel like my salesperson knew much about the Juke which definitely didn’t help my test drive.  I might take a second look when I test drive the Xterra but I don’t know if changing modes will help the turbo whine or not.  I don’t know that I can drive an automobile that sounds like an RC Car when it’s revved up.

Hands on with the Outlander GT

Since the Outlander Sport wasn’t powerful enough for me, Aaron, the manager at Quality Mitsubishi though the Outlander GT with its 3.0 V-6 might be a better fit. 

It’s a slightly bigger vehicle and slightly more powerful.  It comes standard with a third row of seats, although I can’t say I would want to sit in them for a long road trip.  For hauling, the third row seats fold flat, however, the back row doesn’t.  This is an issue I currently fight with in my Explorer and have seen in many other vehicles as well.  It definitely limits what you can carry in the back which can be frustrating.

Overall, the interior felt virtually identical to the Outlander Sport.  The dashboard still feels enormous and the stereo is too integrated into the dash for each after market integration.  The seats felt like higher quality than in the sport, but still very boxy and not as nice as what I currently have.  Although the model we took out didn’t have one, a power panaromic sunroof is available.

Driving the Outlander GT was indeed more my speed than the Outlander Sport.  It still had a nice tight turning radius which is helpful when parking but it was still slower than I would like from 0-40 mph.  Especially compared to my Explorer Sport,  but was pretty peppy between the 40-70 mph range.  Passing wasn’t an issue… at least the cars I chose to pass while on the highway.  But, as I said, it was still slower than what I currently drive and not quite as comfortable.

I think if you drive mostly in the city or the suburbs, the Outlander Sport is probably enough of a vehicle and will get you better gas mileage.  However, if you travel on the highway at all, I think I would recommend the GT as the better model.  Regardless though, the Outlanders just aren’t the vehicle for me.

Hands on with the Outlander Sport

A few weeks ago I received an intriguing email regarding the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.  Mitsubishi had rigged up a vehicle to be driven remotely and would be opening it up soon for test drives.  On the one hand I thought this was completely daffy because honestly, how much can you really tell about a car if you’re not really behind the wheel driving it?  On the other hand though, I thought it was a fun bit of marketing that was sure to get at least a few people talking.

Finally I got the notification that the Outlander Sport was available on the internet to be test driven.  Once you clicked through and secured your place in line you were given the opportunity to practice, watch other drivers or find out more about the Outlander.  The Outlander specific site is extremely robust and worth spending a few minutes on to explore.

The practice was smooth and I felt like I got a good handle on how to control it.  The actual “test drive” on the other hand was another story.  There was a lag between you directing the car and it actually doing what you wanted which became very frustrating… and then before I knew it my turn was over.  Needless to say, I barely collected any of the “badges” to compete for the prize they will be giving away.

This was definitely one case where the concept was much better than the actuality.  But, the virtual test drive worked in that  I was curious to see how the actual vehicle drove.

The Outlander Sport is a smaller cross-over vehicle intended on competing with many of the smaller SUV’s on the market.  It’s designed to be very fuel efficient which in the current market is definitely a selling point.

Ground clearance is definitely low, especially compared to my current ride, however, with laws being what they are now, that’s something I’m just going to have to deal with I guess.  The lines are nice.  It’s similar to other vehicles in its class, but I think it’s still somewhat distinctive.  The Outlander Sport is slightly smaller than the other Outlander models so you lose the third row of seats, but not much else.

The hatch area is a little on the small side compared to what I’m used to.  The seats don’t fold flat, but I think it’s rare to find a vehicle where they do.  They do have a pass through in the left back seat though which could be quite useful.

Sitting in the vehicle, I wasn’t very comfortable.  The dashboard is HUGE. I swear it was so big you could lay on it comfortably.  Ok, well, maybe not quite that big, but that’s how it felt to me.  The seats felt cheap and stiff.  I can’t imagine doing a long road trip sitting in them.  Hopefully they get more comfortable with use.  The model I took out had a dual transmission which means it had the paddle shifters.

The Outlander Sport was quiet and had a nice tight turning radius – Definitely good when you need to flip a u-turn or even turn into a parking spot.  The ride was very smooth and car-like.  I quickly discovered however why the Outlander Sport is so eco-friendly…. It was S  L  O  W.  I would be scared to get on the highway in something that accelerated that slowly and I dread getting stuck on the on ramp behind one.

I can see the Outlander Sport being good for city travel, but definitely not the car for me.

5 Ways to Kill a Sales Lead with CRM Software

Fuel gauge

Image via Wikipedia

I know many of my posts lately have been focused on the automotive industry, but personally I feel you can learn a lot from other industries that can be applied to your own.  As my last actual car buying experience (not including curiosity excursions onto car lots and test drives) was 11 years ago I am definitely finding the experience very interesting.

One thing that seems to be a constant factor though is an over reliance on CRM Software (Customer Relationship Management) which because of one dealership in particular has inspired this post.

1.       Automate every exchange

You’ve just been given a sales lead, now what?

Apparently the thing to do these days is to add it to your CRM software and let it do all the work.  After all, you’ve spent all that time drafting emails and set them to send at specified points in the sales cycle, what else do you need to do?

Yes, we live in a technology heavy world, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t personalize your content.  Yes, it’s more time consuming and it won’t result in a sale every time, but in a sea of automation, guess who stands out?

To me, since my initial interest was sent through a website, an initial automated reply letting me know who you are and that my contact information was received is fine.  However, you should take the time to send a personal email as a follow up.  It doesn’t have to be long.

One of the internet managers I’ve dealt with sent a note that specifically mentioned comments I made on the contact form as well as tried to sell the product.  This is a stark comparison to my inspiration. He took three emails before he introduced himself.  Although, I wasn’t surprised as this was just one in a long line of uninspired auto-populated emails.

2.       Inundate the customer with emails (and phone calls)

This definitely seems to be prevalent in the automotive industry.  Rather than wait for you to respond, I’m going to keep contacting you until I make a sale.  The thinking behind this seems to be that if they don’t pester you, they’re no longer on your radar and so have lost the sale.  The problem though is it’s very easy to cross the line and be seen as spam.  You might be surprised at how many customers won’t respond at all but will simply click the button in their email marking your emails as spam.  Get enough spam complaints and you’ll get blacklisted.  In some cases, it might not be just your email that gets blacklisted, but your whole company’s, especially if you have several salesman taking this approach.

So far since August 11, I have received 16 emails from my inspiration salesman.  At least 14 of them were before the car was available.  7 of them were within the first week including two in one day.  I’m just very thankful that despite his emails claiming otherwise, I did not provide a phone number.

3.       Provide plenty of evidence that the email is a form letter

I am contacting you in reference to the 2011 Nissan Juke that you inquired about online at NissanUSA on 8/11/2010.

We have several new arrivals in stock here at that fit the description of the car you were considering. Several of these may be a different color and/or have additional features compared to the one you requested information about. However, one of these vehicles may surprise you and be just what you are looking for!

I would love to talk to you and see if one of these new cars might meet your needs. Please reply to this email or call me at , be sure to ask the operator for (name removed).

This is just a portion of one of the emails I was sent.  I am quite impressed that despite all odds, they were somehow the only dealership in the United States to score several Jukes a full month before they were shipped to dealerships.  And no, I didn’t remove the information after call me at.  Glaring automation errors that left nonsensical blanks was pretty much the standard in his emails.

4.       Cite your desire to provide personalized service while using nothing but gap ridden form letters

My name is (name removed) and I am the dedicated Internet Sales Manager assigned to you.  My job is to give you the personalized attention that makes the buying process here at so unique. I would like to speak with you regarding the Juke in which you expressed an interest.

This is from the 8th email I received from him.  Needless to say, his 7 prior emails (nor any of his subsequent emails) did anything to convince me of his genuineness.

I’m all about personalized service, but actions speak louder than words and if all your contact is via impersonal auto-populated emails, I’m not going to find it very believable.

5.       Try to force a sale before the product is even available

If your product isn’t yet available for purchase, realize that while some customers will want to know every little detail about it, others won’t be interested until they can physically see and touch it.  Yes, quite a few people are willing to buy a brand new car model sight unseen, but that’s the minority.  Don’t drive off your sales lead trying to sell them a product that isn’t available yet.

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Hands On with the EVO

Rally Red Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Although I didn’t get to really put the Mitsubishi  EVO through its paces as there was a lot of traffic, my initial impression was favorable overall.

Going in, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I’ve heard mostly negative about the EVO.  In fact, almost everyone I know says that the Subaru STI is a better value and a better car overall.

One of the biggest things I hear complaints about are the EVO seats and how uncomfortable they are.  I sat in the base model EVO which is the GSR.  This was eye opening after sitting in the MR.  The cloth Recaro seats weren’t nearly as comfortable.  The back was wider so I felt like I wasn’t hugged as well and the seat actually was too snug.  I’m 5’5″ and about average build and weight, so definitely didn’t expect to feel like I was too big.

I found the Recaro seats in the MR to be very comfortable.  It was a snug fit which makes me wonder how it would feel with a winter coat on, but otherwise, I loved them!  I’ll be curious to at least sit in the MR Touring model as it has full leather seats versus the mixed material of leather and suede the MR does.

I like the way the car felt while behind the wheel.  The spoiler wasn’t too obtrusive, the gauges were easy to read, and the dashboard didn’t feel overly large.  I felt like the view through the windshield was comfortable.

The EVO MR we took out didn’t have the fancy GPS system which I’m not sure I would want anyway, but I really didn’t like the way the stock stereo is integrated into the dash.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of it, so I’ll have to use this stock picture and explain that what this photo doesn’t show you is there are air vents on either side of it and the radio is fully integrated into the dashboard.  I haven’t looked yet to see if there are after market options  to fix this issue.  Initial impression though is swapping out the stereo will be overly difficult.

The stereo is a Rockford Fosgate and I’ll admit that it sounded much better than most Japanese cars I’ve been in, however, in my experience, while there is certainly a difference in quality between stock stereos, they’re still not the same quality as an after market.  It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s definitely a concern at this point.

Even though I wasn’t pushing the car very hard, I could feel the difference with the Brembo brakes compared to what I’m used to.  I barely had to push on the brake pedal to slow/stop extremely quickly.

Going in, I was unsure about the dual clutch system.  The standard transmission is only available in the GSR.  The MR and MR Touring both have the dual clutch (or dual system if you prefer).  This was kind of fun once I got to play with it.  You have paddle shifters on the steering wheel with the left to down shift and the right to shift up.  You also have the option to drive with it in automatic or push the gear shifter to the side and select gears that way.

While it’s definitely not the same as driving a standard transmission, I can’t deny it.  It was fun.  I think with everything being equal if I had the option of either the dual clutch or a standard transmission, I would probably choose the old fashioned standard.  However, I think I would be happy with the dual clutch system in the long run.

The acceleration was nice although, getting used to a turbo would definitely be odd.  I think a turbo gauge will be a must have.  From what I could tell, the cornering was nice.  It definitely hugged the corners much better than my Explorer Sport (surprise, surprise).  What little I was able to drive it definitely brought a smile to face.

My final thought on the Mitsubishi EVO MR:

It was fun to drive and I could see me owning one, but I wasn’t so taken in by it that I wanted to sit down and start talking numbers.  I got enough of a taste that it’s definitely still on my list, but I think I would want to spend more than a few miles behind the wheel (maybe take it up Floyd Hill) before I’m completely sold on it.

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Quality Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Group's logo. Or MITSUBISHI PENCIL'...

Image via Wikipedia

I have to say, overall, my feelings towards Quality Mitsubishi are mixed.

My initial email from their internet manager, Howard Nelms was short, to the point, and NOT a form letter.  You’ll find that obvious form letters are a bit of a pet peeve for me.  He responded specifically to something I mentioned in the comments as well as some of the current incentives being offered on the EVO and like a good sales guy, asked when today I could come in and look at it.

I exchanged a couple of emails with Howard letting him know I was specifically interested in test driving the EVO to see how it handled.  He asked again when I could come in, I gave him an approximate day and time to which he gave me  a simple “Great, I will see you then.”

However, in the meantime I also received two phone calls in the same day from one gentleman and a third the next day from another as well as an email from someone else other than Howard.  Really?  Hey Quality, are you guys communicating with one another over there at all?

This week, I also received in addition to my direct responses from Howard, some apparently automated responses that felt even more out of context considering I had started a dialogue with Howard and even told him when I would be coming in.  Here’s the email I received yesterday afternoon after I had been at the dealership at the day and time I said I would only to find that Howard doesn’t work Saturdays.  Hmm, not off to the best start.

Dear Melissa,

Thank you for reaching out.

My name is Howard, and I’m your Internet Sales Manager here at Quality Mitsubishi Inc..

I wanted to let you know that your request has been received, and I’m working on finding you the perfect Mitsubishi.

To help me serve you better, would you please answer a few questions for me?

1) Would you like to talk via e-mail, the phone, or in person?

2) Have you test driven your Mitsubishi yet?

3) Are you interested in more than one Mitsubishi?

By answering these questions, I’ll know the best way to provide you with what you want: a hassle-free purchase or lease experience with one-price shopping. And, if we don’t have the exact Mitsubishi that you’re looking for, we’ll do our best to find it for you.

You can reach me by email at (email removed)  or by phone.

I look forward to working with you.

Thankfully for Quality Mitsubishi, Chris Clifton came in to save the potential sale.

I have to say, the customer parking isn’t very clearly indicated in my opinion and so I missed my turn the first time around as I wasn’t sure where their drive was (they were between dealerships) and where as a customer I should park.  A frustrated customer is never a good way to start.  You don’t want a customer deciding to not bother with you because they can’t find your entrance, or worse, pulling into the wrong dealership and potentially seeing something they want.

Chris greeted me in a timely manner and asked if I was there to see anyone specifically.  I told him I was and gave him Howard’s name to which he replied that Howard doesn’t work Saturdays.  This wouldn’t have been an issue if when I told Howard I would be by the dealership Saturday afternoon he didn’t tell me that he would see me then.  I told Chris the big reason I was there: to scope out, get more info on and most importantly, test drive the EVO.  As I expected, Chris said they don’t let the EVOs go out without a signed deal.  I told him, that was definitely an issue as that was the only reason I came in and I specifically told Howard I wanted to test drive and wasn’t given any indication it would be an issue.

Chris said he would ask his manager what they could do for me, but in the mean time, would I be interested in checking out an EVO.

I won’t deny it, especially when car buying, I can be a difficult customer.  I know a lot about cars and especially one I’m considering.  I will ask questions that I know the answer to just to see how the sales person will answer as well as questions that I don’t know the answer to.  Chris was awesome.  He was able to answer almost all of my questions and those he wasn’t able to answer, he found an answer to.  This was a welcome change as I have had salesmen in the past try and make something up, patronize me or try to BS me.  If you don’t know something, say you don’t and find the answer.  Not a hard concept.

As I was saying, Chris was awesome.  He was very knowledgeable not only about the EVO but the Mitsubishi line and was able to answer some of my most random questions about the EVO and how it compared within the trims and to the other Mitsubishi cars.  Like a good salesman, early in our conversation he asked what other cars I was considering and was fairly knowledgeable about many of them as well and could point out aspects of the EVO that were different (and of course better).

While it’s great to look at cars, what you really want to do is see what they’re like behind the wheel (and I don’t just mean sitting in one).  This of course looked like it was going to be an issue, but as I told Chris, I had no problem taking out a used model, but it was very important for me to see how the car could drive so I could determine if it was staying on my potential car list…. or getting crossed off.

Luckily for me, Quality Mitsubishi was able to work something out for me and I got to take a car out.  However, that is another post.

Chris did a great job explaining all the features of the car.  I also spoke with his manager, Aaron Moore after my test drive.  I was very open with both Chris and Aaron about what other cars I was considering and that I had no definite time line in mind for purchasing.  Especially as some of the cars I’m considering haven’t come to market yet.  I never felt pressured or patronized and if I decide to buy a Mitsubishi, I will certainly buy from Chris Clifton.

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Getting Familiar with Subaru

Subaru Impreza WRX STI

I can honestly say the Subaru Impreza WRX STI almost didn’t make it on my list, but as they’re bringing back the sedan in the STI for 2011, I was willing to consider it.  My husband has a WRX and absolutely loves it.  I enjoy driving it on occasion, (mostly because of the standard transmission), but I can’t see me owning one.  At least, one of the little hatchbacks.  I was rather surprised at how much he enjoys it as his previous car was a Roush Stage 1 Ford Mustang.  From his experience with the WRX, and others with Subaru, I know pretty well that they do well in the snow.  Ok, so  the STI is on my list, but how’s Subaru’s website in comparison to some of their competitors?

The Subaru home page isn’t too bad.  It’s relatively clean and easy to navigate.  I like how the models are visible regardless of the what is shown on the slider.  I’m not fond of the photos they picked for the slider however.  This one for example feels extremely washed out with the grey sky and the greyish tarmac and the greyish blue sedan and white hatchback.  When you hover over the photos, a slightly larger version with three options pops up.  A couple of times the hover option got stuck so it remained up blocking what I was trying to view on the lander.  Their lander doesn’t have a pause button or directional arrows, so if you want to take a closer look at something on the slider, you’ll have to wait for it to come back by.

I can’t help but appreciate the 2010 Impreza WRX STI Special Edition description of  “Limited edition STI with a Nurburgring-tuned JDM STI spec C suspension for track-taming ability.”  Granted, your average car buyer won’t appreciate the Nurburgring reference, but any enthusiast would love the opportunity to take a car on the Nurburgring track.  (Can I have an EVO MR and a WRX STI to test on the Nurburgring track?  Pleeeeeese?)

Clicking on the WRX model pulls up another page with a large photo of the WRX hatchback and links to “Photos and Videos” and Key features.  If you realize there’s more on the page (this picture filled my screen in a way that I could see some customer not realizing there’s more below it) and scroll down, there’s a very basic overview of the WRX models showing price differences and some of the key feature differences.  Most of the models are available in the 4 door or 5 door models, however, when you click on the options, not all of them pull up the correct photo.  When you click on the 5 door WRX option, it still shows the sedan instead of the hatchback.  Subaru’s primary goal seems to be to get you to request a quote as it’s highlighted within a blue arrow.  However, there are options below it to Build Your Own, Estimate Payments, and see Special Offers.

I’m interested in the WRX STI so I click on the Limited Edition Build Your Own link and after inputting my zip code I’m on the first option page.  On the right hand it lists the correct vehicle, however, the photo is not the correct vehicle.  It shows the hatchback which while available in an STI is not available in the Limited Edition.  As a consumer, I even clicked back to the previous page to make sure I didn’t miss something.  Nope, STI Limited is only available in the sedan.

One thing I liked about the Mitsubishi site is it showed how many steps you had left and you selected your options then clicked next.  On the Subaru site, you select your option then click on the next box down to go through your options and either print it, or request a quote.  Again, their goal seems to be to have you request a quote as that’s most obvious.  Selecting you accessory options is rather unwieldy.  It’s a long scroll bar with check boxes similar to the Mitsubishi site, however, unlike the Mitsubishi site, the Subaru site automatically pops up hover windows for each option with pictures, descriptions and prices.  Package options aren’t clearly marked here either.  Personally I found the hovering of each option as I tried to scroll through to be a distraction and chose to not select anything.

I click Request a Quote to signal I’m done and am met with something I don’t really understand either as a marketer or a consumer.

To request a quote, I need to re-input the year, make and model information.  I’m assuming they’ve decided to do this in case you were last building a model that you decided against, however, I would think most people would go back to what they did want and build it with the options they wanted before requesting a quote on that car.  Maybe that’s just me?

Either way, it appears that none of the information I just took the time to input carries through to the next step so whatever dealership gets my information (at least I get to choose) really knows nothing more about what I’m looking for than it’s a 2011 WRX.  As there are such large differences between the models and even just the fact of whether or not you want a sedan or a hatchback, I really don’t understand why they would waste so many people’s time.  I’ve wasted my time building my own car to both get an idea of what I want as well as to give the dealership an idea of what I want as well as the dealership’s  time.  All they know is they have a warm lead.  At least I was able to choose what dealership my information was sent to.

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Getting Familiar with Mitsubishi

Rally Red Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

The first step in my search was to start visiting car manufacturer websites.  I decided to focus my attention first on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (EVO) as it’s one of the few cars on my list that is currently available.

My initial impression of the Mitsubishi website (once I found the correct URL) is favorable, although I will admit I had to resort to a search engine to find it. It’s mitsubishicars.com if you’re interested.

It’s simple, well laid-out and intuitive.

Mitsubishi Landing Page

It’s easy to find the information you want from many different avenues and in a variety of formats.  There’s plenty of photos and videos for those who want more visual stimuli, there’s plenty of specs for those who want the facts.  They also make it easy to compare the various models within each make.

Now the important part.  How functional is the build your own model aspect of the website.

I’ve narrowed it down to the EVO model and click that I want to build my own.  It next asks me what trim level I want.  I have four options: the GSR, SE, MR, MR Touring.  The photo, price and description changes as I click on each option.  This is very good as your customer may not quite remember which trim package they were liking the best and this provides a reminder without taking up a lot of valuable real estate.

After selecting the model, you are asked to select the color.  It’s a small thing, but the color changes on the photo as I click each option.

As a consumer, this is something I really want.  Yes, some people know exactly what color car they want because it’s their favorite color, others pick a color they think looks best on the car, and others will pick when they’re at the dealership.  Regardless of how they pick a car color, it’s important for the consumer to see their option.  If you have the default as yellow and I want a black car but am forced to see the yellow car every time I make a choice, I may abandon the process before I finish.  Yes, believe it or not, many consumers are that finicky. Not only that, but if I’m building “My Car” than it should reflect the options I’ve selected.

I am next taken to the Packages and Accessories page.  This is an area that could be slightly more user friendly.  You click next to any options you want and it selects them.  The name and price are listed as well as a spot you can click to pull up a description and/or picture.  However, most car companies offer many of these options either separately or as a package, yet no package deals are listed.  Not all of the options have photos, and some are only photos without a description.  The price keeps a running total as options are added and subtracted.

Finally, you’re given a run down of everything you’ve selected and given the option of printing it, or requesting a quote.  Upon inputting your zip code, you are able to select a dealership.  As a consumer, I very much like the option of being able to select which dealership my information is sent to rather than it automatically being sent to my “closest” one because maybe I’ve had experience with a particular dealership in the past and may or may not want to do business with them again.  Or perhaps, I would want a dealership close to work instead of home or for some other reason.  Either way, consumers  like choices.

As part of the information request process, Mitsubishi requests (although they don’t require) your current vehicle make and model.  No big deal right?  I select my year and then my make.  But when I get to the model selection, I run into a hitch.  Apparently the Mitsubishi marketing department only thinks those Ford drivers interested in the EVO drive cars.  There isn’t a single option for any of the Ford SUVs or trucks.  The only options that aren’t currently visible are the Thunderbird and Crown Victoria (which interestingly enough isn’t in alphabetical order like the rest of the options).

Some may say so what?  But this is actually rather important.  All marketing departments should be aware of and abide by the GIGO principal.  (Garbage In, Garbage Out).  If you’re taking the time to request the information, you want it to be correct and useful.  By not offering all options, you’re forcing your customer to either select a different vehicle, or not provide you the information at all.  If the information you’re requesting  is so unimportant that you don’t care if your customer doesn’t answer it, or provides you with incorrect information, than why are you asking it?  You’re wasting your consumer’s time and yours, not to mention you’re  getting inaccurate information which is basically useless.

Now comes the fun part.  It has been my experience that many dealerships try to automate as much of the next step via email and drive you nuts with phone calls.  I will be curious to see how Quality Mitsubishi (my chosen dealership) handles me.

Let the Car Search Begin

I’ve mentioned it quite a bit on Twitter recently, but I’m slowly starting to look for my next car.  I’m a bit of a gear head, so this isn’t a process I take lightly.  Whereas some people go through cars every few years, I tend to stay with one car for a very long time so I put a lot of effort into my search to make sure I really get a car I’m going to love driving for several years.

I’m actually in a great position to start my research as I don’t need a new car.  There’s not much worse than shopping for a new car when you current one is on its last legs.  I’ve been keeping my eyes open though for awhile to see if anything might catch my fancy and this year there are a few cars that have.  As I’ve started going through the process, I thought it might be interesting to share the experience from both my consumer perspective as well as my marketing perspective.

My intention is to share my experience completely from the manufacturer websites to the dealerships to my experience with the cars themselves.  To that end, here is a little bit of background.

My current ride:

I currently drive a ’99 Ford Explorer Sport with a 4.0 SOHC V6.  It’s 4×4 and does well in the snow which is really good as my commute is  currently 24 miles each way.

What I love:

  • 4.0 SOHC V6. I hit the gas pedal and it accelerates well enough to keep up with a stock 3.8 Mustang
  • It’s blue!
  • It handles well in the snow.
  • Ride height isn’t too high, but am able to maintain good visibility over the majority of cars.
  • The way it drives.  Before I bought it I was considering quite a few vehicles, but after getting behind the wheel of an Explorer Sport, I knew it was my next car.  I haven’t had that feeling with another car yet….
  • I’ve personalized it.  I’ve swapped out the turn signal covers (yellow to clear) and added blue lights, I have after market tail lights, tinted windows, a brush guard and an after market sound system.

What I dislike:

  • It’s an automatic.
  • It’s an automatic.  Yes, I’ve intentionally listed that twice as that is truly my biggest issue with it.  I like a standard transmission, especially in the snow.  Unfortunately, in SUVs and trucks it’s nearly impossible to get a standard transmission anymore and unless I wanted to go with a smaller engine, I had to go with the automatic.  Not to mention the fact I would have had to have one special ordered.
  • Manueverability. While it’s acceleration is pretty good, I still have to plan out maneuvers.  At times I am not able to change lanes simply because I don’t have the room and can’t accelerate quickly enough to get the needed room.  I’m not afraid to admit that part of this dissatisfaction probably stems from riding my motorcycle.

What I want in my next car:

  • Standard Transmission – I’m not entirely sold on the new dual clutch transmissions but am open to considering them. Especially as my afternoon commute is often gridlock.
  • Good acceleration – I do a lot of highway driving so I need something that can get to highway speed quickly and won’t leave me in the lurch when I need to pass.
  • Fun to drive – I spend a lot of time in my car, so if I don’t enjoy driving it, why bother buying it?
  • Handles well in the snow – Colorado may not get as much snow as some places, but a rear wheel drive car isn’t a smart decision.  I want to know that I can get home from work in a snow storm.

The options I’m currently considering:

Mitsubishi EVO

Subaru STI

Volvo S80

Nissan Juke

Audi S4

Nissan Xterra

Toyota Tacoma

Ford Explorer

Ford Edge

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