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Note to Auto Industry: Stop Showing Us Unfinished Cars!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I began noticing this odd marketing behavior about a decade ago, and in my opinion it has increased exponentially since then. Right when social media began to rise and encompass a larger part of the Internet, certain carmakers started drastically changing their modus operandi when it comes to new car launches.
Borrowed from Hollywood, where teasers also began to outnumber trailers ahead of a movie's premiere, the hyping of a product ahead of its market introduction is perfectly natural, especially when it's done right. Unfortunately, most of the time it isn't, and this turns it from an innocent marketing strategy to a downright annoying way of creating haters instead of fans. I don't mind teasers, especially when they're used for a limited amount of time and for a car that's well worth the wait.

I do have a problem with teasing campaigns made by people who severely underestimate the power of social media and the six degrees of separation theory (which, between us, it's still seen by some scientists as an academic urban myth). Still, since commerce itself has widely propagated on the Internet, it's now much easier for a marketing campaign to reach its target audience. It's much easier for it to become irritating for the very same reason, though. In other words, it's a very fine line between a teasing campaign that cultivates brand lovers and one that starts to alienate and/or ruffle the feathers of potential buyers or fans.

I think that one of the most recent examples of “bad teasing campaigns” was the one made for Bugatti's Vision Gran Turismo concept. About a month before the model's official unveiling, Polyphony Digital and Bugatti decided to show the world that they're cooking something special. That is all fine and dandy, but the first teaser comprised of an oddly looking air inlet of some sort, which could also have been a piece of high-tech scuba-diving equipment and nobody would have spotted the difference. The second teaser showed a small part of the rear wing, but it still didn't give any clues as to how the car might eventually look. The third and fourth teasers were almost just as puzzling, but they did seem to show part of a wheel and a side view of the front overhang.

While everyone got anxious about a new Bugatti model (virtual or not) in the beginning, by the end of the "four-teasers" campaign they were probably sick and tired of it. Coincidentally, just about every recent similar model launch campaign has resulted in similar “Just show us the damn car already!” online comments. Maybe the marketers should think a bit more about the raison d'être behind these strategies and either make them shorter, a bit more revealing or simply scrap them altogether.

Ford tried to do that when it revealed the 2017 Ford GT and telling no one that it had been working on it. The new GT was actually developed by a skunkworks team in a basement and over a period of just a few months.

This brings me to another problem, one that is actually closely related to the “meaningless teasers” predicament from above: why unveil a car that's set to arrive in showrooms over a year late from its first public appearance? Not to mention the fact that the gorgeous blue GT presented at NAIAS was a concept car presented as almost production-ready. The truth is that the GT was as far from being production-ready as I am from becoming an astronaut, since pre-production prototypes only started public testing about six months later. If we're lucky, Ford will start selling it in late 2016, almost two years after showing it at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

Think Ford is alone in this? Think again! Acura teased us with the new NSX for what seemed like eons, not years. Tens of new species of animals were discovered, while others went extinct by the time it was ready for the public. After it finally unveiled the so-called production-ready model at the 2015 NAIAS, some of the hybrid sportscar's sparkle was stolen by the more brutish Ford GT. NSX fans were still gleeful, though, since Acura announced that production starts by the end of 2015. Their joy soon turned to anger after just a few months, when Acura took that back and said that the start of production has been delayed until Spring 2016. This would put the car in showrooms at the end of next year, just like the new Ford GT. Way to shoot yourself in the foot, Acura!

Alfa Romeo did something similar with the new Giulia, unveiling what they said was the production-ready Quadrifoglio version to sprinkle some hype over the rest of the yet-unseen model range. Alfa went as far as revealing a pretty fantastic-sounding 'Ring time, which would make it the fastest sedan on the Green Hell by a pretty long shot. That all sounds awesome, even if the Giulia's design is maybe a bit too polarizing for some. So, when can we buy it? Well, that is a bit more difficult to find out, since the model is yet to finish testing, and the initial November 2015 start of production could be delayed until sometime in 2016. According to some supplier sources, the Giulia's development was rushed to meet Alfa's 105th anniversary, so there are some quality glitches concerning noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).

These are just some of the latest examples that show a badly timed/poorly planned marketing campaign, and, honestly, I'm getting pretty tired of them. I realize that automotive R&D moves at a much faster pace than a couple of decades ago, but production and marketing departments need to get a grip and catch up with the times. Prolonging a car's actual market launch through meaningless teasers or creating a ginormously long pause from its official unveiling does only one thing well: it drives people away and leaves them enough time to check out the competition.

How about keeping the spy shooters in business, since they are already responsible of unofficial teasing campaigns for most models, and when the car is actually ready just unveil it and start selling it right away? It couldn't be that hard, could it?

 
 
 
 
 

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