Toys for big boys
In its 40-year history, the Specialty Equipment Market Association has had four names but always the same initials: SEMA. Whether the group represents the automotive ``aftermarket'' or ``specialty market'' industry has often produced some confusion.
But Carl Sheffer, a SEMA vice president, seems to have found a way around that predicament. He recently explained to a group of reporters: ``When people ask me what I do to make a buck, I tell them I work for Toys `R' Us for big boys.''
That's not to be confused with boy toys like Leo DeCaprio, Justin Timberlake and ABC's latest ``The Bachelor'' TV show centerpiece, Andrew Firestone.
This 'n that
Tire treats-At the end of Goodyear's April 30 conference call announcing its first quarter results, Robert Keegan, president and CEO, said the company put discount tire coupons in the analyst packets to give them to consumers who will buy tires. Sounds like Big Blue has a new strategic plan.
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The better to see you with, my dear-We can hardly wait for the latest option to show up on the Hummer H1 (though we don't own one).
It's a night vision system similar to the unit used in the military version Humvee. Designed by a business unit of Raytheon Co., the ``Nightdriver'' gizmo costs only $5,000 a pop and can be installed at Hummer dealerships. It'll no doubt help Hummer owners to see those Mini Coopers and other sub-compacts better when they go ``off-roading'' in suburban shopping mall parking lots.
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Jumping on the valve train-For drivers to whom power or number of valves is no object, General Motors Corp., is promising quite a ride for you.
It's already being called the ``ultimate American dream machine''-all 16 cylinders of the Cadillac Sixteen, a concept vehicle that made its grand debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Any motorist wearing an ``I'm a gas guzzler, so shut up'' lapel pin will love this machine of excess that generates no less than 1,000 horsepower. Apparently, nostalgia for the big American sedan is making a roaring comeback, and fueling it up is no problem.
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Sounds corny, but-Meanwhile at the New York International Auto Show, a much more modest Ford Motor Co. vehicle dubbed the ``Model U'' ambled into the spotlight.
Henry Ford liked to say his Model T came in any number of colors, as long as it was black. This version is a back-to-basics ``green'' machine. According to the New York Times, it's fueled by hydrogen and lubricated by cornflower oil, built with panels of soy and rolls on tires made of corn. (We're guessing they're Goodyears, since the tire maker promoted its corn-fed tire a couple years ago). Wonder how many calories the U gets to the tank.
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A grim tale-The Mid-America Tire Dealers Association's Treadmarks newsletter tells the quip about a little girl who asks her father: ``Daddy...do all fairy tales begin with `Once upon a time...'?''
No, he replies. ``There's a whole series of fairy tales that begin with, `If elected, I promise...'''
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Blast from the past-Have things really changed much?
The ``Out of the Past'' column in the Ida County Courier recently pointed out that 30 years ago Rupp Tire Shop in Ida Grove, Iowa, had a tire special going on: two 6.50x13 All-Weather IV tires for 24 bucks; other sizes of the tires were two for $36; and 6.70x15 Hi-Miler nylon rib cord tires were $21.40 each.
As the (tongue-in-cheek) story goes, a wanna-be tire dealer finally started his own place. A dream shop, it had a sparkling bay area, a great wheel display and a counter that he felt would put any uptown bar to shame.
So he's hurrying around takin' care of business when a guy walks into the just-opened dealership. Now, the dealer wanted to appear that he was really busy, so he picked up the phone, pretending he was working on a huge order. He threw around some big numbers and made giant commitments, according to the Mid-America Tire Dealers Association's Treadmarks newsletter.
Finally, he hung up the phone and asked the guy patiently standing there, ``Can I help you?''
The man answered: ``Yeah, I'm here to install the phone.''
You mean you couldn't guess the story might be bogus? What dealer makes ``giant commitments'' and throws big numbers around? Hmmm?
Some of these actual international marketing campaigns gone awry have been making the rounds for a while, but are still worthy of a few chuckles.
Companies often attempt to translate their slogans into the vernacular of a country where they're launching a product, and the results have produced some real zingers. Such as the translation of PepsiCo's slogan, ``Come alive with the Pepsi generation,'' into Taiwanese-which came out: ``Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.''
And who could forget way back when Ford Motor Co. tried to market its Pinto in Brazil, but discovered that ``Pinto'' was Brazilian slang for ``tiny male genitals.'' The car then became the Corcel, which means horse.
When Parker Pen was hawking a ballpoint pen in Mexico, it pumped out ads promising, ``It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you.'' But, according to some info we read on the Web, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word ``embarazar'' meant to embarrass. Its ads instead translated to: ``It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.''
An American t-shirt maker in Miami also stumbled over words. Shirts printed for the Spanish market-promoting a visit by Pope John Paul II-were emblazoned with what the firm thought said, ``I saw the Pope.'' But instead they proclaimed: ``I saw the Potato.''
KFC's Kentucky Fried Chicken ``finger-lickin' good'' slogan, translated in Chinese, comes out as ``eat your fingers off.'' And in Italy, an ad campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name to ``Schweppes Toilet Water.'' So the company certainly wasn't flushed with success.
One of the more unfortunate recent marketing ploys just got the heave-ho. Over a picturesque nighttime skyline emblazoned with fireworks the words ``Hong Kong will take your breath away'' may have seemed like a natural. But in light of the Far East-based epidemic known as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), that promo hit a bit too close to the truth.
As reported recently in Tire Business, the Tire Industry Association is exploring the possibility of a national ad campaign to elevate the stature of the lowly tire-kind of like the ubiquitous ``Got Milk?'' promos. How about: ``Tires-can't live with `em, can't live without `em.'' Or maybe, ``Your car can't ride on $200 tennis shoes.''
Edited by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk