Cadillac executives said the $75,995 price for the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid was meant to convey an air of exclusivity. But that lofty sticker proved way too exclusive. Cadillac sold just 1,192 of the coupes through November, well short of an AutoPacific Inc. forecast of 2,100. Cadillac "surprised the world" with the coupe's knockout styling, Aaron Bragman, Cars.com Detroit bureau chief, wrote in his ELR review. "Then it surprised the world again by pricing it out of consideration for anyone who'd likely buy one."
Caddy's pricey ELR and other blunders of 2014
In perhaps the year's shortest-lived blunder, Chevrolet regional zone manager Rikk Wilde nervously stumbled through his presentation of a 2015 Colorado pickup to the World Series MVP, San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. In stepped Chevy's social media team. As the video clip of the giveaway went viral, Chevy embraced Wilde and the most awkwardly brilliant part: his phrase "technology and stuff" to describe the truck.
Within 24 hours, "technology and stuff" was the centerpiece of a multimedia response that Chevy estimates garnered $5 million in free media exposure for its redesigned pickup.
In January, Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.'s executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service, creeped out people worried about loss of privacy in the Internet age. Speaking at a panel discussion at the International CES, he noted that Ford cars have GPS, so: "We know everyone who breaks the law; we know when you're doing it."
He later apologized, saying: "We don't monitor, aggregate data on how people drive. I've given people the wrong impression. I regret that."
Infiniti spent 2014 wowing crowds with its racy concept car, the Q50 Eau Rouge, and gave every impression that it intends to build it. Luxury consumers drooled over the Formula 1-inspired styling and hardware. "Eau Rouge" is the name of a particularly challenging turn at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps racetrack in Belgium, well-known in world racing. But one problem: Spa-Francorchamps isn't in the business of giving away its nomenclature. In October, the racetrack went to court in Europe to make clear that "Eau Rouge" is not available.
Shigehisa Takada, CEO of Takata Corp., hid from the media for most of 2014, missing a prime opportunity to address Takata’s exploding airbag inflators. Automakers have recalled more than 24 million vehicles globally since 2008 for defective Takata inflators.
He then waited until Dec. 17 to give his first interview, with Japan's Nikkei newspaper. But last week, Takada took over the role of company president as Stefan Stocker stepped down.
This blunder was made in 2006, and it lay hidden like a land mine until it exploded this year at General Motors. In 2006, GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio redesigned an ignition switch. But he didn't change the switch's part number, violating critical protocols at the automaker. So when the defective switch caused crashes and fatalities, safety experts at GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had a devil of a time finding the cause. The whole mess came to light in 2014, leading to congressional hearings, a harsh review of GM's not-my-fault culture and potentially expensive lawsuits.
Ram could have avoided this blunder if it had heeded Ronald Reagan's advice to "trust, but verify." When the brand introduced a domestic version of the Fiat Ducato commercial van as the Ram ProMaster, it touted its cargo capacity as a massive 530 cubic feet, a direct conversion of the European version's 15 cubic meters. Problem was, the U.S. measures cargo capacity by a different standard than the Europeans do.
The "oops" meant Ram had to restate the capacity to a more modest 463 cubic feet. A little over a month later, the Mercedes Sprinter had to follow suit, shaving 17 cubic feet off its full-size cargo van's capacity to 530 cubic feet.
Ford brought reporters to rural West Virginia in July to boast that its 2014 F-450 had "best in class" towing of 31,200 pounds, topping the previous 30,000-pound record of the Ram 3500.
What followed were months of claims and counterclaims between Ford and Ram — including cease-and-desist letters that are still flying — over what constituted a class.
As a result of the dispute that started over a July marketing claim, both Ford and GM eventually agreed to change the method they were using to artificially raise their payload capacities and restate new maximum payloads for some of their pickups.
NHTSA was already on the hot seat following failures to find defective ignition switches in General Motors cars. But the Takata airbag crisis turned the heat up another notch after the agency issued a "consumer advisory" in October urging vehicle owners with Takata airbags to get their recalls done. But the recall list posted online by NHTSA had bad vehicle-volume numbers, incorrectly listed some vehicles and omitted several others. The errors confused consumers — when they could access the overwhelmed site, which crashed.
Edmunds.com, a third-party shopping site, earns fees from dealers by posting their inventory and advertising. So it was skating on thin ice in October when it started airing commercials on YouTube that poked fun at dealerships and their price-haggling culture.
The commercials showed grocery store clerks haggling with customers over prices, ending with the punch line: "You wouldn't haggle for your groceries, so why do you do it when you buy a car?"
Kevin Frye, e-commerce director for Jeff Wyler Automotive Family in Cincinnati, said the four videos perpetuated stereotypes of dealers as underhanded bargainers. He led a Facebook discussion that criticized the spots.
Edmunds pulled the commercials after just two days.
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