MAMA News

  • 18 Nov 2020 2:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Greetings, MAMA Members:

    Well, we’re entering the home stretch of a year I’m sure most of us are anxious to put in the rearview mirror. I still find myself thinking back to our Alfa Romeo MAMA luncheon at the Iron Gate Motor Condos on March 4, 2020—a week and a half before the initial COVID-19 shutdowns began. Though there were storm clouds on the horizon then, that lunch stands out in my mind as one of the last “normal” days before the pandemic hit… and that day feels much longer than eight months ago.

    We’re all looking forward to a better 2021, but it’s tough to say what kind of “normal” we will be able to settle back into. However that normal arrives, I think it will come in stages, and not at the flip of switch or the turning of a calendar page. It’s going to be a gradual process, and we will continue to react and adapt as best we can.

    And we’ve seen plenty of effective adaptation this past year. Despite the myriad challenges and hardships brought on by the pandemic, automakers still managed to launch a bevy of outstanding new vehicles—and many of those vehicles are right in the wheelhouse of our Family Vehicle of the Year and Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year awards. Even though we were unable to hold our Spring and Fall Rallies, we are moving forward with our Family Vehicle awards for 2021 (which marks the eleventh year for FVOTY). In-person drive opportunities won’t be possible, but we’re hoping that a good number of our members have been able to test most or all of the candidate vehicles through normal press-loan/event channels and will feel confident in making their picks. We’re still ironing out the details, but stay tuned for a list of candidates and instructions on how to vote in the near future.

    We’re adapting our annual holiday party and business meeting too. We won’t be holding an in-person gathering for either event, but we’re working on a Zoom version of both. Details on those events are forthcoming as well.

    Here’s to better days ahead. All of us at MAMA hope you are staying safe, healthy, and well.

    All for now,

    Damon Bell, MAMA President

  • 05 Nov 2020 3:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The latest presentation in the MAMA eMeet series was conducted by Lexus to share brand updates along with a special concentration on the 2021 Lexus IS, which made its virtual debut in June. Lexus College Senior Analyst Chad Deschenes led the presentation and fielded live questions from MAMA journalists.  


    With a lineage that spans more than 20 years in the U.S., the IS slots in just below the ES as an entry-level rear-wheel-drive sports sedan. Today, the IS expands upon its rich history for the third generation and ties in the new Lexus Driving Signature, which Lexus says will be thenew development standard that every model will reflect moving forward. The Lexus Driving Signature refers to the “seamless transition from deceleration to steering and acceleration during cornering, in all types of driving situations,” according to the brand.

    The 2021 IS is offered in two different trim levels: the IS 300 and the IS 350 F Sport (note: the IS 350 only comes as an F Sport). Let’s dive into the sports sedan’s three most enhanced categories.


    Dynamic Performance

    With the goal in mind to develop the 2021 IS to offer high-quality ride comfort with high-level vehicle control, the IS was honed at Toyota’s Technical Center Shimoyama — a vehicle research and development facility in the Shimoyama area of Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. The country-road test course is based on the Nürburgring Nordschleife track in Germany, notorious for its grueling driving conditions.

    First, engineers aimed to enhance body rigidity that starts with the chassis and body structure. Lexus said it finally achieved acceptable levels of rigidity following “countless hours” of testing. The enhanced rigidity helps improve ride comfort, reduce unwanted cabin noise and vibration and provide better overall driving performance/enhanced steering.

    The rear-wheel-drive IS 300 features a 2.0-liter, turbocharged and intercooled inline four-cylinder engine. The 2.0-liter engine is updated for 2021 featuring an adaptive transmission control and delivers 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.

    While many think of the IS as only a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, all-wheel drive is indeed an option for those who want it. The IS 300 AWD is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 260 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque. For those who desire even more power, the IS 350 is offered with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive and is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 311 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque.

    New for the 2021 IS 300, standard 18-inch wheels replace the outgoing 17-inch wheels and, for the first time, 19-inch wheels are an option. The IS 350 F Sport comes standard with 19-inch graphite alloy wheels.


    Aggressive Styling & Enhanced Interior

    According to Lexus, the IS is “athletically inclined and designed.” With that in mind, the bold new exterior is wider, lower and more muscular with an aggressive planted stance. The roofline tapers quickly to the trunk, creating a coupe-like impression. A new signature grille also accentuates the vehicle’s sportiness.

    The IS now features running daytime LED headlamps that are slimmer and more compact than even those found on the Lexus LC. The taillamps sport an “L” shape blade style and three-dimensional bumper garnishes add to its aggressive look.

    Five new exterior colors are available on the 2021 IS including Iridium, Cloudburst Gray, Matador Red Mica, and Infrared* (*only offered on F Sport model).

    On the IS 350 F Sport, an exclusive “F” mesh pattern can be found along with other unique offerings like grille-bottom air intake, specialized 19-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and a more aggressive rear diffuser.

    The interior was updated to refine the sporty cabin which features standard NuLuxe-trimmed seating, 10-way power driver and 8-way power adjustable front passenger seats, a dual-zone automatic climate control system with touch-sensitive controls, and an available power moonroof.

    An 8-inch touchscreen comes standard and is now almost 5.5 inches closer to the driver for easier access to the controls. A large 10.3-inch touchscreen (nearly 6 inches closer to the driver than previous models) is available on vehicles equipped with navigation or the Mark Levinson audio system. The new infotainment system also offers Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility as well as Amazon Alexa integration.


    Latest in Lexus Tech Advancements

    The 2021 IS is the first Lexus to come standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.5. The most significant enhancement to the system is the pre-collision system, which includes frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking and pedestrian/bicyclist detection. The radar and camera capabilities were updated so the system helps detect both a vehicle ahead and a preceding bicyclist in both daytime and lower light conditions.

    Additional functions include emergency steering assist — supporting the driver and preventing the vehicle from leaving its lane — blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert. The IS comes standard with 10 air bags designed to meet new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) standards.

    Lexus also offers the Lexus Enform Service Connect system, designed to provide vehicle alerts to owners and allow them to send factory recommended maintenance alerts to specified dealers. Additionally, the Lexus app allows owners to start their vehicle remotely, schedule service appointments and lock or unlock their doors right from their smartphone.

    Pricing for the IS 300 begins at $39,000 with rear-wheel drive and $41,000 for the all-wheel-drive model. The IS 350 F Sport starts at $42,900 with rear-wheel drive and climbs to a starting price of $44,900 with AWD. Both trims are expected to hit dealerships late this fall. For more on the 2021 Lexus IS 300 and IS 350 F Sport, click here.

  • 21 Oct 2020 10:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ford recently hosted a combined hybrid #MAMAeMeet and in-person event to share the brand’s latest news and vehicle updates with MAMA members.

    To start, Ford shared results from a study by Boston Consulting Group to highlight the company’s tremendous impact on both the Chicago region and entire state of Illinois. According to the study, Ford’s impact on the Illinois economy includes driving more than 60,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributing $6.8 billion in state gross domestic product. Moreover, the Chicago Assembly Plant (Ford’s oldest continuously operating assembly plant), drives economic impact of $2.9 billion in Chicago alone. Beyond its economic impact, Ford continues to give back to local communities in a charitable way. Just last week, Chicagoland Ford dealers donated an additional 200,000 face masks to nonprofit organizations, schools and first responders in their local communities.


    Ford then shifted gears to provide updates on its best-selling truck in America for 43 years—the F-series pickup. The F-150 is also the most popular vehicle on the road in 39 out of 50 states, including Illinois. Ford showed off the all-new 2021 F-150 and F-150 Hybrid virtually and in-person at the Chicago Automobile Trade Association building. According to Ford, the 2021 F-150 delivers best-in-class towing and payload, and is more “connected” than it has ever been before. Some of the major updates include:


    All-new Exterior Design

    • New headlights with “C-clamp” design motif on LED running lights
    • New front bumper with lower accent skid plate
    • New hood’s shape rises to meet the A-pillar
    • New sculpted doors, fenders and box sides
    • New mirrors that echo “C-clamp” design motif
    • New extended-length running boards (for easier pickup-bed access)
    • All-new wheels with larger tires
    • 11 available grille options
    • Tailgate that doubles as a work surface with a built-in ruler, mobile device compartment and new clamp pockets to hold materials down for precise work.
    • Truck bed has an available Pro Power Onboard integrated power generator, featuring more exportable power than any light-duty full-size pickup, giving owners the ability to run power tools and equipment without the need for a separate gas-engine generator. It is available with three levels of electrical output depending on engine choice. According to Ford, the generator can power an entire job site or 28 average refrigerators!
    All-new Interior Design & Technology
    • New instrument panel
    • New center console
    • New door trims
    • New seat foam and fabrics
    • New steering wheel
    • New switches and controls
    • Standard 8-inch touchscreen in all models, available 12.1” touchscreen on XLT trim
    • Instrument-cluster upgrades across the board, including all-digital cluster on Lariat
    • Wireless charging
    • Dual glovebox
    • Rear underseat locking storage
    • E-shifter standard; available Interior Work Surface center console includes shift lever that folds into the console when the vehicle is in park
    • SYNC4 infotainment system including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; an enhanced voice recognition/navigation package is optional
    • Over-the-air software updates and feature upgrades for infotainment system
    Engine Options
    • 3.3L Ti-VCT V6: 290 horsepower, 265 lb.-ft. torque
    • 2.7L EcoBoost V6: 325 horsepower, 400 lb.-ft. torque
    • 5.0L Ti-VCT V8: 400 horsepower, 410 lb.-ft. torque
    • 3.0L Power Stroke V6: 250 horsepower, 440 lb.-ft. torque
    • 3.5L EcoBoost V6: 400 horsepower, 500 lb.-ft. torque
    • 3.5L Power Boost Full Hybrid V6: 430 horsepower, 570 lb.-ft. torque

    Prices start at $28,940 for the base XL trim and can climb as high as $78,490 for the top Platinum SuperCrew Hybrid model. Ford expects the new F-150 to arrive at dealerships shortly.

    The next #MAMAeMeet is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26 with Lexus. For more details and to register, click here.

  • 14 Sep 2020 2:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Earlier this month, MAMA members had the opportunity to hear about Cadillac’s exciting new platform, Cadillac Live, and take a virtual tour of the CT4 and CT5 with a live product specialist. Back in January—before COVID-19 expanded in the U.S.—Cadillac had the foresight to begin building out a virtual showroom called Cadillac Live. The brand says this virtual experience is not to take the place of a physical event, like an auto show, or even the dealership experience. Cadillac believes the interactive showroom tour will take a shopper’s online interest and launch that into a sales experience that takes place within a dealership.


    Within Cadillac Live, interested parties can book a private experience, take a one-on-one video tour of any Cadillac vehicle, have all of their questions answered by a live agent, and even locate the nearest dealership. The goal is to provide the customer with the full experience they’d receive at a dealership without getting behind the wheel, so when they do visit a dealership, it’s a more seamless process. All of the agents in Cadillac Live are real people; the customer at home can see and hear the product specialist on their computer screen, but the agent can only hear the customer on the other end.

    Cadillac says the experience is perfect for someone who may just be beginning their journey with the brand or embarking on the new-car shopping process, but it’s also used as a great resource for current customers who might want to take a deeper dive into a certain technology in their Cadillac vehicle. The agents are there and available to connect with customers Monday-Thursday, from 8 a.m.-12 a.m., Friday, from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., CDT. There isn’t a preset time limit when using the experience, and Cadillac Live showroom can be accessed from virtually anywhere via the internet. Outside of the sessions with available agents, customers can also peruse the showroom and the vehicles as well as listen to pre-recorded sessions.


    The digital online studio allows Cadillac agents to walk customers through the showroom to review vehicles like the CT4 and CT5, for example, to highlight specific features inside and out, such as:

    • High gloss mesh grille and trim all around
    • Brembo brakes
    • Midnight finish on the wheels
    • Rear diffuser and quad exhaust tips
    • Magnetic ride control
    • Heated and ventilated seats
    • Sport seating
    • MyMode customized driving settings
    • Infotainment systems
    • Carbon fiber interior trim
    • Head-up display

    Rick, Cadillac agent who took MAMA members on the virtual tour, said, “This is something no one has ever done before… balancing a camera, having a physical space where other people are moving around, and access to all of this exciting car knowledge. People are shocked when they’re greeted by a real live person. People assume that we can see them; we cannot, as it’s a one-way video screen. This is just such an exciting new way for us to connect with customers.”


    As the world continues to evolve into a more virtual world due to the global pandemic, other automakers are being pushed into creating similar types of digital experiences. Cadillac was ready to take on digital customers at the start of the pandemic, since the Cadillac Live site was already built. Cadillac referenced data from Google’s 2017 Dealer Guide Book, which found that twice as many car buyers start their research online versus at a physical dealership. Cadillac is confident that Cadillac Live will help them generate more qualified leads and then directly match customers with local dealerships immediately following their virtual experience. So far, it has proven to be a success. Cadillac reported the CT4 and CT5 just had their best sales month yet, which they attribute in part to Cadillac Live.

    Check back shortly for more information about upcoming MAMA eMeets.

  • 27 Aug 2020 2:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last week, MAMA hosted a MAMA eMeet with Toyota to review key highlights of the all-new 2021 Toyota Venza. Ryan Matsumoto, Toyota’s vehicle marketing and communications planner, led the product presentation and fielded live questions from MAMA members.


    According to Matsumoto, the Venza raises the standard of what an urban crossover should be. The newest hybrid in Toyota’s lineup, the Venza offers tech, performance, design and standard all-wheel-drive – features that pack a powerful punch and that Toyota hopes will help the vehicle stand out from its competitors. Positioned as the “ultimate urban crossover,” the Venza offers versatility and distinction with a “quiet confidence.”

    The Venza slots between the RAV4 and Highlander in size, and its starting prices range between $32-$40K. Four option packages will be available to best suit customer needs, including:

    • SofTex Package (XLE)
    • Premium Audio
    • Advanced Technology Package
    • StarGaze Fixed Panoramic Roof


    The Venza’s exterior styling is sleek and clean, with dramatic touches such as a full-width LED taillight and, on XLE and Limited models, a full-width center high-mounted stoplight as well. Matsumoto noted the thin taillamps are a fan favorite of the Venza’s design. Exterior colors offered are: Celestial Black, Black, Coastal Gray Metallic, Blueprint, Ruby Flare Pearl, Blizzard Pearl and Titanium Glow.


    Inside, Toyota took a minimalist approach with Venza’s design, adding soft-touch materials that express refinement and elegance. Most importantly, Toyota is proud of its first StarGaze fixed panoramic sunroof, which uses electrochromic technology to enable the driver to switch from clear glass to a “frosted” translucent mode at the touch of a button. This is a brand-first, initially appearing on the Venza.

    On the tech side of things, Venza comes equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen for LE and XLE models; a 12.3-inch touchscreen is optional on XLE and standard on the line-topping Limited trim. In terms of safety, Venza comes standard Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0, the brand’s newest advanced active safety package, which includes lane tracing assist, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams and road sign assist.


    In terms of cargo space, the Venza offers 28.8 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, and 74.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. It also comes with four USB charge ports, two in the front and two in the rear, for those who need a device charge on-the-go.

    Toyota says Venza’s fuel economy is industry-leading; all trim levels are EPA-rated at 40 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 39 mpg combined.

    Venza is shipping now and is expected to hit dealerships early next month.

    The next MAMA eMeet is scheduled with Cadillac for Tuesday, Sept. 1, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. CDT via Zoom. Register via the website or contact webmaster@mamaonline.org.

  • 06 Aug 2020 2:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “Cars aren’t dead; commodity products are.” This was a key theme throughout Dodge’s presentation to MAMA media members during MAMA’s latest eMeet.

    Tim Kuniskis, Global Head of Alfa Romeo and Head of Passenger Cars – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA – North America, led the presentation on the new Dodge/SRT performance lineup. According to Kuniskis, while cars only make up 28% of market share, Dodge/SRT performance vehicles attract buyers because they have that “want” versus “need” appeal.


    An example of this is the 807-hp Challenger SRT Super Stock. Dodge says it’s the world’s quickest, most powerful muscle car, capable of sprinting from 0-60 miles per hour in 3.25 seconds and running the quarter-mile in 10.5 seconds. Perhaps it’s true that people don’t exactly need this car, but it’s certainly fun to drive.


    New for 2021 is the 710-horsepower Durango SRT Hellcat model, which Dodge says is the most powerful SUV ever. In addition, the entire 2021 Durango lineup gets an exterior-styling refresh for a more aggressive look; a new interior with a Challenger-inspired, driver-centric cockpit; the new Uconnect 5 infotainment system on an available, largest-in-class 10.1-inch touchscreen; and a new Durango R/T Tow N Go package—as well as best-in-class towing across the lineup and more performance than ever.


    Additionally, Kuniskis shared updates on the new-for-2021 Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye. It puts out 797 horsepower and is capable of a top speed of 203 miles per hour, which makes it the most powerful and fastest mass-produced sedan in the world.


    “Fast” and “powerful” are key words used to described these vehicles, which tug at the “want” part of the brain versus the “need.” That’s how the brand continues to be so successful in this space, according to Kuniskis. “If you can be the big fish in the smaller pond, that’s good business. The muscle car segment isn’t a big one, so it’s a good segment for a brand like Dodge to do well.”

    Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, people were buying these vehicles. So much so, that inventory was low and orders were put on hold. However, Dodge is now able to fulfill most of the orders that were placed a few months ago.

    Looking to the future, Dodge acknowledges that it will need to grow with the times for its products to remain relevant, adapting to CAFE standards and adding more offerings to its current vehicle lineup. But for now, Dodge’s strategy seems to be working. For example:

    • J.D. Power ranks Dodge #1 for quality and appeal
    • Consumer Reports Top Ten Most Reliable Brands
    • ALG residual value leader
    • #1 segment share
    • Top performance, best-in-industry claims (across all models)
    • Unique customer demographics including young, family-oriented, diverse, loyal and engaged

    MAMA’s next eMeet is with Toyota on the all-new Venza, and will take place virtually on Tuesday, Aug. 18 from 1-2 CDT.

  • 28 Jul 2020 4:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As part of MAMA s ongoing virtual series MAMA eMeets,” MAMA members recently had the opportunity to hear from Ford’s Chief Engineer for Transit in North America, Ray Eyles, regarding Ford’s numerous upgrades to its Transit van lineup for 2020. 

    Among the changes are a new and improved powertrain lineup, smart new technology, advanced driver-assist features and enhanced capability to appeal to a wide range of customers whether they use their vans to carry kids, seek out adventures or deliver cargo.


    Eyles discussed “American’s best-selling van” and its growing importance to larger families and adventurers, making a reference to the online movement #VanLife. Though the Transit was originally designed primarily for commercial needs, Ford sees a definitive shift in how these vans are being utilized.

    To continue to attract this broader audience, Ford worked to improve and enhance the 2020 Transit. Specifically, the vehicle features a new grille with bumper updates, an upgraded 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, 10-speed transmission and a new auto stop/start feature.


    According to Ford, perhaps the most notable and exciting new feature to appear in the 2020 Transit van is available all-wheel drive. Ford thinks this feature alone has potential to attract new customers, especially given this was the most requested feature by Ford s current customer base. The AWD feature on the Transit is always on,” so no need to manually turn it on or off. There is also no increase to the ride and load heights—an important consideration for commercial users who are frequently entering and exiting the vehicle.

    On the interior, Transit receives a new crew van configuration, including a second row bench seat and two rows of seating for up to five people. The 2020 model also features an expanded color palette including softer” colors. Available features include swivel front seats, an 8-inch multi-function touchscreen and a new power-sliding door.


    In terms of tech, Transit comes standard with plenty of new driver-assist technology, including pre-collision assist with auto emergency braking, forward collision warning, post-collision braking, lane-keep assist system with electric power steering, and auto high-beam headlamps. Available technology includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor system with cross-traffic alert and trailer coverage, enhanced active park assist, and front and rear split-view cameras.

    Additionally, the 2020 Transit comes with a new standard FordPass Connect system featuring a WiFi hotspot for up to 10 devices, Ford telematics, remote vehicle control, and vehicle diagnostic and trouble code data collection.


    Eyles summarized that Ford is always evolving to do the job right,” which is showcased with the latest Transit model. Moving forward, Ford says it will continue to tailor the Transit to appeal to both commercial and retail customers. An all-electric Transit will also be coming for the 2022 model year.

    Stay tuned for updates on future MAMA eMeets!

  • 07 Jul 2020 2:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In these changing times, car manufacturers have adapted quickly to e-communication and have thus jumped at the opportunity to host MAMA eMeets, a virtual e-meeting series MAMA launched at the start of COVID-19 to help keep our members connected and “up to speed.” The latest in the #MAMAeMeet series was a presentation led by Hyundai on its all-new 2020 Venue subcompact crossover SUV.


    Hyundai Senior Manager of Product Strategy and Planning Michael Evanoff kicked off the virtual presentation. The Venue slots just below the Kona terms of size and powertrain, and offers plenty of standard safety and connectivity features. The Venue marks the seventh addition to Hyundai’s SUV lineup.

    Evanoff talked a bit about the vehicle’s positioning to the market, adding that its primary target buyers are aspirational, single females. He said the Venue is perfect for those with a “side hustle,” as it’s nimble to get around in but has a surprising amount of storage space—such as a modular underfloor cargo area—for a subcompact SUV. Secondarily, Hyundai is targeting empty-nesters who are looking to downsize from their current vehicle.

    Related to the exterior design, Evanoff described the Venue as iconic, modern, and stylish. It’s solid and portrays a sporty image, with a simple yet distinctive rear design. Extroverted two-tone color options for roof, mirrors and trim are optional. Also available are LED taillights with a unique light signature, for buyers seeking some additional customization.


    Inside, Evanoff described the Venue as “stylish” with an “emotional robustness.” Interior features include a leather steering wheel and shift knob, 8-inch floating display, drive mode select with a snow mode option, and automatic climate control. The Venue was named a top pick in Wards 10 Best Interiors list, which Evanoff noted was a great accomplishment as other winners included luxury brands such as BMW and Lincoln.


    In terms of safety, the Venue offers some great standard features, including forward collision-avoidance assistance with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning. Blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic alert is available.

    The Venue comes with a new Smartstream powertrain: a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine that puts out 121 horsepower and 113 lb.-ft. of torque. The Venue gets great fuel economy too; its EPA rating is 32 mpg in combined city/highway driving.


    C.J. Eckman, Hyundai Manager of IoT and Connected Car, further expanded on the Venue’s in-vehicle connectivity. He highlighted the vehicle’s standard 8-inch display audio with a color LCD touchscreen, rearview camera, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay integration. Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system—featuring remote start and auto climate control—is included on all Hyundai models for three years. Alexa and Google Assistant integration are also available.

    In terms of packaging, Hyundai offers the Venue in three trim levels: SE (includes standard safety features), SEL (most popular trim with premium features), and Denim (top-line model with exclusive exterior and interior trim).

    Venue pricing starts at $17,350 for the SE and ranges to $22,050 for the Denim. The Venue is currently available at dealerships nationwide.

  • 01 Jul 2020 10:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In light of the recent crisis, communication has been proven to remain essential. However, the way in which people communicate has been drastically altered as everyone has been forced to adapt to a digital world, virtually overnight. Despite the life-changing circumstances, it’s been amazing to see just how nimbly this industry has responded in these unprecedented times. We tapped a few MAMA members who represent car manufacturers to gather their communications best practices and other ways they’re endeavoring to stay relevant and in touch with journalists throughout the pandemic.

    1) What communication tools have you found most effective for keeping journalists in the loop during these unprecedented times?

    Kelley Enright, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA): Beyond the traditional ways of communicating with media such as email and the newswire, we have really tried to get our message out through the various social media channels during the Coronavirus pandemic. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, all of the brands at FCA are reaching out to their audiences and media outlets to keep them informed of the latest news. Our communications team has also done quite a few Google Hangouts with various media associations and outlets across the country to keep them informed of news, such as the Uconnect 5 presentation that was conducted with MAMA members in April.

    Michele Tinson, Hyundai: In an effort to maintain a strong connection to our media colleagues during this unprecedented time, Hyundai offered a series of virtual Zoom sessions via MAMA eMeets featuring Hyundai executives and our newest products: Sonata HEV, Venue and the all-new Elantra. These sessions allowed us to reengage with the automotive media in an informal and fun way without placing anyone at risk by attending an in-person program. (Although not the same as a physical event, these came in a close second, especially with a pizza surprise!) We appreciated the willingness of the MAMA organization in supporting the new initiative and the overwhelmingly positive response by media members as evidenced by the high participation levels. We would like to believe virtual sessions may continue as an added component to information sharing and personalized interactions into the future, despite the impact of COVID-19 on large gatherings.

    Neil Dunlop, Kia: We have found personal communication to be the most effective way to stay in touch with media during the pandemic. We feel very much that our media friends are family and we have tried to remind them of that when we can. During the last few months we have communicated through The Kia Kitchen series as with one-to-one phone calls, other videos, and traditional PR tools such as press releases.

    Wendy Payne, Nissan: For me, as a remote employee throughout the year, some things have not changed at all while other things have changed a lot. I have found that Zoom works very well for both staying in touch inside and outside the organization. I have also just been picking up the phone and calling folks a lot more than typical. Most of my media contacts travel a ton, but now I know they are home, so I pick up the phone and call them. I have had some great conversations in recent months both on work topics and personal ones.

    Curt McAllister, Toyota/Lexus: We have utilized a variety of tools, ranging from Zoom-like applications to pre-recorded, streamed news conferences to good ‘ol fashioned phone calls, to check up on the welfare of journalists on a more personal level. We’ve also enhanced our regular correspondence by expansively emailing a Toyota and Lexus Weekly News Recap, summarizing news and announcements from both brands during the course of the previous week.

    2) What considerations have you had to keep in mind for new product launches or news stories throughout COVID-19?

    KE: All of our employees at FCA have worked diligently to stay on track with product development. The senior management team at FCA has been exceptional at keeping employees informed and motivated during the last few months. We have been a little quiet at FCA as we have been in the final development phase, but just know that we are getting ready to showcase new products soon! We are confident that you'll be excited to see what we've been working on.

    MT: It has been vitally important that we all remain empathetic towards the current environment and its resulting impact on everyone. Although business must still go on, it remained a priority that Hyundai continue to offer journalists content to cover without our being allowed to hold typical automotive press programs, auto show reveals or product drive events. For example, we launched our all-new 2021 Elantra virtually, a first ever for Hyundai North America. We are hopeful that our commitment in providing ongoing Hyundai news via numerous channels including: daily updates on the company’s COVID-19 actions via our Hyundai media site: http://www.hyundainews.com, pitching creative storytelling and/or highlighting relevant topics such as affordability, value, executive leadership and eco-friendly advancements in our press releases, helped to reinforce our appreciation of journalists. Hyundai also remained committed in providing access to our products via DriveShop, our local press fleet vendor. (We expanded cleaning of Hyundai press fleet vehicles and no-contact vehicle deliveries and pickup to provide a safe vehicle loan experience.) We believe these efforts further conveyed the importance of maintaining opportunities for journalists to do their jobs during a time of uncertainty, and perhaps also helped make life “a bit easier” to manage during such a challenging time in our industry and country.

    ND: Of course the inability to travel has upended traditional product launches and we have pivoted nicely to create a program (starting yesterday, June 30) with the launch of the new K5 that we hope was as close to being live and in-person as possible.

    WP: For the new 2021 Rogue, we went all online with backgrounders via Zoom and a reveal with pre-taped videos of our executives discussing the vehicle and its new features. It has worked very well for us and we are very happy with the outcome. I just think that journalists are looking for content to cover, so it works. In the future, if auto shows do not start back up, we will see how long this model works for automakers. I believe we will all have to get more creative with online reveals.

    CM: COVID-19 has forced us to look at auto shows and product press launches differently, for the time being. We are fortunate to be living in a time where technology has given us multiple avenues for immediate info dissemination, in the matter of a few keystrokes. We’ve had to recently stream news conferences for both Toyota and Lexus products previously scheduled for the New York International Auto Show. For our Sienna and Venza joint premiere, the post-event media metrics have been very strong, due to mass online availability and journalists’ collective appetites for new products and anything non-pandemic related.

    3) What advice do you have for media contacts to stay up to speed on the latest brand and product news?

    KE: Follow all the FCA North America social media channels as well as each brand (i.e. Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Mopar, Fiat and Alfa Romeo) and make sure you are registered to receive news that is posted to our media website. That website is media.fcanorthamerica.com. And, of course, contact me if you need anything!

    MT: As the Midwest Hyundai Corporate and Product PR lead and conduit to HMA HQ, I welcome your questions, ideas and insights and encourage you to reach out directly at any time for Hyundai updates (mtinson@hmausa.com or mobile: 734-740-4650); Visit our media site: https://www.hyundainews.com and sign-up for specific news alerts; follow us on our social media sites: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well as staying actively engaged in the Midwest Automotive Media Association for amazing OEM industry presence, networking opportunities and vast product insights throughout the year.

    ND: Subscribe to our news feeds and reach out to our staff with questions and story ideas. We’ve tried to be proactive, but often we can’t anticipate a publication’s needs. Call us up or email us with story ideas. Don’t worry if your ideas are crazy, we’re crazy, too. We like crazy. We’re good with anything.

    WP: I find that a lot of brands (including Nissan) are using LinkedIn very effectively during COVID-19. Also of note: more and more employees have found the time to become advocates for their companies via a myriad of social channels. Also of interest is that you can often get a different perspective from an engineer who shares a story versus a marketing or communications employee, which could bring up an idea for a story that isn’t the typical automotive content piece.

    CM: Toyota and Lexus have strong press room sites – Pressroom.Toyota.com and Pressroom.Lexus.com. Media members can sign up for free subscriptions to the sites, where press releases are immediately emailed to them as soon as they populate on the sites.

    4) Anything else you want to share?

    KE: Stay on track. Be patient. Be safe. We miss you and can't wait to see all of your smiling faces again soon!  

    MT: We are in this together. We welcome feedback on ways to improve and support each of your stories as best we can. Thank you to MAMA and its leadership team for their continued Hyundai support and willingness to think “out-of-the box” and pursue new ways to best support our “new” normal while helping to produce creative, objective, factual story-telling and perhaps sell some cars and SUVs!

    I look forward to our next face-to-face, in-person (no hugs) program! Stay safe. Stay well.

    ND: We’ve had our press fleet operational during the pandemic and strict cleaning protocols are in place. If you have a story idea for one of our vehicles let us know. We’d love to work with you.

    WP: I have found during this time our staff has gotten even closer that we were previously, we have been on many Zoom calls together and have been able share camaraderie in a way we didn’t before COVID-19. I hope and I believe it will continue. 

    CM: Toyota and Lexus made the decision early on in the pandemic not to close its national press fleets. As PR professionals, we saw the fleets as “lifelines” to the media, providing them with the opportunities to keep reporting and writing stories relevant to the auto industry. In doing so, we also made sure our press fleet partner, DriveShop, was adhering to CDC protocols for the safety of their staff and members of the media. We’ve received numerous notes of “thanks” from journalists in keeping our product pipelines flowing during these difficult times.

  • 01 Jul 2020 10:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Like many other automotive journalists, Chad Kirchner’s life changed in March when COVID-19 hit and put an end to events, travel and many of his assignments. With no place to go and extra time on his hands, Chad felt called to do something to help people during the COVID-19 crisis. That something was organizing a group of people who owned 3D printers to create face shields for people who needed them. Or as Chad put it, “a bunch of nerds who are into 3D printing got together and decided to do what we can.”

    It turns out, brackets for face shields are easy to 3D print so the group of 30 people with 40 printers, found a design that was approved by local hospitals, and printed them non-stop for weeks. It would take an hour to print each bracket then they bought binder covers which they three-hole punched and attached to complete the shield. At the peak, they produced about 1,000 face shields a week.

    Chad and his friends funded the entire endeavor and didn’t charge anyone for the shields. “Someone would put in a request and we filled them. We delivered them to local hospitals and a lot of nursing homes. We even provided them to an assisted living facility in Michigan. We didn’t turn anybody away,” Kirchner said.

    They were printing so many that finding the filament material for the printers became tough. “Amazon was our main supplier, but when they went to essential delivery only, we lost our main supply line for 3D printing filament,” said Kirchner.

    They started looking at local computer stores but quickly bought out all the available local stock. Chad ended up finding a large supply of filament in Brooklyn, NY, convinced Toyota to loan him a vehicle for the trip, which he wrote about for one of his many outlets, Automotive Map. He made the round trip journey from Ohio to New York in one 18-hour day.

    Like many auto writers, Chad grew up reading car magazines at a young age. “In addition to the incredible cars, reading stories about these exotic locations was a great form of escape.” Chad started reading about Japanese tuners and eventually bought a Honda S2000 inspired by all the articles he had read about the car. “It’s ironic, I wasn’t big into trucks even though it’s what I cover now. I grew up in a small Midwestern town and everybody loved trucks. I think the Japanese tuner thing was my form of rebellion.”

    Chad began writing about cars after he helped Josh Smith from GottaBeMobile.com with a purchase. “He needed to buy a car, a mutual friend introduced us and saying I could help him. Josh did something that never happens, he bought the car I recommended – and still drives it today.” A couple months later Josh called and said they were going to be adding auto coverage to the tech focused site, and asked if Chad was interested. It didn’t take long for Chad to say yes.

    With 13 million unique visitors a month, GottaBeMobile attracted the attention of automakers and Chad began getting media loans. His first press loan in 2013 was a Ford F-150 Raptor and his inaugural press trip was for the Chrysler 200. Now seven years into his career, Chad freelances for a number of outlets with a primary focus on trucks. High points of his career so far include driving on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a Chevy program, a trip to Morocco with Nissan, and a small Ford Performance event at Eldora Speedway where he spent the day after the races jumping Raptors with racer and track owner, Tony Stewart.

    Chad’s philosophy is straightforward. “My first responsibility is to tell the truth, even if that truth is harsh. But it’s important to say why. I would never write anything I wouldn’t tell a company executive face-to-face. If it gets you a nasty phone call, you get a nasty phone call.”

    MAMA played a significant role in his professional development. “Early on it was made clear that belonging to a professional organization was important. And everyone recommended MAMA.” Based in Columbus, Ohio, he attends as many MAMA events as possible. “I would love to go to more lunches as I’ve gotten press loans from showing up to a MAMA lunch. MAMA has a reputation as a top-tier organization, and being a member has raised my profile and helped me get more gigs.”

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