Will Honda beat Toyota in gas-electric hybrid segment?

•May 23, 2008 • 3 Comments

Hi All!

In one of my previous posts I had written about Toyota’s high selling Gas-Electric hybrid car. Recently I read somewhere that Honda will sell a new, improved and affordable gas-electric hybrid in the U.S., Japan and Europe starting early 2009. This car will underline the Japanese automaker’s commitment to “green” technology, according to the company president.

The new model to be sold solely as a hybrid and not as a traditional, gasoline-powered car is a key part of Honda Motor Co.’s strategy for the next three years that President Taken Fukui outlined at Tokyo headquarters.

Production innovations and expansion plans

The plan also included production innovations and expansion in Japan to cut costs so Honda can stay competitive amid soaring material and energy costs, he said.

In addition to the new hybrid, Honda will introduce several other hybrids: a Civic, a new sporty model based on the CR-Z and a Fit subcompact, sold as the Jazz in Europe, Fukui said.

“Hybrids have drawn attention for their image, but time has come to go to the next step,” he said, stressing that Honda was serious about selling hybrids in numbers. Fukui refused to give the price for the new vehicle, which would be offered solely as a hybrid.

But he said the difference between hybrids and their comparable standard models should be kept within $1,900, although such price gaps can now reach as much as $4,800. “The 200,000 yen difference is a must,” he added.

Specifications of the new hybrid

The new hybrid’s name was not yet disclosed. It will be a five-door sedan seating five passengers, and feature new technology that reduced the size and weight of the hybrid system to increase fuel efficiency, according to Honda, Japan’s second-biggest automaker.

Although Honda already has developed hybrids, it has fallen behind Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. in this segment. Last year, Honda discontinued the gas-and-electric version of its Accord sedan, sold only in North America, which sold just 25,000 units since going on sale in 2004. In 2006, it pulled the plug on the slow-selling Insight hybrid.

Over the past decade, Toyota has sold more than a million Prius gas-electric hybrid cars worldwide. When including other hybrid models, cumulative overall sales of gas-electric vehicles total 1.46 million, according to Toyota, which also makes the Camry sedan and Lexus luxury cars.

Honda has sold more than 262,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide since it started selling them in 1999. Hybrids deliver a cleaner, more efficient ride by switching between a gas engine and an electric motor at different speeds, and by recycling the energy the car produces as it moves.

Honda has also confirmed that it will sell 500,000 hybrids a year, after 2010, which is half the number that Toyota has already announced it seeks to sell a year by the same time period. At the end of this year, the production line for the hybrid motor will be raised to 250,000 units annual capacity from the current 70,000, Honda said.

Environmental concerns factored in

Honda said it’s also pushing its fuel-cell technology to ease environmental concerns. A fuel cell vehicle has no emissions because it runs on the power created when hydrogen, stored as fuel in the vehicle, combines with oxygen in the air to emit water.

I am personally not concerned about the competition amongst these two cars. Just thankful for the fact that we are finally moving towards more environment friendly, cleaner cars. These types of cars must be introduced in all segment and all countries. Hope to see one soon in india.

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•May 20, 2008 • 3 Comments

Hi All!

Do you know what Chevrolet is doing at this point of time? Ok I’ll tell you. This big auto player is going to rock the international car market by manufacturing the most comprehensive electric car.

The extended-range electric vehicle is no longer just a rumor. Chevrolet has put tremendous design and engineering resources in place to make this vehicle a reality.

The Concept Chevy Volt, with its revolutionary E-Flex Propulsion System will be different than any previous electric vehicle because it will use a lithium-ion battery with a variety of range-extending onboard power sources, including gas and, in some vehicles, E85
ethanol to recharge the battery while driving.

When it comes to plugging in, the Volt will be designed to use a common 110–volt household plug. For someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions. For longer trips, Chevy Volt’s range-extending power source kicks in to recharge the lithium-ion battery pack as required. It expect a driving range of an estimated 640 miles.

“We have devoted significant resources to this project: Over 200 engineers and 50 designers are working on the Volt alone, and another 400 are working on related subsystems and electric components. That’s how important we think this is, and that’s how much stock we place in the future of extended-range electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt.”- Tony Posawatz, Vehicle Line Director.

Chevrolet Volt Electric Concept Car

Do you think this car would change Indian automotive industry? I certainly think so. If I am ever able to lay my hands on this car, i would simply zoom off.

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Worldwide Telescope: New way to see the Universe

•May 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

HI All!

Do you know what Microsoft has done recently? A great Job done by Microsoft by making a virtual telescope with the help of NASA. Now you just have to log on to your computer and see the Universe as NASA Scientists have seen.

‘Star Trek’ fan knows that space travel is not always easy, but Microsoft Corp. wants to make traveling the “final frontier” as simple as turning on your computer. It has launched a free software application called Worldwide Telescope that allows everyone, from space novices to astronomy professors, to easily explore galaxies, star systems and distant planets. The Worldwide Telescope stitches together 12 terabytes—the data equivalent of 2.6 billion pages of text—of pictures from sources including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

The experience is similar to playing a video game, allowing users to zoom in and out of galaxies that are thousands of light years away. It allows seamless viewing of faraway star systems and rarely-seen space dust in breathtaking clarity. A test version of the software is available for download at ‘http://www.worldwidetelescope.org’.

Microsoft said it will release the Worldwide Telescope free of charge as a , a Microsoft researcher who went missing off the coast of California while sailing last year. Gray worked on projects with astronomers to organize the vast amounts of data and images being pulled from satellites. The software allows users to develop their own guided tours of the universe to share with others or take part in a guided tour created by astronomy experts.

Just try this and let me know your views.

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Stains in Car??? Don’t Worry

•May 15, 2008 • 1 Comment

There’s nothing worse than buying a new car, and weeks later, it looks more lived-in than a 100-year-old house. Drive-thru food and drinks, kids with sticky candy, and drooling Fido also do their fair share toward making your car’s interior — be it leather, cloth, or carpet — look beaten and worn. By maintaining the appearance of the vehicle inside as well as out, you retain the value of the car, which will help you when it’s time to trade it in or sell it. Here are a few helpful hints to help you tackle the spills and spots.

1. Though you should never drink and drive, if alcohol spills while on your way home from the grocery store, beer and alcohol spills on your carpeting should be immediately diluted with cold water so they don’t permanently change the color.
2. To clean vinyl seats quickly, wipe them down with baking soda on a damp rag. Rinse with dishwashing detergent and water. Baking soda is more gentle on vinyl than oil-based cleaners, which will cause the vinyl to harden.
3. For general carpet or upholstery stains, take a gallon of hot water, a generous amount of dish detergent, and add a cup of white vinegar. You’ll need a hard bristle brush to work the mixture thoroughly into carpet fibers. Let sit for 30 minutes. Blot until dry with towels or thick absorbent rags. (This works for pet stains).
4. To brighten a fading carpet, first vacuum, then use a sponge mop to lightly apply a mixture of a half cup clear ammonia to one pint of water. Test this mixture on a discrete area of carpeting of first. Note: Do not use ammonia on wool carpeting.
5. To keep car mats looking new, wax them with a liquid shoe wax polish. This will also make them easier to rinse clean.
For best practice you can also try a commercial cleaner for your car interior. I used and believe in Crypton Cleaner. It helps me to remove stains as well as odor. You can also check it at Crypton’s official site.

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•May 14, 2008 • 8 Comments

Hi All!

I received very detailed comments on one of my previous blog posts, asking few questions regarding Logan and DZire. So I’ve decided to answer all these questions here. I think John would be more than happy about this.

? Mileage in city driving you / your friend achieves with / without A.C. on (I don’t want brochure data, I may not be that good a driver to achieve those big numbers).

Dzire Petrol will give you 12 – 14 Kmpl with AC and 14 – 16 without AC depending upon the traffic conditions. Before first servicing mileage may not be that high. So you will have to be patient.

Logan will give you near 12-16 Kmpl with AC and 15-18 Kmpl without AC.

? Driver comfort/ Back / neck comfort/ Road visibility / Smoothness of gear shift

240 mm fore & aft slide range for front seats, 35 mm driver side seat height adjustment will give you full control over seating and road views. Gear Shift is much smoother than all other version of Maruti. Leg room is more in Logan. But I’ll give more points to DZire on all above options.

? Comfort for all / Arm rest comfort / Comfort of rear headrest etc.

Interior space is good in both cars but auto climate control and big rear seat make DZire more attractive than Logan.

? Security – keyless entry / immobilizer / i Cat etc.

These all features are in DZire but not in Logan. iCats is a very effective security feature that Maruti is fitting in each of its models.

? ABS, EBS etc.

Yes these features are in DZire but not in Logan.

? Service / Cost of service / Cost of spares Tubeless Tyres?

Quality of service is good for both of these cars. In Bangalore both companies have their service centers but keep in mind that Logan is made by Renault and hence parts are more costly than DZire. Cost of service is always less for a maruti car. Plus they have a huge network. Tubeless Tyres are third party products and hence same price for both of these cars.

? Ease / difficulty in retrieving the stepney

Easy in both of cars.

? Any problem with engine noise / vibrations

Not till the speed of 110Kmph. Even for diesel engine variant -DZire is supposed to be one of the quitest diesel cars available.

? Any power steering problem at higher speeds

I never found any such problem.

? Any problem with gear ratios

I don’t think so. Gear transmission is very smooth.

? Any problem with suspension on Indian (pot holed) roads

Dzire’s suspension is better than Logan on worst road conditions. On highways Logan has a better pickup but on high speed DZire is a more successful car .

? Any other good or bad about DZire & Logan

From a price perspective DZire is good and looks more modern than Logan. Logan is a good car but looks like an 80’s car. Finally it depends upon people. There are so many car freaks who love Logan, and others crazy for DZire.

I have tried to answer all the point as per best of my knowledge. I welcome your views on the above questions and answers.

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Got widgets? Now what?

•May 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hi all.
Last time I told you — What is Widget? Now I have come across a detailed study of the widgets and sharing it with you. This article solely belongs to Marti Funk.

Targeted and disciplined media planning is essential to successfully leverage widgets. Move beyond their novelty by incorporating a few basic strategies.

Call them what you will — widgets, gadgets, wadgets, minis or whatever else the industry drums up. The bottom line is that these “things” (we’ll call them widgets in this article) have created an enormous buzz in online media. And for good reason. Widgets represent a powerful means to connect advertisers with a mass of users, in the spirit of increasing customer loyalty and, ultimately, revenue — but only when deployed smartly.

Widget defined
First, let’s establish a basic understanding of widgets. Technically, “widget” is the common term for a portable chunk of code that can be embedded on any web page to add utilities or content that is not static (e.g., a news feed). Functionally, widgets have gained popularity as a way for websites to enhance the user experience, particularly on the rapidly growing number of social media sites, by allowing people to add, share and create information relative to their interests.

While the industry has seen a handful of successful installations with scale (e.g., maps, weather, calendars, horoscopes, music, etc.), widgets have created — thus far, in one person’s humble opinion — more noise than value. If media companies don’t take a more disciplined approach around widgets, we will see their novelty wear off like many other innovations. That said, there still is a tremendous opportunity to move beyond the hype and deploy widgets in a manner that truly enhances your brand and the user experience.

Start by focusing on the following basic media planning strategies:

Thoughtful concept development
From the onset, it’s important to clearly define your widget and its role within your broader media mix. Often, widgets are deployed without much consideration for their true business value. When developing your widget strategy, adhere to the basic tenets of media planning: timeliness, frequency and relevance.

Like any strategic planning, start by clearly identifying your target audience, first placing yourself in your customers’ shoes and then in your brand’s shoes. By no means is this a new concept. Yet you’d be surprised by how many widgets are developed that don’t gain significant traction. Ultimately, you want your customers to answer “Yes!” when asked if they would place your widget on their profile page. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to conduct a customer survey or poll to that effect.

Next, before moving forward with any widget development and deployment, address the question, “How can I leverage my audience needs to create an affinity with my product, service or brand?”

Below are guidelines on how to add value for your users through widgets:

* Save them time. Deliver the information that users want and seek out on a regular basis by personalizing their experience (e.g., “Remember Me” and “My Preferences”) and creating frequency (e.g., stock quotes, weather reports, election results and so forth).

* Save them money. Offer promotions that entice them based on their interests, wants and needs. For example, PETCO might consider offering discounts on a pet-related site, while Patagonia and Sidestep target lifestyle sites.

* Reinforce the relationship. Let users know you care by consistently delivering fresh, relevant content. For music junkies, this might be concert ticket promotions and memorabilia. Or scoreboard tickers and schedules for sports enthusiasts.

* Entertain them. Offer light content (e.g., videos, event coverage, movie trailers) that they can digest quickly — when they have time.

Targeted distribution
While it worked in the movie “Field of Dreams,” in the world of widgets, “if you build it, they will come” does not apply. Simply developing and deploying a widget does not mean people automatically will see it, much less use it.

When it comes to rolling out a new widget, success hinges on a well-defined and valid distribution strategy that, again, incorporates the basics of media planning by including timely and personalized content.

Also, while distribution is not synonymous with a broad-based media plan, it does need to focus on a clear understanding of your audience and its role within the larger marketing and communications effort.

We all will learn more as the widget paradigm evolves. In the interim, it’s wise to focus on your “lowest hanging fruit” — or core audience. We are in a fascinating digital space where convergence and consumer control are leading communication mechanisms and successful distribution of your widgets can play a significant role in attracting and retaining customers.

Below are general guidelines for creating targeted distribution of widgets:

* Leverage your brand ambassadors. Ensure that your internal and external influencers (including placement on lists and websites) are at the top of your distribution list. They often have a broad network of associates within your targeted communities, thereby quickly extending your reach.

* Entice and engage. Reward users for their participation and advocacy of your widgets. Customer loyalty programs that offer discounts for usage and referrals are an excellent way to keep users coming back.

* Keep it simple. Don’t recreate the wheel. Advertising.com’s Joel Fisher highlighted a few key techniques at iMedia’s Brand Summit on Feb. 11, such as leveraging industry standards, following publisher specifications and utilizing Flash technology.

Modeling and measurement
It’s imperative to track and measure both engagement and exposure, to know whether your widgets strategy is working or not.

Good, bad or indifferent, digital media will continue — at least through 2008 — to rely on metrics and accountability. Therefore, the industry must seek ways to understand intentions through merging qualitative and quantitative objectives.

Below are guidelines for ensuring accurate measurement of widgets:

* Set clear objectives. Tie your widget execution to your overall marketing strategy. Define what you are trying to achieve, whether it’s better awareness, more traffic or increased revenue.

* Establish success metrics. Set milestones or “test” metrics to measure against your objectives, particularly if this is your first foray into widgets.

* Test, analyze and optimize. Follow this measurement rule of thumb from digital disciplinarians. Project primary exposure, installations, pass-alongs, secondary exposure and usage. Enable measurement tools to track those metrics. And set optimization timing and tactics.

Other considerations and cautions

Keep in mind that, even though heavyweights such as Facebook, iGoogle and MySpace have a huge potential audience, all of our great widget exploits further yield media fragmentation. Monitoring the impact of the following will help you create and deploy widgets with scale and effectiveness, as opposed to creating additional noise.

* Convergence. We need to be honest with potential usage based on a couple of factors: 1) Beware of audience double-dipping and 2) Allow your consumers to bring an experience to life in their third-party environment.

* Technology. Consumer-controlled media and open APIs have allowed platforms such as Facebook, iGoogle and other social communities to thrive, making it even more imperative to consider usage and target-ability.

* Content. Even though the audience may be counted under a particular address (e.g. facebook.com), valuable content will drive usage. Trusted content providers that create relevant extensions on for third-party platforms have had good success, particularly in terms of brand integration.

* Return on investment. To further increase revenue, consider content licensing and syndication, setup and production fees, and server/tracking technologies.

By beginning to apply these media planning principles to your widget strategy, you’ll be ahead of the game in both serving your audience and improving your business results.

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What is a widget?

•May 9, 2008 • 1 Comment

Hi all!

Widgets are the most talked about web application these days. I am also searching for more information on widgets. I found this informative article written by Tony Bombacino, chief marketing officer of Restaurant.com.

Over the past couple of years, yet another new term has entered the marketer’s vocabulary; that term of course is “widget.” And while many people are already talking about widgets 2.0, many others are just starting to pay attention. Whether you think widgets are the most annoying fad ever or the most innovative trend in interactive online marketing, there is no denying they are part of our industry dialogue. These days, I can’t have a conversation with a publisher, salesman or colleague, read an article or attend a conference where the word and topic is not being debated. Often the debate centers on the mere definition of a widget — not how or when they should be used, or who is leading the way.

Beyond the definition of a widget, what qualifies as a widget is being debated in marketing conference rooms around the world. Depending on the size and focus of your company, and your role within it, you may have debated whether this new “thing” should be called a widget, a gadget, a desktop application, a downloadable application, or some cool new name native to your company.

With that said, let’s take a deeper look at the what, why, when, who and how of widgets. Beyond the definitions I’ve heard, I thought I would first see what Dictionary.com had to say. As I expected, the results were as varied as the debate:

1. Widget [wij-it] — noun — a small mechanical device, as a knob or switch, esp. one whose name is not known or cannot be recalled; gadget: a row of widgets on the instrument panel. 2. In graphical user interfaces, a combination of a graphic symbol and some program code to perform a specific function (e.g. a scroll-bar or button). 3. A device or control that is very useful for a particular job usually provides widget libraries containing commonly used widgets drawn in a certain style and with consistent behavior.

Or what about this simple and more industry-specific definition found at FreeWebs.com — “Widgets are small content features that help make your site personal and unique.”

Some of these definitions are relevant to our everyday businesses, some are not. For the purposes of moving forward, let’s assume that widgets in this article’s context mean everything from Facebook widgets to unique on-site widgets that brands develop to drive engagement, sales and/or ad revenue to more complex downloadable widgets/desktop apps that have multiple functions. In the end, the common thread across all of these widgets is that they all aim to drive some type of customer action (purchase/revenue, brand awareness/engagement, pass-along, etc.).

I am searching more on widgets and I’ll comeback with a detailed study. Till then if you get any more stuff get back with your findings.

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