We Asked Automakers to Say Something Nice About Their Rivals. Here’s What Happened
Let's end 2020 on a positive note—or at least try to, anyway.
2020 has been eventful, to say the least. You're not alone in seeking traditional comforts at the tail end of this year—we say bring on the crappy Christmas songs, the Yuletide greetings from corporate Twitter accounts, the public displays of goodwill and cheer. Back up a schmaltzy truckful of good tidings and dump it on us, because if there's ever a time where we all just want to feel happy and at peace, it's now.
The weirdness of this year gave us an idea—well, that and this video of someone calling up Papa John's and Domino's and putting the unsuspecting competitors on speakerphone with each other. Part social experiment, part holiday mission to close out 2020 on a positive note, we decided to contact pretty much every major automaker in the world and ask them to do a rare thing: say something nice about each other.
Keeping in mind that the primary job of a public relations person is to make their employer look good, I wondered whether this grand plan would fall on its face with a few perfunctory, bland statements and a whole lot of non-responses. Some automakers did indeed choose to ignore our unusual request—but surprisingly, most were willing to play ball! Though not everyone could resist the chance to slip a subtle dig in there. But what are the holidays without a little tension?
Without further ado, here's what happened.
Ford & GM
Two frenemies to the death if there ever were some, Ford and GM got into a semi-public spat over max towing claims for their respective heavy-duty pickup trucks earlier this fall. Naturally, America's two biggest automakers were our first two targets for this assignment. And naturally, it doesn't sound like things have warmed up all that much since that towing fight. GM completely ignored our request, while Ford's PR boss sent along this statement on the General's shifting stance on emission regulations and the design direction of its revived Chevy Blazer compact crossover that begs to be read between the lines.
Ford: "We applaud GM for reversing course on emissions and creating their excellent Blazer crossover, which has really hit the sweet spot with consumers looking for an urban utility with a rugged name. Happy Holidays!"
BMW, Audi, & Mercedes-Benz
Moving across the Atlantic and up a tax bracket, we decided to ask the triad of German luxury brands to talk about each other in a kind of circular compliment squad: BMW about Audi, Audi about Mercedes-Benz, and Mercedes back around to BMW. In an on-brand move, BMW's message to Audi begins with a compliment to Ingolstadt that kind of doubles as a boast about BMW itself.
Audi, meanwhile, which was tasked with coming up with something nice to say about Mercedes-Benz, took the opportunity to bond with the Daimler company over a mutual love of wagons and gave us one of the most heartfelt responses of the whole experiment. We're all in this together, guys. Unfortunately, Mercedes didn't see things similarly and declined to participate with a compliment to BMW. Shame.
BMW: "To our German neighbors at Audi… great things are engineered in Bavaria. But your grilles are still bigger than ours. Servus!" [In case your Deutsch needs brushing up, "servus" is a casual Bavarian greeting.]
Audi: "This year, we’re feeling genuinely grateful to Mercedes-Benz. Keeping Americans interested in long roofs is no small feat, but track-worthy wagons and elevated off-roaders seem to have done the trick. We thank our Mercedes friends for giving wagon aficionados something to cheer about before the original high-performance and allroad Avants were able to return to the U.S. From All-terrain to allroad, E63 AMG to RS 6 Avant – we appreciate the three-pointed star keeping wagon customers happy on American roads. Somehow, we are in this together after all. Here’s to us all continuing to get along in 2021."
Nissan & FCA
For a company whose cars and trucks are as brash and unapologetic as they are, surprisingly FCA also decided to sit this one out when asked to say something nice about Nissan. In contrast, Nissan replied with what might be our favorite thing to come out of this entire exercise, a modified Christmas poem dedicated to the Manufacturer of Muscle.
"Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a...
Ah crap, Santa's got himself a Hellcat. Everyone is up!
On Ram and on Wrangler! On Alfa and on Redeye! Away!
Congrats FCA on your success and commitment to horsepower.
Looking forward to 2021!"
10/10, Nissan. Stellar work. Also, is it weird that Ram, Wrangler, Alfa, and Redeye all totally check out as names a gearhead Santa would give his reindeer?
Toyota & Honda
Despite its massive grilles and wild styling, Toyota reverted to its conservative and risk-averse self for this activity, replying to a request to compliment archrival Honda with a fairly boilerplate holiday message that frankly could have been addressed to any one of its major competitors. Honda, meanwhile, was a little more forthcoming and gave Toyota a nod for being a fierce competitor that drives them to do better and be better.
Toyota: "In the midst of Toyotathon, we’re sending our colleagues at Honda best wishes for a Happy Honda Days! With friendly competition spanning decades across multiple segments, we salute you during this challenging time. We are grateful to be part of an industry that has demonstrated steadfast support of employees, customers, health care workers, and our local communities."
Honda: "The automotive industry is arguably the most competitive in the world. For decades, Honda has competed vigorously with Toyota both on the track and in our business operations. This spirit of competition motivates us at Honda and Acura to dig deeper and reach higher, to the ultimate benefit of our fans and customers around the world. We wish everyone at Toyota the happiest of holidays and look forward to getting back at it in 2021."
Mazda & Subaru
As for Japanese automakers of a smaller scale, we asked Mazda and Subaru to share something they admire about the other. While Mazda shied away from talking positively about any one Subaru product, or really any attribute related to the business of building and selling cars, the Hiroshima company gave Subie a thumbs up over its philanthropy during the pandemic this year. Back in April, Subaru donated the equivalent of 50 million meals to those in need via Feeding America food banks.
However, Subaru was decidedly less generous with its words, opting against participating in this story. Sorry, Mazda. We're disappointed too.
Mazda: "Subaru's community impact programs tackle important issues and positively impact many lives. During the pandemic, we’ve been inspired by the brand’s partnership with local food banks to provide meals to vulnerable community members."
Remember, love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru. They never said anything about humility.
Volkswagen & Hyundai
Given their shared status as industry titans who build cars for regular folks while hailing from countries that aren't America or Japan (it's an exclusive group, we know), we asked Volkswagen and Hyundai to say something positive about each other. Worth noting the two are poised to be fierce competitors with super-ambitious electrification plans and very real EV products in their respective pipelines.
The German automaker answered the call by pointing out Hyundai as a truly formidable opponent on the worldwide stage, specifically mentioning that company's excellent but smelly Palisade SUV. Hyundai didn't want to play, but instead of just ignoring us like others, its PR team sent in a pretty pointed response to that effect.
Volkswagen: "The Palisade has got our attention because it is such an improvement over Hyundai’s previous midsize SUVs – particularly when you look at the interior. Worldwide, Hyundai is a tough competitor for all of us in the industry."
Hyundai: "Call me a Grinch, but we’ll pass on this."
Porsche & McLaren
With both being performance car and motorsport legends each in their own right, we thought it'd be interesting and appropriate to saddle Porsche and McLaren together to exchange compliments and, boy, did they rise to the occasion. No PR-friendly tiptoeing around, no thinly-veiled jabs, just unadulterated love, respect, and class.
Porsche also gets bonus points to for being the first company to reply, responding with its finely-written statement just half an hour after we asked for it. McLaren responded with even more reverence, harking back to the days when the two companies actually collaborated and tipping its cap to the boys and girls of Stuttgart as competitors not just on the track but also as makers of high-performance road cars.
Porsche: "McLaren set the template for modern supercars with the F1 28 years ago—moving the game on to an extraordinary degree, both in their philosophy and application of technology, with eyes set firmly on the future. Today they’re unchanged—aiming sky-high, fearless in approach and relentlessly pushing progress, a small team of passionate and talented men and women for whom we have the greatest admiration and respect."
McLaren: "We have a deep respect for Porsche, its people, and its products at McLaren. Our two companies have historical ties stretching back to the 1980s. Porsche developed the Tag-Turbo V6 engine that powered McLaren race cars to wins and championships – an engine that was originally tested in a Porsche 930 Turbo road car. While the materials and technologies used in our road cars are often divergent, our engineering philosophies share common threads, including delivering exceptional performance without compromising packaging, driver ergonomics, and everyday usability. McLaren and Porsche have a healthy competitive relationship in GT3- and GT4-class racing, where both brands have scored important wins and championships over the last several years. Our mutual respect for each other's products and friendly competitiveness helps push us to develop even more desirable supercars for the enthusiast community."
Jeez guys, get a room already.
Bentley & Rolls-Royce
Rolls used to own Bentley, but nowadays they're each owned by competing German brands, sparring over the flush funds of well-heeled motorists looking for British ultra-luxury. When asked to say something nice about its former parent company, Bentley responded with many words and many thoughts with the tone of a nostalgic but ultimately satisfied ex. Rolls had slightly less to say, but it did call Bentley a cousin, which kind of ruins our ex-partner analogy. Anyway.
Bentley: "It’s been 22 years since we split but it seems like yesterday we were swapping grilles in Crewe, Rolls-Royce -- look at us now. We’ve each become uniquely our own as the world changed. While we at Bentley mapped a course for an electrified future, you presciently dialed down the glitz and entered your Post Opulence phase. Well played.
And though we sent our beloved Mulsanne out to the great garage in the sky this year, it’s been wonderful to see your majestic Phantom continuing to thrive—or at least, waft along its merry way. Speaking of bygones, we’ll always have the 6.75 L, won’t we?
We continue to admire the stars in your headliner, the loudness of your color palettes, and the discreet verve of your Black Badge specials… yet may we never stop vying for the adoration of rock stars and romantics alike. After all, what’s love without a little friendly competition? Cheers to 2021."
Rolls-Royce: "Congrats to our younger—not better looking—cousins at Bentley. You look good for a mere 101 years old. While we both feel 20 years old, we’re glad to you’re carrying that youthful DNA instilled by W.O. Bentley a century ago. Call us when you grow up and hit 116!"
For what it's worth, Bentley, I think the Bentayga looks better than the Cullinan.
Ferrari & Lamborghini
To the surprise of absolutely no one, neither Ferrari nor Lamborghini bothered to acknowledge our request. Had to try, though.
Happy holidays from The Drive, everyone. We hope you all have a safe, peaceful, and compliment-filled end of 2020. Nowhere to go but up from here!
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