For Sports Car Fans, the Summer of '63…

Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Coupé und Porsche 911 2.0 Coupé (Baujahr 1964)Although Canada’s most famous export, Bryan Adams, loves to sing about the Summer of ’69. What happened 50 years ago in 1963 really set the stage for sports car fans around the world.

In 2012, I had a chance to visit Zuffenhausen, Germany home of the 911 and at the time they were taking about the 50th anniversary celebrations they were planning for the 911 in 2013. So, I was prepared for all the fanfare that ensued to honor 50 years of the iconic 911. However, as 2013 progressed I was surprised to learn the other cars that were launched in 1963 and who were also celebrating their 50 years of existence.

Before we get to the other name plates let’s recap how the 911 came to be. At the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show, Porsche unveiled the 901 which was a successor to their first car the 356. Peugeot felt they had a lock on 3 digit car numbers with a zero in the middle. So instead of fighting the French car maker, Porsche changed the name from 901 to 911.  The 911 is the only car available today that has the same basic design of the original car, a design that has transcended time.

Meanwhile in Italy, a tractor maker by the name of Ferruccio was unhappy with his Ferrari so he met with Enzo Ferrari and told him to source better parts for the Ferrari to make it a better sports car. Enzo supposedly told Ferruccio to stick to making tractors and that he would stick to making high performance race cars. Ferruccio, an entrepreneur, was not very happy with the response he got, in 1963 he decided to setup his own sports car company which was located about 35 kilometers from Ferrari’s headquarters. Ferruccio named the sports car company after his last name – Lamborghini.

With all this action happening in Europe, Detroit’s Motor City was not be left out. One of the most successful sports car franchises was about to launch it’s 2nd generation model in 1963. Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov released the Corvette Sting Ray which was designed by Larry Shinoda. The first generation sales were good, but with the release of the Sting Ray it paved the way for the Corvette sales to sky rocket.

I’m not sure what was in the water or more likely what they were smoking in the early 60’s, but it had a profound and lasting effect on the sports car industry.

Sidenote: Ferrari didn’t know it at the time but it was building the most expensive car ever sold. At an auction in October 2013, a Ferrari 250 GTO was sold for USD $52 million to a private collector – the model year was 1963.


Rating the Consumer

uber-ratingOne of the great benefits of the internet has been the transparency it provides to consumers for products and services. Entire business models have been created around consumers rating the companies that provide these services such as hotels. This is often referred to as user-generated content. The website is free for users, who provide most of the content, and then the website is typically monetized by an advertising led revenue model.

The business of rating hotels is nothing new, in the 1950’s Mobil created a star rating system to entice people to jump into their car and explore the United States via the newly built interstate highway system…using Mobil gas to get there of course. Non-profits such as AAA (American Automobile Association) created a diamond rating system to assist its members in finding quality hotels similar to the Mobil rating system. The issue has been that these ratings are done by a organization and not from a consumer’s point of view. Sometimes it’s easy to game the system if Mobil or AAA is rating a property vs. an individual consumer. Enter TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor was an early entrant into the user-generated content travel space and took off like a rocket ship, it was a way for consumers to rate and rank their hotel visits. Overnight the star rating system had a formidable competitor in the form of real hotel guests that could write reviews and share their actual experiences while staying at a hotel property. Many consumers use both the star rating system and the hotel reviews written by guests to make an informed decision on what hotel to stay at.

The current system is great for consumers but what has been missing is a way for the hotel to rate the consumer on their behavior at the hotel. It’s not just hotels but any business that interacts with consumers – taxis, restaurants, etc…

I call it the “Do you know who I am” rating. If you have lived in Bombay for more than 6 months, then you have probably visited a restaurant and heard someone throw around the phrase “Do you know who I am…”, which is usually a pre-cursor to them shouting about something that has gone wrong. It gets pretty tiresome when some no-name jackass thinks they are the next Mukesh Ambani and starts to name drop. By rating the consumer, the restaurant can take extra precautions the next time the guest visits the restaurant or just decline their reservation by saying the restaurant is full.

Seems far-fetched? Not really, Uber is a taxi service that allows cab drivers to rate their passengers. So next time when a passenger wants to book via Uber the passenger’s rating comes up on the cab drivers screen and they can accept or decline the request.

Rating a consumer has always been a challenge because most point of sale (POS) terminals didn’t have a way to capture the data. But nowadays the dedicated POS terminal is giving way to smart phones and tablets that can allow companies to design what information they want to capture on the device. An example of this is Square which is a credit card payment processor that has an iPad app that turns any iPad into a POS terminal, they could potentially add a feature to rate a consumer as well.

I expect more and more business to start capturing a consumers behavior and turn it into a quantifiable rating. However, I don’t expect companies to start declining business because of a consumers rating, rather I would expect businesses to treat the consumer with extra care and caution.