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pianoman11686
July 22nd, 2005, 01:53 AM
What's Under Tribeca's Hood? Yes, the Battery

By CLYDE HABERMAN

Published: July 22, 2005

BID farewell to Park Avenue - it's so last decade - and say hi to TriBeCa, the embodiment of the urban, the sophisticated and the hip. Those last words are borrowed. More on that in a moment.

In case you were wondering, we are not referring here to New York neighborhoods. This is car talk.

For 14 years, Buick has produced a model called the Park Avenue, once described by a company official as "our flagship sedan," with a name that "means luxury." Certainly, Park Avenue the street holds its own. But Park Avenue the car is about to go the way of another venerable model, the Chrysler New Yorker, which purred its last in 1996 after a remarkable 57-year run.

Come October, the Park Avenue is "gone for good," said Cathleen O'Hare, a Buick spokeswoman in Detroit. "It's had a pretty long run."

So why did it run out of gas, with monthly sales these days bumping along in the low three digits? "There was nothing wrong with it," Ms. O'Hare said, quick to dispel any suspicion of sudden anti-New York bias. "You know, you turn a corner in styling and new architecture."

Maybe the Park Avenue acquired the musty air of too many yesterdays. That's what happened to the Chrysler New Yorker. By the end, an editor at AutoWeek magazine said in 1996, it had become "known as a car for PODS - poor old dumb slobs."

Ah, but now there is TriBeCa to fill the New York car void. To be more accurate, we have the B9 Tribeca, a new sport utility vehicle from Subaru.

This Tribeca comes without the internal capital letters signifying that the name is short for Triangle Below Canal. (B9, by the way, is not a vitamin. The B refers to the vehicle's horizontally opposed "Boxer" engine, a phrase we lifted straight from a Subaru news release. Being both carless and clueless, we don't understand a word of this. The number 9 is the model series.)

Why Tribeca? Because focus groups liked it best among 15 possibilities that were considered, said Lisa Fleming, a spokeswoman for Subaru of America. "Tribeca," she said, "really resonated with them," its name suggesting - here come the magic words - "urban, sophisticated and hip."

Similar points were made in Tokyo by officials of Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru's parent company. TriBeCa is not particularly well known in Japan. Nonetheless, the name, rendered Toraibekka in Japan, has managed to grace a restaurant, a jazz lounge, a pool hall and a racehorse.

Subaru, it seems, now wants to sell more S.U.V.'s to big-city types, expanding its base beyond the kind of people who schlep through the snows of New Hampshire or the mud of the Pacific Northwest. Rakishly styled, the B9 Tribeca has pizazz. "It's a progressive S.U.V.," Ms. Fleming said.

No question, most New Yorkers like to think of themselves as progressive.

THIS city can hardly be considered friendly to cars, let alone S.U.V.'s. But that has not stopped the auto industry from turning to New York for inspiration.

"We can probably say that it's the most represented city in automobile namedom," said Beverly Rae Kimes, an automotive historian from Manhattan. Since the early days of the last century, car models have borne New York-associated names that include, to list but a few, Yorkville, Bryant, El Morocco, Belmont, Fifth Avenue, Manhattan and Gotham.

It makes sense, said Mark Patrick, curator of the National Automotive History Collection at the Detroit Public Library. "Those names all speak to success and power, and that attracts people," he said.

Will the B9 Tribeca cast a similar spell? Not every expert would bet on it.

"This is a dangerous name for a car," said G. Clotaire Rapaille, a consultant who advises Detroit on consumer likes and dislikes. Yes, the New York label "can be attractive - it represents sophistication," Mr. Rapaille said. But for many Americans, "there is at the same time this fear about this very, very strange world."

That may be so, said Bob Gritzinger, a senior editor at AutoWeek. "But as a general rule, if a vehicle is good, it will get past the name," he said. "Unless they're familiar with it, people aren't going to connect it with New York."

Dutch Mandel, AutoWeek's editor and associate publisher, had doubts of his own about the benefits of the name for Subaru.

O.K., let's cut to the chase. With so many New York bashers out there, is it possible that a Manhattan label might even amount to a marketing kiss of death?

"I don't think so," Mr. Mandel said. "Unless, of course, you were to call it the Trump."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

NoyokA
July 22nd, 2005, 10:50 AM
I'm glad somebody posted a thread about this car, because it is singularly the ugliest car to be released in decades.

ryan
July 22nd, 2005, 11:04 AM
It's homely, but it's no Pontiac Aztek

Jasonik
July 22nd, 2005, 11:38 AM
Subaru Tribeca:http://www.kabel1.de/php-bin/scripts/cgalerie/content/k1_info_auto_de_detroit05-subaru-tribeca/01.jpg
VW Touareg:http://www.autointell-news.com/News-2003/August-2003/August-2003-2/VW-Touareg-115.jpg
Porsche Cayenne:http://www.edmunds.com/media/news/column/carmudgeon/emw/03.porsche.cayenne.500.jpg
Unknown:http://finurlig.se/wp-content/suv-i-pool.jpg

ryan
July 22nd, 2005, 11:43 AM
Unknown appears to be a Toyota Highlander. Are your pics some kind of code?

ZippyTheChimp
July 22nd, 2005, 02:05 PM
So the SUV has gone from names like Denali, a place where the typical owner of the vehicle would quickly become a bear buffet; to Tribeca, a place where the owner does not need it.

ablarc
July 22nd, 2005, 09:13 PM
Jasonik, you never fail to slay me.

Bone dry, with a twist.

Hold the olive.

softsecret
July 24th, 2005, 11:56 AM
I am gonna go out on a limb here and say that I think the car is really nice looking. One of my favorite new designs is the "VW Toureg", and that Porche is beautiful. If I werent so opposed to SUV's for daily use, for gasoline reasons,I suppose, I would buy the new "Tribeca B9" just because it looks so nice to me.

And besides, the name reminds me of my late night fantasies about Mr. DeNiro...

;)