Speaking at a now-standard new model private press preview (our invite got lost in the mail), GM Car Czar Bob Lutz tried to put the kibosh on speculation that his employer was going Tango Uniform (as above)– even as he's pimping for federal loan guarantees. Automotive News [sub] reveals that Maximum Bob reckons "I do think the American automobile business is deserving of government loan guarantees because the financial institutions in the U.S. are so stressed out right now." Lutz said that Wall Street's "stress" led to a lack of financial support, obviating "a competitiveness that we may well need." At the same time, Lutz thinks federal loan guarantees are no biggie. "We are not accepting government money," Lutz insisted. In fact, "the last time the government backed a loan for an automaker — for Chrysler Corp. in 1979 — it made millions because Chrysler paid the loan off early." Millions? Bob Lutz makes millions. (Frequently.) Meanwhile, The Detroit News reports that Republican Rep Joe Knollenberg called President Bush's top economic advisor, Keith Hennessey, urging the president to support up to $50 billion in direct loans for automakers. Bipartisan support, eh?
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ChyrCo's procurement Veep wants the company's suppliers to understand that they're part of the Chrysler family, which ain't goin' nowhere. Capice? (So wait for your God damn money, OK?) The Bradenton Herald spills the beans on Joe Campi's charm offensive. "On Friday, Campi said the 160 suppliers visited Chrysler's headquarters Thursday to hear from the automaker's chief financial officer, the second time in about a month that suppliers were brought in for such a presentation. 'We did a complete financial review, balance sheet, earnings performance, you name it, we covered it,' Campi said. 'Not too different from what I've seen in
legit publicly traded companies. I think the mood was very upbeat.'" Or so they told Campi. Anyway, if that wasn't enough to quell suppliers' queasiness, Don Campi had a blunt message for all those "friends of ours." "I am not looking to kill suppliers," he asserted. "But there are some I can't save." Sam Giancana couldn't have said it better. 'Cause they would have thrown his ass in jail.
The same suits who said GM's GMT900 SUVs were going to be the bomb have watched SUV sales implode. And so they've cut back on GMT900 SUV production as fast as they can; which hasn't been very fast 'cause how can it be what with the UAW and all. Meanwhile, the communities that depend on GMT900 production for jobs and tax revenue are saying, what the Hell are we going to do now? The answer is, of course, nothing. There's nothing they can do. But politicians have got to be seen to be doing something. So Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher of Ohio heard of GM's cutbacks in Moraine (1000 jobs lightly toasted) and did the right thing — at least as far as getting re-elected is concerned. Fisher offered GM $56m worth of tax credits and grants to "encourage" The General to crank-out SUVs that nobody wants to buy. "The proposed assistance announced Wednesday consists of a $54 million job retention tax credit," The Chicago Trib reports. "And a $2 million 'rapid outreach' grant." Rapid outreach? Is that like "rapid reach-around' without the "around?" Anyway, fat chance. Pony-up $25b to $50b like the feds and then we'll talk. The Trib says "a message seeking comment was left for GM." Can you imagine the response? "GM is fully committed to its Ohio work force. Sorry about the no-sales-due-to-gas-prices thing, but it's not our fault. Thanks for the offer. We'll get back to you on that. Expect to hear from us sometime around, say, never."
Automotive News [AN, sub] reports that Ford execs are prowling the halls at The Democratic National Convention, drumming-up support for "A Bailout Plan By Any Other Name Would Still Look So Green" low-interest federal loans. Leading the charge (in every sense of the word): Ford Purchasing Chief "Motown" Tony Brown and his company's duly elected representative, Debby Stabenow. So, guys, how much taxpayer money do The Blue Oval Boyz need to buy some more time to hide their incompetence, draw their million-dollar paychecks and help put Barack Obama in the White House; and why the Hell should hard-working Americans give it to them when there's a perfectly good private banking system in this country? (Just kidding about the second part, unfortunately.) "We're still dimensioning," Brown told AN. Stabenow was equally forthcoming. "Stabenow said she doesn't know what the total amount should be. She indicated it may be necessary to press for some this year and more next year. 'We need to do something now.'" What do you mean we, white woman?
Just in time for football season, Chicago’s municipal Revenue Department gives “ticket scalping” a whole new meaning. The Tribune reports that during 2006, the city generated over $210m in fines from traffic and parking citations. That’s almost four years’ worth of Bears ticket sales, and, serendipitously, about equal to the city’s anticipated 2008 budget deficit. In a “sales” performance that would impress even the NFL, parking ticket revenues have soared 60 percent. Since 2000, the number of vehicles getting the (Denver) boot has increased 20 percent. The City also recently invested $1.5m to outfit a brigade of 26 vans with plate-recognition technology to track down additional clamping candidates, while new stop light cameras promise to fatten city coffers by another $17.5m next year. With this
blatant money grab intense interest in public safety affixing such a prominent bull’s eye on the wallets of American motorists, one has to wonder what other not-so-hidden driving taxes could possibly be next. Speed cameras? Congestion charges? CO2 taxes? The mind boggles.
King of Prussia Mall, outside Philly. At the "Chevy Court," most people clock the static displays, follow Dionne Warwick's advice and walk on by. The Chevy Store– easily mistaken for a NASCAR shop– contains a last gen Vue and Silverado, a Cobalt SS and a Z06. Shoppers can buy car models, t-shirts, hats and other bow tie-branded chazerai. The full time assistant's AWOL. I ask the temp if the truck on display is a GMT-800 or -900. He shrugs his shoulders; he's a "Ford guy." I take an online survey. Afterwards, I win a Chevy key ring via a free scratch card. Apparently, 200 people per day wander into the store. I ask Mr. Ford if they generate any vehicle sales. One customer was set to buy a 'Vette, saw the Z06 and decided to upgrade. A lady ogles a pickup truck. She's driving a Honda Odyssey. Her teenage son is due to inherit his father's Civic. Dad's next vehicle? "Probably another Honda." I can only imagine what this Chevy store costs, plus the public display area, plus the signage.
When I was growing up in South Africa, Cadillacs were gaudily chromed boats adorned with absurd fins. I thought they were stupid. I simply couldn’t reconcile Caddy's grandiose luxury land yachts with the small, sensible cars of my youth. As my horizons widened, as I learned about art, décor and design; I eventually “got it." I understood why enthusiasts waxed nostalgic about the great Caddies of yore, even though we saw precious few models in my corner of The Dark Continent.
I recently attended a product launch for a domestic automaker’s new vehicle. I soon found myself in the usual spot. Above me: the world’s most soothing shower nozzle. Below me: a four-star restaurant serving up the most delectable of Japanese fusion cuisine. While I’m not averse to junketeering’s sybaritic attractions, one question kept ringing in my mind: when? When will Ford realize that it’s time for the pleasure to stop?
The Saturn Sky has been a tremendous success. Not because it’s a great car; the lack of any appreciable trunk space and the model’s less than intoxicating driving dynamics make it a toy with limited play value. But the Sky knocks the ball out of the park in the style department. In fact, the Sky is the most physically appealing GM car has produced since Harley Earl last prowled the halls of The General’s design department. With the advent of the Saturn Sky Red Line, GM’s different kind of sports car gets a chance to redeem itself amongst die-hard pistonheads, to whom the drop-dead gorgeous base model failed to provide the necessary automotive intercourse. Unfortunately…
I’m a not-so-well-known writer for a not-so-well-known car mag and an equally obscure website. I’m standing, jet-lagged and a little smelly, in the courtyard of a hotel I can't afford in front of a new SUV that costs more than my state college education. I’m here on Audi's dime. Come, Constant Reader, and join me for the auto writer's Holy of Holies: the press launch. A gaggle of my fellow egomaniacs and I are here to drive the brand new Audi Q7 SUV.