Posts By: Robert Farago
Automotive News [sub] reports that President Obama’s Pay Czar has done an about face. Kenneth Feinberg pledged to remove the $500,000 salary cap for NEW executives hired for TARP-recipients—if he’s convinced that a rule-busting pay boost would help the bailout queens return U.S. taxpayer’s money. Feinberg’s climb-down comes just two days after New GM’s federally-appointed Chairman of the Board said that Uncle Sam’s pay caps could be, indeed should be, “modified.” Of course, Ed Whitacre didn’t make his suggestion directly. Nor did Feinberg reveal the locus of his “come to Jesus with cash” moment. “[Feinberg] said the automotive firms did not appeal his rulings. But he said he would be open to requests to hire in new executives at competitive pay. ‘If General Motors or any other company wants to bring someone in laterally — laterally — and competitive pay packages require that lateral hires get certain competitive pay, what have you, we’re perfectly willing to examine that.’” So the new rule: GM can hire someone for more than $500,000 in cash per year if that person was already making $500,000 per year doing the same job, only better (one would hope). Which would exclude, uh, no one. And create mucho resentment at that special place where RenCen’s express elevators ascend to glory. More Feinbergian 180 after the jump, and a mystery to be solved . . .
Sex sells. Or does it? I’ve long argued that sex actually gets in the way of selling cars. Who can think about cars when they’re thinking about sex? Sure, the blog posts on The Babes of SEMEN—I mean SEMA get eight billion hits. But so what? Does a pretty face and a pneumatic chest do anything to stimulate people to buy the trash and treasure (mostly trash) on display at a show or available (God help us) via the web? The example here is a perfect example of why you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But as far as I know, the only reason to catch flies is to kill them. Or at least trap them on a sticky stuff until they die. Hey, come to think of it, maybe sexual come-ons (so to speak) aren’t such a bad idea . . .
Times are tough. Margins are tight. Carmakers are looking for savings anywhere they can. As mechanical work performed by a dealer under a manufacturer’s warranty comes straight off the automaker’s bottom line, it’s not all that surprisingly that we’re getting reports that certain manufacturers (cough Chrysler cough) are dragging their heels on paying for warranty work. In specific, we’re hearing that owners of Cummins diesel-powered Rams are having to stump-up for the cost of engine repairs, as the mothership blames “issues” on driver negligence, poor operating conditions and the knock-out punch “contaminated fuel.” Are you having any trouble getting warranty work on your vehicle(s)?
Celebritycarsblog.com commentator sunbeam shows that the first cut isn’t always the deepest: “Cadillacs are for old people, or in the this case, maybe just people that are old news.” Ouch.
When GM CEO Fritz Henderson promised Congress he would run the nationalized automaker with complete transparency, we knew he was full of shit. How could anyone expect New GM to do anything but lie, misdirect, prevaricate and obfuscate when the same Bozos that ran it into the ground were still large and in charge? Which GM dealers are canned? Which GM dealers have been resurrected? Why? Who is the GM executive (other than Fritz) who earns more than $500,000 per year—that the company refuses to name? What are the internal targets that GM says it’s meeting? Why did the company overestimate sales of some of its key models in its November press release? Why did Fritz and CFO Ray Young promise a 2010 GM IPO without the Chairman’s approval? And so on. To that list, add this from the AP: “But GM postponed the Cruze’s April build date about three months, said Mark Reuss, GM’s vice president of global vehicle engineering. The company, he said, wasn’t happy with the Cruze’s performance, especially with the six-automatic transmission. ‘No one was thrilled with where it shifted, how it shifted.’” Well that’s the first I’ve heard of that. And while it’s nice that GM is putting our money where it’s mouth is in its desire to ensure the Cruze’s “flawless launch,” what the hell happened? And why wasn’t anyone fired for it? Oh right, GM.
In tune with the times, automakers are making their vehicles easier to recycle. But is this effort making the vehicles less durable? Look at the designs Toyota put into the Prius to make it easy to dismantle for recycling (to comply with the Japanese recyclability laws). Wiring connections that come loose when you pull on them? Soundproofing held in place with a few “ultrasonic spot welds” instead of glue? Reading lights secured with bent metal clips instead of screws? Instrument panels made so they can be pulled out easily? With design features like this you have to wonder about the vehicles’ durability and wonder what other manufactures are doing—-especially when you combine “easy to disassemble” with the beancounters’ mantra of ”cheap to build.”
A US District Judge has ruled that South Carolina’s proposed “I Believe” license plate (modeled on the already-banned Florida model, above) violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause.
GM’s government-appointed Chairman of the Board was out and about last night, speechifying at Texas Lutheran University. Ed Whitacre used the occasion to plea for the “modification” of Pay Czar Kenneth’s Feinberg’s pay caps. To recap the caps, the nationalized automaker’s top 25 executives took a 31 percent hair cut since joining the federal payroll. Aside from CEO Fritz “Opel Eyes” Henderson, that is, who had his cash compensation trimmed by just 25 percent (from $1.26 million to a paltry $950,000). Leaving only one other unnamed GM executive—cough, transparency, cough—who will “earn” more than $500,000 cash money for 2009. ‘Cause $500,000′s the new limit. And Ed’s not happy about that. “To find top-level people where you need them, that’s a more difficult thing to do at that salary level,” Whitacre said. “I don’t think [the caps] will be lifted, but hopefully they’ll be modified.” Now there’s a man who knows the value of politics. As for the value of GM stock, same deal. Or, in this case, no deal.
Responding to TTAC commentator Ohsnapback, Ford’s Communications rep defended his employer’s turnaround plan. “At Ford we have never said that we have won the battle already,” Jay Ward wrote. “Just that we are making considerable progress against our plan. You are right that the job is not done, but the evidence so far is overwhealmingly [sic] positive.” So far, so PR. And then . . . “We are managing our debt and working hard to pay it off. We are also going to pay back our loans unlike other companies (not just automotive – how about the banks while we are on the subject).” It’s a blunt and entirely accurate appraisal of GM and Chrysler’s chances of returning the government’s $72 billion (plus) “investment” in the failed domestic automakers. Ward goes on to underline Ford’s official position that its $10 billion no-to-low interest, 25-year “retooling” loan from the Department of Energy does not constitute a government bailout. ” . . . we did shun bail out money. We accepted government loans available to all auto manufacturers both domestic and foreign. We have committed to paying these back and I fail to see how we can be critisised [sic] for that.” And just in case you thought the attack on GM and Chrysler’s mega-suckle was a slip of the tongue, Ward makes a second strafing run. “If everyone else pays back every penny that Uncle Sam has ‘loaned’ them, I will eat my Mustang and my Flex.” Jay’s cars are safe. His ability to post on TTAC without interference from The Glass House Gang? Not so much.
There’s a backlash a brewing over Chrysler’s decision to axe its EV and hybrid program. The move makes sense from an business point-of-view; the company doesn’t have enough money to chase sky pie. Politically, it’s all kind of nuts. Lest we forget—and even the normally automotively absent-minded USA Today doesn’t—ChryCo trotted-out alt power vehicles to secure some $12.5 billion (plus) in federal bailout bucks. And while the zombie car company will import the fuel-efficient Fiat 500 to trigger a hidden-at-the-time clause which surrenders more ChryCo control to Fiat upon selling a new, high mileage vehicle in the U.S., that precious little jewel is NOT what the democratic party’s four-wheeled-oriented tree huggers had in mind. Surely pretending to continue develop the battery-powered vaporware would have been the better bet. That way, when Chrysler returns to the federal trough, they could have played the green card. Now? Fuhgeddaboutit. Which only leaves the jobs card, vs. popular sentiment against more bailout bucks. Methinks the move to kill the ENVI program means that Chrysler is doomederer than before. You?
You’ve got to wear some serious blinders to believe that New GM is in on course for that magic day when they de-nationalize themselves and return the U.S. taxpayer’s $52 billion (plus) “investment.” And Canada’s $10.5 billion, eh? In fact, Board Chairman Ed Whitacre just de-committed the company to a 2010 deadline for same. Still, GM and its camp followers have been in denial so long they’re in denial even when they’re telling the world they’re out of denial. Inside Line columnist Karl Brauer illustrates the conundrum: “Let me make one thing clear in the second sentence of this column. I am not saying GM has already pulled off a successful turnaround. But events of the last few weeks have established a momumental [sic] realization (at least for me): I think it’s possible GM might actually pull off a successful turnaround . . . And, as recently as four weeks ago, I commented that — despite GM’s latest rallying cry of ‘Let the best car win’ – I wasn’t convinced GM is offering the best cars on the market. I’m still not convinced GM offers the best cars available, but they do offer the widest range of really good cars I’ve seen from the company in my lifetime.” So what inspired Karl’s almost kinda maybe sorta don’t quote me on this ever faith that American’s nationalized automaker kinda maybe sorta might possibly potentially turnaround its miserable fortures? The new Medusa-class GMC Terrain, of course!
What a charming title for an automotive advice column: “Queen of the Road.” No, it doesn’t appear in a Utah newspaper. But the California curmudgeon is as credulous as the spiritual descendants of the talking salamander. His/her reader posits: “I drive daily on westbound Highway 24 through Lafayette, usually in the early evening. On several occasions, as I pass by the Lafayette BART station, my little Volkswagen Jetta seems to lose power. I push on the accelerator but the car doesn’t respond, quite a nerve-racking experience in the middle of evening rush hour. I’ve found that if I downshift and accelerate, power is restored and I continue on my way.” The Queen’s edict: “It’s indeed possible that a magnetic field or radio frequency interference affected your car’s computer and caused the car to stall.,” as the LA Police’s investigation into an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) remote car disabler almost seems to prove. And there’s history here, dammit! “When the computers were first installed, in the 1980s and 1990s, cars would pull up at intersections and when the signs changed from ‘Walk’ to ‘Don’t Walk,’ their trunks would pop open. The cars’ trunk releases were picking up the radio frequencies from the ‘Walk’ sign.” Who knew? Now what?
One month ago DARTZ presented uberluxury armored car with whale penis interior – PROMBRON’ (ex.RussoBaltique), lot of people name this car as DARTZ.KOMBAT. As the world’s resonance was very huge and DARTZ got lot of angry e-mails from Greenpeace, WWF and also Pamela Anderson, DARTZ make strong decision to stop their plans regarding such interior.“We have no any ideas to kill the whale or something like that. All we want – to make just luxury car. Real luxury car which will be world number one car. Our brand was started at 1869 when in Riga was opened Coach Factory or Russo Baltiysky Vagonnij Zavod – PBVZ, and first products was luxury train coaches. At 1907 was made a decision to open Car Department, and at 1909 first car left factory – the name of this car was RussoBalt. This was luxury and sport cars. At 1911 specially for Monaco Rally car got french style name – RussoBaltique. At 1912 factory made world first 4 x 4 wheel drive car, and at 1914 – armored car. All we want to unite luxury and armoring traditions of RussoBalt factory in one car, which brand celebrated 100 years now. At 1922 RussoBalt was renamed to PROMBRON’ (ex.RussoBalt).
Gag. And sigh. I’d kinda hoped that New York Times would stay away from the FoMoCo-flavored Kool-Aid long enough to see the potential drawbacks to the automaker’s inflatable seat belt idea. Or at least provide a reasonably coherent and comprehensive argument for the overarching supposition that the brand’s dedication to passenger safety supersedes that of its rivals. But no. The original PR-release-based article in the Business section raises but one red flag: “Just 6 percent of respondents chose safety as their top priority.” And then the Freakonomics column—an endlessly self-aggrandizing advertisement masquerading as editorial—dumps a pound of sugar on the proceedings. “In SuperFreakonomics, we tell the story of how Robert Strange McNamara, an outsider at the Ford Motor Co., led the charge the put seat belts in automobiles at Ford. It was not a popular decision within the company nor with the public; pushing for a safety device in a car did a bit too good of a job of reminding people that cars could be quite unsafe. But McNamara got his way. Over time (a long time, it turned out), the seat belt won widespread adoption, saving roughly 250,000 lives in the U.S. alone since 1975 . . . Back in the day, Henry Ford II wasn’t crazy about McNamara’s seat-belt obsession. ‘McNamara is selling safety,’ he said, “but Chevrolet is selling cars.’” What does that tell you? The media’s hidden love affair with Ford continues apace.