The Truth About Cars » Between the Lines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:19:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Between the Lines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/between-the-lines/ The Tesla Roadster “Bricking” Story Deconstructed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/the-tesla-roadster-bricking-story-details-deconstructed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/the-tesla-roadster-bricking-story-details-deconstructed/#comments Thu, 23 Feb 2012 17:47:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=432441 I was originally hesitant to jump on the Tesla Roadster “bricked batteries” bandwagon, and my initial story was written with a sort of cautious neutrality. Further context will be provided by the details that have surfaced in the 24 hours since the story broke. Hope you’re ready to dive in to it all. Original story […]

The post The Tesla Roadster “Bricking” Story Deconstructed appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

I was originally hesitant to jump on the Tesla Roadster “bricked batteries” bandwagon, and my initial story was written with a sort of cautious neutrality. Further context will be provided by the details that have surfaced in the 24 hours since the story broke. Hope you’re ready to dive in to it all.

Original story here. A quick recap: Tesla Roadster owner Max Drucker contacted Tesla CEO Elon Musk regarding a dead battery in his car. Drucker’s car died after he left his Roadster parked, without leaving it plugged in for two months. The vehicle subsequently died. The car was towed to a Tesla service center and a technician determined that his battery would have to be replaced at a cost of $40,000. Drucker sent an angry letter to CEO Elon Musk admonishing him for poor customer service.

– The Tesla “bricking” story broke on the blog of Michael Degusta. Degusta and Drucker have a long history as business partners. This was not disclosed. I contacted Degusta, who said he would put me in touch with an owner who has had their car “bricked” (he did not say if it was Drucker or one of the other four affected owners) and refused to put me in touch with the Tesla service manager who claimed that, among other things, Tesla was tracking vehicles by GPS without the owner’s consent. I was reluctant to take those claims at face value – now they can’t be independently verified. On Degusta’s blog, he discusses an owner of Roadster #340, who parked his car in a temporary garage, sans charger, while his home is being renovated. This is consistent with Drucker’s emails to Tesla – but also consistent with Drucker at best not following the protocol outlined in various documents (obtained via Green Car Reports) and the Tesla Roadster’s manual, or at worst, being negligent. Drucker’s Roadster wouldn’t have the Tesla GSM connection that can alert Tesla to low battery charge conditions. Those were only installed after the first 500 Roadsters were produced. Degusta makes a big stink about the GPS tracking of the Roadsters, but is on record claiming that, and Degusta is unwilling to back that claim up beyond anecdotal evidence.

– A copy of the Tesla Roadster owner’s manual (covering the Tesla Roadster S and Roadster 2.5. Link is at the bottom of the page for you to peruse yourself), states in numerous places that owners are not to leave their vehicles uncharged for long periods of time, or to drain the battery down to zero. Doing so, the owners are told, will cause permanent damage to the battery, and such damage will not be covered under the Tesla Roadster’s warranty agreement. This is spelled out in numerous places in greater detail throughout the manual. Scans of these pages are available in the gallery below. In addition, there is an agreement which owners must sign at the time of purchase that has the owner acknowledge the responsibility of maintaining a proper battery charge, and that any damage that results from negligence in this area is not covered under warranty. Degusta’s complaints that the “Battery Reminder Card” handed out to owners during servicing don’t contain adequate warnings of the consequences are also misleading, as the consequences are spelled out in the aforementioned documents.

– The Tesla Roadster’s battery, unlike those in the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, is made up of 6831 “consumer commodity cells”, basically laptop or cellphone type cells that combine to make up the battery pack. These batteries use Cobalt Dioxide chemistry, which is the most energy dense, and prone to decaying with time as well as use. This is not the case in the Volt or Leaf, which use different chemistry. In addition, the “state of charge” used by the Tesla pack is different; when a Tesla range indicator displays “zero miles”, it could have 5 percent of the battery life left. If the car is then parked without charging, it may drain to zero, leaving the car “bricked”. A Volt, on the other hand, may actually have one half to one third of the battery pack’s life left upon displaying “zero miles”; it only uses 10.4 kW out of its 16kW battery. Exact figures for a Tesla battery weren’t available, but are said to be much higher.

-It’s theoretically possible to revive a “bricked” consumer cell via slow trickle charging, in the same way that a dead iPod or laptop can be brought back to life if left to charge for a very long time after months of not being used.

So, we know for sure that it’s possible for a Tesla to “brick”. Tesla has admitted it in a statement, but also seems to have provided ample warnings that it could happen and that it can easily be prevented. These measures, along with the structure of the warranty agreement, leads us to believe that a product liability lawsuit is highly unlikely (a former auto industry lawyer we spoke to agreed, though cautioned that California’s Lemon Laws were the most liberal of any of the 50 states).

Of course, Tesla could have replaced the battery pack in good faith (and maybe had Drucker and the others sign an NDA agreement that also absolves Tesla of any responsibility for the pack’s failure), but for some reason, they didn’t. In the gallery below, we have scans of the manual. You can read the manual for yourself here.

Tesla Owners Document. Photo courtesy GreenCarReports.com Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail OwnersAgreementBatteryDocument Page6DataRecording Page7FailureToFollowVoidsWarranty Page8Glossary Page33BatteryTOC Page34ChargeInstructions Page35 Page36 Page37 Page78zerowarnings Page88Towing Page89Towing

The post The Tesla Roadster “Bricking” Story Deconstructed appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/the-tesla-roadster-bricking-story-details-deconstructed/feed/ 110
IIHS Study Loves Red Light Cameras, Says Americans Do Too http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/iihs-study-loves-red-light-cameras-says-americans-do-too/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/iihs-study-loves-red-light-cameras-says-americans-do-too/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2011 21:02:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=401213 The controversy over red light cameras, once relegated to websites like TTAC, thenewspaper.com, motorists.org and highwayrobbery.net, is hitting the mainstream media thanks to a new study by the IIHS [PDF here]. The study used the following methodology: Telephone surveys were conducted with 3,111 drivers in 14 large cities (population greater than 200,000) with long-standing red […]

The post IIHS Study Loves Red Light Cameras, Says Americans Do Too appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

The controversy over red light cameras, once relegated to websites like TTAC, thenewspaper.com, motorists.org and highwayrobbery.net, is hitting the mainstream media thanks to a new study by the IIHS [PDF here]. The study used the following methodology:

Telephone surveys were conducted with 3,111 drivers in 14 large cities (population greater than 200,000) with long-standing red light camera programs and 300 drivers in Houston, using random samples of landline and cellphone numbers. For analyses combining responses from the 14 cities, cases were weighted to reflect each city’s share of the total population for the 14 cities.

And what did they find?

Among drivers in the 14 cities with red light camera programs, two-thirds favor the use of cameras for red light enforcement, and 42 percent strongly favor it. The chief reasons for opposing cameras were the perceptions that cameras make mistakes and that the motivation for installing them is revenue, not safety. Forty-one percent of drivers favor using cameras to enforce right-turn-on-red violations. Nearly 9 in 10 drivers were aware of the camera enforcement programs in their cities, and 59 percent of these drivers believe the cameras have made intersections safer. Almost half know someone who received a red light camera citation and 17 percent had received at least one ticket themselves. When compared with drivers in the 14 cities with camera programs, the percentage of drivers in Houston who strongly favored enforcement was about the same (45 percent), but strong opposition was higher in Houston than in the other cities (28 percent versus 18 percent).

Sounds like those red light cameras are pretty great after all, doesn’t it? That’s certainly the IIHS’s takeaway…

The IIHS concludes:

Most drivers in cities with long-standing red light camera programs support cameras and recognize their safety benefits, but communities could do a better job of educating the public about the dangers of right-turn-on-red violations and the need for enforcement. Given that camera opponents frequently said cameras make mistakes, it appears communities also could do a better job of explaining the safeguards that ensure citations are issued only to drivers who clearly run red lights.

But that’s a fairly one-sided interpretation of the data, as you might expect from a body that derives its funding from the insurance industry, which in turn has a vested interest in anything that might reduce insurance payouts, regardless of other drawbacks or context. What do I mean by that? Let’s go line-by-line through the IIHS’s conclusions:

Most drivers in cities with long-standing red light camera programs support cameras and recognize their safety benefits

First of all, the data underlying this conclusion is skewed by only including respondents in cities with “long-running red light camera systems.” The only exception is one city that had red light cameras but voted them out: Houston. And despite finding stronger opposition there than in other cities with red light cameras, the IIHS is forced to concede another problematic finding: “In Houston, 53 percent of voters cast ballots against the cameras in November 2010. In the current study, however, 57 percent of the drivers interviewed said they favor camera enforcement, and 45 strongly favor cameras”).

So where are the respondents from cities that had cameras but voted them out? Where in this report can we hear the voices of the citizens of Anaheim? Or Cincinnati? Or San Bernadino? Or how about Baytown, Texas, where the fraudulent tendencies of the red light camera companies couldn’t have been more obvious? Sadly, the list goes on. The IIHS has made its point about “cities with long-standing red light camera programs,” but it’s not at all clear that this data reflects wider American sentiment.

Meanwhile, even among this selective data set, there are issues. When asked if drivers running red lights is a problem in the city, the most common answer, with 38%, was “not a problem.” The next-most popular choice, with 31.8%: “somewhat of a problem.” Furthermore, nearly 93% of respondents said they had not run a red light in the last 30 days, further indicating that the problem is rare and limited to a small percentage of the population. A more fair presentation of the data would simply state that drivers see red-light running as having high risk potential, but that they don’t see it as a common, or everyday problem. This doubtless helps fuel a major complaint about red light cameras, namely that they exist primarily for revenue generation rather than safety.

Given that camera opponents frequently said cameras make mistakes, it appears communities also could do a better job of explaining the safeguards that ensure citations are issued only to drivers who clearly run red lights.

For one thing, the fallibility of cameras was not overwhelmingly chosen as a reason for opposition. At 26.4%, it was the number one reason for opposing, but “focus is on money, not safety” was an extremely close second, at 26.1%. If anything, the need for education is not limited to “explaining safeguards,” but rather explaining the financial incentives that local governments and photo enforcement firms have to rack up as many tickets, accurate or not, as possible. After all, if 4.4 percent are saying “camera programs cost too much money,” clearly there’s a disconnect between how people view red light cameras and the reality (as red light cameras are almost always revenue positive for local governments, unless massive errors or fraud force them to return fines).

but communities could do a better job of educating the public about the dangers of right-turn-on-red violations and the need for enforcement… it appears communities also could do a better job of explaining the safeguards that ensure citations are issued only to drivers who clearly run red lights.

Too bad the IIHS hadn’t sounded the alarm on the need for pro-red light camera “education” a few months ago… Bill Kroske might still have a job. In all seriousness, the 90%+ awareness level among respondents seems to indicate that folks do know that the cameras exist… what the IIHS seems to be suggesting is that people should be indoctrinated to believe that more red lights are fundamentally good, and that these beneficent cameras never screw up. Both of these points of “education” are aimed more at propagating photo enforcement industry talking points than furthering the public good.

The post IIHS Study Loves Red Light Cameras, Says Americans Do Too appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/iihs-study-loves-red-light-cameras-says-americans-do-too/feed/ 12
Are Fat People Driving Up The Price Of Gas? Are They The Source Of The Greenhouse Effect? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/are-fat-people-driving-up-the-price-of-gas-are-they-the-source-of-the-greenhouse-effect/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/are-fat-people-driving-up-the-price-of-gas-are-they-the-source-of-the-greenhouse-effect/#comments Sun, 13 Feb 2011 10:18:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=383743 Yes, and yes, says a study of the Resources for the Future (RFF) institute. The Washington think tank’s study examined “the unexplored link between the prevalence of overweight and obesity and vehicle demand” for bigger and more gas guzzling cars. RFF brands itself as a “nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research.” Their study found “that […]

The post Are Fat People Driving Up The Price Of Gas? Are They The Source Of The Greenhouse Effect? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Yes, and yes, says a study of the Resources for the Future (RFF) institute. The Washington think tank’s study examined “the unexplored link between the prevalence of overweight and obesity and vehicle demand” for bigger and more gas guzzling cars.

RFF brands itself as a “nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research.” Their study found “that the prevalence of overweight and obesity has a sizable effect on the fuel economy of new vehicles demanded. A 10 percentage point increase in the rate of overweight and obesity among the population reduces the average miles per gallon (MPG) of new vehicles demanded by 2.5 percent, an effect that requires a 30 cent increase in gasoline prices to counteract.” Basically what they are saying: Fat people choose fat cars. More fat people, more fat cars.

Shame on you if your belly keeps you from reading the numbers on the bathroom scale, you are driving up the cost of our gas, fatso. If you would eat less, we would pay less. If the study is correct.

The study is a bit dated (August 2009), and with names such as Shanjun Li, Yanyan Liu, and Junjie Zhang, the authors of the study may be a bit biased. Alternating between China and Japan, most foreigners (myself included) appear fat to me, or debu-debu as they say in Japan. I stumbled across this study because of the serendipity of two stories that appeared this weekend.

The top story of Automotive News [sub] is “Ford leads the way as automakers embrace weight-loss.” In their cars, not amongst their customers.  “Weight is absolutely critical,” said Ford CEO Alan Mulally for saving gas and in order to reach CAFE rules that require a fleet average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. There already is talk about a 62-mpg target for 2025. Ford’s diet regimen clashes with another trend.

Over at AOL Autos, there is an article titled “Super Size Me? How About My Car?” It muses about the buying habits of the Generation XXL: “Extra-large Americans get up and go to work like anyone else and they need vehicles to get them there and back. Is the auto industry paying attention?” In that story, interviewed carmakers deny that they target obese people per se. Instead, they indeed pay attention to what the customer wants. “We’re finding that people say, ‘We want more space,’” said Sage Marie, Manager of Honda Product Planning.

If people want bigger cars, they get bigger cars. AOL Autos complains that there are “few reliable statistics on which cars are most accommodating for larger people.” As we soon shall see, they did not look hard enough. All AOL found was a list compiled last year by Consumer Reports that recommends “several good cars that are best for larger drivers,” as CR said.

Oddly enough, the cars all hail from the lands of lithe, from Japan and Korea:

Make/model Price CR overall mpg
Honda Accord $22,795 23
Honda Odyssey $32,610 19
Hyundai Azera $31,670 20
Kia Rondo $20,655 21
Subaru Forester XT Limited $28,860 20

This is a list of cars CR thinks hefty people should buy. It’s not a list of what they buy. That led to the study mentioned above. The authors claim that they have irrefutable proof that people who can’t stop eating choose cars with a serious drinking disorder.

The greater the share of fat people, the greater the share of gas guzzling light trucks. Shazamm!

What’s more, RFF tells us (using EPA data) that the fuel economy of all new vehicles (green line) peaked in 1987. It was all downhill from there until a slight pick-up in 2005. It must have been all those non-HWP people buying big rigs.

The study reminds us that “medical cost of overweight and obesity accounted for 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures in 1998 and reached $78.5 billion, half of which were through financially-distressed Medicare and Medicaid systems.” While people increased in heft, there emerged “a seemingly unrelated but equally significant trend: The dramatic increase in the number of large passenger vehicles on American roads.” Which of course make us dependent on oil from “politically unstable” countries, fill the air with pollution, and give us skin cancer through the ozone hole.

Says the study: “Our simulation results show that had the prevalence of overweight and obesity stayed at the level in 1981 (about 20 percentage points lower than that in 2005), the average MPG of new vehicles demanded in 2005 would have been about 4.6 percent higher, everything else being equal. The improved fuel efficiency implies total gasoline savings of about 138 million barrels and reduction in CO2 emissions of 58 million tons over the lifetime of these vehicles.”

The theory is being put in question by a commentator in a discussion forum. When someone recommended a Ford F-150 or Chevy Silverado as the perfect ride for the circumferentially challenged, the reply was:

“Gotta climb UP into those… “

The post Are Fat People Driving Up The Price Of Gas? Are They The Source Of The Greenhouse Effect? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/are-fat-people-driving-up-the-price-of-gas-are-they-the-source-of-the-greenhouse-effect/feed/ 76
Between The Lines: Them’s The Brakes, Corvette ZR1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/between-the-lines-thems-the-brakes-corvette-zr1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/between-the-lines-thems-the-brakes-corvette-zr1/#comments Tue, 04 Jan 2011 17:56:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=379446 Though an objectively awesome car by any (non-environmental) metric (review forthcoming, I promise) some Corvette ZR1 owners are plagued with a strange brake vibration. Which, thanks to the Corvette Forum, is available for all and sundry to see. But let’s dig a little deeper: bearing in mind the customer involved is a personal friend, and […]

The post Between The Lines: Them’s The Brakes, Corvette ZR1 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Though an objectively awesome car by any (non-environmental) metric (review forthcoming, I promise) some Corvette ZR1 owners are plagued with a strange brake vibration. Which, thanks to the Corvette Forum, is available for all and sundry to see. But let’s dig a little deeper: bearing in mind the customer involved is a personal friend, and his paraphrased comments are as follows.

I picked up my new ZR1 on Oct 29 and as soon as I got up to 75 the steering wheel began to vibrate…I then took the car straight to the only person on this earth I feel good about working on my corvette, Danny Popp at McKluskey Chev in Cincinatti OH. Pulled wheels and all balanced 0 on Hunter balancer.

In simple English, the diagnosis made it clear that the Michelin tires are not the problem. The next diagnosis goes one step further: Brembo rotors.

Unhappy, scratched head, went back to Danny. Pulled rotors and stuck them on balancer and they were out 1.5 oz!

An imbalance of that size, on a car with such little un-sprung weight at the (ceramic) rotors can be a significant problem. The solution?

We then balanced my carbon rotors by inserting bolts from the inside out and then threading on nuts from the outside with a set of long pliers. Put them back on car and took it out and OMG for the first time since owning the car the highway ride was dead smooth. So happy I want back and hugged Danny. Mystery solved. Now for the permanent fix which obviously should be new (balanced) rotors and should only be a phone call away for a new 120 k vibrating car. (Or even a vibrating cobalt for that matter)

But then again, that often leads to another problem: Customer Service, or lack thereof:

GMs first reply was that they know about the problem and the fix is to counterbalance the assembly by adding 1.5 to the wheels and indexing them so if removed they could be placed back in same location. Bull$&@#!

But wait, there’s more:

Danny had to work his way up the food chain until he got to talk to a brake engineer who basically admitted that they had run out of the supply of “Validated” i.e. balanced rotors and at some point had begun to put on non-validated rotors but that he would immediately send me out a set of validated and balanced rotors which he did.

Which, of course, gets a customer thinking:

I have mine and I am happy, but I hate to think about how many man hours are spent by customers like myself who are taking time off figuring this out and getting it fixed while GM knows about the issue and is still putting these S#%t rotors on their flagship car. I have lost serious loyalty and faith in GM on this one. They need to come clean now and do a recall on these.

Tru dat. A recall is the only way, even if the problem comes from Brembo, not GM. Read towards the end of the thread, and we find the real problem: the major flaw in GM’s customer service. The following is taken from the Corvette specialist who worked on the ZR1 in question:

I have gone through all of the GM protocol to fix this car properly and GM is interested in fixing his and all Corvette owners problems correctly. They are very aware of current situations more than you know…..they may even know about this particular thread (ask me how I know ;-) ).

If GM knows, why doesn’t the person associated with the Corvette brand post on the Forum on their behalf? Is silence really a smart PR move in the Internet age?

New in stock rotors have balance potential from Brembo and in speaking with GM they are deriving a procedure to check and balance rotors for cars that have this problem in the field. They are feverishly working on the protocol for this. This is obviously not a GM manufactured component; they have worked with the supplier to have this not happen from here in the future.

In fairness to GM, we must consider these are not commonplace GM parts. Who else had the stones to put these on a mass-produced vehicle as standard equipment? Then again, that isn’t our beef.

For those of you who have these problems and are frustrated, please contact your dealer and have them address your concerns and involve technical assistance. On that note all dealers are not created equally and every dealer my not have a Corvette only specialist that may be as involved as I.

So where you buy a six-figure Corvette ZR1 isn’t necessarily the same place it should receive service. And now would be a good time to make a significant donation to the Corvette Forum, ‘natch. Which doesn’t speak well of any Chevy dealer lacking a Corvette specialist, if we had a list of said dealers. And while I once disagreed with RF’s way-back-when comment about the Corvette’s relevance to Chevrolet

“At some point in the near future, as soon as we can, the Corvette will rejoin GM’s fleet as a Cadillac. It will be a different car, with the same goal: to give enthusiasts the world’s best and most thrilling sports car, bar none. An all-American product.”

…honestly, a low volume niche car like the Corvette ZR1 deserves a more worthy customer experience. Perhaps Cadillac dealers should be the only retail distributors of the Corvette brand, as we can assume superior service comes with The Penalty Of Leadership.

And with that thought, back to you, Best and Brightest.

The post Between The Lines: Them’s The Brakes, Corvette ZR1 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/between-the-lines-thems-the-brakes-corvette-zr1/feed/ 51
On Detroit’s Guzzling Ways http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/on-detroits-guzzling-ways/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/on-detroits-guzzling-ways/#comments Fri, 17 Dec 2010 20:18:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=377624 One of the more admirable qualities of the blogging culture is a relentless underdog streak. Anyone who mans the ramparts of a decent blog is forever scouring the worlds of business, media and opinion for an opportunity to attack the most prominent voices of the day. And TTAC is no exception: we certainly came up […]

The post On Detroit’s Guzzling Ways appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

One of the more admirable qualities of the blogging culture is a relentless underdog streak. Anyone who mans the ramparts of a decent blog is forever scouring the worlds of business, media and opinion for an opportunity to attack the most prominent voices of the day. And TTAC is no exception: we certainly came up by attacking the apologists and Polyannas who are still massively overrepresented in the world of automotive commentary. But what a difference a bailout makes. While the mainstream automotive media spent much of the leadup to the auto bailout making apologies and excuses for Detroit’s decline, TTAC told the unpleasant truth, gaining us new readers and credibility every step of the way. Now that I find myself being asked to contribute to one of the most prestigious opinion outlets in the world (the NY Times op-ed page) on a regular basis, TTAC is no longer the underdog, and other blogs have stepped into the breach to attack us as the new status quo. Fair enough… let’s do this thing.

After an embarrassing hacker attack left its commenter base vulnerable and seething, it’s no wonder that Gawker’s Jalopnik car blog decided to lead the charge against my latest Op-Ed on Detroit’s “Guzzling” ways. And because the entertainment-oriented car blog has wisely decided to hire the former Detroit Free Press reporter Justin Hyde, they actually have someone on staff worthy of taking up the debate. Unfortunately, however, Hyde seems more interested in penning a takedown than actually engaging in a debate about the issues raised in the piece.

Hyde thesis is essentially that “Niedermeyer wants to blame Detroit for building the pickups and SUVs that remain popular with buyers” and that “Detroit can rightfully claim a share of leadership in green cars.” Towards the end of the piece he distills the argument:

So according to the Times, if gas prices don’t rise and Americans don’t buy greener vehicles, then the bailout of GM and Chrysler fell short. If gas prices do rise — creating the demand for the more-efficient models Detroit has now shown it can produce — that’s also bad, because the credit markets will suffer, and then flying unicorns attack Detroit and its Bailout II: Electric Boogaloo.

The implication is that I am somehow responsible for creating this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t dynamic. What Hyde clearly doesn’t understand is that I never took to a public forum and attempted to make a politically unpopular bailout more palatable among certain constituencies by claiming that it would transform Detroit’s automakers from truck and SUV-dependent “dinosaurs” (the White House’s words, not mine) into green car leaders. My op-ed wasn’t meant to suggest any particular policy, or to push Detroit into either being “Pelosimobile” pushers or SUV-dependent laggards, but to point out the disconnect between an important justification for the bailout (green transformation) and the reality (GM and Chrysler have the worst fleet fuel economy numbers in the business). Hyde accidentally puts his finger on this reality when he writes

It may be news to the anti-SUV crowd, but Detroit can rightfully claim a share of leadership in green cars.

The first half of this sentence explains why my op-ed was necessary (the second half is highly debatable, witness the fleet-wide efficiency reality). Like it or not, SUVs do have a terrible reputation around the world, and Americans who oppose them on moral grounds can’t be blamed for taking Obama at his word and assuming that the government-led “transformation” of Detroit would lead GM and Chrysler to de-prioritize large gas guzzlers. Nowhere do I state that the government should have forced GM or Chrysler to build certain vehicles, but I absolutely understand why Americans might be disappointed to find out that the green rhetoric surrounding the bailout turned out to be just so much hot air.

But there’s that Catch-22 again: either Obama had to intervene in the day-to-day operations of the automakers, exposing him to libertarian and conflict-of-interest critiques, or he had to let GM and Chrysler operate purely on the basis of profit motivation, allowing old, bad habits to continue unchecked. But did TTAC create this lose-lose situation, or did Obama himself create it by justifying the bailout on green grounds? The fundamental problem here is that the American people overwhelmingly opposed the auto bailout, and rather than simply sell the policy as “the right thing to do” (a line that did emerge in the Administration’s rhetoric, but only after the bailout improved the auto-sector job situation) he had to sweeten the pot by promising that Detroit would transform into green car crusaders. Obama, not TTAC, promised the “flying unicorns”… we simply pointed out that

the bailouts have created a perverse new dynamic. With G.M. stock now being publicly traded on Wall Street, taxpayers have every incentive to cheer on the bailed-out automaker as it overproduces vehicles and pushes cheap credit. After all, the sooner G.M.’s stock hits a certain level — likely around $52 per share — the sooner the Treasury can sell its remaining equity and get taxpayers out of risk.

There’s certainly an argument to be made that allowing Detroit to operate as a business, though detrimental to Obama’s green goals, was the lesser of the two evils. But, as is so often the case when Jalopnik strays into heavy opinion, Hyde refuses to even take that stand. Instead, he concludes with a paragraph that oozes the kind of thinking that has enabled Detroit’s complacency for decades:

For this holiday, I’d wish for a few days where we set aside the kvetching about what the U.S. auto industry is or isn’t, and simply enjoy the fact that we as a nation decided a couple hundred thousand people should earn a living in manufacturing instead of hearing their children ask Santa Claus to stop their electricity from being shut off. I would also wish for better insights into the auto industry from the New York Times op-ed page, but I know better than to ask for flying unicorns.

In short, the message is “quit your whining.” For a piece entitled What The New York Times Op-Ed Page Doesn’t Know About Cars, that’s a pretty weak payoff. The American taxpayers made a massive investment in an industry that is constantly plagued by boom-bust cycles, makes huge gambles that destroy billions in wealth, and follows interests which, in the eyes of many, fundamentally trades off with the well-being of America’s environment and economy… but Hyde would prefer that we didn’t discuss any such trade-offs inherent in this kind of intervention. Given that the piece in question raises a number of issues that aren’t huge problems at the moment, but are indicative of industry backsliding into old bad habits (fleet sales, incentives, etc), isn’t discussing their trade-offs and raising awareness of them a fairly reasonable topic for an opinion piece?

And this is where Jalopnik and Hyde let down the blogosphere’s proud tradition of attacking op-ed columnists: if you’re going to imply that someone knows nothing about cars, you need to do better than wishing an end to all criticism of the bailout, or discussion of its fundamental contradictions. Blogs are about ongoing debates, but rather than adding anything meaningful to the war of ideas, Jalopnik simply retreats into the kind of “leave Britney alone” apologia that screams “we can’t handle the truth.” Luckily, readers who share Hyde’s visceral disagreement with my words but want more substance than limp-wristed a plea for censorship can always turn to TTAC’s comment section, where a vibrant exchange of ideas is already under way. After all, we don’t mind at all when people disagree with us; we all learn by having their views challenged. But the debate must go on…

The post On Detroit’s Guzzling Ways appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/on-detroits-guzzling-ways/feed/ 74
Sex And The Common TTAC Reader, Kinsey Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/sex-and-the-common-ttac-reader-kinsey-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/sex-and-the-common-ttac-reader-kinsey-edition/#comments Sun, 28 Nov 2010 09:34:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=374823 Yesterday, we ran a story about Art Ross. Ross was the Oldsmobile Chief Designer in the post WW II heydays. He was also a prolific and gifted pornographer. Cars and sex have always been related for some reason. Did you know that in Germany, where the car was invented, “Verkehr” can mean both “traffic” and […]

The post Sex And The Common TTAC Reader, Kinsey Edition appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Yesterday, we ran a story about Art Ross. Ross was the Oldsmobile Chief Designer in the post WW II heydays. He was also a prolific and gifted pornographer. Cars and sex have always been related for some reason. Did you know that in Germany, where the car was invented, “Verkehr” can mean both “traffic” and “intercourse?” I render the guess that there are more people that begun their life by the dashboard light than those who passed away in the passing lane. Many are convinced that autos have aphrodisiac qualities. Many heavily object and say that a car is just a conveyance. Then there are some who think cars are just as vile as porn, and both should be banned. Where does the dear TTAC reader stand in this discussion?

I’ve lived and worked through this antagonism all my professional life. Even at automakers, there are those who think the best car ad is a Soviet style list of specs, accompanied maybe by a cut-away picture. (A good cut-away demands a higher budget than a porn flic shot in Hungary, but I digress. It’s easy …) Others think one should dispense with the car altogether (they all look alike) and show lifestyle scenes instead. What does the TTAC reader think? Let’s take a clinical approach and look at raw numbers only, delivered by the soulless TTAC host computer.

The Art Ross story clearly was yesterday’s most read story. It narrowly beat out Michael Karesh’s review of the Hyundai Sonata Turbo. It was a photo finish, both stories were less than 100 clicks apart. Naked women have a greater attraction on the common TTAC reader than a Hyundai – but just barely.

Now add to that the fact that the Hyundai story was already a day old. On the day it ran first, it had handily beat out … nope, the winner on Friday was “What New Car Is The Best Value For Money?“ That one had attracted twice the numbers of eyeballs than the blown Hyundai.

However, the next day, and with a starting position slightly better than sex, the Hyundai story spooled up fast, raced out of the gate and remained the leader of the pack for most of the day – until sex came from behind and won by a hair.

What does that tell us? The common TTAC reader is interested in sex only slightly more than in a Sonata that had a blowjob. Both topics are valued higher than money: On Saturday, the raunchy Ross report and the Hyundai review received 50 percent more attention than the value for money story that had won the previous day.

Now for the juicy part. Sonatas aside, what genres REALLY pique the TTAC reader’s discerning interest?

The traditional art of Art Ross, including portraits, surrealistic paintings, and a treasure trove of some of the finest car designs of the last century were offered-up for further viewing at The Art Of Art Ross.

A collection of vile and repugnant porn, devised by a deviated degenerate, a lot while he was supposed to support the war effort by designing camouflage netting that kept our fighting men from being bombed by the enemy, was – for strictly scientific reasons – referenced under Erotica By Art Ross. It came with ample warnings. The nauseating nature of the material was clearly flagged.

Now guess what received more clicks.

One more time, you guessed it right. Erotica By Art Ross did beat The Art Of Art Ross more than six to one. Drawing conclusions is left to the reader. All I can say is that warning labels do not impress our readers. They appear to be, as the saying goes, “sure in their sexuality.”

This is where the story would end, would there not have been a late entry. After a death-defying race to Toronto (and after declining my suggestion – made in jest – to type on his iPhone while driving) Jack Baruth wrote the story of a cookie monster that escaped a smashed 1984 vintage Audi GT (I remember them well) unharmed. Said story was posted at 6 in the evening. With sex and Sonata having an 18 hour lead, the story had impossible odds. Old racer’s adage: Better to enter a race late than never. The others could break. Jack’s accident report raced up the charts. By the end of the day, it made a podium finish, coming in third, after sex and Sonata.

In today’s very early morning, Baruth leads, with the Sonata two laps behind, closely followed by Paul Niedermeyer’s story about a futuristic RV from 1959. Pornography is back in the field.

Four possible conclusions (multiple choices ok):

  • The B&B value their lives more than sex or money.
  • If it (barely) bleeds, it leads.
  • Jack Baruth is one reckless heck of a writer.
  • Sonatas will rule the world.

Over to you.

(PS: As this story goes to press – so to speak – word reaches us (finally) that “hyper-texting” leads to sex, drinking or drugs. Scientific fact. Was LaHood right after all? Should Jack Baruth have written the story as a prelude while driving, instead of wasting a precious hour on a laptop in a motel? Will we ever know?)

The post Sex And The Common TTAC Reader, Kinsey Edition appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/sex-and-the-common-ttac-reader-kinsey-edition/feed/ 32
Between The Lines: Smarter Than Luxury? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/between-the-lines-smarter-than-luxury/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/between-the-lines-smarter-than-luxury/#comments Fri, 01 Oct 2010 13:05:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=367209 Is going Between the Lines this time ‘round more like shooting fish in a barrel?  Let’s find out with the latest ad campaign from Lincoln, as covered by the Detroit Free Press: Ford said today it is rolling out a new ad campaign for its Lincoln brand with the tagline “Smarter than Luxury,” and starring […]

The post Between The Lines: Smarter Than Luxury? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Is going Between the Lines this time ‘round more like shooting fish in a barrel?  Let’s find out with the latest ad campaign from Lincoln, as covered by the Detroit Free Press:

Ford said today it is rolling out a new ad campaign for its Lincoln brand with the tagline “Smarter than Luxury,” and starring John Slattery, who portrays Roger Sterling in the TV series “Mad Men.”

There’s an ironic element there, considering the behind-the-scenes marketing dialogue seen on the TV show.  If the boffins at Lincoln chose “Smarter than Luxury” over everything else, I gotta know what they passed on.  Perhaps “Lincoln: Our Stuff Looks Like Poop Dung” was already under consideration for the Lincoln Log people.

“This campaign shows that Lincoln offers a heightened sense of style, craftsmanship and technology and we’re showing that off in a new way for this brand,” Matt VanDyke, Ford’s director of U.S. marketing communications said in a statement.”

While Lincoln’s progression from nothingness to somethingness is noteworthy, it should be noted that this campaign promises nothing to show Lincoln’s heightened sense of yadda-yadda-yadda. You know what would?  Giving the media a teaser of an ad that stacks Lincolns up against their competition in stylish but aloof advertisements, in a very Top Gear kinda way. Play a modern remake of Commander Cody’s Lincoln-esque hit in the background, and finish with anything but “Smarter than Luxury.” Surely that’d “heighten some senses” and show off the brand like a sonofagun.

Probably not, since I just made that up.  But it still sucks less than the phrase, “Smarter than Luxury.”

“We’re going to challenge people’s perceptions of luxury and show that we deliver more technology and luxury for an unexpected amount of content for the price,” VanDyke said.

To which a recently deposed Lincoln-Mercury dealer noted, “they are already ‘challenging people’s perceptions of luxury’ by selling and servicing Lincolns next to a Ford Focus.” After informing him that Lincoln is coming out with a small car based on said Ford, the Lincoln-Mercury dealer’s head exploded.

The launch of a print ad campaign will coincide with the TV ads…designed to evoke emotion and challenge customer perceptions of luxury.

That sounds rather challenging, if they use the phrase “Smarter than Luxury” in print.

The TV ads will feature the latest Lincoln vehicles, the 2011 Lincoln MKX crossover and the 2011 MKZ Hybrid sedan, along with Slattery.

In all seriousness, if Lincoln refrains from offering a great lease in this ad campaign, avoiding the endless cycle of incentive promotion and breaking rank with Cadillac to instead promote the product (a la BMW and others), this campaign will be a success.  That is when we shall know that Lincoln is, well, Smarter than Luxury.

PS: When this was posted, the presentation for the “Smarter Than Luxury” campaign by the Action Marketing Group could be downloaded here. The “download budget” button was wisely disabled.

The post Between The Lines: Smarter Than Luxury? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/between-the-lines-smarter-than-luxury/feed/ 39
Between the Lines: For Police, Every Week Is Panther Appreciation Week http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/between-the-lines-for-police-every-week-is-panther-appreciation-week/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/between-the-lines-for-police-every-week-is-panther-appreciation-week/#comments Mon, 20 Sep 2010 20:21:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=366266 A crop of new police cars drew more than 400 law enforcement officials to Chrysler’s proving grounds in Chelsea today to see the Michigan State Police put the cars through acceleration, braking, high-speed handling and other tests. This article isn’t gonna end well for Ford, and not just because it’s Panther Appreciation Week here at […]

The post Between the Lines: For Police, Every Week Is Panther Appreciation Week appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

A crop of new police cars drew more than 400 law enforcement officials to Chrysler’s proving grounds in Chelsea today to see the Michigan State Police put the cars through acceleration, braking, high-speed handling and other tests.

This article isn’t gonna end well for Ford, and not just because it’s Panther Appreciation Week here at TTAC.

“They will have a tough time,” said Terry Sweezey, public safety officer from Leoni Township. “It is a whole different driving system.”

Understatement of the century, but Ford is all about leveraging what sales laggards they currently have on the books, and cramming it down every channel (SUV, CUV, Sedan, Fleet Sedan, etc) they can find. And who can blame them for wanting to cut off another profitable limb from their tree? Oh wait, I would do just that.

Plus, I wonder if Terry had an invite to the Police Interceptor Love Fest a few months ago. Because nobody mentioned the “whole different driving system” in the PowerPoint presentation.

Ford has long dominated the police car market with about 70% of the 75,000 police cars sold annually. However, the Dearborn automaker will stop producing the Crown Victoria next August and is replacing it with the far more modern Police Interceptor.

Way to cushion the blow, Detroit Free Press. If modern cars like the Taurus were desirable to Police fleets, the original Ford Taurus and the current Chevy Impala would rule the world. And, with FWD passenger cars now (theoretically) fully adopted, municipalities would demand 9,000 rpm V-TEC powered Priuses that run on moustache hair trimmings and donut frosting by now.

Both the Charger and Caprice are rear-wheel drive cars and the Caprice was the market leader before GM discontinued it in 1996. Rear-wheel drive cars are preferred by police departments because they tend to be more durable, are cheaper to repair and make it easier to perform high-speed maneuvers.

Why isn’t this the story’s lede? Oh wait, not pulling punches about wrong-wheel drive Police Interceptors might be keeping it a little too real.

“We drove Caprices for many, many years…so with Chevy coming back in with the rear wheel-drive Caprice, we are definitely very interested,” said Marlyn Dietz, a captain with the Wilmington, Police Department.

Put another way, “we don’t give two shits about a Taurus Cop Car now that we see superior offerings from GM and Chrysler, back to back. And quite franky, RoboCop sucked too.”

The Caprice’s 6.0-liter V8 is rated at an estimated 355 horsepower. Dietz said his department also likes the extra space provided by the Caprice. The Caprice has 122 cubic feet of interior space, which GM says is more than any of its competitors.

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, but OMG, there’s even a website for the Caprice Cop car! I wonder if Ford’s wicked Police Interceptor badges fit on its trunk. Those badges are cool, and I know Ford dealers sell them for cheap! I can buy, like, a hundred of those badges for the cost of one turbo on a Taurus…

The Caprice has 122 cubic feet of interior space, which GM says is more than any of its competitors. “That’s a big deal. When you have two big guys in a car, with a laptop, and you need to have room for them to move around and function,” Dietz said. Space and comfort are also important because officers spend hours inside their cars every day, he said.

Have we ever figured out why the console is so gigantic on the Taurus, Five Hundred, etc? And, aside from the column shift, why the Interceptor is no better? Oh wait…the Panther chassis sucks because it’s too old school, so never mind.

More to the point, Caprice 9C1 LS-X powertrain FTW!

Tony Gratson, sales manager for Ford’s government fleet vehicles, said the performance through curves and in bad weather of the all-wheel drive version of the Police Interceptor is actually better than rear-wheel drive vehicles. Still, he conceded many officers will need additional training to make the transition.

I would kill for that “transitional” training manual. One: don’t treat our Taurus like your Crown Vic or any RWD Chrysler or GM cop car, because the transaxle might implode. Two: stop bitching about the Taurus’ visibility, we gave up on the Panther ten years ago and it’s too late to turn back. Three: put down that Dodge Charger fleet brochure right now, Mister!

Eugene Mitchell, senior manager of government fleet sales for Chrysler, said the 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit has 15% more visibility than the outgoing version because of an adjustment to the angle of the windshield. It also has 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 horsepower that has 30 more horsepower than the outgoing version or a 5.7-liter V8 engine with 360 horsepower.

Mitchell was also quoted as being happy enough to wet his pants when he saw the Taurus Police Interceptor in the flesh. “First we got a few Chargers in fleets nationwide, but now Ford wants us to succeed so badly they’re giving us the whole shebang for nothing! I’d offer them some of our bailout money if I thought they needed it!”

Jerry Newbury, fleet operations manager for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Ford’s decision to end production of the Crown Victoria is ushering in a wave of innovation in police cars that was long overdue.“They were very stale, very outdated and technology had not kept up,” Newbury said of the previous police cars. “I think there are some things coming in the next two or three years that are really going to change the police business.”

Newbury added, “thanks again to Ford for not making a modern rear-wheel drive, V8 powered Police Vehicle. This makes our decision 33% easier. Do you know a good vacation spot in the Caribbean? I got time off I really need to burn.”

Preliminary results from three-day tests hosted by the Michigan State Police are expected in several weeks and final results are scheduled to be published in December.

We already know the results. I’m memorizing the front/rear facades of the Charger and Caprice as we speak. Too bad neither of them are as memorable as the almond-eyes of the 90s Ford Police Interceptor. You know, that time when Panther Appreciation week happened in places outside of TTAC.

The post Between the Lines: For Police, Every Week Is Panther Appreciation Week appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/between-the-lines-for-police-every-week-is-panther-appreciation-week/feed/ 92
Between the Lines: Corvettemegeddon! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/between-the-lines-corvettemegeddon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/between-the-lines-corvettemegeddon/#comments Thu, 02 Sep 2010 18:30:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=364588 One of the world’s foremost authorities on Automotive Journalism recently got their hands on a trio of Corvettes just for fun. But what unfolded was on the verge of hilarity, if not for their self-proclaimed journalistic superiority over us “punk kids with lots of servers and a desire to get free test drives.” And that’s […]

The post Between the Lines: Corvettemegeddon! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

One of the world’s foremost authorities on Automotive Journalism recently got their hands on a trio of Corvettes just for fun. But what unfolded was on the verge of hilarity, if not for their self-proclaimed journalistic superiority over us “punk kids with lots of servers and a desire to get free test drives.”

And that’s why it stings, in case you missed the backhanded TTAC insults in the link above. So let’s start with the Video reviews: I am no Jack Baruth, but I see numerous problems with their driving.  For one, Edmunds Chris Walton is caught–on camera–with his hand on the bottom of the tiller. (2:00 in the Grand Sport video) Anyone who’s taken a weekend driving school knows that 9-and-3 hand positions are the only way to fly.  After a brief reality check with Baruth, the other glaring deficiency comes to light: rarely, if ever, did Edmunds come close to hitting a racing line.

While power-on oversteering burnouts and gratuitous audio of LS-X mills are most welcome, Edmunds needs to hit apexs, take advantage of the entire track, and generally drive to the expectations of their most savvy readers.  To that effect, the commentator “1krider1” has it right: “Get some track instruction and learn to drive.” And consider the source, he’s probably be NASA racer/LeMons winner and Speed:Sport:Life contributor Rob Krider.  I’m no Tiff Nidel, but the rest of Edmund’s puff piece leaves much to be desired.

After just one launch with our Quicksilver Metallic 2002 Z06, it was obvious that the trick to getting the most out of the veteran Vette would be traction management. While Team Corvette has just announced major improvements are in store for its preferred Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, nothing could be done for these vintage examples because they were toast.

Don’t take my word for it, the comments section is filled with complaints that Edmund’s didn’t spring for a new set of tires when putting a C5 Corvette against a pair of hand plucked, PR-approved C6s from GM’s stable. With very little doubt, the C5 Z06’s track numbers on fresh rubber would easily match or (probably) beat the 2010 Grand Sport.

Again, it’s those tires. Surely the skid pad would reveal how little ultimate grip remained in the weary run-flats, and we were right. At 0.92g of lateral acceleration, the result shows some decline from the 1.0g a car like this could post in 2002

Apparently Edmunds isn’t big on doing their homework, since the C5 Z06 never came with run-flat tires. And if they installed a set, shame on them for stacking the cards in the C6’s favor.

As our test driver said after finishing this portion of the track test and anticipating the next day’s adventure on a road circuit, “I know I should be looking forward to driving three Corvettes on a racetrack tomorrow, but after today, I’m not so sure about this car. I’ll give it my 98 percent effort and reserve 2 percent just in case.”

Let’s blame the old car, not the people using worn rubber in a comparison test. Stay classy, Edmunds.

The Grand Sport now proves communicative, and we could confidently explore its limits thanks to its quick turn into each cone and the ability to throttle-steer the rear of the car. Did we just say that about a Corvette?

If you’ve spent enough time around C5 and (especially) C6 vettes, you’d know that they all behave this well once you ditch the run-flat tires for normal rubber. Or, for maximum butt kicking, installing the barely-legal Michelin Pilot Sport Cups used on top dollar Porkers.

We finally managed a run of 71.3 mph with the stability control on while sawing madly at the disinclined steering wheel.

Let’s hope you weren’t “sawing”  from the bottom of the steering wheel.  Not that you should saw at the wheel. Ever.  Especially when mad.

(We tried to verify with GM if these discrepancies could be explained by the Carbon’s active suspension or any other differences in hardware, but the Corvette engineers reported that the steering racks of the two cars are identical and further insisted that our impressions of the two cars should be reversed. Hmmm, sounds to us like prototype engineering might be the culprit.)

Not exactly. We might answer this question if we knew the Carbon’s active handling status: 100% on, 100% off and if the Traction Control was disabled or in “Competitive Driving” mode.  Edmunds needs to get off of the usual excuses for prototype vehicles and fess up to which mode was used while “sawing madly” at the wheel. I am not the only C5/C6 handling nanny-savvy reader on the planet, so let’s just finish this train wreck.

We have no qualms declaring the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon Edition the best Corvette money can buy. You might suggest that the ZR1 represents a better deal since you get 133 hp more for just $5,495 more. But here’s the deal. The Porsche 911 GT2 is more powerful and both quicker and faster on a drag strip (and more expensive) than a Porsche 911 GT3, yet we still prefer the immediacy of the GT3’s naturally aspirated engine, its linear power delivery and the overall cohesive personality of the chassis. The same goes for the Corvette Z06 Carbon.

Wrong. Unlike the small displacement, turbo laggy Porsche GT2, there’s no lack of immediacy with a twin screw supercharger on a 6.2 liter V8.  Go ahead and ask me how I know. I know GM didn’t provide you a ZR1 for testing, but how could Edmunds get this so wrong? Oh wait, the lure of free press cars.  And the promise of more free press cars.  Press cars!

Benefit of the doubt: perhaps Edmund’s believes the ZR1 isn’t as track worthy because of the issues with heat soak in forced induction applications.  But will the intercooled “Z” lose 133 horses in 100+ degree weather on an asphalt track? Not bloody likely.

If Edmunds has the nerve to pull this stunt again, they better stop “sawing madly” at the wheel. And call out the Carbon Z06 as a fashion-statement fraud, because the Z06 + Z07 package is the real deal. Then they better put new tires on the C5 Z06. Have we journalists learned nothing from the Firestone tire debacle? If Edmunds doesn’t learn from their mistakes, they might face the wrath of more commentators like “1krider1” when he said:

“You guys are an embarrassment to real auto journalists.”

The post Between the Lines: Corvettemegeddon! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/between-the-lines-corvettemegeddon/feed/ 24
Between the Lines: Wither The V8? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/between-the-lines-wither-v8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/between-the-lines-wither-v8/#comments Thu, 24 Jun 2010 21:25:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=359504 As we all know, those oblivious to history are bound to repeat its mistakes. Longtime readers also know I’ve gone down this road before, but the powers of my Twitter news feed shoved extra grist into this particular mill. Behold: Alain Raymond’s blog about the death of the V8 engine. Raymond’s weakest argument revolves around […]

The post Between the Lines: Wither The V8? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

As we all know, those oblivious to history are bound to repeat its mistakes. Longtime readers also know I’ve gone down this road before, but the powers of my Twitter news feed shoved extra grist into this particular mill. Behold: Alain Raymond’s blog about the death of the V8 engine. Raymond’s weakest argument revolves around one fact: V8’s did lose mainstream appeal shortly after the demise of the Butterfly Collar. But Alain wishes to beat this dead horse for some misguided reason.

So here are my counterpoints. First, the V8 is crucial for the success of high profit, low volume luxury and performance machines. Second, everything a “high tech” four or six cylinder is privy to, shall work just as well in a V8. Third, if you have a mainstream family car with a V8, you’re might be a cop or a cabbie.

So let’s go Between The Lines:

When you think V8, you think American car, and when you think American Car, you generally think V8. But things are starting to change. Radically. To the point where it’s starting to look like beginning of the end for the venerable 8-cylinder V engine that, for decades, has made the American automobile famous.

Welcome to mid-1970s, Alain. Except for perhaps India and China, everyone makes a V8 engine. But let’s stick with America: outside of Corvettes, Pony Cars and Panther Chassis, nobody associates American cars with the V8. In response to consumer demand, Detroit’s made cars like the imports. But Alain wants to squelch a niche product that makes Mustangs roar and Ford’s profits soar. So let’s go there.

Some will think I’m nuts or maybe just a doomsayer, but let’s take a look at the facts. The arrival of electronics has breathed new life into the internal combustion engine. The progress made in terms of reliability, power and pollution reduction in the past 20 years has been significant.

Alain isn’t nuts, just misinformed: every improvement to the internal combustion engine has an equal benefit to all members. Electronics, advanced metallurgy and manufacturing, variable displacement engines and induction systems are no strangers to the V8 engine. What was once exclusive to the 1990 Corvette ZR-1 is now available in a 2011 Mustang 5.0, but with even more goodies (variable valve timing) this time ‘round. And many V8s are just as “dirty” as the hi-po V6s in the same market: is the Infiniti G37’s economy and carbon footprint significantly better than a Hyundai Genesis? If you have the green to buy a $40,000 luxury vehicle, the extra nickels and dimes needed to feed a V8 is far from relevant.

Take Volkswagen’s 2-litre, direct injection turbo engine, for instance: it now produces 200 hp, 100 hp per cylinder, while a few years ago we only managed to wring out 50 hp per litre.

Ricer Math: the bullshit notion that horsepower per liter means something, anything in the real world. Chassis weight, area under the torque curve, gearing (double overdrive Corvettes) and even aerodynamics screw up that argument. Let’s overlook the Ricer Math: direct injection doesn’t hate V8 engines. The DI units from Jaguar are kicking butt: the fuel/carbon specs of a 5.0L Jag XF and a 4.2L S-type are disturbingly similar. But the 5.0L has over 80 more ponies underfoot. Add a turbo (or two) to the mix, and you have the stunning performance of BMW’s latest 5 or 7-series. The Laws of Thermodynamics don’t lie, so wait until the M5 gets direct injection and a pair of turbos.

Another telling example is Ford’s EcoBoost family of engines, four-cylinder and V6 mills with direct injection, turbochargers and variable valve timing.

The four bangers have promise, as Hyundai’s latest Sonata proves: the direct injected and turbocharged I-4 could care less about the V8, its enemy are V6s found in everything from a Toyota Camry to a Nissan 370Z. Ford’s EcoBoost V6 requires all-wheel drive: making a Lincoln MKS just as terrible as a Hyundai Genesis V8, per Fueleconomy.gov ratings. And while Ford plans to put an EcoBoost V6 in something without fuel robbing AWD, an Ecoboost F-150 or Mustang is gonna be interesting from a pricing and availability standpoint: with a motor that expensive and complex, don’t hold your breath on it making waves with people who buy trucks and Pony cars for their intended duty. Who wants a $33,000-ish Mustang or $27,000-ish work truck without a V8?

In its 4-cylinder, 2-litre incarnation, the EcoBoost produces 230 hp (115 hp / L) and 240 ft-lb of torque. When you consider that the 4.6-litre V8 engine of a 2000 Mustang generated 260 hp (56.5 hp / L), it’s obvious that things have evolved quite a bit in just 10 years.

Stop the presses! Did Alain compare the Modular two-valve V8 (introduced with the 1991 Lincoln Town Car) to a modern design, using Ricer Math to tell the story? Because over time, the V8 gets better: take the new, 412hp, 5.0 Mustang with a 2-3 MPG improvement over the 2000 model. To quote Ricky Bobby, “Does that blow your mind? That just happened!”

This is a good time to mention that today’s V8s (especially those with direct injection) run with the modern four/six bangers, without the added expense, weight and durability issues of turbochargers and their associated plumbing. Not to mention without the power and economy killing disadvantages of forced induction in summertime heat soak conditions. And without the requisite upkeep (not found in owner’s manuals) that’s reduced a number of turbocharged VW/Audi products to sludged-up carcasses.

And it’s not over, as the next engine revolution will be coming from Italy in the shape of Fiat and its ingenious MultiAir system, which will be featured in the new lineup of Chrysler models. On the 1.4-litre Alfa Romeo MiTo, MultiAir enables a 170-hp output. That’s over 120 hp / L. If we extrapolate these numbers to the new 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, we get a theoretical engine output of 432 hp.

Chrysler’s ability to remain financially solvent aside, new technology is always great…until it’s not. But even if FIAT’s electro-hydraulic variable valve actuation technology works flawlessly for the next 10 years, wouldn’t a Chevy LS3 (@6.2L) make an eye-popping 753hp with such a ludicrous, baseless extrapolation? And who needs a Ferrari Enzo after that?

Will the V8 become obsolete? “Yes,” says Professor Rinaldo Rinolfi, inventor of MultiAir. “No one really needs more than 400 hp in a family car. The V8 is doomed to extinction.”

Looks like Rinaldo sold himself short: your design shall make any V8 far more desirable. Why narrow your appeal by excluding a demographic with insane amounts of disposable income? Buyers of V8 machines aren’t your average Camry/Fiat consumer. Reconsider your stance Professor, thinking of all the royalties you’ll earn on AMG’s stellar V8 portfolio! Because it’s all about the money, honey.

And if I told you that I tried the prototype of a Fiat 500 powered by a 900-cc (0.9-litre), 2-cylinder MultiAir and that it handled like a great 1.6-litre four-banger, would you believe me?

I’m speechless, trying to find the relevance of this (direct) quote in Alain’s argument. But two can play this game: what if I told you I sampled a 2004 Corvette that retails for less than a new Scion tC, has Ferrari-like handling and acceleration, 32 MPG with the air conditioning on @75mph and has 25 cubic feet of cargo in the hatch? The C5 Corvette is a fine alternative to wanna be sports cars for $18,000 or less. You know, for the performance minded individual who wants to spank every challenger they find on the road.

Back to some semblance of reality: the V8’s claim to fame is here to stay, be it in a Mustang 5.0, AMG-something, BMW-whatever, Hyundai Tau-anything or the obligatory Chevy LS-X. And as technologies like direct injection go mainstream, the V8’s dominance in the performance/luxury market will remain. And remain unquestioned. So repeat after me: long live the V8.

The post Between the Lines: Wither The V8? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/between-the-lines-wither-v8/feed/ 55
Between The Lines: Pete Mateja’s Auto Industry “Myths” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/between-the-lines-pete-matejas-auto-industry-myths/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/between-the-lines-pete-matejas-auto-industry-myths/#comments Fri, 09 Apr 2010 19:23:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=351950 People do the right thing, unless money and power is involved. From the highest paid executives to the lowest ranking newbie, money and power is a motivator. Those in positions of accountability are held to a higher standard, and post-bailout Detroit is not immune to criticism. But in an act of corporate cheerleading, Pete Mateja’s […]

The post Between The Lines: Pete Mateja’s Auto Industry “Myths” appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

People do the right thing, unless money and power is involved. From the highest paid executives to the lowest ranking newbie, money and power is a motivator. Those in positions of accountability are held to a higher standard, and post-bailout Detroit is not immune to criticism. But in an act of corporate cheerleading, Pete Mateja’s Internet flamebait at Automotive News [sub] titled “Detroit had lousy management — and other myths that need debunking” shows how the “experts” got it wrong.

“For the past year, I have…seen commentaries by industry analysts and consultants giving their opinions on all the causes of the problems and wrongdoings in today’s auto world and, in particular, the Detroit 3. Everyone has become an expert.”

Perhaps these experts prefer someone take responsibility for the systematic destruction of billions in stockholder’s equity? And maybe they’ve run about eleventy-billion tests on Detroit’s offerings since the dawn of the Pontiac Astre to the death of the Pontiac Aztek? But Mateja has an inside line to myths that need de-bunking.

“Myth No. 1: It is because of bad management. Senior executives such as Rick Wagoner, Jim Press and Tom Lasorda were not ‘bad management.’ All of these people have degrees and knew the industry.”

I know many MBAs and have one myself: those execs can indeed manage and inspire people. But coming clean about their fundamentally broken system? Not on the syllabus. They were lying to themselves: lies that grew more heinous with every 10K filing.

“Could they have done things differently if they had known the depths of the recession? Sure. But this could be said for almost any senior executive in the past 18 months.”

Short-term thinking works on Wall Street, building a reputable brand with a strong customer base takes decades. Destroying it takes a few years, maybe eighteen months when you’re hooked on GMAC’s highly-addictive smack. Those responsible for the decades-long slide into bankruptcy were caught red handed: tracked by every financial statement known to man, available to anyone with an Internet connection, understood by anyone who stayed awake in a freshman-level accounting lecture.

“Myth No. 2: The truth is the Detroit 3 and North American manufacturers listened and built vehicles that consumers wanted for more than 10 years…You can go back to 1990, when GM was the first automaker to introduce an electric car — the Impact. This is bad management? To build what your customers want?”

Detroit puts their eggs in one basket: proper Detroit Iron in land yacht or SUV form. Dude, where’s my Corolla-fighter? The EV1 isn’t an egg, it’s a zygote: not likely to earn a dollar for years. Volt redo, anyone?

So let’s talk money, bread and butter. If Detroit made a world-class compact in the Ford Pinto or Chevy Vega, choosing the relentless pursuit of product perfection, there’d be no Escort, Cavalier, Cobalt, Focus or Cruze. Which makes for another failed Detroit adage, a new name brings fresh karma. But the captain and his crew never sought atonement for past transgressions. Or if they did, it never showed outside of Bill Ford’s mass-media mea culpa back in January 2006. And to quote Jon Stewart, “look how sorry Domino’s was just for their shitty pizza!”

“Myth No. 3: Government subsidies are bad. The reality is that other countries, such as Japan and South Korea, subsidize their industry in some form. At a conference in Los Angeles, Sean McAlinden of the Center for Automotive Research said it best: ‘We’re the only country in the world that expects its auto industry to exist without some government support.’”

CAR’s incestuous relationship with the Detroit 2.5 aside, this Texan remembers the potential closure of the GM plant in Arlington, and what the Ann Richards’ era of Texas government did to keep it alive. More to the point, the American South knows the value of government gravy to court automakers. Question is, which organization deserves our taxpayer dollars? The ones with years of solid, trendable growth and a portfolio of strong performers, or those who continue to make the same mistakes with a Golden Parachute in one hand and the fate of an entire region in the other?

“Myth No. 4: Too many dealers are bad for an auto manufacturer. The rationale behind this is ‘big is better.’”

Mateja’s right, look at Bill Heard for proof. But Detroit’s “push” supply chain was (is?) a mess, and dealerships are but one cog in that failed machine. And it’s difficult to clean up with anything short of a proper Chapter 11 filing. Again, look to the top for answers. Or lack thereof.

“Myth No. 5: Unions are the real culprits because of high wage and benefit packages…now that GM and Chrysler have gone bankrupt, everyone has had to come to the table to make financial sacrifices.”

Union management enabled corporate management’s operational stupidity for years, if not decades. So it goes back to the Money, honey. Nobody’s hands are clean, this video is only one data point in how Management kept the rank and file in the dark. And today, everyone must pay: what purpose does a Union serve if it cannot reserve the right to strike?

Mateja ends by throwing the critics a bone:

“In the upcoming months, we will see whether the love affair between consumers and Toyota is over, the auto bailout money from taxpayers was a wise investment or just a postponement of the inevitable…”

We shall. And who is responsible for what the critics and staffers at the GAO point out? The automotive execs, obviously. These folks didn’t have to run to Congress with begging bowls in hand, provided they never relied on profits from their finance arm to cover their shockingly high overhead. They never needed to lie to the citizens of Michigan (and elsewhere) who trusted them. Now if only we addressed the problems of a broken system years ago.

The post Between The Lines: Pete Mateja’s Auto Industry “Myths” appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/between-the-lines-pete-matejas-auto-industry-myths/feed/ 45
Editorial: Between the Lines: GM BOD Chairman Ed Whitacre’s “Satisfaction Guaranteed” Ad http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/09/parsing-ed-gm-bod-chairman-ed-whitacres-satisfaction-guaranteed-ad/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/09/parsing-ed-gm-bod-chairman-ed-whitacres-satisfaction-guaranteed-ad/#comments Thu, 10 Sep 2009 23:56:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=329153

First of all, I don't have the embed code for this ad. For some reason, GM hasn't sent it to TTAC and it's not on YouTube. To see the ad, click over to Autoblog. Second, New GM Chairman of the Board Ed Whitacre should never have done this ad. GM's single biggest problem, the one that trumps everything: their insular culture. By fronting this spot, Whitacre has become part of the problem. He's crossed the line from gamekeeper to poacher. He's lost his independent observer/taxpayers' guardian status; he can no longer distance himself from the Lutzes and yutzes who animate the GM zombie. Whitacre's now "one of the boys." Third, the actual text of this ad [parsed after the jump] misses the boat.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: GM BOD Chairman Ed Whitacre’s “Satisfaction Guaranteed” Ad appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

First of all, I don’t have the embed code for this ad. For some reason, GM hasn’t sent it to TTAC and it’s not on YouTube. To see the ad, click over to Autoblog. Second, New GM Chairman of the Board Ed Whitacre should never have done this ad. GM’s single biggest problem, the one that trumps everything: their insular culture. By fronting this spot, Whitacre has become part of the problem. He’s crossed the line from gamekeeper to poacher. He’s lost his independent observer/taxpayers’ guardian status; he can no longer distance himself from the Lutzes and yutzes who animate the GM zombie. Whitacre’s now “one of the boys.” Third, the actual text of this ad [parsed after the jump] misses the boat.

“I’m Ed Whitacre, the Chairman of General Motors.”

What? No hello? Not very friendly, is it? First impressions count. Whitacre looks like a prison warden walking through The Big House. But is that rank-pulling exercise a good thing? GM has four brands left: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. The whole chairman thing squares with Cadillac’s core clientele, maybe Buick. But Chevy and GMC? Those are supposedly working-class brands. Their average buyer is more in tune with the word “boss.” And not in a good way.

Yes, I know: Lee Iaccoca was Chrysler’s Chairman. But his famous 1984 ad didn’t start with him saying, “I’m Lee Iaccoca, Chairman of Chrysler.” (A subtitle provided the ID.) Lee’s opening line: “A lot of people think America can’t cut the mustard anymore.” That’s the way you do it. Grab ’em by the lapels and don’t let ’em go.

“Before I started this job I admit I had some doubts. [pause] Probably a lot like you.”

What doubts? Did you think GM cars were crap? Crap how? Unreliable? Uncomfortable? Badly built? What? And why “probably”? That’s an admission wrapped in a denial shrouded in mystery. Whitacre’s vague statement is so Old GM: wishy-washy and vague whilst trying (and failing) to be genuine and sincere.

“But I like what I found. I think you will too.”

What did he find? See: above. Except this time the ad’s trotting out GM’s secret weapon in its own self-destruction: the perception gap. Clearly, Eddy’s saying “I was wrong about GM—and so are you.” Which is another way of A) calling himself a close-minded ignoramus and B) calling GM customers close-minded ignorami. Idiots. Fools. It wasn’t OK for Old GM to insult its customers. It’s not right for New GM, either.

While we’re at it, “like” is not the kind of word that convinces people to risk their hard-earned money on a car from a company with a history of building crap (both relatively and absolutely). “Buy a Buick. You won’t love it. But you will like it.” That’s not going to cut the mustard, and he didn’t even say it. Clearly, GM doesn’t know the power of the specific. Or does it?

“Car for car, when compared to the competition, we win.”

What’s with the strange sentence construction? It’s no small thing: people listen to TV ads—if they listen—with one ear. Anything that makes it hard for them to understand what’s being said (let’s not even talk about Ed’s accent yet) dilutes the message.

Ed’s assertion sounds like it’s designed by lawyers. What does “car for car” mean? I know YOU know what it means. But again, what about people who aren’t really paying too much attention? Whitacre should have said “car vs. car.” Or something else entirely, that follows on from the previous statement.

And then there’s “we win.” HUH? By what metric? As the Chairman doesn’t cite an authoritative source for this declaration of victory, the ad asks viewers to take Mr. Clicky Shoes’ word for it. Yes, well, who the hell is Ed Whitacre? [Note: Ed's the guy who said, "I know nothing about cars," the day his appointment was announced.] And if Ed was so stupid as to have doubts about GM products he shouldn’t have had, why should we think he knows shit from shinola now?

“It’s as simple as that.”

Who would’ve thought it could get worse? But it does. “It’s as simple as that” is the same as saying “I know more than you do.” Or “I’m not going to debate this with you.” Or “STFU and buy a car from us.” Yeah, that’ll work.

“I just know if you get into one of our cars you’re going to like what you see.”

So, Ed you feel it in your water, eh? Not good enough. Taken literally, “you’ll like what you see” makes no sense; people don’t buy a car based on whether or not or how much they like the way the interior looks. Taken on a more metaphorical level, it’s a meaningless statement—that depends on Ed’s credibility. Again, he doesn’t have any. For 99.78% of the general population, Whitacre’s a completely unknown quantity. Judging him as a salesman, I don’t like what I see; Whitacre doesn’t have one tenth of Iaccoca’s star power.

“So we’re putting our money where our mouth is.”

The switch to the royal “we” is jarring and completely inappropriate. A personal message has instantly become just another example of a corporate shill mouthing off.

“Buy a new Chevy, GMC, Buick or Cadillac and if you’re not a hundred percent happy return it.”

Anyone else catch that momentary hitch between Chevy and Buick? Seriously; Whitacre is trying to remember the list. He’s mastered it, but it’s not quite there. By the same token, look at his finger point. It’s out of sync with what he’s saying. That’s what psychologist calls cognitive dissonance. Or what normal people call B.S.

In any case, the 60-day guarantee concept is deeply flawed. Buying a car is not like buying a packet of gum in a flavor you’ve never tried before. People hate car dealers. The only thing worse than the thought of buying a car is the thought of returning it. The customer is thinking, rightly, hassle, more hassle and more hassle, ad infinitum.

“We’ll take it back.”

How nice of you. But it’s not “We’ll give you every penny back, plus give you a toaster for your time.” Sigh.

“That’s our new, 60-day satisfaction guarantee.”

Think like a moron for a moment. Ed’s saying that the guarantee will be in place for 60 days. OK, I’m being picky, but this isn’t as clear as it should be. All they had to do was add the 60-day bit to the return statement. Oh, and the usual “no questions asked” caveat, that’s been around since 34 A.D. Like this:

“. . . if you’re not a hundred percent happy after the first sixty days, return it to your GM dealer for a full, no-questions-asked refund. Plus a new toaster for your time.”

“And as always you’ll get our 100,000 mile five-year powertrain warranty on every vehicle.”

That’s “your” vehicle, not “every” vehicle. And sorry, it’s not vee-hickle. Whitacre’s accent just crossed the border from regional to quirky. And that’s opened him up for parody (check back with TTAC in future posts). Whitacre could have, should have said “car” instead. Anyway, what’s the point of mentioning this? Trying to remember two deals is not as easy as one.

“That’s how strongly we feel about our cars and how committed we are to you.”

See how that doesn’t work? By introducing the warranty thing, the connection between the 60-day guarantee and the commitment has been broken. Touchback.

“So put us to the test.”

Test? I’m not buying a car with confidence, I’m buying a car to see if GM’s any good? No thanks. Not with my money. As PCH101 says (below), people want to buy a car they can keep. Duh. And if the car was any good, why would Eddy even mention returning it?

That’s the problem with this type of come on, and there’s no getting around it. And the more expensive the item, the more risk the consumer assumes. The more risk, the less likely they are to buy. Even with a money-back guarantee.

“Put us up against anyone.”

Huh? They’re introducing a new concept—comparison shopping—in the last ten seconds? What’s that got to do with the 60-day guarantee? If I don’t like the car relative to the competition I can return it? Obviously not. But this “we’re better than the other guys” is a different idea that smacks of throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. Not that GM’s ever done that before . . .

“And may the best car win.”

This is a blatant attempt to echo “If you can find a better car, buy it.” But it’s totally different. Whitacre’s closing statement admits the possibility that the competition is better than GM’s products. How stupid can GM be? That stupid. And more. Watch this space.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: GM BOD Chairman Ed Whitacre’s “Satisfaction Guaranteed” Ad appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/09/parsing-ed-gm-bod-chairman-ed-whitacres-satisfaction-guaranteed-ad/feed/ 56
Editorial: Between the Lines: Detroit News: Ford Gets Its Sexy Back http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/08/editorial-between-the-lines-detroit-news-ford-gets-its-sexy-bac/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/08/editorial-between-the-lines-detroit-news-ford-gets-its-sexy-bac/#comments Sun, 16 Aug 2009 12:32:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=326364

I've been harping on about the media's "Ford didn't take bailout bucks" meme for some time. Commentators have slated me for slating the Blue Oval Boyz for claiming they avoided the taxpayer trough. In fact, Ford raided the public purse to the tune of $5.9 billion dollars. Yes, it's a no-to-low-interest Department of Energy "retooling loan." I repeat: the $5.9 billion loan from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program allows Mulally's minions to spend $5.9 billion dollars on something else. It's a bailout. Question: if you're an industry writer, how do you push Ford's mega-suckle to one side to keep the "pure as driven snow" show alive? You draw a distinction between "emergency tax dollars" and ATVM loans, while, at the same time, not mentioning the loans. Sarah Webster's "Ford, Toyota in a close race to No. 1" does that and more, taking Motown's hometown cheerleading to the next level.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: Detroit News: Ford Gets Its Sexy Back appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

I’ve been harping on about the media’s “Ford didn’t take bailout bucks” meme for some time. Commentators have slated me for slating the Blue Oval Boyz for claiming they avoided the taxpayer trough. In fact, Ford raided the public purse to the tune of $5.9 billion dollars. Yes, it’s a no-to-low-interest Department of Energy “retooling loan.” I repeat: the $5.9 billion loan from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program allows Mulally’s minions to spend $5.9 billion dollars on something else. It’s a bailout. Question: if you’re an industry writer, how do you push Ford’s mega-suckle to one side to keep the “pure as driven snow” show alive? You draw a distinction between “emergency tax dollars” and ATVM loans, while, at the same time, not mentioning the loans. Sarah Webster’s “Ford, Toyota in a close race to No. 1” does that and more, taking Motown’s hometown cheerleading to the next level.

As Webster embarks on a frenetic Ford canonization campaign, she takes the time to dance on Toyota’s grave. Although, you know, they’re not “dead” in the GM or Chrysler sense of the word. Or, in fact, any other sense.

For years, we’ve all watched and wondered when Toyota would surpass GM as the world’s largest automaker. That moment came and went earlier this year.

In the meantime, the world got stuck in economic quicksand, forcing GM, Chrysler and dozens of suppliers into bankruptcy.

The auto industry now emerging from that mess is, in many ways, an unfamiliar one — especially considering how Ford’s star is rising while Toyota’s is falling.

Ah yes, GM and Chrysler didn’t go bankrupt by their own hand. They were unwitting victims (and how) of the global economic meltdown. How long has it been since we’ve heard that bogus excuse for the domestic automakers’ epic failure? Not long enough.

The “Toyota’s on the rocks” story never really caught fire in the mainstream media. Especially as Toyota’s made some bold moves and very public mea culpas to sort its shit out. Still, the “See? See? They’re in trouble too!” story line helps keep Detroit’s chin up. So the kid stays in the picture.

Make no mistake, there’s trouble in Toyota City. The Japanese automaker has lost more than $4.8 billion over the past year. Toyota’s critical U.S. sales are down 34% — worse than the industry’s 32% decline. As such, Toyota has lost a half point of market share this year, selling 16.3% of the new cars and trucks in America.

Whoa! Half a point! Anyone want to tell Ms. Webster how much market share Chrysler, Ford and GM have shed in the last ten years? Don’t bother. She knows the stat and chooses to ignore it. As well as Toyota’s recent ascension to the top of the Cash for Clunkers new car league table.

By contrast, Ford already has endured years of cost-cutting and soul-searching, and it’s starting to stand tall again. All without emergency tax dollars.

Ford’s U.S. sales are down by 28.5% this year, but that better-than-industry performance helped it pick up nearly a point of U.S. market share this year, for 15.5% of all sales. The truck leader is turning out passenger cars that are tops not just in quality but in styling and innovation, too.

Whenever a Motown cheerleader runs out of chants, chances are they’ll start yelling about how great Detroit’s cars are, or will be, despite sales figures. Automotive News sales stats, Consumer Reports black dots, J.D. Power and TrueDelta rankings be damned. It gets woolier.

Ford’s performance led it to post a profit of $2.3 billion in the second quarter, albeit mostly because of onetime accounting gains. But Ford is now in the black, earning $834 million through the first half.

And unlike Toyota, which has lost top executives in recent years, the psychic momentum at Ford seems to be on the rise. While Ford isn’t ready to celebrate, there’s optimism in Dearborn, and more importantly, traffic in Ford’s showrooms.

Stripped of obfuscation, that’s a $424 million Q2 loss. And what the hell’s “psychic momentum”—if not another attempt to shore up a thesis without a strong foundation? Once upon a time, Detroit’s media accomplished this task by comparing the domestics to each other, rather than the barbarians at the gate [note to Webster: they're heeeeeere.] Clearly, Webster’s Old School.

Globally, Ford (5.5 million) has a longer way to go to catch up with Toyota (8.97 million), where Volkswagen (6.2 million) is also a major player.

But more than any other American brand, Ford has the promise to be a world leader. No single GM or Chrysler brand has the global cachet that Ford brings to the showroom.

Yeah, I’ll have that Taurus ’cause Ford rocks in China! Anyway, heading for the conclusion, Webster still has to deal with the 800-pound Toyota in the room. Just ’cause.

The Toyota brand has long promised quality, but that promise means less when the number of problems per vehicle has leveled out among rivals.

Does Webster mean initial quality? Or long term reliability? Either way, Toyota’s rep for quality may mean less, but it doesn’t mean nothing. In fact, it means a great deal. Still.

Since the industry meltdown took its toll, and before, Toyota’s made it clear they’re not about to surrender/ignore/neglect their dedication to producing quality products. Besides, how can Webster single-out Ford’s global prospects relative to its cross-town rivals yet happily dismisses the importance of relative vehicle quality across the entire automotive spectrum? Practice.

God help Ford if they’re as flippant as Webster about absolute and relative vehicle quality. Meanwhile, the coupe de grace. Ish.

Ford today seems to stand for what Toyota and other automakers are hoping for: A comeback.

Seems? That’s like dropping a pom-pom. Only worse. Anyway, if Ford is the poster boy for the auto industry’s eventual rebound, what does that make Lincoln? Just askin’.

[Thanks to Cammy Corrigan for the link.]

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: Detroit News: Ford Gets Its Sexy Back appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/08/editorial-between-the-lines-detroit-news-ford-gets-its-sexy-bac/feed/ 33
Editorial: Between The Lines: New GM’s First Press Release http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/07/editorial-between-the-lines-new-gm-press-release/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/07/editorial-between-the-lines-new-gm-press-release/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2009 15:42:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=322610 I once asked a priest about confession. What was the point? I knew Catholics who'd sin, confess, sin, confess, wash, rinse, repeat. "It's not a 'get out of hell free' card," he insisted. "Confession means you fully acknowledge your sin, pledge to atone for the harm you've caused, promise God that you've learned from your mistakes and change your behavior." Let's say you do all that and commit the same sin. What good's an unrealized promise? "None," he said. "I have refused absolution to repeat sinners because I didn't believe that they were ready, willing or able to abandon their sins." And there you have it: New GM's recipe for disaster. Let us turn to the first sentence of New GM's first press release.

The post Editorial: Between The Lines: New GM’s First Press Release appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
I once asked a priest about confession. What was the point? I knew Catholics who’d sin, confess, sin, confess, wash, rinse, repeat. “It’s not a ‘get out of hell free’ card,” he insisted. “Confession means you fully acknowledge your sin, pledge to atone for the harm you’ve caused, promise God that you’ve learned from your mistakes and change your behavior.” Let’s say you do all that and commit the same sin. What good’s an unrealized promise? “None,” he said. “I have refused absolution to repeat sinners because I didn’t believe that they were ready, willing or able to abandon their sins.” And there you have it: New GM’s recipe for disaster. Let us turn to the first sentence of New GM’s first press release.

The new General Motors Company began operations today with a new corporate structure, a stronger balance sheet, and a renewed commitment to make the customer the center of everything the new GM does.

Leaving aside the fact that GM’s opening proclamation makes no mention of its bankruptcy, or what led to its bankruptcy, how can New GM claim it has a new corporate structure? Fritz Henderson was the CEO of Old GM. Fritz Henderson is the CEO of New GM. Mark LaNeve was Old GM’s VP of sales and marketing for North America. Mark LaNeve is New GM’s VP of sales and marketing for North America. Old GM’s ex-Car Czar Bob Lutz has been reinstated as New GM Car Czar. Meet the new boss . . .

Actually, GM is now run by the federal government, under the watchful eye of a twenty-five member, politically-appointed “Presidential Task Force on Automobiles.” As much as Old GM’s management needed a right royal arse kicking—which, as stated above, this isn’t—I still can’t see GM nationalization as something worth celebrating.

Sure, GM’s balance sheet is stronger than it was before the government assumed control. And yes, New GM is “only” carrying $11 billion worth of debt. But any realistic appraisal of its balance sheet must consider cash flow, current assets and future prospects.

New GM’s brands and product plans are in complete disarray. With the exception of its pickup truck, GM’s products are class-trailing. Incentives are high and getting higher (i.e. margins are low and getting lower). GM’s killer apps are, as always, on the horizon.

Meanwhile, when exactly was GM last committed to its customers? Before they allowed [now-bankrupt] Bill Heard Chevrolet to screw every single person that darkened the dealership’s doors because the man moved mountains of metal? Never mind because . . .

“Today marks a new beginning for General Motors, one that will allow every employee, including me, to get back to the business of designing, building and selling great cars and trucks and serving the needs of our customers,” said Fritz Henderson, president and CEO.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hear Elton John’s “I’m Still standing.” But if New GM’s so new, why are we getting the same old song and dance from its old—I mean, previous and current, CEO?

“One thing we have learned from the last 100 days is that GM can move quickly and decisively,” said Henderson. “Today, we take the intensity, decisiveness and speed of the past several months and transfer it from the triage of the bankruptcy process to the creation and operation of a new General Motors.”

Here we are again: faster, deeper, harder, oh baby! Anyone remember Chrysler’s contention that speed was the primary advantage of private equity ownership? That didn’t turn out so well. Besides, does anyone really believe that a government-owned General Motors (with the aforementioned twenty-five member oversight team) will be faster than Ye Olde GM?

As I’ve said before, GM’s problem is not speed. It’s direction. GM still doesn’t have a coherent plan for their brands or the models within. Or do they?

“Our goal is to build more of the cars, trucks, and crossovers that customers want, and to get them to market faster than ever before.”

More, faster. See how that works? Or, in fact, doesn’t?

“The success of our recent launches and the exciting new vehicles and technologies we have in the pipeline are evidence of our ongoing commitment to excel at everything we do,” said Henderson. “Our goal is to make each and every General Motors car, truck and crossover the best-in-class.”

According to Fritz’s previous pronouncements, GM’s whittling itself down to 39 nameplates. What are the odds that all of them will be best-in-class? But hey, Fritz feels me.

“Beginning next week, we will launch a ‘Tell Fritz’ website where customers, or anyone else, can share ideas, concerns, and suggestions directly with senior management. I will personally review and respond to some of these communications every day.”

Glasnost at GM? Sounds good! But then, confession is good for the soul. As long as it’s genuine . . .

[NB: Fritz is having a webchat on the FastLane at 4pm EST]

The post Editorial: Between The Lines: New GM’s First Press Release appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/07/editorial-between-the-lines-new-gm-press-release/feed/ 56
Editorial: Between the Lines: GM Does Not Welcome Its New Governmental Overlords http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/05/editorial-between-the-lines-gm-does-not-welcome-its-new-governmental-overlords/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/05/editorial-between-the-lines-gm-does-not-welcome-its-new-governmental-overlords/#comments Thu, 14 May 2009 23:03:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=315057

Well, the worm has turned properly on government intervention in the auto industry, as General Motors now seems to fear a government takeover more than bankruptcy. Too bad the choice isn't either-or. Recent 10-Q filings with the SEC indicate that GM accepts the inevitability of a Chapter 11 filing, but describes the ramifications of a possible government ownership stake with fear and horror. "In the future we may also become subject to new and additional government regulations regarding various aspects of our business as a result of the U.S. government’s ownership in (and financing of) our business. These regulations could make it more difficult for us to compete with other companies that are not subject to similar regulations," figure GM's professional worrywarts. These still waters of paranoia run deep.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: GM Does Not Welcome Its New Governmental Overlords appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Well, the worm has turned properly on government intervention in the auto industry, as General Motors now seems to fear a government takeover more than bankruptcy. Too bad the choice isn’t either-or. Recent 10-Q filings with the SEC indicate that GM accepts the inevitability of a Chapter 11 filing, but describes the ramifications of a possible government ownership stake with fear and horror. “In the future we may also become subject to new and additional government regulations regarding various aspects of our business as a result of the U.S. government’s ownership in (and financing of) our business. These regulations could make it more difficult for us to compete with other companies that are not subject to similar regulations,” figure GM’s professional worrywarts. These still waters of paranoia run deep.

“To the extent the U.S. Treasury elects to exercise influence or control over us, its interests (as a government entity) may differ from those of our other stockholders,” goes the GM line of thinking. Considering the Treasury and UAW VEBA trust will hold 89 percent of New GM’s equity following the proposed debt swap, the “other stockholders” would hold an 11 percent stake at most. A voting majority that ain’t. So what’s the problem?

“In addition, the U.S. Treasury’s ability to prevent any change in control of us could also have an adverse effect on the market price of our common stock. The U.S. Treasury may also, subject to applicable securities laws, transfer all or any of its portion of our common stock to another person or entity and, in the event of such a transfer, that person or entity could become the controlling stockholder.”

By the wounded tone, you’d think GM had never even considered doing something as sneaky as, say, diluting 90 percent of its stock to a one percent equity position. In order to give a controlling stake to (wait for it) VEBA and the US Treasury. It sounds like Sergio Marchionne is haunting someone’s nightmares.

“We currently are in discussions with the U.S. Treasury regarding the governance of our company following consummation of the exchange offers and therefore we cannot assure you as to what role the U.S. Treasury will play. Absent other arrangements, as a result of its ownership of our common stock, the U.S. Treasury will be able to elect all of our directors and to control the vote on substantially all matters brought for a stockholder vote. In addition, through its stockholder voting rights and election of directors, and its role as a significant lender to us, the U.S. Treasury will be able to exercise significant influence and control over our business if it elects to do so.”

Boo-freaking-hoo. You gotta serve somebody, as the poet once said, and taking bailout bucks makes the government master of your fate. It’s one thing to ask the government to be a lender of last resort, but it’s quite another to ask said lender to ignore its fiduciary responsiblity. Y’know, more than it already has.

Meanwhile, GM hasn’t served its stockholders well for years, as witnessed by the current, lamentable value of GM stock. The fact that it is also willing to diss its stockholders with a 100-1 reverse split speaks volumes about the sincerity of GM’s hypothetical crocodile tears.

Besides, later in the filing, GM admits that “Even if we successfully consummate the exchange offers, our indebtedness and other obligations will continue to be significant.” Why? Supplier failure, VEBA cash needs (even if VEBA takes equity), weak sales and more. Where’s that money coming from again? Not only is GM seeking an open-ended commitment from the Treasury, it also wants no strings attached. And even though GM desperately needs to be saved from itself, the Treasury seems almost too willing to allow GM to fall back into its old habits. To wit:

Although the agreements governing certain of our indebtedness, including the U.S. Treasury Loan Agreement, contain restrictions on the incurrence of additional indebtedness, these restrictions are subject to a number of qualifications and exceptions, and the indebtedness incurred in compliance with these restrictions could be substantial. If we or our subsidiaries incur additional indebtedness, the risks associated with our substantial leverage would increase.

Having heard the Chrysler in the coal mine start singing in Italian (and lose half its ad budget), it’s not entirely surprising that GM would be wary of government control of its operations. But if the $16.3 billion we’ve dumped into GM so far doesn’t buy the government a certain amount of control, then the tens of billions we will continue to dump over our “at least two year” ownership of GM certainly will.

Sure, there’s a question of whether the Treasury will force GM to build eco-freak-mobiles that nobody will buy. But that would be a problem for the GAO and other taxpayer advocates. Or, a possibility that should have been considered before the rush to bailout. Besides, if GM had its finger on the pulse of the American car market, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now, would we?

Again and again, GM betrays the belief that its only problem is liquidity. If an organization is so blind to its own structural problems, how could partial government ownership make the situation any worse?

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: GM Does Not Welcome Its New Governmental Overlords appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/05/editorial-between-the-lines-gm-does-not-welcome-its-new-governmental-overlords/feed/ 58
Editorial: Between the Lines: Car and Driver Camaro vs. Genesis Comparo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/05/editorial-between-the-lines-car-and-driver-camaro-vs-genesis-comparo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/05/editorial-between-the-lines-car-and-driver-camaro-vs-genesis-comparo/#comments Sun, 03 May 2009 23:21:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=313405

Even the most even-handed comparison tests reflect a specific set of specifically weighted criteria. Then there are those that aren’t even-handed. Car comparison tests don’t come much more tilted than the “Camaro vs. Genesis” comparison test in the June 2009 Car and Driver.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: Car and Driver Camaro vs. Genesis Comparo appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Even the most even-handed comparison tests reflect a specific set of specifically weighted criteria. Then there are those that aren’t even-handed. Car comparison tests don’t come much more tilted than the “Camaro vs. Genesis” comparison test in the June 2009 Car and Driver.

Let’s begin with the cover, which shows the Camaro nosing ahead of the Hyundai on a track and includes three bits of information on each car. The first, base prices: $23K for the Chevrolet Camaro, $26K for the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Open the magazine and you’ll find that C&D rejected a Camaro LS for its awful upholstery and mediocre tires. Upgrade to the LT, like they did, and two-thirds of the Camaro’s price advantage goes away. Adjust for remaining feature differences, and the cars’ prices are generally only a few hundred dollars apart.

Next on the cover, fuel economy: 29 MPG for the Camaro, 26 MPG for the Hyundai. EPA highway figures, of course. The city figures are an identical 17. In C&D’s testing, the Hyundai went slightly farther on a gallon of gas.

The third bit of information, horsepower: 304 for the Camaro, 306 for the Genesis Coupe. Not as potentially misleading as the other two bits. And yet, unsaid on the cover: the Camaro is over 300 pounds heavier. The Hyundai has a significantly better power-to-weight ratio.

In the actual comparo, the Camaro wins (as suggested by the cover photo). By a single point. Actually check the details, and you’ll find that, despite the connotations of that cover photo, the Camaro trailed the Genesis Coupe in every track test—acceleration, handling and braking—sometimes by a substantial margin. Moving to the subjective scoring, C&D rated the Genesis Coupe more “fun to drive” by a not insignificant two points. They note a few times that the Camaro feels too big because of its size, mass, and small windows, and that it doesn’t invite precise steering inputs.

So how did the Genesis Coupe lose? First, ride quality—affected by the optional Track Package on the car C&D tested. The buff book notes that they cycled through three Camaro test vehicles before settling on the one they liked best for the test. Why, then, didn’t they also evaluate the Genesis Coupe without the Track Package?

Even the four point spread in ride quality––a huge difference as scoring in these tests tends to go––wasn’t enough to fully erase the Hyundai’s lead in nearly every other category. To give the Camaro a one-point victory, C&D resorted to the score of last resort: “gotta have it.” The reviewers gave the new Chevrolet Camaro a monstrous six-point advantage. That’s 22 vs. 16, out of 25 in a 110% subjective category.

To put it bluntly, the Camaro won this comparison test because, in C&D’s estimation, people want it more. Chalk one up to the power of a name and an effective PR campaign. [ED: Or ad revenue.]

Even if we grant that “gotta have it” belongs in the scoring table at all––and I don’t, since I’d rather a test compare what the cars are like to look at, sit in, and drive and not the model name or the PR––the Hyundai’s 16 is crazy low for a car that offers so much performance for a price in the mid-$20s.

The issue includes one other comparison test, between the BMW 328i, Infiniti G37, Audi A4 2.0T and Acura TL. The TL, the least “gotta have” car in that test, with far more faults than strengths, received a 16. The Infiniti and Audi both received 20s. In the context of these scores, the Genesis Coupe’s 16 doesn’t hold water.

And the Camaro V6’s 22? Yes, there’s a lot of interest in the new Camaro, but generally for the V8. Maybe that’s why they couldn’t go all the way to 25, and so had to dock the Genesis Coupe’s “gotta have it” score to carve out the desired margin?

No disrespect meant to the Camaro. If it handles anything like the Pontiac G8 with which it shares a platform, it’s a fun car, and it looks great. I’ve driven neither car yet myself and have no predisposition in favor of either. In other words, I’m no fanboy or hater.

My focus here has been strictly on the fairness of the test. And this is the most tilted comparison test I’ve come across in a long time. In the end, “gotta have it” is like the “reviewer’s tilt” score used by gamespot.com when reviewing games. It’s being used to ensure that the car the reviewers want to win actually wins, despite what the other scores happen to be.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: Car and Driver Camaro vs. Genesis Comparo appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/05/editorial-between-the-lines-car-and-driver-camaro-vs-genesis-comparo/feed/ 82
Editorial: Between the Lines: MaryAnn Keller: Post C11 GM Needs A Road Warrior http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/maryann-keller-post-c11-gm-needs-another-hero/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/maryann-keller-post-c11-gm-needs-another-hero/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2009 16:41:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=311729

Props to automotive consultant Maryann Keller for calling for GM to get its shit together, I mean "create a sense of urgency" since 1875, or thereabouts. Kudos for Keller's willingness to predict a GM C11 early and often. And praise be for loaning TTAC the writing talents of Mr. Ken Elias. OK, so. . . Keller's column in Automotive News [sub] is suffused with Annie-like optimism for a post-C11 GM. With one a catch. Chevillac's success depends on the "smaller, leaner and cost-competitive company's" ability to secure a champion who can administer strong medicine to GM's poisonous corporate culture. Before we deal with Ms. Keller's "if you build it, he will come" theory, here's a taste of her sunwillcomeouttomorrowism:

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: MaryAnn Keller: Post C11 GM Needs A Road Warrior appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Props to automotive consultant Maryann Keller for calling for GM to get its shit together, I mean “create a sense of urgency” since 1875, or thereabouts. Kudos for Keller’s willingness to predict a GM C11 early and often. And praise be for loaning TTAC the writing talents of Mr. Ken Elias. OK, so. . . Keller’s column in Automotive News [sub] is suffused with Annie-like optimism for a post-C11 GM. With one a catch. Chevillac’s success depends on the “smaller, leaner and cost-competitive company‘s” ability to secure a champion who can administer strong medicine to GM’s poisonous corporate culture. Before we deal with Ms. Keller’s “if you build it, he will come” theory, here’s a taste of her sunwillcomeouttomorrowism:

Let’s face it: Much of the success of the Japanese auto companies in the United States came about as a result of Detroit’s failures. GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler made it easy for the competition by not matching them in quality, not renewing their product lineups on a timely basis, virtually ignoring the sedan buyer and diverting resources away from North America and even away from auto assembly.

If GM restructures quickly, it can emerge as the low-cost producer in North America and use that position to gain market share quickly.

I don’t see how Chevrolet or Cadillac can become low-cost producers in North America. Does anyone seriously expect Chevillac’s UAW employees to labor for lower wages than their non-union American counterparts? Or, for that matter, Korean or Chinese workers? So where’s the competitive cost advantage going to come from? More efficient factories? Streamlined management? Better marketing? What?

Even if Chevy could undercut its competitors’ costs, gaining marketshare, never mind gaining market share quickly, is so far from a done deal it may not even be possible, never mind likely.

Chevrolet is not a viable automaker. Aside from pickups and a superabundance of dealerships, they ain’t got game. The Volt is an inside joke.The Malibu isn’t stealing significant sales from Toyonidssan. The new Camaro is a niche product. Ditto the Corvette, only more so. The Aveo is a piece of crap. The Traverse surmounts nada. Etc.

In fact, rebuilding Chevy isn’t simply a matter of throwing billions at existing products, or spending billions on creating new ones. It would take at least decade to do something about the brand itself, which is both damaged and virtually meaningless.

In contrast, Cadillac doesn’t need cost savings; it need vehicles that are significantly better than those made by Lexus, Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Cadillac also needs a stronger brand than its German or Japanes competitors. This for the automaker hell bent on building a station wagon, a rebadged SUV-lite, a blinged-out Tahoe and a lower-priced sedan than the CTS.

While MAK’s right that the transplants built their initial success on Detroit’s failures, there’s no reason to think the “usurpers” will now drop the ball. Though MAK tries to make the case:

Ironically, some of GM’s competitors aren’t looking invincible anymore. At ¥100 to the dollar, imports from Japan aren’t profitable. Nissan Motor Co. will lose money this year; and, despite Carlos Ghosn’s magic, it has yet to demonstrate consistent product strength.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s quality is not rock-solid anymore. The residual values of its vehicles are falling, and product proliferation is confusing buyers and dealers. The blind quest to be No. 1 left Toyota with global excess capacity.

Sorry, but Toyota and Nissan are hardly standing still. They’re rectifying their mistakes, readying themselves to keep kicking Motown’s ass. And what of Honda? Hyundai? Ford? Fiat? Just joking.

Anyway, MAK thinks Chevillac’s future comes down to people. True, but what are GM’s chances of finding someone to lead Chevillac to victory?

The GM board of directors bears responsibility for the company’s fate. The most important responsibility of the board is naming and firing the CEO. . .

The GM board deserves a failing grade, and the new GM deserves directors who will be fully engaged. The new board has to ensure that the vitality of the new company isn’t squandered as soon as there is evidence of a comeback.

This would be a good time to mention the fact that a federal committee is in complete control of GM’s Board of Directors. They just fired GM’s CEO, and installed his clone at the helm. How confident does that make you feel?

Not that I’m suggesting that an unelected federal quango made up of bankers and non-auto industry types is incapable of choosing a kick-ass BOD for GM, who would choose the right CEO for the job. I’m saying it.

I never owned a share of General Motors during my 28 years on Wall Street and in the 10 years since. But if bankruptcy delivers a low-cost, competitive company, I’m ready to buy.

And if there’s a clean, low-mileage 2007 Ferrari F360 going for $20k, I’m in. Meanwhile, not.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: MaryAnn Keller: Post C11 GM Needs A Road Warrior appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/maryann-keller-post-c11-gm-needs-another-hero/feed/ 45
Editorial: Between the Lines: Motor Trend’s arthur st. antoine Doesn’t Own a Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/editorial-between-the-lines-motor-trends-arthur-st-antoine-doesnt-own-a-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/editorial-between-the-lines-motor-trends-arthur-st-antoine-doesnt-own-a-car/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2009 11:58:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=309442

Motown's top suits are [still] insulated from "the ownership experience." They drive carefully selected and prepped examples of their own products, lovingly serviced by the company's top wenches. I mean wrenches. The company replaces these perkmobiles before they can prove the old adage that getting older is not for sissies. The execs don't experience the slings and arrows of outrageous service departments nor, for that matter, their competitors' products. They are the bubble boys, accompanied by buff book writers. In this month's Motor Trend, the chronically undercapitalized arthur st antoine offers this: "Full disclosure: At the moment, I don't own an automobile. There are too many test cars, too little time." So the st receives a new, carefully selected, meticulously prepped and thoroughly maintained press car EVERY WEEK. A full tank of gas, no insurance, no trips to the dealer (ever). None of the hassles of car ownership AND the unexpressed danger that writing something that takes him off the press car gravy train would costs him thousands of dollars per year. Now, about this month's column. . .

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: Motor Trend’s arthur st. antoine Doesn’t Own a Car appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Motown’s top suits are [still] insulated from “the ownership experience.” They drive carefully selected and prepped examples of their own products lovingly serviced by the company’s top wenches. I mean wrenches. The company replaces these perkmobiles before they can prove the old adage that getting older is not for sissies. The execs don’t experience the slings and arrows of outrageous service departments, nor, for that matter, their competitors’ products. They are the bubble boys, accompanied by buff book writers. In this month’s Motor Trend, the chronically undercapitalized arthur st. antoine offers this: “Full disclosure: At the moment, I don’t own an automobile. There are too many test cars, too little time.” So the st receives a new, carefully selected, meticulously prepped and thoroughly maintained press car EVERY WEEK. A full tank of gas, no insurance, no trips to the dealer (ever). None of the hassles of car ownership AND the unexpressed danger that writing something that takes him off the press car gravy train would costs him thousands of dollars per year. Now, about this month’s column . . .

Despite fessing-up to the fact that he doesn’t spend bupkis on personal transportation, st. antoine trots out a mental list of the cars he would buy—you know, if he had to. This for the benefit of party-goers who annoy him with regular requests for the car that he owns, and car makers, who should let his taste inform their manufacturing choices.

Volkswagen GTI – Our own Justin Berkowitz actually spent his own money on a [non press] GTI, and reported the familiar over-familiarity with his Volkswagen dealer’s service department. To say VW has something of a rep for unreliability and no-fun stealerships would be like saying that there are better places to have a steak dinner than The International House of Pancakes. But such considerations are but nothing to MT’s man, who calls the GTI a “no-brainer.” st. antoine warns that the car . . . isn’t the quickest in its class. “Who cares? Not me whenever I have a GTI for a weekend mountain fling.” Lucky you, then.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon – Another car with a rep for unreliability. Not that we worship J.D. Powers’ mob, but the Wrangler notched up a four out of 10 for reliability. Safety is also an issue—for some. Not antoine. “I’d stretch to get a Rubicon ($29,315 base) with all the off-roading can-do, then wrestle with the choice of four doors (the roomy Unlimited makes more sense) or two (looks and feels more authentic to me).” Would it be a stretch to mention the gas the Jeep sucks in the name of slow forward progress?

BMW 335i sedan – Not that he’d gamble his own money on the ownership proposition, but st. antoine reminds us that the “Bahaus sledgehammer scores impressively on those depreciation charts used by accountants charging you $200 an hour to show you how much money you can save. So it actually makes some financial sense.” It must be asked: how much sense and what does HE know about it?

Ford Mustang GT Premium – File this one under TMI: “True, the Camaro likely has the edge in handling and modernity [how's next Thursday for the loan guys?], but the Mustang is just more ‘me’ (feel free to inject ‘rough around the edges’ here). Where’d I put my Ray-Bans?” No offense to Ray-Bans [note to self: test driving glasses], but Ray-Bans?

Lotus Elise – I’m confused. Does the Elise cap st. antoine’s list of cars he’d own if he had to buy it with his current salary, or if he won the lottery? Is he suggesting that it’s a suitable car if he could STILL have access to all those press cars AND had to spend his own money on Lotus’s motorized tea-tray? No matter how you slice it, the Elise is the love that dare not speak its name—except to Motor Trend’s readers. “The cocktail-partiers don’t get this one. They always expect me to make sense.” Well that confirms it: not only does st. antoine not identify with his readers, he doesn’t hang with them either.

Insider gold, indeed. The cozy relationship between the automotive press and automotive manufacturers is a disgrace to both. The car makers don’t get genuine feedback on their cars (which would help them build more competitive cars), and the press don’t give their readers the truth about cars (which would help them buy better cars). Perhaps the upcoming motown meltdown will create a paradigm shift in the autoblogosphere, freeing both maker and critic to realize that honesty is the best policy.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: Motor Trend’s arthur st. antoine Doesn’t Own a Car appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/editorial-between-the-lines-motor-trends-arthur-st-antoine-doesnt-own-a-car/feed/ 69
Editorial: Between The Lines: GM’s Volt Development Spin Cycle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/between-the-lines-gms-volt-development-spin-cycle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/between-the-lines-gms-volt-development-spin-cycle/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2009 17:41:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=285601

As rumors filter in about GM's Volt battery program, the faithful must be experiencing a certain amount of restless discomfort. After all, it's not like this couldn't be seen coming. Let's just say that when I asked the guys from A123 systems (then bidding on the project) about the Volt battery development program at SEMA last October, they took full advantage of the fact that SEC silent periods don't forbid eye-rolling. Though non-verbal communication can (and in this case, did) speak volumes, we like to get our facts in writing. Which, thanks to the truth-proof wall surrounding the Volt's development, usually means going through GM's PR-exercise interviews with reliable Volt boosters and mining them for some kind of meaning. And hey, there's an interview at Volt cheerleader HQ gm-volt.com which suggests that the Volt's battery development is being rushed. And engineers are complaining to blogs? Fancy that!

The post Editorial: Between The Lines: GM’s Volt Development Spin Cycle appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

As rumors filter in about GM’s Volt battery program, the faithful must be experiencing a certain amount of restless discomfort. After all, it’s not like this couldn’t be seen coming. Let’s just say that when I asked at SEMA last October the guys from A123 Systems (then bidding on the project) about the Volt battery development program, they took full advantage of the fact that SEC silent periods don’t forbid eye-rolling. Though non-verbal communication can (and in this case, did) speak volumes, we like to get our facts in writing. Which, thanks to the truth-proof wall surrounding the Volt’s development, usually means going through GM’s PR-exercise interviews with reliable Volt boosters and mining them for some kind of meaning. And hey, there’s an interview at Volt cheerleader HQ gm-volt.com which suggests that the Volt’s battery development is being rushed. And engineers are complaining to blogs? Fancy that!

GM-volt.com’s Lyle Dennis sat down with GM’s head Volt honcho Frank Weber for a sanitized-for-your-protection update on General’s moon-shot gambit. So what is happening right now, according to Weber?

We have been using the winter for winter tests . . . Now what’s happening is the true development work that you say OK this is the temperature of the battery, and this is the temperature of the system, and this is what happens when you are plugged in, etc. There are parameters that we call calibration, you have the basic software functionality on those cars defined, and then we start to calibrate it looking at the temperature and when to we start it, what is the true power of the battery at a certain temperature, etc.”

Any of this sounding intelligible or reassuring yet? This is supposed to be GM’s chance to thrill the credulous faithful, and the best Weber can come up with is “start to calibrate?” Don’t worry, it gets worse.

“What you know is what the behavior is for the cars that we are testing, and then you make an assumption for how a component will behave over time and how it will behave under the same situation in several years.  This is what we call accelerated testing. This gives you some indication of durability. The piece that is tricky and interesting about the battery is to do a really accurate extrapolation of the true behavior. For a mechanical part this is very simple. For a mechanical part you can replicate its lifetime and find out when it will break. The battery is electrochemical and its more difficult to make those extrapolations. This is part of the learning we have to do, battery learning between the battery supplier LG and us. By the way this is still the element of risk. This is also why we are unable to get the car out any sooner. It is those things that have to be developed now with the components that are representative of the production vehicle.  There is no way to do this any faster.”

If GM would just admit that the “late 2010″ launch date is toast, this wouldn’t even qualify as spin. But then we don’t exactly live in a world where you can just say “it’s complicated, we don’t know when it will actually be done, now where’s my NSFWing bailout” is it? Or is it? I digress.

In a separate post, Lyle Dennis predicts public test drives this summer, putting faith first in spite of more damningly ambiguous talk, this time from GM’s John Lauckner. Saying “we need an experience where people say ‘Wow’ this is really something special,” Lauckner reveals that GM has “laid out all of the concepts that we want to use and written a lot of the preliminary code,” for the Volt’s “software-driven” driving experience.” Concepts. Preliminary. Wow. Lauckner continues:

“I would say that conceptually we’re most of the way there if not all of the way there, but there’s a lot of work to be done still to make sure that the whole thing operates seamlessly. [GM has to] love this thing a little bit to make sure that you not only get it that it actually works but you get it working in such a way that its completely intuitive. We need the time with the car and we need the time over a wide variety of conditions to simulate certain things, so that we can see just exactly how the car is going to behave and what sort of information the driver is going to get to make sure everything works in as seamless a way as we can possibly make it.”

Love your own product? Really? You’re only going to be asking $40 grand for the thing. And though both executives note its importance, time is the one thing GM doesn’t have. Weber reveals that the engineering freeze on the first true Volt prototypes or integration cars will occur “within days,” and that these integration models will be built and tested sometime later this year. If GM could simply let its executives just say what they hint at (conceptual, preliminary, this thing takes time) and let the “late 2010″ date slip, their troops on the ground might not be grousing that the battery system is an “epic fail.” Instead it’s being rammed through and damn the torpedoes. This won’t end well.

The post Editorial: Between The Lines: GM’s Volt Development Spin Cycle appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/between-the-lines-gms-volt-development-spin-cycle/feed/ 34
Editorial: Between The Lines: AN Pimps for GMAC’s CEO http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/automotive-news-pimps-for-gmac/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/automotive-news-pimps-for-gmac/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2009 17:06:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=276662

Automotive News [AN, sub] does an excellent job covering the industry. Most of the time, AN is an unbiased if largely toothless conduit of autoblogospherical fodder. In other words, they report, we decide. But today's column by Editor David Sedgwick is, well, appalling. No really. I am shocked at the depths of disinformation, dissembling and, yes, dishonor to which AN and Sedgwick have sunk. "GMAC's chief has a chance to earn his millions" begins by asking "Is Al de Molina worth $11.6 million?" The obvious answer has Will Smith written all over it: oh HELL no. Unless, of course, you're one of the Cerberus insiders who benefitted from the Fed's last minute rule change. You know, the one allowing GMAC to become a bank when it didn't qualify for bank status. Oh and then there's Uncle Sam's $6b GMAC bailout. So yes, I guess Al de Molina is worth the big bucks to someone. Sedgwick's column, on the other hand, isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

The post Editorial: Between The Lines: AN Pimps for GMAC’s CEO appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Automotive News [AN, sub] does an excellent job covering the industry. Most of the time, AN is an unbiased if largely toothless conduit of autoblogospherical fodder. In other words, they report, we decide. But today’s column by Editor David Sedgwick is, well, appalling. No, really. I am shocked at the depths of disinformation, dissembling and, yes, dishonor to which AN and Sedgwick have sunk. “GMAC’s chief has a chance to earn his millions” begins by asking “Is Al de Molina worth $11.6 million?” The obvious answer has Will Smith written all over it: oh, HELL no. Unless, of course, you’re one of the Cerberus insiders who benefited from the Fed’s last minute rule change. You know, the one allowing GMAC to become a bank when it didn’t qualify for bank status. Oh, and then there’s Uncle Sam’s $6B GMAC bailout. So yes, I guess Al de Molina is worth the big bucks to someone. Sedgwick’s column, on the other hand, isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Clearly, GM and Chrysler did not have an especially good year. But what about GMAC? Last fall, the company nearly collapsed after its access to credit dried up. In November and December, GMAC halted auto loans for consumers, and it toughened its terms for inventory loans for dealers.

I was prepared to give Al a hard time about the company jet and his “heads, I win; tails, I win anyway” pay plan. But when I got him on the phone the other night, reality intruded.

Saying GM and Chrysler didn’t have “an especially good year” is like saying the Brits took a bit of a drubbing at Isandlwana. Only without whatever honor the massacre entailed.

Aside from that, Sedgwick’s failure to mention GMAC’s own culpability in its demise—and the wider effects on the U.S. economy—is a glaring omission. As TTAC reported at the time, GMAC wrote forests of bad paper. It actively worked to lure millions of Americans into cars and houses they couldn’t afford. GMAC’s short-term greed fueled the housing bubble and encouraged GM to over-produce, and then over-produce again. And again. Until the market collapsed.

Anyway, “reality intruded?” What reality might THAT be?

A $6 billion emergency aid package from the Treasury Department in December kept the company afloat. But GMAC is still in trouble.

This spring and summer, the company must roll over $11.8 billion in unsecured debt. Since credit markets are still frozen, de Molina says, he can’t do it without federal help. “This is a tsunami coming at us,” he told me. “I don’t want to be the guy who pulled the plug on GM.”

So the reality is that GMAC is still in deep shit, so why give the CEO a hard time? (Translation: in Bailout Nation, we’re way too busy to make anyone responsible for their actions. Or even LET them be responsible for their actions.) To be fair, Sedgwick makes a stab at it. Or should we say feint?

OK, but what about his pay last year, while GMAC nearly went down?

De Molina was refreshingly honest. When he joined GMAC in 2007, he signed a contract that he says would have made him a very wealthy man. If things went well, de Molina figured, he’d earn $100 million or even $200 million over five years.

De Molina’s admission that he had an obscene compensation plan as the lender teetered on the brink of bankruptcy is “refreshing”? Define “refreshing.” That said, I’m no fan of executive pay limits—or any other government intervention in the inner workings of a privately-held company. But we’re supposed to feel sorry that de Molina made “only” $11.6M. Does Sedgwick have a clue how bad it is out here?

Brace yourself.

I know what you’re thinking. So allow me to be Al’s public defender:

— GMAC’s meltdown was triggered by losses in its mortgage unit. You can’t pin that on de Molina, who joined GMAC after its plunge into subprime.

— GMAC’s owners, Cerberus and GM, helped set de Molina’s pay package. So it’s not the same situation as a publicly traded company, where good-ole-boy directors shower dollars on the lucky CEO while investors sputter.

— Last year, de Molina’s use of the company jet was valued at $2.3 million. But he notes the plane took himself and company execs to New York to negotiate GMAC’s bailout.

“It wasn’t Al flying alone while he got a pedicure from the stewardess,” he said. GMAC dumped the jet. DeMolina, who lives and works in Charlotte, N.C., now flies commercial.

I swear to God I’m not making this up. Segwick’s final prognosis: if de Molina keeps GMAC alive, he’s worth the money. Hang on; what if he continues to use our tax money to do it? And what if he doesn’t? Will he give back his salary? Color me disgusted.

The post Editorial: Between The Lines: AN Pimps for GMAC’s CEO appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/automotive-news-pimps-for-gmac/feed/ 3
Between the Lines: USA Today’s Flag-Waving Homo-Erotic Automotive Flashback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/between-the-linesusa-todays-flag-waving-homo-erotic-automotive-moment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/between-the-linesusa-todays-flag-waving-homo-erotic-automotive-moment/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2009 20:34:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=259321

USA Today's car coverage is normally a fairly sensible part of a fairly sensible newspaper. But the Motown meltdown has created major distortions in the force. USA Today's piece "Readers tell us why they stand by their American cars" is odd, from any angle. Clicking on the "enlarge" button of a homo-erotic picture of a guy in combat pants posing in front of a Buick Riviera is only the beginning. Right from the start of the article, it's clear that scribe Chris Woodyard is so far out of the news loop he might as well check if Elvis is on the moon with him. Either that or he's having a bad flashback, man. How else can you explain his bell bottom jeans-era take on American cars?

The post Between the Lines: USA Today’s Flag-Waving Homo-Erotic Automotive Flashback appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

USA Today’s car coverage is normally a fairly sensible part of a fairly sensible newspaper. But the Motown meltdown has created major distortions in the force. USA Today’s piece “Readers tell us why they stand by their American cars” is odd, from any angle. Clicking on the “enlarge” button of a homo-erotic picture of a guy in combat pants posing in front of a Buick Riviera is only the beginning. Right from the start of the article, it’s clear that scribe Chris Woodyard is so far out of the news loop he might as well check if Elvis is on the moon with him. Either that or he’s having a bad flashback, man. How else can you explain his bell bottom jeans-era take on American cars?

To admirers, the American car is the ultimate expression of freedom, a terrestrial comet skimming across a barren highway.

To detractors, the American car is a fuel-gulping beast, a steel behemoth that symbolizes industrial decline.

Love it or hate it, no other consumer product ignites as much passion or has had such a profound impact on every aspect of American life.

Yet the fate of the American car is unsettled. The nation’s three homegrown automakers — Ford Motor, General Motors and Chrysler — are running on fumes, victims of a miserable economy, changing consumer tastes, a few painful mistakes and the pressure of foreign competition.

A few painful mistakes? I’d would LOVE to see that list. But no, I’ve got to wade through edited sound bites on American car fanatics. To his credit, Woodyard realizes he’s going to have to completely redefine the term “American car” before he unleashes the vox pop– if he’s not going to look like a total ass.

Now the definition of “American car” has shifted to a definition of American car style.

And what is that style?

“A relatively large, easy-to-drive sedan or crossover.

“You can’t find them anywhere else.”

Americans say they would rather buy domestically made products. Three-quarters of 537 car shoppers surveyed on its website by Kelley Blue Book in December said they prefer to buy U.S.-made products.

A third remain loyal to Detroit’s Big 3.

Whoa dude. Nice transition! But you’d kind of hope that a journalist examining an industry hoovering $97b from American taxpayer’s wallets would want a sample size slightly larger than one you could fit into a high school football stadium.

From there… Hey, who asked this guy to write so many words? Words are not Woodyard’s friends. But at least he can find some flag-wavers whose words back-up his uninformed, interminable rant, right?

Give up on the U.S. automakers and you give up on what makes up the “American spirit.” You join hands with the Southern senators, some of whom have never been in manufacturing, in cutting the legs off the backbone of this country.

Speaking of area 51… Seriously though, either Ronnie Schreiber’s brainwashed Madison Heights Dodge Caravan owner Mary Ellen Hoerig, as above, or she’s a great American. Or Wayland’s put words (there you go again) in her metaphorical mouth.

I have always driven a Ford, Chevy, Buick or Pontiac. Mainly because I don’t buy new cars, so I buy an American car because I feel they are cheaper to maintain.

My wife and I feel the quality of the U.S. cars is equal to that of the foreign cars.

Feelings? Nothing more than feelings? Which are way cool when you’re going for non-scientific random samples to back up a pre-existing prejudice. And then, out of the blue, things turn NASTY. “Why I drive foreign cars.” Uh-oh. Who let the dogs out, who?

First, fuel efficiency is important to us as a young family, both as an economic preference, and because we prefer to consume as responsibly as possible. In this respect, American cars have really let us down.

It’s not as if we set out not to buy American. But Toyota and Honda have long outstripped the Big 3, producing cars with responsible EPA gas mileage estimates (while) American automakers were touting the Hummer.

Can someone tell me the advantages of trotting-out uncorrected ignorance on BOTH sides of an issue? No?

We now purchase almost exclusively based on Consumer Reports reliability ratings. So when Honda came out with its first full-size king-cab pickup, we purchased one. With 80,000 miles on our Ridgeline, we have had zero extra maintenance costs.

In tough economic times, my husband and I can no longer purchase based on national pride. We have to have the most reliable, best gas mileage, highest resale option in the class, or we are throwing away money.

And there you have it: another highly contrived piece of non-journalism on the automotive industry that fills the otherwise blank space between ads. There is one remaining question: what does muscle man John Colletti think about American vs. foreign cars?

 

The post Between the Lines: USA Today’s Flag-Waving Homo-Erotic Automotive Flashback appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/between-the-linesusa-todays-flag-waving-homo-erotic-automotive-moment/feed/ 26
Editorial: Between The Lines: President Bush’s Bailout Defense http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/bailout-watch-300-president-bush-loans-pave-the-way-to-c11/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/bailout-watch-300-president-bush-loans-pave-the-way-to-c11/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2008 22:53:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=193721 President Bush's radio address this morning: "Good morning. For years, America's automakers have faced serious challenges -- burdensome costs, a shrinking share of the market, and declining profits. In recent months, the global financial crisis has made these challenges even more severe. Now some U.S. auto executives say that their companies are nearing collapse -- and that the only way they can buy time to restructure is with help from the Federal government.

The post Editorial: Between The Lines: President Bush’s Bailout Defense appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
President Bush’s radio address this morning: “Good morning. For years, America’s automakers have faced serious challenges — burdensome costs, a shrinking share of the market, and declining profits. In recent months, the global financial crisis has made these challenges even more severe. Now some U.S. auto executives say that their companies are nearing collapse — and that the only way they can buy time to restructure is with help from the Federal government.

I’m not going to name names. I’m not going to lay blame. I’m just trying to clear my name.

This is a difficult situation that involves fundamental questions about government’s proper role. On the one hand, government has a responsibility not to undermine the private enterprise system. On the other hand, government has a responsibility to safeguard the broader health and stability of our economy.

I’m sacrificing A for B.

Addressing the challenges in the auto industry requires us to balance these two responsibilities. If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy and liquidation for the automakers. Under ordinary economic circumstances, I would say this is the price that failed companies must pay — and I would not favor intervening to prevent automakers from going out of business.

I don’t favor intervening in free markets unless I do.

But these are not ordinary circumstances. In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action. The question is how we can best give it a chance to succeed. Some argue the wisest path is to allow the auto companies to reorganize through Chapter 11 provisions of our bankruptcy laws — and provide a Federal loan to keep them operating while they try to restructure. But given the current state of the auto industry, my economic advisors believe that bankruptcy could now lead to its disorderly collapse — sending our economy into a deeper and longer recession.

A government-aided Chapter 11 is the right thing to do. But we’re not going to do it.

A more responsible option is to give auto companies an incentive to restructure outside of bankruptcy — and a brief window in which to do it. My Administration proposed legislation to achieve this, but Congress was unable to get a bill to my desk before adjourning for the year. This means the only way to stave off a collapse of the auto industry is for the executive branch to step in. So yesterday, I announced that the Federal government will grant loans to auto companies, which will provide help to them in two ways.

This is Barack Obama’s problem now.

First, the loans will give automakers three months to put in place plans to restructure into viable companies — which we believe they are capable of doing. Second, if restructuring cannot be accomplished outside of bankruptcy, the loans will provide time for companies to make the legal and financial preparations necessary for an orderly Chapter 11 process that offers a better prospect of long-term success.

We believe GM and Chrysler can do what they say they’re going to do– minus the bits they say they’re going to do. But I can’t say that. Because if I did, I would be saying I don’t believe them. Which would mean this bailout makes no sense whatsoever. Anyway, like I said, this is Barack Obama’s problem now.

The terms of the loans will require the auto companies to demonstrate how they would become viable. They must pay back all their loans to the government, and show that their firms can earn a profit and achieve a positive net worth. This restructuring will require meaningful concessions from all involved in the auto industry — management, labor unions, creditors, bondholders, dealers, and suppliers. If a company fails to come up with a viable plan by March 31st, it will be required to repay its Federal loans. Taken together, these conditions send a clear message to everyone involved in American automakers: The time to make the hard decisions to become viable is now — or the only option will be bankruptcy.

Chrysler and GM must pay back the federal loans because that’s what a loan is: something you pay back. Actually, fuck it. If they can’t repay the money, they can declare bankruptcy. At that point, no one’s going to care about a measly $17.4b.

The actions I’m taking represent a step that we all wish were not necessary. But given the situation, it is the most effective and responsible way to address this challenge facing our Nation. By giving the auto companies a chance to restructure, we will shield the American people from a harsh economic blow at a vulnerable time. And we will give American workers an opportunity to show the world once again that they can meet challenges with ingenuity and determination, and emerge stronger than before.

Who’s your Daddy?

Thank you for listening.”

The post Editorial: Between The Lines: President Bush’s Bailout Defense appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/bailout-watch-300-president-bush-loans-pave-the-way-to-c11/feed/ 16
Between the Lines: Jalopnik’s Ray Wert Writes “Case For Rick Wagoner” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/between-the-lines-jalopniks-ray-wert-writes-case-for-rick-wagoner/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/between-the-lines-jalopniks-ray-wert-writes-case-for-rick-wagoner/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2008 18:04:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=179231 Jalopnik's Editor and I have had some major differences of opinion. Ray Wert recently opined that a Chrysler-GM merger made good business sense. I disagreed. When Jalopnik sold "Save GM" t-shirts and claimed it was ironic, I begged (metaphorically) to differ. Today, Wert posted an editorial entitled "The Case for GM CEO Rick Wagoner." Again, I disagree. The rant is deeply misguided, the logic and conclusions just plain wrong. And in a twist of [yet more] unintended irony, the editorial stinks of the sloth and corner-cutting that's brought GM to its knees.

The post Between the Lines: Jalopnik’s Ray Wert Writes “Case For Rick Wagoner” appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Jalopnik’s Editor and I have had some major differences of opinion. Ray Wert recently opined that a Chrysler-GM merger made good business sense. I disagreed. When Jalopnik sold “Save GM” t-shirts and claimed it was ironic, I said it was absurd. Today, Wert posted an editorial entitled “The Case for GM CEO Rick Wagoner.” Again, I disagree. The rant is deeply misguided, the logic and conclusions just plain wrong. And in a twist of [yet more] unintended irony, the editorial stinks of the sloth and corner-cutting that’s brought GM to its knees.

“While we’ve been a vocal critic [sic] of GM’s glacial restructuring effort,” Wert writes. “We’ve got to say the automaker probably should stick with the girl they brought with ‘em to the ball — no matter how ugly.” This is no argument at all– unless you find the admonition against ‘changing horses mid-stream’ inherently compelling. General Motors has followed this non-strategy– stick with the same tired brands, the same poor products and planning, and the same incompetent management– for the past four decades. To no avail.

So what’s the justification, in Wert’s mind, for backing a loser? “Mostly because we can’t name anyone better who’d understand the product and the bureaucracy of the General.” Obviously, Wert’s inability to name a suitable replacement for GM CEO RIck Wagoner doesn’t preclude the possibility of his or her existence. In fact, it underscores the paucity of imagination suffered by the pro-Big 3 establishment collectively; demonstrating General Motors’ longstanding assumption that if they can’t do it, it’s not possible. Remember when GM said it was nearly impossible to make money on small cars?

Is it really that hard to find an executive that meets Wert’s supposed requirements, understanding GM’s product and bureaucracy? Even I understand GM’s products, and I have no managerial skills above the level of lemonade stand. As for grokking the complexity of GM’s bureaucracy, this is a double-edged sword. Any executive that comes from within GM doesn’t just understand the bureaucracy– they are the bureaucracy. While the FBI recruits mobsters to act as informants because they understand the mafia, it doesn’t recruit mobsters to work as actual FBI agents.

Wert opposes bringing in someone outside of GM because “… to bring in someone completely new to figure out that bureaucracy takes time GM just doesn’t have without tens of billions more in public monies.” But that’s the real issue here. This is public money. And while the taxpayers don’t get stock certificates (perhaps they should), why would we want the same management that carelessly squandered billions of dollars of GM’s privately-raised money? We have no reason to believe that Rick Wagoner’s cronies will be more careful now than they were before.

As for figuring-out bureaucracy, a new CEO doesn’t need immediately understanding of the company’s bureaucracy. They need to keep the company running more than the “two months” that Wert over-pessimistically prognosticates GM has left.

The “better scheme” that Mr. Wert then proffers reads like a sort of class president campaign flyer. “What this automaker needs … [is] an external force moving the current leadership to change quickly.” They also need 1000 mile-per-gallon sports cars. Neither is possible. Neither is orbiting possible. General Motors does not change quickly, and Rick Wagoner has never shown any proclivity for the kind of fast action the company so desperately needs. Hanging-up the phone on Carlos Ghosn doesn’t count as fast business action any more than driving to DC.

Not all that surprisingly, Mr. Wert’s pipe dream plan of adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to General Motors isn’t even internally consistent. Too little oversight of Wagoner, and we’re at the status quo, with public funding down the drain. If a board of independent assessors is going to scrutinize Wagoner’s every decision, why have him there at all? You lose the purported benefits of Wagoner “knowing his way around GM’s bureaucracy.” And in so doing, you actually amplify GM’s traditional problems.

I certainly don’t think Red Ink deserves all the blame for decades of chronic mismanagement at General Motors. But he’s the man in charge of the firm now. The executive who’s been CEO for eight and a half years. Prior to that, since 1992, Wagoner  high level executive positions. So he deserve plenty of blame. And he can no doubt survive taking one for the team with the small fortune he’s banked over the past 16 years.

It’s intriguing that GM posted a mea culpa to the Facts and Fiction site a few days ago. But absent major action, it’s meaningless. Mr. Wert can’t sprinkle their support for the status quo with a handful of criticisms and think it properly qualifies his opinions; that is the very definition of an apologist.

The “Case for Rick Wagoner” ignores reality. GM’s CEO is a failure. What’s more, he’s the public face of a company that needs a complete change of direction AND identity. General Motors must ditch Wagoner to tell all the disenchanted former GM owners and all those opposing the bailout that things really are going to be different. For GM, keeping Wagoner would insist on the status quo. For Mr. Wert’s part, he fills the role of accomplice journalist fairly well.

The post Between the Lines: Jalopnik’s Ray Wert Writes “Case For Rick Wagoner” appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/between-the-lines-jalopniks-ray-wert-writes-case-for-rick-wagoner/feed/ 33
Between The Lines: Automotive News’ “The Cost of GM’s Death” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/bailout-watch-186-automotive-news-the-cost-of-gms-deat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/bailout-watch-186-automotive-news-the-cost-of-gms-deat/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2008 18:29:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=151641 I can't remember the last time Automotive News [sub] unleashed an email alert for an editorial. Hell, I can't remember the first time they did it. As in this is it: the first time. You see how stunned I am? Well, no prizes for guessing which side of the bailout issue Crain's boys fall. They unleash the argument that's become the de facto Detroit defense: a bailout sucks, but not bailing out Motown sucks even more. They fucked-up but YOU will suffer. So YOU should pay. NOW. BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! Hysteria and hyperbole? You don't know the half of it. Well, not yet anyway...

The post Between The Lines: Automotive News’ “The Cost of GM’s Death” appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
I can’t remember the last time Automotive News [sub] unleashed an email alert for an editorial. Hell, I can’t remember the first time they did it. As in this is it: the first time. You see how stunned I am? Well, no prizes for guessing which side of the bailout issue Crain’s boys fall. They unleash the argument that’s become the de facto Detroit defense: a bailout sucks, but not bailing out Motown sucks even more. They fucked-up but YOU will suffer. So YOU should pay. NOW. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE! Hysteria and hyperbole? You don’t know the half of it. Well, not yet anyway…

“If Congress thinks a bailout of General Motors is expensive, it should consider the cost of a GM failure. Let’s be clear. The alternative to government cash for GM is not a dreamy Chapter 11 filing, a reorganization that puts dealers and the UAW in their place, ensuring future success. No, even if GM could get debtor-in-possession [DIP] financing to keep the lights on (which it can’t), Chapter 11 means a collapse of sales and a spiral into a Chapter 7 liquidation.”

Dreamy? Like “Oooh. Danny Zuko is so dreamy?” Find me anyone who argues that a GM Chapter 11 wouldn’t be a painful process for all concerned. And who says GM can’t get DIP financing? Shouldn’t we explore the possibilities of government assistance after a GM Chapter 11? Painting the bailout issue in black and white terms is the worst kind of yellow journalism, and does the automaker’s chances of long-term survival no service.

Especially when there is no plan on the table. No goals. No time lines. No strategic outline. Nothing. In that sense, “this” GM turnaround has about as much chance as the last (existing?) one, which was also bereft of publicly declared targets. As far as AN’s concerned, never mind. Pay no attention to that man behind his $15.5m curtain. It’s time to piss or get off the pot. Do or die.

“GM’s 100,000 American jobs will die. Health care for a million Americans will be lost or at risk. Hundreds of GM’s 1,300 suppliers will die. Their collapse could take down Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, perhaps even North American transplants. Dealers in every county of America will close. Frogs will fall from the sky. Boils shall fester on the skin of small children. And lo the Earth shall be cleaved in two and swallow the city on the river as the whale swallowed Jonah.”

Only the whale didn’t swallow Jonah. (And I made-up those last three sentences.) GM filing for Chapter 11 isn’t necessarily what professional courtesans call a “hard stop.” Even if GM loses half its market share, that’s still a Hell of a lot of cars and trucks. Someone will build them. Why not a post-C11 GM (i.e. Chevrolet)?

“Criticize Detroit 3 executives all you want. But the issue today is not whether GM should have closed Buick years ago, been tougher with the UAW or supported higher fuel economy standards.”

So what IS the issue? Like the automakers AN seeks to suckle, their unnamed writer just can’t seem to focus.

“The $25 billion in loans that Congress approved to partially fund improvements in fuel economy? Irrelevant. Dead automakers do not invest in technology.”

The switch in logic reflects Detroit’s inability to stay on message (hint: jobs, jobs, jobs). You bastards wanted us to build clean, fuel-efficient cars and liberate American from its oil addiction and save the God damn polar bears? Well we can’t do that if we’re DEAD, can we?

AN is also surprisingly conflicted on who’s in and who’s out on the death-defying bailout.

“Each of the Detroit 3 is in crisis. But Ford, which borrowed big two years ago and thus has more cash today, may skip a bailout and the strings attached. Cerberus, which bought Chrysler last year, doesn’t deserve money. Government cash might help sell Chrysler to a strategic owner.”

Yeah, that’s a thorny one. Does Ford really need the dough? And why stuff government money into Chrysler when its owner is Mr. Moneybags himself? Anyway, AN is looking out for you!

“The taxpayer needs protection and an upside. GM’s top management may need to go. Government-as-shareholder deserves a big voice. Those details can be worked out.”

May? You see that mangled piece of charred rotting flesh hanging off your shoulder? We may have to amputate. “Details?” We don’t need your stinking details! Just give us the money before we die all over you. After all, no matter what you i-dotters and t-crossers say…

“…the stark fact remains: Absent a bailout, GM dies, and with it much of manufacturing in America. Congress needs to do the right thing — now.”

Call me crazy, but handing $25b to the same people who got GM into this mess– without knowing exactly what we’re getting ourselves into– is not the “right thing.”

And now it’s time to send our email alert. Just as we have for the last five years.

The post Between The Lines: Automotive News’ “The Cost of GM’s Death” appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/bailout-watch-186-automotive-news-the-cost-of-gms-deat/feed/ 65
Editorial: Between the Lines: David Cole and the Bridge To Nowhere http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/bailout-watch-169-david-cole-is-telling-porkies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/bailout-watch-169-david-cole-is-telling-porkies/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2008 13:04:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=147032 David Cole is the man whose industry and union-funded Center for Automotive Research carried-out a study of the economic implications of Detroit's meltdown. The result has become the de facto standard for "this is the serious shit that will happen if we don't bailout Motown's mismanagers with federal tax money" argument. So much so that the mainstream media uses the figures without attribution. TTAC has exposed Cole's blantant self-interest in this matter. Our Best and Brightest have examined CAR's study and exposed its deep methodological flaws. While there is no doubt that a GM, Ford and/or Chrysler bankruptcy filing would create an economic catastrophe for tens of thousands of workers and hundreds of communities, exaggerating the impact for political gain is deeply immoral. And just plain wrong. Giving Cole an uncontested platform to promulgate his propaganda is, if anything, worse. And yet that's exactly what The Detroit News has done...

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: David Cole and the Bridge To Nowhere appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
David Cole is the man whose industry and union-funded Center for Automotive Research carried-out a study of the economic implications of Detroit’s meltdown. The result has become the de facto standard for “this is the serious shit that will happen if we don’t bailout Motown’s mismanagers with federal tax money” argument. So much so that the mainstream media uses the figures without attribution. TTAC has exposed Cole’s blantant self-interest in this matter. Our Best and Brightest have examined CAR’s study and exposed its deep methodological flaws. While there is no doubt that a GM, Ford and/or Chrysler bankruptcy filing would create an economic catastrophe for tens of thousands of workers and hundreds of communities, exaggerating the impact for political gain is deeply immoral. And just plain wrong. Giving Cole an uncontested platform to promulgate his propaganda is, if anything, worse. And yet that’s exactly what The Detroit News has done…

The DetN is so happy to let Cole mislead the general public that the headline AND strapline say the same damn thing: “Letting automaker fail costs more than price of loan automaker” is immediately followed by “fail costs more than price of loan.” You know, just in case you can’t be bothered to read Cole’s dietribe [sic]. Which begins by blaming the same government his people seek to suckle.

“The popular complaint is that the domestic auto industry got itself into this mess, and it should suffer the consequences. But the reality is the Detroit Three wouldn’t have cash flow problems if the federal government hadn’t caused the financial crisis, in part, by ensuring that Americans who couldn’t afford a home suddenly could buy one. The resulting subprime mortgage crisis helped lead to the credit crunch, which has caused a dramatic decline in auto sales.”

The meme is clear: the financial crisis is the cause of Detroit’s disaster. The fact that all the other automakers doing business in the United States who aren’t HQ’ed in Motown are in no danger of going belly-up is, apparently, irrelevant. The inconvenient truth that GM’s former captive finance unit GMAC is up to its eyeballs in the subprime mess doesn’t get a look in. Or the American automakers’ obvious willingness to lend money to car buyers whose credit scores mirror a minor league baseball player’s batting average. But wait! There’s more! More federal complicity in Detroit’s dilemma!

“The federal government also contributed to the auto industry’s problems with its lack of a realistic energy policy. The price of this hit home this summer, when the price of gasoline spiked to $4 a gallon and caused a massive shift in the types of vehicles consumers would buy. Now that the price of gas is below $2 in some areas of the country, there will be far less demand in the short run for the fuel-efficient vehicles that the government wants the automakers to sell in greater quantities.”

How fucked-up can one argument be? Seriously, I’m sitting here at the keyboard, schnauzer at my side, lost in the maze of Cole’s rhetorical obfuscation. Are the feds to blame for not having an energy policy that kept gas prices low? Or for having one that did, then didn’t, then did? Did the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy regs force automakers to make the fuel-efficient cars that would have saved their ass if they’d hadn’t gorged on SUV and pickup truck profits (assuming they could make competitive small cars if they really wanted to) a good idea then, but wrong now? Or wrong then AND now?

Cole’s willingness to blame CAFE for Motown’s misery shows where his sympathies lie– if such evidence were needed. It also shows that Motown’s propagandist-in-chief is no strategist. Criticizing the Dems’ legislative darling child will not win Detroit any friends in Washington. No siree Bob.

“If GM, Ford and Chrysler had to shut their doors, according to our center’s calculations, the economy would lose nearly 3 million jobs in the first year. That is because the auto industry has the highest jobs spinoff of any manufacturing enterprise. For example, for every auto assembly factory job, there are another eight to 10 jobs outside of the plant.”

This rhetorical technique is called reductio ad absurdum. You make a claim, show how it leads to an absurd or ridiculous outcome, and then conclude that the original claim must have been wrong– as it led to an absurd or ridiculous result. If Detroit’s automakers file for Chapter 11, there is no way on God’s green earth that they will simply shutter their doors and be done with it; they will continue making and selling vehicles. It may be a fraction of previous production, but it will not be zero. To suggest so is the dictionary definition of disingenuous. Of course, Cole’s got that one covered.

“Critics have said it would be better to let the automakers file for bankruptcy and get their financial houses in order. The problem with this approach is that industry experts know that consumers won’t buy expensive products from a bankrupt company. That still leads to serious decline in sales and to 2 million lost jobs very quickly.”

Don’t you hate it when an industry expert quotes unnamed industry experts to prove that he, an industry expert, is right? Perhaps Mr. Cole should conduct a study on consumer attitudes towards buying from a bankrupt GM, Ford and or (yeah right) Chrysler, focusing on price. Because at some price, ANYTHING will sell. And he might want to ask “If the your car warranty was backed by the federal government…” Nope. Checks cashed. Blinkers on. Two million jobs? Where’s the data? And define “very quickly.” Fuzzy logic uber alles.

“In addition, the very low level of current sales and surprisingly low inventory of vehicles are creating a pent-up demand for new vehicles once the credit crunch subsides and the economy improves. The market promises to shift from the buyers’ market of the past decade to a sellers’ market where fewer financial incentives or discounts will be needed to sell a vehicle with the industry’s reduced manufacturing capacity.”

Baseless conjecture. Dataless drivel. Crap. In fact, you could say that the domestic automakers’ build ‘em fast, pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap strategy over the last ten years created an automotive “bubble.” That burst. TTAC may not be a credible source of industry expertise in Mr. Cole’s eyes, but we called the sales meltdown (sub 12m units). And plenty of us hereabout don’t see a recovery until the tail end of 2010. And even then, vicious competition from the transplants guarantees that America will ALWAYS be a buyer’s market.

“…the government needs to give the Detroit Three a bridge to this brighter future. A bridge loan now would be far less expensive than letting one or more of the domestic automakers fail.”

Or not. In fact, funding the automakers without letting them pass through Chapter 11 would be a bridge to nowhere. And a complete waste of money. Our money.

The post Editorial: Between the Lines: David Cole and the Bridge To Nowhere appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/bailout-watch-169-david-cole-is-telling-porkies/feed/ 25