GM claims to be calibrated to break even at a Seasonally Adjusted Annual sales Rate (SAAR) of 10m sales. Which assumes that GM’s portion of those sales will remain steady. As we’ve learned today, that’s not likely. GM’s market share is being pummelled by bad news, bailout backlash, and (according to the Merrill Lynch report) poor product replacement rates. While GM talks up the Volt, discusses a Prius fighter and touts an American-made compact, its major product push has been centered around a single dying brand (Buick) and its single new product, the LaCrosse. Yes there’s a new Equinox, but has anyone noticed? Camaro may be the choice of bold, audacious lemmings everywhere, but for how long? It’s gut check time . . .
Category: Daily Podcast
$8.2m it turns out (yes, sins of omission count). Which is almost as much as the wages of investing in a fraudulent cellulosic ethanol firm. But what about Fritz, Lutz, LaNeve and the rest of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? If Wagoner gets nearly $10m for overseeing consistent declines in sales and market share, and after being canned for the good of the nation, where’s the motivation for the old, new crowd? Ditto for the cellulosic ethanol industry, if Cello’s fraud leads to increased subsidies to get the Renewable Fuel Mandate back on track. Forget peak oil, it seems we’ve reached peak common sense. A while ago. Now, back to the cars.
“People don’t want cars named after hungry old Greek broads! They want names like ‘Mustang’ and ‘Cheetah’ — vicious animal names,” according to Homer Simpson’s automaker brother Herb. Yesterday I learned another good rule of thumb for car naming: if it doesn’t sound hilarious with the word “anal” in front of it, it’s probably not a great car name. Think about it… Commander, Wrangler and Legacy good; CTS, MKT and Optima bad. It may not be safe-for-work, but dammit it’s the truth.
This weekend’s announcement that “Maximum” Bob Lutz will stay on at GM is the biggest blow to GM’s re:invention PR since Fritz Henderson was handed the helm by Rick Wagoner. In essence, Lutz’s “unretirement” sends the very same message Wagoner once repeated ad nauseum: GM’s turnaround would be going well if it weren’t for that darn economy. And, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Lutz arrived at GM in 2001 with a single thesis: excitement could turn the General around. Eight years later, and the results speak for themselves. Despite injecting Pontiac with its best products in decades, Lutz couldn’t even save GM’s “excitement brand.” Though Lutz created the Malibu to add his aesthetic appeal to GM’s long-ignored mid-sized offerings, the car only excited automotive journalists. Consumers preferred the plain-jane Impala. Ultimately, Lutz proves exactly how little GM has changed. His old-school, hard-charging pursuit of glamor, performance and excitement are little more than a fading afterglow from the good old days of Motorama excess. The market has moved on, but GM hasn’t.
Why is Chrysler’s new board chock full of former airline men and the governmentally well-connected? Because auto firm experience isn’t necessary for these things. Just ask Chrysler’s former owners Cerberus. Or, for another perspective, ask United Airlines employees about their experience with employee ownership. Meanwhile, the Aveo still sucks and the SL65 Black Series is still bat-shit loco. Plus, we’re working on getting our sales data in a more universal format.
Because it wants to, Buick is headed upmarket. Because it has to, Cadillac is headed downmarket. Who wins? Not GM. An Epsilon II, FWD/AWD Cadillac isn’t going to have the phrase “standard of the world” tripping off anyone’s tongue. And since GM exists at the pleasure of the politicians, it doesn’t seem likely that Cadillac will ever get around to making the huge investments in opulence that it would need to regain its former glory. And besides an aging CTS and a “2005 called and wants its SUV back” Escalade, what is Cadillac again? Some days it’s a good day to die. Some days it’s a good day to record a podcast.
Will Chevrolet’s Volt ever be test-driven in range-extended mode? With pre-production underway, one hopes that the “we don’t want people to hear the engine turn on” excuse won’t be long for this world. Meanwhile, see if you can tell where in the podcast Farago and Niedermeyer switch into their own range-extended mode.
Did Iacocca get it right? Is the Volt the new K-Car? Is Buick’s catch-up act starving the Cadillac brand? So many questions, so little time…
The daily podcasts keep coming, as Farago and Niedermeyer learn that the Chrysler Sebring replacement is screwed, Bob Lutz should keep quiet and that the Germans care about our energy independence. Plus the usual daily reminder that this is a car website.
GM Prius, Buick woes, car personality and the Task Force on Auto Advertising all get what’s coming to them on the continually-improving TTAC daily podcast. Meanwhile, we’ve got to give away a copy of the Taschenwörterbuch der Kraftfahrzeugtechnik (German-English technical dictionary), so give us your favorite German automotive phrase in the comments section. We’ll pick our favorite, and the lucky winner will be able to impress their local Porsche club with their new-found understanding of compound, car-related words.
Yes, it’s a palindrome. No, it’s not my favorite. (Do geese see God?) But as a history buff—as in that’ll buff right out—I’ve always considered this palindrome something of a prose poem. The Panama Canal was certainly not the vision of one man. In 1534, Charles V of Spain contemplated a man-made waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In 1880, after completing the Suez Canal, French Vicomte Ferdinand de Lessepss rose to the challenge. Nine years later, disease (amongst other things) put paid to the entire engineering endeavor. American President Theodore Roosevelt picked-up the cudgel. Crucially, the plan in question eventually changed from a sea level passage to a system of dams and locks. The Canal opened on August 15, 1914. As for Panama, it received control of the Canal in 1977. So what does this tell us about the U.S. car industry? The simplest ideas may be the greatest, but all great ideas take time; and time is money. What’s so great about rebuilding GM, and do we really have the time to do it?