For decades, big corporate profits were blasted as a sign of greed, especially by unions. GM changed all that. When a sheep dipped GM, free of legacy finance costs, and not paying taxes due to losses a normal company would not have been able to carry over after a bankruptcy, declared a record $7.6 billion profit in 2011, chests of GM boosters swelled with pride, as if the profits had been theirs. A year later, there is $2.7 billion less to be proud of. GM’s European millstone, Opel, continues to drag the company down. Opel’s operative losses more than doubled to $1.8 billion for all of 2012. Read More >
Category: Inside The Big Three
The Nikkei [sub] comes with the good news that “Japan’s automakers have finally resolved the inventory shortages that have hindered their sales in the U.S. market.” According to the Tokyo wire, Japan’s automakers “are in a better position to compete with their Western and Korean rivals,” now that lots are stocked again.
Well, not quite. Japanese inventories are still fashionably slim compared to some Detroit chubbos. Pop some Tums and have a look. Read More >
Rather than running commercials during the Super Bowl, General Motors is looking to try something more subversive – product placement within other brand’s TV spots during the big game.
Automotive News reports that GM marketing man Joel Ewanick was investigating the possibility of paying other advertisers to insert GM vehicles into their ads. But various contractual elements related to Super Bowl advertising may kill the idea in its nascent stages.
“In attempts to boost profitability, GM wants to cut the number of vehicle platforms by half over the next decade and consolidate the number of engines,” reports the DetN. That’s the good news. The bad news is that “GM’s executives admit the automaker continues to have an inefficient manufacturing network, weak supplier relations and too many variations in the types of engines and vehicle underpinnings it uses to build cars and trucks globally.” If the DetN says it, then it must be true. Putting platforms and engines on a diet is seen as the cure. Read More >
Earlier this year when it seemed that a price war could be brewing in the US market, one of TTAC’s industry sources noted that the problem wasn’t strictly a question of business competition. Speaking on background, the source told us that
when speaking with old friends at Ford and GM, the level of mutual distaste for each other is very high…it seems to be getting personal. Lots of egos involved, [which] increases potential for short-sighted decision-making
At the time, I was willing to chalk up this animosity to the usual industry hyper-competitiveness (or at least a return to form after the lockstep mutual support of the bailout era), but it seems I should have paid more attention to our source’s concerns. As it turns out, the bad feelings between Detroit’s cross-town rivals has apparently gotten worse…
The Detroit News snagged a lengthy interview with GM CEO Dan Akerson, giving observers one of the first in-depth looks at the man who will be leading The General for the next three to four years. The interview is to lengthy to summarize here, but there are a few items that are worth noting…
The auto media has been receiving its advance copies of Bob Lutz’s forthcoming book “Car Guys versus Bean Counters” over the last few weeks, and have been leaking some of the more provocative statements and conclusions from it. I too requested a book and tore through it over the past week, enjoying Lutz’s direct voice and keen insights into his time at General Motors… as well as the attention-grabbing, politically-charged statements that the rest of the media seems so fixated upon. The bad news is that I won’t be able to write a full review until we get closer to its mid-June launch date, but the good news is that our forbearance has been rewarded: despite sideswiping yours truly in one passage, a brief but rewarding email conversation has generated more mutual respect, and Mr Lutz has agreed (in principle) to a TTAC interview to accompany our review at the time of the book’s release. Sometimes observing an embargo is worth it.
But fear not: just because the promise of an interview with one of the most influential figures in the industry has us delaying our review for another month or so, we’ve got more Lutz-related material with which to build up to what I expect to be a watershed interview for TTAC. Next week I’ll be publishing a review of Mr Maximum’s previous book “Guts,” and to kick of the coming months of Lutzmania, we’ve got a very special contest that is sure to stump even TTAC’s most well-versed Best and Brightest.
Even the Detroit News, by some regarded as an extension of the Big 3 PR departments, can’t help but ask: “Are Detroit’s new automakers falling back into old habits?”
New automakers? Old habits?
Well, it sure looks like the Big 3 have drastically ramped-up production. Production of good numbers, that is. Especially one of them has been very busy in that department: GM. The General currently has a 95 day supply of cars sitting on dealer lots, up from 76 days in August.
The industry average stands at 67 days, says a Citi Investment Research report. A two month supply is considered normal. What’s more, carmakers are supposed to switch from rich to lean at this time of the year: “With December production poised for a typical seasonal slowdown, inventory should end the year around the 60-day norm,” Citi analyst Itay Michaeli wrote in his report.
GM’s answer? Read More >
Arthur Ross started in 1935 as a „Creative Designer” at GM. He did Cadillacs and Buicks. He had a hand in drawing the lines of some famous cars of those times, the Cadillac Sixty Special, LaSalle, Fleetwood, and the Buick Y-Job, GM’s first concept car. He also was a pervert. Read More >
When you start a new job, it’s considered important to make a good impression. How does the saying go? “Start as you mean to go on”. Well, Dan Akerson, I suspect, tried to heed that advice and ended up putting his foot in it. The Associated Press reports that Dan Akerson, CEO of Government (soon to be “General” again) Motors, presented a webcast to GM employees. The usual CEO rhetoric came out. “GM needs to keep competitors on their heels rather than responding to what they do” said one GM worker, who asked not to be identified as the broadcast was not available to the public; despite being owned by them. “Attack mode” was another phrase used. But then Mr Akerson said that GM’s Cadillac brand has to make cars that are better than BMW’s. Now I thought this was quite a harmless statement to make. The CEO set a (quite high) benchmark to beat. Sounds reasonable, right? Not according to some. Read More >
Editor’s Note: GM’s outgoing Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre sent the following email to GM’s senior executives today [via Detroit News]
My goal in coming to General Motors was to help restore profitability, build a strong market position and prepare this iconic company for success. While we have more to do, it is fair to say that GM is headed on that path. Our earnings for the last two quarters show that. Our strong sales show that. And the enthusiasm from everyone I meet at GM shows that.
We are on the right track. And I have complete confidence that Dan Akerson will keep us moving forward. Dan is committed to GM; he’s been a key player in the decisions our Board has made over the last year. He will do a great job, and deserves your complete support.
I have enjoyed my time as CEO of GM more than I can say, and I am pleased to stay on as Chairman through the end of the year. I am excited about this company, and I want you to know that it is the people of GM who make this a very special place. You are the best, and I truly appreciate all you do.
Thank you for the privilege of leading this great company. I am anxious to see the new heights that you will achieve as you continue focusing on designing, building and selling the world’s best vehicles.
Editor’s Note: Legendary auto journalist and TTAC inspiration Jerry Flint died this week. Rather than write a sappy eulogy, we’ve decided to let Jerry speak for himself. What follows is a speech Flint gave to GM employees at Milford Proving Grounds in October 2000. It’s feisty, passionate and deeply insightful… the kind of speech that made Jerry famous, and paved the way for sites like TTAC. Moreover, it shows just how deep GM’s problems run, and serves as a timeless warning against the worst impulses of the business. Rest In Peace Jerry… we will always remember you at your best. [Courtesy: The Olds Zone Hat Tip: Ken Elias]
There was an auto executive, he was a very high ranking GM man. You all know his name but I won’t mention it because it might embarrass him. He’s not at General Motors anymore.
I once asked this man what he would do if he found himself the chief executive of General Motors. He said, and I quote, “I would fire 1,000 executives.” End of quote. I’m not sure whether it made any difference to him which 1,000 executives, if he had anyone in particular in mind, or any thousand would do. I just tell you this to start things off.
Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to get bumpy.
Doesn’t it bug you when other countries give their carmakers money? Doesn’t it bug you a hell of a lot when other countries give their carmakers money with they express purpose to increase exports? Shouldn’t those felonious countries be dragged in front of the WTO and shot? Well, there are exceptions. Read More >
GM’s CEO Ed Whitacre has told the remaining employees that his purges of senior management are complete. “I want to reassure you that the major leadership changes are behind us,” Whitacre wrote in a March 31 letter obtained by Bloomberg. “The team we have in place today is the team that will take us forward.” Read More >
“We need to be able to make decisions faster.” Thus spake GM CEO Fritz Henderson to Automotive News [sub] at the National Business Summit yesterday. In what can only be termed a blinding flash of the almost obvious, he continued, “As part of the General Motors moving forward, you don’t normally think of us as speedy or fast, and that’s what we should be. But when you’re fast you do make mistakes. My view is if you’re slow, you make more mistakes. You just don’t notice it.” Huh? Anyway, what about organizational changes? What’s he waiting for?