Category: People

By on September 22, 2017

road-runner-jack-smith

By 1966, muscle cars were hitting peak stride. But some argued they had become too expensive and strayed too far from the original concept. As performance models had grown in displacement and technology, some crossed into premium pricing territory. Pontiac’s GTO, for example, could easily exceed $4,000 with a handful of options when the average cost of an American automobile was closer to $2,750.

Enter Jack Smith.

Plymouth had fallen into the pricing pitfall like most other manufacturers. Smith, who owned a souped-up Belvedere II, had recently been promoted to head of the company’s mid-sized car planning division. He wagered the public might enjoy a car like his and Plymouth introduced the GTX in 1967 to compete with the GTO. But it was still too expensive, especially for a budget brand like Plymouth, and garnered a lukewarm sales response — which gave Jack an idea.  Read More >

By on September 15, 2017

20-2014-jeep-cherokee-chrome-grille

Lucky is the new car buyer who isn’t saddled with a trip to the dealer for recall work within the first few years of ownership. The modern age provides us with a great many wonderful things — avocadoes year-round, transmission cogs we can count on all 10 fingers, UberEATS — but it hasn’t turned the average vehicle into a paragon of reliability.

Last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles issued a recall for 323,400 2014 and 2015 Jeep Cherokees, as well as 2015 Renegades, Chrysler 200s, and Ram ProMasters. FCA threw the 2018 Fiat 500X in there for good measure. The problem stemmed from the automaker’s finicky nine-speed automatic transmission. Thanks to insufficient crimps in the transmission sensor cluster’s wire harness (and the subsequent trouble code sent to the vehicle’s diagnostic system), some owners suddenly found their Jeep, Chrysler or Ram coasting along in neutral — a default position — instead of drive. Can’t have that.

The recall — a minor fix — didn’t seem like a big deal. The vehicles would normally be drivable (for a time, anyway) after the engine was shut off and turned back on again, making a trip to the nearest certified FCA dealership relatively trouble-free. For one Cherokee owner, however, the repair work stood to cost him $2,000 more than what he paid for the vehicle. Read More >

By on September 14, 2017

Bangle butt, Image: Wikimedia

No car designer in recent history comes close to touching former BMW Group design chief Chris Bangle for controversy. For decades to come, auto scribes will pen articles looking back on his influence on BMW’s lineup, most of which will mention the “Bangle Butt” within the first 100 words.

Bangle’s 17-year tenure at the German automaker ended in 2009, after which he vacated the auto industry, started up a design firm bearing his name, and left his past products for the punditry to debate for all time. Well, Bangle is back, in a manner of speaking, and he’s working on a vehicle from an unlikely source.

He also spilled his guts at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The man known for avant-garde flourishes and risky design adventures claims “hyper-conservative, hyper-terrified” automakers are just re-toasting the same slice of bread. Read More >

By on July 8, 2017

2014 audi a6 tdi engine

American investigators, hot on the trail of Volkswagen Group executives and managers with dirty hands, haven’t had the easiest time bringing suspected emissions scandal conspirators to trial. Germany doesn’t extradite citizens facing charges in other countries, making justice a tricky pursuit for U.S. authorities.

So far, only two players in the diesel deception find themselves in the arms of U.S. law enforcement— James Liang, a former executive who worked in California (and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges), and Oliver Schmidt, a former U.S. environmental liaison who previously worked out of VW’s Michigan emissions office. Federal agents nabbed him during a Miami layover as the German national returned home from a tropical vacation in January. Six others remain safely in Germany after a U.S. indictment.

Well, expect another trial now. Earlier this week, Munich police arrested an Italian national, Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, the former head of thermodynamics at Audi’s engine development division. It’s the first diesel-related arrest in Germany and Pamio’s citizenship means he’s a candidate for extradition to the United States.

Now charged in connection to the scandal, American authorities hope Pamio squeals on his bosses at Audi. As for his involvement, the federal government alleges Pamio and others decided a premium sound system was a better use of vehicle space than a proper emission control system. Read More >

By on July 2, 2017

McLaren Ron Dennis 1990 Phoenix Grand Prix

British automotive magnate and principal of McLaren’s Formula One team for all the years that really matter, Ron Dennis, has cut his remaining ties with the company he is so synonymous with.

Having helped lead the F1 team to victory since the 1980s with legendary drivers like Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen, and Lewis Hamilton — while also serving as CEO, chairman, and founder of McLaren Technology Group — it was almost unfathomable to see him removed from his position as head of the company last year. However, we assumed he’d be sticking around on the board for a while.

That hasn’t turned out to be the case. Dennis is selling his remaining stock to Mumtalakat, the Bahrain sovereign investment group, and the French-Saudi entrepreneur Mansour Ojjeh for an estimated £275 million ($362 million).  Read More >

By on June 21, 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Image: TechCrunch/Flickr

Uber’s founder is stepping away from the company — not for the summer, as originally planned, but for good. CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned after a relentless string of controversies caused the company to lose face for all of 2017 thus far.

On Tuesday, five of Uber’s largest investors demanded that the chief executive resign. This was followed by Kalanick’s official confirmation and a posting from the company’s head of U.S. operations outlining a 180 day strategy to turn things around. While the plan made no mention of Travis’ departure, the resignation certainly seems to jibe with its objectives.

Other more official aspects of Uber’s cleverly named “180” include trials for driver tipping in several major cities and a surcharge for teenagers because everyone hates them. The ride-hailing firm is also adding Driver Injury Protection Insurance and a way to bill passengers for making them wait. None of these changes appear to be all-inclusive, however. Uber has also made it fairly vague as to when and where some of these changes will occur.  Read More >

By on June 14, 2017

marchionne, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has just under two years left at the helm of the multi-national automaker, after which he’ll slowly enter the cushy existence of the semi-retired professional. The sweater aficionado will continue on as CEO of Ferrari until 2021, and still serves as chairman of CNH Industrial and vice-chairman of Dutch investment company Exor.

Many hats. However, FCA needs to find someone willing to wear just one.

As Marchionne’s April 2019 retirement date grows ever near, the automaker has stepped up its search for a successor. No, don’t bother submitting your resume just yet. While it’s probable a few brave outsiders might find the prospect of figuring out what to do with the Fiat brand exciting, FCA’s CEO search isn’t taking place outside company confines. There’s already a lengthy list of possible top dogs. Read More >

By on June 7, 2017

tdiengine

It’s hard not to imagine Volkswagen as a tempestuous child, prone to mischief and currently on a “time out” after getting caught lobbing spitballs in class. The thought softens the reality of a massive corporate deception that polluted the air and led to tens of billions of dollars in penalties.

As it turns out, serving as Volkswagen’s nanny is exhaustive work. After the U.S. government ordered a monitor to keep an eye on the automaker as part of its wildly expensive settlement, the monitor feels the need to triple his staff. Read More >

By on May 31, 2017

Mark Fields, Image: Ford Motor Company

There’s been no shortage of hot takes on former Ford CEO Mark Fields’ sudden departure from the big office in Dearborn, but a new report sheds light on the drama occurring at the Blue Oval shortly before Fields “elected to retire.”

Before his replacement by Jim Hackett, Fields reportedly attempted to fire Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, as a way of relieving growing scrutiny on his own performance. It didn’t go they way he had planned. Read More >

By on May 25, 2017

tesla factory fremont

For some reason, the term “Chief People Officer” is at the same time cringe-inducing and rational. That’s what Tesla calls its head of HR. “Human Resources,” of course, is another cringe-inducing term that could only have come from the mid-century expansion of the federal public service. It’s an awful thing.

At Tesla, the face of HR — or people, if you will — has suddenly changed, and at a very interesting point in the electric automaker’s history. The company has announced the departure of longtime HR head Arnnon Geshuri, who oversaw workers at the company for eight years. In his place is Gaby Toledano, a veteran of high tech.

The timing of the departure could simply be a benign career change, but what’s occurring in the background at Tesla have many thinking otherwise. Read More >

By on May 24, 2017

Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse Limousine (W 213) 2016Mercedes-Benz E-Cl

A lawsuit filed by two Georgia Mercedes-Benz owners accuses the automaker of failing to rectify a long-standing HVAC problem and stiffing customers with the bill.

Sunil Amin and Trushar Patel claim the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in numerous models dating to the turn of the century are inherently faulty and want Mercedes-Benz and its parent, Daimler AG, to pay damages. They also want the suit to grow into a class action.

The plaintiffs say the issue started a noxious odor emitted from the vehicles’ vents and, despite attempts to have the issue fixed, nothing the automaker has done has made a difference. Read More >

By on May 22, 2017

[Image: Ford]

Ahead of a news conference at Ford’s Dearborn headquarters, the automaker has announced Jim Hackett as its new president and chief executive officer.

The news follows last night’s report of the ouster of former CEO Mark Fields by the company’s board of directors. In an official release, Ford refers to Hackett as a “transformational business leader” who will succeed the “retiring” Fields.

Before being named chairman of the newly created subsidiary Ford Smart Mobility LLC in March of 2016, Hackett, 62, served on the company’s board for three years and was a member of its Sustainability and Innovation committee. Prior to joining Ford, the executive gained accolades for his turnaround of American office furniture company Steelcase, where he spent 30 years. As interim director of athletics at the University of Michigan, Hackett lured Jim Harbaugh away from the San Francisco 49ers to serve as head football coach.

Hackett’s job won’t be an easy one. Besides guiding the company through a disruptive era of new technologies, the new CEO must reverse Ford’s flagging fortunes. Read More >

By on May 22, 2017

Mark Fields, Image: Ford Motor Co.

Mark Fields has reportedly been fired from his position as CEO of Ford Motor Company, to be replaced by a man he appointed as head of the automaker’s mobility subsidiary.

According to Forbes, the company will announce the appointment of Jim Hackett as CEO this morning, part of a broader shakeup of the company’s upper ranks. Hackett, former CEO of Steelcase, served on the automaker’s board for three years before being named head of Ford Smart Mobility LLC in March, 2016.

Fields, a 28-year Ford veteran who replaced Alan Mulally in mid-2014, was reportedly booted by the company’s board amid a continued decline in share values. Two weeks ago, the CEO was grilled by board members and shareholders alike over the direction he has taken the company. Read More >

By on May 18, 2017

Tesla Factory California

In the face of what it describes as “a concerted and professional media push intended to raise questions about safety at Tesla,” the California electric automaker has attempted to counter an apparent unionization tactic.

In a May 14th blog post titled “Creating the Safest Car Factory in the World,” Tesla said it was contacted by numerous media sources claiming to have spoken with similar workers at its Fremont assembly plant. The automaker sees this as an attempt by both the United Auto Workers and Tesla employees intent on organizing the plant to use instances of workplace injury as an organizational tool.

This morning, the story Tesla was working to get ahead of landed in The Guardian. Read More >

By on May 17, 2017

Mark-Fields (Image: Ford)

A day after media reports described an impending mass layoff of Ford Motor Company employees, the automaker has clarified who gets to keep a job.

While the scale of the job reductions is less than previously reported — a 10-percent global workforce reduction is off the table — Ford does plan to cull its salaried North American and Asian workforce by one-tenth in a bid to cut costs.

The move comes after last week’s tense shareholders meeting during which investors and analysts grilled CEO Mark Fields over the company’s sinking market valuation. Since taking the helm three years ago, Fields has seen the company’s stock price sink by roughly 40 percent. Hourly workers aren’t affected by the plan, though the same can’t be said for white-collar employees. Read More >

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