The Truth About Cars » Quote of the Day The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (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 » Quote of the Day QOTD: Regulation Is Ruining Car Design Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:42:33 +0000 Opel-Monza-Concept-17

Today’s installment of Quote of the Day comes from Mark Adams, design chief for Opel/Vauxhall and creator of the Monza concept, which is expected to set the design direction for the two brands in the near future – assuming that regulations don’t get in the way.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe, Adams opined that  “In the last five to 10 years designing cars has gotten a hell of a lot tougher”, with much of the blame going towards regulation. The twin forces of fuel economy and pedestrian safety standards have converged to create very specific parameters for automotive design – hence the proliferation of high hoods, blunt front ends and the “reverse tear drop” shape on so many three-box vehicles. This specific form provides an easy way around all of those requirements, at the cost of an increasingly homogenous cohort of new cars.

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QOTD: Marchionne Says Government Made Him Sell Fiat 500 Wed, 21 May 2014 16:38:29 +0000 450x337xFiat500LTrekking-450x337.jpg.pagespeed.ic.HvJbi627EE

An event held at Washington D.C’s Brookings Institute saw FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and former National Economic Council head Larry Summers discuss the auto bailout on its five-year anniversary. As always, Marchionne had some colorful commentary, with a one interesting nugget about Fiat.

According to Christina Rogers of the Wall Street Journal, Marchionne claimed that the Fiat 500 was only imported to the United States due to the government’s hand, with Marchionne stating

“It was a condition assigned to the [bailout] deal”

This has previously never been stated in any bailout related discussion – only the Dodge Dart and its 40 mpg capability has been highlighted as a specific requirement of the bailout, in terms of product.

If this is indeed correct, it would add some context to Fiat’s confusing position in the marketplace. For Fiat to thrive in America, it would make sense to add more product that is better aligned to American tastes. All we’ve gotten are the 500 and 500L, which are both unsuited to the vast majority of American tastes and driving conditions.

So far, Fiat’s American arrival has been an expensive endeavor that has not exactly fared well. The costs of homologating the cars, building the 500 in a new factory in the NAFTA zone, establishing a dealer network and marketing the car is certain to be a $1-billion dollar expenditure. Perhaps this is just a bit of bluster by Sergio to obfuscate the fact that Fiat isn’t burning up the sales charts in America. I am sure that Fiat dealers would like a more lucid answer.


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QOTD: In Defense Of The Toyota Camry Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:00:23 +0000


We treat the physical results of capitalism as though they were an inevitability. In 1955, no captain of industry, prince, or potentate could buy a car as good as a Toyota Camry, to say nothing of a 2014 Mustang, the quintessential American Everyman’s car. But who notices the marvel that is a Toyota Camry? 

-Kevin Williamson, The National Review

TTAC is not like most car blogs – and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Last week, the introduction of the newly refreshed Toyota Camry was the most popular article on the site. I couldn’t be happier.

Before we delve in to the Camry, it’s worth discussing one of Williamson’s major points – which will undoubtedly be too politically charged for some – that the average consumer has never had it better in terms of the kinds of goods they can afford, even with a relatively modest salary. These goods, in turn, increase their quality of life, and are not just frivolous expenditures.

The enthusiast press loves to discuss how the new Mustang is the equal of the 370Z or the M3, but for most Americans, the delta between a Camry and a Lexus ES350 – or some European luxury cars – has never been narrower.  The Camry is definitely not the car I’d buy if I was looking for a mid-size sedan (it would be a Honda Accord or a Mazda6 with a manual, if you care). But I can appreciate it in the same way as Kevin Williamson, in that building and selling such an outstanding car for $25,000 is a Herculian task.

WARNING: Tangential missive below

Even if the National Review might strike you as too far from your political leanings, I feel privileged to be able to write for a site that is open to these sorts of discussions, even when politics – and the Camry itself – are “hot button” issues. The internet offers a lot of places to discuss the typical car guy things: statistical urination contests (also known as bench racing), race-to-the-bottom displays of status signalling (whereby contestants aim to profess their undying love for increasingly obscure variants of automobiles) and corporate strategy as dictated by the holder of an Associates Degree with 7 years experiences as a consumer electronics Sales Consultant (inevitably, lots of rear-drive sports cars, body-on-frame SUVs etc).

As far as I know, this is the only place where we can discuss things like incentives, inventory,fuel economy and safety regulations and other topics that would put most Forza-addicted controller-clutchers to sleep, even though they literally dictate the way automobiles are engineered, designed, marketed and sold.

In most corners of the enthusiast world, the Camry is symbolic for what “car enthusiasts” despise; a basic appliance, uninteresting to look at or drive, using relatively simple, proven technology, available with only two pedals, often being sold in some shade of taupe. Only at TTAC could this car attract a following precisely because of those attributes. Then again, it’s really not that bad to drive.


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QOTD: Chevrolet Colorado To Render Other Trucks “Obsolete” Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:27:45 +0000 2015-Chevy-Colorado-3

Today’s quote of the day comes from GM’s Jim Cain (not to be confused with our own Tim Cain), who is quoted by Automotive News as making some rather bold predictions for the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado mid-size truck.

Speaking to AN about possible cannibalization on the part of the Colorado, Cain said

“We’re not worried about the Chevrolet Colorado attracting would-be Silverado customers…The people who should be worried are the ones who orphaned their mid-size truck customers, and those who sell trucks that are about to be rendered obsolete.”

I’m not sure which trucks will be “rendered obsolete”. The Tacoma? The Frontier? The V6 F-150? The GM full-sizers that have to be redesigned in 2018 due to what many observers agree is a botched launch?

As someone who prefers smaller vehicles and lives in region with high gas prices, the emotional appeal of a mid-sizer is there. But the business case is weak. Market share for smaller trucks is just 225,000 units, in a truck market worth 1.6 million units overall and a total car market with a SAAR of around 16 million. And the majority of that one segment belongs to just one truck, the Toyota Tacoma.

The main selling points of a smaller truck, namely price and fuel economy, have been eroded by increasing full-size fuel economy and lower prices. Anyone who has seen the new GM mid-sizers knows that they aren’t all that mid-size: they have a footprint similar to a GMT900 pickup, as opposed to a Ranger. And too few Americans have the sort of space constraints – the kind that necessitate these trucks in world markets – that would make a mid-size truck successful.

Corporate communication strategy dictates that the sort of tough talk that Cain is relaying is essential to their messaging, especially in such uncharted territory. But it’s difficult to take take in these claims with a straight face, especially when every other factor indicates a different outlook. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe the Colorado is a game changer.

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QOTD: What Makes A Good Track Package Wed, 07 Nov 2012 18:31:33 +0000

The V6 Mustang reviewed yesterday wouldn’t be the car it was without the Track Package, which provides pretty substantial upgrades to the brakes and suspension.

As Sympatico’s Brian Makse points out, most performance packages are nothing more than new wheels and tires, but the Mustang really delves into the nitty-gritty. Items like the brake booster and control arms are borrowed from the track-ready Shelby GT500.

With plenty of you having track experience in one form or another, it’s worth asking, what makes a good track package, and who does it right. Conversely, who does it poorly? If I had to give my two cents, I’d say good brakes are worth more than anything when it comes to a factory track car. In our comparison test with the Scion FR-S, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Mazda MX-5 the lower weight and tossable handling of the FR-S and overall fun factor of the MX-5 were both worth little when they had to be brought in after a few laps. The Genesis, with its superior Brembos, resisted a brake apocalypse far longer than the other two.

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QOTD: “You Are Full Of Shit” – Ralph Gilles to Donald Trump Thu, 01 Nov 2012 19:55:57 +0000

Pursuant to our continued discrediting of the “Jeeps built in China” lie, Donald Trump took to Twitter to further propagate that falsehood. And the Donald ended up getting a virtual earful from Ralph Gilles, head of Chrysler’s SRT Division.

The Trump tweet that launched a thousand shits reads as such

Obama is a terrible negotiator. He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China–and will!

Gilles took a direct and concise course of action, one that may even qualify him for a Farley Award. Now, if I can find an auto exec willing to rebut a silly question from a journalist inquiring why their new product’s rear sway bar isn’t 2mm thicker, I will die a happy man.

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QOTD: PSA, Renault Cars Lack “Ambition” Sun, 21 Oct 2012 19:44:21 +0000

“When you do everything right but too late, you do it all wrong. Before reaching a dead end, PSA decided to forge a partnership with a manufacturer [General Motors] that I don’t consider to be among the industry’s leaders of the pack. Overall, I think there is a lack of ambition [when it comes to product] from the French manufacturers.”

-Thierry Morin, former CEO of Valeo

Given how much love there is in certain sections of TTAC for PSA products – the Citroen C6, for example – this quote seems like a dagger in the heart for some readers. I profess a profound affection for the C6, the DS range and even newer Peugeots like the 208 and 508. Renault’s lineup, particularly the Renaultsport cars, are undeniably enticing and I one day hope to be the world’s preeminent scholar of Dacia’s impact on the auto industry.

Viewed through a North American lens (i.e. the grass is greener on the Continent), I can’t say I find French cars to lack ambition. On the contrary, I find their styling and packing quite bold and innovative. I dare anyone not to look at the C6 above and be dumbstruck by its elegance. But there’s the undeniable fact that French cars are non-entities in virtually every market save for France and Iran (where Peugeot is a big player).

Morin cites the lack of powerful engines as a reason for the decline of French cars and their inability to maintain a premium position, but French cars have never been about big power. The Renaultsport lineup is consistently praised by the enthusiast press, and is popular enough that when Renault’s lineup was all but eliminated in the UK to make way for Dacia, the Renaultsport cars were spared the executioner’s axe due to their strong sales.

And then, Morin hits on what may be the ultimate reason behind the decline of French cars relative to the competition

Year after year, the gap widens between German and French car manufacturers. Germans, just like the Japanese, always deliver better cars to market. They are really passionate about cars and they are focused on improving everything about their cars from one generation to the next. When you get in an Audi A1, it is exceptionally refined for such a small car and it echoes the premium-ness of the bigger A6 or A8. While German CEOs are real ‘car guys,’ in France, many people thought that being a wise and talented executive was enough to be successful in the automotive business. It proved wrong sometimes. This lack of obsession is the main difference between France and Germany. I think that being too disconnected from the product is a problem.

Stop me if you’ve heard that before.

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QOTD: Klaus Bischoff On Maturity Fri, 19 Oct 2012 14:16:41 +0000

“When you are a young designer of course, you think everything is wrong and should be different… You want to conquer the world and with great ideas. But over the time you have to really understand what Golf is, what VW is, And to mature to a certain degree, I needed that time. It took 15 years before I really knew what I was talking about.”

The quote above comes from an interview with Klaus Bischoff, Executive Director of Volkswagen Design, regarding the seventh-generation Golf. I found it hit home – when I arrived at TTAC, I thought that I was all-knowledgable, that verbosity, snark and humor thrown into a blender was the recipe for a world-class car review, that brown wagons were the solution to all the problems of the auto industry. What I didn’t know could fill volumes.

My birthday is tomorrow, and in the eyes of most of you, I will still be a mere neophyte. My one year anniversary at TTAC is closing in quicker and quicker, and it seems like forever ago that I wrote the now-infamous “game changer” post about the new Ford Fusion. I still think I’ll be vindicated.

I’ve been humbled by Bertel’s patient mentorship, Jack’s command of the English language, the real-world experience of Sajeev and Steve, Murilee’s ability to take his encyclopedic knowledge of the automobile and put out an article about it every single day, Alex and Michael’s painstakingly prepared reviews and Ronnie’s ability to pull diamonds from the rough on a weekly basis. And to you the readers, for catching mistakes, adding information and insights to my articles and making the site what it is. Without you all, I wouldn’t have any command of topics like manufacturing, finance, the economics of vehicle development, CAFE, marketing or sales analysis. That’s not to say I am all the way there yet, but your help has cut the time down from 15 years to significantly shorter.

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Quote Of The Day: “Five Years From Now, When I’m Not President, I’ll Buy One Myself” – Obama On The Chevrolet Volt Tue, 28 Feb 2012 18:25:36 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

You heard it yourself. When Obama is out of office, he’ll buy a Chevrolet Volt and drive it himself. The Secret Service, which famously wouldn’t let Obama drive the Volt down the Hamtramck assembly line, generally protects the President for up to 10 years after they leave office – we’d assume that the “no driving” clause applies here. So Obama’s Volt may sit for a long time – hopefully it won’t brick.

Meanwhile, the DoE’s projection of 120,000 Volts produced in 2012 (let alone sold to consumers) still looks a little optimistic. GM just restarted production of the car a few days ago. Their sales target of 45,000 in 2012 has been abandoned after coming 2,300 units short of their 10,000 unit goal in 2011. GM now says that they will adjust “supply to meet demand”.


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QOTD: What’s wrong with this statement? Mon, 27 Feb 2012 18:24:07 +0000

A topic covered before, but clearly worth covering again…

The author: Georg Kacher, seasoned European bureau chief for Automobile (i.e. not a newb)

The place: page 31, April 2012 issue

The car: Bentley Continental GT V8

The statement: “Alternatively, you can work the shift paddles to keep the engine revving between 4000 and 6300 rpm, where the power and torque curves approach, intersect, and then run almost parallel to the limiter.”

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Quote Of The Day: You Gotta Do More Than Put A Bow On It Edition Fri, 16 Dec 2011 00:01:56 +0000

My war on Christmas gift-themed car ads has scored something of a victory, as AdAge reports that “creative spots for new luxury model automobiles that hyped the holiday have failed to perform effectively in the fourth quarter of 2011 so far,” according to surveys by Ace Metrix. And the accompanying quotes by the ad evaluation firm’s CEO Peter Daboll really sum up a lot of the problems with these 30-second cliches:

It’s astounding that four of the ‘top 10′ luxury automobile ads were below norm… many automotive brands have stepped away from good creative and fallen back on “Buy it now, you idiot” messaging wrapped up in sales events and bows. When we started looking at cars with bows and yet another Toytathon, it was enough, already. To suggest that someone buy a Lexus for his spouse in these economic times…”

You’ve got to love that sinister ellipsis, especially when certain luxury brands are suggesting not only that you buy your spouse a car, but that you buy them a cell phone as well, with which to alert them that you’ve bought them a new car…

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Quote Of The Day: Score One For The Car Mags Edition Fri, 11 Nov 2011 23:37:24 +0000

The New York Times has a story that’s fascinating in its own right: the number of people leasing a car on without first test-driving the car has doubled since 2007.  Troubling stuff for most auto enthusiasts among us, but probably not much of a surprise to readers on the retail side of the business. One auto broker explains the most common reasons for taking this leap of faith:

Generally these are people who know what they want, whether it’s because they’re very brand-loyal or they’ve fallen in love with the styling of a particular model. Same goes for buyers who are strictly interested in getting the best deal, and those with limited choices like a big family that needs a nine-passenger vehicle with 4-wheel drive.

But, as one “enthusiast” explains, some consumers are just so well informed, they don’t need to drive their car before they buy it. That’s what they subscribe to magazines for!

Here’s how Charles Van Stone,  “retired human resources executive and well-read car enthusiast,” sees it:

I never test-drive a car, but I do subscribe to five different car magazines. So by the time I’ve read all these different opinions and finally sit behind the wheel, I have every reason to believe it’s going to be exactly what I wanted… Whether it’s because of my emotional connection to the car or all the reading I’ve done, I have never been disappointed. I’ve never bought a car and thought “Uh-oh, this was a mistake.”

Given that Mr Van Stone most recently ended up in a Camaro SS, it’s safe to say that how it drives per se wasn’t his overriding concern anyway. Which is a good thing, because if a “well-read car enthusiast” asked me, I’d have told him to drive the more playful V6 before committing to the SS. But then, my idea of what an “enthusiast” might be interested isn’t the only one… and ultimately, if the guy is happy, he’s happy. That’s all that matters, especially with a car like the Camaro.

But the strangest thing about Mr Van Stone’s representation of the test-drive-free lifestyle is his reliance on the automotive media. Though I wasn’t in the least bit surprised to see analysts reference the rise of online research as one possible explanation for the test-drive downturn, I was not expecting the Times to quote someone letting his buff book subscriptions “take the wheel” in an auto buying decision. On the one hand, it’s a rare show of relevance for the mainstream automotive media. On the other hand, their champion is a guy who bought his car without even driving it. If such is the modern automotive enthusiasm, I wouldn’t rush to overstate the vitality or relevance of the media outlets that nurtured it.

At the end of the day, no form of media can replace a test drive. No Youtube video, no spec sheet, no eloquent review is a substitute for actually driving the car you are considering committing to. At least, it can’t if you actually care about the details of a driving experience. And you should: understanding the nuances of car control can make you a more efficient, courteous, and above all, a safer driver. Conversely, the fact that more people are buying cars without having ever driven them does not speak well of our collective relationship with these powerful, dangerous, expensive machines. And though the car industry needs people to be passionate about the act of driving in order to thrive (and not merely survive), its collective answer to this trend thus far has been to introduce more distracting gizmos. Apparently it really isn’t important to drive cars anymore… as long as we keep buying them.

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OICA President Walks Back Criticism Of US Auto Industry Wed, 09 Nov 2011 18:25:52 +0000

A week ago the president of OICA, Patrick Blain, ruffled some feathers on this side of the Atlantic by laying into the US auto industry with such bon mots as

If the American manufacturers had gone years ago to the government and said, ‘Listen, we have a huge project’ – electric cars, for instance, the government could at least have studied it. But they never tried.

Take the Chevrolet Volt (extended-range electric vehicle launched in 2010). Without government help, at least in the developmental stages in which certain economies of scale must be reached, it is too expensive. It’s just another example of the American industry being too late. They have missed many trends.

Because the sign of an innovative automaker is entanglement with the government… just ask Blain’s compatriots (and former colleagues) at Renault! Oh, and incidentally, Detroit did approach the government for help developing green cars back in the 1990s and managed to waste a cool billion dollars building three prototypes (see: PNGV). But there I go taking Blain at his word… when he’s already walking back his nonsensical comments.

Wards Auto was kind enough to give Monsieur Blain the opportunity to mitigate his unnecessarily inflammatory comments. Unsurprisingly, however, Blain’s walk-back is just as incomprehensible as his initial comments:

In a new auto world, with so many different power technologies (electric, hybrid, classical) things are getting more and more complex, and we must understand each auto world.

Every government, every nation has its own automotive culture. What I wanted to highlight is that manufacturers, with different technologies, gas prices, taxes, government incentives are all reducing, in a drastic way, (carbon-dioxide) emissions. That is definitely not what I explained. Some started sooner, some later, but they drive all in the same direction.

Apparently Blain’s volte-face came after the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents American-based automakers, entered “discussions” with Blain. Apparently it wasn’t hard to convince Blain that he was talking nonsense, but it seems to have been much more difficult to get him to actually start making sense. Meanwhile, Americans are now free to continue ignoring OICA as they have for decades.

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Quote Of The Day: “Negative Reviews Are Good For Business” Edition Thu, 03 Nov 2011 16:58:49 +0000

Like most corporate trends, the rush to social media is often little more than an opportunity for new consultants to sell common sense packaged in the buzzwords du jour. And though it’s easy to just laugh off the process as just another fad, it’s important to remember that common sense is in relatively short supply these days… if the only way to get it across is to punctuate it with words like “engagement” and “voice share,” so be it. And because social media is forcing companies to come to grips with every possible kind of feedback, the trend is actually helping validate the hard-hitting editorial approach that TTAC has long embraced. At Motor Trader’s social media conference, Richard Anson, CEO of the consumer review site Reevoo, explains the simple truth:

Social content will help drive sales so trust and transparency are vital; we all trust our peers more than any vendor or brand. Negative reviews are good for business. Retailing is all about transparency so perfection is not credible. Customers expect and want negative reviews and they give dealers a great opportunity to engage.

Hear, hear!

This is a lesson that the auto industry often struggles with, especially with in-house social media efforts like The Ford Story (now But even within the larger automotive media scene, there’s a lack of appreciation for the constructive powers of negative reviews. Due to a long and pointless tradition in the automotive media of trying to objectively evaluate all vehicles on a single rating or “star system,” there’s a sense that negativity in a review implies that a car is not worth considering. In reality, if someone is going to own and live with a car, aren’t they going to be as interested in its flaws as its charms? Consumers aren’t stupid, and if they feel like they’re getting a whitewash from any one review outlet, they’ll look elsewhere. And thanks to the internet and “social media,” they’ve got lots of options.

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Quote Of The Day “Bankruptcy Is No Option For Saab” Edition Fri, 21 Oct 2011 15:17:54 +0000 Lyssna: Saabs vd, Victor Muller, om företagets situation

Whenever a CEO says “bankruptcy is not an option,” you know the game is up. After complaining in this Swedish Radio interview (in English) that his court-appointed administrator is trying to sell Saab off wholesale to the Chinese, Victor Muller trots out Churchillian and Nietszchian calls to arms… in fact, he does everything short of bursting into a spirited rendition of “I Will Survive.” Unfortunately, Muller’s credibility is long gone, and he doesn’t help himself by trying to portray Lofalk as some traitorous backstabber. With Saab months (years? decades?) into its death-flails, and the most recent “rescuer” turning out to be a non-player, is it any wonder Lofalk wants to hand over the mess to the only viable companies involved (especially when Muller calls North Street a “strong partner”)? Muller continues to labor under two basic delusions: first, that he can sell a majority share to the Chinese while keeping Saab an essentially Swedish (or at least European) company and second, that anyone cares whether Saab becomes a Chinese company. Sorry Victor, there’s just nothing left here to fight for…

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Chevy-Dealing Congressman: “There Is No Market” For The Volt Thu, 13 Oct 2011 22:27:10 +0000

In addition to being a representative from Pennsylvania, Republican Mike Kelly is also a Chevrolet dealer whose family has sold Chevys since 1953. But in recent hearings on government fuel economy ratings, he laid into his brand’s green halo car, the Chevy Volt with surprising zeal. Or, not-so-surprising, when you realize that he decided to run for congress in the wake of the bailout-era dealer cull.

I’m a Chevrolet dealer… we have a Chevy Volt on the lot, it’s been there now for four weeks. We’ve had one person come in to look at it, just to see what it actually looks like… Here’s a car that costs $45,763. I can stock that car for probably a year and then have to sell it at some ridiculous price. By the way, I just received some additional information from Chevrolet: in addition to the $7,500 [federal] tax credit, Pennsylvania is going to throw another $3,500 to anybody foolish enough to buy one of these cars, somehow giving them $11,000 of taxpayer money to buy this Volt.

When you look at this, it makes absolutely no sense. I can stock a Chevy Cruze, which is about a $17,500 car and turns every 30 to 40 days out of inventory… or I can have a Volt, which never turns and creates nothing for me on the lot except interest costs… So a lot of these things that we’re seeing going on have a tremendous economic impact on people who are being asked to stock them and sell them. There is no market for this car. I do have some friends who have sold them, and they’re mostly to people who have an academic interest in it, or municipalities who are asking to buy these cars.

With dealers like that, who needs competitors? Seriously, Kelly even says he fired the guy who ordered a Volt for his dealership… which he then counts against the Volt’s job creation record. Hit the jump for the rest of his quote.

I can tell you… as far as job creation, the guy who ordered that Volt for my store is no longer in that job. So it actually worked against him. I was told that the reason that car is on our lot is that General Motors told him he had to stock it. I said “let me understand. I told you that under no circumstances were you to order a Volt,” and he said “yeah.” “So, why did you order it?” “Because General Motors told me.” “Is this the same General Motors that tried to take my Cadillac franchise from me? These are the guys you’re listening to, but the guy who signs your paycheck doesn’t have as much influence as the guys who tried to take away the franchise?”

So clearly Kelly has his reasons for disliking his business partners at GM, but bashing a car that Chevy managers insist is a brand-building halo is still surprising. In any case, this somewhat rambling but fascinating critique eventually led to question “do you see any market for this car at all?” directed at Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl… who first took the opportunity to defend the Volt.

Well, there’s a little bit of good news. First, you mentioned that it did create some traffic for you, albeit one person. But that is something the car companies tout, that these vehicles do attract some interest, some traffic, not necessarily buyers. And let me also say, the Volt is actually a very nice vehicle. We actually bought one ourselves, it’s in the long-term fleet… people actually enjoy it.

But then came the bad news.

The problem that I think you’ve outlined is really twofold. One of them is that there are all sorts of inducements for people to be buying these vehicles… and yet when you look at whose been buying these vehicles, and there are people buying them, they are at the very high end of the demographic scale… Right now we’re seeing people who would have bought that vehicles anyway, without a tax credit, getting the tax credit at the expense of other taxpayers, and you have to wonder about the wisdom of that.

The second part of the Anwyl’s critique would have to wait, because after getting in one last knock at the Volt, Kelly was out of time. Rep Jackie Speier (D-CA) was next in line, and she jumped on Kelly’s Volt-bashing, telling him

First of all, to Mr Kelly, send that Volt to California! It doesn’t have to stay on your lot, because there is a waiting list in my district, at my Chevrolet dealership, of six months to get a Chevy Volt.

To which Kelly replied,

Give me the name of the dealer, and I’ll send it out there right away. If he’ll pick up the transportation cost, I’d love to do that.

The name was exchanged, and jokes were made about bipartisanship and “working together.” Then the partisan back-and-forth continued. You gotta love Congress.

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Quote Of The Day: Car Dealer Cliche Edition Wed, 28 Sep 2011 20:30:58 +0000

Nobody in the auto retail business can possibly be unaware of the horrible reputation that car dealers have earned over decades of shady dealing. Heck, the internet has even created a pseudo-meme for the entire business, in the form of the passed-around image you see at the top of this post. But one industry’s horrendous reputation can be another another industry’s opportunity, and Kevin Hurst thought he had come up with a goldmine. By creating software that guides dealers through compliance with a number of federal regulations, he figured he could leverage the stereotype of the sleazy car dealer to get potential clients interested in demonstrating their commitment to walking the straight and narrow path. It’s a brilliant idea, and the kind of move that would show that market self-regulation and government regulation can work together to serve consumers. Unfortunately, Hurst made a fatal error of calculation: he assumed car dealers care about fixing their reputation and living up to national standards.

As Hurst tells WardsAuto, the auto retail industry has no such interest:

“Dealers are interested in selling cars and making money. Put simply, they don’t want to be bothered with government regulations or anything else that interferes with that selling activity.”

Many dealers choose not to comply with all those regulations “or are ignoring them altogether,” Hurst says. That puts them out of the market for Infinity’s software that systematically goes down the regulation checklist.

“We spent $1 million on codes and thought everything was in place,” he says. “We figured we had a slam-dunk product, because law requires compliance. But we didn’t anticipate the lack of interest at the level we’re seeing.”

Big dealerships, especially publicly owned chains, usually obey all the rules, he says. Some franchised dealers think they are doing that, but unwittingly aren’t. Still other dealers, particularly independent used-car lot owners, don’t even try.

“One guy told me the federal government doesn’t have the resources to catch a mouse running across his desk,” Hurst says. “Some are thumbing their noses at the laws.”

Hurst says the risks of non-compliance with federal regulations are just too low to get dealers to care. He compares it to people cheating on taxes in the hopes of getting lost in the shuffle, but notes that the risks of being busted for failure to follow federal rules on credit, money laundering, identity theft and more are even smaller. And until dealers begin to actually care about their reputations, or suffer the consequences of non-compliance at the hands of the government or the market, there’s no reason to expect them to clean up their acts. And though non-compliance with things like identity theft prevention laws may not seem like a huge deal, flouting even one law creates an atmosphere of impunity, which almost always translates into a poor customer experience.

And you’d think the car dealer community would know by now that, when it comes to reputation, they’re already fighting an uphill battle.

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Piëch: Stop Me, I’m Full Wed, 14 Sep 2011 16:51:46 +0000

Volkswagen will almost certainly finish the year as the second-largest automaker by volume… and if it wants to take the top spot, it will do so on sales, not acquisitions. Having gobbled an extraordinary number of acquisitions over the past several decades, including Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Italdesign and Karmann, VW’s monstrous appetite appears to be waning. And no wonder: the latest mouthful, a partnership with Suzuki, has gone sour and recent lustful glances at Alfa have drawn sassy rebukes from Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne. Accordingly, VW’s Chairman Ferdinand Piech tells Bloomberg [via AN [sub]] that no more acquisitions are planned and that

We’re big enough

Of course, this is also coming from the company that’s been struggling to swallow Porsche for the last several years. Once that deal is complete, we’ll check back on Herr Piech’s appetite. Because in an industry built on scale, you never know when hunger will strike…


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Quote Of The Day: Hands Free At High Speeds Edition Wed, 31 Aug 2011 20:10:19 +0000

[Skip ahead to 2:08 (or don't)]

It’s the stuff of a Ray LaHood nightmare. Automotive News [sub]‘s lede comes screaming out of the blackness:

BERLIN – Ford Motor Co. has adapted its Sync in-car connectivity system to cope with high speeds on German autobahns.

But you can’t wake up, Mr Secretary of Transportation. For this is no dream…

Luckily, it is happening far away in Germany… and Ford’s not even doing all that much to change its hands-free entertainment and communication system. Per Jason Johnson, user interface design engineer for Sync product development,

Ford had to do more than simply program the technology to understand different European languages. The system also has to allow for how Europeans drive… For instance, at autobahn speeds, Ford found that its navigation system wasn’t giving sufficient warning that the desired exit was coming up. The system had to be reprogrammed to give extra warning

Otherwise, Germans should feel free to use their hands-free systems at whatever speed they happen to be driving. After all, if your hands are on the wheel, it’s not a distraction, amiright? Ray? Anybody?

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Quote Of The Day: Who Wants To See Gas Under $2 Per Gallon? Edition Wed, 17 Aug 2011 21:46:02 +0000

Who’s ready for some politics? With the presidential election still over 14 months away, recent Iowa straw poll winner Michelle Bachmann is upping the campaign promise ante by telling a Greenville, SC crowd

The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today. Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.

Without even taking a side in the muck of presidential politics, it’s plain to see how ridiculous this statement is. As Politico helpfully notes:

Bachmann didn’t detail how she would cut the price of gasoline, which is tied to the global price of oil. [Emphasis added]

Personally, I think gas should probably be taxed to a point where Americans pay about what the rest of the world does, in order to pay for the externalities of oil consumption. Most auto execs agree, arguing that America’s artificially low gas prices play hell with product planning. But even (or is that especially) if you’re a hard-core anti-tax free-market fundamentalist, Bachmann’s statement should be treated with scorn. After all, markets, not presidents, should be setting oil prices. But what’s principle (or even good practice) when compared to the need for political pandering?

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Lincoln: “No More Badge Engineering” Mon, 15 Aug 2011 20:03:01 +0000

Despite marketing its Lincoln brand as “not just luxury… it’s smarter than that,” Ford has finally admitted what the car guy world has been saying for some time: Lincoln isn’t a luxury brand… it’s a rebadge brand. Ford’s product honcho Derrick Kuzak tells Automotive News [sub] that the jig is up and there will be

No more badge engineering


But publicly smacking down poor-selling outgoing models as a way of proving that “we get it starting now” is hardly a new practice in Detroit. The real question is what can Kuzak show us in the way of a light at the end of this tunnel? Step one was apparently creating a Lincoln division that was materially different from Ford. In addition to what we learned recently about Lincoln getting its own design team, Kuzak reveals that

On the engineering side, Lincoln has a director of product development, Scott Tobin, a change from six months ago. There are Lincoln-exclusive powertrain development people, and there will be unique powertrains in some models, paired with eight-speed transmissions.

Still not feeling an upswell of optimism about Lincoln’s future? Have another glass of Kool Aid, and consider the following new “Lincoln unique” features that will differentiate Ford’s luxury brand:

– Push-button shifting controls. Forget the gimmicky chrome push-button shifts on the infamous Edsel. Taking out the shift column opens up the look of the interior.

– Fully retractable, all-glass roofs. This is not a typical 2-foot-by-1-foot sunroof, but a massive sliding pane.

– Continuously controlled damping, which allows a driver to choose among ride qualities.

– Available all-wheel drive in all models. This is available in Lincolns today, except the soon-to-disappear Town Car.

Unless Lincoln’s new 100-man design team comes up with some serious swagger, these features just won’t cut it. And without a hint of remotely unique product coming down the line (Focus and next-gen Escape “non-rebadges” are all we’re hearing about), Lincoln will continue to flounder. But Lincoln’s still signaling that its approach isn’t fundamentally wrong… the problem it seems, was the consumers. According to AN [sub], Ford’s fixed that problem, by re-orienting Lincoln towards

what Lincoln calls “progressive luxury” customers.

A traditional luxury buyer might stay at a Ritz or Four Seasons hotel; a progressive luxury consumer would prefer a small boutique hotel. Both demand the same level of performance, feel and quiet in their vehicles. But Lincoln’s target buyers view their vehicles as expressions of their personalities, not as trophies that show the neighbors they’ve arrived.

The “old luxury” meme is as old of an out-of-ideas marketing chestnut as “we want to be like Apple.” Interestingly, the brand that is most referenced in discussion of the Lincoln turnaround, Audi, used the exact term in its last Super Bowl ad blitz. But as far as Kuzak is concerned, the new design team, customer orientation and features are the final step needed to accomplish his luxury brand’s ultimate goal.

set Lincolns apart from even a top-of-the-line, flagship Ford Taurus.

But is the problem that Lincoln is too closely positioned to Ford or that it’s simply not competitive with the vast array of competitive luxury brands? After all, moving away from the Ford brand is not the same thing as moving towards success in the luxury market…

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Quote Of The Weekend: Heavy Duty Demand Edition Sat, 13 Aug 2011 22:21:11 +0000

In his New York Times comparison of heavy-duty pickup trucks, Ezra Dyer opens with a provocative comparison:

Heavy-Duty pickup trucks are the supercars of the truck world. They have more power than drivers are likely ever to exploit, and bragging rights depend on statistics that are, in practical terms, theoretical.

How does he figure?

While you can’t buy a diesel engine in a mainstream light-duty pickup, heavy-duty pickups now offer propulsion suitable for a tandem-axle dump truck.

I’m not exaggerating. Ford’s 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8 packs 400 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque; the base engine in a Peterbilt 348 dump truck offers a mere 260 horsepower and 660 pound feet. Does your pickup really need more power than a Peterbilt?

I’m guessing most HD truck owners won’t take kindly to the question, especially coming a scolding Gray Lady. But if you read the full review, you’ll find that Dyer was able to locate at least one contractor willing to admit that he realized he just didn’t need his HD’s overabundance of ability. It goes against the grain of the “bigger, faster, tougher, more” marketing message that has helped make trucks such a huge part of the American market, but is it possible that the tide is turning? Have pickups improved too much? The huge sales of Ecoboost V6-powered F-Series certainly suggests the we may just be moving towards a more pragmatic truck-buying market…

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Quote Of The Day: The Ultimate Data Machine Edition Tue, 09 Aug 2011 23:47:17 +0000

The source of today’s Quote Of The Day, a BMW M Division engineer, is clearly not a native English speaker, but he reveals just where performance cars like the new M5 are going when he says:

More and more demand is from our test engineers from the referring(?) departments and they come over and 80%, 90% are only working on the electronic systems. The other 10, 20 percent are working at the car, under the car….

Of course, the M engineers aren’t developing a car from the ground up here, but it’s still amazing that the workload is so unevenly weighted towards electronic rather than, for lack of a better term, “greasy hands” work.

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Marchionne: Don’t Hold Your Breath For UAW Board Seats Thu, 04 Aug 2011 22:48:48 +0000

From the “sidelines” of the MBS conference in Traverse City Michigan, Wards Auto reports that Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is not keen on giving the UAW a board seat. UAW President Bob King has been pushing for VW Works Council-style representation on the Chrysler board, but as Marchionne explains

The best intervention that the unions or labor or organized labor can bring to the party is a support for the choice of the right leader to lead the organization… I understand Bob. I understand what he’s saying (but) we have to be very careful that we don’t exaggerate the value of co-determination

Co-determination gives rise to two decision-making bodies. The executive board makes decisions. And the unions sit on supervisory boards, one of which is the choice of the CEO. The most fundamental and difficult decision that a board makes is the choice of a CEO. If you make the right choice, issues with labor unions will not arise

Considering the UAW VEBA trust fund is the single minority shareholder in his company, Marchionne is admirably and typically frank in dismissing his union boss’s ambition. And since Marchionne doesn’t intend on retiring before 2015, his answer might as well have been “why do you need a board seat, when you have me?” But there’s another aspect to his argument that reveals that Bob King might have already doomed the union’s chances at a board seat.

Ever since Bob King took over from Ron Gettelfinger, the new UAW president has sought to revive his union’s sense of purpose in hopes of combatting declining membership and the reputational hit caused by the bankruptcy of two of its biggest “partners.”  That general effort has taken three forms:

  1. Declaring a “21st Century UAW,” in “partnership” with the Detroit automakers
  2. Aggressively pursuing organizing drives among the foreign owned “transplant” factories
  3. Building international union solidarity by creating linkages with foreign unions

While working on part three, King even went to Italy to meet with the restive unions that have plagued Marchionne… and this seems to have left a lingering suspicion in the back of Marchionne’s mind. He tells Wards

For multinational companies, it becomes almost impossible to find the right mix of labor representation to effectively stand in for the labor force across the group.

Fiat apparently thinks that the UAW, under an internationalist crusader like King, would try to organize its low-cost workforce in Mexico, Brazil, Poland and Turkey. What’s particularly interesting about this is that Volkswagen, which King seeks to emulate, suffers from no such problem: the boys from IG Metall have hardly come out in support of UAW organizing efforts in Chattanooga, and seem to have no problems with low-cost Chinese manufacturing. One can only assume King’s international exploits, threats of human rights violation accusations, and ruthless hypocrisy have convinced Marchionne that he can’t be trusted.

Too bad. Now King will have to use all of his political capital securing benefits for his workers instead of chasing ego-gratifying distraction.


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Quote Of The Day: Dr Z Rallies The Troops Edition Tue, 02 Aug 2011 19:16:29 +0000

With the luxury market defying sluggish economic conditions, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche doesn’t want the upstarts at BMW and Audi to slip past it… which they are. Six months through 2011, the Mercedes brand found itself in third place among the German global luxury brands, at 610,531 units. A surging BMW captured 689,861 sales in the half, while Audi took second with 652,970. This, for Zetsche, is an unthinkable state of affairs.  In a letter to his employees, excerpted by Automotive News Europe [sub], Zetsche makes it clear that leadership in the luxury space is a Daimler birthright.

Some of our competitors are now growing faster and more profitably than we are. Granted, those are just snapshots in time and should not be overestimated. After all, many of our best new products are yet to come… In the long run we can’t be content to be in a “solid second” or even “third” place: We are Daimler – we should be far ahead of the pack! And if that requires something that we don’t currently have, then we’ll identify and develop it.

Enjoy your summer and refill your tanks. Because in the second half of this year we’re going to continue to play some hard offense!

But does a sense of entitlement actually motivate workers?
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