“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.”
Category: Quote of the Day
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”.
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.”
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…
The New York Times has a story that’s fascinating in its own right: the number of people leasing a car on leasetrader.com 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!
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.
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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.
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…
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.
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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.
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…
[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…
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?
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
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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…