The Truth About Cars » GM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 01 Aug 2014 21:12:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » GM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Future Of GM’s Oshawa Plant Looks Increasingly Bleak http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/future-gms-oshawa-plant-looks-increasingly-bleak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/future-gms-oshawa-plant-looks-increasingly-bleak/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:07:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=878114 A report in Automotive News outlines how General Motors has committed to building a new Buick model at their plant in Russelsheim, Germany. According to AN, the logical choice is the next-generation Buick Regal, also known as the Opel Insignia, since this is a good fit for Buick, and it allows GM to use up some of the […]

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A report in Automotive News outlines how General Motors has committed to building a new Buick model at their plant in Russelsheim, Germany. According to AN, the logical choice is the next-generation Buick Regal, also known as the Opel Insignia, since this is a good fit for Buick, and it allows GM to use up some of the excess capacity that is currently plaguing their European operations. But for GM’s venerable Oshawa plant, this is not good news.

As TTAC and AN have both pointed out, product is leaving Oshawa much faster than it’s coming in. The Camaro will move to Lansing, Michigan by 2016, while the next-generation Chevrolet Impala and the Cadillac XTS has its production split between Michigan and Oshawa. The old-generation Impala, currently built on the old “Consolidated” line, is due to end production soon. The GM Theta crossovers, which are built partially in Oshawa due to a lack of capacity at GM’s Ingersoll, Ontario plant, will move there exclusively for their next generation. That leaves the Regal as GM’s lone Oshawa product, and even that appears to be going away too.

All signs appear to point to the closure of the Oshawa plant high. Between high labor costs, unfavorable exchange rates and a lack of new products, it would take a miracle to save Oshawa. As of now, the main thing tying GM to the plant is the “vitality commitment” that they signed as part of their bailout agreement with the Canadian government, obligating them to keep a certain amount of vehicle production in Canada. And when that ends in 2016, it’s hard to imagine that GM will keep producing cars in one of the world’s most costly jurisdictions.

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General Motors Bumps Up Next Pickups, Will Feature Aluminum Panels, Downsized Engines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-bumps-up-next-pickups-will-feature-aluminum-panels-downsized-engines/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-bumps-up-next-pickups-will-feature-aluminum-panels-downsized-engines/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:53:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875113 General Motors is advancing the launch of their next-generation pickups by 9 months, with the next-generation trucks due by 2018. Reuters is reporting that the fairly new generation of full-size trucks will undergo a thorough redesign by 2018, with new full-size SUVs arriving in 2019. While a new 8-speed automatic will arrive in GM’s full […]

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General Motors is advancing the launch of their next-generation pickups by 9 months, with the next-generation trucks due by 2018.

Reuters is reporting that the fairly new generation of full-size trucks will undergo a thorough redesign by 2018, with new full-size SUVs arriving in 2019.

While a new 8-speed automatic will arrive in GM’s full size trucks and SUVs for 2015, the next generation is expected to be even more radical. TTAC has previously reported that the next generation trucks will use substantial amounts of aluminum in the body panels, and a new manufacturing process is expected to reduce both cost and complexity.

The new trucks will also reportedly use a 10-speed automatic transmission (jointly developed with Ford) as well as smaller engines that feature fuel injection, turbocharging and stop-start systems. The end result is a major paradigm shift for the truck market. Consumers may still care about payload and tow ratings, but auto makers are pulling out all the stops to make sure that their trucks meet stringent CAFE rules, which kick in around 2017.

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Buick Envision Photos Leaked http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-envision-photos-leaked/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-envision-photos-leaked/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874801 The first photos of the Buick Envision have leaked, with prices said to be ranging from $26,000-$32,000 USD. Car News China is reporting that the Envison will be unveiled at the Chengdu Auto Show, with sales starting in Q4 of this year. The Envision is also said to be based on the Delta compact car […]

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The first photos of the Buick Envision have leaked, with prices said to be ranging from $26,000-$32,000 USD.

Car News China is reporting that the Envison will be unveiled at the Chengdu Auto Show, with sales starting in Q4 of this year. The Envision is also said to be based on the Delta compact car platform, rather than the Theta CUV platform that underpins the Chevrolet Terrain and GMC Equinox.

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Book Review: No Time to Cry by Wilmer Cooksey, Jr. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/book-review-no-time-to-cry-by-wilmer-cooksey-jr/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/book-review-no-time-to-cry-by-wilmer-cooksey-jr/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871690 “On one occasion I was called out into the yard because there had been a shooting. A guard, a line worker and a car thief had been shot. The thief had been wounded gravely by the guard and was bleeding but he had made it into the cab of the car hauler and had driven […]

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“On one occasion I was called out into the yard because there had been a shooting. A guard, a line worker and a car thief had been shot. The thief had been wounded gravely by the guard and was bleeding but he had made it into the cab of the car hauler and had driven for some distance before he crashed and was caught.”

The line worker probably wasn’t an unfortunate bystander, relates former Corvette plant manager Wil Cooksey in his gritty, totally human and completely engrossing autobiography No Time to Cry. At General Motors’ St. Louis assembly plant in the mid-70s, claims Cooksey, hourly workers were often accomplices to professional car thieves. These criminals planned armed raids on storage lots with the help of plant insiders, leading to occasionally deadly results. In Cooksey’s account, St. Louis resembles a battleground more than a car plant, emblematic of the worst of the bad old days of the American auto industry. This book isn’t just a rehash of the “GM dysfunction” genre pioneered by John Z. Delorean, though. As the story of a fascinating American life, No Time to Cry is a compelling read.

As a production engineer working his way up the GM ranks, Cooksey had plenty of time to observe the inner workings of one of America’s most powerful corporations. Before that, he was a poor black kid from Texas with an absent father and a mother that struggled to provide for her seven children. With some guidance, he managed to get into Tennessee State University in Nashville and earn a degree in electrical engineering. While at TSU he met his future wife Liz, who became his soul mate despite the obstacles between them. He moved on to a job as a process engineer with General Mills in Toledo, but soon, war intervened. He was drafted and after completing Officer Candidates’ School was sent to Vietnam. The experience would haunt him for the rest of his life, but it did contain one positive development. A chance encounter with a new Sting Ray in Hawaii turned him into a passionate Corvette lover, and helped change the direction of his career. After the war, he was hired to teach at the General Motors Institute in Flint. He transferred to the St. Louis assembly plant a few years later, in pursuit of his dream of managing Corvette production.

What emerges from Cooksey’s account of his sojourn through various GM plants is a picture of a company marked by sharp contrasts. St. Louis embodied virtually every stereotype of American auto plants in the 70s: racial animosity, workplace violence, sabotage, absenteeism, alcoholism and substance abuse. Cooksey claims he hid a revolver in his car and carried a six inch blade out of concern for his own safety. He describes being sucked into the toxic culture of the plant, where both management and hourly workers got loaded in the bar across the street as their coping mechanism. This, combined with the unwanted advances of many of the plant’s single women, nearly destroyed Cooksey’s marriage. However, he was able to patch things up with his wife and move to the Doraville, Georgia assembly plant, temporarily distancing himself from Corvette production.

Labor relations at Doraville weren’t great, but they were a marked improvement from St. Louis. Cooksey was able to surround himself with a cadre of trusted advisors, and made some progress on improving both quality and productivity. He had his easiest time as manager at Fairfax Assembly in Kansas City, Missouri, which he describes as a “joy” to manage. He chalked this up to differences in plant culture, brought about by a combination of both management and labor tactics. Cooksey is harshly critical of the UAW at times, as one might expect of a production supervisor. In St. Louis he describes the union as a “fierce, three-headed, Hydra-monster” that eventually brought about the plant’s demise. He does strive to make a distinction between the union and individual workers, the majority of whom he defends as good employees. Some, such as an unnamed “informant” at the Bowling Green plant, were essential to helping Cooksey stamp out persistent safety violations and improve quality and productivity. Labor only absorbs one part of Cooksey’s criticism.

Cooksey’s struggles with upper management, especially after he landed his dream job supervising Corvette production at Bowling Green in 1993, compose a large part of the text. He describes a dedicated core of “Corvette people” including himself, product engineers such as Tadge Juechter, management executive Joe Spielman, and Corvette marketing director Harlan Charles. They clashed with other managers and departments on a variety of issues, especially in terms of quality control. It was Cooksey who made the decision to halt production of the then-new C5 Corvette in 1997 to address persistent quality issues, a moment that he describes as one of the lowest points of his career. Despite these setbacks, his time in Bowling Green was more than just gloom and doom. The plant became one of GM’s best for initial quality under his tenure, winning numerous internal and external awards. He retired in early 2008, shortly before GM went under and he was left with a stack of worthless stocks. Those looking for a long discourse on the bailout will be disappointed, but Cooksey’s insights into the daily running of an auto plant are more enjoyable anyway.

At $3.99 for the Kindle edition, this book is a steal. Or, you can get a signed hard copy from the Corvette Museum like I did. Either way, you’re getting one of the best auto industry memoirs of recent years, and a must-have for any Corvette diehard. It’s littered with the kind of trivia and insights that can only come from someone as intimately involved with production as Cooksey was. The biographical side is what makes this book, though: the human passion and pain of a man trying to build a life and a legacy side-by-side, one Corvette at a time.

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2015 GM Trucks Get 8-Speed Transmission http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-gm-trucks-get-8-speed-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-gm-trucks-get-8-speed-transmission/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:31:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=869370 Now that the new GM 8L90 has made its way down to the C7 Corvette, it was only a matter of time before GM put the new transmission in their pickup trucks. Starting in 2015, all of GM’s full-size, body-on-frame pickup trucks and SUVs will get the new 8-speed gearbox. Fuel economy improvements haven’t been […]

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Now that the new GM 8L90 has made its way down to the C7 Corvette, it was only a matter of time before GM put the new transmission in their pickup trucks.

Starting in 2015, all of GM’s full-size, body-on-frame pickup trucks and SUVs will get the new 8-speed gearbox. Fuel economy improvements haven’t been announced, though GM claims that the new transmission will allow for numerically lower final drive ratios, which should have a positive impact on highway fuel economy.

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Is GM’s Recall Mania More Corporate Blundering or a Strategic Move? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/is-gms-recall-mania-more-corporate-blundering-or-a-strategic-move/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/is-gms-recall-mania-more-corporate-blundering-or-a-strategic-move/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 21:13:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857553 Megan McArdle, over at Bloomberg View, wonders out loud if the flood of recalls issued by General Motors, covering every car they’ve sold for the past three years and a wide swatch of the vehicles the company has made and sold over the past decade and a half is a deliberate strategy on the part […]

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Megan McArdle, over at Bloomberg View, wonders out loud if the flood of recalls issued by General Motors, covering every car they’ve sold for the past three years and a wide swatch of the vehicles the company has made and sold over the past decade and a half is a deliberate strategy on the part of the company to protect its  image with consumers from further harm. The strategy may be working. The sales reports for June show that the current sales of new GM vehicles seems to be unaffected by all of the publicity and controversy surrounding defective ignition switches that can shut off the car, rendering the airbag systems inoperable in case of a subsequent collision.

Some may see, in the recalls, just more of the same poor quality that many consumers associate, correctly or otherwise, with the domestic automakers, particularly GM. McArdle is not so sure that is how the massive recalls will ultimately play with the broad market:

I wonder if something else isn’t going on, something smarter. I wonder if GM hasn’t decided to go hog wild on the recalls because at this point they have nothing to lose.

There’s a point in a bad scandal where things have gotten about as bad as they could possibly get. New revelations don’t make things worse, because they hardly could be any worse. Instead, they get lost in the deafening noise of prior bad news.

At that point, it’s a good idea to announce anything that you’ve been worrying about might one day come out. People won’t really notice now, and by the time they’ve recovered sufficiently to take an interest, your worrisome story is old news.

What sayest the Best & Brightest on the matter? Blunder or brilliant?

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Cadillac Won’t Give Up On The Dream Of European Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cadillac-wont-give-up-on-the-dream-of-european-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cadillac-wont-give-up-on-the-dream-of-european-success/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853321 Despite a flimsy dealer network, a lack of diesel engines and a poisonous brand, GM still hasn’t given up on the idea of making Cadillac a global luxury brand that can sell cars in Europe. Speaking to AutoExpress, GM President Dan Amman expressed his desire to sell Cadillacs in Europe, despite its past failures. Amman […]

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Despite a flimsy dealer network, a lack of diesel engines and a poisonous brand, GM still hasn’t given up on the idea of making Cadillac a global luxury brand that can sell cars in Europe.

Speaking to AutoExpress, GM President Dan Amman expressed his desire to sell Cadillacs in Europe, despite its past failures. Amman also tacitly admitted that Cadillac would never be able to become a high volume brand or take on the German luxury brands – despite the fact that Cadillac has nakedly chased them in their home market of America

“But in the long term there is a role for Cadillac in Europe. Is it going to be a high-volume contender in the medium to long term future? Probably not. But is there a role for something other than the three German luxury brands? I think there is…We’ve got to figure out what it is, what our portfolio is, a different value proposition. But trying to out-German the Germans will not be the path to success. We have to have a different proposition.”

With a skeletal dealer network, unsuitable product for European tastes and road conditions (no diesel options is a complete non-starter) and an undesirable brand, it’s worth asking, why even bother?  Cadillac sold just 430 cars in Europe in 2012, with sales peaking at 3,000 cars in 2007. The brand has 40 dealers on the entire continent, and with diesels accounting for a reported 80 percent of premium car sales, this looks like nothing more than a vanity project, with GM wanting to sell Cadillacs in Europe just to bring the fight to the Germans on home turf – similar to VW’s folly in going after premium cars with the Phaeton, because Daimler dared to launch the compact Mercedes A-Class. And we know how that turned out.

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New or Used? : Why Are Old Corvettes So Cheap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/new-or-used-why-are-old-corvettes-so-cheap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/new-or-used-why-are-old-corvettes-so-cheap/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 04:32:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846233 O.K. Steve Why are old Corvettes so cheap ? . Just Monday I saw yet another 1984 ‘Vette for sale in a used car lot for $2,500, are some years simply so bad they’re worthless? I have never owned one and only driven a few . Mostly my buddy’s ’68 350 W/ 4 speed back in the […]

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O.K. Steve
Why are old Corvettes so cheap ? .
Just Monday I saw yet another 1984 ‘Vette for sale in a used car lot for $2,500, are some years simply so bad they’re worthless?
I have never owned one and only driven a few . Mostly my buddy’s ’68 350 W/ 4 speed back in the very early 1970′s when it was a neat car.
He built it from various junked and wrecked ‘Vettes at a specialized Corvette junkyard . We rode it very hard and it was a good , fun car that took quite a beating right until he drank himself to death .
I see the 1990′s (I think) four valve versions undamaged in Pick-A-Part Junkyards all over California. They are low mileage (under 150,000), zero damage, nice paint etc. ~ how is this possible ? .
I’d think they want to sell them whole and not part them out. But no one wants them?
Steve Says:
If only it were so.
I would be more than happy to drive a late model Corvette through the winding roads of North Georgia. Unfortunately, I have found them to be among the worst types of vehicles for my travels.
They are flashy, easy to drive too fast, and cops seem to enjoy hanging around them on highway jaunts.
That 84′ Corvette you were looking at may very well be the worst Corvette of the last 30 years. The quality was downright abysmal for what was, way back then, the first year of the C4 launch. The 1984 model was built in the thick of the Roger Smith era. There were very few good GM vehicles made during that time, with the most expensive models often getting shot and neutered quality wise well before they left the factory floor.
I’m willing to bet that Corvette at the used car lot was worth more dead than alive. By the time you see these vehicles at the auctions and the car lots,  they have suffered years of neglect.
It’s sad because, at least to me, that generation of the Corvette may truly be one of the most beautiful vehicles of that time period. They were gorgeous. But I never would want to keep one, or recommend it to someone who wants a sports car worth keeping.
The flip side of the coin is that the newer C6 Corvettes tend to be pretty reliable. I mentioned this in a recent Yahoo! Autos article, and if I were in the market for a used sports car, a C6 Corvette would definitely be a  top pick.
Old sports cars that had quality issues are now, just old crappy cars. A lot of 10 year old family cars will go faster than that 1984 Corvette without the quality control issues issues that come with a Reagan era ride.  Speed is often times a given in this day and age, and with America’s aging population, sporty two door cars are just not as in demand as they were back when the C4 was first released.
There is one big plus to the used Corvette marketplace that is shared with other niche vehicles such as the Mazda MX-5 and the Jeep Wrangler. 
They are usually not daily drivers. Most of these vehicles spend their time inside a garage and are used during weekends or whenever the owner gets that longing to enjoy their ride.  Corvettes tend to be lower mileage garage queens, and the powertrains are rarely stressed.
In the used car market, there is almost always a lot of them out there. Not because they aren’t worthy of ownership. It’s just that the demographics and long-term reliability of Corvettes have changed dramatically since the days of that 1984 Corvette. Today’s Corvettes are the sports car version of a cockroach. They can outlast their owners, along with most modern day bugs of the German variety.
Oh, and as for the C4 you saw, do yourself a big favor and don’t look back. I have yet to see one from the 80′s that didn’t drive like a bucket of bolts.

 

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CAFE Strikes Again As GM Kills Off 1500 Series Vans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cafe-strikes-again-as-gm-kills-off-1500-series-vans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cafe-strikes-again-as-gm-kills-off-1500-series-vans/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:52:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=845065 GM is killing off their 1500-series Savanna and Express vans, due to slow sales and regulatory concerns. Pickuptrucks.com is reporting the move comes at a time when the 1500 GM vans were the last full-size vans to sneak in under the 8,500 lb gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR), a key cutoff point for regulatory matters, […]

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GM is killing off their 1500-series Savanna and Express vans, due to slow sales and regulatory concerns.

Pickuptrucks.com is reporting the move comes at a time when the 1500 GM vans were the last full-size vans to sneak in under the 8,500 lb gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR), a key cutoff point for regulatory matters, specifically CAFE. Anything above that threshold is not counted, and the elimination of the 1500 vans will almost certainly help GM improve its CAFE rating.

With just 23 percent of Express buyers and 7 percent of Savanna buyers opting for the 1500, GM apparently expects the 2500 vans and the new City Express to pick up the slack.

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Piston Slap: Eye On Ignition Safety Recalls? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-eye-on-ignition-safety-recalls/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-eye-on-ignition-safety-recalls/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 12:20:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840690 Bruce writes: Sajeev, A couple of years ago my son bought a 2004 Saturn Ion sedan from a friend of ours. It has about 90,000 miles on the clock and ran fine…until I insisted that he bring it in and get the ignition recall done. A few weeks after the recall work was completed, he […]

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Don't take it to the Red Line! (photo courtesy: http://article.wn.com)

Bruce writes:

Sajeev,

A couple of years ago my son bought a 2004 Saturn Ion sedan from a friend of ours. It has about 90,000 miles on the clock and ran fine…until I insisted that he bring it in and get the ignition recall done. A few weeks after the recall work was completed, he was driving on 2 lane road at about 40 miles per hour and the car competely shut down…no power steering, weak power brakes. He was glad he wasn’t going faster & he wrestled the car into a parking lot, let it sit for a while, restarted it and drove home. He called the local GM dealership and they downplayed the incident and told him to bring it in at his convenience.

Now I’m really scared for him. Any advice?

Sajeev answers:

Oh dear. I guess this corner of TTAC couldn’t remain silent on the ignition recall debacle forever. That said, your letter makes me wonder if there’s another problem on this 10-ish year old machine: the Saturn had to “sit for a while” before starting back up?

Are you absolutely, positively sure the ignition switch is to blame?

Bruce replies:

Not sure yet. I’m wondering if they even replaced the switch in the first place. Poor 24 y.o. kid doesn’t have $ to buy another car so he’s stuck with this one. He called Saturn 800 number at my insistence and Saturn called his local Chevy dealer and the service mgr called him and scheduled an appt. The first ignition repair took 2 months and he enjoyed an Altima, which was fine with him, lol. According to Saturn, he’s eligible for another rental. The saga continues….Thanks Sajeev!

Sajeev concludes:

The worst thing you can do now is stress out: nothing good comes from stress when you’re detached from the repair process. That said, I am not a father: I couldn’t possibly understand your anguish. But I can say the problem isn’t hidden in some file cabinet, locked in a dark room in the RenCen. Everyone is watching and there’s a system in place to fix the problem.

Every company goes into super-customer-service-savvy crisis mode in times like these. And here’s the plan to mitigate the crisis:

And this is cold comfort to you, sadly. A high level infographic isn’t reassuring when you must go through the steps again.  Luckily GM is willing to put your son in another rental, just make sure your son does step #1 and #2 until he’s in that rental.

Then have the dealer report back with a diagnosis.  If you don’t like the diagnosis/resolution…well, perhaps we should just hope that the problem is found and fixed. Running through the plethora of scenarios only increases the stress level, it doesn’t help one iota.

How would you handle this, Best and Brightest?

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GM Recalls Every Fifth Generation Camaro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/gm-recalls-every-fifth-generation-camaro/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/gm-recalls-every-fifth-generation-camaro/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 14:37:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=843545 General Motors has recalled 511,,528 Camaros – that is, every single current generation Camaro ever made – for a defect involving the ignition key fob being inadvertently bumped and switched to “off”. According to GM, General Motors will recall all current generation Chevrolet Camaros because a driver’s knee can bump the key FOB and cause […]

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General Motors has recalled 511,,528 Camaros – that is, every single current generation Camaro ever made – for a defect involving the ignition key fob being inadvertently bumped and switched to “off”.

According to GM,

General Motors will recall all current generation Chevrolet Camaros because a driver’s knee can bump the key FOB and cause the key to inadvertently move out of the “run” position, with a corresponding reduction or loss of power. 

The issue, which may primarily affect drivers sitting close to the steering column, was discovered by GM during internal testing following the ignition switch recall earlier this year.

GM is apparently aware of three crashes and four minor injuries that can be attributed to this problem. The Camaro recall is part of a wider recall that can be viewed here.

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GM Bans Reporters From Electronic Communications During Shareholders Meeting http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/gm-bans-reporters-from-electronic-communications-during-shareholders-meeting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/gm-bans-reporters-from-electronic-communications-during-shareholders-meeting/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:18:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=841889 Bloomberg is reporting that General Motors barred reporters from emailing, photographing or videoing monitors set up in a special media room during their annual shareholder meeting. Reporters were apparently instructed to turn off their mobile devices while viewing the proceedings from a designated media room. The no-phones rule is said to be a departure from […]

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Bloomberg is reporting that General Motors barred reporters from emailing, photographing or videoing monitors set up in a special media room during their annual shareholder meeting.

Reporters were apparently instructed to turn off their mobile devices while viewing the proceedings from a designated media room. The no-phones rule is said to be a departure from past policies, and comes amid pledges to increase transparency within the auto maker following the inquiry into recalls that led to fatal crashes.

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QOTD: Regulation Is Ruining Car Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-regulation-is-ruining-car-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-regulation-is-ruining-car-design/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:42:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838721 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 […]

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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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Analysis: Why Isn’t NHTSA Sharing The Blame With GM? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/analysis-why-isnt-nhtsa-sharing-the-blame-with-gm/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/analysis-why-isnt-nhtsa-sharing-the-blame-with-gm/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 15:54:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838473 As many of you know by now, the Valukas report on GM’s handling of the ignition switch depicts a fat, complex organization that is deeply broken. A company with so many incompetent cogs, it is incapable of coordinating a surprise birthday party let alone a conspiracy. And that’s the most alarming part of the report – […]

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GM

As many of you know by now, the Valukas report on GM’s handling of the ignition switch depicts a fat, complex organization that is deeply broken. A company with so many incompetent cogs, it is incapable of coordinating a surprise birthday party let alone a conspiracy. And that’s the most alarming part of the report – that none of the employees appear to have acted in malice or colluded to save money or protect the brand. Instead the report paints a picture of apathetic, lazy employees and an even more careless litany of incoherent processes in the mission to detect and address vehicle safety defects.

This is far more dangerous than any calculated, unscrupulous group of executives colluding to hide a safety issue. Incompetency, whether it is in engineering, investigations or the administration of both means defects just simply go unnoticed and as such unresolved.  In terms of corporate responsibility it’s the equivalent of a juvenile “whatev” *shoulder shrug*.

While Ray DeGiorgio, the engineer behind the infamous undocumented part change, is mostly to blame for delaying the connection between the ignition switch and airbag non-deployments,  the corporate mentality that something as vital as your ignition turning off can relegated to a “convenience issue” is scary. But this applies doubly to NHTSA as well. Remember America’s vehicle safety overseer received GM’s TSB regarding the ignition switch in 2005 and gave it the government nod.

While GM is responsible for the safety of its vehicles should NHTSA share in the blame?

The Valukas report references a crash investigation conducted by Indiana University’s Transportation Research Center of a 2006 fatal single-vehicle accident involving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt in Wisconsin (pictured). The Valukas report says that GM had not seen that university’s 26-page report until 2014 even though it was found on GM’s servers.Crashed Cobalt WIS

The accident investigation was conducted at the request of NHTSA and references the 2005 TSB, confirms via EDR (electronic data recorder) that the ignition switch was in the accessory position during the crash and hypothesized that the ignition switch was one of two theories as to why the airbags failed to deploy. The other theory being that the first impact with a smaller telephone box may have signaled to the smart airbags that a deployment was not appropriate.

The team conducting the on-site investigation of the accident did not look closely at the link between the ignition switch and loss of power to the airbag because “such an undertaking was beyond the scope of this investigation.”  If the goal of the report was to determine the cause of the airbag non-deployment how could the relationship between the ignition switch and the loss of power to the airbag not have been within scope?

The university team provided the report to NHTSA in 2007. One page two of the report, the Technical Document Page, they state that the loss of power from a faulty ignition switch was one of two theories as to why the airbags did not deploy.  Did NHTSA take this and share it formally with GM? If not, why not? Are these reports reviewed by senior officials or are they simply rubber stamped and archived? Are potential defects identified referred from Special Crash Investigations (SCI), the division that requested this report, to the Office of Defects and Investigations (ODI), the group responsible for “undertaking” safety defect reviews? Could it be that NHTSA is as bureaucratically mismanaged as GM?

Keep in mind that unlike GM, NHTSA only has one single mission – oversight of vehicle safety. They are not surrounded by temptations like pleasing shareholders, cost targets or individual performance gains. Then again, given recent reports on employees at the Veterans Affairs Administration, maybe safety employees have some obscure rewarding metric on closing cases.

Last month the Department of Transportation Inspector General announced a review of NHTSA’s handling of the ignition switch recall among other things. In their review the IG should consider looking into the general information sharing practices between SCI and ODI when it comes to vehicle defects.

While the Valukus Report was intended to focus on GM’s handling of the defective part, it raises questions about the effectiveness of federal regulators who had similar (if not more) information than GM regarding the ignition failures and the non-deployment of airbags.

While Mr. Valukus and Ms. Barra will testify before Congress soon, NHTSA won’t likely be called to the Hill upon the completion of the Inspector General’s review. Depending on the IG review, we could learn more about if or how much blame NHTSA could share with GM in the timely discovery and remedy of vehicle safety defects.

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Open Thread: Valukas Report Released By NHTSA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/open-thread-valukas-report-released-by-nhtsa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/open-thread-valukas-report-released-by-nhtsa/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 16:21:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838233 Today, GM held a press conference regarding the Valukas Report on GM’s Ignition Switch Recalls, featuring CEO Mary Barra, as well as top execs like Mark Reuss and Dan Amman. The only problem was that the report had yet to be released, denying journalists the chance to question GM brass on its findings. Just minutes […]

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Today, GM held a press conference regarding the Valukas Report on GM’s Ignition Switch Recalls, featuring CEO Mary Barra, as well as top execs like Mark Reuss and Dan Amman. The only problem was that the report had yet to be released, denying journalists the chance to question GM brass on its findings.

Just minutes ago, the report surfaced online, and we are in the process of reading and analyzing the report. For now, you can download a copy here. Feel free to discuss your own findings in the comments thread. At the press conference, GM also announced the dismissal of 15 unnamed executives, as well as a soon-to-be-detailed compensation program for victims.

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QOTD: Bring Back the Unibody Pickup? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:35:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837665 For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried […]

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For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried to swim against the current.

The last true unibody pickup (one without any type of traditional ladder frame) sold in the United States was the Subaru Baja, which ended production in 2006. A derivative of the Legacy/Outback platform, the Baja was Subaru’s attempt to cash in on the mid-2000s vogue for “sport utility trucks:” part-SUV hybrids like the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and the Chevrolet Avalanche. While those more successful models were selling well over 50,000 a year at their peak, the Subie barely managed to shift 30,000 examples in a four year run. With its funky body cladding, exposed rollbars, and limited utility compared to those other truck-based SUTs with traditional ladder-frame chassis, the Baja never managed to become anything but a niche product. Even so, it followed in a long lineage of experiments with unibody construction for pickups.

The golden age of the unibody pickup was the 60s, when every major manufacturer offered at least one. Ford had the Falcon-derived Ranchero, as well as a pickup based on the Econoline van. (The 1961-63 full-size F100 is often cited as an example of a unibody pickup design, but as Mike Levine explains here, this is technically incorrect. The ‘61-63 still had a ladder frame underneath its single-piece body.) Chevrolet had a similar offering in the Corvair Greenbrier pickup, although the more popular El Camino utilized a ladder frame. Dodge got in the unibody game with the pickup version of its A100 van. The pickup version of the Type 2 Volkswagen Transporter was increasingly popular in the burgeoning small truck segment before it became a target of the infamous Chicken Tax. That tariff also kept out the Japanese, who might otherwise have attempted to sell car-based pickups such as the Toyota Corona PU. The most popular of all these unibody pickups was the Falcon Ranchero. It offered meaningful size and economy advantages over the full-size trucks of the time, and was available with a greater number of creature comforts.

Many of these unibody pickups disappeared in the 70s, as compact, conventionally engineered Japanese pickups became more widely available. Many of these were captive imports sold by the Big 3, who utilized tricks like importing cab-chassis units separately to avoid the Chicken Tax. Unibody pickups didn’t reappear again until the 1980s. The Subaru BRAT was the first of these, followed by the Rabbit-based Volkswagen Pick-Up. The Volkswagen PU was an attempt to squeeze more volume out of the disappointingly slow-selling Rabbit; the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp were similar attempts to expand the use of Chrysler’s L Platform. Neither of those was particularly successful, with both the Volkswagen and Rampage/Scamp cancelled after only three years. The BRAT was reasonably popular, lasting in the US market until 1987. The Jeep Comanche was based on the unibody XJ Cherokee, but used a ladder frame to strengthen the superstructure. Around 190,000 units were produced before new Jeep owner Chrysler called it quits in 1992; the company didn’t want the Comanche cannibalizing Dodge’s truck offerings. After that, there were no more unibody trucks in the United States until the introduction of the Baja. Cheap gas and a slew of competitive ladder-frame pickups meant that the incentive to develop a unibody pickup was limited.

Like Subaru, Honda tried to cash in on the SUT trend with the Ridgeline. Although based off the unibody Odyssey minivan, the Ridgeline utilizes a hybrid chassis setup that incorporates a box frame. Sales have been disappointing, with the model scheduled to go out of production this month, although a sequel has been promised by Honda. The Ridgeline is often cited by midsize truck pessimists as emblematic of the reasons the segment has gone into decline. The truck offers no serious fuel economy advantage over a full-sizer. It also has a smaller bed, a lower tow rating, and less power, all in a footprint not much smaller than that of a full-size. Attempting to straddle segments was the Ridgeline’s doom. Buyers who wanted power, room, towing and hauling capability, and who didn’t care about mileage bought Avalanches, Sport Tracs, and full-sizers. Economy-minded individuals went for the cheaper, more utilitarian options like the Frontier and Tacoma. None of these alternatives were particularly great on gas, but neither was the Ridgeline; and they all offered price and/or capability advantages that the Ridgeline didn’t have. That doesn’t mean, however, that the unibody truck should necessarily go the way of the dodo.

The greatest argument against a renaissance in the small-to-midsize truck segment is profitability. Small trucks often have thin margins, and it’s hard to justify separate development programs for unique platforms. That’s ultimately what killed the Ranger in the United States, as well as the Dakota. GM is spreading out the development cost of the new Colorado/Canyon by making it a world market vehicle, but it remains to be seen if this strategy will work. Only the Tacoma has proven to be a consistent winner in the US market, and it also has the advantage of being globally sold; the same is true of the new Frontier. A US-only compact truck platform is a mistake. Repealing the Chicken Tax might open up the market to more imports, but ideally a compact truck would be developed from a platform already in use in the US. This would lower the cost of federalization, while at the same time increasing the margin derived from already existing platforms. That’s where unibody design comes in.

America is awash in unibody CUVs, whose platforms could be utilized to make compact and midsize trucks. The Chevrolet Montana/Tornado has been mentioned by small-truck aficionados as a possible import, but the cost of certifying it for American sale would probably be prohibitive. Instead, it would make more sense for GM to develop a small truck from either the Theta or Epsilon architectures, both of which have already been adapted for the American market. A small truck based on the Equinox, for example, might be profitably produced for the American market. If a small truck can offer significant price or fuel economy advantages over full-sizers, it can justify its existence against highly competitive full-size offerings. Even so, doubts remain about the segment’s overall viability. FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne recently alluded to this when discussing possible plans for a future compact pickup in the United States. Could a unibody truck be the savior of the compact truck segment?

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Editorial: Cadillac Is Abandoning Large Crossovers At The Wrong Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/editorial-cadillac-is-abandoning-large-crossovers-at-the-wrong-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/editorial-cadillac-is-abandoning-large-crossovers-at-the-wrong-time/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 16:56:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829578 A report by Ward’s Auto claims that Cadillac is scrapping plans to build a large, three-row crossover, similar to the Buick Enclave or GMC Acadia. Fear of competing with the two Lambda stablemates is being cited as a possible motive, along with a saturation in the large crossover market. They should do it anyways. Even […]

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A report by Ward’s Auto claims that Cadillac is scrapping plans to build a large, three-row crossover, similar to the Buick Enclave or GMC Acadia. Fear of competing with the two Lambda stablemates is being cited as a possible motive, along with a saturation in the large crossover market. They should do it anyways.

Even though they are held up as a symbol of everything that is against the state religion of automotive enthusiasm, crossovers are a global growth segment, especially small ones. And this is also one reason why Cadillac is apparently not going ahead with a large crossover. They want something smaller than the SRX, to help them compete with small luxury crossovers both at home, and in important markets like China and Europe.

This is an easy rationale to understand. Development dollars are finite, small crossovers are growing, and there’s lots of upside potential for something below the SRX. But that doesn’t mean Cadillac should abandon a larger crossover either. Think about the Acura MDX, the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes-Benz GL. These are all big, three-row crossovers that are globally successful (yes, even the MDX, which does sell in markets like Russia), and in the case of the MDX in Q7, they are a way to successfully leverage an existing architecture into something that can be sold at obscene mark-ups.

Cadillac would be foolish not to do this, if for no other reason than to leverage the profit potential at a tarted-up Lambda crossover. In the U.S, there is likely a price ceiling that they could charge for it, but you can bet that legions of affluent buyers would be clamoring for the chance to buy a more car-like big CUV from Cadillac. Given that the SRX is the sole Cadillac vehicle that doesn’t have over 100 day’s worth of inventory, it seems logical that another crossover would be a big seller. Why not kill off the Impala-based XTS entirely and replace it with a three-row CUV that can be sold to older customers and livery car services, as well as people who want something like an Escalade, but without the typical attributes of a BOF SUV (like reduced fuel economy and a more truck-like feel)? With the large car market tanking each passing year, getting out of a dying segment and into one that will be, at worst, stable in the next decade, makes a lot of sense.

And what about world markets? Take that price ceiling, multiply it 2-3x and that’s what you can charge for what is essentially a fancy Chevrolet Traverse. In China, a Buick Enclave sells for $81,000 USD – you can imagine what Cadillac would be able to charge for this kind of vehicle in the Chinese market, to say nothing of Russia, Brazil, Latin America and even India.

Assuming the marginal cost of turning a Lambda CUV into a Cadillac is low, the exercise seems like a slam dunk for GM. But we can’t always make these assumptions. Each individual business case is always a discrete entity, and trying to approach it with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality is a common fallacy in the world of automotive opinion writing. Even so, the case for a big Cadillac CUV seems to make sense – and GM’s track record of mis-managing Cadillac only furthers the thinking that cancelling this project is a mistake.

 

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Was The Government’s Divestment of GM Stock Insider Trading? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/was-the-governments-divestment-of-gm-stock-insider-trading/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/was-the-governments-divestment-of-gm-stock-insider-trading/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 14:43:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829450 Back in 2004, perfectionist homemaker and well known TV personality Martha Stewart was charged with insider trading. As presented, the facts in the case were simple. Martha owned stock in a medical research company called ImClone and, like a lot of people who invest in tech firms, she was hoping for a big payout when […]

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Department of the Treasury

Back in 2004, perfectionist homemaker and well known TV personality Martha Stewart was charged with insider trading. As presented, the facts in the case were simple. Martha owned stock in a medical research company called ImClone and, like a lot of people who invest in tech firms, she was hoping for a big payout when their product, a promising new cancer treatment, went on the market. Unfortunately, the FDA chose not to approve the drug and the value of the stock looked set to take a beating once the decision was announced. According to the charges initially brought against her, Martha and many of the company’s top executives learned of the FDA’s decision though their inside connections the day before it was publicly announced and were able to sell their shares before they crashed. That’s against the law and many of the people caught up in the scandal, including Martha who was convicted on the charge of making false claims to a federal investigator, ended up going to jail.

The above case is a useful example because it offers a clear cause-and-effect pattern and plays out along such a short timeline. Despite Martha’s protestations that she was innocent, the dots here appear to be easily connected. Most insider trading cases, however, require a little more imagination. The connections aren’t always so clear cut and sometimes the cases play out over a period of years. Take, for example, the US Government’s recent divestment of its massive amount of GM stock and the subsequent recall debacle that now threatens to drive that company’s stock prices through the floor. Coincidence? Some people think not.

Last December, the US Government sold its remaining shares in General Motors and ended a controversial bailout program that ultimately cost the American taxpayer something on the order $10 billion. At the time, the move puzzled many investment experts who argued that the government could have lessened its losses by simply holding onto the stock, which was trending upward at the time, and selling when its value was higher. It makes sense, right? The USG bought high and then sold low, even a novice investor like me knows that’s the opposite of what you’re supposed to do, so why not simply wait?

Recalled GM ignition switch

The move that looked so stupid then looks like genius today. In February of this year, just a couple months after the sale, GM announced the recall of 1.4 million cars for faulty ignition switches. In the months since, more GM vehicles have been recalled for other problems and, if you have been following the reports here on TTAC, you know that that the number of vehicles involved now exceeds GM’s total sales for the past 5 years! The question is did the government have inside knowledge that this was on the way? Well, evidence is emerging that GM had data going back to at least 2007 that the ignition switches were failing to function properly and the government’s own safety watchdog, the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute (NHTSA) shows the company was actively investigating the problem during the 2009 bailout. At some level, then, the government did know.

Whether or not the timing of the stock sale rises to the level of insider trading, however, remains to be seen. The US Government is bigger and more complex than most of us will ever know and the individual agencies don’t always communicate with one another with the efficiency we might expect. The NHTSA has an entirely different focus than the Treasury Department and the chances of their reports coming across the desk of the person charged with maintaining that portfolio are extremely small. Still, the appearance of malfeasance is enough to send the tin foil hat wearers into a frenzy and damage the public’s confidence in the markets. The matter needs to be looked into.

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Open Thread: GM’s Newspeak, Or How Culture Defines A Company http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/open-thread-gms-newspeak-or-how-culture-defines-a-company/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/open-thread-gms-newspeak-or-how-culture-defines-a-company/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 19:04:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=825089 Over at Jalopnik, Patrick George has uncovered an internal Powerpoint that sets out very clear guidelines for how recalls and other quality problems should be discussed. GM’s communications team has been prone to awkward outbursts before, but this takes things to an almost Orwellian level. GM employees are urged to avoid even mentioning the word […]

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Over at Jalopnik, Patrick George has uncovered an internal Powerpoint that sets out very clear guidelines for how recalls and other quality problems should be discussed. GM’s communications team has been prone to awkward outbursts before, but this takes things to an almost Orwellian level.

GM employees are urged to avoid even mentioning the word “problem”, instead calling it an “issue” or “condition” or “matter”. There’s a longer list of bad words, including “Kevorkianesque” and “brakes like an X car”. Rather than detail the whole thing, I want to pose this question: this whole thing is presumably an exercise in media and communications management, but what does it say about a company culture when it actively discourages discussing problems in a frank and honest manner? I personally think that we’ve reached a point where this kind of heavy-handed attitude – one that expects the public to be too stupid to unquestioningly buy into the company narrative – does not work any longer. And I’m sure that GM isn’t the only firm that does this – they just happened to get caught.

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Ask The Best And Brightest: How Do You Handle Recall And Service Bulletins? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ask-the-best-and-brightest-how-do-you-recall-handling-service-bulletins/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ask-the-best-and-brightest-how-do-you-recall-handling-service-bulletins/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 15:53:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=806346 Since arriving at TTAC, I have been continually challenged and impressed by the B&B. The knowledge, wisdom, and rather civil discourse that arrives in response to the so-called journalism I produce is awe inspiring, often. Thank you, B&B. I’ve also been tasked with handling the GM recall story, given my technical background and my familiarity […]

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Since arriving at TTAC, I have been continually challenged and impressed by the B&B. The knowledge, wisdom, and rather civil discourse that arrives in response to the so-called journalism I produce is awe inspiring, often. Thank you, B&B. I’ve also been tasked with handling the GM recall story, given my technical background and my familiarity with GM’s processes at the dealer level – but today, I want to turn the floor over to you.

A recent New York Times article, raised the notion of GM’s seemingly nonchalant responses to quality issues with their vehicles. It’s been my goal in covering this matter to be as objective possible and present as many primary sources as possible. Getting carried away with a story like this is easy, and in my opinion, the NYT does just that. There’s little to no context for the reader, and most people are unfamiliar with recall processes for any OEM, let alone GM.

The Times analysis of service bulletins was limited to General Motors. 

 

The article is centered around the letter from the NHTSA’s Frank Borris discussing GM’s responses to various safety recalls over recent years, a letter that apparently that came at GM executive Michael Robinson like a bolt out of the blue. Excluding the Cobalt ignition debacle, was GM truly surprised, rolling with the status quo until caught? Or are they particularly unique in their behavior?

Can we sit and point fingers at GM solely, or is this a common occurrence in daily operations at other manufacturers? My dealer experience ends with GM. Where does your experience begin? Work at a dealership with another automaker? Maybe you work in a similar engineering field, and have fought the wrath of bean counters? How do the other OEMs (Toyota, Ford, Honda…) mitigate product problems in practice, especially in the face of safety vs. costs? And how do they respond to field reports about product flaws?

Anonymous stories and tips can be emailed to Editors at ttac dot com

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EGR-equipped Buick Regal Hits 40 MPG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/egr-equipped-buick-regal-hits-40-mpg/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/egr-equipped-buick-regal-hits-40-mpg/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 10:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791809 The current Buick Regal is an excellent car. I know, because I have one parked in my garage (it’s sweet). Still, it could be better- and the guys at the SouthWest Research Institute (SWRI) have figured out a way to enhance the mid-range Buick so that it produces fewer harmful carbon emissions and gets better […]

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EGR Buick Regal Gets 40 MPG

The current Buick Regal is an excellent car. I know, because I have one parked in my garage (it’s sweet). Still, it could be better- and the guys at the SouthWest Research Institute (SWRI) have figured out a way to enhance the mid-range Buick so that it produces fewer harmful carbon emissions and gets better fuel economy.

Can’t beat that!

Far from being pie-in-the-sky thinking, however, the motivation for building this 40 MPG ultra low-emission Buick Regal comes out of necessity. Namely the 2025 CAFE regulations that will force automobile manufacturers to achieve a 54.5 miles per gallon EPA rating across their product range. At the same time, the EPA is also expected to release new, more stringent emissions standards in a bid to improve air quality and save lives. Those two factors mean there is considerable industry focus on improving both emissions and fuel efficiency without incurring huge R&D costs- and the EGR system built into the SWRI team’s 2014 Buick Regal might play a big part in that.

EGR, for those not in the know, stands for exhaust gas recirculation. In the case of the Buick Regal tester, the 2.0 Liter engine was modified so that exhaust from one dedicated cylinder is run with a rich mixture of fuel and air to reform hydrocarbon fuel into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The reformulated exhaust gas is then cooled and looped into a patented mixer where the exhaust gasses are mixed with fresh air before going into the engine intake. “By running one cylinder rich, the excess fuel is reformed into hydrogen and carbon monoxide,” added Chris Chadwell, manager of SWRI’s Spark Ignition Engine R&D section. “The in-cylinder reformation slightly reduces the carbon dioxide and water vapor while producing large volumes of carbon monoxide, which is a good fuel, and hydrogen, which is an outstanding fuel. That provides an octane boost and a flammability boost, and extends the EGR limit of the engine.”

It’s all pretty trick stuff, in other words- and it’s not that far away from being a production-ready piece. Let’s hope the next generation of Buick Regals- heck, let’s hope they build a new ROADMASTER!- has enough slick SWRI stuff on it to still be legal, then. In the meantime, you can check out an under hood shot of the SWRI EGR-equipped 2014 Buick Regal, below. Enjoy!

 

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Source | Photos: SWRI; Originally published on Gas 2.

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Subprime Lending Still On The Rise As GM Financial Grows Prime Lending Operations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/moodys-subprime-on-the-rise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/moodys-subprime-on-the-rise/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 20:05:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=780737 Subprime auto financing continues to grow, and while one analyst at Moody’s says that banks are largely staying out of the subprime space, overall lending continued to rise, with retail banks seeing some of the strongest growth. This expansion in lending, particularly subprime, was attributed as a key driver in auto sales. SNL cited forecasts for […]

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Subprime auto financing continues to grow, and while one analyst at Moody’s says that banks are largely staying out of the subprime space, overall lending continued to rise, with retail banks seeing some of the strongest growth. This expansion in lending, particularly subprime, was attributed as a key driver in auto sales. SNL cited forecasts for a SAAR of between 16 and 16.7 million in 2014, up from 15.5 million in 2013.

SNL Financial, a finance industry trade publication, directly attributed strong auto sales to the increase in subprime financing, drawing a connection between the increased SAAR and an increase the portfolios of subprime lenders. Consumer Portfolio Services Inc saw a 37 percent growth in receivables year-over-year, with over $1.2 billion in receivables for Q4 2014.

The increase in subprime lending along with looser underwriting standards has led ratings agencies to view the sector in a negative light. Fitch, which has issued a negative outlook in the sector as a whole, told SNL that overall, losses were at “historical lows” and that the increase in lenders will make the segment more competitive.

SNL also reports that Moody’s has cast an eye on underwriting standards, with Moody’s VP Mark Wasden stating that longer loan terms (due to higher prices, more durable cars and increased ownership periods) is a major factor.

While Wasden noted that banks were remaining “relatively conservative” regarding subprime lending, savings banks saw the biggest growth in overall lending among depository institutions, growing 16.06 percent year over year (compared to 11.24 percent for credit unions and 10.04 percent for commercial banks). Even so, commercial banks remained the dominant force, issuing $331.92 billion in loans, with savings banks accounting for just $21.49 billion.

Another notable development is the increasing reliance of GM Financial on General Motors – while this sounds redundant, General Motors vehicle financing now accounts from 70 percent of GM Financial’s business, and receivables have more than doubled to $33 billion in Q4 2013 from just $13 billion a few years ago. GM Financial, once known as AmeriCredit Corp, was largely a subprime focused business when GM bought it in 2010, but plans are underway to transition GM Financial to prime lending. While GM Financial is now stepping into the role that the legendary GMAC once occupied, Ally (GMAC’s successor), is shrinking from the auto lending market, suggesting a reversal of roles for GM’s two finance arms .

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Hammer Time: Rediscovering My Inner Jersey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-rediscovering-my-inner-jersey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-rediscovering-my-inner-jersey/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764689 114 car dealers. Every single last one of them looking for an impossibly good deal among the 150 vehicles at the auction on a near-Arctic Monday morning. Even if it’s a seemingly bad deal. It doesn’t matter during this time of year. This is officially tax season… which means that cars that couldn’t even get […]

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sev1

114 car dealers. Every single last one of them looking for an impossibly good deal among the 150 vehicles at the auction on a near-Arctic Monday morning.

Even if it’s a seemingly bad deal. It doesn’t matter during this time of year.

This is officially tax season… which means that cars that couldn’t even get a $500 down payment during the post-Christmas drought will soon be picked up in earnest by the sub-prime, debt happy public. A $1200 down payment as their first financial tombstone of 2014 will be followed by a long line of bogus fees, and a note that will hopefully be flipped into funny money (now known as sub-prime asset backed securities) before the drowning debtor becomes financial roadkill.

Everything is high. But surprisingly not as high as in years past. Orphaned brands are mostly cheap. Minivans are cheap, and everything from older luxury coupes to younger hatchbacks can be had for decent money if they’re not sporty or popular.

Speaking of popular. Let me show you a little somethin’.

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This 1980 Cadillac Seville is the King of Swing and the purveyor of all things cool.

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I’m not even sure if I can give this vehicle justice by these pics. Like a lot of older cars that are unfashionable but well cared for, this Seville has “it”.

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The paint is a perfect compliment to the design. Unlike the wretched vinyl tops, two tone medicine blues, and malaise era engines that made this car into a rolling joke, this Seville seems to be one of the few exceptions to the rule that was GM mediocrity.

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For starters, it’s an 80′ model with no smoke. Which means it ended up with a decent engine. The 6.0 Liter Cadillac V8 which produces… well… let’s just say it’s the best of the worst.

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The black interior and low seating position is designed for the future low riders of these models. You know. The ones who were busy listening to UTFO and the Breakin’ soundtrack instead of Snoopy and that Two-pack dude.

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That’s all original. I’m still not sure if it’s real wood or fake wood. Let’s just call it Cadillac wood and move on.

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Everything still works on this vehicle. The auto temp control. The radio. The instant mpg calculator which rarely goes above 25 mpg. It’s all there. Actually I was hitting around 28 mpg on that thing. But I’m not sure if that was due to the equipment getting some Imperial calculations between 1980 and today.

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93,000 miles. Original. Well, it is a repaint and I have  to work on a few wires (cough! cough!). When I saw it, I knew I would never see anything quite like it ever again. Time marches on and the unpopular rides of yesteryear get dumped into the hardcore and borderline psychopathic of car owners. I know enough of my fellow compatriots to realize that come hell or high bidding, I was going to have to buy this thing.

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So I did my usual trick. I hid in the back with my leather jacket and jeans against the cold cement wall. I saw my friend, the auctioneer, who knew me back when I was an auctioneer. He started at 3k. I made eye contact. Shucked two fingers onto my U2 leahter jacket. And quickly put them back in my pocket as my friend wailed, “Habadagive two grand! 21! I got money! 21! Habadagive 21!”

Except no one believed him. I had put in the bid within three seconds of his downward cadence from three grand, to two grand, to what was usually a grand opening bid. Most starting bids go down about $2000 to $3000 at the auctions before they head back up to where the sellable range is.

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This particular time, there would be no uptick.  After about five seconds of low ball signs of one finger (for $1000) and the words $1500 mouthed out to the auctioneer… the hammer fell. I had bought one of the last of the pseudo-luxurious mohicans for $2000 plus a $155 auction fee.

Was it a steal? Hell no! I bought it because I want to enjoy the experience of owning it, and then later, sell it to someone who will love it a bit more than yours truly. One of the first rules of the car business is, “Never fall in love.” So I’m going to play around with it for a few weeks, and then let it go to an enthusiast who will make this baby Caddy endure.

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Oh, one other thing. Cadillac may have screwed up their brand big-time throughout the 1980′s. From this Seville to the Allante, Cadillac was completely castrated during this time and I have no fondness for the bean counters and the Howdy Dowdy CEO who guided them during the Reagan Era.

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However this Fisher Body Seville, with an engine solely (and soul-ly) given to the Cadillac division represents a high mark within the low mark.

This downsized Seville rides just like one of those older, floaty Cadillacs from the 1970′s. It’s an amazing ride. Easy to steer, and a beauty to behold in the flesh.

I plan on selling it for $2500.

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Junkyard Find: 1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1992-oldsmobile-toronado-trofeo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1992-oldsmobile-toronado-trofeo/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754577 You like rare cars? How about a final-year-of-manufacture Olds Toronado Troféo? I’ll bet there aren’t more than a few hundred ’92 Troféos left in the world! Here’s one that I spotted last week at a snowy Denver self-service yard. I have an unhealthy obsession with the products of GM’s mid-80s-to-early-90s efforts to compete toe-to-toe with […]

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13 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou like rare cars? How about a final-year-of-manufacture Olds Toronado Troféo? I’ll bet there aren’t more than a few hundred ’92 Troféos left in the world! Here’s one that I spotted last week at a snowy Denver self-service yard.
08 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI have an unhealthy obsession with the products of GM’s mid-80s-to-early-90s efforts to compete toe-to-toe with German luxury marques (or at least drop the average age of Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac purchase from 96 to maybe 70 years old), and so I’m always happy to write about cars such as the Buick Reatta, Cadillac Allanté, and Olds Troféo. This car is the third Troféo in this series, after this ’89 and this ’90.
09 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven a 70-year-old in 1992 must have been aware that the Buick 3.8 V6 wasn’t exactly cutting-edge technology in the luxury-car world.
07 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLook, a driver’s-side airbag!
22 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAnd, depressingly, molded-in fake stitching on the not-quite-leather door panels.
20 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf this thing had had the touch-screen Visual Information Center, I’d have pulled it and bought it on the spot. Just analog gauges, though.
21 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith all its flaws, the ’92 Troféo has a certain amount of cool going for it.

Presented without comment.

01 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Editorial: Canada’s Auto Industry Is Hooked On Subsidies, And It Won’t End Well http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/editorial-chryslers-investment-demands-prove-that-canadas-auto-industry-is-hooked-on-subsidies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/editorial-chryslers-investment-demands-prove-that-canadas-auto-industry-is-hooked-on-subsidies/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739225 Just a few short years after the Canadian and Ontario government bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, a familiar scenario is playing out along Highway 401. Chrysler is reported to be negotiating with both the Ontario and Canadian federal government regarding subsidies for their Windsor assembly plant that builds the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town […]

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windsor

Just a few short years after the Canadian and Ontario government bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, a familiar scenario is playing out along Highway 401. Chrysler is reported to be negotiating with both the Ontario and Canadian federal government regarding subsidies for their Windsor assembly plant that builds the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans.

While auto makers like Ford and Toyota have received government money recently, the size and scope of the subsidies are said to be unprecedented. And according to reports, Chrysler is threatening to leave if they don’t get what they want. According to the Financial Post, Chrysler is looking for a total of $460 million (compared to the $71 million and $34 million received by Ford and Toyota respectively), which would represent about 20 percent of the planned $2.3 billion investment. Chrysler is said to be seeking funding for R&D work on the new vans, as well as money to revamp Windsor to a new flexible assembly plant that can build sedans, minivans and crossovers. Reports from the Windsor Star quote Ontario government officials as stating that they are in “serious negotiations” with Chrysler. When reached by TTAC Chrysler Canada refused to comment.

While the minivan market is shrinking in America, Windsor is still running flat-out, with three shifts running and both nameplates ranking among the top sellers in the segment. Chrysler is slated to transition one nameplate to a crossover while keeping the other as a traditional minivan. But Chrysler and CEO Sergio Marchionne have flip-flopped on this decision so many times that it’s tough to keep track of what was said last. As early as the end of January, Marchionne made comments that hinted at a secure future for Windsor at a launch sometime between 2015 and 2016 model years.

But the recent developments, as well as the expiration of Chrysler’s contract with Unifor (formerly the Canadian Auto Workers) could prove to create an opportunity for Chrysler to make a hasty exist from Windsor. The hardball talk is backed up by the very real fact that Chrysler has the capacity in other plants that could enable a move for their minivans. Mexico is one option, with production of the Fiat 500 moving to Poland and the Dodge Journey said to be leaving Mexico for Sterling Heights, Michigan. Either plant could be a candidate for minivan production, assuming the new vans ride on the CUSW architecture used for the Dart, Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee.

Both levels of government are captivated by a desire to keep Canada’s auto industry intact, even at great expense to the taxpayer, and Chrysler head Sergio Marchionne is likely banking on this. With elections looming in the next couple of years, Marchionne and his team know that the threat of moving production to the United States or Mexico is potent enough to get the governments to acquiesce to his demands. With roughly 4,700 jobs at Windsor, Chrysler is the town’s biggest employee, and crucial electoral districts are up for grabs as well.

The wrong decision could have political consequences in tightly contested elections at both the provincial and federal levels. The negotiations with Chrysler are occurring against a gloomy backdrop for the Canadian auto industry. Production levels have been on the decline, as a strong Canadian dollar, lower labor costs and generous incentives from other jurisdictions have made Canada an unpopular choice for new assembly plants. The lion’s share of new investment has gone to the United States and especially Mexico, which has seen a boom in auto assembly plants from Japanese and European auto makers.

While a recent slump in the Canadian dollar will help Canada’s overall export picture, it’s this author’s opinion that Canada’s auto industry will eventually meet the same fate as Australia’s. The Canadian auto market is roughly the same size as Australia, and though it does not have such a competitive and fragmented selection of brands, it does share Australia’s proximity to low-cost assembly locations that have reciprocal free-trade agreements. The Minivan may stay in Windsor, given the costs associated with moving production, and Marchionne’s prediliction for blusters. But it’s this author’s opinion that when the Vitality Commitment between General Motors and the Canadian government ends in 2016, the Oshawa assembly plants will close, ending a century-long tradition of auto assembly in that town.

The move will devastate an already vulnerable municipality, but every vehicle built in Oshawa is already built at another, lower-cost assembly plant, and GM CEO Dan Akerson made up his mind long ago, calling Canada “the most expensive place to build a car“. Like Windsor, the timing of the Oshawa closure could easily coincide with the expiration of the current CAW/Unifor labor agreement, allowing for a clean break.

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