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, 19 Dec 2014 14:00:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 OEMs Suspend Vehicle Sales In Russia Amid Volatile Currency Situation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/oems-suspend-vehicle-sales-in-russia-amid-volatile-currency-swings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/oems-suspend-vehicle-sales-in-russia-amid-volatile-currency-swings/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:02:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962674 With the Russian ruble experiencing a near collapse in value, multiple OEMs have decided to suspend sales of its vehicles in Russia. According to a statement sent to Just-Auto, GM’s Russian arm said “In view of the volatility of [the] rouble exchange rate and with the aim to manage its business risk, GM Russia has decided […]

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opelrussia-autoworld.com_

With the Russian ruble experiencing a near collapse in value, multiple OEMs have decided to suspend sales of its vehicles in Russia.

According to a statement sent to Just-Auto, GM’s Russian arm said

“In view of the volatility of [the] rouble exchange rate and with the aim to manage its business risk, GM Russia has decided to temporarily suspend wholesaling of vehicles to its dealers in Russia as of 16 December, 2014,” said a GM Europe statement emailed to just-auto. At the same time we confirm all Cadillac, Opel and Chevrolet vehicles already purchased by customers will be delivered on the agreed price. We are monitoring the situation.”

Bloomberg is reporting that Audi and Jaguar Land Rover have also suspended sales amid uncertainty in foreign exchange markets. Toyota, Volkswagen are set to adjust their prices in the near future to reflect the new exchange rates.

Russian auto sales have spiked in recent weeks as consumers sought to buy up hard assets to protect against a falling ruble. But the erosion on value of the Russian currency have left several OEMs exposed to currency risks. According to Bloomberg’s report, BMW could stand to lose as much as $135 million dollars due to the recent drop in the ruble.

 

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Editorial: It’s Too Late For Oshawa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/editorial-late-oshawa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/editorial-late-oshawa/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 19:56:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=956938 Not long ago, Canada was, according to ex-GM CEO Dan Akerson, the most expensive place in the world to build a car. A strong Canadian dollar meant that the cars and crossovers built at GM’s plants in Oshawa and Ingersoll, Ontario, weren’t as profitable as those built in the US or Mexico, where labor costs […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Not long ago, Canada was, according to ex-GM CEO Dan Akerson, the most expensive place in the world to build a car. A strong Canadian dollar meant that the cars and crossovers built at GM’s plants in Oshawa and Ingersoll, Ontario, weren’t as profitable as those built in the US or Mexico, where labor costs were significantly lower.

But  even a newly weakened Canadian dollar isn’t going to save Oshawa.

TTAC has been predicting the end of Oshawa for nearly two years, The Globe and Mail (Canada’s newspaper of record), has come around to this notion, citing similar logic as our previous reports – namely, that all of Oshawa’s product can be built at other factories, or is being moved away from Oshawa entirely.

While some products, like the Chevrolet Camaro, are being moved due to a change in architecture (the next-gen Camaro will be built in the same factory as its platform-mate, the Cadillac ATS), others are being moved due to labor costs (the popular Theta crossovers will be produced in Mexico and Tennessee) or contractual obligations (the next-generation Buick Regal is almost certainly being built at an under-utilized Opel factory in Germany). In the case of the W-Body Chevrolet Impala (sold as a fleet only vehicle) its lifespan is coming to an end, and with it, a dedicated assembly plant, the ancient Oshawa Consolidated Line, which has already been given one stay of execution.

The Oshawa Flex Line, on the other hand, is a modern assembly plant that can build everything from the Camaro to the new Impala to the Equinox CUV all on one line. But even that won’t be enough to save it from closing, not when every single product can be made cheaper in Mexico, in the Southern United States or at the UAW’s lower, two-tier wage scale. If it were not for the Vitality Commitment signed by GM, (which promised to maintain 16 percent of vehicle production in Canada in exchange for bailout funds), the plant would probably be closed by now.

Instead, the earliest GM can depart is 2016, and the plant’s closure will be a devastating blow to a town that is as invested in General Motors as Green Bay is the Packers. According to The Globe and Mail, 3,600 jobs would be lost from the Oshawa plants- good, full-time jobs that are badly needed in a region that is economically limping along after years of a rout in manufacturing.

But discussion of a moribund auto industry for Ontario is a bit of a stretch. Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Toyota have all made significant commitments to Canadian manufacturing in the same window of time that GM has continuously cut product from Oshawa. The weaker Canadian dollar and strong auto sales both in Canada and the United States will only help.

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Piston Slap: Fanning the Dakota’s Fail Flames for Cherokee LSX-FTW? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fanning-dakotas-fail-flames-cherokee-lsx-ftw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fanning-dakotas-fail-flames-cherokee-lsx-ftw/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 13:19:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=953801   TTAC Commentator anti121hero writes: Hello Sajeev! Very long time reader, but first time I’ve ever reached out. To start, I happen to be a huge RWD ford fan, (I’m actually helping my best friend put together his 94 mark viii). Now with your interest gained… I have a 1993 jeep cherokee, 2 door, 4.0 […]

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The Obvious Choice. (photo courtesy: forums.vwvortex.com)

TTAC Commentator anti121hero writes:

Hello Sajeev! Very long time reader, but first time I’ve ever reached out. To start, I happen to be a huge RWD ford fan, (I’m actually helping my best friend put together his 94 mark viii). Now with your interest gained…

I have a 1993 jeep cherokee, 2 door, 4.0 high output, AW4 trans. It has been a pleasure to own, as I’m a jeep guy at heart, and i have lots of money into well done suspension and offroad modifications, far too much to list. To be frank, I’m in love with the thing. But about two months ago, it started rattling at idle. I chalked it up to something in the engine bay or possibly flywheel bolts. It always ran and drove perfect.

All of a sudden, one day after leaving work it was slipping hard into gear, and a mile down the road I lost all gears. (Automatic “bulletproof” AW4). I checked all linkages, changed the fluid and filter, tried it in 4 wheel high and low, but nothing. It can run all day and the transmission wont get hot so I think the pump went out. So I bought a 1987 dodge dakota, carbureted 3.9 v6, AT 2wd for 700 bucks to drive while I hopefully swap a transmission in my jeep.

My problem now is, with a full tune up, all new filters, this Dakota idles extremely rough, it shakes and wants to die. It wants to stall going up hills. Other than that, the truck runs great and is a good beater. I don’t know what to do to fix this dodge to be more reliable, and if I should do the swap in my jeep or if I’m possibly looking at another problem with that. My goal would be to have my jeep as toy, and the truck as backup vehicle. I don’t know if maybe I’m thinking this out wrong and I should sell both and get something more reliable/ better shape, or focus on fixing one and selling the other. The truck is a beater and will only last a few more years, and will be a nightmare in winter being 2wd and carbureted. I guess I’m looking for some good professional advice here. Thank you for any input!

Sajeev answers:

You are in the same place I was before buying a new truck…except you’re working on a Mark VIII that you do not own.

I reckon you need a newer, more reliable, less shitty vehicle and have the Jeep as a weekend project/toy.  Because no man can live on project cars (or trucks) alone!  Unless you are chronically single and dependent free, work from home, have a time value of money equal to zero, etc.

But I find that hard to believe: everyone has commitments requiring a reliable vehicle.  So get a cheap-ish, fuel-efficient car that gives you plenty of monthly income (i.e. easy on insurance/gas) left over for your project. Get a FWD, compact-ish (depending on your physical size), mainstream Japanese, American or South Korean sedan for maximum cheapness. You might be a hard-core Mopar guy, so get a Neon.  They are fun. And you can probably fix most problems in a single weekend, for cheap.

Why so thrifty?  I think it’s time for a professionally rebuilt and/or upgraded trans for the Jeep.  Or better, swap to a GM transmission.  Or even better…wait for it…LSX-FTW SON!!!

The Neon, with the right tires will also be decent in the snow and most people hate them to the point that depreciation is right up your alley.  Tidy up and sell the Dakota.  Get a boring sedan so you can continue as a normal human on the weekdays, and a bad-ass Jeeper on the weekend.

That’s how you win at life.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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GM Recalls 988 Dealerships http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/gm-recall-988-dealerships/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/gm-recall-988-dealerships/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:44:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=947185 In an unprecedented move that has sent chills down the white-belted spines of American car dealers, General Motors has declared nearly 1,000 of its 4,355 US retailers as “unfit and downright dangerous” to its customers and will be recalled immediately. GM Vice-President of Franchise Dealer Relations Bentley Reuss said in a news conference in Detroit […]

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Closed Chevy Store Courtesy rekarchitects.con

In an unprecedented move that has sent chills down the white-belted spines of American car dealers, General Motors has declared nearly 1,000 of its 4,355 US retailers as “unfit and downright dangerous” to its customers and will be recalled immediately.

GM Vice-President of Franchise Dealer Relations Bentley Reuss said in a news conference in Detroit today that the manufacturer was, “equally concerned about our customers’ emotional and mental well-being as we were with their physical health when we did the ignition recall. When GM dealers berate car buyers, throw the keys to the their trades on the roof and fail to disclose products like Lifetime Tire Nitrogen on their contracts, it hurts our mutual clients.”

Reuss noted that an independent survey of recent buyers of GM products identified 988 dealers who handled the sales process poorly. Reuss was quick to point out this was not a termination of the affected retailers’ dealer agreements as that would be prohibited by state auto dealers franchise laws. “We had a ton of our recall lawyers about to bolt to Takata,” said Reuss. “We put them to work reviewing the state laws and they found there was nothing prohibiting a manufacturer from recalling a dealer when customer’s mental health was put in danger by a dealer.”

When asked about why this groundbreaking action was taken, in spite of the company’s excellent showing in the recent J. D. Power Sales Satisfaction survey, Reuss laughed and said, “You mean J.D. Monopoly? We and our dealers control that survey 100%. Let’s just say that it is amazing what free oil changes can do. We did our own independent survey which yielded accurate results.”

Reuss admitted that the dealer abuse of car buyers had been going on “for some time” but that GM senior management was never told about it until earlier this year and that the person in charge of customer satisfaction initiatives has been fired.

Empty-Car-Lot-Courtesy aldersonarts.com

Reaction from the recalled dealers was predictable. Said David White, owner of Brandywine Chevrolet in suburban Philadelphia, “Its ironic that when business is bad, GM wants you to move the iron at any cost, customer satisfaction be damned.  We’ve sold a ton of cars for Chevy and this is the thanks we get. The funny thing is that our local GM factory guy was in my office when the announcement came out and he was not told about it. It didn’t stop him from trying to sell us some of those crappy Volts, though.”

Recalled dealers’ inventory will be shipped to the nearest same-franchise dealership, with the exception of the Corvette which will be redistributed at “the local Zone Manager’s discretion,” said Reuss.

Reuss noted that their review also uncovered 28 Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Saab stores still in operation despite the elimination of those franchises in the late 2000’s. Those retailers will be terminated rather than recalled. “Those dealerships were actually showing great customer satisfaction numbers so we are sad to see them go. Again,” said Reuss.

Tesla stock rose on the GM recall news, though founder Elon Musk said, “There goes our plans to partner with Cadillac next year to sell our cars.”

If you couldn’t already tell, this is a satirical article. -Ed.

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Los Angeles 2014: Next Chevrolet Volt Partially Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-next-chevrolet-volt-partially-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-next-chevrolet-volt-partially-revealed/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:13:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948697 You’ll have to wait until Detroit to see the Full Monty. So far, we know that the Volt will have a larger 1.5L engine and an electric drive unit weighing 100 lbs less than the current one. No word on range figures or whether the price will come down.

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Chevy-Volt-Teaser

You’ll have to wait until Detroit to see the Full Monty.

So far, we know that the Volt will have a larger 1.5L engine and an electric drive unit weighing 100 lbs less than the current one. No word on range figures or whether the price will come down.

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Chronicling The Captiva Sport’s Brief U.S. Sales History http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/chronicling-captiva-sports-brief-u-s-sales-history/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/chronicling-captiva-sports-brief-u-s-sales-history/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:26:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=944961 The esteemable Jack Baruth backed one up toward an odd-looking statue back in March. Sales then boomed in April and May. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. In truth, Jack was no fan of the Chevrolet Captiva Sport he rented earlier this year, saying, “It won’t strike the desirability chord in anyone’s heart,” and, “This is […]

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Captiva import?The esteemable Jack Baruth backed one up toward an odd-looking statue back in March. Sales then boomed in April and May.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

In truth, Jack was no fan of the Chevrolet Captiva Sport he rented earlier this year, saying, “It won’t strike the desirability chord in anyone’s heart,” and, “This is a car to avoid at all costs.”

Fleet buyers, including most especially the rental car companies in the United States, did not avoid the Captiva Sport. They flocked to the reclothed Saturn Vue in large numbers.

Nevertheless, as was reported on these pages earlier this month after a virtual disappearance from GM’s sales reports in September and October, GM is done with the Chevrolet Captiva Sport. The upcoming Trax will, in addition to potentially satisfying some potential Buick Encore buyers who would rightly spend less money, also cater to rental companies in the Captiva Sport’s stead.

Now that it’s gone, consider just how many of these overweight but not completely unpleasant SUVs were sold: 7038 in the final quarter of 2011; another 36,935 in 2012; 47,600 more in 2013. Through the first seven months of 2014, before GM began running out the clock, Captiva Sport volume was up 22% to 33,308 units. The Captiva Sport’s best ever month was May 2014, when sales shot up 22% to 6204 units. On four occasions, more than 5000 were sold in a single month. Through the first five months of 2014, the Captiva Sport ranked 29th overall among SUVs and crossovers, ahead of some 60 different nameplates.


These aren’t insignificant figures. In other words, there’s a reason you see’em around. Even after two months in which only 74 were sold, the Captiva Sport’s year-to-date figures at the end of October show a vehicle which sold as often as the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Nissan Juke; nearly as often as the surging Kia Sportage; 38% more often than the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport; 69% more often than the Volkswagen Tiguan.

The Captiva Sport, like the Vue which came before it, is not the kind of vehicle that will stand out in our memory for its goodness or popularity. But as a fleet-only experiment, obsessive observers of the auto industry will hark back to the Captiva Sport’s presence in the U.S. market as a means of justifying that Nissan should sell a Rogue and a Rogue Select, that the current Impala should stay on board when they introduce an eleventh-gen sedan, and that the W124 E-Class should still be on sale today.

The Captiva Sport was an anomaly, the kind of vehicle we’ll re-eulogize the next time a brand is killed off. And in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t rare.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Comes Packed With Technology And Stuff http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2015-chevrolet-colorado-comes-packed-technology-stuff/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2015-chevrolet-colorado-comes-packed-technology-stuff/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:12:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938273 TTAC  reader (and former GM employee) Mikey alerted me to this video, which I missed, due to promptly shutting off the TV after the Kansas City Royals lost the World Series. Chevrolet’s Rikk Wilde (who, a source informs me, is a regional manager, not a Sales and Marketing exec), who is clearly nervous about appearing […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC  reader (and former GM employee) Mikey alerted me to this video, which I missed, due to promptly shutting off the TV after the Kansas City Royals lost the World Series.

Chevrolet’s Rikk Wilde (who, a source informs me, is a regional manager, not a Sales and Marketing exec), who is clearly nervous about appearing on national TV, flubs his lines spectacularly when presenting World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner with a brand new Chevrolet Colorado, telling him that it comes “packed with technology and stuff”.

It would be easy to pile on and lambaste Wilde for his performance, and one could argue that as part of his job duties, he should be more comfortable appearing on camera. But as someone who once completely froze and walked out of a room in a cold sweat during a speaking gig, I recognize the rapid breathing and stilted delivery, and can only feel empathy.

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GM’s Big Crossovers vs. GM’s Big SUVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gms-big-crossovers-vs-gms-big-suvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gms-big-crossovers-vs-gms-big-suvs/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:41:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935722 General Motors has sold 189,354 copies of its big Lambda-platform crossovers in the United States this year. Combined sales of the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia have risen by a scant 137 units through the first nine months of 2014. GM’s six full-size, body-on-frame, pickup-based SUVs, on the other hand, have collectively increased […]

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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe whiteGeneral Motors has sold 189,354 copies of its big Lambda-platform crossovers in the United States this year. Combined sales of the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia have risen by a scant 137 units through the first nine months of 2014.

GM’s six full-size, body-on-frame, pickup-based SUVs, on the other hand, have collectively increased their U.S. volume by 22%, a gain of 32,652 sales, to 183,080 units in total.

These nine nameplates have generated 17% of GM’s 2.2 million year-to-date sales.

Examining each nameplate individually reveals multiple storylines wrapped inside the hefty numbers.

Enclave sales reached record highs in 2013, and 2014’s 1% decrease, if it holds, should still translate to the nameplate’s second-best year in the model’s eight-year history.

The Traverse hasn’t been around as long – 2014 will be its sixth full year on the market – but it’s the highest-volume Lambda product, accounting for 42% of the trio’s sales. Traverse volume has risen 6% this year to 79,560 units through nine months. Year end volume should reach a three-year high but it’s unlikely the Traverse will match its 2011 record-high levels.

GM SUV crossover sales chart 2014 Like the Enclave, the Acadia also produced best-ever sales in 2013, but 2014 sales are down 5.3%. Year end volume should top 80,000 units for the just the second time since the Acadia went on sale in late 2006.

Among the fresh-faced, truck-based SUVs in GM’s portfolio, long-wheelbase variants account for 37% of the sextuplet’s year-to-date volume. The Tahoe and Suburban are the two volume leaders, with 70,528 and 38,588 sales in 2014’s first nine months. These big SUVs aren’t quite as readily available as the big crossovers, which all possess abundant inventory. The Escalade and Escalade ESV, in particular, are rather rare, with just 25 days of supply as of the beginning of October.

So, Lambda wins the family fight? Not so fast. While through nine months the crossover trio has outsold the GMT900/K2XX family, that wasn’t the case in July and August, and they outsold the big SUVs by only 225 units in September. Third-quarter sales of the Escalade, Escalade ESV, Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, and Yukon XL shot up to 72,216 units. The Acadia, Enclave, and Traverse managed 65,989 third-quarter sales.

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Piston Slap: Cooling to the MAXX? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-dex-cool-maxx-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-dex-cool-maxx-part-ii/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:40:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937498   CJ writes: My name’s CJ I have a 04 (Malibu MAXX) with a 3.5 V6 and I have the same problem with the car running hot (as Part I) but here’s the kicker :when the a/c is on the it runs normal, completely normal under both situations.  I’m thinking fan switch, but the radiator sounds […]

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>>>Insert Greenhouse Joke Here<<<

 

CJ writes:

My name’s CJ I have a 04 (Malibu MAXX) with a 3.5 V6 and I have the same problem with the car running hot (as Part I) but here’s the kicker :when the a/c is on the it runs normal, completely normal under both situations.  I’m thinking fan switch, but the radiator sounds plausible. What’s your take and is there something in between all this that I’m forgetting?

Sajeev answers:

Oh Dex Cool, how you keep my coffers full of automotive queries!  I shall never go hungry as long as the metal forced to circulate you, oh Dex Cool, continue to roam this land.

Keep in mind there’s two fans on this vehicle, one is a secondary blower (sucker?) to help when the A/C kicks on. (Remember kids, the A/C condenser is in front of the radiator.) Which begs the question, does your primary fan work?

Let’s assume the primary fan works, otherwise the engine woulda overheated and warped itself by now.  Warped like an overheated I-6 Supra or 3.8L V6 Ford, that is. If the secondary fan is needed to assist the primary, all signs point to a clogged radiator. Just like Part I: the solution is a new radiator and a cooling system flush to get the gunk associated with Dex Cool out of the system.

Or maybe I’m just lazy, as recycling answers is a sweet way to make the nut.

And with that bizarre ending, off to the Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

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Chart Of The Day: Buick’s Fast Fall And Steady Rise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chart-day-buicks-fast-fall-steady-rise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chart-day-buicks-fast-fall-steady-rise/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 11:53:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934266 Through the first nine months of 2014, U.S. Buick volume is up 8% to 170,764 units, nearly 50,000 sales back of Lexus, sales of which have risen 16%. Though Buick, the 19th-best-selling auto brand in America, trails Lexus, the 18th-best-selling brand, by a wide margin, Buick has opened up a wide lead over America’s three […]

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Buick historical sales chartThrough the first nine months of 2014, U.S. Buick volume is up 8% to 170,764 units, nearly 50,000 sales back of Lexus, sales of which have risen 16%. Though Buick, the 19th-best-selling auto brand in America, trails Lexus, the 18th-best-selling brand, by a wide margin, Buick has opened up a wide lead over America’s three next-best-selling brands, Audi, Cadillac, and Acura. 

Three-quarters of 2014 tells us only a very little bit about Buick’s recent history. Compared with 2002, when today’s COTD begins, only one Buick nameplate still exists. And while Buick owned 2.6% of the overall U.S. market in 2002 – and GM 28.6% – Buick’s market share through the first three-quarters of 2014 stands at 1.4%.

Buick marketed four cars and an SUV in 2002; three cars and two crossovers from opposite ends of the size spectrum in 2014. Buick’s collapse began long before the size of the U.S. auto industry began to dramatically shrink in the latter portion of 2008. Buick sales slid 22% in 2003. (The four brands which currently sell in the most Buick-like numbers all posted increases in 2003, as the market fell 1%.) Between 2002 and 2007, Buick volume shrunk by 57% as the market slid 4%.

Since 2009’s crash, however, Buick’s U.S. sales have more than doubled, far greater than the growth achieved by the industry as a whole, which at approximately 60% could make 2014 the highest-volume calendar year since 2006.

Buick’s climb back up the leaderboard is not occurring as quickly as did its slide down the leaderboard a decade ago. Of course, we don’t expect Buick to sell more than 160,000 copies of something like the Century in 2014. GM has Buick’s sights set higher. (Granted, Buick generates 41% of its U.S. volume with its entry-level models, the Verano and Encore, but that’s down from the 47% produced by the Century and Regal in 2002.)

Buick passenger car sales are up 0.3% to 88,410 units in 2014. Enclave sales have fallen 1% to 45,921. Encore volume is up 59% to 36,433. Encore aside, Buick sales would be up by 221 units this year, a 0.2% gain.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Canadian General Motors Plant Hit By Wildcat Strike http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/canadian-general-motors-plant-hit-wildcat-strike/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/canadian-general-motors-plant-hit-wildcat-strike/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:44:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=921418 A wildcat strike at GM’s CAMI plant briefly shut down the assembly plant where the GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox are produced. The strike lasted a mere 2.5 hours. According to the QMI news agency “…a worker at the plant said the incident started in the morning when [a worker] was raising a concern with a […]

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A wildcat strike at GM’s CAMI plant briefly shut down the assembly plant where the GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox are produced.

The strike lasted a mere 2.5 hours. According to the QMI news agency

“…a worker at the plant said the incident started in the morning when [a worker] was raising a concern with a plant supervisor and was ordered to leave the plant along with another union official.

The worker said the walkout affected production at the plant which is running at capacity with three shifts, six days a week.”

The worker in question, Mike van Boekel, is the unit chairperson for Unifor Local 88. He told QMI that as part of the terms of the settlement, he has been asked not to speak about the incident.

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GM, Isuzu Back In LUV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-isuzu-back-in-luv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-isuzu-back-in-luv/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:40:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=920154 Isuzu and GM agreed to develop a next-generation mid-size pickup for world markets, though Canada and the United States will get their own distinct model under the terms of the agreement. Although GM has held as much of 49 percent of Isuzu’s equity, the tie-up was wound down in 2006. The two companies have a […]

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Isuzu and GM agreed to develop a next-generation mid-size pickup for world markets, though Canada and the United States will get their own distinct model under the terms of the agreement.

Although GM has held as much of 49 percent of Isuzu’s equity, the tie-up was wound down in 2006. The two companies have a long history of collaboration on trucks, starting with the Chevrolet LUV and continuing through the current Isuzu D-Max, which shares a significant amount of technology with the current GM mid-size trucks.

The next-generation truck will be important for markets like Thailand and Australia, where mid-size pickups play a role akin to America’s full-size trucks.

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Cadillac Moving Headquarters To NYC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/cadillac-moving-headquarters-nyc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/cadillac-moving-headquarters-nyc/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:52:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=917266 Cadillac will move its headquarters to New York City’s SoHo district, in a bid to establish itself as a distinct business unit and luxury brand, and put more distance between it and parent company General Motors. Roughly 120 people in sales and marketing functions will be posted to New York City, while the remaining staff […]

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Cadillac will move its headquarters to New York City’s SoHo district, in a bid to establish itself as a distinct business unit and luxury brand, and put more distance between it and parent company General Motors.

Roughly 120 people in sales and marketing functions will be posted to New York City, while the remaining staff in design, engineering, R&D and product development will remain in the Detroit area.

While Reuters reported on the story, along with a host of other outlets, The Daily Kanban was the first to report the development back in August. Citing anonymous sources inside GM, Bertel Schmitt reported that such a move would take place, as well as Cadillac CEO Johann De Nysschen’s proclivity for moving both Audi and Infiniti to newer, swankier digs in Washington, D.C. and Hong Kong respectively.

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Cadillac’s RWD Flagship Is Going Into Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/cadillacs-rwd-flagship-going-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/cadillacs-rwd-flagship-going-production/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:48:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915258 Cadillac confirmed that a rear-drive flagship would go into production next year at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. In a statement released to the media, Cadillac boss Johan De Nysschen said “The objective for this upcoming model is to lift the Cadillac range by entering the elite class of top-level luxury cars. Currently in development, this new […]

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Cadillac confirmed that a rear-drive flagship would go into production next year at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

In a statement released to the media, Cadillac boss Johan De Nysschen said

“The objective for this upcoming model is to lift the Cadillac range by entering the elite class of top-level luxury cars. Currently in development, this new rear wheel drive-oriented sedan uses completely new, custom-designed materials on a unique vehicle architecture.”

Riding on the all-new Omega rear-drive platform, the car will be unveiled in the first half of 2015. Styling is said to be inspired by the Elmiraj show car that won critical acclaim at its 2013 debut at Pebble Beach.

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De Nysschen Says Cadillac Will Stick With Pricing Strategy, Confirms New York City Move http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/de-nysschen-says-cadillac-will-stick-pricing-strategy-confirms-new-york-city-move/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/de-nysschen-says-cadillac-will-stick-pricing-strategy-confirms-new-york-city-move/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:03:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913314 Cadillac’s aggressive pricing strategy is here to stay, according to the brand’s new chief, Johan De Nysschen, and if he has his way, there won’t be major incentives to help juice sales either. Speaking to Automotive News, De Nysschen said “We cannot deny the fact that we are leaving behind our traditional customer base…It will take […]

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Cadillac’s aggressive pricing strategy is here to stay, according to the brand’s new chief, Johan De Nysschen, and if he has his way, there won’t be major incentives to help juice sales either.

Speaking to Automotive News, De Nysschen said

“We cannot deny the fact that we are leaving behind our traditional customer base…It will take several years before a sufficiently large part of the audience who until now have been concentrating on the German brands will find us in their consideration set. Either you have to bring your volume aspirations into alignment with reality and accept that you will sell fewer cars, or you have to drop the price and continue to transact at the prices where you were historically. I think the logical conclusion is that it’s better to build off a very solid base in terms of [product] credibility, charge a fair price for the car and realize you have to wait until the volume comes,”

 

De Nysschen’s strategy is partly based on the playbook he used at Audi, where he oversaw a gradual, deliberate climb from an obscure luxury arm of Volkswagen into Tier 1 luxury brand status, through a combination of engineering, marketing and a focus on interior and exterior design.

The story of Audi is unique due to the fact that it stands in stark contrast to the desire for rapid short-term results in many corners of the auto industry. It’s tempting to think of Audi as an overnight success story, but the reality could not be more different. De Nysschen is hoping to emulate that same pattern of growth, but that will require a fair amount of latitude from GM management, and the commitment to a longer-term vision that has not always been present at the auto maker. De Nysschen also confirmed that some functions will move to New York City, though details were unclear.

According to De Nysschen, he will have a hand in all functions of the brand, from engineering to design to product planning to dealer development. In the short-term, he must deal with relatively poor sales for the brand’s ATS and CTS sedans, ballooning inventories and a pricing strategy that has the new sedans competing head to head with the German brands in terms of sticker price. De Nysschen is willing to play the long game on this last front – but he’ll have to count on GM’s buy-in at every step of the way for it to work.

 

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Generating Content http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/generating-content/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/generating-content/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:16:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913042 A heretofore unknown publication dubbed Gadget Review published a video outlining  “How to Charge BMW’s i3 Electric Car in a Desert (or Any Where)” using a Honda generator. I’m sure that somebody somewhere thought that this would be a great concept for “shareable” content (including the part where the host attempts to run the generator […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

A heretofore unknown publication dubbed Gadget Review published a video outlining  “How to Charge BMW’s i3 Electric Car in a Desert (or Any Where)” using a Honda generator. I’m sure that somebody somewhere thought that this would be a great concept for “shareable” content (including the part where the host attempts to run the generator inside the vehicle). The actual idea didn’t yield a ton of juice for the i3’s battery, but the idea of using generators to assist EV charging isn’t entirely unknown.

Long before the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s EV experimented were far cruder, and involved, you guessed it, Honda generators rigged to battery packs as an ersatz range extender. According to a former GM engineer and friend of TTAC, the generator would kick in as the batteries depleted themselves, allowing the prototype vehicle (a Geo Storm) to recharge the batteries and make its way home. “Some of those guys ended up working on the EV1 and are still at GM,” he told us. “I bet that’s where the inspiration for the Volt came from.”

This begs the question – why not just get the i3’s optional from the get-go, and avoid this problem altogether?

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Bark’s Bites: When I Say Kappa, You Say… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/barks-bites-when-i-say-kappa-you-say/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/barks-bites-when-i-say-kappa-you-say/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:33:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912490 In 2006, GM had a winner on its hands. In fact, they’d had the idea of a winner since at least 2002, when the Solstice concept car was shown at the NAIAS in both convertible and coupe form. The concept, however, was based on the Delta platform, later seen in the infamous Ion, Cobalt, and […]

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Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe
In 2006, GM had a winner on its hands. In fact, they’d had the idea of a winner since at least 2002, when the Solstice concept car was shown at the NAIAS in both convertible and coupe form. The concept, however, was based on the Delta platform, later seen in the infamous Ion, Cobalt, and G5. In order for the car to actually come to production as a rear-wheel driver roadster, a new platform would be required.

Enter the Kappa.

The Kappa platform was designed with a Corvette’s soul—including hydroformed rails and the Y platform’s backbone central tunnel design. The result was a car so terrifyingly capable, especially the Pontiac Solstice with the Z0K performance option, that it inspired Mazda to offer a trunk kit for the Miata to keep it from getting stomped by the Solstice in Showroom Stock B racing and C Stock autocross. The only complaint about the car from most enthusiasts was its lack of power—it came with a 177 HP, 2.4 liter Ecotec four cylinder engine.

So, not long after the debut of the Solstice and it’s sister, the Saturn Sky, GM introduced a GXP/Red Line version of each car with a turbocharged 2.0 liter engine that made 260 HP and 260 lb-ft of torque. Oh, hello. Of course, GM wouldn’t be GM unless they did something stupid like not make the Z0K kit available right away (which they didn’t) and pair it with a truck transmission that topped out around 52 MPH in second gear (which they did). Still, the additional power of the turbocharged motor made the Kappas competitve not just with the Miata, but with S2000s. The 2.0 also had massive potential in the hands of tuners, who unlocked enough power to make the Solstice GXP competitve with modded Evos and M3s at the autocross and track.

Unfortunately, the Kappas were not particularly well made. I personally remember seeing a fellow autocross competitor pull the door handle right off of his Solstice GXP at the 2009 SCCA National Championships—he was forced to enter and exit the car Dukes of Hazzard style for the rest of the week. Interior trim pieces rattled like a baby toy. The top was legendarily tough to get up and down, and storage space was nil.

And, of course, all this happened at pre-bailout GM. When Obama decided to shut down Pontiac and Saturn, the Kappa died along with them…or did it?

Tauro Spider

Not many people know that the Kappa car lives on today. GM sold the Kappa platform to a Spanish car company called Tauro. Tauro took the Kappa platform, made it undeniably gorgeous, shoved an 6.2 liter LS3 V-8 in it, and they’ll supercharge it up to 650 HP for you if you’d like, all for a mere 100,000 Euros. Of course, you’d have a hard time finding anybody who’s ever bought one. Or seen one. Rumor has it that they do exist, though.

But what if? I mean, the new GM is supposed to be light years better than the old GM, right? The C7 Corvette is certainly a winner (granted, so was the C6). The new Impala is fantastic. What if they could take some of that New GM magic and apply it to the Kappa platform? What if they didn’t just take parts from whatever bin they could find (the original Solstice shared a steering wheel with the G5, for example), but actually put together a serious Miata fighter? The space is wide open. Nobody other than Mazda is making an affordable roadster. And despite being built with the same quality control that I used when I put together my son’s train table, the original Kappa was pretty much a sell out.

Come on, GM. Bring it back. You can rebuild it. You have the technology. Make it better. Stronger. Faster. You were so close the first time.

And I even know what to call it: The 2016 Chevy Monza Spider. Or Maybe not.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-chevrolet-traverse-lt-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-chevrolet-traverse-lt-awd/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=902794 My, haven’t you matured. You’re a few years removed from realizing that a society’s population must grow if it is to thrive over the long haul. Yet instead of traditional government tactics like recruiting doctors from the other side of the Atlantic and engineers from the other side of the Pacific, you made the hilarious […]

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2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWDMy, haven’t you matured.

You’re a few years removed from realizing that a society’s population must grow if it is to thrive over the long haul. Yet instead of traditional government tactics like recruiting doctors from the other side of the Atlantic and engineers from the other side of the Pacific, you made the hilarious decision to utilize an in-house solution.

You’ve expanded the population all right. By way of the womb.

Child number one brought with him a surprising amount of stuff. Child number two takes up a lot of space, as well. But it’s the third and fourth kids that suddenly made the first bungalow and the first CR-V seem so very small.

Odds are, you’re not about to buy a minivan.

In July, Americans registered 46,519 new minivans. The Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, and Dodge Durango combined for 53,467 sales. (Another 12,649 sales were generated by premium three-row crossovers from Acura, BMW, Infiniti, and Audi.)

And then there are the very popular Lambda platform crossovers from General Motors. Of the three, the Chevrolet Traverse stands out as the most likely minivan comparison tool because of its lower base price: $31,870 for an LS front-wheel-drive Traverse, $34,745 to add all-wheel-drive, $40,565 for an AWD Traverse 2LT with rear seat entertainment.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD profileOn paper, none of the three three-row crossovers which sell more often than the Traverse in the United States encourage as favourable a comparison with the ultimate family vehicle, the minivan. The Traverse offers greater available cargo space behind the third row, second row, and first row than the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot.

Not much wonder. The Traverse is 6.6 inches longer than the Explorer, 12.6 inches longer than the Highlander, and 12.3 inches longer than the Pilot. It’s longer than the Dodge Grand Caravan, as well, and comes within three-tenths of an inch of stretching as far as the Chevrolet Tahoe from bumper to bumper.

Traverses can also tow in quite a truck-like fashion, with a maximum rating of 5200 pounds, slightly more than the Explorer and Highlander; 700 pounds more than the Pilot.

The Traverse is more.

But as we know, less is actually sometimes more, and bigger is not always better.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT rearThe third row in the Traverse that GM Canada sent our way in August is more challenging to access than the third row in the Nissan Pathfinder, in part because of the Traverse’s flimsy second row levers. It’s roomy enough back there for typical third row occupants, but the seats themselves are torturous little items, hard and flat afterthoughts in what should be a contemporary minivan alternative.

Second row passengers are granted more space and comfort. Our test Traverse didn’t have the expansive glass roof, however, so one glance up reveals a fuzzy headliner. (One look around also reveals great deal of unfortunate grey-beige.)

For the driver and front passenger, there’s no arguing with the comfort level in highway cruise mode. This is a huge cabin with very adjustable seats. But almost all of the controls felt as though they were mounted too low, particularly in comparison to the very intelligent design of the latest Toyota Highlander’s cabin, where the screen is mounted high, a shelf holds items you want to easily grab hold of, and a massive centre bin swallows the lunch order for a family of eight.

GM’s MyLink is still slow, a trait which was admittedly exacerbated by the fact that during the Traverse’s stay, I also spent time with a Tesla Model S’s fast-acting touchscreen.

It’s not that there are any great complaints regarding the Traverse’s on-road behaviour. The ride quality could be slightly firmer, just enough to remove a hint of float. There’s something to be said for the way a modern near-5000-pound high-rider can handle. If 3000-pound sedans had made these kinds of advances over the last 15 years we’d be in awe. Even the brakes offer real bite, and the 281-horsepower 3.6L/6-speed automatic combo never struggles to adequately motivate the Traverse. More low-down torque would be appreciated, as thoroughly wringing out the V6 to locate that adequate motivation feels somewhat out of character for this not-a-minivan.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD interiorIn fact, the most significant dynamic issue isn’t found under the hood or near the wheels, it’s in the cabin. The steering wheel is pencil-thin, as if GM is saying, “You were never going to have fun piloting this behemoth, so we’ve made sure the steering wheel reminds you of the least sporting Oldsmobile you’ve ever driven.”

So the Traverse is vast, it doesn’t need to be expensive, and it remains surprisingly composed in motion. It nevertheless feels like a product designed as a Saturn Outlook for an introduction in late 2006. That was a while ago.

There’s a cheapness to the often-touched interior parts that’s out of keeping with the huge cabin quality increases we’ve seen over the last seven years. That roughness around the edges – from the gravelly second row seat operation to the crude operation of the driver’s armrest and a sliding panel in the centre console – would disappoint in a vehicle of any price.

Even with the 2013 redesign, the Traverse looks like a bloated second-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, which wasn’t ugly, but isn’t exactly current.

Although the fuel economy our Traverse achieved during a mostly low-speed week on the highway easily beat its EPA ratings, the all-wheel-drive Traverse is rated at 16 mpg in the city. The Pathfinder is rated at 19; the Highlander and stretched Santa Fe at 18. Consuming between 12% and 19% more fuel in city driving isn’t a way of winning friends, nor will it positively influence buyers.

The Traverse is undeniably showing signs of age. That it remains relatively competitive is perhaps a symbol of some level of inherent goodness. It may also relate to the idea that, for many family car buyers, bigger is simply better. Though you may frequently have doubts about how accurately that maxim applies to the size of your own family.

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Bill Mitchell’s Swan Song: The Phantom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/bill-mitchells-swan-song-phantom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/bill-mitchells-swan-song-phantom/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=897690 Since it was the last design of consequence that General Motors design chief Bill Mitchell oversaw, Wayne Kady’s 1980 Cadillac Seville is thought by some to be the ultimate expression of Mitchell’s design philosophy. No doubt Mitchell was a fan of what he called the “London look”, and the ’80 Seville had that in spades: a classic […]

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Since it was the last design of consequence that General Motors design chief Bill Mitchell oversaw, Wayne Kady’s 1980 Cadillac Seville is thought by some to be the ultimate expression of Mitchell’s design philosophy. No doubt Mitchell was a fan of what he called the “London look”, and the ’80 Seville had that in spades: a classic vertical grille, a bustle shaped rear end, a raked C pillar and a long hood. When accused of borrowing the bustle-back from a contemporary Lincoln, Mitchell reportedly got indignant and said that he stole it from Rolls-Royce, not the cross-town competition in Dearborn. However, while Mitchell went to bat for the controversial Seville design over the objections of Cadillac management, the Seville was not the ultimate expression of his personal taste.

That ultimate expression can instead be seen in a car that never made it to production and in fact was treated a bit like a step-child by GM brass. While the Seville’s razor sharp edges are justifiably associated with Mitchell, something that distinguished GM cars in the 1960s from what Michael Lamm calls Harley Earl’s “Rubenesque” ethos of the mid to late 1950s, the fact is that Mitchell loved the sweeping and elegant look of cars from the late 1930s. The first two cars that he oversaw at GM were the 1938 Cadillac Sixty Special and the 1941 Cadillac. Neither of those cars has a single creased edge.

1980 Cadillac Seville

1980 Cadillac Seville

His favorite cars were the custom Silver Arrow Buick Rivieras that he had personalized for his own use, and while there are some of Mitchell’s sharp edges on the Rivieras, particularly the first generation car, in profile the Rivs, most noticeably the boat-tailed versions, evoke the sweeping lines of cars from decades earlier.

Mitchell’s ultimate statement as a car designer would be the 1977 Phantom, a large, fastback two-seat coupe built atop a Pontiac Grand Prix chassis. Though the Phantom has some sharp edges, its proportions, flowing lines and exposed wheel wells  go back to the era of those Cadillacs that Mitchell designed in the late 1930s. Though some have speculated that the Phantom ended up in Mitchell’s possession as some sort of severance payment upon his retirement, while GM designers were indeed known to use one-off concept and show cars as their personal drivers, the Phantom never had a drivetrain. It still exists, but perhaps in line with its history the Phantom is almost hidden away in the corner of a museum.

This 1967 rendering by Wayne Kady of a hypothetical V16 powered Cadillac prefigures both the 1980 Seville and Bill Mitchell's Phantom of 1977.

This 1967 rendering by Wayne Kady of a hypothetical V16 powered Cadillac prefigures both the 1980 Seville and Bill Mitchell’s Phantom of 1977.

By 1977, Mitchell was a bit of an anachronism, a man with a Mad Men mentality in an era while Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinam were raising women’s consciousness, someone who could order a half dozen hookers for lunch and send out an underling to the bank to get the Benjamins to pay them. GM’s design and engineering teams had just created what would be their last masterpieces for decades, the downsized 1977 fullsize sedans, the first American cars designed from scratch to deal with more expensive gasoline, the result of the 1973 oil crisis. The new Chevy Impala, for example, was 700 lbs lighter, smaller in every exterior dimension, yet had more interior room and more cargo capacity than the land yachts it replaced. Those cars would be GM’s high point for years, as they were almost immediately followed by the disastrous X-cars, the Chevy Citation and it’s badge engineered siblings.

Bill Mitchell was not a man for downsizing. Not a small man himself, for his last personal design Mitchell opted for something that was not smaller, lighter nor more space efficient. It was his idea of a modern classic and his hope for the direction that GM design would take after his retirement. However, by 1977, Mitchell had been with the company for four decades and many of his contemporaries (and advocates) were long gone.

A styling show was planned for the GM board at the proving grounds and Mitchell had the Phantom shipped out to Milford on the sly, hoping to surprise the board of directors as well as some of the GM executives like Howard Kehrl, executive vice president in charge of the product planning and technical staffs. Kehrl wasn’t as well known and certainly not as flamboyant as Mitchell, but the engineer had risen up through the ranks and by the late 1970s, with many of Mitchell’s allies retired, Kehrl held more power in the corporation. Having been on the receiving end of Mitchell’s legendary foul mouth, Kehrl was in no mood for one of Mitchell’s power plays. He spotted the Phantom being prepared for display and ordered it off the grounds immediately. Lo, how the mighty are fallen. Mitchell reportedly fumed, but the lion was roaring in winter. Later that year Mitchell retired from GM and opened up his own design studio in suburban Detroit. He died in 1988.

Pontiac_Phantom_01

By 1977, times had changed. In a 1979 interview he told Corvette historian Michael B. Antonick, “You know,  years ago when you went into an auto styling department, you found sweeps…racks of them. Now they design [cars] with a T-square and a triangle.”

Even the designers who had risen through GM’s design studios under Mitchell to positions of power themselves realized that times had passed the designer by. Jerry Hirschberg, who later would head Nissan design, is quoted by Michael Lamm as saying, “”As the years passed, Mitchell’s rather narrow biases and hardening vision limited GM styling. He was fighting old battles and withdrawing increasingly from a world that was being redefined by consumerism, Naderism and an emerging consciousness of the environment.”

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George Moon, a senior interior designer at GM reflected on Mitchell at the end of his career: “Bill Mitchell ruled over GM Design Staff during its most creative, most exciting years in corporate history. No matter his mood, his manner, his style—he gave the place a verve and an excitement it never had before or since. He brought out the best creative energies from all of us, and he oversaw the design of the greatest diversity of cars ever produced.

“Bill couldn’t have survived in today’s arena: too many rules, too many handcuffs, committees and bosses. Nor could today’s corporation tolerate Mitchell’s flamboyance, impertinences, ego and lifestyle. He was his own man, flawed and gifted, crude and creative. You had to love him or hate him, but no one in America could ignore him.”

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Mitchell seemed to have understood that times had passed him by. Even his internal code name for the Phantom, “Madame X” evoked a bygone era. Concerning the Phantom he later said, “Realizing that with the energy crisis and other considerations, the glamour car would not be around for long. I wanted to leave a memory at General Motors of the kind of cars I love”.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Start the video and click on the settings icon to select 2D or 3D formats

Though his power had ebbed, Mitchell was still a legend at General Motors. Perhaps out of consideration for Mitchell’s indelible role in GM history, unlike many concepts the Phantom wasn’t destroyed, and while it’s not in a place of honor in GM’s Heritage Center, the company’s private car museum, the automaker has either donated or loaned it to Flint’s Sloan Museum where you can see it in their Buick Gallery.

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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Another Bad Sign For Oshawa As GM Moves Chevrolet Equinox To Mexico http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/another-bad-sign-oshawa-gm-moves-chevrolet-equinox-mexico/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/another-bad-sign-oshawa-gm-moves-chevrolet-equinox-mexico/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:38:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903322 News that GM will be sending some production of the Chevrolet Equinox to their Ramos Arizpe, Mexico plant passed without much fanfare – GM’s PR machine was much more interested in touting the move of the Cadillac SRX to Spring Hill, Tennessee. While the Equinox’s move to Mexico will backfill capacity at that plant, it […]

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News that GM will be sending some production of the Chevrolet Equinox to their Ramos Arizpe, Mexico plant passed without much fanfare – GM’s PR machine was much more interested in touting the move of the Cadillac SRX to Spring Hill, Tennessee. While the Equinox’s move to Mexico will backfill capacity at that plant, it spells another blow for the future of GM’s Oshawa, Ontario plant.

The Equinox (and its GMC Terrain twin) is primarily built at GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. Currently overflow production is handled by Oshawa and Spring Hill. For the next generation, Ingersoll and Ramos Arizpe were in direct competition for the new crossovers, with Ingersoll eventually winning out.

The Theta crossovers (as the Equinox and Terrain are known internally) have been a big success for GM, necessitating the overflow production at two sites. But with the move to Mexico, it’s merely another bad sign for Oshawa, which has had a succession of product moving away from the plant, and absolutely nothing in the way of investment announcements or product commitments.

At this rate, Oshawa’s closing in 2016 (when GM’s bailout-related obligations to the Canadian government expire) is almost a certainty.

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GM Moving Cadillac SRX Production To Tennessee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/gm-moving-cadillac-srx-production-tennessee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/gm-moving-cadillac-srx-production-tennessee/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:11:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901666 GM will shift production of the Cadillac SRX crossover from a facility in Mexico to the former Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The move will bring $185 million in investment and 390 jobs to the plant. In addition to the SRX, another unnamed “midsize” vehicle and a new series of small-displacement Ecotec engines will be […]

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GM will shift production of the Cadillac SRX crossover from a facility in Mexico to the former Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The move will bring $185 million in investment and 390 jobs to the plant.

In addition to the SRX, another unnamed “midsize” vehicle and a new series of small-displacement Ecotec engines will be built at Spring Hill. Reports claim that the GMC Acadia will move to the plant in 2016, which would suggest future commonalities between the two vehicles, which are currently built on separate platforms.

Spring Hill was once the production site for GM’s Saturn vehicles, and was an overflow site from the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and the Chevrolet Traverse.

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Piston Slap: Less Slap, More (oil) Control http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-less-slap-oil-control/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-less-slap-oil-control/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:57:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=898410 Pete writes: Hey Sajeev, I got one for you. Several engines nowadays are set up to operate on half their cylinders under light-load conditions. Would the design considerations for piston rings vary from those normally used for such cylinders that are only used part-time? The question arises in the context of a 2009 V6 Accord […]

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(photo courtesy: autozone.com)

(photo courtesy: autozone.com)

Pete writes:

Hey Sajeev, I got one for you.

Several engines nowadays are set up to operate on half their cylinders under light-load conditions. Would the design considerations for piston rings vary from those normally used for such cylinders that are only used part-time? The question arises in the context of a 2009 V6 Accord that is currently in the Honda dealer’s shop to have the piston rings replaced at the manufacturer’s expense to cure a continual oil consumption and spark plug fouling problem.

Sajeev answers:

We learned from a previous Piston Slap that General Motors answered your query:  the displacement-on-demand (DoD) 5.3L truck motor (and its sister, LS4-FTW?) needs new and redesigned piston rings to cut oil consumption in the four deactivated cylinders. The motors still (supposedly) performs as intended with strong compression from the compression rings, oil burning is only a shameful side effect. Not to make a molehill out of a mountain, but that’s it.

Or perhaps turn off DoD with a computer re-flash, since there’s no free lunch in this business: if you want fuel economy, buy a lighter, trimmer and smaller engined vehicle. But I digress…

Honda, operating under the same Laws of Physics (Thermodynamics?) has the same DoD problem. In theory, the design of the “oil control” piston rings is crucial: more info is in this insanely detailed article. Definitely great bedtime reading for the Pistonhead.

Honda’s Class Action lawsuit doesn’t seem to hurt Odyssey or Accord resale values, so dump it if you wish. Or regularly check your oil level and spark plug condition, doing so lets affected V6 Honda products live a long and happy-ish life. Heck, this much oil consumption (1-3 quarts per high mileage oil change) was once the norm (during old school 3000 mi intervals) and that’s without DoD’s inherent fuel savings.

But that fact remains: save fuel or save oil? Pick one, son.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Crapwagon Outtake: It Doesn’t Get Much Cheaper Than This http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/crapwagon-outtake-doesnt-get-much-cheaper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/crapwagon-outtake-doesnt-get-much-cheaper/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:52:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899362 I have an unnatural aversion to two-door cars. Jack’s Accord V6 Coupe would, in my eyes, be perfect if it were only a sedan. Give me an Audi S4 or a BMW M3 over their coupe siblings, no matter how attractive the lines. Ok, maybe I’d take an S5. I’d much prefer a 4-door GTI […]

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I have an unnatural aversion to two-door cars. Jack’s Accord V6 Coupe would, in my eyes, be perfect if it were only a sedan. Give me an Audi S4 or a BMW M3 over their coupe siblings, no matter how attractive the lines. Ok, maybe I’d take an S5. I’d much prefer a 4-door GTI to the three door variant, and I’m glad that our Fiesta ST has a set of rear entry ports. Most people didn’t feel that way when it came to the Chevrolet Cobalt SS.

Even six years on, no front-drive car has been able to touch the Cobalt SS for outright, front-drive performance. Today’s Focus ST, making 250 horsepower is considered brawny for its class. The Cobalt SS was besting those numbers in 2008, making 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

A GM-sanctioned Stage 1 power kit can boost output to 290 horsepower and 340 lb-ft for a mere $500. Every review, from magazine journalists to friends who have owned them, is full of praise for their outright speed and front-drive dynamics. It steers, stops and goes brilliantly.

But the rest of the car is still a pre-bankruptcy GM, and the interior is as unpleasant as the car is fast. The example shown above has 131,000 miles on it, and costs $5370 (USD). From a pure horsepower per dollar standpoint, that is absolutely unbeatable. I wish it had fewer miles on it, but with a one year production run of about 500 units, finding any sedan is going to be tough. Even so, I don’t think I’d pull the trigger. Maybe if I were 17 and looking for the absolute fastest car I could afford with the meager earnings from my summer job. But those days, like the days of high-performance compact Chevys, are long gone.

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Did Obama Administration Help Delphi Evade U.S. Taxes? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/obama-administration-help-delphi-evade-u-s-taxes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/obama-administration-help-delphi-evade-u-s-taxes/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 23:01:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=883441 From Bloomberg’s Zachary Mider comes a new allegation regarding the restructuring of (formerly) American parts maker Delphi: the Treasury Department under Obama helped the company re-incorporate in England as part of a tax avoidance strategy. If that’s true, it’s an embarrassing revelation for a President who recently condemned American companies that incorporate abroad as “corporate […]

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From Bloomberg’s Zachary Mider comes a new allegation regarding the restructuring of (formerly) American parts maker Delphi: the Treasury Department under Obama helped the company re-incorporate in England as part of a tax avoidance strategy. If that’s true, it’s an embarrassing revelation for a President who recently condemned American companies that incorporate abroad as “corporate deserters.” Like many things in the financial world, however, appearances are often deceiving.

As Mider explains, Delphi was spun off from GM in 1999 in an attempt to diversify the part’s division’s clientele and make it more globally competitive. The move didn’t pan out; by 2005 Delphi was in bankruptcy court, where it scraped along until the 2009 financial crisis. The Great Recession made Delphi’s situation acute; if GM collapsed, the parts company had no hope of surviving. Conversely, GM needed the company to keep supplying it with crucial parts. After the bailout package for GM was approved in the waning days of the Bush Administration, Treasury officials understood that Delphi would need to be recapitalized as well. Steven Rattner, the Wall Streeter appointed by President Obama to oversee the bailout of GM, helped broker a deal to “fix” Delphi by getting the company out of bankruptcy court.

Initially, the hedge fund Platinum Equity LLC of Los Angeles agreed to divvy up Delphi’s assets with GM, with the newly Treasury-backed carmaker providing the majority of the financing (Treasury money) for the deal. However, the agreement with Platinum fell through when another one of Delphi’s creditors, the hedge fund Elliot Management, objected to the terms of the deal. Elliot and the firm Silver Point Capital partnered to put together their own bid for Delphi, which GM agreed to. GM invested $1.7 billion into Delphi’s equity, and bought out its steering parts business and a few factories for a further $1.1 billion. All of this money came from an escrow account filled with $16 billion in bailout money set up after GM emerged from bankruptcy, and all the spending required Treasury Department approval before it could go forward. There was one small catch in the fine print of the deal: GM and the hedge funds would reincorporate Delphi in some foreign country, ostensibly to obtain a better tax position. Mider explains that this practice, known as “inversion,” is becoming increasingly common amongst U.S.-based companies seeking a more favorable tax climate. Delphi was incorporated in England for that purpose, and the money was disbursed from the Treasury escrow account after the reincorporation was complete. The original agreement with Platinum didn’t contain language about foreign reincorporation, although it later emerged that the fund’s lawyers had set up two paper companies in Luxembourg for that purpose.

The deal between Elliot, Silver Point, and GM to rescue Delphi turned out to be a great investment for all parties involved. After Delphi went public again in 2011, the stock price surged. GM sold its stake back to Delphi for a $1.6 billion profit, and Elliot Management booked $1.3 billion on an initial investment of $300 million. At this point, GM was under no obligation to pay the Treasury anything. The terms of the bankruptcy meant that all of the Treasury’s debt had been swapped for equity in the “new” carmaker. The U.S. Government wouldn’t see a dime of GM’s profits from the Delphi deal, besides any increase in the market value of its equity stake. And it had been cut out of a large chunk of the tax revenue from Delphi, which was now headquartered in England under more favorable rules.

The question becomes who knew what, when, and how much leverage the Treasury had to exert on the terms of the deal with Elliot and Silver Point. The time window for the agreement is key. GM’s bankruptcy proceedings concluded on July 10, 2009. Steven Rattner and the rest of the bailout task force stepped aside, believing their jobs were finished. But the collapse of the Platinum deal happened soon afterwards, because some of Delphi’s creditors weren’t satisfied with the terms. The deal between Elliot, Silver Point, and GM was inked on July 26. When interviewed by Bloomberg, Rattner claimed to have no knowledge of any plan to incorporate Delphi in a foreign locale at the time of the original negotiations. Even if he had, it’s not likely that he would have been able to stop it. Because the Treasury never technically held a direct stake in Delphi (unlike its assumption of equity in GM’s case), it was only an indirect party to the final settlement of Delphi’s bankruptcy proceedings. Rattner had denied a $150 million cash infusion from GM to Delphi previously, when it became clear that transfer wouldn’t end Delphi’s bankruptcy proceedings. The Treasury could have rejected disbursement of funds for GM’s investment in the parts maker after the reincorporation of Delphi in England. But that would have iced the deal and put Delphi’s future in jeopardy, which in turn would have been counterproductive to the purpose of the bailout in the first place. Even so, it’s not a proud moment in the management of the bailout by any stretch of the imagination.

The other factor to consider is that Rattner and the bailout task force may have believed that Delphi’s reincorporation wouldn’t affect its tax position after all. Mider reports that in September of 2009, the IRS notified Delphi that it was still considered a U.S. company and would be subject to U.S. corporate income tax rates. As a justification, the IRS cited a 2004 law meant to prevent exactly what Delphi had done: the creation of paper “surrogate foreign corporations” for the purposes of evading taxes. The IRS dispute with Delphi in this case is ongoing. If the company loses its appeal, it would owe about 20 percent more a year in taxes than it pays now (as well as any assessments for back taxes). If that’s the case, then the “inversion” of Delphi will be a moot point.

The broader takeaway from the whole saga is that any intervention by government in the spaces normally served by private equity is bound to have some unpleasant side effects. Simultaneously trying to manage, regulate, and tax a business is bound to produce more than a few conflicts of interest. At the very least, the Delphi deal embarrasses an Administration which has recently sought to turn up the heat on companies moving their headquarters abroad. It’s unlikely to change many minds about the wisdom of the bailout; those lines were drawn firmly some time ago. But the curious case of Delphi’s “inversion” will undoubtedly be cited in future debates about corporate tax reform in America, from both a left and a right-wing perspective.

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Cadillac ELR Sales Double After Price Drop http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cadillac-elr-sales-double-price-drop/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cadillac-elr-sales-double-price-drop/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 14:04:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=881106 How do you help move the Cadillac ELR? Simple: drop the price down to one that the market will bear. GM’s generous incentives – which have lead to ELR’s being listed as low as $52,000 – appear to have helped spur sales of Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid. In June, GM sold just 97 units of the […]

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How do you help move the Cadillac ELR? Simple: drop the price down to one that the market will bear.

GM’s generous incentiveswhich have lead to ELR’s being listed as low as $52,000 – appear to have helped spur sales of Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid.

In June, GM sold just 97 units of the ELR.  In July, sales nearly doubled, with 188 units sold. With 1,600 units in inventory right now, Automotive News estimates that as of July 1, there is a 396 day supply, down from 883 days.

With a Tesla-rivaling $76,000 MSRP, the ELR’s prospects seemed bleak from the outset. The ELR may be positioned as Cadillac’s green flagship, but the brand simply isn’t strong enough to sell a car that competes with the Tesla Model S, while offering less prestige and a similar sticker price. At the $50,000 mark? Now they might be getting somewhere.

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