Buick’s been on a roll this year, their sales are up and their owner demographics are younger than they have been in recent memory. The cynic in my says that’s because half their clientele died of old age, but it has more to do with their product portfolio. Say what? Yep, it’s true, the brand I wrote off for dead last decade is targeting younger buyers with designs imported from Europe and finding sales success. The Verano turbo shattered my preconceptions, but can Buick do it again? A brown Encore arrived one rainy morning to see if it was possible. (Read More…)
GM has a huge problem in Bochum – or an unexpected opportunity. Workers at Opel’s Bochum plant yesterday refused a restructuring plan that would guarantee auto production in Bochum through 2016, and that would keep the plant making components after that. GM answered on the same day: ”Production of the Zafira Tourer and the waiver of enforced redundancy will end after 2014.” This would open the door to closing the doors in Bochum.
It also could become extremely costly for GM. (Read More…)
One of the most interesting things to come out of the recent Chevy Impala launch – aside from the fact that GM thinks it can sell the thing for $40,000 – is that the current, unloved Impala will live on as a fleet-only special called the “Chevrolet Impala Limited.” To that, I say: great idea.
I’ve been a proponent of fleet-only cars ever since the 1997-2003 Chevrolet Malibu was rebranded the Chevrolet Classic, a name which would’ve been appropriate when it debuted. In fact, I think there should be even more fleet-only cars – an idea that’s unpopular in the automotive industry, but highly praised between my ears. Allow me to explain.
With discretionary funds increasingly decreasing, low-cost (or make that “approachable”) cars are all the rage. Before the 2014 Corvette Stingray, the first new Corvette in nine years, is going on sale in summer, there already is talk of a little less expensive model. (Read More…)
When I was in the automotive propaganda business, one of the most horrifying experiences were changes on the top. CEOs could come and go without drama. Changing marketing managers meant serious trouble. It’s a bit like Indian widow-burning: He goes, you go up in flames. When Joel Ewanick came to GM, he had his old buddies Goodby, Silverstein in tow. When Joel left, the funeral pyre was assembled for Goodby.
Here come the matches. (Read More…)
GM announced a $250 million dollar investment for the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontaro. CAMI is the main production site for the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain (also known as the Theta crossovers), two of GM’s best selling models, and the investment comes amid uncertainty over the fate of CAMI itself.
In his book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, GM’s best-known executive, Bob Lutz, describes the task facing newly-appointed CEO Dan Akerson:
“Akerson has inherited a company headed for success… Akerson does not have to “fix the business.” His role is not to run the operations but to set the overall direction, inspire the troops, and make sure the product development momentum continues… Akerson’s largest contribution could be to become the respected and liked spokesman, the personification of General Motors. Making GM more open, more human, more accessible and more likable is the last, great unfinished task.”
Lutz knows of what he speaks: after all, he was long the likable, humanizing public face of GM’s upper management. More importantly, he established the revamped product development system that has produced GM’s most competitive lineup in the modern era. However, Lutz knew and knows cars and the car business. Akerson knows how the telephone works. (Read More…)
Upon receipt of a multi-billion dollar loan from the Canadian government, General Motors signed a “Vitality Commitment”, essentially a covenant in the loan agreement between GM and Canada’s government, which guaranteed that a certain amount of GM’s North American production would remain in Canada. That number is widely reported as being 16 percent, while page F-69 of GM’s IPO filings outlines that the covenant is valid until GM repays its loan commitments or until December 31, 2016, whichever comes later.
While Oshawa has widely regarded as one of GM’s best plants in terms of producing high-quality vehicles, the future of GM’s Oshawa plant is looking increasingly bleak.
While other carmakers, including electric pioneer Nissan, are downgrading their EV euphoria, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson suddenly sounds uncharacteristically gung-ho on the issue. At an industry conference, he says GM is working on developing an electric car that has a range of as much as 200 miles. (Read More…)
In the first part of this series, we looked at Dan Akerson’s problematic relationship with the truth, focusing on the gap between his stated intentions and his actions. Akerson is hardly the only example of an auto executive to indulge in personal myth-building or ego-driven dissembling. Analysts, employees and shareholders can forgive all kinds of personal shortcomings in a chief executive so long as he has a clear plan for success and the proven ability to get results. Unfortunately for GM, Dan Akerson brings nothing to the table in this regard that might outweigh his negatives.
The depth of Akerson’s strategic failure is nothing short of stunning, encompassing almost every element of GM’s global footprint.
Zerohedge, the website that caters to short sellers, has been monitoring GM for symptoms of a relapse to the Bad Old. One of these symptoms is channel stuffing, defined by Investopedia as “a deceptive business practice used by a company to inflate its sales and earnings figures by deliberately sending retailers along its distribution channel more products than they are able to sell to the public.”
Zerohedge has a chart depicting an increasingly overflowing channel, and it looks bad. Let’s have a closer look. (Read More…)
I have been trying to make heads or tails out of yesterday’s contradicting news about the big deal between Opel and the unions, and so does German media. So much is clear: The truth and GM’s press release about a “successful conclusion” of the negotiations with the Opel works council are miles apart. There is no deal. Unions and Management are still in negotiations, the negotiations will continue this coming week. Then, the workers have to vote. It does not look good: Bochum’s works council is dead set against the deal. It gets worse. (Read More…)
Author’s note: When the government rescued General Motors from certain disaster, it was a chance at a fresh start. A chance to not just slow GM’s half-century of market share loss, but truly return America’s largest automaker to its place of pride. With debts erased, unions tamed and coffers restocked by the government, all things should have been possible. And yet, first under Ed Whitacre and now Dan Akerson, General Motors has consistently failed to live up to its true potential. Only new leadership can give the people of General Motors, to say nothing of the American people, an automaker they can be truly proud of.
Like every individual, every organization wants to present its best face to the world; it’s why the PR business exists, and why your 14-year-old daughter spends hours manicuring her Facebook presence. But when the desire to be seen in a positive light becomes too strong, individuals and organizations often end up hurting themselves as much as helping. Put in simple terms: if you misrepresent who and what you are too many times, you lose credibility. This seems to be what is happening to GM’s CEO, Dan Akerson. (Read More…)
Isn’t the Internet wonderful? Now industry types can trade barbs directly, without going through unreliable journalists. Ed Whitacre still needed to write a book (or more like he had it written) to put down Bob Lutz, Dan Akerson et al. Bob Lutz, however, has his own blog, hosted at Forbes, and boy does he take revenge on Whitacre: (Read More…)
Messy, messy, messy: Can’t even close a proper deal with the unions. GM and the unions have an agreement. It is basically as reported this morning. The deal has the signatures of management and unions. One signature is missing, reports Die Welt: That of Bochum works council chief Rainer Einenkel. (Read More…)