The Truth About Cars » Mark Reuss The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Mark Reuss Strong C7 Corvette Sales Mean More Profits for GM Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:04:14 +0000 2015 Corvette Z06. Full gallery here

2015 Corvette Z06. Full gallery here

The Chevrolet Corvette may be outselling all of Porsche’s sports car models combined, but GM will still sell fewer Corvettes this year than the number of Chevy Cruzes they are likely to sell this month. You might think that one of General Motors’ lowest volume cars could not contribute much to the company’s bottom line, but the success of the 7th generation Corvette will mean hundreds of millions of dollars more in profit this year for the automaker.

When the latest Corvette was introduced in early 2013, annual sales had been in the 12,000 to 14,000 unit range since 2009, about a 2/3 drop from sales a decade earlier. I can remember when there were rumors in the 1990s that GM might kill the Corvette because sales had dropped to about 25,000 cars a year so it was somewhat surprising that the ‘Vette survived GM’s bankruptcy with sales at half that level.

At the C7′s introduction in January of 2013, I was talking to Harlan Charles, Corvette majordomo (actually his official title is product and marketing manager for the car) and he surprised me when he said that the program was profitable at the then current build rates. When I expressed skepticism and mentioned the rumored demise of the ‘Vette in the ’90s, Charles said that it wasn’t the 1990s anymore, that efficiencies had been implemented and that the Bowling Green Corvette assembly plant made money making a fraction of the cars it used to make. In 2012, Chevy sold about 14,400 C6 Corvettes in North America. The C7 edition has been well received and Chevy has sold more than twice that number in just the first half of 2014, 18,500. Unless something completely unexpected happens, the Corvette should easily surpass 30,000 sales this year and possibly exceed 35,000.

Mark Reuss, who is GM’s president for North America, has publicly stated that the ‘Vette “makes as much money as any of the top-profit models in our company.” Those pickups can represent five figures of profit on vehicles with higher transaction prices. Adam Levine Weinberg at The Motley Fool website takes Reuss’ comments to mean that gross profit per vehicle (not including development costs) on the C7 Corvette could be $10,000 or more. That means that the 20,000 or so additional Corvettes that GM will sell this year compared to last year works out to an additional $200 million in gross profit.

Now for a company that booked a net profit of $3.8 billion dollars last year, $200 million isn’t a huge amount of money, but it’s  far from chump change. With Chrysler just introducing the 707 horsepower Hellcat edition of the Dodge Challenger, there will be pressure on the Corvette team to respond with a higher performance model than the 650 hp Z06 version of the ‘Vette. While that $200 million may be a fraction of GM’s total profits, it will certainly make it easier for Mr. Charles and his team to convince Marry Barra and her team to greenlight a ZR1 Corvette with even more power than the Hellcat.

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

]]> 21
GM Ignition Issues Pile Up From Within, Abroad Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:00:14 +0000 Violet GM RenCen

In today’s General Motors digest: An ignition-related issue is quietly fixed years before the February 2014 recall; a Chinese supplier is blamed for defective switches recalled in June; Ally prepares to take flight from the Beltway; and Mark Reuss helps bring back a Corvette stolen 33 years ago.

Automotive News reports two design flaws in switches used on the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion allowed the key to slip out of the casing while the engine still had power. The flaws were investigated twice in November 2004 and June 2005, prompting supplier Ortech to modify the shape and size of the ignition lock cylinder based on the findings. However, consumers weren’t notified of this particular change until a recall notice was issued in April 2014. The design change was implemented in 2006, according to GM.

In related news, Reuters reports the recall of 3.4 million vehicles earlier this month by GM was due to a defective ignition switch made by Chinese supplier Dalian Alps Electronics. Unlike the similar situation affecting 2.6 million vehicles recalled in February, the automaker has opted to replace or rework the keys to eliminate a slot that would allow a ring to shift to one side, pulling the switch out of the “run” position. Parent company Alps Electric claims that while Dalian did make the part, the subsidiary manufactured the switch based on GM’s designs, and that neither party had received word or complaint from the automaker about the issue.

On the financial front, Automotive News says Ally Financial, the former financial wing of GM under the name GMAC Financial, is one step closer to corporate independence from ownership by the United States Treasury when two of the remaining three Treasury-nominated board members step down from the board during the lender’s annual shareholder conference July 17. Ally hopes to be out from government ownership by the end of 2014, allowing the lender to regain access to bank deposits in funding subprime loans, benefiting both it and its dealership network due to the low costs in using bank deposits over more expensive funding tools. Currently, the Treasury owns 16 percent of Ally, down from 63 percent at the start of 2014, and 37 percent prior to the lender’s IPO in April.

Finally, WXYZ-TV reports GM’s executive vice president of global product development Mark Reuss has offered to bring home a 1979 Chevrolet Corvette that was stolen 33 years ago from its owner, George Talley, at GM’s expense. Earlier this week, AAA called Talley to inform him the car was found in good condition in Hattiesburg, Miss. after a falsified VIN tipped off authorities to the car’s whereabouts. Reuss made the offer to Talley during an interview with WJR-AM’s Paul W. Smith, and the Corvette is expected to come home within the next few days.

]]> 2
Akerson: Barra Did Not Know About Ignition Defect Before Becoming CEO Thu, 29 May 2014 13:00:03 +0000 Dan Akerson

Automotive News reports former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson proclaimed in an interview with Forbes magazine that current CEO Mary Barra had no knowledge of the out-of-spec ignition switch that led to the February 2014 recall of 2.6 million vehicles, going as far as to bet his own life on the statement. Barra added the fallout from the recall is a chance for GM to not only “do the right thing and serve the customer well through” the crisis, but “to accelerate cultural change” within the company. Akerson passed the torch to Barra in December 2013 to take time to care for his ailing wife, and has since rejoined Carlyle Group as vice chairman on its board of directors.

Within the company, Detroit Free Press reports morale is up despite the numerous recalls levied upon the automaker, according to global product boss Mark Reuss. He states the results of an internal survey among GM’s global employees are higher than those found in 2012, citing a renewed focus on corporate transparency since the recall crisis began. Finally, Reuss told reporters at an event focused upon this weekend’s Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix that the C8 Corvette is now being developed, and did not rule out the possibility for electric and/or hybrid power for the upcoming sports car.

Speaking of GM’s recall parade, Ward’s Auto says the automaker released a document of its recall activities thus far in 2014, which is available to interested parties through a special site set up by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The document focuses on recalls in the United States and North America through Q1 and Q2 2014, with the current totals as of May 21, 2014 standing at 13.8 million in the U.S. and 15.8 in North America.

In compact car news, Automotive News reports GM India will begin exporting compact and subcompact vehicles during the second half of 2014 to help better use capacity of the Talegaon plant as the local market slows down. LHD variants of the Chevrolet Beat — Spark in the U.S. — will be the first to see a trip to the docks, destined to arrive in Chile Q1 2015, a reflection of the boosted confidence in quality at the plant, according to president Arvind Saxena. GM’s utilization rate is the lowest among all automakers in India at 28 percent, contributing to an overall local industry total of 55 percent production capacity used in 2013; the automaker’s two factories produce a combined capacity of 282,000 annually.

Finally, CarNewsChina has new spy shots of the upcoming Chevrolet Aveo hatchback set to enter the market July 10. The automaker’s best-selling compact will retain the 1.4- and 1.6-liter engines of the outgoing models, with five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions available to deliver between 103 and 121 horsepower to the front wheels. The hatch will follow the redesigned sedan, the latter due next month.

]]> 22
Barclays: GM Recall Parade To Last Into Mid-Summer Fri, 23 May 2014 10:00:04 +0000 Blurry Renaissance Center

Automotive News reports General Motors’ recall parade could, according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson, last well into the middle of the summer season. The data mining conducted by the automaker’s team of 60 safety investigators on 10 sources reporting potential problems — including consumer complaints and reports from its dealership network — will likely bring more recall requests before GM’s senior executives. Johnson adds that the investigators are working on likely defects on a per-issue basis instead of per-vehicle, which may mean a number of vehicles will be called back multiple times as the recall parade marches on; he also notes that its hard to discern if recalls of past vehicles have already peaked.

Detroit Free Press says GM product chief Mark Reuss will be leading a new team of five execs in choosing who all will be on the parade route, determining when and if a recall should be issued on any given vehicle with a potential problem. The team’s creation aims to accelerate the automaker’s response to said safety concerns, as well as better enable communication with its consumer base and the federal government. In addition, the 60 investigators, led by global safety boss Jeff Boyer, will comb social media to gather evidence of problems that haven’t been found from within.

Over in Canada, Reuters reports government officials are investigating GM Canada over the possibility that, much like the mothership across the border, it, too, delayed product recalls. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt instructed her group of officials to ask GM Canada “when did they find out” about the out-of-spec ignition switch, proclaiming that if they knew before the recall was issued, the Canadian subsidiary “could be in violation of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.” If found guilty, GM Canada could be fined anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million CAN depending on the conviction issued, far less than the $35 million levied against GM by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month.

The Detroit News reports those affected by the recalls of newer vehicles, including the 2014 Cadillac CTS and 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, are receiving free loaner vehicles much like those affected by the February 2014 ignition switch recall. In the case of Cadillac, however, the free loaners are standard practice for recalls related to the brand’s products, as they fall under warranty. Meanwhile, the Chevrolet and GMC loaner programs, according to spokeswoman Ryndee Carney, was at the automaker’s discretion; as the recall involves tie-rod defects — including a park-it-now notice — GM made the decision “to offer owners of those trucks courtesy transportation.”

Finally, Automotive News says those who purchase a 2015 Chevrolet Impala with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder will include stop-start technology as standard equipment, which aims to boost the engine’s fuel efficiency by 5 percent. According to spokesman Chad Lyons, the stop-start tech “will become more prevalent in GM vehicles” as time goes on; the 2.5-liter Impala is the second to have the tech standard, after the 2014 Malibu. Those who prefer their Impala to come with more power via the 3.6-liter V6, stop-start won’t be available standard due the engine’s heavier weight negating potential fuel savings.

]]> 6
GM Saved From ‘Park It Now’ Order, Looks To Strengthen Liability Protections Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:00:34 +0000 Recalled GM ignition switch

The Detroit News reports U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos delivered a six-page ruling in favor of General Motors, saving the automaker from issuing a “park it now” order that would have proved costly both financially and in reputation. Had the order gone forward, it would have set a precedent that not even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could attempt in its limited penalty power. The attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit for the order, Robert Hilliard, may appeal.

In other legal news, GM has filed a request with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco to prevent lawsuits filed against the automaker in recall-related incidents prior to the 2009 exit from bankruptcy, reinforcing the liability protections established during the bankruptcy proceedings. GM is currently facing 41 separate lawsuits from 19 U.S. district courts, which may be consolidated into a single venue by a judicial panel in the early stages. The bankruptcy court in New York will rule on jurisdiction April 25.

Autoblog reports CEO Mary Barra will create a new group within the company to be headed by vice president of global product development Mark Reuss that will work with vice president of global vehicle safety Jeff Boyer in monitoring new products for potential safety concerns. Barra also addressed the suspension of engineers Gary Altman and Ray DeGiorgio during her 2014 NYIAS eve announcement:

Let me be really clear, these are real people with real careers, and I’m personally dedicated to making sure we have true facts of what happened… We agonized over that decision, but we thought that was the right thing for the individuals and right thing for the company at this time.

The Detroit News adds North America president Alan Bately, speaking before analysts and investors at the 2014 New York Auto Summit during the 2014 New York Auto Show Wednesday, proclaimed his employer was focused on safety, citing the Chevrolet Trax’s standard rearview camera as an example. When asked about the recall and whether money would be set aside to handle warranty and liability claims down the road, however, Bately said that until internal investigator Anton Valakus completed his work, GM wouldn’t have any answers to offer.

Meanwhile, the myriad of documents delivered to Congress and the NHTSA this week threw more fuel to the smoldering recall crisis when it was revealed GM and supplier Delphi redesigned an ignition switch on the Cadillac SRX prior to production in February 2006 after test drivers accidentally bumped the ignition out of power in a manner similar to the switch at the heart of the recall, which didn’t see a redesign until April of the same year. GM added that the expanded recall of 2008 – 2011 vehicles affected by the out-of-spec switch would cost the automaker $40 million, and that 109 vehicles not under the recall may have received the defective part, as well.

Finally, Fortune magazine senior editor-in-chief Allan Sloan posits that Barra was thrown under the bus GM built in the 13 years prior to then-CEO Dan Akerson passing the torch to her late last year. He also suggests that instead of the federal government, the media and the general public taking her to task for everything wrong with GM as of late, blame should be laid at the feet of the correct people involved in setting the stage: Rick Wagoner, Ed Whitacre and Akerson.

]]> 67
GM Call Center Sees Double, Upton Prepares For Hearing Fri, 28 Mar 2014 13:16:23 +0000 Pontiac_Solstice

Automotive News posits an earlier recall would have prevented a majority of fatalities tied to the 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt’s ignition switch. According to their research, seven of the eight deaths occurred after April of 2006, when the improved switch was quietly introduced into the supply stream; one of the four fatalities linked to 2003 – 2007 Saturn Ions was found to have occurred after the April 2006 improved part introduction, as well.

Among other findings, only one of the eight Cobalt fatalities did not factor alcohol or seat belts into the equation, two of the eight deaths — one under “Old GM,” one under “New GM” — led to lawsuits that were settled prior to the February 2014 recall, and that some of the families found in their research never had any contact with the automaker.

The findings come from an AN article that examined the timing of various fatalities involving crashes with the Chevrolet Cobalt, with AN’s Nick Bunkley writing

“The research indicates that all of the deaths involved cars built before the switch was redesigned; had GM simultaneously elected to recall the cars, repairs could have been performed before a majority of the fatal crashes happened. It also shows that only one of the 12 deaths occurred after GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in July 2009.”

The Detroit News reports United States Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut penned a letter to General Motors CEO Mary Barra urging her to warn drivers of affected 2003 – 2007 Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn products to park their vehicles until the ignition switch linked to the recall is fixed, and the vehicles no longer “present urgent danger” to the general public:

I urge you to issue a stronger warning to drivers of recalled vehicles of the acknowledged risk they are facing, including a warning not to drive recalled cars. This warning should be issued as soon as possible — in advance of your testimony before the subcommittee.

The letter follows a similar call from Texas lawyer Robert Hilliard, who is representing 15 families in a class action suit before federal court, claiming that the public need not even drive the affected vehicles to be affected by the recall. The suit, headed by the Silvas family over loss of resale value in opposition to loss of life as experienced by the other families, will be heard April 4.

Bloomberg reports calls to GM’s Customer Engagement Center in Warren, Mich. — opened in 2013 to improve service and customer retention — have doubled during peak hours since the recall began, as explained by senior vice president for global quality and customer experience Alicia Boler-Davis:

Since GM announced the ignition switch recall, the center has seen more than double the amount of calls during peak times from typical daily call volumes. Up to 100 dedicated, specially trained advisors have been available to quickly assist customers with questions on this issue alone, bringing down the average wait time to less than a minute.

Boler-Davis is among those under the gun by customers and critics alike, Detroit Free Press reports, along with GM vice president of global engineering John Calabrese, global product chief Mark Reuss, and vice president of global safety Jeff Boyer. For her, the customer center is one of the ways GM is hoping to restore confidence in their products:

It shows that we’re available, we’re here to help. We’re wanting to be accessible to them, whether it’s through telephone, whether its through social media, whether they’re wanting to send us e-mails.

The appointment of Boyer to the newly created global safety post also aims to improve the automaker’s image before the general public, according to Reuss:

Jeff is a passionate safety zealot, and he really has been involved with just about every part of the car, including interiors and the computer data engineering of safety.

Back in Washington, D.C., U.S. Representative and House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton of Michigan told Detroit Free Press that he and his colleagues were “very surprised with the revelations that came forward the last couple of weeks” from the various investigations into the recall crisis, and plans to spend the weekend with his staff poring over more than 5,000 documents supplied by GM related to the recall prior to the hearing with Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acting administrator David Friedman April 1:

I don’t know what the response is going to be. Those questions are going to get asked on Tuesday. We don’t have any predisposed conclusions on where this is going. Everything is on the table. We’re going to find out the answers as we should.

]]> 48
Reuss Wants America to Have a Wagon Tue, 21 Jan 2014 12:00:24 +0000 Chevy Cruze Wagon

Should General Motors new product boss Mark Reuss have his way, there may come a day when a new affordable wagon could be driven off the lot onto the highways and driveways of America.

Reuss was asked at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show what type of vehicle that was missing from GM’s current lineup should be given life. In response, he noted that no automaker in the United States currently offers an affordable wagon for the masses, one described as “mainstream, fun, good-looking, hot-looking, [and] fun-to-drive.” Reuss acknowledged that there were some wagons already for sale, such as the soon-to-be discontinued Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon and offerings from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, though all of them were too expensive for the space he wishes to fill.

Currently, crossovers hold dominion over the space once occupied by SUVs, minivans and wagons. To bring crossover owners into the wagon train, Reuss said his dream wagon would have to be compelling and be “really fun to drive” for it to be a hit with that market. He would also need to convince his new boss, CEO Mary Barra, to sign-off on a made-for-America wagon, which could be underpinned by the architecture found in the Cadillac ATS and next-gen Chevrolet Camaro.

]]> 115
GM Looking To Shutter Holden, Re-Brand As Chevrolet After 2017 Thu, 12 Dec 2013 18:07:02 +0000 holden-emblem

With the demise of Holden’s manufacturing and R&D facilities complete by 2017, General Motors is reportedly looking to kill off the Holden brand and switch over to Chevrolet instead.

According to Australia’s News Corp, the plan to shutter Holden has been around since the early days of the financial crisis, when GM wanted to kill it off along with Pontiac and Hummer. Only fierce resistance from Mark Reuss, who once headed up Holden, led to the brand being given a stay of execution.

Outgoing Holden boss Mike Devereux told News Corp that

“Holden is here to stay. Holden has been a part of Australia’s past … and it will part of its future for decades to come. Holden is one of the most valuable brands in Australia. We are committed to the brand for the long term. The brand is going to be a part of the fabric of this country for a very long time.”

But with Devereux scheduled to leave Holden for GM’s regional operations in Shanghai starting in February, 2014, Holden will lose another potential guardian.

GM insiders feel that with Holden becoming solely an importer of vehicles, there is nothing distinct about the brand, and it makes little sense to retain it. By contrast, introducing Chevrolet would allow for GM’s Australia division to take advantage of marketing efforts like the sponsorship deal with Manchester United, and avoid any negative backlash against Holden that would arise from shutting down its Australian factories.

Holden is also seen by some as having an image problem, too closely linked to Australia Rules football and other “bogan” pursuits. As part of its continued survival, Holden agreed to market the Volt as its own product, despite the fact that it is a major money-loser and sells in negligible volumes due to its high price and poor interior packaging.

Holden insiders told News Corp that  “The amount of money we’ve spent trying to defend the Holden brand to Detroit is ridiculous,” but GM executives would counter their work with photos of Holden Utes retrofitted with Chevrolet badges as proof of Holdens irrelevance.

On the retail front, re-branding dealerships would cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000 AUD, with dealers picking up half the tab. Any dealer that did not comply would risk losing their franchise.

]]> 67
Mark Reuss More Or Less Confirms Elmirajish Flagship: “You Make A Statement With A Coupe” Thu, 28 Nov 2013 14:00:43 +0000 2013 Cadillac Elmiraj Concept

Last July GM CEO Dan Akerson confirmed that the automaker’s Cadillac brand was working on a flagship sedan larger than the XTS, to play in the big leagues with the BMW 7 Series, the Mercedes-Benz S Class and the Lexus LS, on sale by 2015. While at the recent Los Angeles auto show media preview, Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North American operations, strongly hinted that the big rear wheel drive platform may first appear as a coupe, not a four door sedan. “That’s the car Cadillac needs,” Reuss told USA Today. “You make a statement with a coupe. You don’t make a statement with a sedan.”

Obviously, the bigger money maker would be a sedan with greater production numbers but Reuss echoes the comments of a lot our readers vis a vis the Cadillac brand: bring back something big and brash, unapologetic about being a Caddy coupe, maybe even name it Eldorado after the most expensive Cadillac coupes of yore. Cadillac says that the Elmiraj is named after a dry lake bed in California famous for land speed attempts, but the alliterative connection to the name Eldorado can’t be a coincidence.

2013 Cadillac Elmiraj Concept

The design team responsible for the Elmiraj seems to understand what made the Cadillac brand “the standard of the world” in its heyday. “It is back to the American optimism of the ’60s,” says Gael Buzyn, who designed the interior. Niki Smart, who headed the exterior design team seems to understand that Cadillac was the brand for people who had arrived, who had made something of themselves. “This is for people who’ve done all their fighting, have earned their stripes.”

A coupe based on the same bones as a top shelf sedan could act as a halo for both the sibling sedan and for the entire Cadillac lineup.

Cadillac Ciel concept

The Elmiraj is the second act of what Cadillac says is a three act play regarding their new top of the line car. Before the Elmiraj coupe dazzled people at Pebble Beach this summer, the Ciel four door convertible was such a big hit on the show circuit in 2012 that they brought it around again in 2013. The third act is being teased by Cadillac as an “arrival”, without saying whether it’s going to be another concept vehicle or the actual production flagship, be the first one a coupe or a sedan.

]]> 54
GM Seeks “Contemporary Wagon” For Americans Thu, 07 Nov 2013 14:30:43 +0000 Chevy Cruze Wagon

Unless you pay a visit to Mr. Lang’s lot on the right day or really love Volkswagen, the only wagons available for Americans today are mostly Teutonic, and all come with a high price tag. According to GM North American President Mark Reuss, that’s a problem, and one he’d like to fix pronto.

Aside from filling holes in markets GM doesn’t have anything for as of yet — including compact vans like the Ford Transit Connect, or a Panamera-fighter for the Buick lineup — Reuss wants to give consumers “a contemporary wagon for mainstream America” that is more affordable than anything on the lots of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or even Cadillac. He also promises, for what it’s worth, that the wagon won’t have faux-wood paneling as an option. Sorry, hipsters.

One easy candidate would be to bring over the Cruze Wagon from Europe; Reuss already has eyes on a five-door hatchback version of the compact when the second generation rolls off the ramp, but why stop there? Sometimes not even a hatch is enough for some tasks, and since there are no small pickups or utes around anymore (in the United States, anyway), a business case could be made in federalizing the Cruze Wagon for sale on our shores.

Of course, if a Cruze meets the criteria for “a contemporary wagon for mainstream America,” then what does that say about the Teutonic tourers or the art and science behind Cadillac’s CTS? Are they too Lady Gaga for the masses?

]]> 194
Roger Penske: No Thanks, I’m Having Too Much Fun To Give That Up To Run General Motors Sat, 01 Jun 2013 14:07:40 +0000 IMG_0030

Roger Penske talks with recent Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan as Jim Campbell (L), head of performance and motorsports for GM, and Mark Reuss (R), GM president for North America, look on.

Sometimes things just work out. I probably would have gone to the media luncheon for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix yesterday anyway but when I saw that Roger Penske was one of the people who’d be there, along with Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan and other Indycar, Grand Am Rolex and Pirelli Challenge series drivers, as well Jim Campbell and Mark Reuss from GM, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to ask Penske a question that’s been on my mind. Just about every time there’s some kind of high level executive position around Detroit that’s unfilled or about to go unfilled, Penske’s name comes up as a suggestion. Not everything he touches succeeds, (c.f. smart cars in the U.S.) so he doesn’t have a complete Midas touch, but most of his ventures have done well, some exceptionally so. You can’t say that he’s not a competent manager of businesses and people or that he hasn’t succeeded in some highly competitive situations. I wanted to know if Roger was willing to take the highest profile executive position in Detroit.

The luncheon was at the Rattlesnake Club, right across from the Detroit River Walk, where cars representing the three racing series running on Belle Isle this weekend were sitting with the river as a beautiful backdrop and the various personages were available for photo ops and interviews before the speeches and food. As I was walking from my car to the River Walk, who should be exiting from an SUV but Roger Penske himself, with no entourage.

I asked him, “Roger, would you take the job if they offered it to you?”

“What job is that?” he replied

“Running General Motors.”

“No. I’m too old,” he laughed, “besides, I’m having too much fun doing what I’m doing.”

Then he went on, “I think that they’re well situated with Akerson…”

Since Dan Akerson has many detractors saying that he’s not up to the job, a placeholder, or worse, I was surprised at what at first sounded like an endorsement of Lt. Dan, from Penske, then “the captain” continued, “… and their succession plan.”

Then we crossed Atwater Street and I watched Penske go greet one of the people likely to be on the short list to replace Akerson when he retires within the next couple of years, Mark Reuss, GM’s head of North American operations.

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 dig deeper 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

]]> 11
Mark Reuss Keeps Pushing For Rear-Drive Small Chevy Mon, 06 May 2013 16:29:59 +0000 Chevrolet Code103R. Photo courtesy Automotive News.

Almost exactly one month after TTAC first broached news of a possible compact rear-drive Chevrolet, TTAC commenter and GM North America vice-president Mark Reuss is still dropping hints about such a product.

Speaking to Automotive News on the prospect of a possible competitor to the Scion FR-S

“A really nice, light, rear-drive car that’s inexpensive — we know that rings a bell, that’d be a huge win for us if we had that.”

While reaction to the Code 130R was reportedly strong, Reuss said that the Code’s styling would not be put into production. Apparently, the Alpha platform would not be used either, echoing earlier comments by Reuss. That would necessitate another compact, rear-drive platform like GM’s former Kappa architecture, and of course, further variants to help make that venture profitable. Bring it on, GM.

]]> 60
Could Chevrolet Revive The Chevelle As An RWD Car? Just Maybe Fri, 05 Apr 2013 16:07:10 +0000

Over at Jalopnik, Patrick George discusses the recent trademark filing by General Motors for the Chevelle name. After a brief discussion regarding trademark procedure, George makes a logical conclusion; the Chevelle name may end up attached to something less than worthy, similar to how Dodge’s C-segment car ended up with the Dart moniker. But there is a potential ray of sunshine here for enthusiasts.

In January, TTAC commenter nadude (or as he’s known to everyone else, Mark Reuss, GM’s North American head) told an Australian news outlet that the Code 130R concept car “would be a great entry for us.” The Code 130R was a BMW 1-Series-esque concept car that used an FR layout and an efficient four-cylinder engine, not unlike the Scion FR-S.

As for how the car might make it into production

“I don’t know if they (Toyota) are making any money but it is a very attractive car…we would do something with the knowledge of Alpha and the background, but we wouldn’t take Alpha and try and shrink it.”

Currently, Alpha only has two vehicles based off of it; the Cadillac ATS and the next generation Chevrolet Camaro. GM will need to utilize this architecture further, as a way of amortizing its costs. Toyota is following a similar approach with the FR-S, spawning multiple variants to help absorb the costs of developing such a platform from the ground up.

While Reuss’ comments seem to suggest something different, it’s hard to make an armchair guess on how GM would get the Code 130R into production. At least GM has some kind of basis to start with, not to mention the will of some of its top level execs. As TTAC’s resident “voice of a generation”, I’ve already given the stamp of approval to the Code 130R. Unlike the SS, I could actually afford this, and the FR-S, as many of you know, doesn’t quite do it for me. So how about a compact, 4-cylinder Chevelle with rear-drive based off of some kind of Alpha platform? Sounds good to me.

]]> 59
GM Will Introduce Two Mid-Size Pickups For 2015 Wed, 03 Apr 2013 15:48:55 +0000

GM will have two new mid-size pickups out in 2015, just in time to steal the spotlight from the all-new Ford F-150. And according to TTAC Commenter and GM exec Mark Reuss, the two trucks should have fairly different missions.

Speaking to the Detroit Free Press, Reuss said that the Chevrolet pickup will be a “lifestyle” oriented truck, while GMC’s truck would be aimed at fleets and small businesses. Reuss also said that the new trucks would have all-new powertrains and be slightly larger than a Toyota Tacoma. We can only hope that this includes some kind of diesel, perhaps the Duramax that’s offered in the Thai version of the Chevrolet Colorado.

Perhaps our Aussie/global readers can fill us in on the subtitles of the Colorado vs. Hilux debate as well.

]]> 144
How A Frequent TTAC Commenter Nearly Became CEO Of General Motors Thu, 24 Jan 2013 15:08:20 +0000

Selim Bingol, GM’s PR bigshot, may not “negotiate with terrorists”, but he nearly wound up working for a terrorist sympathizer who was active on terrorist message boards: Bingol’s former client Ed Whitacre recommended the man as GM’s next leader.

Automotive News reports that Whitacre originally wanted Mark Reuss, son of a former GM exec, to become CEO. In the end, GM got Dan Akerson. So how to explain the TTAC connection?

First, a preface. TTAC is committed to providing a positive experience for the commenters, provided they adhere to the commenting policy. Furthermore, we know that plenty of our readers work in sensitive positions within the industry, and their anonimity is extremely important. However, Reuss ended up outing himself.

Reuss’ s often snarky comments fit TTAC well. Likewise, Reuss would be a perfect fit for the top job at GM. After all, what’s good for North America should be just great for GM. A youthful, knowledgeable, quick-witted Reuss definitely trumps an Akerson, who, according to Whitacre, was openly contemptuous of GM and their products – a charge commonly leveled at TTAC. Imagine that, a TTAC reader occupying the executive suite at General Motors. One can only snicker at the idea of a Manchurian Candidate or sleeper cell planted deep within GM to help undermine the evil labor unions, hard-touch plastics and Voltec R&D programs.

As the son of a former auto executive myself, I know what it’s like to visit Dad at the office and be awestruck by the magnitude and complexity of what goes into putting cool cars on the road – and the desire to fill Dad’s shoes one day, working in the greatest industry on the planet. Just remember Mark, we are not an evil monolith dedicated to bringing down the RenCen, even if your PR guru thinks so.

Reuss is young, and a frequent TTAC commenter can still be CEO. By endorsing him, we may have diminished his odds under the current regime, but there is always hope for a new one.

Care to comment, nadude?

]]> 18
GM’s wishful thinking swallows the Pontiac G8, spits out the Chevrolet SS. Mon, 03 Dec 2012 13:00:53 +0000

A couple of years ago, I attended my last General Motors press event. It was the debut of the Cadillac CTS-v Coupe and it was held at the Monticello country-club racetrack. I recall being impressed with the car, and I recall being impressed with Mark Reuss, the second-generation GM executive who brought his own helmet and his Grand-Am license to the event. Like Bob Lutz, Reuss is a big, handsome, improbably wealthy fellow who travels with a personal assistant, speaks in a no-nonsense tone, and carries himself with impervious confidence.

My attitude to the superstar dudes of the industry closely parallels that of O’Shea Jackson (warning: listening to that song at work will GET YOU FIRED) so I didn’t bother to chat Mr. Reuss up until we found ourselves side by side in the airport terminal. I asked him his opinion of the handling differences between the various CTS bodystyles, listened to him tell a couple of stories about road racing, and received some mild chastisement for turfing “his” Cadillac at high speed. It wasn’t until my flight home was halfway over that I realized: Yeah, he’s a great guy, but his company is failing miserably and he really isn’t doing anything to stop it. GM is chock-full of likable, even admirable people who are nevertheless collectively part of a great tragedy. It really doesn’t matter how “cool” a guy like Mark Reuss is. He’s being beaten out of his socks by “uncool” people at other companies, and as automotive journalists we’re not serving the truth if we don’t remind our readers of that simple fact every time it’s necessary. Every single time. Even if nobody else is willing to discuss the enormous elephant in the room — you know, the one with “18% Market Share” and “Bailout” and “Worst Product Line In the Industry” tattooed all over its wrinkly bottom.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about the new “Chevrolet SS”.

TTAC wasn’t invited to the Las Vegas party for the NASCAR SS, so we’ll have to rely on Autoblog’s Jonathon Ramsey, who sat with Mr. Reuss at lunch and faithfully reported the great man’s words. Readers who want the complete remarks should read the article, which is entitled “How the SS will become Chevy’s four-door Corvette halo car”. Much of the article discusses NASCAR’s struggles to maintain a competitive balance while still giving the viewing audience a field of cars that at least vaguely resembles what’s available at dealerships. I’d like to skip over that and concentrate on Reuss’s remarks regarding the 2014 Chevrolet SS.

If you’re just arriving on the Internet, here’s the scoop: For a third time, GM is trying to bring over one of its rear-wheel-drive Australian cars for American consumption. The first effort was the Pontiac GTO, which was nice big coupe caught in an unfortunate crossfire of dealer greed and almost perfect resemblance to the Chevrolet Cavalier of the time. The Pontiac G8 sedan which followed was well-liked but couldn’t compete effectively with the Camry on one side and the Chrysler LX-platform cars on the other. Will the third time be a charm? Ramsey writes

There are two vital ways in which the SS will not be The Pontiac G8 2.0, however: It’s going upmarket and it’s not for the masses. In fact, Reuss said the SS is a completely different car from the G8, specifically in terms of refinement and NVH, and that’s before you get to the high-power small-block V8 that, in his words, makes the SS “a four-door Corvette.”

That’s odd; I seem to recall that the Pontiac G8 GXP had a high-power small-block V8 from the two-door Corvette. Still, there’s a kernel of sense in this popcorn bag of insanity. Your humble author found the V-6 G8 to be a pretty decent ride, but the rest of the market clearly preferred the V-8 models. Like it or not, the day when regular American families wanted a 200-inch-long rear-wheel-drive V-8 sedan for everyday use is long gone, and most of the families who do want that are probably better served by the Chrysler LX cars with their superior electronics and look-at-me styling. Why not make an ornament of an inconvenience and pitch this relatively low-volume car upmarket where you can make money on the few you will sell? Now for the rest of the popcorn bag:

Any time you mention the word Corvette, you’re probably not talking about an inexpensive car… Therefore, Chevy is treating the SS like a halo car: Instead of making grand predictions about production volumes or churning out a performance car that sits on dealer lots, Reuss said, “We will fill the orders of the people who want them.”

Gotcha. That’s manufacturer code-speak for “we asked the dealers about it and they didn’t want any inventory, not at what we’re charging”. Earlier in the interview, Reuss says the decision to bring the SS to America is “all about racing”. So why bother with the car at all? I don’t want to sound like I’m not a fan of auto racing — I’ve certainly spent a lot of my own time and money doing it — but shouldn’t GM be focusing its competitive efforts on the marketplace rather than the Talladega 400? What’s the point of bringing over a car you can’t sell and spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting it? Wouldn’t that money be better spent developing solid product? Furthermore, the company is still on the receiving end of taxpayer money, making this decision to go racing look uncomfortably like a stereotypical welfare recipient’s decision to spend his welfare check on drugs or liquor while his children starve at home.

As for the name, there is a bit of heritage to the SS badge as a nameplate, but it seems this was more about steering clear of what has come before… “We raced the Impala, Monte Carlo, Regal, Grand Prix, and they were all front-wheel-drive in their last [production] versions,” Reuss said, “and we didn’t want to come up with a new name for it.” As such, what’s happening now is also about returning some lustre to the SS badge, assuming it wins on Sunday come 2013: Reuss said he purged all of the SS models from the Chevrolet line-up except on the Camaro because none of the other offerings were about increased performance, only trim pieces, which is a bit of a slap in the face to an acronym for “Super Sport.”

I’ve yet to speak to anybody who thinks calling this Australian sedan the “Chevy SS” is a good idea. It’s just as stupid as, oh, let’s come up with a few other takes on the subject:

  • The Honda Si
  • The Ford LX
  • The Toyota GT-S
  • The Nissan GT-R… oh, damn.

The prospective “Chevy SS” buyer will probably spot other “SS” cars during his test drive: a Trailblazer SS, a Malibu Maxx SS, a Cobalt SS, an HHR SS. If he’s particularly lucky, he will see one of the non-supercharged Monte Carlo SS models. None of those will have ever cost what the “Chevy SS” does. He might see a Camaro SS, but the Camaro SS is at best third place in the Camaro hierarchy, below the ZL-1 and the 1LE. If he buys the “Chevy SS”, he will have the unenviable task of explaining to his neighbors what he’s purchased, said conversation likely being made additionally difficult by most people’s awareness that SS has meant a trim level of some type since time immemorial. “A Chevy SS what?”

“Uh, a Chevy SS.”

“Yes, but what kind?”

“Just, um, a Chevy SS.”

Assuming this “halo sedan” costs at least forty-five thousand bucks, which is what a G8 GXP would cost today, it’s easy to conjure any number of more satisfying conversations that someone might be able to have with their neighbors for that kind of money, and none of them involve General Motors products. Speaking of: will this sedan be permitted to be as fast as, say, a Cadillac CTS-V? If not, how much slower will it be? Will it be faster than the regular CTS 3.6? If so, then why would anybody buy the Cadillac? Why, exactly, does Chevrolet need a “halo car”? Shouldn’t the Chevrolet buyer be aspiring to a Buick or Cadillac? How many high-dollar halo performance sedans does GM need, particularly in an era where they can’t even be bothered to engineer their own small cars?

It’s also a little confusing to read Mr. Reuss’s assertion that the “SS” is called the “SS” because calling it anything else would have required a “new name”. I’m no Chevy historian but I can think of a few names which would have some positive associations. Biscayne. Bel Air. Chevelle. Eurosport. Just kidding about that last one. If none of those work, why not really put some juice behind the “four-door Corvette” idea and call it the “Corvette Touring”? That’s no less credible than, say, the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe.

In the end, it won’t matter. The “SS” is doomed, as DOA as its predecessors were. The market for an upmarket halo Chevrolet with a silly name just isn’t that good in the current economic climate — or any other. Not that the auto media will bother to tell you about that. They’ll fawn over the car, enjoy the lavish press event, burn the back tires off the “long-term tester”, then write a wistful article about what a great used-car value it is after GM cancels the program in 2016 or so.

Still, it didn’t have to be this way. It would be nice to have a time machine, wouldn’t it? We could go back to 2003 or thereabouts and convince GM to bring the GTO over as the Chevrolet Chevelle. It would have been a nice fit in the lineup and the resemblance to the Cavalier would have been a benefit, not a hindrance. The revised G8-based Chevelle would have brought volume and repeat customers to Chevy stores instead of clogging up soon-to-be-closed Pontiac dealerships. By the third generation, the cars could be made in the United States, serving the livery and police markets as well as providing a genuine alternative to the Dodge Charger. The feckless new-gen Malibu and an Azera-alike Impala wouldn’t be quite so disappointing with a $28,000 V-6 Chevelle next to them on showroom floors. Everybody wins.

Of course, if you really had access to a time machine you wouldn’t bother to visit the General Motors of 2003. You’d buy stocks during the Crash of ’29. You’d sneak into Versailles and impress Marie Antoinette with your iPad. Or you might do something that has always been near and dear to my academic heart; you’d travel back to the final days of Imperial Rome to find out why the greatest civilization in history up to that point simply gave up and let the barbarians storm the gates. Imagine the final emperors, serene in their bubbles of misinformation and fawning praise, believing they would continue to rule even as their doom was laid plain for all to see.

Time machines are a fantasy, but I don’t need one to know what a Roman emperor looked like before the fall. I’ve seen it with my own eyes — and so has Jonathon Ramsey.

]]> 79
Camaro ZL1 Records 7:41:27 Nuburgring Lap, GM Claims “Fastest Production Time Under $75k” Thu, 06 Oct 2011 17:16:10 +0000

With ‘ring times back in the news thanks to a new feud between Dodge’s Viper ACR and Lexus’s LFA, GM took its forthcoming Camaro ZL1 to the Eifel Forest to record its own time. The best lap time of 7:41:27, according to Motor Trend, was set by lead development engineer Aaron Link (some outlets are reporting the time was actually set by GM NA President Mark Reuss himself), although Reuss does have some his own impressions to add, telling MT

“It’s power all the time, capability all the time, and the steering and tractability of the car is just phenomenal,” he told us. Reuss also told us that this Camaro easily (and often) hit speeds of 170 mph on the ‘Ring’s back straight, and that even from those speeds the ZL1 exhibited, “Some serious braking power.” Reuss added, “We never faded the brakes on it… It’s one of the easiest cars I’ve ever driven to drive fast and hard. Everybody’s going to have a good time with it.”

But is the ZL1′s time, as Reuss apparently told TrueCar, “the fastest lap time recorded by ANY production vehicle costing less than $75,000″?

As Bertel has pointed out, there are not yet any agreed-upon rules as to what makes a true “production car,” and the only real authority on ‘ring lap times, Wikipedia (which still doesn’t list the ZL1′s time), counts anything that’s “road legal” in the same category. But in Germany, anyway, “road-legal” and “production” are not the same thing, as demonstrated by the top time being set by a Radical SR8 LM that requires a not-wildly-production-like

45 minute start up procedure involving a laptop plugged into the ECU, 108 octane fuel, engine rebuilds every 30 hours, transmission inspections/rebuilds after every race, etc

And because the ZL1 that set this lap time was a pre-production validation model, there’s clearly some question as to how close to production-spec it was at the time the lap was set. All the more reason the Viper ACR’s hot-off-the-showroom-floor 7:12:13 is so impressive. But, with sales of production ZL1s set for sometime next year, there’s little doubt that GM couldn’t go back and make their ‘ring time statement with a dealer-ready version. After all, as Jack Baruth put it,

‘Ring times are like any other laptimes in the world: subject to weather, chance, and the constant grinding effort of development work. Doesn’t matter if you start with a “stock” car. You can adjust camber, you can crank the toe in back until you either set a record or kill your driver, you can mess around with tire temps, you can use your datalogger to stitch together an “ideal lap” and then go run that lap. Period. No magic. No special significance. It’s a racetrack. Nothing more. Nothing less.

]]> 39
GM Dealer Cull: Now With 50 Percent Less Cull? Wed, 09 Jun 2010 17:31:26 +0000
Thanks to congressional arbitration, GM’s dealer cull has been steadily downsized since The General made the decision to axe nearly 2,000 dealers during last year’s bankruptcy. Going into bankruptcy, GM had about 6,000 dealers nationwide, and it culled nearly 2,00 of them in an attempt to lean out its distribution channels. But now the Detroit News reports that GM’s North American boss Mark Reuss has said that about half of those culled dealers will have been reinstated by this July, bringing GM’s dealer count back to the 5,000 ballpark.

When asked for confirmation, GM spokesfolks equivocated, saying:

We’re not providing numbers. Those numbers change every single day. We are talking to dealers who are trying to settle cases with us. We are going to arbitration hearings. Decisions are being handed down and those numbers change every day.

The GM and Chrysler dealer culls have been deeply controversial since day one, generating opposition in congress and among dealers. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, GM’s reinstatement of 1,000 dealers could save as many as 47,700 jobs.

]]> 20
May Chevrolet’s Best Tagline Win Thu, 11 Mar 2010 18:51:54 +0000

In a recent Fastlane livechat, GM’s North American boss Mark Reuss revealed that:

Chevrolet re vamp in ads is well under way with Susan Docherty–you will like it a lot–shows the car, and uses “excellence for everyone”….you will really like it.

When asked if he was saying that “Excellence For Everyone” would be the new Chevrolet tagline, Reuss replied in the negative. Which makes it… a pickup line? Just a line? With “May The Best Car Win” having failed to make much headway, and “American Revolution” a pre-bankruptcy artifact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this “Excellence for Everyone” briefly become Chevy’s main tagline. If only to give Reuss and Whitacre an excuse to fire Docherty when the campaign collapses under the weight of its own vacuity.

Reuss, meanwhile, is keeping mum about the new ads, which come out in about two months. The only other hints he gave:

Chevrolet and Corvette have been together forever. I feel we do not leverage the Corvette name or the Camaro name to help halo Chevrolet. If you go to races you always see the red bowtie, but when have you ever seen vettes and camaros in ads for Equinox or Malibu? this will change.

A trite, meaningless tagline, plus halo cars. What a strategem. If Docherty is still working at GM by the end of this summer, it will be nothing short of a miracle.

]]> 28
GM Shakeups Continue: Nesbitt Ousted At Cadillac, Lutz “Actively Considering” Retirement Tue, 02 Mar 2010 16:02:46 +0000

Motor Trend reports that former PT Cruiser stylist Brian Nesbitt has been relieved of his duties as the head of Cadillac, ending GM’s post-bankruptcy experiment of putting a stylist in charge of an entire division. But MT figures that Nesbitt’s ouster isn’t as simple as a failure to perform; according to their sources, the firing was political.

The shakeup has major implications for Bob Lutz’s future at GM. He hired Nesbitt away from Chrysler earlier last decade and made sure there was a place for the PT Cruiser designer at post-bankruptcy GM. Nesbitt’s departure would indicate Lutz’s role as one of three GM vice chairmen has diminished to almost nothing… Clearly, [recently-promoted sales boss and President of North American ops Mark Reuss] is putting his own team together, and it doesn’t include Nesbitt, who was posed as the aesthetic face of the Cadillac luxury division.

Reuters spoke with Maximum Bob in Geneva, and asked him about the “R-word.” Lutz replied:
The reason I am giving it active consideration this time is because I honestly feel I can look back with satisfaction and say the team I was privileged to lead in product development has actually achieved more than what I would have hoped for
That, or his word is no longer regarded with awestruck reverence around the RenCen, and the Man of Maximum is finding himself on the outside looking in. More evidence for this can be found in the apparent decision to put the Volt-based Cadillac Converj (which Lutz has actively championed) into development hell. According to Lutz:

As we took a look at our available capital and engineering resources, we decided that therer were things that were more urgent than doing a Cadillac version of the Voltec architecture. We had originally had a time slot for the Converj and that has been put on hold

Does something about Lutz’s use of the first-person plural seem a bit odd? It’s one easy way to conceal the fact that MaxBob and Ed “Rattler” Whitacre are at odds on a number of fronts. Would Mr Lutz like to comment on this rift?

Ed Whitacre is not interested in organizational stability, Ed Whitacre is interested in results. If it takes a certain amount of upheaval to get the right people in the positions than that is what he is going to do.

If that doesn’t suggest that Lutz is on his way out, what would? It looks like Docherty, Nesbitt and Lutz are on the decline, while Reuss and Steve Girsky are exercising ever more control as Ed Whitacre’s hatchet men. GM will be making an announcement about its latest shakeup sometime this week, and we’ll update you with the latest on this palace intrigue as it plays out.

]]> 23
GM Shuffles Sales And Marketing Management Mon, 01 Mar 2010 14:33:43 +0000

Shortly after emerging from bankruptcy last July, when GM’s sales were still showing few signs of recovery, then-Sales and Marketing boss Mark LaNeve had his marketing responsibilities stripped about a week before monthly sales came out. In a matter of months, LaNeve was out the door. Sales and marketing were rolled together again when Susan Docherty took over for LaNeve, but over the weekend it was once again stripped away, in one of the first signs that Docherty’s star is no longer rising at GM. And lets go ahead and start assuming that February sales must be looking fairly grim, because the only real explanation given to Automotive News [sub] is that

The shakeup shows that Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre is impatient to boost sales and for consumers to appreciate what he believes is the high quality of GM vehicles. When he became chief executive in December, Whitacre said his sales and marketing team would need to show results quickly.

The perception gap claims another victim! But Docherty’s downgrade is Mark Reuss’s gain. The former Holden boss, now GM’s President of North American operations, will assume the sales responsibilities, leaving Docherty time to focus on the marketing side and polish up her resumé.

Indeed, the only evidence that the S&M split doesn’t mean Docherty is on her way out is that the same division of labor is being repeated across the executive ranks. Because if you can’t pay your execs enough, hiring twice as many can’t be a bad idea. You know, unless bloated management bureaucracies are a long-standing weakness for your company. In any case,

GM will create a divisional reporting structure that separates sales and marketing. Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick-GMC will each have a marketing boss, reporting to Docherty, and a sales leader, reporting to Reuss, said the sources, who declined to be identified. The division chiefs now handle both functions.

Since Whitacre took over at GM, the executives have been shuffled and reshuffled so regularly, it’s surprising that they know their own job descriptions. Though it’s heartening to see Docherty, one of the few remaining Fritz Henderson loyalists, sliding her way towards a long overdue kiss-off, dividing sales and marketing is a good way to spread the responsibility around, and prevent anyone from taking too much accountability. Which is probably the price of paying your execs “way, way, way ” below market. Not to mention, a fantastic way to return GM to its bad, old management habits.
]]> 27
Bonus Blogger-on-Auto Exec Footage Sat, 16 Jan 2010 16:12:23 +0000

A large part of TTAC’s mission is pulling aside the curtain on the industry, exposing the humans behind the cars that make up our everyday lives. Automobiles have always reflected something of the individuals and cultures that created them, so it’s fascinating to see the different personalities that go into running the world’s automakers. Still, as paid executives, their performances are usually polished to a high sheen; the folks behind you favorite car blogs on the other hand, not so much. The interplay between the two is often as revealing as it is entertaining. Can’t get enough? The complete session is available at

]]> 3
Truck Thursday: GM Teases The El Camino Faithful With Holden Ute Hint Thu, 14 Jan 2010 17:12:57 +0000

GM’s Australian Holden division has been developing the kind of big-bore RWD vehicles we tend to think of as being quintessentially American for quite some time. But every time GM hints at repatriating one of these old-school machines to its spiritual homeland in the states, something goes terribly wrong. One classic example of this disfunction was the offshoot of GM’s last effort to bring Holdens stateside as the Pontiac G8, the G8 Sport Truck, a rebadge of Holden’s Ute. The travails of the G8 have been well documented, but the Sport Truck was killed before it even had the chance to lose GM money and be cut along with the Pontiac brand. Now, just as the memory of that savage tease was fading, GM’s Mark Reuss reveals that the El Camino could be back after all.

GM’s new North America honcho, former Holden boss Mark Reuss tells

I thought we’d have a hard time putting Ute into Pontiac, but I know it was part of the broader strategy of doing that because they were both VE, there are reasons why you do that, but I think another brand with the Ute would be pretty attractive,

Huh? Reuss says Chevrolet would be a better fit for the Ute, especially because it would clear the way for a return of the El Camino name. Plus, freed from the performance pretensions of the Pontiac brand, GM could bring new versions with a direct-injection V6 that allow better fuel economy.

You have to look at this strategically and say, VE has got to be able to stand on its own on the world stage and I think now it is getting to be able to do that, from a fuel economy (perspective) and you will see mass come out of the car… It only gets more attractive on an export basis.

More practicality sounds like a good thing, given the distinct lack of comparable utility-oriented trucklets on the market. Not to mention the fact that GM still has no plans to replace its aging Canyon/Colorado pickups. But then, good luck building a utilitarian Ute, shipping it from Australia to America, charging a reasonable price and making a profit in the process. If GM is for real about bringing Utes to America, it should seriously consider producing them alongside the Caprice police vehicles instead of importing, as Reuss suggests. Whether the American market can soak up enough volume to justify such a move is still a huge open question.

]]> 7
Dealer Arbitration GM’s “Top Challenge” For 2010 Wed, 13 Jan 2010 16:09:54 +0000 Reuss's Revenge? (courtesy:daylife)

GM has a tough row to hoe in 2010, with the launches of key products like the Cruze and Volt going on sale, an IPO to worry about, and a sales slide (down 30 percent for 2009) to reverse. Still, according to GM’s new North American boss Mark Reuss, navigating the congressionally-mandated dealer arbitration is the top challenge of the coming year. At a speech last night, Reuss told reporters from Automotive News [sub] that:

I welcome this as an opportunity for GM and the dealership network to go through a change in our network with integrity,

As opposed to the arbitrary bankruptcy-era dealer cull?

According to Reuss, the other challenges on his list have more to do with the bread and butter of GM’s business, including “marketing GM’s vehicles and brands and improving customer relationships so that Americans have enough confidence to buy a GM model.” Reuss explains that “that equals profitable retail share growth.”

Still, as TTAC has reported, and Reuss confirmed to Bloomberg, profitable retail share means fewer discounts, although The General is still dropping prices on such allegedly “hot” cars as the Malibu and CTS sedans. Is there a difference between dropping a price and putting cash on the hood? If Reuss thinks so, there’s been nobody to ask him yet.

Meanwhile, GM is still addicted to incentives, using cash on the hood to move new models, old models, strong sellers and old dogs. Until that gets fixed, bringing up transaction prices while retaining volume remains a challenge that should at the top of any GM exec’s list of things to do in 2010. After all, bloated inventories and forced discounting is the biggest strain on relations between GM and its dealers, according to executives from AutoNation and Group 1 dealer groups speaking to Automotive News [sub].

Instead, GM is looking at more production to reach what Sales Boss Susan Docherty describes as an ideal of “at least” 60 days supply of vehicles like its Theta-platform compact CUVs. BusinessWeek reports

GM used to “refuse to add capacity” for specific models, Lutz said. “This is why we have never been able to add market share, because we wouldn’t roll the dice and go with the winners.”

Perhaps, but overproduction also caught GM in the brand- and market share-destroying cycle of inventory binges and incentive-driven purges. Given the uncertainty around the larger auto market for 2010, and GM’s market share, erring on the side of caution might not be a horrible idea.

]]> 8
Ed Whitacre’s First Web Chat Tue, 08 Dec 2009 20:11:38 +0000 Nobody called me "Big Papa"!GM’s New CEO Ed Whitacre made his first appearance at the Fastlane blog in a webchat that represented the first access GM has given reporters to Whitacre. Needless to say, journalists do not like sharing their access with the general public, and they let GM know. Thedetroitbureau’s Paul Eisenstein asked “like many of my colleagues, I wonder when you will address us in the media directly, even if by telephone conference. To be honest, a webchat is quite a bit different and doesn’t carry the veracity of seeing or at least hearing you directly.” To which Whitacre responded:

Dear Paul,

I’ve been on the job for four days.   I’ll do it as soon as I feel comfortable and have enough clear air and time.   I promise we’ll talk soon.

No worries though. Whitacre didn’t actually say anything newsworthy.

What Whitacre did reveal can be summarized as follows:

GM has narrowed its search for new CFOs, and we can expect a decision in “two or three weeks.”

Whitacre communicates with the government task force about once a week, and according to Whitacre,”they promise to keep hands off and let the Board run the company.   They’ve been true to their word and done exactly that…I give them high marks.”

Saab’s fate will be decided by the end of December, but GM is still involved in negotiations with “several interested parties.”

Whitacre believes “Mr. Reuss and Mrs. Docherty will do a great job going forward,” and he has no plans to bring in a Chief Operating Offier.

Whitacre “likes cars,” drives a CTS-V, and has previously purchased a Tahoe, and Avalanche and a Yukon XL.

GM has no plans for further job cuts, although when asked “Fritz Henderson had only about 8 months as CEO before he left. How long do the newly appointed execs have to show results before they are replaced?” he replied “Not long :-)”.

GM is considering paying back the taxpayers $6.7b in a lump sum, rather than quarter-by-quarter.

Otherwise, there’s not much to report. Perhaps the best summary of the webchat was Whitacre’s answer when pressed for specifics on 2010 market share goals. “As much as we can get,” was his reply.

]]> 14