Tag: People

By on October 6, 2011

Remember the video of Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn testing the quality of the new Hyundai i30? Thanks to Autobild, we’ve found a companion video from the Frankfurt Show, in which Winterkorn, along with VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech, gives the once-over to the new European-market Honda Civic. According to Autobild, Piech kept his nickname “Fugen-Ferdi” (Gap-Ferdi) relevant by checking the new Civic’s panel gaps. And, in contrast to the Hyundai video, the intelligible portions of Winterkorn’s commentary were less than entirely complimentary. The German magazine reports

A member of the VW entourage says that “(Honda) has had good role models.” But the big boss played down the praise for VW with a smile, and responded generously “they were once a role model for us.”

Note the use of the past tense, then contrast with Winterkorn’s reaction to the Hyundai. In just two videos you can see the balance of automotive power shifting…

By on September 18, 2011

Once upon a time, this stuff was easy. When Jean Jennings needed a little extra pocket change all she had to do was… make an ad. Like this one, for the Silverado. Or this one, for Jeep (which I swear was still visible less than a year ago). Nowadays, however, you’ve got to be a little more careful about how you go about lending your “editorial credibility” to one of the brands you’re supposed to be covering rather than shilling for. So instead of the straight-up “Hi, I’m Jean Jennings, Editor-in-Chief of Automobile Magazine, and here’s why I love Chevy’s Silverado” pimpatorial of the past, you’ve got to layer on the irony, load up on non-car-related distractions (I’ve got it… a puppet!) and generally avoid the personal testimonial format as much as possible.
(Read More…)

By on September 14, 2011

Volkswagen will almost certainly finish the year as the second-largest automaker by volume… and if it wants to take the top spot, it will do so on sales, not acquisitions. Having gobbled an extraordinary number of acquisitions over the past several decades, including Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Italdesign and Karmann, VW’s monstrous appetite appears to be waning. And no wonder: the latest mouthful, a partnership with Suzuki, has gone sour and recent lustful glances at Alfa have drawn sassy rebukes from Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne. Accordingly, VW’s Chairman Ferdinand Piech tells Bloomberg [via AN [sub]] that no more acquisitions are planned and that

We’re big enough

Of course, this is also coming from the company that’s been struggling to swallow Porsche for the last several years. Once that deal is complete, we’ll check back on Herr Piech’s appetite. Because in an industry built on scale, you never know when hunger will strike…

 

By on September 6, 2011

Today’s resignation of Chrysler’s chairman and two other government-assigned directors was hardly a surprise, as now-Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne had signaled that changes were coming in the wake of Chrysler’s “payback” of government loans. In fact, Rebecca Lindland of IHS Automotive predicted that chairman Robert Kidder, as well as the other two departing directors would be the ones leaving, telling the Freep

Three of the five Chrysler board members who are government appointees — Kidder, Stuart Scott and George Gosbee — are members of investment advisory firms.

“Now, you kind of need to have people that have distinctive automotive industry experience verses financial expertise,” Lindland said.

But Lindland was only half-right. She picked the departing directors perfectly, but Marchionne didn’t replace them with even a hint of “distinctive automotive industry experience.” But not being a dyed-in-the-wool “automotive guy” himself, he apparently had some slightly different qualifications in mind…

(Read More…)

By on September 2, 2011

The original car czar is headed back at General Motors, as the company announced today that it was officially retaining former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz as a Senior Advisor. The General’s press release notes

Lutz will be available to executives on a part-time consultancy basis effective immediately. He brings a wealth of experience built over the course of more than 40 years in the industry, including two stints at GM. He has also been a senior executive at Ford, Chrysler, BMW and was CEO of Exide Batteries.

Lutz has been providing advice to GM executives informally since retiring from the company in 2010.

I spent nearly three hours with Lutz last week, and he never mentioned a possible return to GM. He did, however, discuss his entire career, his experiences at Chrysler and GM, his product development philosophy and much, much more. You can read all about it starting on Tuesday, when we begin to publish content based on our interview.

By on August 15, 2011

The easy answer: desperation. More literally though, all three have recently employed the talents of hip hop producer Swizz Beatz in more or less desperate attempts to recapture some much-needed cool. Unfortunately for Lotus, the most recent employer of Mr Beatz, they’re not only getting “sloppy thirds,” but they have to actually share promotional space with Reebok, of all brands. So why did Lotus, a brand with loads of heritage and under-the-radar cool, hire a guy to pass along such brilliant advice as “the key is to infiltrate the market in a cool way” and “for a premium sportscar, they want the flash”? According to Lotus’s release (with video)

1. Like Group Lotus , he means business: He’s a risk taker with considerable credentials including music producer, rapper, designer AND painter.

2. Like our cars, he’s multi award winning: This year he shared a Grammy Award with Jay-Z.

3. Like Group Lotus he keeps good company: This man regularly works with the likes of Bono, Kanye West, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys.

Even if you think Lotus should avoid the “enthusiast trap,” this is a bad call. Having already pimped for Aston-Martin, Swizz’s automotive-sector cool has been spread thin… and does Lotus really want to be associated with his other comeback client, Reebok? The answer: no, but it’s already too late. Lotus was already putting the cool cart before the new product horse, and hiring a prominent and over-booked shill certainly won’t help.

By on August 2, 2011

With the luxury market defying sluggish economic conditions, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche doesn’t want the upstarts at BMW and Audi to slip past it… which they are. Six months through 2011, the Mercedes brand found itself in third place among the German global luxury brands, at 610,531 units. A surging BMW captured 689,861 sales in the half, while Audi took second with 652,970. This, for Zetsche, is an unthinkable state of affairs.  In a letter to his employees, excerpted by Automotive News Europe [sub], Zetsche makes it clear that leadership in the luxury space is a Daimler birthright.

Some of our competitors are now growing faster and more profitably than we are. Granted, those are just snapshots in time and should not be overestimated. After all, many of our best new products are yet to come… In the long run we can’t be content to be in a “solid second” or even “third” place: We are Daimler – we should be far ahead of the pack! And if that requires something that we don’t currently have, then we’ll identify and develop it.

Enjoy your summer and refill your tanks. Because in the second half of this year we’re going to continue to play some hard offense!

But does a sense of entitlement actually motivate workers?
By on August 1, 2011

In an extended interview with Fareed Zakaria this weekend, GM CEO Dan Akerson repudiated a lot of GM’s previous optimism about hydrogen fuel cell cars, saying

We’re looking at hydrogen fuel cells, which have no carbon emissions, zero. They’re very expensive now, but we’ve, just in the last two years, reduced the price of that technology by $100,000. The car is still too expensive and probably won’t be practical until the 2020-plus period, I don’t know. And then there’s the issue of infrastructure

The DetN points out that GM had previously said that it would have anywhere from 1,000 to “hundreds of thousands” of fuel cell cars on the road by 2010, and most recently said (in 2009) that the technology would be “commercialized” by 2015 and “cost-competitive” by 2020. So, if hydrogen is moving to the back burner, what’s moving up? Akerson revealed that

soon we’ll be introducing “bi-fuel” engines which can burn both compressed natural gas and liquid gasoline.

We’ve seen GM take early steps towards bringing a natural gas-powered car to the road, but this is the first sign from a top executive that a dual-fuel car is a certainty in GM’s near future. By talking down hugely expensive hydrogen cars and talking up cheap natural gas powerplants, Akerson sends a strong message that GM’s green car efforts are moving in a more pragmatic direction. Hit the jump for part two of the interview, in which Akerson talks gas tax and green cars.
(Read More…)

By on July 28, 2011

SvD.se reports that Paul Akerlund, Saab’s former IF Metall (one of Sweden’s largest trade unions) representative and now Trollhättan Municipal Council Chairman, has called for the resignation of Saab CEO Victor Muller, saying

I do not think Victor Muller is a good president. He is an owner and a contractor, but he has not sufficient knowledge about how to manage production and development

And Akerlund is no city government busybody, but a longtime company insider who has been influential in Saab’s post-GM life. Having shepherded Saab through the challenges of the past two years, this is another grim sign that Saab is about to succumb to the realities that have dominated TTAC’s Saab coverage for years now. A commentary in SvD, titled “Thank Muller for Painful Bankruptcy” sums up the somber mood in Sweden:

[Saab] has been on artificial respiration for nearly two years. It is down now, and from all indications we can only conclude that the whole process was a painfully protracted bankruptcy. And we have only one person to thank for it.

By on July 28, 2011

[UPDATE: Fiat press release outlining the complete new management structure added]

The awaited consolidation of Fiat and Chrysler operations is complete, reports Bloomberg, and CEO Sergio Marchionne is taking the North American job for himself. Joining Marchionne at the top of the company’s new regionally-based divisions, are Gianni Coda, former head of purchasing at Fiat and now the boss of European, African and Middle East operation; Cledorvino Belini, erstwhile head of Fiat in Brazil is now in charge of all of South America; Michael Manley, previously boss of the Jeep brand, will be leading the firm’s effort Asia. These four regional bosses will be part of a 22-member “group executive council” which will manage all of Fiat and Chrysler’s operations. The details of the council’s makeup still haven’t been released, but the big news is well encapsulated by a quote from Gianluca Spina, chairman of the business school at Polytechnic University of Milan.

Marchionne’s decision to keep the role of overseeing the business in North America shows that the center of gravity of the combined entity will be in the U.S… The integration process is going extremely fast, as is Marchionne’s style.

(Read More…)

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