When is a brand not a brand? Or, perhaps the real question here is “when does a brand become a brand?”. In any case, Chrysler introduced its Street and Racing Technology “brand” way back in 2002, and has sold SRT versions of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles ever since. But for 2011, a model-year which saw the launch of the group’s Fiat-fettled lineup, the SRT lineup dwindled to just the Challenger SRT8. Now, Chrysler is announcing the “re-creation” of the brand, while noting that
While we still made SRT vehicles, there wasn’t as concerted effort in development and marketing in recent years.
The Detroit News snagged a lengthy interview with GM CEO Dan Akerson, giving observers one of the first in-depth looks at the man who will be leading The General for the next three to four years. The interview is to lengthy to summarize here, but there are a few items that are worth noting…
I am sorry I am being brash but when you owe money to people and you pay them back you shouldn’t be celebrating. You just cut them a check and send them home and say thank you on your way out
We’ve given Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne some grief for his somewhatunseemlyself-congratulation at his repayment of “every penny loaned less than two years ago.” This quote, given to CNBC, is more what we were looking for. After all, one imagines that Chrysler doesn’t hold such celebratory spectacles for folks who finish paying off loans on their Calibers and Caravans. Acknowledging the mundanity of Chrysler’s Wall Street re-fi is a much better way for the firm to re-boot its post-bailout relations with the American people. For this quote, as much as for the promising but still-wildly-uncertain turnaround of Americas most troubled automaker, I am happy to extend Mr Marchionne and his team a modest, unceremonious word of thanks.
UAW Boss Bob King spoke to Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference about what he calls “The 21st Century Union,” arguing that “the union has changed and we challenge business to change with us.” But while King talks cooperation and mutual benefit, his union is preparing for what promises to be a tough fight with the automakers to create a new contract that deals with the shop floor poison of the two-tier system, securing union representation on automaker boards, and rolling back union concessions without sending automakers back towards bankruptcy. Kings words are worth listening to and considering, but the upcoming contract negotiations will be the ultimate measure of the UAW’s professed changes.
AutoNation boss Mike Jackson has long been the front runner to inherit Bob Lutz’s mantle as the most opinionated guy in the car business, and recently he’s been moving to lock up the distinction. Jackson recently gave the world the concept of the gas price “freak-out point” as well as delivering memorable quips on “green car” demand (while calling for higher gas prices), and has been outspoken about the industry’s struggles with “push” production, oversupply, fleet dependence and more. And now he’s laid out what may very well be the basis for a solid “car guy consensus” for political progress on safety issues. Autoobserver reports:
The main points of Jackson’s outline to improve road safety: 1) Make text-messaging illegal – and since that’s unlikely to make much difference, install technology to block text messages in moving vehicles; 2) Raise the gasoline tax to fund safety-enhancing and congestion-reducing traffic-management technology, including intelligent road signals and total automation of toll collection; 3) Get serious about lane discipline by restricting trucks to right-hand lanes and passing only in the left lane.
Can I get an “Amen”? Politics are one of the most divisive issues in American life, and TTAC struggles with the inevitable polarization caused by political topics every day… so hats off to Jackson for solidifying a non-partisan agenda that all (or at least most) car guys can get behind.
An earlier report, stating that Bob Lutz would be returning to GM as a consultant was true… but so was the news that Treasury opposed GM’s plans to pay its longtime executive, who retired a little over a year ago. Speaking to the press at the New York Auto Show, Maximum Bob confirms that he is on the board of Lotus, and revealed that he is doing “pro-bono” work as a consultant for GM’s new product development boss, Mary Barra. According to Automotive News [sub], the prospect of Lutz returning as a GM consultant (ala Fritz Henderson) caused such a stir at Treasury, that he decided to work informally at GM, without pay. Given that Lutz’s heavily-hyped products have yet to return GM to steady retail market share growth, perhaps GM is finally paying him what he’s worth?
We regret that Frank Weber has quit. We thank him for what he has done and wish him the best for the future
Weber, Opel’s product boss, had previously led GM’s global midsize vehicle development and was the head of electric vehicle development (where he wetnursed the Volt) before moving to Opel. It’s not clear where he’ll be going, but he will be going to an “as-yet-unnamed competitor.”
In other industry personnel news, AN [sub] reports that Hyundai has hired GM veteran Steve Shannon to fill its head marketing position, which was opened when Joel Ewanick left for Nissan and then GM. Shannon previously held marketing positions at Saturn, Olds, Buick, Hummer, Saab and Cadillac in his more than 25 years at GM.
Within days of breaking, the Renault Spy Scandal has been in “full reverse,” and now it seems the story is becoming even more embarrassing than we had even imagined. The last time we looked at the case, Bertel forwarded two possible theories for the “farce”: either Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn wanted a distraction from a soft Nissan Leaf EV launch, or someone inside the company wanted to sabotage Ghosn. Now a new theory takes the farce to nearly unimaginable levels…
Reuters reports that Saab/Spyker partner Vladimir Antonov has questioned whether Saab will hit its ambitious 80k unit global sales goal this year, saying
This means that the company could face capital problems
Thelocal.se provides a little more detail quoting Antonov as saying
I’m not involved in how the company is run so I don’t have access to the numbers. But according to earlier versions of the business plan, they have to sell 80,000 cars this year to stay with the plan. From my point of view, I think that’s a bit too optimistic.
If the goal isn’t reached it would be nice for Saab to have €50-70 million ($69-97 million) as a little something extra to lean on. We’re ready to provide that money if we’re allowed to do so by the [European Investment Bank].
Antonov went on to say that bringing in outside investors would be difficult and that if the EIB loan fell through, something he does not foresee, Saab could be bankrupt “in days.” Needless to say, Saab’s Chief Optimism Officer Victor Muller didn’t take kindly to Antonov’s remarks and is firing back in the press.
General Motors has announced that Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell will be leaving the company on April 1, “having completed the largest public offering in history and stabilizing the company’s financial operations.” CEO Dan Akerson has denied that Liddell’s departure has anything to do with GM’s first-quarter financial performance or his relationship with the departing CFO, saying “we could finish each others sentences.” The former Microsoft man was brought into GM in January of last year, and helped guide the automaker through its IPO and eliminated its material weaknesses in internal financial controls, apparently the two tasks he needed to complete before riding off into the sunset.
That’s right, the Executive Chairman of America’s only automaker to have never taken a bailout just raised concerns about the problem of selling too many cars. It’s not as if he doesn’t have a point… it’s just little like listening to Charlie Sheen leading an AA meeting. (Read More…)
Hresko’s departure comes about a month after CEO Dan Akerson took the product-development organization from powertrain engineer Tom Stephens and put most of it under Mary Barra, a manufacturing engineer. Stephens, a GM vice chairman, became chief technology officer and retained responsibilities for research and development. But Hresko’s resignation was his decision and not part of a management shakeup, a person familiar with the situation said.
As a 28-year veteran of GM who previously held top positions in US and Global quality departments, Hresko’s resignation is not inconsequential. Especially given his lack of post-GM plans. GM’s auto industry experience-free CEO Dan Akerson now has one less experienced advisor to rely on… or is that one less recalcitrant insider to fight?
Weeks after being appointed to the top of GM’s new product development team, Mary Barra remains something of an enigma to much of the automotive press. Like, what accomplishments earned Ms Barra her lofty spot on GM’s org chart? According to Newsweek‘s Doron Levin
When Mary Barra was a senior manufacturing executive a few years ago at General Motors, she spotted another maker’s car decked out in a rich metallic black color. It was unlike anything GM was offering, so she suggested the color be added to the company’s palette—and was promptly rebuffed by fellow engineers, who fretted about potential quality-control difficulties. But Barra wouldn’t take no for an answer, and before long buyers were able to get their Cadillac Escalades and Chevy Malibus in elegant “Carbon Flash.”
As General Motors Co. gets closer to emerging from government oversight, the automaker is trying to hire Bob Lutz, its former chief of vehicle development, as a consultant…
The U.S. Treasury has opposed Lutz’s appointment on the grounds that, since he left the company last May, paying him so close to his retirement could look like a sweetheart payout. The government could soften its opposition in three months, once a year has passed since Lutz’s retirement.
Could it be true? Could the man credited with all of GM’s success and none of its failures really be coming back for more? More to the point, as a consultant? Bob’s current gigs are advising an electric scooter company and the Lotus “revival”… does GM really want to put itself in that company? Oh, who are we kidding? We want Lutz back. The industry just seems so damn boring without him…
Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has given Forbes’ Joann Muller what I believe to be one of his best interviews since arriving on the US scene. In it, Sergio dishes on everything from the bailout (“I risked everything – I got 35 percent of something that was worth nothing”), to Chrysler’s 2011 sales target (“a very, very tough uphill battle”), to its new product
I couldn’t have done more from a product standpoint than I’ve done. I mean you know, I tried every trick in the book that I knew and I invented some, but you know, 16 products in 12 months – at least that part of it was a record. The rest of it is to be proven.
But the strangest revelation from Sergio is that Alfa Romeo’s future success will be, in a manner of speaking, “Imported from Detroit.” Read the whole thing over at Forbes, or hit the jump for Sergio’s vision for his red-blooded Italian brand.