The Truth About Cars » Resignation The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:46:48 +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 » Resignation Housekeeping: Niedermeyer Parts Ways With TTAC Tue, 31 Jul 2012 17:56:29 +0000

“And all the troubled world around us
Seems an eternity away
And all the debt collectors
Rent collectors
All will be behind us
But they’ll never find us
‘Cos we’ll be dri-i-i-i-ivin’”

-The Kinks “Drivin’”

The last time I made an announcement about my status here at TTAC, I made it clear in the headline that I was bidding the site “au revoir” rather than “adieu.” Having taken an opportunity to work in politics for a year, I was absolutely planning on returning to the fold. Unfortunately, that plan has now changed, and I have informed TTAC’s owners that today will be my last day on the site’s masthead.

With my planned yearlong sojourn over halfway complete, why would I choose to part ways with TTAC now? As with all business relationships, the answer isn’t simple. However, in hopes of avoiding the kind of speculation swirling around GM’s mysteriously-departed Chief Marketing Officer, Joel Ewanick, I’ll explain the situation as well as I can. After receiving permission from TTAC’s owners, VerticalScope, to take a year’s absence from the site, I was told that the company was interested in discussing an opportunity with me upon my return. Starting several months ago, I began discussing that opportunity with VerticalScope, and spent a not inconsiderable amount of time developing a proposal for them. After several meetings, the company informed me that my plans would not be adopted, for reasons that I had an extremely difficult time understanding. The thinking underlying the company’s decision and my experience interacting with it led me to believe that its goals and culture are incompatible with my continued professional development, which in turn led me to this decision.

On one point I want to be perfectly clear: this decision is not about TTAC, its future or its management. Though I may not see eye-to-eye with TTAC’s owners on a variety of broader issues, I give the company immense credit for its dedication to TTAC’s independence. This site’s freedom to publish what it wishes, and VerticalScope’s support for its continued growth are not in question here; my decision to leave TTAC is a personal one, based on my personal passions and ambitions. And as long as TTAC’s independence and brand values remain, I am convinced that this site will continue to grow into an ever-more crucial role in the auto media landscape.

As for myself, the picture is less clear. After my current contract expires at the end of this year, I intend to return to the automotive world in some capacity… although I currently have no specific plans for where and how that will happen. Having studied politics in college, I now find that my education at TTAC was by far the more formative experience, and I look forward to finding a new outlet for the kind of learning, growth and engagement I quite accidentally found here at TTAC. I’ve never been a “car guy” in the traditional sense, but TTAC’s readers have shown that there is a market for automotive writing that goes beyond the sheetmetal and into the laws, economics, politics and culture of the automobile. Having had the privilege of learning from some of the sharpest minds in the auto industry, both on TTAC’s masthead and in its commenter pool, I take this step into the unknown with confidence.

Of course, I owe an eternal debt to the people who have made my experience here at TTAC what it’s been. Most importantly, I must thank Robert Farago for founding this site and believing in me… without him, none of this would have been possible. I also have to thank my father, Paul Niedermeyer, both for encouraging me to start freelancing here in the first place, and providing crucial support ever since. TTAC’s current Editor-in-Chief, Bertel Schmitt, has been a true mentor to me, and for taking TTAC’s reins in his capable hands, I can not thank him enough. And all of TTAC’s amazingly talented editors and writers, especially those who believed in me when few others did, will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s been an honor to work with each of you.

Finally, my deepest regards go out to TTAC’s commentariat, the Best and Brightest. I think every writer on this site, indeed everyone who regularly visits automotive blogs, can agree that the discourse here at TTAC is some of the finest to be found anywhere on the web. Certainly you have collectively served as the greatest teacher I have ever had. And in contrast to the kinds of discourse I’m regularly exposed to in the world of politics, I can say without hesitation that TTAC’s comment section gives me faith in this country’s ability to reason its way through problems. To those of you I’ve met and known individually, stay in touch and I hope to see you again soon. To those of you who remain my anonymous teachers and friends, thank you for your wisdom and support.

Before this gets too emotional for me, I’ll just note that I can always be found on Twitter at @Tweetermeyer. Oh, and I’ll definitely be found in the comments section here when time permits. TTAC may be losing an editor, but it’s gaining a commenter… and a fan for life.

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Maximum Bob Signs Off Fri, 30 Apr 2010 19:04:47 +0000

[Editor's Note: The following farewell message from GM Vice Chairman "Maximum" Bob Lutz was published today at GM's Fastlane blog. In honor of Lutz's larger-than life presence on the American auto scene, we are republishing his official goodbye in its entirety. Thanks for the memories, Bob!]

As I mark my last day at General Motors today, I want to say a special thank you and farewell to the loyal readers of FastLane.  This blog would not have been the success it has become without you, and I’m sure you’ll continue to read the many interesting posts about GM and its vehicles that will follow on these virtual pages.

I leave here today knowing full well that this company is on the right track, especially in terms of the products, which pave the path to success.

Several reasons exist for my unbridled optimism, but the vehicles stand out above all others. The old film mogul Louis Mayer once famously said, “There’s nothing wrong with Hollywood a few good movies wouldn’t fix.” The same philosophy applies to automotive companies; the best vehicles win.

No automotive company has ever turned itself around without great cars and trucks, so it was obvious to us that we needed to strengthen the product line in all segments, and, over the course of the past several years, I believe we have done exactly that.  Simply put, the cars, trucks and crossovers in GM’s lineup now, top to bottom, constitute the strongest roster it has offered in decades, if not ever.  And the ones in the pipeline in the near-term are even better.

Creative authority was returned to the hands of the designers at GM, and we’re now seeing results in vehicles like the Buick Lacrosse, Cadillac CTS and SRX, Chevrolet Malibu, Camaro and Equinox and the GMC Terrain.  All are doing well in the market, and are helping to revive the image of the four brands they represent.  Those four brands are more than holding their own in the marketplace, proving the naysayers wrong who said eliminating half our brands would cost us a lot of market share. March was the sixth month in a row that the four brands collectively delivered a year-over-year retail sales increase.

Furthermore, all the key metrics used to assess the health of a brand are moving in the right direction. Incentive spending is down.  We continue to close the gap vs. our competitors and make sales based on the wheels, not the deals.  Our average transaction prices are up.  Our residuals are up. And our inventories are way down, compared to where they were last year — some 340,000 units down.

And our quality continues to improve.  Chevrolet is now on par with Toyota and Honda in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey, something I hope will improve even further when the next study comes out. We’ve had a 45 percent reduction in warranty claims since 2007 and a 75 percent reduction in recall costs in the same time frame.

In 2009, according to NHTSA data, GM’s percentage of vehicles recalled vs. the total number of vehicles on the road was just 3.1 percent. Four manufacturers have larger numbers, and the top three are into double-digits.

Beyond the improved vehicles and quality, the bottom line is looking better too.  This company, through the cleansing fires of Ch. 11, put itself in a position to succeed. Financially, our balance sheet is in the best shape it’s been in for quite some time.

We have an essentially debt-free balance sheet, and a new and more competitive labor situation. The “new” GM, in my view, is a powerhouse.  We have good variable margins, which we’ve always had, by the way, but which were overpowered by massive fixed costs.  At anything remotely resembling normal industry volumes, GM will be quite profitable.  I’m not saying when… but rest assured it will be soon.

And another big reason I predict success for GM is the confidence I have in the people, and the senior leadership.

GM has always had great talent.  It just didn’t always use it to its maximum potential.  The people here are truly the best and brightest — I’ve known that since the beginning.  Now the culture has turned 180 degrees since I returned here in 2001.  It’s more product-centric than ever, and the focus on designing, building and selling the best vehicles in the world is razor sharp.  This company is not set up to do a mediocre product anymore. Period.

I have faith that Ed Whitacre and his team know exactly what needs to be done to keep this company moving in the right direction.  Focus on the products, keep things simple, boil the fat of unnecessary process out of the system.  Tom Stephens, Mark Reuss and Ed Welburn have, like the CEO, an unwavering commitment to putting out one great vehicle after another.

The American jazz legend Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

That describes the approach the leadership of the new GM is taking perfectly.  This business isn’t all that complicated.  Do the best product you can do, and if it looks better and drives better than the other guy’s, you win.

I only have about 47 years of experience on which to base this opinion, but I believe GM is poised to win.  Thank you very much for your terrific support.

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