By on April 20, 2007

chevrolet-camaro-concept2.jpgWhen Car Czar Bob Lutz told the world that GM was putting the Zeta platform on hold, it was the second time the rear-wheel drive (RWD) program had been chopped. Two years ago, GM killed Zeta for being too pricey. Less than half a year later, the RWD program was resurrected; working with GM’s Holden division supposedly made it feasible. When Bob announced GM had second thoughts about its second thoughts, he blamed the double volte-face on government fuel economy and emissions legislation. In fact, there’s both less and more to this decision than meets the eye. 

First, understand this: the regulations in question have yet to be finalized, let alone codified. While politicians have discussed the possibility of increasing federal CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, no changes have been made. And while the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) can/should regulate carbon emissions, any such action must first go through a lengthy process of debate, drafting and implementation.

Bottom line: any GM carping about government interference is preemptive/speculative. And there’s nothing about the regulations that prohibits the development of fuel-efficient RWD cars through alternative propulsion, displacement-on-demand, turbo-diesels or any number of technological solutions. In fact, GM’s decision to kill Zeta may have less to do with government regulations than commercial realities.

On January 9, 2006, GM announced they were going to build a rear-wheel drive Camaro. The automaker took considerable heat for being late to the RWD party. The fifth-generation Ford Mustang had been on sale for over a year; the fifth-generation Camaro wouldn’t arrive until (model year) 2009. GM also announced the ’09 Chevrolet Impala would switch to the Zeta platform to take on the Chrysler 300 (which also arrived in ’05).

At first glance, the Mustang and 300 were worthy targets. But, as pundits warned at the time, the Mustang and 300 were niche products— big niches, but niches nonetheless. Their stellar sales success occurred within an untapped market with limited potential growth.

Recent sales data has vindicated the soothsayers. In the last two months, Mustang sales have dropped 15 percent. Year to date, 300 sales have tanked by 22.8 percent. Both market segments– rear-wheel drive gas guzzling nostalgia-mobiles and big-ass RWD American sedans– have cooled. There is little reason to believe that GM’s “new blood” will re-ignite sales.

Zeta’s crib death could well reflect the fact that it isn’t worth the cost to develop the RWD platform for the North American market– where it would have to be produced in much larger numbers at a much lower price-point than down under (where Holden lives). Holden is still getting the Zeta platform, and the Canadian-built RWD Camaro will debut as planned, but it looks like Zeta is an evolutionary dead end.

No matter what the reason, GM has spent a lot of money NOT to build a car. And the hit to their bottom line could well be ongoing. Changing plans for the next Impala pretty much force the next design to be a “refreshing” of a car that's hardly a world-beater. 

Replacements for the Impala et al will have to wait for plan L (or thereabouts). With development times as slow as GM’s, continuity has to be job one. GM hasn’t just lost a couple of cars– they’re back to square one in their single most important car class in their most important market.

Just before Bob’s Zeta obituary (officially it’s “on hold”), the company revealed the Beat, Trax and Groove micro-concept cars. The “triplets” were nice enough small car designs, but they were nothing but pretty skins. GM gives away very little to the competition in terms of styling. Their weak point is running gear.

If GM had revealed a new global platform and matching engine, which could have worn any of the skins shown (heck, they could build them all, haven’t they seen the Scion xA/xB?), THAT would have been a suitable replacement for the ill-fated Zeta platform. Instead they gave us an ageing Emperor wearing new clothes, riding a wooden horse. 

I’m not ripping GM for dumping RWD. The question of which wheels are driven isn't nearly as important as some pistonheads believe. Nor am I all that concerned about who's responsible for GM's expensive start – stop development process. The real problem is that Zeta’s demise leaves GM’s car cupboard looking distinctly bare for another three to four years.

In the short term, GM will serve-up the Pontiac G8, updated Cadillac CTS, hybrid Saturn Aura, new Chevrolet Malibu and Camaro, a couple of over-engined Buick variants and the inherently unprofitable Astra. It's not enough. The automaker needs some revolutionary/evolutionary new small and mid-sized cars. Unfortunately, they need them NOW. If Lutz and Co. took the wrong path three years ago, once again, GM is doomed to continue offering too little, too late. 

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68 Comments on “General Motors Death Watch 118: Too Much Too Little Too Late...”


  • avatar
    JJ

    Sad sad sad…

    HOWEVER…

    General Motors Europe sold a recordbreaking 553.621 cars in the first quarter of 2007 against 523.274 in the same period in 2006. GM’s marketshare reached 9,8 procent; the highest in over 10 years. Especially the Opel Astra and new Corsa as well as the Chevrolet Captiva are selling well.

    So, I guess they do have something…if built in Europe… against EUR1,36/$1 exchange rates.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Who would have thought that GM would be depending on the remnants of Daewoo for their future with gas closing in on $3/gal ?

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    cheeze, they rely on Daewoo and Europe to do small cars because the American attitude to small vehicles (in any US auto company) is one of a look of disgust combined with a sneer and a comment that its too small when talked about?! the rest of the world copes, about time america and its attitude changed. The cars and the people need to lose weight. Fast.
    I’ve never seen the need for big engined overweight cars sitting in big traffic jams going nowhere fast, even the good old road trip will soon die as gas will continually go up.
    The problem is GM needs to pull its finger out fast and get the triplets etc to market quickly, it takes time to productionise but even thought the financial situation is dire at times at the GEneral, a bit of foresight and common sense can see whats coming.
    The Camaro concept, well why wait so long between the tease and job 1? i never understood that.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    When we look back 10 years from now at the Gm lineup from 2000 – 2010 and see scattered product lines and other misteps we’re going to be thinking WTF were they thinking. Look at Honda and Toyota along with Nissan and Hyundai, they are steady as she goes with models and features people want, along with the sales growth to match.

    Arguing about platform builds would be worth it only if the market cared, and the market is yawning over this. Not too many people care what GM builds anymore, they are busy looking at Toyota brochures.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Let me get out my broken record…

    … You need another peoples car, or just close shop (or just do trucks). The winners of all times are the Model T, Beetle, Mini, etc. Of course, my answer is a light SUV, body on frame, bare bones basic transport that is CHEAPLY built to last. A world car that would appeal to US buyers due to cost and culture, but that the rest of the developing world really NEEDS.

  • avatar
    rdwiggins

    Why is GM’s development process so slow? Are production requirements that complicated, or are they slow simply because its management gets in the way? They’re missing their markets with these drawn-out development cycles. They need to be able to bring products to market in 2 years or less.

    And, no, GM isn’t the only company afflicted with too-slow development, but they are the biggest and most obvious example.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    rdwiggins Part of GMs problem is too much management and job justification. I was involved on a program that had meetings about meetings and discussions involving which supplier to run with. Each week a different supplier was discussed. Why they didnt sort this in week one and thrash it out once and for all i'll never know. It happens everywhere, we just talk about it with the General more. It takes time to develop a vehicle, it takes time to get the engineering, new legislation to do with crash, aero and other aspects baked into a design and to also keep peoples opinions, tastes and egos happy, its a long hard process that needs shortening.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Call me a naive brit but how come I don't hear as many blusterings from say Toyota or Ford about the CAFE standards? Has Toyota ever gone on record saying that the CAFE standards will put $5K on each of their cars and that it's unfair? My suspicion is probably not! Call it foresight on Toyota's part or call it dumb luck, but Toyota are in a better position to absorb whatever the CAFE standards are ascertained as, GM isn't. But I'm sure we've been here before (you'll have to forgive me here, because the facts are a little hazy but the gist is correct). Has GM cried "wolf" before in 1973 when a new American law forced them to regulate their emissions on their cars and they said it couldn't be done……then Honda did it! Did that happen or am I imagining it? Maybe someone (I'll do it!) should tell Maximum Bob that his problem isn't an exclusive problem. I work in the UK for a big chemical firm and we are continually strangled by the ULTRA (and I mean ULTRA) strict emissions and manufacturing laws in the UK. A lesser company would have shut up shop and left the UK but because there is too much money invested in the UK and there is a huge market for their products, the company adapt and try to make the business more efficient. No whining, no crying. To paraphrase one of the most overrated CEO's in the auto business (Mr Mark Fields) "Change or die….." Or was that Charles Darwin, who said that….? My point is this, the equation is VERY simple. If GM want to stay in business, then make cars which people want and comply with local laws. Toyota do it. Honda do it. Nissan do it. Hyundai do it. Mitsubishi do it. BMW do it. Mercedes do it. VW do it. Mazda do it. So why can't GM do it? Maybe it's easier to make excuses than great cars…..?

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    What’s the weight disadvantage of RWD in comparison to FWD for a large vehicle?

    I would say 75-100 kilos, which is about the amount cars gain in weight every generation anyway. I don’t understand Lutz’ argument. Anyway, weight is only a part of the the fuel economy equation — otherwise, cars would be much less economical than they used to be.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    I can’t understand how RWD will make GM’s fleet not meet future CAFE standards. Look at Ford’s Crown Victoria – RWD, V8, full size sedan, and it gets 25mpg highway (in reality, it can get up to 28mpg on the highway, with the A/C on – personal experience.) Make a car with RWD, a very light driveshaft (aluminum alloy maybe?) and a V6, and I can’t see why the car couldn’t get well over 30 mpg.
    I don’t know for sure what GM is thinking, but I would sure be in line to buy a decent RWD car. All I’ve got to choose from is the 300/Charger (too expensive, but Hemis are good), and the Crown Vic and Mustang. I think if GM actually did make RWD sedans in all classes, they would do very well. Not to mention they’re much cheaper to repair, offer better weight distribution, are able to tow a fair bit more, and I would say from experience, better in inclement weather.
    Plus, it’s harder to do donuts in a FWD car…

  • avatar
    windswords

    Andrew,

    I agree with your analysis that GM may have realized that there is not enough sales to warrant doing a rwd platform. I will disagree that it’s niche market especially in regards to Chrysler’s 300/Magnum/Charger trio. The sales figures thru 12/2006:

    300 143,647
    Charger 114,201
    Magnum 40,095
    Total 297,943

    prev yr total 241,359 (Charger not sold for the entire year)

    That’s not a niche market to me. Now if that represents ALL the buyers of a domestic produced rwd medium to large car then you have a point. Assuming 300k cars max for the segment (not counting sport model spinoffs like Camaro), if Ford and GM got into the game with 2 cars each you would have 7 cars to divide up those sales giving you about 42k+ avg for each model. Now that’s niche territory.

    I kinda expected GM’s rwd cars to expand the market because although some rwd customers would buy Chrysler I think that most GM faithful wouldn’t buy a rwd unless GM made it no matter how much they wanted one.

    I think Chrysler is going about the Challenger the right way. They are building it as an offshoot of the 300/Magnum/Charger all in the same flex manufacturing plant. They don’t have to make a base model that will sell many thousands to amortorize the cost of the plant and equipment. Their business model calls for fewer cars with higher content (like Hemi power) and the higher margins that go with it. They couldn’t do this with a single model plant.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    Hyundai can afford to do a brand new rear wheel drive V6 and V8 powered luxury car platform from scratch. Wasn’t it at the NY auto show?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist giving the Gen’ral yet another well deserved poke in the eye.

  • avatar
    86er

    I think it is naive to say that only pistonheads are calling for more RWD platforms; the 300 struck a terrific chord here in the “snowbelt”, a.k.a. Saskatchewan, where people still buy domestic automobiles in droves compared to our “enlightened” counterparts in the big cities. Why, in Regina GM vehicles still hold 45% of the market.

    Now, the 300’s RWD bias didn’t seem to bother anyone up here, where driving in inclement conditions is just part of life and not some horrific emergency situation.

    If GM ever builds a Zeta Impala, it will sell here. People here still appreciate the big iron and the General can’t just look to its markets in major metropolitan areas for inspiration.

  • avatar
    SuperAROD

    GM is probably wise to not invest $$ at this time in large RWD cars. There is probably not room enough in this segment for it to be profitable.

    While sales of the 300C are down 22% for the year thus far, sales of platform-mate Charger are up 7% for the year. 300C is now in it’s 4th year, and yet it is still a 120K a year seller, 240K combined for both vehicles. And 2008 will bring a freshened 300C with most of the improvements going into the interior, which should keep it at the head of the class.

    GM might want to think about it’s Camaro as well. Challenger is going to beat them to the punch and it is as anticipated a vehicle as there has been in a long time. Not to mention Mustang and possible improvements coming to it before 2009.

  • avatar
    maxo

    I think I would enjoy a RWD platform, but that is almost beside the point here. Regardless of what wheels would power the new platform, the fact is GM has sort of thrown away their new platform. GM desperately needs a bucketfull of innovation in their car lineup, and now they have nothing? That would be such an embarassment.

    Being as uncommitted as they are, I wonder if GM already has/had another suitable platform in development, or if they will really do like Andrew said and continue tweaking the current Impala platform.

  • avatar
    86er

    maxo: Being as uncommitted as they are, I wonder if GM already has/had another suitable platform in development, or if they will really do like Andrew said and continue tweaking the current Impala platform.

    I am not of the view that GM can continue to tweak the current Impala platform. The W-body is out of date and in my view GM has done as much as possible to keep it (barely) competitive.

    GM also has to navigate dangerous waters, as the Malibu is moving up to near Camry-size dimensions, while the Camry just got redesigned to be much closer to the generous interior dimensions of the Impala, sans hip and shoulder room.

    Impala’s real competition ought to be the Azera’s, 300’s, Taurus 500’s, etc. of this world, while the Malibu should be left to duke it out with the Camcord. That said, only the Impala’s sales are “in league” with the aforementioned, and Wagoner, Lutz, et al. have to be losing sleep about how they can transition Impala owners over to the 08 Malibu.

    My best guess is that they are worried this will fail and are doing a little fence-sitting as to where the Impala will fit in the grander scheme.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    Camcord… that’s a good one…

  • avatar
    troonbop

    I always considered that gm was taking steps and they might have enough time to turn it around. They took steps, but like the man says, too little, too late.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    It seems to me that there are two reasons for RWD: great acceleration (with the right engine) and great handling under high g-force conditions. With higher gasoline prices and (possibly) tighter EPA restrictions, mainstream cars may have to cut back the horsepower, eliminating the need for RWD for straight-line acceleration. The big 2.5’s mainstream sedans have never been perceived as great handling in the first place, so trying to market that angle now seems pointless.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Great article. GM has spent more money stopping and starting projects than anyone will ever be able to count. Camaro should have simply been built as a niche variation on the CTS.

    The original pony cars were opportunistic creations built by putting a sporty body on a then midsized platform and shoving in large engine options from the bigger sedans. The original Mustang and GM’s copycat Camaro/Firebird would never have been built had they required dedicated platforms. Mustang lived on for years on the old “Fox” platform which had originally hosted the oh so exciting Ford Fairmont family of vehicles. I don’t think anyone even remembers the Fairmont now.

    Toyota still follows this logic a building a niche two door off the volume platform with their Solara. Honda offers a two door version of the Accord which you can buy with a V-6 and six speed manual transmission for a bit of fun. Even GM has been playing this game with the forgettable modern Monte Carlo, a two door version of the Impala.

    Camaro as the only North American car on the Zeta platform is likely to be a money looser. There just isn’t enough sustained volume in the two door coupe market to feed a product line.

    Now GM seems to be back to square one for building the next generation Impala at a time when Impala sales are growing. As far as Pontiac and Buick sedans go, who cares? Those are pretty much dead end product lines now, Super versions or not. The Lutz era will be looked back on as a time of lots of noise, but little substance. If Toyota and Honda managers are paying any attention at all to this drama they must be shaking their heads. The real upcoming competitive threat are the Koreas and Chinese. The key battle with the US based auto makers are really already over in the US. Moping up is all that is left to do.

  • avatar
    86er

    SunnyvaleCA:

    I disagree. While RWD may be the obvious choice for sports cars, I humbly submit that RWD driving dynamics are superior for many handling situations, such as recovering from a skid.

    RWD is even the mode of choice for towing. What’s that, you say, towing with a car? https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=3023

  • avatar
    Matt51

    Many of us prefer rear wheel drive cars. Better weight distribution provides superior handling. No torque steer. When stepping on the gas, no loss of traction as front end tends to lift off, shifting weight to the rear. When parked pointing sightly uphill at a stop, front wheel drive often slips on snow or ice.
    All Mercedes, all BMW, the most expensive Lexus and Infinity models, are rear wheel drive. GM needs to build some rear wheel drive vehicles, as Lutz well knows.
    For GM to back out now, is a clear sign they are failing. Game over, stick a fork in the carcass.

  • avatar
    tulsa_97sr5

    I have read Robert mention several times that GM’s cash on hand position isn’t nearly as strong as it looks on paper. Assuming Lutz really feels strongly that a RWD platform is good for GM (easy for me to believe) then I can only imagine how hard it must have been for the bean counters to convince him the project had to be killed.

    I know GM got less for the GMAC sale than originally agreed to, due to the devaluation of GMAC. Is that done or is GM still on the hook should GMAC continue to drop in value?

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    The problem here is this:

    Would sales of the Chevy Impala or Buick Lucerne or whatever go up or down if you converted it to rear wheel drive? And, since the RWD vehicles would almost certainly cost more to build, if there was an increase in sales, would it be enough to justify the extra costs, either by the amount of additional volume or by being able to charge more per vehicle? It’s unlikely that any one brand could have both a FWD and RWD vehicle in the same size class.

    Personally, it sort of makes sense to make Pontiac and Caddy mostly RWD, and keep Buick and Chevy FWD, except for the Camaro and Corvette. So, build the Camaro, a Firebird clone of the Camaro, the next G6 on the same platform, import the G8, and maybe heavily disguised Caddy versions of the G6/Camaro and G8. Leave the Impala and Malibu and all Buick sedans FWD. If you must build a RWD Chevy sedan, make it bigger than the Impala (which stays FWD), call it the Caprice, and make it suitable for cop cars and taxi cabs. Just make sure it doesn’t look like Shamu when wearing police black and white, as the previous Caprice did.

    Now, if all they plan on doing is making the Camaro and importing the G8, then that’s a recipe for disaster. They’ll lose a boatload of money that way, and Lutz knows it.

    Therefore, I think Lutz is just talking out his ass. He’s attempting to stop (or at least weaken) the increase in CAFE by basically claiming he will go bankrupt if they do it. Nothing is really “on hold”.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    It seems as though drag coefficient/aerodynamics have been put on the back shelf.

    Looking at almost any new model this year and most of them have a Cd equivalent to that of a house brick.

    Rear wheel drive lends itself nicely to low frontal area and low wind resistance.

    So what’s the problem?
    Style has once again overwhelmed engineering.

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    One feature of the classic rear wheel drive layout is the flexibility it offers for engine variations without significant alterations to the structure or weight distribution. In this regard, the RWD platform seems to me as a low risk bet in an uncertain market. For example, it would probably be a lot easier to change to an outsourced turbo-diesel engine in a current Cadillac RWD than a current Lincoln FWD (I can’t remember the silly alphabet model designations).

  • avatar
    CasterOil

    jthorner:
    “I don’t think anyone even remembers the Fairmont now.”

    Do you mean this Fairmont?

  • avatar

    “Therefore, I think Lutz is just talking out his ass. He’s attempting to stop (or at least weaken) the increase in CAFE by basically claiming he will go bankrupt if they do it. Nothing is really “on hold”.”

    This is, of course, the Bob Lutz is a playa theory. Personally, I don’t buy it.

    Having heard the nonsense that comes out of that’s man’s mouth for a number of years (decades?), I honestly believe that he honestly believes that he’s an honest guy.

    Besides, if it was a threat, why wouldn’t he couch it as such? Remember: he did say the new regs would add $5k to the price of a new car. THAT was his threat, not some weird ass RWD hari kiri “regulate us and we’ll change our product mix” thing.

    But it IS an intriguing idea. The question is worth asking: is Zeta REALLY on hold?

    Is there anyone here who can confirm that GM’s pushed the pause button on the Zeta RWD program?

  • avatar
    CasterOil

    Interesting reading the above opinions as to increased weight/fuel consumption of RWD versus FWD.

    Wheels magazine in Australia has just tested four middle of the range 6 cylinder family cars, and the results are as follows:-

    Ford Falcon:
    I6, RWD, 4.0 litres, 190 Kw, 6 speed auto, 1,694 Kg
    Fuel consumption 11.6 l/100 km

    Holden Commodore:
    V6, RWD, 3.5 litres, 180 Kw, 4 speed auto, 1,705 Kg
    Fuel consumption 11.8 l/100 km

    Toyota Aurion: (Think Camry V6)
    V6, FWD, 3.5 litres, 200 Kw, 6 speed auto, 1,610 Kg
    Fuel consumption 11.9 l/100 km

    Mitsubishi 380: (Think Galant)
    V6, FWD, 3.8 litres, 175 Kw, 5 speed auto, 1,670 Kg
    Fuel consumption 12.3 l/100 km

    Interestingly, the Toyota Aurion, being the lightest by a fair margin (60 – 95 Kg), with the most powerful engine and FWD, was beaten in fuel consumption by both the heavier RWD cars.

    If you were able to compare apples with apples, i.e. exactly the same car/engine both in RWD and FWD, I would expect that you would not be able to detect a meaningful difference in fuel consumption.

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    I love RWD as much as the next guy, but thoughts of my dad trying to get up a *slight* icy incline in his BMW 325e w/ me in the passenger seat still make me nervous. Finally, the thought got to him to turn the car around and drive backwards up the hill, thus turning the beloved bimmer into a FWD sedan.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    RWD has a place in premium and performance vehicles, but for everyday cars it is never going to come back as the dominant architecture. There are too many packaging and cost advantages to FWD for it to go away for mainstream cars. BMW buyers are not going to be cross shopping in the Chevrolet showroom.

    Toyota has the mix right. High end Lexus, pickup trucks and SUVs RWD/4WD, but the everyday low end and mid market cars and mini-UTEs are FWD or FWD based AWD.

    Even the big Cadillacs should stay FWD because it’s buyers appreciate the improved ease of snow driving and could care less about the at the limits handling advantages of RWD.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The decent thing for Lutz and Waggoner to do would be to admit that they don’t have the vaguest idea of what to do and retire.

    But they won’t.

  • avatar
    wstansfi

    2 points: If you were Lutz and Waggoner, what would you do? These guys are sitting on top of huge juggernaut that’s not pointed in the same direction as Toyota – how do you turn this thing around without going bankrupt first? I for one have no idea.
    2nd point – I’m with the author on the value of RWD. Even in “at the limits handling” what do you get with RWD except better turn in, less torque steer, and better cornering with your foot on the gas? Most cars don’t have enough torque to generate torque steer, and most americans aren’t accelerating while cornering.
    Throw in the non-trivial driving concerns for everyone exposed to snow, and the answer is simple – FWD… Just ask Honda and Toyota. So, why is it so bad that GM is giving up on RWD? They’re not supposed to be in the business of making cars that compete with BMW – they’re supposed to be making cars that most people want, and can afford, to buy.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    As a resident of Warren, the long going stupidity of GM is a daily part of life. They aren’t going to change. They just aren’t. There are too many useless managers. They will loot the company on their way out the door as the company burns. As the Chrysler management did when dumping it off on Daimler. The next large increase in gas prices will devistate the US automakers. Of course, we Americans are too stupid to change. Every other vehicle is a SUV or pickup. Or here in Detroit…2/3 of them. This place will look like a ghost town in 2-3 years.

  • avatar

    @philbailey

    It seems as though drag coefficient/aerodynamics have been put on the back shelf.

    Looking at almost any new model this year and most of them have a Cd equivalent to that of a house brick.
    Rear wheel drive lends itself nicely to low frontal area and low wind resistance.

    So what’s the problem?
    Style has once again overwhelmed engineering.

    The drag coefficient of my FWD 2007 Alfa 159 is 0.31.
    The front is actually slung so low that I can’t see it when in my favorite driving position – which takes some getting used to, as I have always had a lot of frontage on my sportier cars.

    Wouldn’t call it a brick on wheels, though.

  • avatar
    Luther

    “Changing plans for the next Impala pretty much force the next design to be a “refreshing” of a car that’s hardly a world-beater.”

    Its OK. I dont see how RWD in an Impala would add value…Could even turn out to be a dis-value in the snow belts where the Impala actually sells. GM (Chevrolet) does not want to screw up the Impala since it is about their only car that sells…At a profit (MAYBE the Malibu sells at a profit too). Just upgrade the drivetrain to the 3.6L/6-speed and let it soldier on.

    Pontiac should be the Holden import division and Buick should be the China import division and just call it a day. GM, Ford, Chrysler (US) can never compete in the low-margin car market with such *HUGE* legacy/current costs. Its high-margin trucks/SUV/CUV or die which is why they bitch so loudly whenever the gubbmint talks about CAFE, fuel mileage, carbon emissions. The Beat, Trax and Groove are PR stunts so GM can say “Look! We are doing something”. GM will NEVER be able to sell the triplets at a profit…Not in the US anyway.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Indeed.

    GM has spent so much money stopping and restarting projects it’s no joke anymore. This is just one of countless examples of how inefficient GM’s corporate culture is.

    Secondly, the question was asked as to how you could turn around GM (being in the positions of Wagoner and Lutz) without it going bankrupt. That’s the thing, you can’t. Plus, turning around a company is one thing, but giving the company the necessary elements to be competitive in the long term is a whole different story.

    Even *if* Wagoner and Lutz somehow turn around GM, that does nothing really to change the fact that GM’s corporate culture is fundamentally flawed down to the core, and the ONLY thing that can cure that is Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with all of the current management and executives being cleaned out of the company, and rising from the ashes a fresh, rejuvenated GM with completely new executives.

  • avatar
    beken

    I had high hopes that maybe Wagoner and Lutz were going to finally turn GM around and maybe fullfill some of GM’s promise and capability. And once again, those that have high hopes for GM are disappointed. All the hype and once again, they blame government regulations. Did anybody see that Buick they’re going to build in China? I’ve heard this story before and turn away in disgust… again.

  • avatar
    CasterOil

    Boredlawstudent:

    Attempting to get up any sort of an incline in a 325e is cause for nervousness.

    Any sort of overtaking manoeuvre in a 325e almost creates a Bourhill -v- Young liability in favour of the helpless passenger.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    GM has no money to spend/doesn’t want to spend any so they just continue to make the same tired sh** and spew the same tired excuses to their stock holders for not doing anything inovative.

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    If GM ever wants me to even consider any of their cars, an affordable RWD platform is their only option. Frankly, I don’t think they have a choice; they have to build it. Camcord and Korea already have them beat for FWD sedans. Malibu and Impala offer nothing of substance. GM hasn’t given me a single reason to buy them (I legitimately can’t think of even ONE). But offer me a RWD sedan w/ 250HP at $25K and a 6-speed and i’ll at least come looking. That’s something unique that Honda, Toyota and Hyundai/Kia can’t give me (at that price). I’ll even overlook your playskool interior and predictably poor resale!

  • avatar
    jurisb

    gm is outliving the end of it`s days. I wonder how fat obese and imbecile your company has to be if all engineering job done ,is how to simulate product existence, how to call an obsolete product a new one or how to call other foreign cars domestic.how many minivans has gm created after rebadging shiny plastic opel sintra in 1994? none.how many has ford created after 94 windstar. none. chrysler? 1. so you see, how can you be the biggest car manufacturer if you don`t manufacture cars/? your last escape of course is trucks, for this is an asylum where you can in your agony still put all the antique hardware on- live rear axle, leaf springs, drum brakes, ohv,etc. I wonder how long will ford stretch the life of the old 1995 f-150 rebadging it every second year as a new model? reminds me poor brits who also still produce the throwback xj as a new one putting some new bumper ,etc.It`s not that american companies are hardly fighting, they are not fighting at all ,because amount of models, that is pure american, is close to zero. even czech skoda could beat out crap of gm . even they understand fit and finish. probably your place is in kitchen, or manufacturing some buttwipes with rose scent.( I wonder how gm plans to manage torque steer if leaving fwd on next gen large sedans that will have hp in range of 300hp) put some 20inch front and 16 inch on back?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    If bullsh*t were music Lutz would be a one-man band! Clearly he is covering up GM’s cash and development shortfalls.

    My RWD 1984 Buick LeSabre, a large car with a cast iron V8, yielded 25-Mpg at 70-Mph. Lacking FWD’s mechanical complexities it was a good performer, reliable, durable and inexpensive to maintain. A similar car built to modern technical and quality standards should be even better.

  • avatar

    “If GM had revealed a new global platform and matching engine, which could have worn any of the skins shown (heck, they could build them all, haven’t they seen the Scion xA/xB?”

    That is GM’s biggest failure, Why the hell haven’t they developed a global freakin mini car?

    If there seems to be a total inability to see the need for vehicles that the top people don’t personally like or need.

    Good going GM maybe when your marketshare gets cut in half again you might wise up

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    RWD vehicles do not need to be limited to a niche market. Traction control and tire technologies are advancing. Methods exist to improve fuel economy and drivetrain efficiency. Affordable, stylish rwd cars could be a uniquely american segment. I see it as a market the SUV crowd could move into.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    CAFE numbers are available on NHTSA’s website for anyone looking for them.

    Honda and Toyota currently have an advantage of about 10 – 15% on GM (which gives them a 5 year headstart WRT to the proposed 30% increase).

    Based on estimates also available on NHTSA’s site, GM could match Toyota/Honda’s numbers by spending an extra $1000 – $1500 on various fuel saving technologies (funny how this amount is similar to the extra money they must spend on legacy costs on each vehicle).

    Bob Lutz might be the only one talking/complaining right now, but even Toyota and Honda will be hard pressed to match a 30% increase in CAFE in the future without adding extra costs to their vehicles. Eventually, everyone will have to use Hybrids or Diesel once they maximize the efficiency of gasoline and still fall short of the new regulations.

  • avatar

    @Sherman Lin

    “If GM had revealed a new global platform and matching engine, which could have worn any of the skins shown (heck, they could build them all, haven’t they seen the Scion xA/xB?”

    That is GM’s biggest failure, Why the hell haven’t they developed a global freakin mini car?

    If there seems to be a total inability to see the need for vehicles that the top people don’t personally like or need.

    Good going GM maybe when your marketshare gets cut in half again you might wise up

    The Quick Answer: working on small cars is not manly. Don’t laugh – I’ve heard a top GM manager say exactly that. Those who were working on Saab couldn’t wait to get out of Trollhättan once their two-year rotation was over. And their first instinct on the 9-5 was to make it longer and wider than any previous Saab. (The first prototype was even longer).
    If you wonder where the hell the 9-7x came from, there’s your answer: Finally a manly Saab!

    GM exec’s actually laughed at Honda when that company, years ago, said it would dedicate itself to building “the most fuel efficient and environmentally friendly car in each category.”
    GM idiot at car show, next to mountain of metal on wheels: “Hey! Honda! Is that concept car built to scale, or did you guys make it even smaller!” (Insert Beavis laughter here).

    Who’s laughing now?

    So GM spent years falling all over itself cramming horsepower and weight into every vehicle it built, in total defiance of reason.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Piston heads like RWD, that I can understand. But RWD is certainly not the golden key to a GM turnaround.

    I am not saying RWD is bad. But GM’s turn around strategy should not be based on a new platform. Instead, it is the management and build quality that matters.

    Just look at the AWD Ford Fusion, is it killing Camry/Accord? Even if a RWD/AWD does get overwhelming success, Toyota/Honda can counter with a better one in 4 years (1 model cycle).

    So, just refine the process and build a better car.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Interesting. Here is GM small car platform. UAW chasing away investment dollars?

    http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/News/articleId=120480

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    boredlawstudent:
    April 20th, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    I love RWD as much as the next guy, but thoughts of my dad trying to get up a *slight* icy incline in his BMW 325e w/ me in the passenger seat still make me nervous. Finally, the thought got to him to turn the car around and drive backwards up the hill, thus turning the beloved bimmer into a FWD sedan.

    While that maneuver will, in effect, cause the car to be driven by the wheels in front, it could not possibly help in that particular situation. The reason front wheel drive has an advantage on slick surfaces is due to the weight of the engine being directly above the driven wheels.

    In your situation, the rear wheels would not have that advantage and, in addition, would lose even more traction due to the transfer of weight to the front of the car (assuming you get the thing moving).

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    Texas,

    Maybe it was a miracle or maybe it was due to the 150lbs of sand piled in the trunk, but we made it up the “hill.”

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    Texas,

    Maybe it was a miracle or maybe it was due to the 150lbs of sand piled in the trunk, but we made it up the “hill.”

    You didn’t mention the sand in the trunk in the first post, but the car should have been able to make it up the hill as easy, if not easier (due to the rearward weight transfer), driving forward.

    At least you made it…

  • avatar
    NickR

    I can’t help but that with all this humming and hawing, the new Camaro if it ever arrives will be like the 71 HemiCuda. Very desirable now, obviously, due largely to it’s scarcity which itself is because it was a flop. It arrived with styling two years behing the Mustang and Camaro, wielding a 426 Hemi in the face of the gas crunch.

    Unfortunately, even if they do come out with a Camaro, I don’t see it being worth over $2 million 35 years from now.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

     First off, Detroit has made plenty of good small cars for the North American market. In my work I see plenty of Escorts, Neons, Stratus, Sunfires, Saturns, and Focus models with over 170k on them. On the other hand, it's taken Toyota over 25 years to build a subcompact that sells well in this market. The Echo was laughable, the Tercels were noisy, pricey, and devoid of options (does anyone here remember Toyota trying to market Tercels through infomercials?) and the variants (Paseo, 4WD Wagoin models) were priced well outside their proper market. Let's see. If you also throw in the Mirage, Precis, Justy, Sentra (during the last two generations), Lancer, Rio, Excel, Accent, Spectra, Sephia, Forenza, and Esteem, you get an awful lot of product that ranges from the mediocre to awful. In fact, out of all of those only the Accent of the current and prior generation is worth the money spent. Thanks in good part to the warranty. From my perspective, only the Civic and the Mazda offerings (3 and Protege) have been class leaders during the last few years. The 2003 and 2004 Focus were right up there as well, the Neon and Escorts had a great run during the 1990's and the Saturn was a frontrunner during the early 1990's and late 1990's (GM left the 1st gen model on the vine for too long). I happen to have liked the Sunfire as well. But the Cavalier was just about as bad as all those models mentioned above. For the life of me I'll never figure out why so many people bought those things. I think importing a European model and relying on the Koreans for lower end to minicars is a sound decision… for now. Saturn really needs to become the import fighter and there's no point in GM building yet another small car when they already have the Cobalt. Even with gas approaching $3.00 a gallon, small cars are not an easy sell in the states. With the traffic we have in the cities it actually may be better for us to develop hybrids and integrate our diesel standards with the Europeanst hereby allowing more price competition to take place in that segment. Does Detroit need well designed hybrids and diesel engines? Definitely. However if gas were still cheap, this conversation wouldn't be taking place and Detroit wouldn't find itself in a vice grip.

  • avatar

    Steven GM is still the largest automotive company in the world (for now). They have more engineering muscle than just about anyone. I understand that small cars have never been extremely popular but doesn’t it seem strange that no one anticipated or had a contingincy plan for higher fuel prices at GM. Does it seem unreasonable that even if they are not big money makers that GM as a full line automotive producer should have a full line of autos including small cars. The Astra is yet another version of the Cobalt and Ion although I am sure it is a fine car. If the Astra is such a better car than the Cobalt or the Ion why didn’t they have that to begin with?

  • avatar
    jurisb

    Sherman, gm is not the biggest car company. Gm is doing false mathematics to make them look the biggest. you have to count out models they sell as gm products, where there is not a single screw or blueprint done by any gm part. i refer to daewoo and opel mostly.including all rebadges as chevrolets. gm is an illusion of being big. its market value shows its real capacity for car engineering and manufacturing. toyota, you can consider yourself already the biggest, because all of your cars are created by yourself, unlike fat handed gm, that being imbecile and short of cash is looking for any company to get their tentacles on for pumping out platforms , bodies and engines. still, gm is probably the biggest front grille manufacturer in the world. the biggest leaf spring manufacturer or the biggest american car manufacturer. those three words- american, car, manufacturer, rarely stand together. especially -american and manufacturer. a country of future. a future of 9 bucks an hour primitive service driven, national debt bulging economy.

  • avatar

    jurisb,

    GM is the largest auto company in the world (at least for now… Toyota’s steadily creeping up on them). GM owns Opel and has since the 1920s. It is just as much a part of GM as SAAB.

    GM holds the majority share of Daewoo, and the company is actually named GM Daewoo Auto and Technology (GMDAT). The cars there are designed for GM under GM’s control, and are built by workers whose paycheck comes primarily from GM to be sold by GM around the world. I’d say those are GM cars.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Pity no one at the upper level of this company has any balls. If they did, we’d see a skunkworks project like what “dead in the water” Motorola had a few years ago that produced the RAZR phone.

    Since there aren’t any real leaders at the top, perhaps its best if GM just rename itself “GM Trucks” and be done with it already. Why keep dumping uncompetitive products in the market?

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    jkross, couldnt agree more, GM used to be a leader in design in the past. Theres none of that leadership to regain it. There are incredibly talented people doing some amazing stuff at GM but the choices of directions leaves something to be desired. May just be down to taste but it makes you wonder.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    That picture looks like a Mustang. Let’s all just copy off each other some more.

    Nothing new here, I see.

  • avatar
    fallout11

    Fuel likely to hit $4/gallon this summer:
    http://www.driversdrive.com/gasprices/

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger:”The Quick Answer: working on small cars is not manly. Don’t laugh – I’ve heard a top GM manager say exactly that. Those who were working on Saab couldn’t wait to get out of Trollhättan once their two-year rotation was over. And their first instinct on the 9-5 was to make it longer and wider than any previous Saab.”

    Although the stories are from years ago Brock Yates, chronicaled the same attitude at GM, Lee Iaaccoca chronicaled Henry Ford II’s attitude. I think I remember Delorean even writing about it. The more things change the more they remain the same.

    Whether GM or Fords top dogs like them or not and despite the fact that they are not big money makers, until and unless GM and Ford make smaller cars with the same engineering commitment that they put into their larger cars and trucks then they will fail and they will deserve to do so.

  • avatar
    Pat Holliday

    Re: GM vs Toyota – BBC News are reporting this morning that Toyota has surpassed GM as #1:

    Click for story

  • avatar
    jurisb

    Frank Williams, gm is not the largest. do you ever consider lamborghini a german car, just because it belongs to VW group? how ` bout bentley? rolls- royce? are they german now? you see, it doesn`t matter to whom company belongs, what matters is who does the engineering, and standard, and quality checking. gm has not designed a single engine or gearbox for opel or daewoo. they bought already existing brands with their own engineering units.
    Why toyota hasn`t bought any other car manufacturer? in this way they could become easily the biggest. and they have a lot of cash. but they don`t do it. how come?
    because they want to become the biggest by their own potential, not by cheating. there are japanese standards not only in fit and finish, there also standards of fair game, and coscience.bying other companies is the first symptom of engineering weakness.there are so many cars today that are pure japanese, but are sold under american brand names, because this is easier way to sell them( are you really so naive and believe that, let`s say, mitsubishi 3000gt and dodge stealth is a joint venture between americans and japanese?both were manufactured and designed in japan,had all japanese components, starting from engine, denso actuators, etc,except that average chrysler 2nd gear-crusting gearbox that was soon replaced by getrag 6-speed.ditto the ford probe, etc) because you get additional customers, that are patriots. and because america is aging fast,and elder generation tend to be the most patriotic, so there is a market potential. the times when RCA made their own shelf stereos are far gone, today there are mostly logos left that are put on japanese Tandy corp products or whatsoever.does general electric make their own refrigerators? ha ha ha. do you ever say that paramaount pictures or 21st century fox are japanese film makers? but they belong to sony corp. and I haven`t heard japanese saying that they are the biggest film makers, because they have bought many hollywood studios.will magnamake chrysler a canadian car manufacturer? deserving a title and bying a title are 2 different things, guess which one is harder. for which one you get standing ovations?
    Juris B, Latvia, Hillbilly Town, cave n05.

  • avatar
    Pat Holliday

    jurisb wrote: “Why toyota hasn`t bought any other car manufacturer?”

    They bought Daihatsu in 1999.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    roger. pat- a japanese manufacturer toyota bought another japanese manufacturer -daihatsu. and they didn`t start cross-dressing. i am not against gm having bought buick or chevrolet( and stripping them off their own hardware more than Sharon Stone in Basic instinct), for both are domestic. i am against domestics that buy foreign brands, pump out their blood and call them domestics. so i see a simulation of american manufacturing. while hino or daihatsu still represent the same- japanese manufacturing. do you feel the difference, pat? over.

  • avatar

    I Think Opel was bought in the 1920’s So it may be German engineering but it is really GM.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    Sherman lin- for example Mack Trucks is owned by volvo. do you consider all mack trucks as actually volvo. do you consider Mack swedish company now? the joke is that in S&P or nasdaq indexes is included GM. at the same time opel manufacturing and engineering is included in germany`s GDP.

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