Adrian Imonti

By on May 24, 2009

1. Floorplan costs The more dealers you have, the slower the inventory turn. The slower the turn, the longer it takes to repay the debt. The longer it takes to repay the debt, the more money that’s required. By cutting dealers, the manufacturers cut GMAC’s capital requirements, which run into the billions.

2. Inventory Excess inventory ties up capital and increases the burden of the floor plan, due to the longer sales cycle. (Chrysler and GM have far higher days of inventory than Toyota, Honda, BMW, et al. All that metal sitting around wastes a lot of money delaying the conversion of assets to cash). If the automakers have fewer dealers to serve they should be able to produce fewer vehicles.

3. Resale value More dealers means more competition within the brand which means lower transaction prices.

4. Profit at the dealer level One would hope that you end up with better dealers if they can make more money (although that’s debatable).

By on November 20, 2008

Infiniti had a lot of nerve to officially unveil this object of yuppie contentment on a day that the Dow rediscovered the wrong side of 8,000 points. But wouldn’t you know it if the hardtop G37 convertible still manages to strike an attractive pose. There aren’t many surprises here; pre-launch images were released last summer. In the flesh, the kinship with the coupe is obvious, although Nissan corporate claims unique sheet metal aft of the A-pillars and a slightly wider track in comparison to the garden variety G-series. The powertrain includes a 325hp variant of the same 3.7-liter VQ twin cam that powers the coupe and sedan. Transmission choices include either a 6-speed manual or a 7-cog autobox. A sport package will be an available option. If you like the lines and the interior of the standard versions, then you’ll probably take a fancy to this topless edition. Prices aren’t yet available, which is probably for the best if your 401k has been practicing the swan dive along with the rest of Wall Street. This G37 won’t be hitting the showrooms until sometime around the spring of 2009. That should leave the aspiring class with plenty of time to rebuild their portfolios.

By on November 20, 2008

Last year’s Green Car of the Year award was a cynic’s dream come true.  Bestowing the annual eco-accolades upon the ginormous, environmentally challenged Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid could persuade even the most optimistic tree hugger to hang up his Birkenstocks for good.  (Full disclosure: I do not now own, nor have I ever owned, a pair of Birkenstocks.)  The current roster includes nominees that are both more credible and more diverse than the last.  The 2007 event provided the choice of a hybrid, a hybrid, a hybrid, a hybrid or a hybrid.  Now we have a couple of oil burners (BMW 335d, VW Jetta TDi) and something that could fit inside a duffel bag (smart fortwo), as well as a pair of the customary gas-electric hybrids (Ford Fusion Hybrid, Saturn Vue 2). Drum roll, please: congratulations go to the VW Jetta TDi.

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By on November 19, 2008

Auto shows are intended to be recipes for excess. Take one excessively large convention hall, fill it to capacity with excessive quantities of costly chrome and metal, mix in a few brigades of excessively attractive women, and cap it off with a cadre of excessively awkward journalists (present company excepted, er, we hope) to glorify the results with excessively vapid superlatives. But that was before Carmeggedon and the Great Credit Crunch of ’08 came to town, raining on the parade with an excessively nasty vengeance. Cars are a serious business, and 2008 is looking to be about as serious as it gets.

By on November 19, 2008

The new electric-powered MINI E has the same shape, size and style of a regular MINI. In other words, the MINI E is small. This creates a dilemma: lithium-ion batteries that are large enough to power a car are big. BMW has tackled this problem as only a team of engineers could: by removing virtually every square centimeter of usable space from the vehicle. It’s fortunate if you have no friends or children, because the back seat has been replaced by a rather prominent, sizable hump. Cargo space in the hatch area is adequate– as long as your shopping needs are limited to the occasional six-pack and baguette. Then again, who cares? The Mini E is a limited production evaluation vehicle available to just 500 early adopters, whose enthusiasm will burnish the brand but good. In case any ultimate drivers are interested, BMW claims a 150-mile range, 2.5-hour recharge time, and a 0 – 60 time of 8.5 seconds from its 204hp motor, with a top-speed limited to 95 mph (to avoid range claims in the double digits).

By on November 19, 2008

Carlos Ghosn wants your help, and he isn’t shy about asking for it.  In an interview yesterday with The Wall Street Journal, the Renault-Nissan chief announced his intentions to obtain a €40b ($50b) loan package from the French government, in addition to some undisclosed additional quantity of yen from their Japanese counterparts.  Today, before a packed house during his keynote address at the LA Auto Show, Ghosn continued along this path, turning his attention to obtaining tax credits and other government assistance here Stateside. Citing October 2008 as the worst month for US car sales in the last 25 years, Ghosn claimed that the severity of current economic conditions were “putting the usual rules of business up in the air” and that “nobody knows” how long these conditions would continue.  As he tore a page from Detroit’s eco-efficiency bailout pitch book, Ghosn stressed retooling for the development of Earth-friendly technology as a key driver for receiving state support.

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By on November 17, 2008

You’d be hard pressed to find a justification for The Big 2.8 bailout that The Detroit News doesn’t like. But even the hometown paper’s cheerleaders are having a tough time swallowing claims that America’s national security would be jeopardized if GM, Ford and Chrysler aren’t kept afloat. Reporter Gordon Trowbridge provides generous airtime to the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson and his unfettered support for the automakers rescue plan. However, Trowbridge seems resigned to allowing a bit of journalistic objectivity to creep in, conceding that “the Big Three do relatively little business with the Pentagon,” adding that “the serious hardware — fighter planes, armored vehicles, ships and missiles — is made by companies with few, if any, direct links to the auto industry.” Furthermore, some of the minor linkage that does exist comes courtesy of Michigan senator Carl Levin, who has exaggerated crafted the Pentagon-Detroit relationship as a mechanism to subsidize The Big 2.8’s civilian alternative fuels programs, such as the fuel cell version of the not-ready-for-combat Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicle.  As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Levin spearheaded the diversion of more than over $40 million of the federal budget to Detroit’s alt-fuel projects, experience that makes the good senator eminently qualified to ask for more. A lot more.

By on June 9, 2008

saturn-sl1.jpgSaturn is dead. Despite a thoroughly refreshed line-up– including a mild hybrid, a Lambda-dancing CUV, a sexy sports car and a cute ute– the brand can’t get wood. In fact, Saturn’s sales are the very definition of flaccid. Year-to-date, they fell 19.9 percent. In May, sales sank 32.7 percent. In this process of final dissolution, the once autonomous upstart GM brand has become an irrelevant Opel outpost. Saturn’s Spring Hill, Tennessee factory is now in Chevy’s hands. Plastic body panels and unique designs have been swapped for rebadged leftovers from the GM parts bin. Saturn’s slow homicide is more than a shame. It offers a discouraging glimpse into General Motors’ dysfunctional culture.

By on May 17, 2008

legoland.jpgDriving in London just for fun is as sensible as rollerblading on the autobahn. Enlisting a young fresh-off-the-boat Yank to indulge in such folly should be a felony. Yet there I was, strapped behind a steering wheel located where the glove box should be, with a carload of norteamericanos who had entrusted me with their sightseeing and their lives. As an avid reader of British car magazines who watched BBC documentaries on PBS, I convinced myself that I possessed the knowledge required for such an undertaking. I'd already shown courage under fire, surviving several days as a pedestrian on these streets without being hit, not even once. All we needed now was more petrol, and a bank loan to pay for it.

By on April 15, 2008

x08bu_en015.jpgIn 280 BC, King Pyrrhus took on the might of the Roman Army– and won. In one of history’s most insightful strategic assessments, the King surveyed the corpse-littered battlefield and concluded, “one more such victory shall undo us.” Since then, the term “Pyrrhic victory” describes a conflict in which a force expends so much energy winning a battle that it loses the war. It’s a lesson General Motors seems determined not to learn. The latest chapter in this continuing saga of self-delusion: the Buick Enclave. The Enclave is a false promise that illuminates GM’s strategic poverty, and its resulting weakness.

By on December 19, 2007

equinoxfuelcellny08.jpgThere is no truth so inconvenient that it can’t be fixed with clever marketing. With an eco-parade of automakers making promises both daring and dubious in their race to join the green gravy train, some skepticism is in order. But now I’ve been to the fuel cell mountaintop and have prayed to the hydrogen altar in an Equinox FCEV. Say Hallelujah! I’m ready to fall to my knees as a true believer in the New Gas. Well, almost.

By on November 26, 2007

silver_bullet_800.jpgAccording to a study by Monash University Accident Research Centre, silver vehicles are 10 percent more likely to crash than their white counterparts. While black vehicles are even more hazardous to one’s vehicular health– accident rates are 12 percent higher than white cars'– the Aussie researchers are particularly keen to diss silver. One-third of new vehicles sold Down Under sport this hazardous hue. Dr. Stuart Newstead attributes the bent silver fenders to the color’s low contrast, particularly in fading light and cloudy conditions. Newstead recommends using headlights or daytime running lights to improve visibility. Better still, buy a white car. Representatives from the Oakland Raiders and BMW designer Chris “Axles of White Power” Bangle were unavailable for comment.

By on November 16, 2007

img_0701.jpgThere’s something deliciously ironic about slogging through one of LA’s infamous rush hours to attend a “green” cars award ceremony. The multi-lane Harbor Freeway plays host to a long slow dance of cars and semis, tailpipes steadily churning out brownish plumes into a blue sky. The dominant hue is not green but red: the omnipresent brake lights mocking California’s long-abandoned promises of fast, efficient personal travel. It’s almost enough to persuade a driver to ride the bus. Like me, most just crank on caffeine and escape boredom via the stereo, instead.

By on September 19, 2007

300px-speed_limit_pi.jpgHave yourself a pint and celebrate, it’s almost time for National Metric Week! The Charlotte (FL) Sun Herald reports that Florida Gulf Coast University kicked off this year’s festivities a bit early by becoming the state’s first university to introduce metric speed limits along its campus roadways. Tony Planas, a FGCU math instructor and advocate of the much-maligned-in-America base-ten measuring system, paid for the recently installed signage. But Mr. Planas may have many miles to go before his metric dreams are realized.  Since Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, the US has only inched forward with its metrication efforts. Despite the proliferation of two-liter soda bottles and 5.7-liter engines from sea to shining sea, the US remains the only nation in the industrialized world, aside from the UK, that still uses traditional English measurements for its speed limits. 

By on September 19, 2007

2005-5-11-traffic-copy.jpgThe major automakers are breathing a bit easier, thanks to a recent court ruling. The International Herald Tribune reports that the California federal district court has dismissed a claim against General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Honda for damages caused by vehicle emissions. In its case, the State of California was demanding several billion dollars in court-ordered and civil damages on the basis that these emissions constituted a public nuisance that inflicted climate change and health-related costs. Judge Martin Jenkins, a Clinton appointee and San Francisco native, ruled against the Golden State, opining that emissions regulations were the domain of the legislature and not under the jurisdiction of the courts. The state has hinted that it may appeal the ruling. No word yet from Sacramento as to whether the state will also be filing suit against its own Department of Motor Vehicles for permitting millions of state residents to drive all of those cars, or its Department of Transportation for building the highways that they used. 

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