With last year’s Hits and Misses column generating a lot of reader interest, I figure another edition is in store for the 2015 edition of the Detroit Auto Show.
Much of the show floor chatter last year centered on the rather disappointing lack of big debuts, aside from the Ford F-150. The Blue Oval’s full-size pickup was enormously significant from an industry point of view, but didn’t quicken the pulse of the enthusiast set, which largely (but not entirely) prioritizes sports cars and exotics over America’s signature vehicle.
Ford may have stolen the show again this year, with three major debuts, but the rest of the show was light on…well, debuts. Very little new product was shown at the show, and some of the more interesting stuff was already shown in Los Angeles. I wonder if L.A. will overtake Detroit as the marquee auto show in America within a decade.
If you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, here’s a rundown of the hits and misses, from your favorite combative know-it-all.
Last year, I made a few predictions about events in the auto industry. I firmly believe in being held accountable when making these statements. Most journalists have zero skin in the game and make outlandish pronouncements about product planning, regulations and other matters. These are quickly lost in the ether of the online news cycle, and the idiocy of their statements is forgotten as soon as you can say “brown diesel wagon”. Let’s see how I fared in 2014.
One of the things Doug and I wanted to do with this column is to highlight the regional differences in car choices – not just in condition and value but the overall selection. Any surprise that humid, sunny Atlanta has a dearth of Audis while snowy Canada is awash in them?
In my rant about the Holden Ute, I qualified my cynicism with a caveat; my tastes are not representative of the broader market, or what makes good business sense for an auto maker. Some of you suggested that I should start injecting more of my own opinions/enthusiasm into these sorts of articles. I am reluctant to mix business with my own automotive fantasyland (after all, everyone with access to a keyboard does just that that), but this post isn’t supposed to be informative or insightful, just pure fun. I am limiting myself to new cars on sale outside the United States and Canada, as there are far too many used cars out there that I’d love to own.
(The idea for this series based on the numerous emails sent between Derek and Doug, containing long forgotten cars that have fallen into a derelict state. While our intrepid authors would love to own these cars should they ever win the Powerball, they find it difficult to actually part with the funds required to take them home, especially given the significant reconditioning required. In addition, you’ll see the difference between a snow belt car and a clean car from the south, as both authors compare examples from their respective locales.)
March was the 5th straight month of a SAAR above 15 million vehicles. Industry analysts have explained the strength of the market in a number of ways. The need to replace older vehicles is one (new car sales were hit hard during the recession as consumers held on to their vehicles for longer. This also caused used car prices to skyrocket, something TTAC has been documenting), while others have cited increasing fleet demand, and the desire to replace vehicles damaged in Hurricane Sandy.
But one factor that is just starting to get attention outside of TTAC is sub-prime financing. Sub-prime lending, which involves giving high-interest loans to customers with poor credit scores, is driving the SAAR in a big way, by letting buyers with poor credit purchase new cars. In turn, the sub-prime bubble is being driven by Wall Street, whose clients cannot get enough of financial instruments backed by sub-prime auto loans.
Upon receipt of a multi-billion dollar loan from the Canadian government, General Motors signed a “Vitality Commitment”, essentially a covenant in the loan agreement between GM and Canada’s government, which guaranteed that a certain amount of GM’s North American production would remain in Canada. That number is widely reported as being 16 percent, while page F-69 of GM’s IPO filings outlines that the covenant is valid until GM repays its loan commitments or until December 31, 2016, whichever comes later.
While Oshawa has widely regarded as one of GM’s best plants in terms of producing high-quality vehicles, the future of GM’s Oshawa plant is looking increasingly bleak.
A bit of light reading for everyone wishing they were in Geneva, munching on some pain au chocolat while paying $8 for a Nespresso. CAR magazine contributor Stephen Bayley has a very entertaining essay entitled “ The End of the French Car“, in which he laments the demise of the quirky, compact French automobile.
Google’s autonomous car program tends to get the lion’s share of attention when discussing the tech giant’s auto initiatives. But lurking in the background is a more immediate project that has the potential to finally “disrupt” (as Silicon Valley types are so fond of saying) online automotive sales.
The 12-person protest that took place at Chrysler’s Warren, Michgan truck plant got little notice in the automotive news cycle, save for a couple of mentions on the usual aggregators. In truth, it’s not the juiciest story to sell in this click-driven wasteland, though these stories tend to raise the most interesting questions. This example highlights an issue that is going to dog the UAW for some time – how will the UAW control their workers when they are also the owners?
It’s hard to swallow the fact that the above photograph of me perched on the hood of my father’s Integra GS-R, one of the all-time great Acura products, is now nearly 20 years old. I can’t even remember the last time I saw an Integra on the road. Most of those cars have been crashed, stolen, rusted out or some combination of all three. There is nothing remotely close to the three-door VTEC hatchback in Acura’s lineup right now – and if you ask some people, that’s exactly why Acura is in its current predicament.
Max Warburton and his team. Warburton, of Bernstein Research, assembled a team to interview over 40 auto executives in China (both Chinese and foreign-born) and even bought two Chinese vehicles from Geely and Great Wall. Warburton had them shipped to Europe, where they were taken to a test track, driven extensively and then taken apart by engineers and automotive consultants. And it was far from pretty.
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- Dusterdude @El scotto , I'm aware of the history, I have been in the "working world" for close to 40 years with many of them being in automotive. We have to look at situation in the "big picture". Did UAW make concessions in past ? - yes. Do they deserve an increase now ? -yes . Is their pay increase reasonable given their current compensation package ? Not at all ! By the way - are the automotive CEO's overpaid - definitely! (That is the case in many industries, and a separate topic). As the auto industry slowly but surely moves to EV's , the "big 3" will need to be producing top quality competitive vehicles or they will not survive.
- Art_Vandelay “We skipped it because we didn’t think anyone would want to steal these things”-Hyundai
- El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
- El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.
- El scotto Never mind that that F-1 is a bigger circus than EBFlex and Tassos shopping together for their new BDSM outfits and personal lubricants. Also, the F1 rumor mill churns more than EBFlex's mind choosing a new Sharpie to make his next "Free Candy" sign for his white Ram work van. GM will spend a year or two learning how things work in F1. By the third or fourth year GM will have a competitive "F-1 LS" engine. After they win a race or two Ferrari will protest to highest F-1 authorities. Something not mentioned: Will GM get tens of millions of dollars from F-1? Ferrari gets 30 million a year as a participation trophy.