Like most modern corporations, car companies tend to be extremely opaque. Only rarely do non-insiders like us get a peek behind the PR curtains of a major automaker, and when we do, we have to wonder why we’re getting the show… and what are we looking at, anyway? Just such a moment has arrived, as a tipster has pointed us to coolsprings.com, where an interview with a Nissan consultant based at Nissan North America’s headquarters in Tennessee appears to be literally overflowing with the kinds of juicy scandals, corporate gossip, and inside baseball that we so rarely see in print. But can the self-described whistleblower Sharyn Bovat be trusted? Is Nissan-Renault’s upper management really locked in a global struggle for control of the company? Do Tennessee taxpayers really pay for Nissan executives’ spa treatments? Did Nissan really relocate a number of employees from California to Tennessee, only to try to fire them shortly thereafter? This is The Truth About Cars, so we’ll proceed with caution… but this story is just too juicy to ignore.
Not being a regular trackday driver, my recent tryst with a Porsche Cayman S didn’t leave me wishing Porsche would make their own Turbo version. I may be putting my auto-writer-posturing credentials on the line by typing this, but on real roads patrolled by real police officers, 320 hp is plenty, thanks. Besides, everyone knows that Porsche will never allow its crocodilian coupe outshine its older (and more profitable) brother, the 911. But, according to forum postings from someone claiming to have attended Porsche’s recent general sales meeting [via Pistonheads], Zuffenhausen will let the Cayman get a little bit closer to its true potential with a lightweight version due out in the US next Spring.
We’ve been pretty hard on Cadillac’s decision to replace its aging DTS/STS “flagships” with the stretched-Epsilon XTS, shown in concept form at this year’s NYIAS. We reckon Cadillac needs a true S-Class competitor (as opposed to a glorified Buick LaCrosse) to be taken seriously as a world-class luxury brand… and it turns out that Ed Whitacre agrees. C&D reports:
Cadillac fans will be thrilled to hear that Ed Whitacre himself has instructed the brand to build a true, full-size flagship above both the CTS and the upcoming XTS. The car has not been clearly defined yet. The Zeta platform (Holden Commodore, Chevrolet Camaro, etc.) is heavy and dated, and therefore the flagship is more likely be built on a stretched version of the CTS’s Sigma platform.
If you’ve been reading TTAC regularly, you might have noticed that many of us have something of a soft spot for compact pickup trucks. And what started for me as an innate affinity for all forms of cheap, honest, rugged transportation has become full-blown affection on the strength of several months driving a ’92 Toyota with four-cylinders, four-wheel-drive and a manual transmission. Of course, all auto writers struggle with the disconnect between their personal taste and that of the buying public, and cheap full-sized trucks seem to have eliminated all chances of a re-investment in the segment. Ford, for one, has said that it plans on “replacing” its aged Ranger (which dies next year) with Ecoboost-powered F150 options and its Focus hatchback. Dodge, or Ram, or whoever builds the trucks in Auburn Hills is said to be considering an unibody Dakota replacement, but hasn’t made a peep about it in months. Meanwhile, GM is shutting down Canyon/Colorado production at its Shreveport plant by 2012, ending its half-hearted competition in the segment. But, according to Pickuptrucks.com (which is usually one of the best at breaking these kinds of stories), GM is considering a new entry into the otherwise neglected segment.
It’s been a tumultuous several weeks here at TTAC, as we’ve moved headquarters and lost our managing editor, all while the industry continues to flop about in dramatic fashion. And we’ve been barely keeping up with the latest developments in the world of cars, because behind the scenes we’re preparing to introduce a brand new lineup of contributors to our ongoing quest for automotive truth. We still have a few details to clear up before we make a full announcement, but suffice it to say that I’ve had the exquisite luck to ask some of my favorite automotive writers to join the TTAC team and have them say yes.
Personally, the lack of a blue “Mark of Excellence” was the last thing I noticed about GM’s latest advertisement. Over at GMInsidenews.com, however, they picked up on it a little quicker. GM’s trademark “chiclet” has already been removed from all of its future vehicles, and Cadillac has publicly announced that it’s distancing itself from the GM name. In fact, post-bankruptcy, everyone at GM has said that the “GM brand” should take a backseat to Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC. But will The General go as far as get rid of its little blue box altogether?
Chinese site auto.sina.com [via thetycho.com] has a belly-laugher of a wild-ass rumor: they say BYD has its eye on Daimler’s zombie luxury brand Maybach. The rumor is clearly based on the fact that BYD and Daimler recently closed a cooperation deal, in which they will jointly build vehicles in China for sale under a new brand name. But beyond that, there’s not much to go on. From what I can tell from the Google Translate version of the story, auto.sina.com seems to have an anonymous source in BYD that on March 23 divulged:
BYD is on the matter and approached Daimler, Daimler announced soon abandoned the brand, BYD Auto will soon be underway acquisition action.
Along with flying cars and hydrogen fuel cells, the mid-engined Corvette occupies the most spurious level of automotive rumor-mongery. GM has a deep, rich history of flirtation with the idea of a mid-engine ‘vette (too deep and rich for us not to commission a forthcoming brief history from Paul Niedermeyer), but even in the last three years the engine configuration of the C8 Corvette has attracted intense speculation. In October of 2007, Motor Trend kicked off the modern era of mid-engine ‘vette rumors with a lengthy piece which “revealed” that
GM vice chairman Bob Lutz reportedly has been pushing for a mid-engine C7… We hear Lutz is backing down from his support of a mid-engine C7, though other powerful GM execs reportedly still favor it. Those at GM who prefer an evolutionary, front-engine C7 are facing a tough battle.
Almost exactly a year later, MT took it all back. With GM facing bankruptcy and bailouts, plans for a new Corvette were put on hold and the RenCen pendulum was swinging back towards an evolution of the front-engined C7. And yet now, with bankruptcy still less than a year in GM’s past, the mid-engine Corvette rumors are bubbling back up again.
Flirtation between Nissan and GM has a rich history, dating back to 2006, when the two firms nearly merged, in a move that would have left Nissan-Renault’s Carlos Ghosn in charge of French-Japanese-American juggernaut. GM fought off Ghosn’s advances (and a stockholder rebellion) to stay independent, but with a post-bankruptcy IPO now looming, Ghosn has once again appeared on GM’s horizon. In a bit of in-depth speculation at Dow Jones Investment Banker [via the WSJ [sub]] Jamie Miyazaki and Alessandro Pasetti break down the pros and cons of a Renault-Nissan hookup with GM. Their conclusions: although, Renault is currently playing footsie with Daimler:
Over the long haul, looking west to General Motors in the U.S. could prove more fruitful for Renault than strengthening partnerships in Europe’s saturated market. Taking an equity stake in a reborn, and eventually relisted, GM would give the Renault-Nissan alliance exposure to the U.S. auto giant’s diverse geographic presence… GM [has] shifted about 37% of its total 2009 sales in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe, according to J.D. Power & Associates data. Throw in GM’s plans to ramp up its Indian operations and its large presence in the Brazilian market, where Renault is investing to roughly double its market share to 10%, and the Detroit giant’s allure is obvious.
Paging Captain Kirk!
Unnamed sources tell Reuters that the Maximum era at GM will end on May 1, when Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz will announce his retirement. Unless this is one of those Brett Favre things. Needless to say, TTAC appreciates the month of notice, and will struggle to put together a fitting tribute to the man we call Maximum.
Car enthusiasts are an odd bunch. They don’t understand why people buy “bland-mobiles” like Toyotas & Hondas, they can’t see why anyone would choose an automatic gearbox over a manuals, and they still can’t figure out why all cars aren’t RWD. For them, the smell of burning petrol (or oil, if you’re in Europe) combined with smouldering rubber, is somewhere between, a freshly baked apple pie and cooked bacon in the spectrum of heavenly smells. Well, there’s one other thing that car enthusiasts may have to combine with those smells, the hum of an electric motor… and it might just mean the end of their sweeping disdain for anything with the word “hybrid” in its name.
Almost exactly a year ago, we heard that Ford wouldn’t be developing a global RWD platform in Australia. That came as sad, but obvious news back then… but check it out: Motor Trend just got a hot “scoop”!
Under the global rear-drive platform plan, the 2014 Mustang was to have shared its basic architecture with the next generation Australian Ford Falcon, and possibly a new flagship sedan for Lincoln. The Mustang would have been on the short wheelbase version of the platform, the Falcon on the mid-wheelbase, and the Lincoln on the long wheelbase. But that strategy has changed…
…By the time a new rear-drive Lincoln could appear, the Town Car will have been out of production for three to four years, and with high gas prices in Australia, no-one expects major growth in Falcon sales. These factors taken together seem to have conspired to torpedo the global rear-drive platform. “The [next generation rear-drive] Falcon is dead,” said one Ford insider bluntly, in apparent confirmation.
Shocker! The problem is that Ford’s just released a new Mustang, meaning the current model will be a bit long of tooth when the nameplate’s 50th anniversary rolls around in 2014. The good news? Motor Trend’s “scoop” isn’t that Ford will be slapping together a “very special edition” consisting of paint, wheels, badges and certificate of authenticity.
The bad news?
Thought, you’d seen the last of Renault in North America? Well, think again and this time, they’re bringing their big guns! The Wall Street Journal [sub] reports that Gerard Detourbet, head of Renault’s entry level division is contemplating selling their low cost cars in South East Asia and North America. “We’re looking at Southeast Asia closely,” he said “We ended up not going there for a variety of reasons. But the idea is that we won’t remain absent from that territory.”