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Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 15:46:56 +0000



Tue, 20 Feb 2018 15:35:16 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I actually had high hopes for the Genesis luxury brand from Hyundai, because the stars seemed to be lining up in its favor. The fledgling luxury brand had the deep resources of Hyundai behind it, and, to the company’s credit, it had gone out of its way to hire some of the best and brightest automotive talent available in the business. This seemed to demonstrate that Hyundai finally had the desire to play the luxury game properly, understanding that it would not only take considerable amounts of cash to fund the effort, but that it would require a fundamental fortitude in order to compete at the highest level over the long haul, which it had not yet demonstrated up until this point.  So this, by Hyundai’s account anyway, was truly a brand-new day, and Genesis would become a force to be reckoned with in the luxury business in no time. And if you had seen any of the PGA’s Genesis Open from the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles over the weekend, you might have gotten the impression that Genesis is a real live luxury brand, with endless – and tediously repetitive – TV commercials to prove it, demonstrating its mettle, stating its purpose and offering its qualifications as a genuine automotive luxury brand to ConsumerVille. But the requisite product look and features brought to life by slick TV commercials aren’t what they seem in this case, and if you dig a little deeper you will come to understand that Genesis is a brand in chaos, with a retail component that is in complete disarray. I’m not going to regurgitate all of the gory details here, but suffice to say Hyundai officials at first decided that Genesis would be sold at top-performing dealerships instead of going the all-new brick-and-mortar route, like Lexus did when it started here. But there were complications, starting with the fact that Hyundai already had a Genesis model in place at its dealerships. In typical fashion, Hyundai operatives decided to flip a switch and introduce the new Genesis division while its dealers still had the “old” Genesis model on their lots. (And let’s not forget that their previous top luxury model, the Equus, was still hanging around, which only added to the confusion.) So, let’s review, shall we? The model previously known as Genesis became the new Genesis G80, while the top-line Equus would now become the Genesis G90. Capisce? If you think that sounds kind of confusing, you’re absolutely right, and Genesis sales – and the Hyundai dealers selling the new brand – suffered. The launch of the new Genesis brand was an unmitigated disaster, with piddling sales and only sporadic interest from consumers.  What was the problem? Were the cars worthy? Yes, given the parameters needed to play the luxury game the cars came heavily equipped in standard form, were well executed, and cost thousands less than comparable entries from BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, especially the top-line G90. But it wasn’t enough. Why? Hyundai operatives have a long, dismal history of deciding how things will go for them in whichever segments they choose to play in and believing that they will automatically succeed, because a.) They want it to be that way and besides, b.) How could it possibly be anything otherwise? It’s that ugly “we’ll just flip a switch” mentality that rears its head every time with anything having to do with Hyundai. There’s this steadfast belief among Hyundai operatives that suggests that they’re the smartest guys in the room, and that they will not fail. And when they do, the executives in place – usually Americans – are jettisoned for not delivering unrealistic goals and assorted pipe dreams. So back to the current chaos being unleashed behind the scenes with Genesis. Now, Hyundai operatives have decided that they do want separate Genesis showrooms, so they’re going around the c[...]


Tue, 13 Feb 2018 18:49:27 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo  Detroit. Navigating the shoals in the automotive marketing game is a full-time and often thankless task. Beyond the enormous complexity involved with the fundamentals of launching an automotive brand, nurturing a brand over time is extremely difficult, as several factors often conspire to blow up even the most solid marketing plans. Those factors include roller-coaster market conditions, the economy, a particular product cadence (or lack thereof), the efficacy of the product itself, and my perennial favorite: serial incompetence. Any one of those factors can derail even the most competitive products in the market, but if all of those factors somehow come together at once, it can prove to be disastrous. There are a few brands right now that are wrestling with their very reason for being. Some have been floundering for a long time and are looking for a serious boost, some have achieved hollow success through questionable means, and some are just flat-out clueless and searching for brand relief any way they can get it.  Let’s start with Nissan. The Japanese brand that roared into the U.S. market as Datsun and achieved notable success with some feisty products and one of the all-time great advertising themes – “We Are Driven” – (they never should have changed the name to Nissan, by the way, but that’s another column) lost its way in a big way when Carlos Ghosn put his spurs into the brand.  One of the most overrated executives in the auto business, Ghosn pushed U.S. Nissan dealers into a churn-and-burn frenzy in order to achieve absurd sales targets and market share, and consequently the Nissan brand was degraded to the point that Nissan dealers became the Beacon of Hope for subsidized payment shoppers, aka “How much is that Altima a month?” Just this week, in an interview that appeared in Automotive News, Nissan Motor Co. CEO Hiroto Saikawa lamented the fact that Nissan’s “M.O.” of massive incentives and fleet sales in order to meet Ghosn’s overly optimistic sales and market share targets had taken its toll on the Nissan brand, resulting in diminished brand value and reduced profitability.   Gee, who would have thunk it? That’s only the biggest “Duh” of this or any other year. Nissan has been going down this road for years, thanks to Ghosn, and now the new guy tasked with revitalizing the brand has his work cut out for him. Saikawa told Automotive News that he is giving Denis Le Vot, the Frenchman from Renault who took over as chairman of North America just one month ago a couple of months to come up with a plan so that Nissan can begin implementing short-term and midterm fixes in the fiscal year starting April 1. "We have to first improve the brand value and profitability," Saikawa told Automotive News last week after Nissan reported that operating profit plunged 50 percent in the last three months of 2017. "Hopefully, we will be able to reach a very solid point in two years. This is the first mission for the new chairman." Except what does Nissan stand for, exactly? Technology? No, the democratization of technology has absolutely swallowed this business whole, and Nissan’s ability to differentiate itself in that area is simply a fool’s errand. How about engineering expertise? Again, no, and that’s thanks to Carlos Ghosn’s relentless commoditization of the brand. No, what Nissan stands for now is ridiculously cheap payments – especially on the Rogue and Altima – and that’s pretty much it. Ghosn’s “churn-and-burn” strategy has been a complete disaster for Nissan in this market. It sounds like Mr. Saikawa actually believes that there is a giant switch that can be flipped in order to jack up brand value and profitability by reducing incentives and fleet sales. And that it can all happen in two years. But I have news for the brain trust at Nissan head[...]


Mon, 05 Feb 2018 13:55:19 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. As longtime readers of this website know, I have the utmost respect for those toiling in the advertising business. Having worked in the business myself for more than 22 years, it is one of the toughest and at times one of the most enjoyable pursuits a person can engage in. Not that the ad biz is a touchy-feely stroll through Lollipop Land, by any means. The ugly reality is that it is also a constant battle fraught with clashing egos, blatant ineptitude and pitiful political theater that plays out in excruciating fits and starts. And this is only magnified in automotive advertising, where serial incompetence - usually on the client side - plays a prominent role. After saying that, I reserve particular ire for those in the advertising pursuit who squander opportunities by letting unbridled hubris get in the way of creating advertising worthy of its biggest stage. What FCA unleashed on the Super Bowl in four out of five spots (more on the one that mattered later) was simply unmitigated crap brought to you by the self-appointed smartest guy in the room, none other than Olivier “I’m a genius, just ask me” Francois, Sergio Marchionne’s handpicked Guy Friday of Marketing.  Now to be fair, Francois has been responsible for some terrific spots over his tenure, my favorite being “Farmer” from a couple of years ago, which used the stirring words and voice-over of the late Paul Harvey to great effect in a Ram truck spot. “Farmer” was an example of what great advertising in its most glorious form can be: Powerful, stirring and memorable. But what Francois unleashed on this year’s Super Bowl wasn’t even close to that, in fact, Francois demonstrated unequivocally that his time in the marketing arena has come to a much-needed close, as FCA proceeded to stink up the joint with spots that either were grossly ineffective, pegged my personal advertising Wince Meter, or both. Starting with a spot for Ram trucks called “Built to Serve," which used words from Martin Luther King Jr., Francois went to the well one more time in search of this year’s “Farmer.” Except it backfired, horribly. Why? FCA’s agency cherry-picked Dr. King’s own words from a sermon that he delivered 50 years ago at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which was, remarkably enough, a diatribe against rampant consumerism, particularly mentioning overspending on cars. He even went so far as to chastise those who “are so often taken by advertisers.” Uh, WTF? Francois offered up a lame excuse that he had the complete approval from the Martin Luther King Jr. estate, but that is no excuse. The outcry and outrage on social media was deservedly swift and unrelenting. This was a complete disaster of a spot, one that upon closer inspection was shockingly cynical and blatantly offensive. Then there was “The Road” for the Jeep Cherokee, which FCA said in a release. “… quietly draws an interesting parallel between roads and the idea of operating within someone else’s expectations.” Except that the highfalutin words in the release attempted to make more of the spot than was actually there. In fact, there was no “there” there. Another spot, “Jeep Jurassic” actually used borrowed interest - and Jeff Goldblum - from Jurassic World to sell Wrangler, and it was instantly forgettable. By the time I saw this spot, a slow smoldering rage was beginning to build, because FCA had simply blown untold millions on a disastrous marketing effort on the Super Bowl, and it was embarrassing. But nothing prepared me for the out-and-out disaster that was “Icelandic Vikings” for the new Ram truck which, more than any other spot, spoke to Olivier Francois’s unbridled hubris and woefully flawed thinking. The release from FCA was telling, in that it said the 60-second spot was filmed in Iceland “to ensure auth[...]


Mon, 29 Jan 2018 20:44:01 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. Now that the auto show hoopla and manufactured hype from the associated events has cooled, it’s clear to me that the ugly reality of this business has set in – yet again – and it is cold and unforgiving. The reality for the collective “Detroit” is that it finds itself right back where it was before the temporary euphoria of the auto show clouded otherwise semi-rational auto executives’ thoughts. Yes, for a moment everything was beautiful, but add up the sum total of the content in the speeches and bloviating that went on in Detroit over the last two weeks, and it amounts to pretty much nothing.  The evidence of the nothingness that went on in the Motor City was rampant. Here is a sampling of those (paraphrased) thoughts. Fill in your favorite car company as you see fit:  “We feel that we are clearly positioned to take advantage of the transportation future, no matter what direction it takes.”  “We are making massive investments in electrification and autonomy, which will hammer our balance sheet in the short term, but we should be good about three to five years from now.”  “We are buying companies left and right in order to accumulate intellectual property, which will protect us in the connected future.” “We are preparing for the day when the automobile will supplant the smartphone as the life platform of the future, and we aim to play a pivotal role in this development.” A lot of the blue-sky pronouncements made in Detroit over the previous two weeks went beyond the usual blather, because the level of delusional thinking being projected was downright scary. The Pope of Silicon Valley – Elon Musk – can get away with it because, well, Wall Street is enamored with anyone who bends reality for their own financial gain; it’s the gift that just keeps on giving. But auto executives spewing their views on the autonomous future and their companies’ role in it? Uh, not so much. Why? Because it comes off as an egregious form of audio-visual desperation, like freshly energized-for-no-reason nerds trying to be like the cool kids in high school. Projecting manufacturing-centric automobile companies as the solution for our transportation future is extremely difficult image-wise, especially when Silicon Valley theorists and people who specialize in “selling air” for a living are writing the “rules.” (More on this later.) With that in mind then, here are Five High-Octane Truths about the car business right now that jumped out at me over the last couple of weeks: 1. Data is not the new oil. The car companies in a headlong rush to accumulate data on consumers are kidding themselves and it’s a fool’s errand. This goes back to the idea that some well-meaning executives actually believe down to their monogrammed shirts that the connected automobile will supplant the cell phone as the personal communication device of the future. They envision an idealistic, Shiny Happy Future where our automobiles remember our favorite restaurants, our favorite place for a cup of coffee, our favorite dry cleaners, the best place for organic snacks and so on, and that somehow this knowledge will drive owner loyalty and revenue back to the automakers that will translate into untold billions in profit. But the idea that we will all just lap this up like there’s no tomorrow is ridiculous. The automobile will never replace the cell phone on the human connectivity scale, because that ship has sailed. The auto manufacturers creating huge data farms in order to glean countless bits of information about consumers that in their minds will change the world are in for a rude awakening. This is unmitigated horseshit on a grand scale, folks, and the car companies who are immersing themselves in this pursuit are in for a rude awakening. 2. The UAW is toast.[...]


Mon, 22 Jan 2018 19:07:17 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. Yes, I can hear well-intentioned people all across this city choking on their cornflakes right about now. How could I? How could I knock the one event that – allegedly – defines this city? How could I have the temerity to suggest that the one big event in this town every year has somehow lost its focus and lost its way and no longer serves its purpose? It’s easy, actually, because the Detroit Auto Show has been on a downward spiral for years now, and to pretend otherwise is exactly the particularly pungent form of head-in-sand thinking that has brought us to this point. And this goes far beyond renaming the show, although the hoary “North American International Auto Show” moniker has been a joke for at least five years, if not more. No, this goes to the very core of what’s wrong with what once was a must-see auto show.  Way back when, the Detroit Auto Show started out as a strictly regional show created by the local dealer associations to generate buyer interest in January and February, the two worst sales months of the year. And it plodded along just fine in that role. The pivot came about when industry leaders grew tired of seeing the big shows – Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva – garner all of the headlines and all of the attention. This was the Motor City, damn it, and we deserved to have an elevated stature for our auto show befitting the Motor Capital of the World, or so the thinking went at the time. Thus the new name with heavy emphasis on the word “international” made its debut in 1989 and it was good, at least for a while, anyway. In fact, it was as if the NAIAS moniker was enough for everybody involved, that now that the once local car show had gone international, it had earned its rightful place on the annual auto show calendar, and it would just rumble along unencumbered and unthreatened by challenges and challengers, no matter where they came from. But this business – big surprise – is constantly changing and boiling, which is why I have semi-affectionately named it the “swirling maelstrom.” And the Detroit Auto Show clearly hasn’t changed with it. The first discordant notes came with the timing of the Los Angeles Auto Show, and for years balancing the L.A. and Detroit shows, which bumped against each other on the calendar, was a real problem. But then the L.A. show was moved to November so that crisis was averted, at least temporarily. Then new headwinds laid waste to the Detroit show. First of all, the emergence of the Consumer Electronics Show as a place where automobile companies wanted to see and be seen caught everyone associated with the Detroit show completely off guard. Yes, it corresponded with the digitizing of the known world and the automobile’s important role in all of that but all of a sudden the CES, which came just a week before the Detroit Auto Show, was completely stealing the Detroit show’s thunder. But there was another emerging factor that proved to be equally as damaging to the Detroit Auto Show, if not more so, and that is the fact that automobile companies began skipping the Detroit show altogether. The reasons given were costs – putting on a major auto show display is extravagantly expensive – and marketing, as in what were the most important markets for certain manufacturers, and did the Detroit Auto Show really work with what they were trying to do? And clearly the answer to those questions didn’t work in the Detroit show’s favor.  As an example of this let’s take Porsche, for instance. Porsche’s largest sales market globally is the state of California, no other market is even close in fact (although China is gaining steam). The other important market for Porsche is the northeast, especially in terms of the media attention generated at the New York International Auto Show. So Porsche [...]


Wed, 17 Jan 2018 02:31:03 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. After being hammered with relentless frigid weather for a record twelve – count ‘em – days around these parts, the assembled multitudes comprised of the card-carrying carpal-tunnel-burdened wretches in the media (and assorted hangers-on of various stripes) descended on the Motor City for a few days of free booze, free food and some car reveals interspersed among the chaos of another Detroit Auto Show.   With temperatures in the balmy teens and with a constant snowfall peppering the proceedings, once again the out-of-towners sentenced, err, sent, to Detroit could be heard asking themselves “why?” As in the immortal, “why me, why now?” that Nancy Kerrigan uttered when she was attacked in this very city 24 years ago.  Ah well, enough of that. Complaining about the weather here and wishing the organizers would move the show to a more civilized time of year is a fool’s errand because it’s not going to change and it’s just not going to happen. We’re destined to endure this until the industry implodes from its own self-absorption or misguided meanderings, whichever comes first. So let’s, shall we?  Memo to car companies lost in the Cloud of What Could Be: You better pay attention to your core automotive business for the foreseeable future, because if you don’t, you won’t have to worry about What’s Next, because you’ll be What’s Gone. Speaking of misguided meanderings, the industry’s unwavering fascination with “What’s Next” is consuming all that is righteous and holy with this business. Normally levelheaded executives (at least as much as they can be) are so hell-bent on carving out a piece of the autonomous future for their companies that they’ve completely lost the plot. It’s fine to pontificate about the transportation landscape of the future, but the reality is much less sanguine. In fact it’s flat-out grim. With manufacturers developing well over a hundred BEVs (battery electric vehicles) for the market between now and 2022, the multi-billion-dollar question remains: Is the infrastructure going to be ready for anything close to what’s needed even under the very best scenario? How about, no? It isn’t even going to be close, in fact. So, the immediate future is gasoline-electric hybrids. That’s ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines) with electric motor support. It’s rational, it’s achievable, and it’s already here and deeply in play. As for the autonomous future, you can forget about it. We’re talking 20 years away, and even by then it will be only in severely limited use.   A new level of stupid, brought to you by BMW. BMW opened its press conference with a video of an eight-hour drift that apparently set a new “Guinness World Record.” Yes, you read that correctly, as in, WTF? If there were any doubts out there that BMW has completely lost it, they were buried in one fell swoop. This was followed by a word from its CFO. Now, it doesn’t get any better than when a car company brings its finance guy up to bore everyone to death, I mean, really. (You’d be better off if you had your PR minions hand out forks so people could stick themselves in the eye at that point.)  And this guy didn’t disappoint. But when I heard the words “our clear strategic focus…” drone-drone-drone and “we deliver on our promises…” drone-drone-drone, it was most definitely time to leave. The media was just an afterthought at these proceedings apparently, because BMW was clearly preaching to its dealers at this press conference. And then after covering BMW’s entire product portfolio, from electric scooters and motorcycles to MINI – tah-dah! - they rolled out the relentlessly unins[...]


Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:29:20 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. As this brave New Year of 2018 begins for the auto industry, next week’s Detroit Auto Show is first on the agenda. What started as a local dealer-oriented auto show way back when to pump up sales in the doldrums of January and February, and then progressed to renaming itself the “North American International Auto Show” in a quest for global importance, the Detroit Auto Show is a fixture on the automotive calendar. Being a fixture, however, doesn’t necessarily translate into gravitas or sustainable value to the greater industry as a whole. Detroit isn’t a “retail” show like the Chicago show, where real people look over real vehicles to buy. And it’s not a trendsetting show like the Consumer Electronics Show or even L.A., or a mainstream media-centric show like New York. Let’s face it: the Detroit Auto Show is a metal and carbon fiber-filled dog-and-pony show staged more for industry players than anything else.  Staged in the city that is the de facto capital of southeast Michigan, a region filled with myriad car companies and countless suppliers that eat, sleep and breathe this business in a relentless 24/7 cadence, the Detroit Auto Show is the quintessential definition of a “hometown” auto show. That many car companies are now skipping the Detroit show because its importance to their business has waned dramatically over the years is a fact that can’t be swept under the rug. And the reality suggests that despite this region’s importance to the traditional auto industry and the future of this industry, the Detroit show is hanging by a thread. Yes, it certainly could chug along in its present state for quite a while, but it could just as easily slip into becoming a Tier 2 auto show that comes in a decided fourth behind CES, L.A. and New York too. In fact, it's probably already there. Be that as it may, I would like to give our readers a guide to what to expect at the Detroit Auto Show (the media days begin next Sunday), because other so-called auto-oriented media sources may mislead you to believing things that just aren’t true. (Shocking, I know.) It May Be Vaporware But It’s Our Vaporware, Damn it. The Detroit Auto Show is now making hay with the whole “mobility” thing – or as they officially call it, “AUTOMOBILI-D” – which has become the new mantra for the industry, at least in certain quarters. This push is the direct result of the collective “Detroit” hell-bent on not ceding future transportation solutions to Silicon Valley, and the urgency surrounding this push has otherwise intelligent professionals scurrying about throwing ideas and concepts against the walls to see what sticks. What does this mean, exactly? Well, unfortunately it means that there will be countless, pseudo-intelligent discussions and presentations next week about The Future of Mobility and the promise of autonomous vehicles. And that much of the flotsam and jetsam being bandied about will be total, unmitigated bullshit should be of no surprise to anyone. We’re talking vaporware, folks, but vaporware at such a highfalutin’ level that it will seem like The Answer. Please step back, turn around quietly and walk away, because vaporware – no matter how polished and presented by earnest CEOs – is still vaporware. From The “We Really Mean It This Time” File. Expect various well-meaning auto executives to get up in front of the carpal-tunnel-afflicted wretches of the assembled media and: 1. Bask in the glow of their recent sales success and promise more to come (please pay no attention to those fleet sales behind the curtain). Or, 2. Insist that their latest attempt at coming up with yet another new Belchfire 8 (after previous Belchfire 8s were produc[...]


Sat, 16 Dec 2017 18:13:25 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. So, it has come down to this. Even though the autonomous zealots are quite sure where this is all going, the auto business is careening down a path of the unknown. We’re straddling a rolling dichotomy consisting of an idyllic vision of our transportation future made of generic pods that can be summoned at our whims, while reality suggests that our personal transportation options are likely to remain the same as what we’ve been used to for years to come. Sure, those options may be hybrid and electrified, but personal choice will still reign. That doesn’t mean the noise will stop anytime soon, however. We are going to be inundated with tales of a Brave New Auto World by the pitchfork-wielding techno-hordes hell-bent on eradicating the automobile as a symbol of personal freedom, because they view this country’s fascination with and reliance on the automobile in all of its forms as a tragic malfeasance that destroyed our cities and warped our view – and way – of life. But the reality is almost 180 degrees different from that. Every dimension of the American experience has been shaped by the automobile – the roads we used to explore the vast expanses of the unbridled majesty of this nation (and ourselves along the way); the music that provided much of the soundtrack for those journeys, the roadside attractions and the road food that went with them; the big cities and little towns along the highways and byways; and on, and on, and on. (Talk to anyone who has visited The Henry Ford museum recently and see what he or she has to say. In so many words, it will sound like this: The American experience is the automobile, and the automobile is the American experience.) But that won’t stop some – namely, certain politicians in Northern California, Washington, D.C., and the Masters of the Universe in Silicon Valley – from insisting that this fundamental transformation of our transportation model can’t come soon enough. For those people who view the automobile and the automobile industry and everything associated with it as a national scourge that needs to be eradicated once and for all, it will be Sweet Victory, a fitting denouement for the filthy automobile, a march of progress that will benefit everyone. For these people the historical context of the automobile has been overwrought and overexaggerated from the beginning, and to finally put paid to the notion of the automobile’s wonderfulness is an accomplishment that they will giddily revel in for decades to come, because for them historical perspective is just old stuff about old, irrelevant people. Oh well, enough about that. We shall see what we shall see. But I am quite confident that our personal transportation – and the personal freedom that comes with it – will remain vibrant and essential for decades to come.  And now, for the subject at hand: The Autoextremist Year in Review (including "On The Table" and "Fumes") is one of our most anticipated issues every year, so we hope you enjoy it as much as we did putting it together.  The one unequivocal, undeniable thing about this business that never gets old is that you just can’t make this shit up. So, back to this year of selling air business. There’s a brand-new auto company on the horizon, one filled with Shiny Happy Optimism, bright sparkly quotes and overreaching promises that will soon set the world afire with yet another $100,000 all-electric car. It even has a seasoned ex-BMW executive at the helm. The company is called Lucid, and the car it will bring to market by the end of by 2019, or um, oh hell, it’s better to not hold them to it, is called the “Air.” (Lucid ground to a screeching halt by the way.) ("WELCOME [...]


Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:44:18 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. Editor’s Note: Part II of my “unplugged” interview with Peter occurred this morning (12/12, 9:30 a.m.). Though Peter is notorious for his early mornings, I got him to hold off until a more decent hour (a minor victory). We weren’t going to do a Part II, but because questions poured in from some of our readers, we decided to go ahead with it. We’re also including the previous questions/answers from Part I below Part II. So, here we go... –WG What are your thoughts about Mary Barra, in terms of her performance so far? –RC, Nashville, Tennessee.  I give her mixed marks. On the one hand she’s proven to be quite capable as a CEO, but on the other, I find some of her decisions to be on the ragged edge of being questionable. Walking away from markets is never a good thing, despite the long list of reasons given for GM’s decision to do so. I also think GM’s bet on The Future of the business has too much fantasy connected to it. It hinges on all sorts of things coming into play that really have no basis in reality. And that’s a recipe for disaster. Her performance yesterday at the Automotive Press Association event in Detroit was typical for Mary Barra - walking in the middle of the road, filled with platitudes, while carefully not saying much. Yes, I get it, much of an auto CEO’s life is about not really having a point of view and not saying anything that could be misconstrued, but at this point, I expect much more from her. And one last thing, the fact that she and Dan “I Am” Ammann have steadfastly refused to appoint a chief marketing officer for the company is a glaring mistake. The decision to have the divisions wander around in the marketing desert on their own has been an abject failure, especially given the insipid advertising they keep generating. I don’t know if she and Ammann are reluctant to add another million-dollar body to the executive suite because they’re deathly afraid of giving someone with serious marketing experience and a point of view the autonomy to make decisions, or what, but it’s an egregiously bad call and a giant, steaming bowl of Not Good. What’s the deal, you haven’t said much about Elon and Sergio lately, are you going soft? –Hank J., Sausalito, California I think I’ve pretty much covered those two, and I really don’t have much to add. Marchionne is positioning FCA to be sold and that’s the task given to him by his Fiat heirs/handlers, because they’re deathly afraid of running through – and out of – their money. And being the carpetbagging mercenary that he is he will do exactly that, most likely with Hyundai. As for Musk, for all of his brilliance and vision, the fact that he can’t build the Model 3 in quantity and with quality is an indictment of his entire automotive adventure. And his calculated distractions – an all-electric semi-truck! and I’m gonna launch my sports car to Mars! – are just that. And I love the fact that these companies are already lining up to order his trucks, when he has demonstrated repeatedly that he can’t build his vision with any semblance of consistency or quality. Do they live under a rock, or what? I do have a new name for him though: Teslon. Because he has become the Teflon Tech Guru in that criticism bolstered with facts just rolls off of him. If I didn’t hear about either one of them ever again I’d be thrilled, but of course that’s not going to happen. What do you really think is going to become of Cadillac? –J.H., Fort Lauderdale, Florida Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen has made it clear that he is not only remaking Cadillac in Audi&rsq[...]


Tue, 05 Dec 2017 14:53:20 +0000

By Peter M. DeLorenzo Detroit. Editor’s Note: Peter churns out column after column, week after week, and produces a body of work every year that is simply staggering when you really think about it. But every once in a while I feel it’s a good idea to find out what’s really on Peter’s mind. Not in column form, but through a series of rapid-fire, real-time questions. So I conducted an email interview for a frenzied hour on Tuesday morning (12/6, 7:30 a.m.) and ready or not, here he is, PMD, in his unpluggedness. –WG Uwe Ellinghaus announced he is leaving his chief marketing position at Cadillac at the end of the year due to “personal reasons.” What do you think about that? Multiple research surveys have been conducted over the last decade that indicate that the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer, no matter what the industry, lasts anywhere from 24 to 30 months, and then they get fired, resign, get another gig, or simply wander off into the dusk and don’t come back. This is not surprising. The burnout factor is extremely high and depending on the internal battles involved, the job can take a tremendous toll. The chief marketing job at Cadillac involves constant travel to Shanghai, so, even though I haven’t spoken to Uwe since the announcement, I would bet that had something to do with it. Uwe is genuine, and a very bright guy. That Johan de Nysschen decided to transform Cadillac into the spitting image of Audi is a strategic direction that I flat-out disagree with, but I do wish Uwe the best. What are your thoughts about the headlong rush to autonomous vehicles and the insistence by these auto companies – especially GM – and suppliers that they’re poised to make boatloads of cash in The New Mobility Economy? I am beyond skeptical. First of all, the efficacy of the technology is suspect, because it’s fraught with fundamental issues and recurring problems. Anyone who thinks that a magic switch will be flipped and that we’ll all be suddenly awash in autonomous cars careening around faithfully doing what they’re supposed to do is simply wishful thinking. As for the companies lining up to be a part of The New Mobility Economy by cranking out cars for the masses to be squired around town in, on paper it all sounds good. The reality will be much less than that. GM is insistent that they will be in the thick of The New Mobility Economy and that they will win. What do you make of this? GM has been insistent about a lot of things over the years that haven’t panned out. What’s different about this time? They’re talking a good game, with Mary Barra and Dan "I Am" Ammann getting all puffed up about GM’s bullish future but it all remains to be seen. They are making a calculated shift to this “New Mobility Economy” but what they’re really doing is turning GM into a commodity company. And that may not end well for them. So, what about the future? Anyone who thinks that the idea – and the freedom – of personal mobility will give way to a blissful national stupor dominated by robo cars is missing the mark. As I’ve said repeatedly, robo cars will have limited use and applications in urban centers, but beyond that this country is going to be moved by personal vehicles that people acquire of their own volition for decades to come.   And then what? I do see a “transportation dichotomy” looming. Some manufacturers will completely throw over to building mass-use autonomous cars, while other manufacturers will retain brands – especially luxury brands – for people who want them, because they will remain profitable. I think in the future people will have a “gray” car, meaning an[...]