September 12, 2012
The Autoextremist Guide to the Latest Auto Industry Terms.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 9/11, 10:15 a.m.) Detroit. That the auto biz has its own weird terms for just about everything is no secret, so once in a while I feel it’s our duty to interpret the latest industry slang roiling around the corridors of the Detroit automakers for our readers, if only to help those who aren’t immersed in this stuff on a day-to-day basis to gain a little bit of understanding as to what this business is all about. It's also helpful for some executives who are so far removed from reality to get a healthy snapshot of what's going on "down there." Some of the terms are totally nonsensical without a follow-up explanation, and some of them are self explanatory. Suffice to say, this business has developed its own quirky shorthand phrases to help describe the relentless 24/7 slog that defines this industry, and since we first presented the AE Guide to the Latest Auto Industry Terms back in the spring of 2008, we felt the time was ripe for an update. So, here we go...
ABERCROMBIES - Term used for the hip young men and women pictured in the photo set that auto marketers and designers inevitably use to describe the target market for their hip new car to the media. Even though none of those pictured can afford said vehicle, of course.
ACCIDENTAL TOURIST - A highly derogatory term finding wide use in the business right now. It is used to describe executives devoid of the qualifications necessary to properly perform the duties assigned to them. Although this term can be used to describe executives at all levels, it's most effective when describing CEOs who are maliciously out of their element.
AKERSONNED - A term originated in the hostile confines of GM's headquarters, it is used to describe an executive who falls out of favor with a CEO for egregious misdeeds, both real and imagined, and who then is summarily jettisoned from the company. "He was exactly what they needed but his free-wheeling deal-making clashed with the ingrained culture of plodding ineptitude, so he was Akersonned from the company." Most effective when used by the media in covering GM.
BAROLO'D – Derisive term used by auto company PR operatives to describe the altered state of mind some media types adopt on extended press junkets, where the booze and wine flow freely and the propensity for said journalists to lose all track of space, time, reality - and objectivity - is high. As in, “He's a no-talent pain in the frickin' ass but once we get him all Barolo'd up it won't matter, our Belchfire 8 will be the greatest thing since automotive sliced bread in no time."
BAZING! – Exclamation point added to a winning solution, or funny quip in a meeting, or just to add color to a conversation. Used most frequently to describe a particularly tasty design execution. Already overused and expected to have a shelf life of about five minutes, it's still effective when used at just the right moment, as in, "That execution is competent and well thought out. But this one has some serious Bazing! to it."
BRAND SPANKIN' - You would think this term would describe something new, whether it be a design or an engineering breakthrough, etc. But no, it's used to describe marketers who have well and truly lost their way and are screwing up royally, as in, "What the hell happened to them? They were just killin' it a year ago and now they're doing some major league brand spankin'. Too bad."
BUREAUZOMBIES - Anonymous bureaucratic troll-like zombies in all car companies who revel in mediocrity and who are impediments to progress. They derail programs through their incompetence, laziness and "not invented here" attitude, as in, "That program would have put us back in the game, but once the bureauzombies got hold of it we were dead in the water."
BURNED TO A CRISPIN - A term named for the ad agency in Colorado of the same name that specializes in creating tedious campaigns that are usually too hip and precious for their own good, it usually refers to a relentlessly square auto company advertising manager who is suffering a near total meltdown due to the exhaustion brought on from trying to be hip, as in, “She was fine until she got her ass burned to a crispin with that latest terminally hip ad campaign.”
CAW! - Term used to describe the collective bird call sound - "CAW! CAW!" - used by groups of people ganging up on a bad, inaccurate or just plain lame presenter in a meeting. It is also used to describe the reality-challenged leaders of the Canadian Auto Workers union who are preparing to strike the U.S. auto industry back to the Stone Age.
CARBED-UP – Term used by Northern California politicians and members of the California Air Resources Board while flexing their muscles in front of Washington bureaucrats in the quest to make their largely nonsensical fuel economy targets become law. As in, "That's a nice first attempt, boys and girls, but once we get these standards all carbed-up we'll really be lookin' good."
CHARIOTS OF THE TODDS - A reference to the wide array of cars in the company parking lot driven by the IT minions.
DEUTSCH-BAG - Named after the perpetually self-aggrandizing advertising maven (although he seems to spend most of his time pontificating on NBC's Today Show these days), the term refers to a person involved in the ad biz - usually on the creative side - who takes himself far too seriously for his own good.
DID A HONDA - When a car company squanders its legacy and loses its way, only to realize (too late) that its mojo is irretrievable, as in, "That used to be one of the great car companies until they did a Honda and screwed themselves for good."
FAUX-BRANO – Designer term given to the faux wood applique used throughout the industry to convey richness in interiors. Sample usage: "We'll throw so much Faux-Brano in this thing it will look like a Roller."
FISKERED - The new industry term for overpromising and then underdelivering, as in, "They promised the moon and the stars with that product program and then they Fiskered it up. Now it's too heavy, too slow and it costs too much money."
FORGET IT JAKE, IT'S CHINATOWN - From the Robert Towne script from the classic 1974 film directed by Roman Polanski, a term used to describe a situation that's so beyond hope that the only thing left to do is to just walk away.
GREENAGE - Term used by those aforementioned Northern California politicos to describe a program's environmental potential, as in, "We think it's a worthy proposal but it doesn't have nearly enough greenage to it." Also used by weary auto company executives sick of trying to anticipate the next hot button for the anti-car zealots, as in, "We could have our cars emit a faint whiff of saffron and it wouldn't be enough greenage for those crazoids."
HIS (OR HER) AIRNESS - A term for an highly ineffectual executive lacking in gravitas, as in, "We were making real progress until his airness weighed-in, and damn if he didn't almost sidetrack the entire program."
HOPELESS - A term used for the quagmire that GM finds itself in the middle of with Opel. (Note that "Opel" occupies the middle of hopeless.)
KINGSTONS - Term used to describe UAW chief Bob King's foot soldiers as they try to scrounge up support for the UAW in import-owned plants in the Deep South. as in, "We were having a nice time at the company picnic until that car load of Kingstons showed up."
MANNEQUIN - Term used to describe the legions of empty suits still employed in the auto biz who still wreak havoc at every turn with their relentless mediocrity and their "duck and cover" mentality. As in, "We'll have to do a dog and pony for _______ but no worries, he's a Mannequin and no one actually gives a shit what he has to say anyway."
MAVERICKED - A person with real potential who gets cast aside for not going along to get along, as in, “He opened his mouth one too many times so he got mavericked to the Central Region.”
OARLESS - Much worse than clueless, this term is derived from the joke about having only one oar in the water. It refers to someone who is simply overmatched from the moment he or she turns off the alarm, as in, "We needed him to be on for that meeting, but what were we thinking? He was oarless from the get-go."
PULLING A MARCHIONNE - Obviously coined after the Fiat-Chrysler CEO's interminable fascination with reviving Alfa Romeo, this term is reserved for executives who are prone to making grandiose statements in front of the media that have no hope of becoming a reality, as in, "He was doing okay until he pulled a Marchionne and insisted that they would sell 80,000 Belchfire 8s per year by 2015." Knowing full well, of course, that that dog wouldn't hunt even after given a prosciutto-covered T-Bone.
SERGIO'D - Term used to describe certain members of the media who are so blinded by Sergio Marchionne's calculated brilliance that they couldn't write an objective story about him if their lives depended on it, as in, "She used to be worth a shit but ever since she got Sergio'd she's barely able to construct a decent sentence."
SHANG-ZIED – When an exec gets sent to China on assignment with promises that it will do wonders for his or her career, only to find out that it’s a one-way ticket to oblivion, as in, “Poor Joe got shang-zied to China and now he’s completely irrelevant.”
SMOKEY-TIME - This refers to the classic "smoke and mirrors" presentations that go on every day in this town and in businesses across the country for that matter, as in, "We were nowhere in that meeting until Harry went all smokey-time on them, and then we walked out with the order. Unbelievable."
WANGSTER - Term for an executive so hopelessly clueless that he or she is marginalized to the point of being avoided altogether. As in, "He's such a wangster when it comes to decision-making that we don't even bother going through the motions, we just avoid him altogether."
The beauty of this list is that it changes constantly with the ebb and flow of the business, along with the cast of characters who are constantly being promoted, demoted or left to rot right where they are. We'll keep our ears to the ground for the latest industry slang in the coming months and we'll do another update when appropriate.
And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.