No. 919
October 18, 2017
 

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Autoextremist.com, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  witchhuntbook.com). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

Follow Autoextremist

 

Tuesday
Aug082017

TIRED. NOT TIRED.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Since the pitchfork-wielding Muskian hordes came out of the woodwork taking great umbrage with last week’s column because I deigned to be critical of St. Elon, I was half-tempted to re-run it this week just to piss them off all over again. Blind adulation is never a good look in my book, but the cessation of rational thinking is even worse. And I’m tired of the deification of Elon Musk and seeing normally rational people succumbing to selective insanity as Musk careens around hawking the Model 3 for $35,000 when in fact buyers won’t be able to touch one for much under $50,000. As I wrote last week, it’s a classic case of “bait and switch,” a term that’s as old as the car business itself, but since it’s Musk, and everything surrounding him gets lost in a calculated PR-generated Fog of War, I coined it as “allure and ascend” to be more in line with Muskian sensibilities, because after all, St. Elon wouldn’t use classic carnival barker smoke-and-mirrors to actually dupe his followers, would he? Right.

If Ford or GM pulled half the stunts Musk has pulled there would be Congressional investigations as to why those companies are allowed to even exist. Meanwhile, while Musk is “Waiting for Godough” – he’s seeking $1.5 billion so he can begin the “Production Hell” of the Model 3 – we’re going to have to endure his act for the foreseeable future. Lucky us.

I’m also tired of the fact that the Chevrolet Bolt isn’t getting its due as a real, live fully electric car that’s extremely well-executed and available right now, but instead is ignored because it’s perceived as not being hip enough. Make that Muskian enough. The combination of a botched launch, a failure by GM marketing and PR to sing the Bolt’s praises far and wide, the aforementioned Fog of War orchestrated by Musk himself, and the complicit media hordes perpetuating the notion that everything he touches turns to gold, has almost buried the Bolt once and for all before it even has a chance.

Remember last week when Consumer Reports set a range record of 250 miles with the Chevrolet Bolt – the farthest distance achieved in the magazine’s testing of electric vehicles - including any Tesla model? Yeah, I didn’t think so. With the media tripping all over themselves touting the Model 3, even though significant production won’t ramp up until next year, how would anyone know that the Chevrolet Bolt is the best electric vehicle you can buy in terms of range? GM is scrambling to wrap the outstanding Bolt vehicle architecture in other models and sexier shapes, but here they find themselves under the gun, again. I’m tired of that too.

But then again I’m getting tired of a lot of things having to do with this business.

I’m tired of GM management insisting that they have it goin’ on when it comes to marketing, when in fact just the opposite is true. They keep rearranging the deck chairs on the S.S. Mediocrity hoping for a better result, and nothing ever changes. Mary Barra and Dan “I am” Ammann are directly culpable in this, too, because they believe that the divisions can take care of it and it’s not necessarily “a corporate thing.” And they’re dead wrong. No one has done less with more when it comes to marketing than the stumblebums at GM. It isn’t even close, in fact. The lack of seasoned marketing leadership is a glaring and continuing liability for the company.

Shifting gears, I’m tired of the constant stories about the UAW finally making a push to organize yet another southern plant – in this case Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi, plant – only to blow another opportunity to smithereens. Did the ongoing FCA-UAW corruption investigation hurt? Absolutely. And the revelations from the looming investigation and trial are going to get u-g-l-y and highly embarrassing for all concerned. In one fell swoop the UAW was viewed as being the same as it ever was and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of it breaking through to organize that plant. The UAW is so entrenched in a different era that its constant bleating about what it’s going to do and how good it’s going to be has fallen on deaf ears. The UAW has the stench of indifference enveloping it. And this isn’t a temporary condition, either. It’s full-on destiny.

Speaking of stumblebums, when Hyundai first started touting its Genesis brand, I was actually optimistic about its prospects, particularly the G90, which had all the makings of being a formidable threat to Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Cadillac and Lincoln. The G90 has real design presence on the road, it is executed extremely well, and its price point, fully equipped, is thousands less than its competitors in some cases. But Hyundai management has blown the Genesis launch so badly that they’re having to retrench, regroup and start over. A year ago I was convinced that the Genesis luxury brand had huge potential. But not with just two cars that appear to be too close together to the average consumer, and not with the limited advertising and marketing Hyundai has undertaken for the brand. I get the efficacy of avoiding the overpromise, underdeliver train wreck that so many manufacturers willingly embrace, but really, this is the best they can do in terms of marketing?

Now, according to Automotive News, Hyundai management has decided that selling $70,000 Genesis models in Hyundai showrooms wasn’t such a great idea and it’s really not working out. Wait, it never occurred to them that selling Genesis models next to Hyundai economy cars might not have been the best idea? Who knew? So Hyundai managers are embarking on yet another plan to reorganize the dealers, this time moving to Genesis-exclusive showrooms, a plan that will come to fruition – maybe – by the second half of next year. But I wouldn’t count on it.

As I said in my Autoextremist Brand Image Meter column last June, there’s no use telling Korean auto executives what to do. They know absolutely everything there is to know about absolutely everything. Which I would imagine gets old if you're trying to make a difference there what with the overlords changing their minds every six months. The High-Octane Truth is that Hyundai's notoriously shortsighted, impetuous thinking is on full display with this Genesis mess. The company makes strategic and product decisions in fits and starts, which turn into mistakes left and right, then it plays the blame game – bad managers (usually American) acting badly, changing market conditions wreaking havoc, rogue dealers being uncooperative, sunspots, etc. - because, well, you know, it's never their fault. This just in: Yeah, it is. And Genesis is officially a Lost Brand until further notice.

I’m tired of the BMW and Mercedes-Benz product planners continuing to try to put 100 pounds of product in a 25-lb. bag. Both of these manufacturers are guilty of egregious oversaturation in their product lineups, covering niche upon niche - both real and imagined – and contributing to the degradation of their brand images in the process. Once upon a time these two automobile companies aimed at segments they knew they could compete in with extraordinarily strong entries, showing a willingness to take the long view in order to burnish their reputations. Now? They throw around “M” and “AMG” badges like popcorn, thinking that they can make anything, slap a badge on it, and someone will buy it. In ancient times every one of the product entries from these two automobile companies was notable and worth a look. Now? I would estimate that barely 50 percent of their models are worth a serious look. The rest are overweight, overwrought and pure, unmitigated marketing crap.

And finally I’m tired of the overall tone and tenor of the business right now. I’m tired of hearing that we’re on the precipice of profound change when in fact this business has its future pretty much laid out for it for the next ten years, at least. The headlong rush into autonomous vehicles is a train everyone’s jumping on, even though no one actually knows where it’s going or understands how long it’s going to take to get there. I view even the most conservative predictions about the onset of autonomy to be wildly optimistic, and some of these companies are going to get caught out, big-time. And this is me not feeling sorry for them.

And electrification is real, but how much and how fast? The eagerly accepted vision of a utopian all-electric automotive fleet is a full-on pipe dream, as the internal combustion engine has a long, long, way to go in terms of even more efficient development and its longevity. And guess what? The massive infrastructure investment needed to support electric vehicles – imagine every single gas station in the country having to add quick-charge electric vehicle islands in order to cover 25 percent electrification of the U.S. market - is simply staggering. And we’re not there yet. We’re not even close, in fact. And it’s not happening anytime soon either.

So yeah, I’m tired of the bullshit, I’m tired of the repeated mistakes perpetuated by people who should know better, I’m tired of the fundamental intransigence, and I’m tired of the relentless adhering to hoary irrelevance that plagues this industry at every turn. But I’m not tired of doing this website, and I’ll never get tired of calling out the hucksters, the con artists, the spineless weasels, the recalcitrant twerps, the card-carrying hacks and the new “messiahs” trying to shove their act down our throats.

In fact, I’m just getting warmed up.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

« THE OVERHYPED. THE OVERBLOWN. AND THE OVERRATED. | Main | THE GREATEST PR SHOW ON EARTH. »