No. 964
September 19, 2018

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, 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 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.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. I’ve been writing about the automobile industry on this website since June 1, 1999, and at no time have I felt about this business like I do at this very moment. I’m observing the auto industry feverishly pursuing strategies and areas of expertise in a headlong rush to be out front of what’s next, even though no one has a real clue as to what that might be. Besides the autonomous movement and the ride-sharing nirvana that so-called visionaries in this business insist will be the panacea that we’re all waiting for, there’s also the flat-out sprint by certain players to become experts fluent in the digitized parlance of the day.

What does this all mean? It means that the collective “Detroit” is forcing itself to exit its wheelhouse and operate in a world that they have no fundamental comfort in. It means that car companies are expending tremendous energies and financial resources to become something they’re not and never have been, and that is “experts” in a digital realm that is unwelcoming in its shallowness and smug in its conceit.

And to what end? Where is this going and why, and if you give a damn about this business, should people be concerned? The short answer? Yes. Make that oh hell yes.

A fundamental and historic flaw of this industry – especially as practiced here in this region – is that car companies practically invented the “not-invented-here” dogma. It’s the at-times stunning belief that not only are there no new ideas out there in the world, if for some ridiculous reason a positively newfangled idea rears its ugly head, this industry will study it, copy it and abscond with it – leaving furious and newly-litigious suppliers in its wake as a matter of course – and then announce internally, usually in a backslapping ceremony complete with a gigantic dollop of hubris that, “not only can we do this better, we can do it quicker and cheaper too!”

The reality? Not only can a car company – left to its own ferociously myopic devices – not build the idea in question better and cheaper, it will take twice as long to build it. And that’s on a good day with everything falling into place just so. Usually it takes ten times as long and cost five times as much. Do you find it hard to believe that this still goes on in this business after everything that has transpired over the years? Don’t kid yourselves, because this dogma is not only alive and well, it is as current today as it has ever been. In fact, I sense a new vibrancy that is truly frightening.

When I read all of the gushing reports about car companies becoming IT Empires and masters of their own mined data, which they will in turn use to conquer the world, I just cringe. Why? Because it’s flat-out delusional and borderline comical. Car companies trying to reinvent themselves as IT companies is the fool’s errand of this or any other century. It is the absolute epitome of the “not-invented-here” dogma, only this time it is being unleashed at the most precarious time in this industry’s history, with companies willing to devote untold amounts of time and resources – not to mention monumental boatloads of cash – to a pursuit that is simply beyond their ken. In fact it will never be an area of expertise for any car company.

Nor should it be. The smart automobile companies operating today – and there are a very few – not only don’t want to be IT experts, they’re not interested in subjugating decades of manufacturing expertise in the pursuit of a sideshow that consumes massive amounts of resources, simply because they’re afraid of being left behind. These companies are perfectly comfortable engaging known experts in the digital arena – an arena they’re not interested in dominating by the way, but are interested in using for their best interests – and partnering with them in the pursuit of mutually beneficial goals. Seems rational enough, no? But yet here we are watching nominally smart people frantically trying to reinvent an industry into something it is not and will never be, all because they think they can do it better and in turn become Masters of the Digital Universe.

The reality? Well it is something entirely different. The digital IT world is not interested in welcoming the automobile companies with open arms. The digital swells view the auto companies as backwater entities, something to use and cherry pick when appropriate, and discard the rest when the time is right. 

Unfortunately, this is a scenario that will not end well for those players seeking to turn the auto companies into something they’re not. This instead will become a giant game of chasing tails. While well-meaning Detroit executives try to mold their companies into savvy centers of digital expertise, the real players in the IT field will blow right by them, all because the car companies couldn’t bring themselves to embrace the idea of partnering with experts with genuine, accumulated knowledge, the people who could actually help them get where they wanted – and needed – to go.

I will predict right now that the endgame in all of this is bound to get ugly, and anyone who assumes that this will all work out for the best and that these auto companies will be newly reimagined as fluent IT entities is being incredibly naïve.

Misguided and misdirected, these nouveau digital “experts” at the car companies will preside over the dissolution of some long-entrenched, historically important automotive empires, as these companies get sucked into a swirling maelstrom that they will simply be ill-equipped to cope with and get swallowed whole.

Listen to enough of these IT expert blowhards at the car companies long enough and you might think that we’re fortunate to be witnesses at the creation of a brave new automotive world.

Au contraire.

We’re present for the destruction of the automotive world as we know it, and it will happen sooner than you think. 

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