No. 1018
October 16, 2019

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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Editor's Note: Dear readers, today is special (wait - what am I saying?! - every day is special here at Autoextremist!) - very special - because today we are re-running a true highlight from the AE archives. Yes, that's right, this is the famous April Fool's Rant from 2009 - the column that did indeed have many of you fooled, right until the very end. It was a crazy time in the industry (and that's really saying something!) - Chrysler would go on to file for Chapter 11 on April 30, followed by GM on June 1 of that year. Tensions were high, the mode was full-on chaos, and the mood beyond grim. Our April 1st announcement was quite the bombshell that only added to the insanity (and this is one of our Top Three of Peter's columns, all-time). We have included links throughout the Rant below, which provide some historical perspective and updates. WordGirl recommends, however, that you slip into 2009 mode and read the following in its entirety for full effect, saving the links for your second pass-through! -WG


Shanghai. (AP) Capping off a tumultuous week, the global automobile market is set to be turned upside down yet again after a stunning move to consolidate the auto industry has been announced by Endless Green Horizon, a newly-formed global automotive conglomerate based in Shanghai, China. "We are pleased to announce that our initiative into the global automobile market is progressing rapidly and that we're being welcomed with warm greetings,” said Co-chairman James "Jimmy" Fu. "We look forward to redefining the automobile industry and intend on being a significant player for decades to come." Mr. Fu's partner, S.L. "Sonny" King, added, "We live our lives to achieve this goal. This is no pretend moment. Our reality will become the industry's reality shortly." 

Initial skepticism followed by a grudging acceptance.

Coming hard on the heels of President Obama's bludgeoning of GM and Chrysler this past Monday, including the forced removal of GM CEO Rick Wagoner, the secret negotiations and subsequent deal were announced abruptly overnight Tuesday, after rumors began to emerge late yesterday in Shanghai. 

GM released the following prepared statement this morning: "When first approached by Mr. Fu and Mr. King we weren't able to ascertain the seriousness of their intentions early on, and admittedly, we were dismissive of the overture,” said CEO Fritz Henderson. "But over the last few weeks the complexion of their offer changed, as did the tone from the Obama administration, obviously, and it was clear that this whole thing with Washington was going nowhere good. Given all that has transpired in the last six months culminating in the chaos of the last few days, we feel Endless Green Horizon's offer was in the best interest for GM, its employees and retirees, our dealers, our suppliers, the United Auto Workers union, and all interested stakeholders including our bond holders and most important, the American taxpayer." 

Jason Vines, the executive vice president and Director of Global Communications for the new automotive endeavor, said in a statement that a special media briefing would be held on Thursday morning, April 2, in Detroit, in the Wintergarden lobby of the RenCen. "As you can imagine, given the global impact of these developments it is imperative that we give everyone enough time to digest what has just happened. The press conference is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10:00AM, and it will be broadcast live around the world for media sources unable to get here on such short notice."

Steve Harris, GM's PR chief, said there would be no additional comment forthcoming from Mr. Henderson or GM until the joint press conference scheduled for tomorrow morning.

A statement was also released by Robert Nardelli, the CEO of Chrysler LLC, this morning: "We were first approached by Mr. Fu and Mr. King a month ago, and we, too, were unable to muster the energy to take them seriously. That of course changed over the subsequent weeks. After long hours of consideration fraught with soul searching and hand-wringing, we believe this is the best deal for Chrysler, its employees and retirees, our suppliers, our dealers, the UAW and for our corporate parent, Cerberus. It is the end of an era for the American automobile business, but the beginning of a new chapter for the global automobile industry." 

Mr. Nardelli was approached for a comment as he got into his car at the main entrance to Chrysler's headquarters, but he waved off reporters' questions with a brusque, "I really don't give a shit anymore. Buh-bye." Last seen, his car was seen peeling out of the driveway, heading to whereabouts unknown.

Ron Gettelfinger, the head of the UAW, refused to comment after his arrival at Solidarity House this morning, the labor union's headquarters in Detroit. "I can assure you that I'll have plenty to say later tomorrow when we have our own press conference," Mr. Gettelfinger said.

Secret negotiations climax in fifteen minutes that would change the automotive world forever.

Negotiations began in late February, according to sources, the timetable of which was later confirmed by Mr. Vines. "Initial overtures were made to GM and Chrysler in late February by Mr. Fu and Mr. King," Mr. Vines, a longtime industry PR veteran with notable stints at Ford and Chrysler, said. "It was made clear from the outset to both automakers that the offer being made by Endless Green Horizon was serious, legitimate and substantially funded,” Vines continued. "After GM and Chrysler leadership demonstrated their initial skepticism, actual common parameters emerged over a very brief period of time. This deal didn't come together until it was made quite clear by President Obama and his administration this past Monday afternoon that these two automakers were just north of being expendable, or as I carefully explained to Mr. Fu and Mr. King, they were toast."

Mr. Henderson made his first appearance in front of the assembled media as GM's CEO yesterday at the company's headquarters in Detroit. He talked about the car business and his plans to reinvent the company, a new customer assurance plan, how much he respected the Obama administration's automotive task force and the President himself, and other topics. There was no indication whatsoever that this deal was in the works. But things would soon change.

The dramatic moment came just after 9:00PM EDT last night (9:00AM this morning in Shanghai), when Fritz Henderson called Mr. Fu at the end of a hastily called emergency board meeting led by newly-minted non-executive chairman of the board Kent Kresa and said, "We're done here. Let's do it." Thus ended 100 years of U.S. industrial history as the American corporate icon finally acquiesced to a complete takeover. 

Mr. Henderson then had Mr. Nardelli informed of GM's decision immediately, and Mr. Nardelli called Mr. Fu and accepted the conglomerate's offer fifteen minutes later. 

The financial details of this historic agreement were not released, but Mr. Vines made a point to a small group of reporters gathered in front of the GM building at 5:00AM this morning that the debt issues that were strangling both companies had been addressed by the Chinese conglomerate. "Complete financial details will be forthcoming at the press conference tomorrow morning," Mr. Vines said. "But I can safely say to you that the massive debt of these companies, something that's of primary interest to all of the parties involved, has been covered, in cash."

Shadowy backgrounds.

The details of how Mr. Fu, 61, and Mr. King, 59, accumulated their staggering wealth are, as a kilted Angus McPherson, the notably acerbic Scottish journalist stationed in Shanghai, put it, "...missing in action, a wee bit sketchy, I would say," as he stuffed his notebook back in his sporran. The two figures have operated in the shadows of the burgeoning Chinese industrial machine for years. Mr. Fu started manufacturing model cars in the late 70s and is now rumored to control every toy making concern in China, though none of this has actually been confirmed after years of investigations. Mr. King became partners with Mr. Fu after initially supplying the elaborate wheels and carefully detailed tires on Mr. Fu's model cars. The two have been partners ever since.

Said to be fond of younger women, fast American muscle cars, Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Gulfstream jets, Mr. Fu and Mr. King nonetheless pride themselves on avoiding the limelight. Both men were married and divorced in their 30s, but little is known about that part of their life stories. It is known now, however, that Mr. Fu is trying to push the career of a budding 26-year-old Chinese pop star, his current girlfriend, while Mr. King seems to be addicted to an endless succession of young female gymnasts nearing the end of their competitive careers. 

Mr. Vines provided no details other than to say, "Mr. Fu and Mr. King are reclusive, talented workaholics who also enjoy life to the fullest. Other than that, I really have no further comment."

Shock in 

President Obama's Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, clearly caught off guard when asked by reporters of the development early this morning before a press briefing, said: "Huh?" to the news. "We know nothing about it, but, uh, er, you're kidding, right?" When assured the news was genuine, he cut off the media briefing and raced out of the press room. 

A statement was released by the Obama administration just one hour later. "President Obama has been assured by the new owners of General Motors and Chrysler that all existing pension obligations will be met and that their crushing debt burden has been addressed. He looks forward to meeting with the new owners to hear of their plans to contribute to America's industrial fabric and help lead us to a sustainable, green driving future. The President is also pleased to announce that the additional money discussed for both GM and Chrysler on Monday will no longer be needed, and that the money initially borrowed by the two companies since last December has been paid back in full."

When pestered for more details on what the President knew and when he knew it, Mr. Gibbs said, "I got nothin'."

Mouths agape in Detroit.

The mood in Detroit was one of resignation when the news emerged. "People are walking around in a daze, looking like that '1984' Apple TV commercial," said one high-ranking GM executive. "First there was Monday's shocker and now this." 

One administrative assistant who did not want to be identified was found at the Starbucks in the RenCen (GM's headquarters) staring off into space, pouring Kahlua in her Grande Iced Chai Soy Latte Triple Dirty. Asked about the news she shrugged her shoulders and said, "GM, Endless Green Horizon... what's the f---ing difference?"

Another GM employee commented as he was leaving the building, "At this point, I'd prefer a couple of Chinese cowboys owning this place over those numb-nuts in Washington."

A homeless man, queried on the street corner in front of GM headquarters muttered, "Monica Conyers for President" as he walked away. 

A UAW member speaking on condition of anonymity added, "That's fine, man, but what's in it for me?"

Stunning choice for CEO.

In another stunning development, Peter M. DeLorenzo, a longtime industry marketing veteran, was named to be the Chairman and CEO of the new company's North American operations - to be renamed Fu-King Motors - which will include the remnants of GM and Chrysler. Mr. DeLorenzo, capping off a controversial ten-year run as the man behind - the highly influential industry publication - was a surprise choice by Mr. Fu and Mr. King to lead its new venture.

Mr. DeLorenzo got the call moments after the deal was consummated, according to Vines. "It turns out that Mr. Fu and Mr. King stumbled upon Mr. DeLorenzo's website when they first became familiar with the Internet. As a matter of fact, both gentlemen learned English by having Mr. De Lorenzo's 'Rants' columns translated for them. They also learned to say some of Mr. DeLorenzo's patented sayings phonetically, like ',' 'halle-frickin'-luja,' and 'the Answer to the Question that Absolutely No One is Asking.' And when the two gentlemen used some of Mr. DeLorenzo's sayings in the negotiations with GM and Chrysler, the blood drained out of the faces of the Detroit executives, to put it mildly. Mr. Fu and Mr. King have been in contact with Mr. DeLorenzo for six years, after they first approached him at the Los Angeles Auto Show. When they first contacted GM and Chrysler about their interest, Mr. DeLorenzo became part of the behind-the-scenes team orchestrating this deal. Mr. Fu and Mr. King said that Mr. DeLorenzo was their clear choice for CEO from the very beginning."

"Mr. DeLorenzo will bring years of experience leading our company," said Mr. Fu. "He puts pedal down hard, no b.s.," Mr. King added, as they addressed a small group of reporters gathered in Shanghai. "And if he doesn't like something, NOTGONNAHAPPEN.COM!!!" they shouted in unison to the bemused expressions on the reporters' faces, as they clearly had no clue as to what the two men were talking about.

Mr. Vines said that Mr. DeLorenzo would not be available to the media until tomorrow's meeting.

Comments from around the world pour in.

The development was so swift and stunning that comments were just starting to pour in as we were completing this story. Volkswagen released a joint statement from VW's Ferdinand Piech and Porsche's Wendelin Wiedeking moments ago: "We look forward to hearing more details about what appears to be a fanciful quest to re-make the automobile industry. We know who we are and what we do best. We will crush them."

Ratan Tata, CEO of Tata Motors, was equally dismissive, saying, "It won't make a Nano-bit of difference to us."
Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat CEO, was apparently stunned at the news: "I do not understand, this can't be true. I mean, we kinda had a deal." And then he slammed down the phone.

Toyota released the following statement from CEO Katsuaki Watanabe: "We find this to be a perplexing development. We have no idea what this means, or why this is happening. We want the auto world to go back to the way it was, when we dominated everything. And it's not happening. Why?"

When contacted by cellphone for a comment about the choice of DeLorenzo, Robert Lutz, the Vice-Chairman of GM, who was on the roof of the RenCen, said, "Oh, hell yes. That's an inspired choice. He'll shake the rafters, kick ass, and will that company to greatness. I might just re-up to work with him!" Mr. Lutz then got into his helicopter to fly home.

And finally, Keith Crain, the Publisher of Automotive News had this to say: "It's a wonderful time to be in the automobile industry."

By Wang Liu for the Associated Press, with Vikram Bhan in Mumbai, Thurston Chesterton IV in London, Tammi Sue Jenkins in Detroit, Heather Elizabeth Wellesley in New York, and Masami Katsuta in Tokyo