June 29, 2011
No good (or bad) deeds go untweeted: The current state of the auto biz in 140 character bursts or less, revisited.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 6/27, 7:00 p.m.) Detroit. As I wrote when I covered this subject last, “Now that the short-attention-span generation has taken over the world and The Internet has distilled our daily lives down to a series of talking cat videos, vacuous celebutards emoting for the cameras and maniacal conspiracy theorists, we are reduced to a day-in, day-out slog made of blips, burps, bites and an occasional cogent thought every, oh, couple hours or so. And for some, that’s plenty. They usually can’t be pried away from their video games for any more time than that. The rest of us? We’ll just have to suck it up and keep fumbling through our oh-so-outré printed newspapers and magazines, and digesting long-form TV news programs and online journals in a futile attempt at sifting through the rapidly deteriorating concept of what used to pass for rational public discourse, trying to make sense of it all. Or as Jerry McGuire once famously said, ‘I am out here for you. You don't know what it's like to be me out here for you. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok?’ "
So here’s to the minions, the gamers, the coddled and the entitled, the I-don-t-give-a-shit-just-ask-me hordes who want the world broken up in 140 character bits because anything more is just too tedious to contemplate. This column - the current state of the auto biz in digestible 140 character morsels, revisited - is for you.
Enjoy it. Or just watch America’s Got Talent some more and it won’t matter anyway because by then your brain will have truly turned to mush.
Acura: This rudderless mass of design confusion represents Honda’s so-called best stuff? Still a car brand with no raison d’etre whatsoever. Yikes.
Aston Martin: Running out of variations and running out of steam? And the new Zagato is nice but now what? And don’t talk about that damn Cygnet. Ever.
Audi: Wins Le Mans for the 10th time in 12 years and their street cars just keep getting hotter. The state of the automotive art right up in here.
Bentley: Part of Dr. Piech’s luxury stable, Bentley has exceeded all expectations. The newly refined Continental GT is simply gorgeous. More please.
BMW: Still builds great stuff (see M3) but their focus? Ugh. Messing with FWD + crossovers? Just build a genuine successor to the 2002 and shut up.
Chrysler: Uh-oh, Sergio’s moving Fiat’s command and control center to Auburn Hills of all places, just don’t tell the Italian politicians or unions.
Chrysler, Part II: If it’s still all about the product how important is the new small car coming next spring? The whole damn Fiat-Chrysler deal hinges upon it.
Corvette/Corvette Racing: Delivers its seventh class win at Le Mans yet still isn’t used by the company properly. See “Tip of the Technological Spear” File, please.
Ferrari: Last time it was all about High-Octane Truth & Beauty. This time with the new “FF” it’s about niche marketing and automotive “lifestyles.” Oh, no. (It’s so wrong on so many levels I couldn’t keep this one to 140 characters.)
Ford: Alan Mulally named “2011 Chief Executive of the Year” by his peers. Even executives outside the business know Alan is The Man. And Ford wins.
Ford, Part II: Having great leadership isn’t enough if your customers have to think too much to operate your electronics. Just when you think it’s going ok.
Ford, Part III: Pissed-off after the broadside from Akerson on Lincoln, but judging by the good stuff that’s coming they’ll have the last laugh and then some.
GM: Akerson’s got the bit in his teeth but he has alienated his own troops Big Time. Please get him a copy of “The Penalty of Leadership” stat.
GM, Part II: As PR scrambles to repair the damage done by Dan’s devastating interview with The Detroit News others are asking WTF were you guys thinkin’?
GM PR: Let’s get a copy of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” to PR Chief Selim Bingol asap. Nothing else seems to be working.
GM Marketing: Joel’s got the band(s) back together but he’s discovering that some of them can’t hit the high notes anymore. Time of your life, eh kids?
GM Marketing, Part II: The work by ad agencies Goodby (Chevy) and Fallon (Cadillac) is only as good as the time given to it by agency principals. Not. Good. Enough.
Honda. Still lost in the wilderness still searching for its mojo. And the next-gen NSX is going all touchy-feely on us? Paging The Ghost of Soichiro.
Hyundai: Pure unbridled automotive ambition, Korean style. And yet, for the most part, they deliver. Every time. Will they make mistakes? Count on it.
Infiniti: In talks with TV production companies for a new reality show of its own entitled “In Search of a Soul” because after all, they got nothin’.
Jaguar: We loved the big XJL when we had one but beyond that we wonder where this brand is going. And oh by the way, its ALMS racing program sucks.
KIA: No longer Hyundai’s little brother, the edgier “march to a different drummer” Korean brand is flexing its muscles and making waves of its own.
Lamborghini: The Adventador LP700-4 is a stunning, politically incorrect masterpiece of the high-performance art. Illogical, impractical and flat-out cool.
Lexus: The Pursuit of Blandtastic Perfection has been costly. When you’re the equivalent of Rolling White Bread your options become severely limited.
Lotus: Love the unadulterated gumption but most of those new cars will never see the light of day. When the Evora is better than a Cayman S we’ll talk.
Mazda: Good, even excellent at times but a lack of consistent messaging and the large chip on their shoulder has killed them. The new ad agency helps.
Mercedes-Benz: They still believe the automotive universe revolves around them. The reality? It’s just another car company chasing any niche that sticks.
Nissan: The Leaf won’t save the company (shocker), but an all-new vehicle every six weeks for six years with their new "Power 88" plan?" What are you smokin', Carlos?
Porsche: Cars like the 911 GT3 4.0 and 911 GT2 RS suggest that there’s still enough sports car juice to stay cool with the hard-core faithful. Whew.
Pure Electric Cars: Still a niche wrapped in an enigma in search of decent batteries and a sustainable infrastructure. Other than that, it’s all good.
Pure Electric Car Zealots: A movement based upon a pipe dream and fueled by a fundamental refusal to accept reality, even when the truth hurts. Nicely done.
Range Rover: The Range Rover Evoque should be a grand slam home run in this market, as long as they don’t screw it up. And at this point it’s a toss-up.
Rolls-Royce: We thought the new Ghost might detract from the brand but not a chance. Still the rolling definition of “f--- you money” until further notice.
Saab. We liked them here but now there’s no hope for the brand whatsoever. You can’t make shineola out of a pile of financial shit. Buh-bye now.
Scion: Other than the sensational looking FR-S, which looks delicious btw, I don’t much care. But if they can bring that out and do it right, perfect.
Subaru: Still chugging along on its inexorable climb up in the market with its shiny happy followers intact. How far? No one really knows for sure.
Toyota: Chastened and reinvigorated? Or profoundly arrogant and set in its ways? I see signs of both so ask me in twelve months. A giant “we’ll see.”
Volvo: Backed with plenty of Chinese money and complete with leaders having gaudy visions of grandeur, the brand is still in search of an identity.
VW Group: Still on a Dr. Piech-led, double-timed death march toward total world domination - or oblivion - depending on which way you look at it.
VW of America: The linchpin of the whole “world domination” thing, VW’s U.S. arm has to figure out how to sell 800,000 cars here by 2018. Good luck with that.
So there you have it, folks. The current state of the auto biz (revisited) in 140 character bursts, if you’re into the whole brevity thing that is.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" with hosts John McElroy, from Autoline Detroit, and Peter De Lorenzo, The Autoextremist, and guests this Thursday evening, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.
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