No. 893
April 19, 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.

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The Autoextremist - Rants


Tuesday
Feb282012

THE AUTOEXTREMIST

February 29, 2012


 

Green Magic Carpet rides, etc.

 

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

 

(Posted 2/28, 11:00 p.m.) Detroit. Now that we can move on from the annual Hollywood self-congratulatory fest called the Oscars, where egomaniacal behavior is not only expected, its celebrated and worn as a badge of honor, it got me thinking about the other contender for 'most egomaniacal business on the planet'other than the advertising biz, of courseand that is none other than the automobile business.

 

That the car business is one of the most difficult endeavors on earth is no real secret. Fraught with peril at every step of the way and relentlessly complicated, this intensely competitive business offers a perennial primer on tailoring a dense concoction of complexity made up of design, engineering and advanced technology and making it into a conveyance that is not only functionally palatable to consumers but desirable as well.

 

But as complicated as it is, the complexity itself doesnt actually define this business. No, its the rampant egos involved that really make it hum. After all, would the movie business be anything special without the egos and the back stories? Of course not. The same can be said about the business of making cars. If it werent for the crazy egos at work in this business it would be decidedly boring, uneventful and forgettable.

 

Trace back to the very beginnings of this business and its history is chock-full of unrepentant egomaniacs and wild-eyed dreamers who went for it, with only a very few of them actually succeeding. The rest? They fill the history books with their stories of fleeting elation and ultimate woe. You only have to look as far as the story of one William CrapoBillyDurant to get a good idea of what a human skyrocket looked like in this business.

 

But the funny thing about the history of the auto business is that no one really pays any attention to it, until theyre forced to. Thats the only explanation one can come up with when considering stories like those of John Z. DeLorean, the gifted, visionary engineer who threw it all away when his unrepentant ego completely clouded his ability to discern right from wrong. DeLorean so lost his way that he attempted to broker a cocaine deal to keep his vanity projectthe decidedly underwhelming DeLorean DMC-12 sports carafloat. We know how that turned out. DeLorean faded away in disgrace and Northern Ireland was left holding the bag for a car factory that was dead on arrival.

 

Again, like Billy Durant, its the meteoric rise followed by the inevitable fizzling out.

 

You would think that since the parameters for designing, engineering, building and marketing are so clearly defined in the contemporary automobile business that anything like the stories of Billy Durant andJohn Z.would be nonexistent. And you would be wrong.

 

Today, egomaniacal behavior is alive and well in the auto biz. As a matter of fact it’s enjoying a bit of a renaissance.

 

Nowhere is that more evident than with Henrik Fisker and his Fisker Automotive. Known as a gifted designer with many designhitson his resume, Fisker, like the storied egomaniacs from the auto industrys past, decided that the world needed to be fluent with his vision and that if we could just see what he sees and understand the power of his brilliance, wed all be better off.

 

What has Fisker come up with?

 

Well, to start with the Fisker is a voluptuous body wrapped-around a 5,200 lb.+ leviathan of a car that essentially mirrors the technology offered in the Chevrolet Volt. The difference? For one the Volt is a better car by every practical, functioning measure and its more than $50,000 cheaper to boot. So right off the bat Fisker is operating at a slight disadvantage.

 

That is unless youre one of the Shiny Happy People out there in search of the Next Big Thing in green transportation and want to pretend that youre driving something other than a coal-powered car so that you can impress all of your friends in Brentwood. To this handful of over-served people the Fisker might indeed make perfect sense. At least for a nanosecond at any rate.

 

Once that passed, however, maybe they could pry theirgreenheads out of their asses long enough to come to understand that the joke is on them. That the Fisker is a mirage that makes zero sense whatsoever: As a car, as a technological statement, or even as an alleged automotive breakthrough.

 

Remarkably enough that’s the upside of the whole Fisker adventure. The down side of things is that the U.S. government (aka We the Taxpayers) gave this guy $529 million in a DOE Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan to make a $100,000+ vanity car for the very few who will even bother to look at it.

 

And as ridiculous as that might sound and is, things are getting worse rather than better. Today, in the latest episode ofHow The Mighty Have FallenFisker announced that Tom LaSorda, the ex-CEO of Chrysler, is now going to take over day-to-day operational duties from Henrik Fisker, becoming the CEO of Fisker Automotive. Fisker will move up and out of the way to become "Executive Chairman." (Memo to LaSorda: What the hell are you thinking?)

 

I presume this move was made because the realities are 1. Fisker may be a switched-on designer but he knows exactly jack-shit about how to run a car company. And it shows. After all, its hard being a visionary when you actually have to make things that work with a passing resemblance of an ROI. And 2. If Fisker Automotive doesn't show some financial and operational stability soon it will cease to exist altogether. Which would be a wonderful thing indeed, come to think of it.

 

To those precious few out there who have bought into the Fisker mystique as being some sort of Green Magic Carpet ride masquerading as a functioning automobile, one that will not only solve all of their problems with one well-timed neighborhood drive-by but will improve their rolling green quotient exponentially, well, theres something to be said for yousomething about fools and their money.

 

To the rest of us in this industry who know better the “Fisker Follies” desperately need to be brought to a close.

 

Not to discourage the dreamers and blue-sky thinkers who are waiting to burst on the scene at any moment now, because heaven knows this business will always have a desperate need for that kind of unbridled thinking, but because in the end the Fisker ultimately comes down to being one overly indulged designers pipedream of a fantasy car with notherethere.

 

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

 

 

 

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