By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. As we careen toward another Thanksgiving, It’s hard to avoid the bubble-up of stories from the Internet and the mainstream media about “giving thanks.” All well-intentioned I’m sure, at least for the most part, but the messages are rote, the feelings seem hollow and I get the distinct impression that most of the articles written are either because the writers are forced to by their bosses or because that’s what the writers think they’re supposed to write about.
Many of the stories seem to suggest that people consider Thanksgiving to be their favorite “holiday” because it’s all about eating and football and to a lesser extent, forced interaction with family that covers the gamut from joyous, to strained, to tedious, depending on the dynamics of the given situation.
I couldn’t care less about any of it, frankly. I find the “holidays” in general to be an exercise in missing the point. Whatever it was that the various celebrations were supposed to be about was lost in translation eons ago. Now? We spend money. We travel. We eat. We do stuff. We’re off work. And none of it matters. Not one lick.
Some, frankly, most, would argue vehemently with me that I have it all wrong, that the holidays are about family and celebrating connections and reveling in love. And I’m happy for them for feeling that way. I really am.
So with all of that said, I am going to focus my commentary today on the business, and the things and people I feel we should be thankful for or not thankful for, as the case may be.
I’m thankful that we live in an era where we can drive some of the finest automobiles ever built. From economy cars to high-performance machines and everything in between, these are the good old days, folks. From here on out this business is going to be lost in a kaleidoscope of touchy-feely ride sharing and autonomous mediocrity. “How would you like your module optioned today, Ma’am? Gray with gray? Or gray with gray?”
I’m not thankful that the auto business – and the country in general – has now totally legitimized “Black Friday” as a thing. It is distressing, vacuous and unwarranted. Back to my earlier point: The fact that “giving thanks” for life’s bounties and reveling in family connections has been reduced to a grubby sales event is abhorrent. It used to be that you had to grit your teeth and wade through the myriad holiday sales promotions from the automakers and every other retailer. Now, “Black Friday” has become the go-to promotion. This is not an upgrade, folks. What’s next? Will the Labor Day auto sales events just continue right on through until January? Wait, that’s already happening, after all, it’s truck month somewhere.
I’m thankful for the legions of lunk-heads and thinly disguised trolls masquerading as seasoned, reasoned executives in this business. After all, how dismal would it be to not be able to write about these stumblebums and document their abject futility and folly?
I am thankful for Sergio - yes, Sergio - because The Exalted One was at the University of Windsor last week and spoke at the Odette-George Leadership Symposium. And Sergio being Sergio, along with his usual thought balloons of unmitigated bullshit, he regaled the students with the following quotes: “You need to stay incredibly humble throughout your entire life.” And, “Don’t be anything other than what you are. Keep a clean heart.” Wow, honest reflection from the G.O.A.T.? Nah, just more delusion from the master of it. Wouldn’t it have been better and more accurate to say “Do as I say, not as I do,” Sergio? After all, when you’ve made it up as you’ve gone along for as long as you have, why stop and smell the rational thought now? (In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t expecting anything less of Marchionne, after all, he didn’t take the Hippocratic Oath, he took the Hypocritical Oath, which explains everything.)
I’m not thankful for certain members of the automotive media whose propensity for shilling and blind adulation knows no bounds. They’re like little toy mice with keys attached to their backs that the auto company PR minions can wind up and play with at will, knowing full well that they will write exactly what they want them to write about their latest Belchfire 8s, just for a smoke and a pancake.
I’m thankful that the German automotive executive mindset, which is made up of equal parts unbridled arrogance and withering condescension, was finally exposed once and for all in the Volkswagen Group’s massive Diesel emissions fraud. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch. And true to form, they're still unapologetic.
I am thankful that Queen Mary Barra and Dan I Am Ammann are resolute in their belief that GM doesn’t need a Chief Marketing Officer, because that means that the fodder will be juicy and the opportunities to skewer future ad campaigns will be endless. And it’s all because they don’t want to let a seasoned professional – with expertise, a point of view and an opinion - into their little seven-figure management club. One of life’s enduring mysteries continues.
And I’m thankful for the True Believers at all of the companies who get up every day and actually care about what they do. Their passion and relentless drive are the reasons we’re enjoying the finest driving machines in automotive history. It’s sad that we’re at the peak of all of this - as the looming darkness of autonomy and ride sharing will be upon us soon enough - but I’m glad that the men and women who are the card-carrying True Believers in this industry are determined to go out in a blaze of glory.
And finally, I’m thankful for our readers – from the high and mighty industry honchos to the hard-core enthusiasts – who are here every week soaking in an “insider’s insider” perspective on one of the most complicated and confounding businesses on earth.
I hope you all have a nice Thanksgiving.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
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