No. 794,
April 29, 2015

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The demise of the visionary automotive CEO.

Yes, the demise of Dr. Piech was inevitable. As he overstayed his welcome, he didn't realize that making so many powerful enemies would eventually do him in. The state of business affairs at FCA is just as inevitable. You can add the recent actions by the French Government to deny “Carlos 1” his legacy in the Automotive World of CEOs having to face the music. The common denominator is that all three CEOs faced the hard task of propping up car companies/brands that have historically been financial and business messes. VW's German arrogance (displayed also by Daimler when they quickly ran Chrysler into the ground) prevents them from understanding the volume U.S car market, which is why they can't grow. Fiat is a historically weak company and because Marchionne's Brazil strategy took yet another hit, FCA's future in doubt. "The Great Sergio" manages FCA much like a person that's deep in debt – they survive by finding a way to rob Peter to pay Paul. One wonders when some group of savvy American entrepreneurs will corner Marchionne and buy the former Chrysler brands from FCA to give Bob Lutz, or someone like him, the chance to be the CEO of that once-proud American car company. As for “Carlos 1,” he finally faced an adversary that is more wily and egotistic than him – the French government. Renault and Nissan can't survive and thrive as separate car companies, which most likely will be the result of the recent French government action. As you noted, the real tragedy is the demise of the visionary automotive CEO. With the major auto companies all led by CEOs who are schooled in MBA/MBO practices and view their products as appliances, us “car guys” are in for tough ride.

Washington, D. C.


Don't forget about Elon.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the VW drama this week! As well as your continued take down of Marchionne… but it seems you are missing one charismatic, megalomaniac auto CEO: Elon Musk. Tesla may be small, but it is making waves in the car industry and Elon is nothing if not interesting. Tesla should be an interesting show over the next few years. Surely he will find some “synergy” between Space-X and Tesla. At least for skin-deep branding purposes.

Chris Westcott
Laguna Niguel, California


Chevy Impala Amish Edition?

One of the oddities I've discovered when I moved to PA a dozen years ago is that there's more to the Amish/Mennonites than horses & buggies. For instance, some sects are allowed to use/own automobiles, but they must remove the more showy elements. (Translation: rattle can all the chrome black.) I think I know who might buy those early base engine "Midnight Edition" Impalas, but they'll have to throw in a set of black steelies too!

Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania