No. 817,
October 7, 2015

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Editors' Note: If you have a comment, please include your name or initials (AND YOUR HOMETOWN TOO, PLEASE). We do not print email addresses. If you want to read previous issues, click on "Next Entry" on the bottom of each section. Thank you.


That and more.

On Sergio and the coming storm for FCA, I agree with most of your analysis. I would be interested in your thoughts as to why the business and automotive press seem so unwilling to do the same? Do they fear the loss of ad revenue?

Jeff W.
Albany, New York

Editor-In-Chief's Note: As I've said many times previously, the one thing that drives the working members of the automotive media is the concept of access. And what does that mean? The PR minions dangle access to top executives for interviews and such as a carrot so that the auto writers will write favorable stories. Why? Because a story deemed unfavorable means no access to that reporter for months, and the PR minions know that without that access the reporters are useless to their editors, who are constantly doing a Billy Idol on their heads crying, "More! More! More!" It has been like this since the business started and as the automotive media grew up with it this "dance" has long been established and has pretty much stayed the same for 100+ years. Until I came along, that is. Because the fact of the matter is that I don't need access. I have been immersed in this industry since I was born. I've been up close and personal to countless auto executives, including some of the historic legends of this business. On top of that, I have a knack - at times uncanny, according to the many executives I've interacted with over the years - for reading people and I have an understanding of the automotive executive mindset that is unrivaled. I know what they think and why they think it, sometimes even before they do. That's not me blowing my own horn, it is a fact that has been reiterated to me constantly, and it usually goes something like this: "I don't know how you do it or who you talk to, but your insights into our company and our executives are freaking scary." As in scary accurate. I've never met Sergio, but I don't need to. I've met his Chief PR Minion - Gualberto Ranieri - who is a card-carrying, Summa Cum Laude graduate of Unctuous Prick University, and that experience told me all I needed to know about the unbridled arrogance and the hubris rampant in Sergio's world. Most of my automotive media colleagues have used kid gloves on Marchionne since his arrival here. I said most, not all. But I've clearly been way out front with this and I haven't let up for one minute. Why? Because Sergio is a self-promoting, carpetbagging mercenary and nothing more. Yes, he's a brilliant deal maker and he has served his Fiat overlords well, but at the end of the day he's just another guy hoping to extract his "cut" from the industry, no matter what the consequences or implications are for those left in his wake. The automotive media collectively hasn't done their job with the whole Marchionne thing, but that's alright because I will continue to do it for them. -PMD

The High-Octane Truth.

It may seem to some readers that you are constantly pissing into Sergio's hash. I've looked at FCA's 10-K and financial reports versus competitors. Not very pretty reading. Their car product line makes little sense. Bring over a 500 that few people want. Install sub-par diesel engines in trucks and SUV's and then charge crazy prices for them. The 300/Charger/Challenger has, at best, limited market appeal left. Now the plan is to sell a car, with a brand few have ever heard of. The 200 is okay, but the power train options don't make much sense. There are no modern power trains being readied. The development of product has stalled.

What's next, Sergio? Buy the Smart Car line from Mercedes? Invest in the Fish Carburetor?

Jim Jones
Cole County, Missouri

Editor-In-Chief: For the record, I am the only national columnist covering the auto industry who has deigned to see through Sergio's smarm offensive and expose him for what he well and truly is: A carpetbagging mercenary-opportunist who is only out to line his - and his Fiat overseers' - pockets. I have nothing against people making money in this business, but the constant bleating about how he's doing it for the "little people" of Chrysler and that his future "vision" for the industry will save us all from ourselves is pure unmitigated bullshit. And relentlessly tedious to boot. I stand by every frickin' word I have written about Marchionne. And just in case anyone out there is wondering, I have no intention of letting up now. -PMD


Not dead yet.

Don't count the gasoline engine out yet. There is still a lot of efficiency gains that will be realized. Contrary to the current belief, I also believe diesel isn't dead. Wounded for now, yes but it will be back. Just not at VW and I could be wrong on that. VW will certainly still supply its largest diesel market – Europe.

Fred F.
Troy, Michigan

Editor-In-Chief's Note: As I stressed last week, the ICE has a long, long way to go. -PMD


I see many electric Fiat 500 cars in southern California, but doubt that electric cars will bring down FCA. Electric vehicles are nothing new, as they were around in the early 1900s. The issue always has been, and remains, the batteries. Even when the Tesla battery factory starts production, it seems unlikely that prices will be low enough and range good enough to compete with gasoline for all but niche markets. I just saw that regular is $2.93 per gallon at the Mobil station nearest my house, and know it is radically lower than that outside of Cali-leftist-fornia.

F. Stephen Masek
Mission Viejo, California

Editor-In-Chief's Note: The Fiat 500 electric is irrelevant to this discussion. FCA does not have the capability - or the technical partner in place - to meet the upcoming emissions regulations. Period. Sergio needs to make a deal, and in a hurry. As it is the terms will be dictated to him, and with the clock ticking his bargaining position gets worse by the hour. -PMD


We don't call it "racer-tainment" for nothin'.

So Jimmy Johnson, who is tied for the second most wins this season at 4, has one bad race and is out of the Chase with 6 events to go, while Gordon, Truex, Keselowski, and Newman, who have a total of 2 wins COMBINED are still in? What a bunch of contrived horse shit! Why not just put all 43 cars on a GRC track for a 10 lap sprint race and call the winner of that race the Series Champion?

Gary P.
Monticello, Illinois


I am currently reading “Common Sense Not Required” by Evan Boberg. The book is now just over 10 years old, but his comments on electric vehicles seem to still have some merit. It takes a thousand pounds of batteries to store the same amount of energy in one gallon of gasoline. He also states that at cruise an electric vehicle is actually less efficient than a gasoline fueled engine. The “planned interruption” time to refuel, electric vehicles is hours, compared to minutes of a gasoline or diesel vehicle. Unless some miraculous breakthrough in technology occurs real soon, I still think mainstream electric cars are a long way off. Diesel will suffer a setback to be sure, but considering a diesel can be roughly twice as thermally efficient than a gasoline engine I don't see it dying completely. What is sad is that every European company that has merged or purchased an American vehicle manufacturer has been technologically behind its American counterparts, yet they have the audacity and ego to think they are better than we are. The Europeans, unable to impress with brilliance have resorted to baffling with bullshit. Sergio at this point being the best/worst one of the bunch.

Chris Cuzynski
Alta Loma, California


On point.

Anyone inside FCA will agree with this. The company is losing great talent as a result of people realizing there is no money even for day to day operation. A lot of good talent in their 30's – 40's are moving out at the first chance they get to go for a more solid employment possibility. The way in which FIAT people are pushing their so called WCM (World Class Manufacturing) with their thousands of Kaizen's down people's throats is generating a useless specialization in documentation and making everyone lose the focus on actually generating great new cars. The few programs still ongoing have so much cutting it is impossible to really develop decent cars, the controllers have full reign with no engineer daring to stand in front of them, or else. And everyone just looks how loads of money cross the Atlantic to serve a huge worker base in Europe that produces half the amount of vehicles Chrysler does over here with less than half the amount of workers. You only see FIATs in Italy, Poland or Spain; in the real important European markets they're nowhere to be seen. You see more Dodge Journeys (FIAT Freemonts over there) than actual FIATs. Lets put it into today's numbers, VW stock, even with the current debacle, closed today at 97.30. FCA? 14.25. That tells you a lot about where the company stands.

Detroit, Michigan

The NASCAR-ization of American road racing.

Styling cues are to legitimate race cars what lipstick is to pigs.

Atlanta, Georgia


It's called being accountable behind the wheel.

You are so right. I remember when self-parking (parallel) came out. Everyone thought it was all the rage. Finally, I no longer can recall who, the perfect ad was produced. It showed someone pulling up to a parking spot and “maneuvering” into place. The tag line was simple: “For those who still enjoy driving.” I am sure they are now part of the front line in the autonomous car craze.

It is still illegal to stall on a bridge. In other words, you the driver are still responsible for the safe and efficient functioning of your vehicle. Are we so eager for surrendering our responsibilities to someone else that we now invent cars that we can blame instead of recognizing we have thrown away our right to responsibility? Personally, I love to drive.

I will never forget what my driving instructor said way back in 1978. “There are many people who can steer a car. There are far fewer who know how to drive it.” I know that all this modern technology, in theory, makes driving safer for those who choose only to learn to steer. I just hope that people who can actually drive are permitted to maintain their craft.

Tim Kroeker
Houston, Texas


Done, done and done.

Let's see here. Sergio desperately needs a merger partner. VW will be reeling from Dieselgate for many years to come and has now blown the admittedly ridiculous goal of achieving 800,000 units in the US by 2018. FCA has the highly prized global Jeep and US truck RAM brands, plus the Alfa Romeo brand once lusted after by Dr. Piech. I think Nostradamus may have predicted a upcoming merger in one of his 942 quatrains. The two companies are relatively complementary to each other in global markets. VW instantly gets the US presence that has always alluded it. FCA will have technical access it can only have a wet dream about now. It would immediately create a global automotive juggernaut to be reckoned with. Sergio, John Elkann and the other Agnelli heirs get the big payout Sergio was brought here to concoct. Dr. Piech (and don't think for a minute he is not orchestrating things in his “retirement”) will get the last laugh on everyone.

Royal Oak, Michigan