Enjoy our year-end issue, and we'll see you back here
on January 7, 2015!
Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac. Editor's Note: This guy just can't give it a rest, apparently. In yet another interview, this one in Ad Age, Ellinghaus once again defends the decision to relocate Cadillac to New York City, admitting that he views it as "the only cosmopolitan city in the United States." "To a certain extent, it's the city all others are measured by," he continued. "... it reinvents itself every day and this is a mindset I want to inject in the brand itself." Huh? You intend to reinvent Cadillac on a daily basis? WTF does that mean exactly? And "the only cosmopolitan city in the U.S."? Spare us all your continued misguided lauding of NYC. But there's more. Ol' Ewe seems to be back-pedalling a bit on his desire to be just like the Germans. "I find it funny that being the German [at the] table, I'm always the one saying 'we need some Americana back,'" he said. "If I'm frank, people in this country admire German cars so much that they emulate their success recipes and try to out-German the Germans, as I always say." Okay, then what's with the blatant copying of the German-style naming strategy? As a final point, Ellinghaus stresses he isn't a "product guy" or an "advertising guy." Well, he got that right at least. He's just the guy who's in the process of screwing everything up for a brand that truly was once upon a time the standard of the world. - WG Editor-in-Chief's Note: Our patience has grown thin for Mr. Ellinghaus et al at Cadillac. First of all they're talking way too much, and now they're starting to contradict their previous statements, which is becoming more tedious with each passing interview. I've said for, oh, going on four years now that Cadillac needs to be, first and foremost, Cadillac. What does that mean, exactly? Well, apparently Ellinghaus doesn't have a frickin' clue, we've now clearly established that. He keeps talking around the issues. He talks about needing a luxury environment, and that they need to create an aura of luxury for the brand, etc., and blah, blah, blah. Uh, excuse me, but what about the frickin' product? And relocating to New York and establishing an appreciable distance between the marketing "suits" and the product people is a recipe for disaster. Why not convert one of the many empty warehouses in downtown Detroit for Cadillac's headquarters? It would be far enough away from the RenCen and it would establish some gritty authenticity for the brand. And if I were running the show I would want to be close enough to the Tech Center and GM's Milford Proving Grounds so I could rub elbows with the True Believers at every opportunity. And this whole naming regimen is quickly coming apart too. You don't want to emulate the Germans and you think Cadillac should have some "Americana" back? Then dispense with the insipid naming regimen that mimics the classic German naming cadence, and which means absolutely nothing and is completely devoid of a compelling emotional component. I strongly urge Johan de Nysschen to stop all marketing interviews until further notice, because the more they talk the worse it gets. These Cadillac operatives have a very narrow window of opportunity to get this right, but that window is rapidly closing. It doesn't have to be this hard, it really doesn't. But they're hell bent on making it so, apparently. Maybe a bolt of lightning will come down and knock some sense into the collective marketing "brain trust" that exists at Cadillac. Yeah, and maybe Michigan's roads will get fixed in our lifetime too. As if. - PMD (12/17)
THE BEST OF “ON THE TABLE” 2014!!!
Activate the Giant L-A-S-E-R! Yes, I suppose it's great that Audi plans on introducing a production vehicle equipped with laser headlights, but really? The headlights today are already obscenely expensive to fix/repair and laser-equipped headlights will be even more costly. And they're terribly sensitive to heat to boot. The German manufacturers have been in a technological arms race for going on decades now. They love to one-up each other - it has become a sport to them - and some cool stuff often results from it. But it's not always beneficial and it's not always smart. This is one of those times. - PMD (1/8/2014)
Okay, the logo is cheesy, but the racing HEMI is forever cool. Mopar celebrated the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the iconic 426 Gen II Race HEMI® engine to motorsports competition in 2014. "An elephant is incorporated into the logo as a reference to the engine’s “elephant” moniker, which resulted from its imposing size, strength and power," according to the PR folk. (1/8)
The sound of one hand clapping. Michael Horn, the new CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, told VW dealers at the NADA that the German executives back at VW headquarters have finally gotten religion and are listening to their concerns, comments, etc. And that they're making changes to accommodate and respond to those concerns. Really? That the relentlessly clueless and tone-deaf VW executive overlords only intermittently understand what the hell is going on in the U.S. market is well documented. They're inveterate bumblers who have squandered in most cases an excellent, even outstanding, line of products. As a matter of fact, few in this business have done less with more than the VW marketing executives charged with "managing" the U.S. market. Yes, sure, in this new push VW executives will go out of their way to say and do all the right things, but inevitably they will return to their default setting, which is to perpetuate mediocrity in everything they come in contact with. – PMD (1/29)
The rest of it is pure gravy. One thing that can be definitively said about FCA Chief Honcho Sergio Marchionne is that he's a gifted - make that brilliant - deal maker. When he managed to abscond with Chrysler and Jeep for around $6 billion, all-in, he pulled off one of the most extraordinary deals in automotive history. And industry execs are shaking their heads while giving him props for it. Why? The Jeep brand is worth $6 billion alone. – PMD (2/5)
All together now: Not. Very. Good. Unless you're Akio, of course. The most ominous news for the business to emerge this week is that Toyota is projected to deliver a profit of $18 billion for the year. That annual profit will "easily exceed the combined earnings in 2013 for General Motors, Ford and the Chrysler division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles," according to The New York Times. Fueled by a weakened yen - exactly the way the Japanese government prefers it - Toyota is accumulating a massive war chest to expand its reach in new markets and to judiciously wreak havoc in existing markets with targeted incentives designed to disrupt its competition. – PMD (2/5)
Fewer hot rodders on the highway? We'll see about that. According to a piece by Jeff Green and Keith Naughton in Bloomberg News, The Car Thing as we know it is just about over. According to Green and Naughton, "The world will reach 'peak car' — a point at which annual global sales growth will top out — in the next decade, several auto-industry analysts predict. Researcher IHS Automotive, for one, sees annual sales cresting at 100 million within that time... No one is predicting that car sales will suddenly fall off or that today’s car companies are now dinosaurs. What the experts do see is a reckoning for car companies, which may have to adapt to a world with less car-buying and more car-sharing, more cars that drive themselves and fewer hot rodders on the highway." The times are a changin', yes, but even with these latest dire predictions, the freedom of mobility will continue to be an undeniable force on the planet. What form that mobility takes may change, but people will still want to move around and go places and for that, urban peashooter cars may not be the best option. – PMD (2/25)
Too bad. He better get used to it. Sergio Marchionne says that FCA will keep its minivan production in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. This after withdrawing a public request for government help which, much to his surprise (but no one else's), was not forthcoming. But Marchionne warned the Canadian government and labor unions that the outcome of 2016 negotiations with UNIFOR, which represents Canadian auto workers, would be crucial. "It is clear to us that our projects are now being used as a political football, a process that, in our view, apart from being unnecessary and ill-advised, will ultimately not be to the benefit of Chrysler," the company said in a written statement. In other words, Marchionne was handed Chrysler on a silver platter and he's quite convinced that as "political footballs" go, he should be handed other prizes as well, just because of who he is. Marchionne gets feisty and belligerent when he can't control a given situation and people don't acquiesce to his every whim and wish. – PMD (3/5)
Well, it finally happened! We were pleased to announce the publication of A Bud's Life: One Man's Journey Through Life Unbridled. Dr. Bud's Kindle eBook is available now on Amazon. – WG (3/5)
Oh, let's just call it for what it is: more Bush League Bullshit from the Italian overlords out in Auburn Hills. That means you, Gualberto. So last week, FCA PR minions led by Gualberto Ranieri trumpeted the fact that Sergio Marchionne was paid only $307,989 for running the Chrysler portion of FCA. This was calculated to portray The Great Sergio as someone approaching sainthood, basically willing to be paid next to nothing for leading the poor souls at Chrysler out of the wilderness, while the other two Detroit-based auto companies threw wheelbarrows full of money at their top executives. This week, of course, the rest of the story comes out. Marchionne was paid 3.6 million euros ($5 million) in cash last year by Fiat S.p.A., including bonus and incentives. Marchionne was also granted the right to receive 2.3 million Fiat shares, worth around $25 million at current rates. Marchionne was already holding 3 million Fiat shares at the end of 2013. Do auto executives deserve to be paid? Absolutely. But the annual FCA PR-orchestrated dance implying that Sergio is just scraping by while sacrificing everything for Chrysler is disingenuous at best. – PMD (3/12)
Oh no, Joltin’ Joe is back, run for your lives! As I warned Jaguar Land Rover dealers upon Joe Eberhardt's appointment, the chief architect of the Mercedes-Benz brand erosion strategy would be a nightmare - a clueless, belligerent, blunderbuss of a leader who has his head shoved well and truly up his ass - with a large dollop of arrogance thrown in for good measure. And it didn't take long for Eberhardt to prove it. In an interview with Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press that was conducted at the Detroit Auto Show, Eberhardt demonstrated his sheer lack of knowledge of the Jaguar brand by commenting on Jaguar's upcoming BMW 3-series fighter - the XE - which was recently teased at the Geneva Motor Show, with the following: "It's a question of heritage. Clearly, the compact sport sedan is an area where Jaguar has a rich history." Huh? Or better yet, really? Maybe I should let WG add her comments, considering she once owned a Jaguar Mk VII. – PMD. I guess it all depends on how one defines "compact." Sure, if it's just by measurements alone, the grand Mark VII, VIII and IX of the 1950s fit the definition of a compact car. But really? Seriously? Do these fabulous saloons seem the same to you as a Chevrolet Cruze or Ford Focus or the aforementioned BMW 3-series (all of which are considered "compact" cars)? Tape measures aside, comments like Eberhardt's not only show a superficial understanding of the brand (at best), they also denigrate the brand by reducing its vehicles to various elements of a marketing plan - and nothing more. – WG (3/19)
AE Quote of the Year, Part I. Dan Neil lambasted (deservedly) the Fiat 500L in this week's "Rumble Seat" column in The Wall Street Journal to wit: "... Actually, the 500L (front-drive, five-door liftback) corners like the world's smallest '65 Pontiac Bonneville. At engine speeds below 2,250 rpm, there is no one home torque-wise. You hit the gas and time stands still, a la "The Matrix." And the six-speed manual gearbox is the vaguest, wobbliest such mechanism I've encountered since I was winning dance contests in my three-piece suit. This thing isn't a transmission. It is an intermission." (4/2)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: To me the 500L embodies every last cynical detail that underpins the reality of Sergio Marchionne's carpet-bagging mission to take over Chrysler. Left to their own devices, the Italians design, build and engineer unmitigated crap (I'm leaving Ferrari out of this discussion obviously). Any success that Fiat Chrysler has achieved has come on the backs of the True Believers in Auburn Hills who stayed the course through the relentless chaos rained down upon them by first Daimler, then Cerberus and now Fiat. Marchionne is quick to take credit for the "miracle" that he performed by saving "The Unfortunates" of Chrysler from themselves and that is such relentless bullshit it's laughable. The only "miracle" that happened in Auburn Hills came from the True Believers who designed, engineered and built the trucks and Jeeps that are the sole provider of profit to the otherwise crumbling FCA enterprise. And so it goes. – PMD (3/19)
(Images courtesy of Porsche)
With the factory's return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen is presenting a comprehensive special exhibition - “24 Hours for Eternity” - focusing on the world's most important endurance event from March 26 to July 13, 2014. Porsche is not only taking a look back at its multiple previous successes at the French endurance classic, it is presenting its 2014 Porsche 919 Hybrid to the public for the first time. The exhibition at the Porsche Museum has been transformed to look like Le Mans, with the 1951 race marking the beginning of the special exhibition. Reenactments of racing situations from the victorious racing years on life-sized wall art and track sections, such as the Hunaudières straight, will guide the museum visitor through the special exhibition. More than 20 different racing machines tell the unique and exciting history of Porsche at the legendary 24-hour race. (3/26)
Cue the Shit Storm. Part 1 of the media circus in Washington went pretty much as expected yesterday. Grandstanding, self-righteous politicians running the gamut from moral outrage to pathetic whining - while stoking their re-election campaigns - taking GM to the woodshed for a litany of transgressions both real and imagined. And Mary Barra saying, "I'm sorry" 67 times or thereabouts. That pretty much sums it up. GM screwed-up and they will pay dearly for it, as they should. Ms. Barra also kept talking about "today's" GM and how "today's GM will do the right thing." That's nice. And vacuous. Mike Thompson, cartoonist for the Detroit Free Press painted a perfect picture of the situation yesterday in one of his illustrations. Ms. Barra is shown saying to a U.S. representative: "Today's GM will do the right thing." And the representative responds with: "It's yesterday's and tomorrow's GM that concerns us." Exactly. (4/2)
AE Quote of the Year, Part II. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., while chastising GM CEO Mary Barra last week in Washington, had this to say: "I am very disappointed, really as a woman to woman, because the culture you're representing here today is the culture of the status quo." Really? You are a member of the Senate, aren't you, Babs? Which is one of the most virulently corrosive examples of the "you scratch my itch and I'll scratch yours" culture of the status quo on the planet, right? Boxer gets our Sanctimonious Bitch award, for starters. – PMD (4/9)
Needless to say, he won't be missed. The news that Selim Bingol is out as GM's PR Chief wasn't a huge surprise; in fact I predicted it would happen in "On The Table" back in January. Bingol was brought in by Ed Whitacre from AT&T (he was Whitacre's PR bag man there) and then when "Big Ed" pronounced GM "fixed" and took his leave, Bingol attached himself to Dan "Captain Queeg" Akerson and proceeded to do The Unctuous Prick's bidding from then on. Never known for his PR savvy, Bingol spent his entire tenure learning the nuances of the automotive PR profession while on the job. And it didn't work out well. Not that Bingol had it easy, what with Akerson regularly pissing off employees and the media alike with his relentless cluelessness and blunderbuss style, but Bingol didn't do himself any favors by taking his boss's belligerent style too close to heart and becoming an Unctuous Prick himself. – PMD (4/16)
Nailed it. It's good to see that Mercedes-Benz has finally - finally - figured out that the company's impeccable and historic heritage counts for absolutely everything in differentiating the brand from everyone else. After years of wandering around the automotive desert trying to make the brand more approachable with a series of pathetic executions that were so far beneath the brand it was laughable, and after years of struggling to come up with something that could even approach "Engineered Like No Other car In The World" - let alone top it - this new commercial for the all- new 2014 S-Class - "Four Words" - nails their new theme "The Best Or Nothing" perfectly. Watch it here. (4/16)
Editor-in-Chief’s Note: By April of last year it was readily apparent that GM's Legal Staff needed to be blown-up, starting with a regime change at the top and a thorough purging of any and all who have enthusiastically taken their marching orders from the current Chief Counsel. Nothing represents the "old" GM more than the GM Legal Staff. If there's a "culture" at GM - and I use that term reluctantly, because in reality the only "culture" at GM revolves around making money - there's a culture of paranoia and internal meddling that has been handed down from generation to generation in the Legal Staff, which functions for all intents and purposes as GM's secretive internal security force, something akin to The Adjustment Bureau or a rogue element in the College of Cardinals. That culture of paranoia started back in the 60s when a wayward staffer on the GM Legal Staff who worked for then Chief Counsel Aloysius Powers decided to investigate Ralph Nader without any authorization whatsoever, or knowledge by anyone else in the company. And when confronted with the news Powers had to admit in an emergency executive staff meeting called by then chairman James Roche that the GM Legal Staff was indeed responsible. A true account that was authenticated by my father, who was in that meeting. The High-Octane Truth is that the GM Legal Staff has been on a downward spiral ever since, and if any one aspect of that reeling company hard by the Detroit River needs to be blown-up, it's that. – PMD (4/23)
Why? Wanxiang, the Chinese auto parts company that bought Fisker hopes to relaunch the Karma by 2015. (4/23)
From the "Angry Appliances" File: This is the Toyota Aygo. They don't sell it here. And that's all you need to know. Please return to your regularly scheduled programming. (4/23)
But clearly no one there cares anymore, or knows the difference. C’est la vie, suckers. Uncle Dieter Zetsche, Daimler's CEO, is gloating because Mercedes is on a roll, with profits up due to increased volumes. But the profit margin was notably less than expected, much less than what Audi delivered to be exact. But then again Mercedes is a volume-oriented company now, with the good stuff (the new S-class, S63 AMG Coupe, etc.) being eclipsed by their insatiable desire to churn out CLAs like Corollas. That dichotomy between the "good" Mercedes and the "volume" Mercedes will continue to grow as Zetsche tries to cement his career legacy at the company. It's a giant bowl of Not Good for the Mercedes-Benz image. So much for those "Four Words." – PMD (4/30)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: The high hard ones from the SergioFest? Dodge will be the performance division (duh) and Viper will go back to being called the Dodge Viper; Sergio will keep milking Ram trucks and Jeeps for all they're worth (double-duh); and he's going all-in on Chrysler adding more models in a bid to run with Ford and Chevrolet in the U.S. market. And Fiat is going to be great and desirable, just you wait. At least that's what Olivier "I'm a genius, just ask me" Francois added to the proceedings. Sure it will. And then, being Sergio, he had to set the tone for the proceedings with a quote suggesting that he has it all figured out and that they got it goin' on, or something like that: “The history of the auto industry is littered with alliances that have failed,” The Great Sergio said. But over the last five years, Fiat and Chrysler have arrived at having the strongest bond possible. It is made up, as a team, by survivors. They carry the humility of having failed” in the past. Really? That's all you got, Marchionne? I say speak for yourself, because lumping-in the True Believers at Chrysler who were repeatedly terrorized by bad management takeovers with the abject and relentless failure of Fiat - one of the most underachieving automobile companies of all time - is a complete disservice and an offensive insult to the people who made you look like a frickin' genius. But then again it's par for the course, because in the end it's all about Sergio and his warped view of the world, and don't you ever forget it. Pathetic. – PMD (5/7)
But the ugly reality is that a lot of Marchionne's vaunted "plan" is pure unmitigated bullshit, and there are a lot of people inside and outside the business who are smart enough to know it too. The Investor community doesn't think much of The Great Sergio's new five-year plan, apparently. As reported by David Shepardson in The Detroit News this morning (Wednesday, May 7), "Investors didn’t like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s aggressive five-year plan to spend more than $65 billion dollars on product development in a bid to ramp up sales over the next five years, sending shares down by 8.6 percent. In trading in Europe, shares of Fiat fell to 7.74 euros ($10.78) down 0.73 euros ($1.02) a share." Marchionne of course dismissed all negativity because he insists that he delivered on the 2009 plan - while glossing over and conveniently forgetting the parts that he didn't deliver on, but hey, in Sergio's world such negativity is purged, or deemed as being hopelessly uninformed - and that he will deliver on this new plan, too, just you wait and see. But members of the investment community are a humorless lot and they don't much cotton to over-promising, especially when the majority of those promises are works of gulp fiction. Did Sergio pull some of those ridiculous numbers out of his ass? Yes, of course he did. But in classic egomaniacal fashion, he's absolutely certain that he can get away with it because he is, after all, The Miracle Worker who saved Chrysler from itself and the Greatest automobile executive Of All Time. - PMD (5/7)
Editor's Note: I had to laugh - one of the articles I read quotes Marchionne talking about how this plan is gonna work because "We're different" - and he keeps talking about how they're "a different company than their competitors," blah, blah, blah. I seem to remember that there was 'a different kind of car company' one time before in our history - and we all know how that worked out! - WG (5/7)
In commenting on the BMW 3 Series GT Peter had this to say: If you dig deep to find the "real" BMW in the machines still worthy of the company's legacy, then you're liable to still be pleased with what you'll find. If you look hard enough, they're there. But the more vehicles BMW comes up with that resemble the vague netherworld of mediocrity and blandtastic design somnolence that the 3 Series GT represents, the more BMW strays from its Brand Image. Then again, the BMW Brand Image is blurring so rapidly that it's getting harder to define what it is, exactly. (5/7)
(Photo by Goodguys Rod & Custom Association)
The Black Pearl - a ground-up creation from James Hetfield and Rick Dore, and painted by Darryl Hollenbeck - won the 2014 Mother's Custom of the Year Award at the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association 32nd All American Get-Together held March 29-30 in Pleasanton, California. The Black Pearl is a one-off custom car built from scratch and not from any specific vehicle. Its handmade body with its sleek lines was inspired by the styling shapes and forms of cars of the 1930s. The car was built by Rick Dore. The body was shaped by Southern Californian Marcel De Lay and then painted by Hollenbeck. The Black Pearl is owned by James Hetfield of the heavy-metal band Metallica. (5/7)
Uh, whatever you say, Sergio, but in this country we call it backpedaling. The Great Sergio said at an event in Indiana that he'll still be a success even if he doesn't meet some of his lofty targets. "The exercise of leadership requires the setting of some pretty bold objectives," Marchionne told reporters. – PMD (5/14)
The Grand Delusion. Just how delusional is Sergio Marchionne? Nick Bunkley (@nickbunkley) from Automotive News tweeted the following Monday morning (April 12th) on Marchionne's plan for Alfa Romeo: "#Chrysler wants 150K Alfa Romeo sales/yr in N America by 2018. Years other lux brands took to hit that: Lexus - 10, BMW - 25, Audi - 41 and Mercedes - 47." This just in: Any analyst who is knowingly buying into Marchionne's plan for Alfa needs to turn his or her credentials in immediately and walk quietly away, because you're looking loopy right about now. I've said it before and I will say it again a couple hundred more times before this circus comes to its inevitable end: The High-Octane Truth about Alfa Romeo is that it’s not a mass-market brand, it was never meant to be a mass-market brand and it never will be a mass-market brand. Let alone a "luxury" brand. But in the end even that doesn’t much matter to The Great Sergio, when it comes right down to it. Why? I can assure you the dealers will pay for it when Marchionne’s grandiose plan for Alfa goes nowhere. It will be their fault somehow and The Great Sergio will have long since departed when the recriminations start flying. – PMD (5/14)
And this just in: Pathetic doesn't even begin to cover it. Speaking of Automotive News, except for Nick Bunkley, the publication's rabid canonization of The Great Sergio reached epic proportions. The last two weeks of coverage of The Great Sergio's plan in AN has been such a gushing, fan-boy boot licking of Marchionne's "brilliance" that all hopes of rational perspective have been trampled to death by the insipid prose generated in one story after another. Are they issued knee pads before entering the Auburn Hills headquarters so that they can readily assume the position? Or does it just come naturally? I think we all know the answer to that. Needless to say, it's just flat-out embarrassing at this point. When will it stop? Oh, it's not likely to end anytime soon in case you were hoping otherwise. - PMD (5/14)
And it isn't working. In our Infiniti Q60 review Peter had this to say: That Infiniti is scrambling to come up with a product-focused brand image is no news at this point. We're inundated with one article after another orchestrated by Infiniti PR minions who are desperately trying to get us all to believe that Infiniti has it goin' on. They've hired industry veterans, they're trying to get out from under the mundane tedium that being a stepchild of the Nissan monolith entails, and they've even dragged F1 star Sebatian Vettel into the mix as their "director of performance" to instill that notion in car-oriented enthusiasts' heads. But it isn't nearly enough and there is something decidedly amiss in Infiniti Land. The really new and interesting products just aren't there and the company's product cadence is in such dire straits that the situation isn't likely to get fixed anytime soon. So in the meantime we're left with a brand that's a purveyor of "me-too" products that lack inspiration. Infiniti smacks of a brand that's flailing about trying to throw anything up against the wall that they can get their hands on to see what sticks. (5/14)
(BMW Group Photos)
This is what BMW PR minions had to say: "The BMW Group celebrates the meeting of the time-honored and the contemporary at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2014 with a very special concept: the MINI Superleggera™ Vision. This exclusive interpretation of an open-top two-seater was created by MINI and Touring Superleggera, the tradition-steeped design and coach building house based in Milan. The MINI Superleggera™ Vision is on the one hand a classic roadster, a compact and agile two-seater, expressing the most minimalist and emotional style of motoring; and on the other hand its electric drivetrain gives the car distinctly modern driving dynamics. In collaboration with MINI, Touring Superleggera™ has designed and built an elaborately crafted, unique model which blends the tradition of classic coachwork construction with the MINI’s authentic British styling to create timeless aesthetic appeal." This is what AE said: The Touring Superleggera has absolutely nothing to do with MINI in the least. Not even a little bit. But the BMW Group needed a concept for Villa d'Este, and seeing as they're already completely out of ideas and making up the MINI product plan as they go along, they thought attaching the MINI name to the project would make about as much sense as anything else, so... (5/21)
The BMW X1 certainly makes more sense than the unfortunate 335 xDrive GT that we had a couple of weeks ago, even if it is a crossover/whatever. The X1 actually feels like a BMW should feel, which is no mean feat when it comes right down to it. I guess this means that BMW hasn't totally forgotten what got them to this point, thank goodness. – PMD (5/21)
Whatabunchofunmitigatedbullshit.com. The Union of Concerned Scientists decided that Hyundai was the new greenest automaker in their latest report, wrestling the crown away from Honda. Why anyone cares what this group thinks, says, does or anything else for that matter is beyond me, but they definitely have a savvy PR machine with the ability to get the attention of lazy journalists - automotive and otherwise - on a slow news day and turn it into "news." And the Detroit-based automakers? They ranked dead last in their report, which isn't a surprise in the least. Why? The Detroit-based automakers make trucks for people who actually do the real work in this country, so that groups like the "Union of Concerned Scientists" can sit around navel-gazing while basking in the dulcet tones of their own voices, and then turn around and present their narrow, hackneyed opinions as dogma. – PMD (4/28)
Whatever you say, Cap'n! "Captain Queeg" mounts the Sergeant Schultz defense in Forbes by saying he knew nothing, Mary Barra knew nothing, in fact nobody knew nothing about the ignition interlock issues at GM. – PMD (4/28)
Haters gonna hate.
By Janice J. Putman
In what has now become a rite of spring, the latest article proclaiming the demise of car culture has appeared. Posted on May 31 by AP national writer Adam Geller, "Americans and Their Cars: A Love Affair on Fumes?" cites research from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute that would seem to sound the death-knell for the automobile. Among the statistical nuggets, "after rising almost continuously since World War II, driving by U.S. households has declined nearly 10 percent since 2004... The average American household now owns fewer than two cars... Less than 70 percent of 19-year-olds now have (a driver's license), down from 87 percent two decades ago." Now, I love statistics as much as the next guy - well, maybe not as much as Big Data his ownself - but they very seldom tell the whole story. (Plus, we all know you can design research questions and manipulate data to skew the responses, but that's a whole 'nother issue.) I'm just exasperated by the seemingly endless barrage of attempts to dismiss the car as some non-essential part of our lives and furthermore to trivialize what it represents.
Geller asserts that maybe we are "rethinking the paradigm of vehicle ownership," but to back up the claim that more and more people are seeking to drive less, he cites a guy who used to work as a driver for a package deliver company, who now likes to walk or bike to where he needs to go. (Gee, could you find someone even more burned out by driving? I probably wouldn't even want to see a picture of anything with wheels if I had spent years driving a delivery truck.)
To be fair, it's true that most of the time the car represents our daily slog to work or running errands or taking us to and from any number of the tedious activities that seem to totally consume our lives and sap the spirit out of even the most hard-core car enthusiast. It's not often we get to slide behind the wheel, roll the windows down and go for a ride, simply for the pure unbridled fun of it. But maybe it's time to reconsider doing just that. Maybe it's time to reconnect with that fundamental part of what makes us human: There is something truly magical about moving a body through space, and something fundamentally human about the desire to transport ourselves. The car lets us travel - both literally and figuratively - in a way that an iPad or iPhone simply cannot. The Internet and our ability to connect anytime, anywhere and access anything is nothing short of miraculous. But equally - no, make that more - miraculous is the world that lies beyond those devices - yes, the world, in all its beauty and messiness and frustration and possibility. And that's where the car comes in.
(A quick thought experiment: Imagine taking any of our ancestors, anyone from anywhere in the world, taking them for a ride in a car - and asking them, "Do you want one of these?" I am fairly confident that the answer would be "Hell, yes!")
But as surely as the sun rises in the east, when it comes to the car and the idea that it might actually have a place in our culture, haters gonna hate. I say they are the ones missing out. If you have no special car memory, no car story or car moment, I truly feel sorry for you. There's "the one that got away" as in, the car you didn't buy or sold too soon (or, ahem, sold to your boyfriend because you thought that would make him like you more, but then he ended up trashing it and breaking up with you and then you were out both a guy and a car... but I digress). There's the one you're lusting after, saving for, taking yourself into. Or maybe it's the one in your garage right now, that's your perfect car, your haven, your private. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you know what it means to have a car actually move you, make you feel alive.
As for Autoextremist and this 15th anniversary thing, all I can say is, Wow. As in, Wow, we really made it happen and it's still going strong. It's been the best of times; it's been the worst of times. I've read some of the nastiest, most vitriolic comments imaginable in our reader mail over the past decade and a half. But I've also read some of the most moving and most passionate tributes to this whole "car thing" as well. There is no shortage of Autoextremists in the world and for that I am grateful. - WG (6/4)
Please stop talking, now. Thank you. Automotive News dredged up Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn's promise to shareholders back in April at the annual meeting that he wanted to "install Renault-Nissan as one of the top three global automakers." Ghosn thinks his alliance will make hay with new products in Russia and China, and that he can ascend to the Big Boy Throne with Toyota, VW and GM. Uh, sure, Carlos, whatever you say. – PMD (6/4)
AE Headline Highlights from the First Fifteen Years. Just a few of our favorites...
"White Boy Culture" (6/1/1999)
"Write Hard, Die Free" (11/9/1999)
"In this 'Age of Entitlement' We All Get Screwed" (10/25/2000)
"The Day The Racing Died" (2/21/2001)
"Captain Zarrella, Your Space Ship is Waiting" (5/16/2001)
"One Man's Passion - A Legacy Still Vibrant Today" (6/13/2001)
"Hell Freezes Over, As Porsche Becomes Just Another Car Company" (10/2/2002)
"Memo to Chris Bangle: 'The Emperor' is Naked" (11/27/2002)
"GM's Culture of Invincibility" (2/12/2003)
"Detroit's Real Challenge? Selling the Idea of an American Car" (10/29/2003)
"How much longer can 'Detroit' extract blood from a stone?" (3/31/2004)
"Benchmarking - Detroit's Ticket to Oblivion" (9/15/2004)
"Toyota's Shiny Happy People Peg the Stupid Meter" (6/15/2005)
"Turn out the lights, the party's over - Detroit is officially out of ideas" (7/13/2005)
"The Autoextremist self-help guide: How not to be a PR Weasel" (8/24/2005)
"The NASCAR Bubble - Coming to a Boardroom Near You." (8/31/2005)
"Soul Survivor or just Dust in the Wind?" (3/1/2006)
"The Players, the Schemers, the Smoke-and-Mirrors Dreamers" (8/23/2006)
"Interview with a Robot" (2/14/2007)
"After the smoke clears, it's time for America, Inc." (10/29/2008)
"Queen LaGreena and The Dunderheads." (12/10/2008)
"The 2008 Autoextremist Year in Review: 'The End of the World As We Know It' Edition. (12/17/08)
"PMD Unplugged: The 'Old Broken Down Piece of Meat' Edition." (3/11/2009)
"State of the Motor City Nation: The 'Polishing of the Pitchforks' Edition." (3/25/09)
"Going, going, gone." (5/27/09)
"They came, they saw, they bored us to death." (11/4/09)
"It’s time for a True Believer to run GM. (12/2/09)
"Campbell-Ewald is forced to walk the plank as the train wreck called GM marketing continues." (4/28/10)
"Still clueless after all these years." (6/16/10)
"Caution: You’re entering the Notgonnahappen.com Zone." (6/30/10)
"The Shit Disturber Cometh." (7/14/10)
"The Ultimate Sellout Machine: BMW commits brand suicide." (10/6/10)
"The looming train wreck at General Motors."(1/26/11)
"Brother Sergio’s Traveling Salvation Show gets derailed." (2/9/11)
"The UAW’s Solidarity Train to Nowhere." (3/23/11)
"All bunny rabbits and rainbows for Detroit? Not so fast." (5/4/11)
"The Sergio Show gets preachy and the media genuflects. What’s wrong with this picture?" (8/10/11)
"'Minimum Bob' ascends to the Delusional Thinking Hall of Fame." (10/5/11)
"How brand delusion can lead to brand dilution." (5/2/12)
"Mr. Akerson, your fifteen minutes are up." (8/15/12)
"The Penalty of (bad) Leadership." (4/15/13)
"The Democratization of Luxury, coming to a Mercedes-Benz dealer near you." (11/12/13)
"The Unctuous Prick takes his leave and screws GM one last time." (12/10/13)
"A kaleidoscope of the pretty good, the really bad and the just plain ugly. Welcome to The Land of Overpromise and Underdeliver, otherwise known as the 2014 Detroit Auto Show." (1/15/14)
"We May Never Pass This Way Again. GM at a Crossroads." (4/4/14)
"Arrogance + Delusion = the industry’s most lethal cocktail." (5/19/14)
AE Words & Phrases from the First Fifteen Years. We've become known for words & phrases over the years (for better or worse) and we thought we'd remind you of a few of them...
"The Answer to the Question that Absolutely No One is Asking"
"Shiny, happy, flatulence-powered balsa wood smiley cars"
"The Green Horde"
"Heaping, steaming bowl of Not Good"
"Dead car company walking"
"The Trifecta of Not Good"
"Starbucks Nation of Zombie Consumers"
"Anti-car, anti-Detroit intelligentsia"
"It's all over but the hand-wringing"
"The Product is, was, and always will be King"
"Bush League Bullshit"
"Go Big or Go Home"
"The more you know the more you just never know" (Dr. Bud).
"Accidental tourist of a CEO"
"The Soy-Based Chlorophyll-Specked Self-Driving Module"
"From the Sergeant Schultz 'I Know Nothing' File'"
"Olivier 'I'm a genius, just ask me' Francois."
And of course, "notgonnahappen.com" (6/4)
A brief summation of our review of the BMW 435i: The BMW 435i is what BMW is supposed to be all about. Period. – PMD (6/4)
The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here! Or something like that. FCA has awarded 86 dealers in the U.S. and Canada Alfa Romeo franchises. And the huzzahs! could be heard throughout the land, as dealers praised The Great Sergio for anointing them as being worthy of selling Alfas, and hastily began making plans to erect statues of Sergio at their dealerships. The reality, of course, is that no more than 1,500 of the new Alfa Romeo 4C sports car will be sold here in any given year, and they will start trickling in - sort of - in a few months. And then Marchionne is going to flip a giant switch and dealers will start getting more mainstream Alfa product at the end of 2016, and then they'll be swimming in new Alfas by 2018. And then the customers will race in! The money will flow! Alfa will be the new Audi! And they'll all live happily ever after! Right. And it's pure fiction too. Nobody does "delusions of grandeur" like Sergio Marchionne and his worshipping acolytes. – PMD (6/11)
Take me with you, please. GM CEO Mary Barra says that GM employees are "owning" the Valukas report. What does that mean exactly? Taking it to heart? Ritual self-flagellation? Or just wondering out loud WTF is going on out there? The Queen can say what she wants - although it's probably a good time for her to stop talking - but the GM men and women I talk to aren't owning this classic screw-up, they're just wishing they were anywhere but here. – PMD (6/11)
Editor's Note: From the "We'll Be Damned If We Become Just Another Car Company" File comes this excerpt from the latest print ad from Porsche:
"To this day, nothing can replicate the feeling you get when driving a Porsche. No other combination of sound, feel, sight and soul will connect in quite the same way. Nothing else is simultaneously as recognizable and breathtakingly novel.
Keeping it this way requires vigilance. So we remember to honor the past but charge fearlessly into the future. We cast a skeptical eye at the word "impossible." And we fiercely resist dilution at every step.
Otherwise, a Porsche could become interchangeable with, dare we say it, some other car. Which is the moment a Porsche ceases to be Porsche."
Sounds like they've been studying Autoextremist.com - WG (6/11)
(Photos Courtesy of Goodguys)
Tony Lombardi’s supercharged 1930 Model A Ford - “Little Miss Che-Vious” - from Niles, Ohio, won the Goodguys 2014 Tank’s Hot Rod of the Year award at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The criteria are unique in that it’s the only major Goodguys Top 12 award that requires participants to drive on a 100-mile reliability run as well as a 1/8th mile blast down the drag strip. Lombardi’s A-Bone, built by Hilton’s Hot Rods, blasted down Lucas Oil Raceway @ Indianapolis with an elapsed time of 9.316 seconds – the third-fastest ET of the day. (6/11)
Letter from L.A.
By Tom Pease
Beverly Hills. Every Father’s Day for the past 21 years, the blocks of Rodeo Drive between Wilshire and “little” Santa Monica are closed to vehicular traffic for the Rodeo Drive Concours, a display of the most amazing collection of vehicles you'll ever see. This year’s theme was “100 Years of Horsepower,” this being the Centennial of the incorporation of Beverly Hills as a city separate from Los Angeles. It would take me about a year to actually list all of the vehicles on display, which range from a 1908 Wells Fargo horse-drawn wagon all the way up to the 2015 Mustang, with everything in between. Highlights included a 1914 Rolls Silver Ghost limousine, the 1928 Ahrens-Fox GN-80-4 that was used back in the day by the Beverly Hills Fire Department, a 1930 Isotta-Fraschini 8A Flying Star, a 1935 Bugatti type 575C, a 1949 Maserati (the honored marque this year, also celebrating its 100th birthday) A6/1500, a 1957 Dual-Ghia, a 1963 Ferrari 250GT Lusso, a 1971 Lamborghini Espada, as well as new cars from Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini and others.
One of the more interesting exhibits was staffed by the group Beverly Hills Heritage (full disclosure: I volunteer for the group so I might be a bit biased), chronicling the history of the short-lived Beverly Hills Speedway. In operation only four years, it was built in 1919 on 275 acres in the Southwest section of Beverly Hills, land that’s now home to the Beverly Wilshire and Peninsula hotels, Saks, Barney’s and Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills High as well as multi-million dollar homes. The 1.25-mile track with its high-banked turns allowed racers to go faster than Indianapolis. Speed records were shattered there and racer Gaston Chevrolet lost his life there on lap 146 of a 200 lap race, yet due to the points he accumulated still won. Unfortunately for the operators, by 1924 the northern half of Beverly Hills was seeing heavy development and it was decided that the land under it was far more valuable than the track. The property was sold at $10,000 per acre and the track was moved to Culver City. By 1928 the Beverly Wilshire would be completed. I have way too many photos to try to foist them off on this site, but here are a few of them. You can see the rest on my personal blog pansysrants.blogspot.com.
If you happen to be in the L.A. area next Father’s Day, you’d be nuts not to come and see this free event, which Frommer’s selected as one of its 300 Unmissable Events. (6/18)
Ford and Fisher-Price have unveiled the Fisher-Price Power Wheels F-150. Inspired by the aluminum-intensive 2015 F-150, the ride-on toy will be available beginning in September, with a retail price of $349.99. Ford engineers shared designs nine months before the new truck debuted at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. There's even a video, watch it here. (6/25)
Electric Cadillac Acid Test.
This week, our "Quick Take" has us in the 2014 Cadillac ELR, Cadillac's extended-range electric vehicle. And let's get this out of the way up front: It's way overpriced. Way. Overpriced. Did I mention that it's overpriced? Okay, onward.
The ELR shares its underpinnings with the Chevrolet Volt, but there's no mistaking that this is a Cadillac all the way. Based on the Converj concept vehicle from 2009, the ELR is sleek and aggressive looking, carrying Cadillac's strong, sculptural design cues from nose to tail. It feels solid and substantial (okay, maybe a bit heavy), but I like that in a luxury vehicle. And the interior is particularly tasteful, with a combination of wood, leather and microfiber suede surfaces - and all the features and blah, blah, blah that you would expect in a car in this category. (Although I must say I wasn't expecting the "vibrating pulse patterns" on either side of the seat bolster that caused a vague tingling in my thighs at various times. Once I figured out that it was the Safety Alert Seat and not a medical event, I was sort of able to adjust to it. I'm not sure if it's actually a help or a nuisance, but whatever.)
There are some drawbacks, as others have noted. The backseat is a joke, and the trunk opening is exceptionally small, to the point that I found myself cramming my stuff in the passenger seat instead (which of course set off the seat belt chime because it thought my groceries were a person!). The ELR features a full driving range of 340 miles, the first 37 of them coming from the 16.5-kWh lithium-ion battery. From the pure electric mode, the ELR then seamlessly switches over to the Ecotec 1.4L gasoline engine. THIS IS THE REASON TO GET THE ELR. THERE IS NO OTHER REASON. You either buy into the elegance of the electric battery/gasoline backup system, as offered by the ELR (and the Volt) - or you don't. To the cynics who say it's just a gussied-up Volt, I say, it isn't, but fine, get a Volt then. The point here is that the technology in both the ELR and the Volt is a true game-changer. And I'm not sure why, but that message is not being delivered or received. Personally, I. Would. Love. One. –WG (6/25)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: I wonder what would have happened if the Volt wasn't a Chevrolet at all, but a Cadillac instead. GM could have made a much bigger splash if the ELR had come first - and if they didn't blow the pricing - and then trickled down the technology to Chevrolet prices. That's hindsight, however, which counts for exactly nothing. I did like the ELR, a lot. It's handsome in the flesh, the interior is gorgeous, and in spite of its heaviness, it was fun to drive. And the technology is indeed seamless. But I found the ELR to be an exercise in frustration, because the car is too good for GM to have blown the opportunity as badly as it has. If GM were to right this situation, I would replace the two-door ELR with a sleek, four-door sedan. And I would remake the Volt into something much more contemporary, because it has grown dated and tired looking. But I remain unconvinced that GM is capable of righting its extended-range electric fleet in the market at all. Clear thinking seems to be in short supply down at the Silver Silos, especially when it comes to marketing. – PMD (6/25)
(Image courtesy of Dodge)
For those out there who still relish serious horsepower in this land of whisper-jet electric cars and clown cars with exhaust pipes the size of soda straws, Dodge has just released the power numbers for its new, supercharged, 6.2-liter HEMI® Hellcat-powered 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT, and they are staggering: 707 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque. The monster Challenger SRT with the Hellcat engine comes standard with two key fobs - red and black. The red key fob is the only key that can access the full 707 horsepower; while the black key fob limits the driver to a reduced engine output of "only" 500 horsepower. Take that, well, everybody. The bad-ass Dodge will start arriving in dealerships in the third quarter of 2014. Watch the video here. (7/2)
The all-new Dodge Challenger SRT with the supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat engine - which produces 707 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque - recently achieved an NHRA-certified 10.8 second quarter mile time (on drag radials). It will be available with a starting U.S. MSRP of $59,995. Yee-hah. (7/9)
As if. Reuters is reporting that Fiat's founding Agnelli family wants to tighten its control of FCA after its merger with U.S. unit Chrysler and a New York listing later this year, according to a U.S. regulatory filing with the SEC. Wow, that's shocking. Seeing as the Agnellis have been repeatedly running the whole shebang into the ground (except for Ferrari) for decades, it's logical that after glomming-on to Chrysler's assets they would want to tap even more of that revenue stream coming from cranking out Jeeps and Ram trucks. For the record, the Agnellis control Fiat Chrysler with a 30 percent stake via holding firm Exor, but their voting power could rise to as much as 46 percent through a loyalty scheme put in place as part of the merger to reward long-term investors. Ah, of course. And here you thought Sergio's play for Chrysler was an altruistic gesture to save Chrysler from implosion and help America out, as he said repeatedly back when he was courting the Obama administration to get the deal done in the first place. – PMD (7/9)
(Image courtesy of Lexus)
Lexus says that the all-new 2015 NX "... unites the engineering input of racers with the impeccable touch of Lexus luxury in a design that steals the show." Yes, Lexus PR minions actually said that. (7/9)
(Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)
The S65 AMG Coupe is the new twelve-cylinder top-of-the-range model in the S-Class Coupe series. Loaded with every known technology that Mercedes has at its disposal and then some (MAGIC BODY CONTROL, Active Body Control (ABC) and ROAD SURFACE SCAN, etc.), the new coupe has a 6.0-liter AMG V12 biturbo with an output of 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. Following the S65 AMG and the SL 65 AMG, the new S65 AMG Coupe is the third AMG high-performance car with a V12 engine to come to the United States market. (7/16)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: An apology is due to the dedicated men and women who work in the GM Legal Staff. It's not their fault that they've been saddled with that Unctuous Prick of a boss - Michael Millikin - and they shouldn't be lumped in with him just because they happen to be working there. So the implication that they should all be removed is grossly unfair. I know GM Legal is rife with real live car enthusiasts and that distinction should be made in the midst of this swirling maelstrom of shit that surrounds the fact that Millikin still has his job. – PMD (7/23)
Editor-in-Chief’s Note: The Audi RS 7 is everything Audi represents to a growing legion of enthusiasts. It looks beautiful, it's wonderfully turned-out, and it's ultra-quick. This RS 7 represents Audi hitting on all cylinders, even more so than with its vaunted mid-engined R8 sports car. If there is anything approaching the reality of an everyday supercar, the Audi RS 7 nails it. Adherence to Brand Image? Dead. Solid. Perfect. And our AE Car of the Year. (7/23)
That means you, Dieter. Continuing to try to shove the dreaded Smart car - no matter what the version - down U.S. consumers' throats has been a nonstarter for a long time now. Yet here they go again, redoing the car for another attempt at gaining acceptance in this market. This just in: It's notgonnahappen.com. And it reinforces the notion that a particularly odious brand of arrogant car marketing as long practiced by the German auto companies is alive and well. Ugh. – PMD (7/30)
Introducing Acura's new ad tagline: "A continual waste of time, talent and energy, but we're worth a look!" The fact that Acura continues down its path of self-delusion is simply shocking. They keep cramming technology into their vehicles - their latest attempt to make hay in the market right now is to tout the addition of AWD to its TLX and RLX - as if that's going to make a difference. That's playing catch-up. In fact, playing catch-up is what they do best. As I've said many, many times before, Acura supposedly represents the very best of Honda. Really? All signs point to the contrary. The powers that be at Honda's so-called "luxury" division need to face reality, and reality suggests that their piss-poor "design language" - if you can call it that - is absolutely killing them in the market. How can a manufacturer with the reputation of Honda keep launching vehicles into the market that look five years old before they even hit the ground? They seem to want to make the point that design simply doesn't matter, that the inherent goodness within their vehicles is all that people should need. Well, I'm sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Acura needs a complete re-think from top to bottom. And if they can't muster the design firepower - other than the upcoming NSX, which is a smorgasbord of everyone else's design ideas when you really study it - then they ought to just give up. This just in: A complete lack of vision and a tepid level of "excitement" is no way to run a car company. – PMD (8/6)
As for the casual consumers who believe automobiles are no different from refrigerators, overestimating their ability to discern the bullshit from the good stuff is not a value-added activity. Consumer Reports, the holier-than-thou consumer-oriented publication has canonized the Tesla Model S from the outset, anointing it with such praise that all sense of propriety - and rationality - was completely lost somewhere along the way. Consumer Reports ranked the Model S best among all cars on the market in its annual survey of vehicles on U.S. roads last fall. And just over a year ago - in May 2013 - the magazine of automotive pomposity rated the Tesla sedan a 99 out of a possible 100 points, the best rating it has ever awarded an automobile. Now, they're backtracking like a bunch of third-rate lawyers while changing their tune, admitting that the Tesla Model S has had "more than its share of problems." Really? After setting the mainstream media afire and dumping on every other auto manufacturer in the process, the magazine is now singing a different tune? What a bunch of unmitigated bullshit. You can read the laundry list of problems they encountered with their Tesla Model S on their website if you feel like it, but suffice to say that if an "old" American auto manufacturer racked up those kinds of problems the magazine would have crucified it with such glee that it would become a national punching bag for everything wrong about American cars overnight. The real problem in all of this is that the auto manufactures place far too much weight on anything CR says, because the publication has - despite their steadfast insistence otherwise - their own set of biases and predictable proclivities as deep-seated as any other auto publication out there. The manufacturers need to stop giving CR a free pass, because they don't deserve it in the least. – PMD (8/13)
(Images courtesy of Jaguar/newspressUSA) (8/13)
Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations has unveiled its continuation Lightweight E-Type. The hand-built machine is created by skilled Jaguar craftsmen in a new Jaguar Heritage workshop at Browns Lane in England. The new workshop is now open to offer service and restoration of classic Jaguar models.
Dodge is going all-in with the 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat SRT. The 707 horsepower sedan delivers an NHRA-certified quarter mile elapsed time of 11.0 seconds on street tires, 0 - 100 - 0 in under 13 seconds and a top speed of 204 miles per hour, according to the manufacturer, making "the world’s only four-door muscle car" the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan ever built. To help deliver that kind of performance, the Charger Hellcat SRT features a segment-first three mode TorqueFlite heavy-duty eight-speed automatic transmission capable of delivering fuel-efficient street driving and maximum performance track driving with 160 millisecond shifts with rev-matching, the largest brakes ever offered in a Chrysler Group vehicle – 15.4-inch Brembo two-piece rotors with six-piston calipers - 20 x 9.5-inch wide forged aluminum wheels with Pirelli P Zero performance tires and an adaptive damping three-mode suspension. The new SRT Performance Pages allow drivers to tailor the driving experience by controlling horsepower, transmission shift speeds, paddle shifters, traction and suspension. Two key fobs – one black and one red - are part of the package. The red fob unlocks all 707 horsepower. Yee-Ha! (8/13)
It better be good. No, it better be great. GM's Mark Reuss confirmed to reporters yesterday at an event that GM will build a top-line Cadillac to compete with the Audi A8, BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes-Benz S Class. Not an unexpected move by any means - the spectacular Elimiraj concept telegraphed GM's intentions - the addition of a large sedan is crucial to Cadillac for any number of reasons. Most important is the fact that in order for GM's luxury division to project itself as a global luxury player, it needs to compete in the premier luxury segment. Whether this new machine will accomplish that remains to be seen. I do know that in terms of design this new large Cadillac sedan should be a showstopper, especially if they utilize as much of the stunning Elmiraj design language as possible. It's the rest of the machine that will have to deliver on the promise of that design. Are the True Believers at GM capable of designing, engineering and building a great, full-size luxury sedan? Absolutely. Will it actually happen? It's a giant "we'll see" at this point. GM has shown that the company can do great performance cars when they unleash the full measure of the will and talent of their True Believers. But the big bucks luxury space is another game entirely. I am certain of one thing, however, and that is that this car will be the real test of the "new" General Motors that I keep hearing about. And GM has just one shot at it too. – PMD (8/20)
Eau de WTF? The juxtaposition of the following item against the previous item is jarring, but here goes. From the "Say It Ain't So" File comes word that Lincoln has worked with a master perfumer to create their very own showroom scent, "Essence of Lincoln." Not an original idea by any means, as other car companies have tried it, but according to Dennis Carnevale, Lincoln experience training manager, “Essence of Lincoln is a subtle, yet powerful tool for our dealers to use to help clients make an emotional connection to their store and the Lincoln brand.” Huh? "Because the sense of smell is so closely tied to memory, Essence of Lincoln reinforces Lincoln’s brand identity when a consumer encounters it again," the press release says. Right. And wait a sec - "encounters it again"? Does that mean they think I'm going to keep going back to the dealership? Don't I want to buy a car and get the hell out of there? Or maybe they are planning to bottle it and sell it so I can wear the fragrance as well? (I didn't just really type that, did I?) Lincoln desperately needs to create a connection between the brand and consumers - no argument on that point. But a fragrance? Really? We're betting this has everything to do with the push into the Chinese market, but something is getting lost in translation here, big-time. Here's a free idea: How about designing and building cars that people can form an emotional connection with? Last we checked, that was what cars were supposed to do. And I definitely don't need to have an emotional connection with my dealer, thanks anyway. But for the curious out there, Eau de WTF - I mean, Essence of Lincoln - is wafting through the air vents at a Lincoln dealer near you. – WG (8/20)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Dollie Cole, the widow of GM legend Ed Cole, passed away on August 24 in Lockhart, Texas, at the age of 84. Often described as spirited and outspoken - which was anathema for auto executive wives back in the day - Dollie was a genuine piece of work and a legend in her own right. I'm sure those of you out there who are interested will read plenty about Dollie over the next couple of days (Hannah Lutz sums-up Dollie nicely in Automotive News here). Dollie was fiercely protective of Ed, and never hesitated to engage the press if she felt he (and GM) were getting a bad rap. She was a car freak, too, and Ed had her most famous personal driver - a 1965 Nassau Blue Corvette Convertible with White interior, removable hardtop and side pipes - custom-built with a big-block 396 cu. in. V8, a good six months before the big blocks were available for production. She called it her "Blue Bird" and she used to tear around Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham in it, her trademarked blonde tresses clearly visible. I know, because she sent it over to our house a few times for my brother Tony to "borrow" for the weekend. One of those times included a memorable drive back in 1965 to the University of Notre Dame in a caravan consisting of the "Blue Bird," a red 289 Cobra and a GT350 Shelby Mustang. Yes, it was a different time and a different era and the memories remain vivid to this day. I will quibble with one thing about the stories sure to emerge about Dollie in the next week or so, because they all make it sound as if she was the first of the auto executive wives in this town who spoke her mind and was feisty. Not true. Dollie was all of that and more, but she wasn't the original in that department by any means. In fact she couldn't hold a candle to my mother Josephine, who was the true pioneer when it came to being an auto executive wife who was feisty and never hesitated to speak her mind. You could often find my mother bending the ear of a GM chairman or president about various subjects - "Why wasn't GM building more small agile cars" was one of her favorites, among many - much to the delight of the other wives, who would mutter under their breath, "Give 'em Hell, Jo!" and then give their own husbands an earful when they got home. A different time and a different era indeed. – PMD (8/27)
Ford enlisted five top fashion designers from around the world to collaborate with Ford on the Mustang Unleashed collection – a limited-edition line of graphic shirts inspired by the Mustang. Designers include Anna Sui (one of her shirts above); Rogan Gregory and Scott Mackinlay-Hahn of Rogan; Paula Cademartori; Tomaso Anfossi and Francesco Ferrari of CO|TE; and Pamela Love. The limited-edition 15-shirt collection will be available exclusively through Gilt.com www.gilt.com/unleashed, with pre-orders beginning Aug. 26. Each Mustang Unleashed limited-edition shirt will retail for $39. (8/27)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: First it was Johan de Nyyschen leaving Infiniti to run Cadillac, and now it's Andy Palmer, who is leaving the Japanese automaker to run Aston Martin. Just this week Palmer was interviewed in Automotive News saying that Infiniti is "different, personalized and provocative" in his role as chief of Nissan's luxury division after de Nysschen's exit. But Infiniti wasn't provocative enough, apparently, because Palmer has left the building. What's the problem? Well, there are many, but it's easy to zero in on the most critical issues. Nissan's bureaucratic fiefdoms are legendary, and the glacier pace of change - especially when it came to developing new products for Infiniti - served to kill any momentum that the luxury brand hoped to generate. Infiniti will find it difficult to compete in the ultra-competitive global luxury arena with a debilitating internal environment like that getting in the way. But ultimately it all comes down to Carlos Ghosn. He created the systems, he has allowed the hidebound bureaucracies to flourish, and any executive worth his or her chops isn't going to hang around in the hopes that it will get better. This just in, it won't, because Ghosn isn't going anywhere. – PMD (9/3)
Not Good doesn't even begin to cover it. As feared, it was announced today (September 10th) that Luca Cordero di Montezemelo will step down from his role as chairman of Ferrari effective October 13th. He will be replaced by FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne. – PMD (9/10)
Super Cruise This. CEO Mary Barra says that GM will have advanced "Super Cruise" technology available in an unnamed 2017 Cadillac that will allow a vehicle to drive itself on highways at full speed or in stop-and-go traffic. Wow, that's all well and good, but does this sound like a long-term answer for Cadillac's stagnant sales in the market happening right now? No, of course not, but it made for great media coverage after her speech to the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems happening in Detroit this week. No, Cadillac's problems run much deeper than coming up with a package of advanced technology three years hence. The Big Question remains, as in how is it that a car company that is building such excellent driving cars can't figure out how to convince consumers that they're worthwhile to own, or even look at? - PMD (9/10)
(Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)
The new Mercedes-AMG GT is aimed squarely against Porsche. The GT is the second sports car developed entirely in-house by Mercedes-AMG. Featuring a front mid-engine design with a rear transaxle, aluminum construction and a newly developed AMG 4.0-liter biturbo V8 engine, the Mercedes-AMG wants the GT to make quite a splash in the market. The GT features the first sports car engine from AMG with internally mounted turbochargers ("hot inside V") and dry sump lubrication. There are two output ratings available: The "base" GT has 456 hp (340 kW) and the GT S has 503 hp (375 kW). Mercedes claims 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds (preliminary) and a top speed of 193 mph (310 km/h) for the S. Mercedes says that "The new GT combines driving dynamics and first-class racetrack performance with superb everyday practicality and efficiency that sets new standards in the segment." We'll see about that, won't we? (9/10)
Editor's Note: The more I think about Cadillac's alphanumeric naming strategy the more I begin to think it is actually an insult to the consumer - I mean, all it is is shorthand for price and size - a quick way to assess where a vehicle fits in the lineup. You see a "high number" name and think, "Oh, I can't afford that," or you see a "low number" name and that means it's in your price range, etc. But it all ends there. There is nothing in alphanumeric nomenclature to give consumers a feel for the brand or any sort of nuance or idea as to what that particular vehicle is all about. This numbers as names shit is nothing more than a retail positioning strategy that totally tosses branding to the dustbin. –WG (9/24)
The AE Quote of the Year, Part III. GM CEO Mary Barra, who was quoted in The Wall Street Journal on as saying, "GM should be a company where employees go home enthused about a 'really cool project,' instead of complaining, 'I had to go climb Mt. Stupid today to try and get the right thing done.'" Yes, Mary, GM should be a company like that, however, I don't know if you realize it or not - maybe you've been immersed in GM so long you can't see the mountains from the relentless shit storms that are part of the micro climate here - but southeast Michigan is surrounded by mountain peaks. It's called The Pathetic Range and it's made up of Mt. Stupid, Mt. Silo and the volcanic Mt. Stronzo (formerly known as Mt. Lido but the Italians renamed it). There is also Idiot Pass and the pastoral Mediocre Valley, punctuated by the majestic Go Along To Get Along river. You really need to get out more. – PMD (10/1)
Chevrolet released performance figures for the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and this just in: It's real fast. The machine has 650HP/650 lb-ft of torque and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 2.95 seconds when equipped with the all-new, available eight-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. The figure is 3.2 seconds with the standard seven-speed manual transmission. The quarter-mile sprint takes 10.95 seconds with the eight-speed automatic and 11.2 seconds with the seven-speed manual. The Corvette Z06 hits 127 mph at the end of the quarter-mile with both versions. As for braking performance, the Z06 can stop from 60 mph in only 99.6 feet. That’s the best braking performance of any production car GM has ever tested. The Corvette Z06 also achieves 1.2 g in lateral acceleration compared with the Corvette’s previous best of 1.13 g. A key tidbit? The new Z06 is also the fastest production car ever tested at GM’s 2.9-mile Milford Road Course, beating the record set by the Corvette ZR1 by a full second. All test results were achieved with Z06 coupes fitted with the Z07 Performance package, which adds Brembo carbon ceramic brake rotors and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. The Z07 package also features the most aggressive aerodynamic package available on the Corvette Z06, which delivers the most downforce of any production car GM has ever tested. The 2015 Corvette Z06 coupe goes on sale in in early 2015 priced at $78,995, while the Z06 convertible goes on sale in the second quarter, priced at $83,995. (10/1)
Editor's Note: Okay, so two weeks ago we have the Cadillac press release saying that "Cadillac’s mission is to reinstate the brand to a pre-eminent position among global luxury brands" and announcing that Cadillac is moving its headquarters to New York, because "there is no city in the world where the inhabitants are more immersed in a premium lifestyle than in New York." Fast forward to this past Monday, and the announcement that Cadillac has partnered with American Airlines "to offer a broad series of exclusive benefits to travelers, ranging from luxury, on-site airport transfers to AAdvantage miles earning opportunities to Cadillac exhibits at major airports." Test drive a Cadillac, earn frequent flyer miles on American! Wow. Is it just me, or does this seem to be a bit of a disconnect with the lofty goals of the "new" Cadillac? There were several highlights in the press release, like this quote from Suzanne Rubin, president of the AAdvantage Loyalty Program. "American and Cadillac are two iconic American brands, both in the process of redefining the contemporary American luxury experience.” American Airlines, seriously? Iconic? Redefining the contemporary American luxury experience? Let's move on. "Traveling in style is a shared interest of premium customers the world over," said Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac's chief marketing officer. Um, excuse me, Uwe, been on a commercial flight lately? Anyone who thinks that modern day air travel - other than by private jet - is a luxurious endeavor is kidding themselves. And so is Cadillac. But let's leave the last word to Johan de Nysschen, discussing the decision to move to New York in Automotive News: "We must develop corporate processes, policies, mindsets, behaviors, attitudes, which are right-sized for Cadillac. … No distractions. No side shows. No cross-brand corporate considerations. … Just pure, unadulterated CLASS." Why do I get the feeling that things are not getting off to a particularly auspicious start here? – WG (10/8)
In our “Quick Take” review of the BMW X4 I said that it drives like an authentic BMW, which is saying something. I don't much care for the continued degradation of the sacred "M" designation, however, with BMW basically foisting off "M" cosmetics as being "authentic" to make some cash, but all the manufacturers are doing it and BMW is not immune from the temptation. It's flat-out wrong, though, make no mistake about it. And I believe that somehow the German performance gods are going to come down and smack BMW for dumbing-down the vaunted "M" designation. As Chris Rock so eloquently puts it, "It Ain't Right." – PMD (10/8)
It was a lot easier to take Chrysler off of the government's hands, wasn't it, Sergio? The Great Sergio takes the unified FCA to Wall Street, and the response was underwhelming to say the least. Too much smoke and mirrors, too many huge gaps in his fantasy "Plan" and too much skepticism in general to impress the Wall Street sharks. Those sharks are savvy enough to see that selling Jeeps and pickup trucks is one thing, betting on the come that Alfa Romeo can achieve even a shred of the success promised is quite another. = PMD (10/15)
The heart of the matter? The Cadillac ATS Coupe is every bit as impressive as any 3 Series you'll drive, save for the full "M" models (not the packages, the models). And therein lies the challenge facing Cadillac. How do you get buyers with 20 and 30 years of accumulated preconceived notions about the driving goodness of BMWs to even look at the new ATS Coupe, let alone consider one? It's much, much more than conducting the obligatory "butts in seats" marketing programs, it's getting at the hidebound culture of enthusiast motoring in this country - which states that German performance machines are still far superior to anything else on the road - an idea that Cadillac, despite the magnificence of the V-Series models, will have to crack if they ever hope to breakthrough the Euro luxury-performance clutter. – PMD (10/15)
WTF? Mary, give it a rest. Michael Millikin, GM's chief counsel, abruptly announced his retirement last week, a move that surprised no one if you've been following the whole GM ignition interlock recall fiasco. Millikin, vilified by various U.S. Senators at the infamous Congressional hearings early this past summer after it was discovered that the GM legal staff had been aware of the ignition problem for years before GM bothered to do anything about it - and vigorously defended by Mary Barra with a misplaced sense of loyalty that was beyond painful to watch - is exiting the company at a most opportune time, from his perspective, but it may not be enough for him to escape further ramifications still brewing from the legal fallout of the GM recall. Millikin's heavy-handed conduct was legendary inside GM, and his legal troops at times were feared and loathed because of his orchestrations. Millikin made it his business to know all about the inner workings of GM, so his "Sergeant Schultz Defense," as in "I know nothing," rang hollow, at the very least. I said all there is to say about the situation in my column entitled, "MARY BARRA’S MISPLACED SENSE OF LOYALTY WILL COST HER," from last July, so I won't bother to add to it now, except for the fact that Ms. Barra was still defending Millikin in the press release announcing his departure, which was nonsensical, unnecessary and flat-out uncalled for. Oh well, GM careens around with a level of inertia that is still shocking to behold, and every time Ms. Barra fails to distance herself from the "old" GM "culture" that she regularly decries - as in this case - she looks bad. – PMD (10/22)
A very brief stay in the sun, as a matter of fact. The next-gen Camaro will be built off of the same platform as the Cadillac ATS, which is excellent news. We expect a great package with a hot-looking design, at the very least. The new Mustang better enjoy its place in the sun - for now - because a tauter, more aggressive Camaro in a tidy package will be a force to be reckoned with in the market. (10/22)
From the "Tedious, Thy Name is Chrysler" File comes the second phase of the automaker's marketing campaign for the all-new Chrysler 200, which debuted during the Detroit Lions NFL game on Sunday. After a relentless barrage of the new commercials (Wieden+Kennedy is the agency), we're already tired of seeing them. As Olivier "I'm a genius, just ask me" Francois, Chrysler's chief marketing officer, explained to The Detroit News, "It's not traditional. It's not even in the English language... I think this is an attention-getter." Huh? "The message is still the same, but its details progress," Francois continued. "We started with Detroit is back, then we evolved to America is back… and now it's the next step, America is ready to take on the world." And they're doing it - wait for it - with subtitles!!! You can watch the first three spots (in Japanese and German) here, here and here. More German and Swedish ads to follow (can't wait). Dubbed a quadrilingual (now, there's a word you don't see every day) campaign because the spots are in Japanese, German, Swedish and English, the spots feature a foreign language voiceover who thinks he's describing a German or Japanese automobile, but then is all of a sudden "shocked" to discover that the car in question is American. Wow. "We are a principled company, and we really legitimately would not run a campaign like this without solid product proofs of the car being at par," Francois told the Detroit Free Press. Oh really? This is the same "principled" company that sold its Fiat dealers a bill of goods by demanding that they build separate brick and mortar showrooms for the Fiat 500 because they would be swimming in Alfa Romeos profits by 2014? Right. Spare us the high-minded bullshit, Olivier. "For us, the 200 is setting a benchmark on how we plan on developing cars," Francois continued. Let's see, as reported in the same Free Press article, Chrysler ranked below average in J.D. Power's most recent Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures problems over a three-year period. And the brand placed 12th out of 32 brands in another J.D. Power study, which evaluates the reliability of cars over the first 90 days of ownership (not to mention the fact that in Consumer Reports latest rankings of vehicle reliability, Fiat Chrysler's brands were mired at the bottom of the industry). And let's not forget that the new 200 hasn't exactly set the world on-fire right out of the gate, either. As Francois told the Free Press, "...we wanted to make our product pitch stand out. The twist, the unique twist, is to do it in another language." Really? That's all ya got, Francois? We think the spots say "lame" in any language. And the entire exercise has a distinct air of desperation surrounding it. Here's a tip, Francois: Put your autographed "genius" glasses down for a moment and come to the realization that you sell Jeeps and trucks, period. Because that's really all you got. Everything else is a frickin' tedious afterthought. – PMD (10/29)
The Great Sergio is going to milk this thing for all it's worth. Fiat plans to spin off Ferrari and list a 10 percent stake in the U.S. stock market and possibly a European exchange as well. The remaining 90 percent will be distributed among FCA shareholders. No surprises here. (10/29)
The Lincoln Motor Company struck marketing gold with its ads for the MKC, starring Matthew McConaughey. Nicely shot and executed, the spots have had a huge impact, and that was before Jimmy Fallon and Ellen did parodies. And now - on Saturday Night Live this past weekend - Jim Carrey has delivered the best parody of all. (Watch it here.) Lincoln has benefited both ways, because the spots have been well received on their own and the parodies have only fueled the attention to the brand. – WG (10/29)
At times, machines developed for the SEMA Show can be a spectacular bazaar of creativity and blue-sky dreaming with fantastic results. At other times you come upon something horrifying like this: It's called the 2015 Toyota Sienna DUB Edition, which is a tragic exercise in irrelevance. Wow. (10/29)
There is goodness in substance, longevity and consistency. What the Morgan Motor Company does isn't everyone's cup of tea when it comes to automobiles, but there's no denying that with an industry capable of cranking out massive amounts of automobiles by the day, the detail and craftsmanship expressed at Morgan is tremendously appealing. Watch a fascinating video of how Morgan does it here. (11/5)
But hey, we better get used to it, because it's going to be all about Dan from this day forward. GM PR began a new charm offensive on behalf of Dan "I'm Gonna Be The Next GM Chairman, Watch Me" Ammann, so the obligatory interview in The Wall Street Journal appeared with the headline, "Would You Buy a Cadillac From This Man?" whereupon Ammann basically takes credit for all of the good things happening at GM right now. Funny, there's no mention of Johan de Nysschen, the true architect of the new Cadillac, or his momentous role in Cadillac's future. – PMD (11/12)
A giant, steaming bowl of Not Good any way you look at it. Not that we, for one second, believed that GM's ignition recall fiasco would fade quietly into the night, but the latest revelations that the company placed a massive replacement parts order relating to the ignition switches a couple of months before notifying anyone is not only more than a little troubling, it just added several billion dollars more to GM's final bill. It also brings the whole "What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?" discussion squarely to the forefront all over again. (11/12)
Say it ain’t so, Ian! From the "It's A SUV/Crossover World After All" File comes word that sports cars may never find as many buyers as they did in the market's glory days before the global recession. As reported by Bloomberg, Ian Robertson, the head of sales for BMW said in an interview at the company's headquarters in Munich, "The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be. Post-2008, it just collapsed. I'm not so sure it'll ever fully recover." - PMD (11/12)
Steve Shannon, who was Hyundai's marketing chief up until last week, has exited the company. Steve's a good, talented man and this is no reflection on him in the least. Everyone leaves Hyundai sooner or later. Mainly sooner, in fact. Hyundai is forever a transient stop in this business - just another station on the swirling maelstrom of shit that defines much of this business - and it always will be. – PMD (11/19)
According to Lexus, "this is what happens when we take our signature look ...which is critical to our identity in the luxury market ... and incorporate it into a fun 'what if' concept." The result? The LF-C2. We call it the Gold Member Special Edition. He loves GOLD! (11/19)
A new Mustang GT350 is upon us. Ford says: "The all-new Shelby GT350 Mustang, featuring the most powerful naturally aspirated Ford production engine ever, is a world-class performance vehicle, designed to tackle the planet’s most challenging roads – an all-day track car that’s also street legal." Ford engineers took pains so that every component and shape is optimized to work in concert; balance is the key with the new GT350. “When we started working on this car, we wanted to build the best possible Mustang for the places we most love to drive – challenging back roads with a variety of corners and elevation changes – and the track on weekends,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “Every change we made to this car was driven by the functional requirements of a powerful, responsive powerplant – nimble, precise handling and massive stopping power.”
The new 5.2-liter engine is the first-ever production V8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft. Unlike a traditional V8, where the connecting rods are attached to the crankshaft at 90-degree intervals, this design evenly spaces all crank pins at 180-degree intervals. “The final product is essentially an all-new powerplant unique to GT350 – and one that takes true advantage of the new chassis dynamics of the Mustang platform,” said Jamal Hameedi, chief engineer, Ford Global Performance Vehicles. The result is the most powerful naturally aspirated production Ford engine ever, at more than 500 horsepower (Ford isn't saying exactly how much), with a torque peak above 400 lb.-ft. The track capability is enhanced by the output characteristics of the engine as the 5.2-liter V8 features an exceptionally broad torque curve. Combined with its high-revving ability, the flat-plane 5.2-liter V8 gives drivers an enormous amount of performance and flexibility within each gear of the lightweight six-speed manual transmission, according to Ford. A standard Ford-tuned Torsen limited-slip differential optimizes cornering grip and straight-line traction. “Make no mistake, this is an American interpretation of a flat-plane crankshaft V8, and the 5.2-liter produces a distinctive, throaty howl from its four exhaust tips,” said Hameedi.
“Everything we changed on GT350 is purely functional-driven design, with the goal of improving the overall performance of the car,” said Chris Svensson, Ford design director, The Americas. “We optimized the aero shape of the car, and then fine-tuned what was left to increase downforce and cooling airflow.” All bodywork from the windshield forward is unique to the GT350 and is up to two inches lower than Mustang GT. The new aluminum hood has been lowered and sloped, and is tightly wrapped around the engine for the smallest possible aerodynamic signature. The fascia has been resculpted to provide the aggressive lower front splitter with maximum pressure and a ducted belly pan delivers significant downforce. The hood outlet acts as a heat extractor while also reducing underhood lift at high speed. At the rear, much of the engineering was focused on creating an aggressive functional diffuser doing double duty to increase downforce and provide cooling air to the optional differential cooler, and a subtle lip spoiler across the trailing edge of the decklid increases downforce without adding excess drag. Other stuff? Recontoured aluminum front fenders accommodate the wider front track and wider wheel arches. Front fender vents work with vented inner fenders to draw out turbulent air in the wheel wells and smoothly direct it down the side of the car. The forward-angled grille is designed with individual openings to draw air through the radiator, high-pressure engine air intake, cooling ducts for the front brakes and, optional with the Track Pack, an engine oil cooler and a transmission cooler.
Torsional stiffness is increased 28 percent over the previous model. Front stiffness is further improved on the GT350 with a carbon fiber composite grille opening and optional lightweight tower-to-tower brace. The front track has been increased while spring rates and bushings have been recalibrated all around, with ride height reduced compared to Mustang GT. The GT350 features two-piece cross-drilled iron discs mounted to aluminum hats. At the front are 394-millimeter rotors clamped by Brembo six-piston fixed calipers with integrated caliper bridges, while 380-millimeter rotors at the rear utilize four-piston calipers. GT350 makes use of extra-stiff 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels – 10.5 inches wide in front, 11.0 inches in the rear – clad in state-of-the-art Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires with GT350-specific sidewall construction, tread face and compound. The custom tires are designed to deliver maximum grip on the road or at the track. The GT350 also utilizes the first-ever Ford application of continuously controlled MagneRide dampers. (11/19)
From the "They Don't Call 'Em Marketing Geniuses For Nothin'" File, Bloomberg is reporting that BMW AG has decided that Mini has gotten too big and will shrink the compact brand's lineup to five models from eight. Wow, this passes for a revelation? Oh, but they didn't just stop with renewing their interest in marketing common sense, oh no. Because now Mini will, according to its brand honcho, Peter Schwarzenbauer, focus on "superhero" vehicles including the three- and five-door versions of the basic hatchback, the Countryman crossover and the Clubman wagon, which will be revamped next year. "Like a superhero, each of these cars has its own personality and unique capabilities," said Schwarzenbauer in a speech prepared for an event near BMW's Munich headquarters, as Bloomberg reported. "It is important to find the right balance between growth, on the one hand, and profitability, on the other." Really? This is yet another revelation? Beyond pathetic. – PMD (11/26)
Editor's Note: It was announced today that uber-luxury magazine and lifestyle empire Robb Report has been acquired by Detroit-based private equity firm Rockbridge Growth Equity, cofounded by businessman Dan Gilbert (the guy who's been buying up Detroit real estate at a prodigious rate for the last several years). So, let's see, Detroit is good enough for the Robb Report but not good enough for Cadillac? Now, granted, Robb Report headquarters will remain in Malibu, CA, but an office will be opened in downtown Detroit. Apparently Gilbert doesn't view Detroit as an impediment to reaching and communicating with the upper echelon of luxury consumers. – WG (12/3)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Yes, interesting news. I don't genuflect before Gilbert's presence like every other boot-licking, card-carrying member of the local media does, because Glibert couches all of his blatant land grabs that he's been orchestrating in the city for the last several years as some sort of altruistic quest to resurrect Detroit, which is unmitigated bullshit. The guy is betting on the come, pure and simple, and I'm frankly tired of the rote canonization that goes on in the local media every time he opens his mouth or buys another property. As for opening a Robb Report office here, it's not exactly a ringing endorsement of Cadillac's move to Manhattan, is it? In retrospect, I, too, would have moved Cadillac away from GM's RenCen monolith headquarters, but I would have made sure the new Cadillac HQ was at least within an hour's drive from the GM Tech Center and GM Design, and of course the Milford Proving Ground. Having Cadillac's headquarters in Manhattan is a style play, and it ultimately will have nothing to do with the efficacy or integrity of the product. And make no mistake; the future of Cadillac rests with the excellence of the product. Period. – PMD (12/3)
Aston Martin together with EON Productions, the producers of the James Bond film franchise, have unveiled Bond's new ride - the Aston Martin DB10 - on the 007 stage at Pinewood Studios. Bond will once again drive an Aston Martin in Spectre, which will make its debut on November 6, 2015. For this new Bond film, Aston Martin is developing a custom model built in-house specifically for the film by the brand's design and engineering teams at Aston Martin's Gaydon headquarters. Led by Aston Martin Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman, the design team worked closely with the film's director, Sam Mendes, to create the ultimate car for the world's most famous spy. The DB10 "gives a glimpse to the future design direction for the next generation of Aston Martins," according to the manufacturer. Production will be strictly limited to 10 of the bespoke sports cars. (12/3)
The 2015 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year award finalists were announced yesterday. The cars? The Ford Mustang, Hyundai Genesis and VW GTI. The trucks (or kinda, sorta, truck-ish)? The Chevrolet Colorado, Ford F-150 and Lincoln MKC. Is this award a big deal? To the manufacturers who win, it doesn't suck. And for the journalists involved it helps justify their existence once a year. But beyond that, in a world overrun with a smorgasbord of car awards each year, it doesn't mean all that much. Oh, and do we care? No. - PMD (12/10)
(Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz/newspressUSA)
Cue the song: "Anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you... No you can't, yes I can, no you can't, yes I can..." Therein lies the constant ebb and flow of the age-old battle between BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The latest scrum? Mercedes-Benz has decided that the BMW X6 just cannot be allowed to exist by itself one minute longer, so it is introducing the GLE Coupe. In the U.S. market, the top-line Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC Coupe features a biturbo V6 engine with 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. In addition to standard equipment like the DYNAMIC SELECT dynamic handling control system, the Sports Direct-Steer system and the driver assistance systems typical of the brand, the GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC Coupe comes standard with the 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive. Mercedes says that the new GLE Coupe "displays a highly individual interpretation of the physiognomy and light-footed approach typical of this family of vehicles." Huh? - PMD (12/10)
(Image courtesy of Ford/newspressUSA)
Ford began shipping the new Mustang convertible to dealers. Spring is only 95 days away. (12/10)
(Digital illustration by Casey Shain - artandcolourcars.blogspot.com)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Our old friend Casey "art and colour" Shain sent us another selection of his digitally enhanced - and wonderful - automotive images (my favorite? the Mercedes 280S). We know the design community gets a kick out of seeing Casey's creativity, so we're pleased to present his latest work, along with his commentary. The example above is a Camaro LT hatchback, as Casey says, "To bring back glass for visibility, plus a practical hatchback." Enjoy. - PMD
(Digital illustration by Casey Shain - artandcolourcars.blogspot.com)
Corvette eGT: Run silent, run deep, a plug-in version of America's sports car.
(Digital illustration by Casey Shain - artandcolourcars.blogspot.com)
Mustang Heritage Glassback: Recalling the initial mid-engine Mustang's lines with a "basket-handle" look and other retro cues brought up to date.
(Digital illustration by Casey Shain - artandcolourcars.blogspot.com)
Lincoln Continental: Uber sports luxury "saloon" with 3-piece retracting backlight recalling classic Lincolns and Mercurys in a new way.
(Digital illustration by Casey Shain - artandcolourcars.blogspot.com)
Buick Limited sedan: Stepping up from the LaCrosse in the same way the Limited was once a step up from the Roadmaster.
(Digital illustration by Casey Shain - artandcolourcars.blogspot.com)
Cadillac Fleetwood sedan: Slated above the XTS with RWD/AWD in a modified 3-box design although I'm pretty sure the real one coming will be a fastback like the XTS.
(Digital illustration by Casey Shain - artandcolourcars.blogspot.com)
Lamborghini MPV: Just in case the Italians have a sense of humor after all...
(Digital illustration by Casey Shain - artandcolourcars.blogspot.com)
Mercedes 280S: Completely reinventing MB's current over-the-top angular flying doorstop design language. Sensuous curves, ample glass area and aero-superiority so MB can stop being the German Lexus these days.