No. 744,
April 23, 2014

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On The Table



Editor-in-Chief's Note: What are the three crucial things GM needs right now? 1. The company needs a new PR chief who is strategically savvy, someone who is able to help Mary Barra - a rookie in every sense of the word - navigate the dangerous, media-infested waters and the political quagmire that GM finds itself in. Someone who can see the Big Picture and more important, keep Mary and the entire company on message and focused on the issues that matter. Sound easy? It certainly isn't, but the company needs to fill this need immediately. Julie Hamp's name keeps popping up, so we'll see how this develops. 2. Despite upper management's staunch belief otherwise, GM desperately needs a Chief Marketing Officer. As in Right Now. GM's top executives seem to think Alan Batey (GM's sales chief) can do it in passing and that they don't need anyone in that position, but that's a complete joke because Alan Batey can't even do the job he has now - just ask key GM dealers around the country what they really think of Batey's "talent." This guy is a frickin' disaster that is costing the company dearly, but the problem is that Mary and Co. are so focused on the recall that the urgent needs of the company are getting lost or ignored all together, which is a container ship of Not Good. And 3. GM's Legal Staff needs 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

  Wanxiang. The Chinese auto parts company that bought Fisker hopes to relaunch the Karma by 2015. Why?


From the "Angry Appliances" File: This is the Toyota Aygo. They don't sell it here. And that's all you need to know.

(Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Yes, the automobile business is going crossover crazy. Compact crossovers, sub-compact crossovers and sport coupe crossovers are multiplying at a dizzying rate. This particular sport coupe crossover concept is called the Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupé SUV. "Sensual as a coupé - visionary as an SUV," says Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz. Oh, how I love how these manufacturer PR boffins get creative in describing what's basically an ungainly mishmash of shapes, to wit: "The Concept Coupé SUV stands out thanks to its extreme proportions and in doing so interprets our hallmark Mercedes coupé design idiom perfectly. With its superior sportiness it conveys a sense of modern luxury and aesthetic aspirations of sensual clarity," continues Wagener. Superior sportiness? Sensual clarity? Right. A more accurate release would say the following: You didn't think we were going to let BMW (X6, X4) have that market all to themselves, did you? - PMD

(Photos courtesy of the Lincoln Motor Company)
The Lincoln Motor Company has unveiled its MKX Concept at Auto China 2014 in Beijing. The Lincoln MKX Concept telegraphs the revised MKX that will appear in this market in 2016. It's significant that the unveiling in Beijing marks the first time Lincoln has stepped beyond U.S. borders to reveal a concept vehicle, because Lincoln will ultimately survive or die on its success in the vast Chinese market. It was puzzling, however, that Lincoln chose to show a exterior design study only - without the interior - in a market that is obsessed with interior luxury.


(Photos courtesy of VW)
Volkswagen is displaying the Golf R 400 concept at the Auto China show in Beijing. Based on the standard Golf R hatchback, which has 300 PS in its turbocharged engine and 4MOTION four-wheel drive, the Golf R has 400 PS and an extra 70 Nm of torque, making for 450 Nm in total, available from 2,400 to 6,000 rpm. Developed by Volkswagen R GmbH, the Golf R 400 uses a highly modified version of the engine found in the Golf R with a newly developed turbocharger with a higher maximum charge pressure and reinforced crankcase. A water-cooled exhaust gas feed to the turbocharger integrated in the cylinder head helps to reduce full-load fuel consumption, while variable valve control with dual camshaft adjustment improves economy and performance. The Golf R 400 goes 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds with its six-speed DSG gearbox, one second faster than the standard Golf R. The top speed of the Golf R 400 is 174 mph (governed).
Inside the Golf R 400 are motorsport shell seats with integrated head restraints and belt openings. These are upholstered in cross-quilted panels covered in Alcantara, and "carbon leather," as are the two individual rear seats. Stitching throughout the interior is in contrasting "Lemon Yellow."
At 1,420 kg, the Golf R 400 weighs the same as the standard Golf R. The body is 20 mm wider on each side, however, with flared wheel arches painted in "Silver Flake" metallic, and contrast with the gloss black roof and carbon door mirror caps. New sill extensions are also included.  The wheels are 19-inch alloys with increased offset. A development of the Golf R’s standard "Cadiz" wheels, these highly modified wheels have high-gloss back inserts that act as air vanes, helping to cool the reinforced braking system. The tires are 235/35 R19s. The front bumper has been completely redesigned to increase cooling. A carbon fiber splitter and aerodynamic "wing element" help to push air towards the honeycomb mesh of the grille. The redesigned rear bumper includes vents on each side, and the Golf R’s four tailpipes have been replaced with two centrally mounted pipes. A black double spoiler with LED brake lights atop the tailgate completes the package. The Golf R 400 is only a concept at this stage, says VW, with no production plans.