December 7, 2011
Sergio Marchionne. Editor-in-Chief's Note: He tells Reuters why the launch of the Fiat 500 went sideways saying, "To be perfectly blunt, the launch was poorly executed because we had a car way earlier than distribution was available," Marchionne said. "We launched too early. It would have been a better launch in January 2012 than in January 2011." Wow. Really? I'm sure the Fiat dealers who shelled out all that money to build "exclusive" Fiat showrooms are absolutely thrilled to hear that. It's nice to see that Sergio categorically refuses to own up to the fact that the Fiat launch was a non-starter because of him. It was his plan, it was his call, and it was his piss-poor decision-making that caused the botched launch of Fiat and cost Fiat dealers a bundle of cash. In short, he screwed it up, big time. But is he going to admit that? Nope. Notevergonnahappen. - PMD
The Wall Street Journal. Editor-in-Chief's Note: In case you're wondering about the efficacy of modern day journalism, let's just say that there's a spectrum of quality out there. Some news sources consistently deliver a quality product, and some never do. But you learn to expect that, for the most part, decent sources get it right more often than not. But when a news source gets a story so fundamentally wrong it makes you wonder. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal ran with a story that the "process" to find a successor for Alan Mulally at Ford had begun, then proceeded to name the usual suspects who have been named months ago in countless previous articles (Lewis Booth, Mark Fields, Jim Farley, Joe Hinrichs) and even added a couple of names of their own (Phil Martens, John Krafcik). Except that there's no story here. There's no new urgency to this process, no new discussions, no news period. Will Alan Mulally leave eventually? Of course. But there are no wheels turning or churning in Dearborn at Ford World Headquarters right now. And the moment the WSJ mentioned Phil Martens and John Krafcik, any credibility attached to this story went right out the window. Phil Martens? Please. -PMD
The Lemmings in the Media. Yes, you know who you are. You all ran with the above story as if it were news and you all came off looking like total buffoons in the process. We realize that's a natural state for many of you, but, really?
Toyota. The company is moving some of the global marketing functions for Lexus to California, according to Automotive News. They're starting with a small office at first, but we're betting that will change almost immediately and Lexus will be fully ensconced in SoCal in no time. The question is, what took them so long? Because if they don't get their arms around what's ailing Lexus here, they'll never figure it out.
Shahid Kahn. From the "Bumpers Been Good To Me" File comes word that the 61-year-old owner of automotive supplier Flex-N-Gate (a developer and manufacturer of automotive bumper technology) has bought the Jacksonville Jaguars for $760 million.
Aptera. A final "up" arrow for Aptera, the bold California-based electric vehicle manufacturer that closed its doors last Friday. Just when the company needed critical funding to develop a mid-sized sedan (its Jetsonesque three-wheeled design was intriguing but a non-starter in the market), investor interest in EV company start-ups waned. Paul Wilbur, Aptera CEO and a veteran of Chrysler and ASC (and an old friend of ours) had this to say: "A couple of years ago, there were a lot of people who thought the automobile industry is easy. It isn't." Amen, Paul. Amen. And that's our AE Quote of the Week.
Subaru. Subaru executives are giddy with the thought that their new BRZ sports car (that it shares with Toyota's Scion division) will be a game changer, and they're absolutely convinced that it will alter their image dramatically. They're way too close to it to believe any different, of course, but it's nevergonnahappen.com. The enthusiasts out there who got off on the whole junior rally racer shtick that Subaru did so well over the years will give it a look, but the BRZ will not do anything to fundamentally change Subaru's mainstream image as a purveyor of pet-friendly station wagons for active people one iota. Not one.
John Maloney. Volvo promoted the industry veteran to CEO of Volvo Cars, U.S. last week. Maloney has been with Volvo for over a decade. A marketing and planning specialist, Maloney has more than 28 years of experience in the biz with Volvo and Ford. Maloney told Automotive News that, "My style is that I love everything that is cars and automotive. I am very competitive in helping Volvo win." Ah, we love the smell of optimism in the morning. Good luck keeping that big "MO" going for Volvo in this market, John. You'll need it.
Dodge Dart. Automotive News is reporting that Fiat-Chrysler has decided to call its new compact the Dart. Well, it's better than Hornet at least.
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Our good friend Casey Shain (aka "artandcolour") is at it again with a series of new "chops" as he likes to call them. Here are his comments: "I know you don't run older cars, but I thought you'd like to see some of my 60s Cadillacs, so I'm including a couple. One is a 2 door pillarless wagon for the Rat Pack, the Esprit de Ville, and the other is what a 'B-body' Cadillac would have looked like had they been produced in '68, sort of a modern-day Series 61 or LaSalle. I think the '68 GM B-coupe roofline really works with the Caddy! These are all sort of out there on a limb, a wooden limb, perhaps. A few are production-like, though." Always provocative and compelling, Casey's "chops" are very popular with our friends in the design community, and with us. We hope you enjoy his latest creative explorations. - PMD
2013 Audi A4 Allroad: Black Forest Edition with body side Black Walnut micro-veneers. Body has been re-proportioned and lowered.
2013 Audi TT eTron: Bold new concept for the next generation TT coupe. The cautious facelift of the second generation is tossed aside for this 21st century Plug-in hybrid, all-wheel drive, sports coupe. Based on the Audi eTron speedster concept.
2013 Buick LaCrosse Centurion coupe: A re-proportioned large Buick coupe. Based on the just-seen GL concept car, this top-of-the-line coupe would set the stage for a later, reborn RWD Riviera, and full-sized Plug-in hybrid sedan, the Electra.
2013 Cadillac 60-Special: Plug-in hybrid, long wheelbase XTS will bring back the classic 60-Special nameplate, but today "60" refers to the number of miles of pure electric (no gas) driving achievable, 60, almost doubling the Volt's advertised 35 miles. Fender skirts make a comeback as Aerospats, and help lower the drag to .21.
2013 Ford Taurus SHO coupe: I was thinking of Ford's classic coupe roof lines of the 1960s, the '63 1/2 Galaxie slant back, the '66 Fairlane 500/XL coupe, the '67 Galaxie 500/XL coupe. They all had almost parallel, slim C pillars, with great visibility and high style. This SHO coupe was meant to evoke those earlier, highly-desirable, Ford coupes. I'm not sure why there isn't a large Ford coupe. Even the most powerful SHO coupe wouldn't compete with the Mustang. There is room for both in the lineup.
2013 Lincoln Continental sedan: Based on the Lexus LF/A sports car (yes, seriously), this clean-sheet design is for a large RWD/AWD EcoBoost-powered Hybrid sedan.
2013 Lincoln Continental sedan: Based on the 2006 MKR concept car with a taller roof line and longer trunk, this close-coupled Continental sedan would be the Hot Rod Lincoln of the early 21st century.