No. 951
June 20, 2018
 

About The Autoextremist@PeterMDeLorenzo Author, commentator, influencer. "The Consigliere." Editor-in-Chief of Autoextremist.com.

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On The Table


Tuesday
May122009

ON THE TABLE

May 13, 2009

 

The Chrysler Bankruptcy. Well, no one actually thought that the Obama auto industry task force would confine themselves to just the nuts, bolts and finances of Chrysler (and eventually GM), did they? As Jean Halliday reported in Monday’s AdAge, Chrysler was told by the auto task force to spend half of the $134 million it requested on advertising over the nine weeks it is expected to be in bankruptcy. At one point Judge Arthur Gonzalez, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Southern District of New York, asked a witness during a hearing: “Idle plants, why market?” And it had to be explained that Chrysler needed to maintain a presence in the market or it could get even worse for the Auburn Hills bunch. Not to mention the fact that Chrysler dealers out there are dying left and right, and some, fearing they will lose their franchises as a result of the company's consolidation plan, have formed a committee and have hired lawyers to represent their interests, according to Automotive News. Guess what? Even with the so-called "cooperation" of the bondholders, or should we say the coercion of the bondholders, there is still a long way to go before any of these developments can be construed as being "good" for Chrysler.

The RenCen. Publisher's Note: GM's Renaissance Center headquarters, the gleaming tubular complex hard by the Detroit River (which we dubbed "The Tubes" back in the early days of AE, as in, going down the...) is one of the issues being considered by the company to save money. Once upon a time, GM's world headquarters was located in the General Motors Building - at 3044 West Grand Boulevard (north of downtown in the New Center area) - a magnificent structure designed by noted architect Albert Kahn and completed in 1923. In GM's heyday, its imposing and beautiful Detroit headquarters mirrored its ascendancy to iconic American corporate status - with "GENERAL MOTORS" spelled out in giant letters at the top that glowed red at night like a beacon of success - and was a source of pride not only for its employees, but for the city of Detroit as well. But there came a point in the mid 80s when the "old" corporate headquarters in Detroit needed top-to-bottom renovations, so GM started to consider its options. One of those options was to develop a new headquarters building on a massive stretch of land immediately west of its famed Technical Center in Warren, about 25 minutes northeast of the city. But a funny thing happened on the way to committing to Warren, because when the Renaissance Center suddenly became available, GM paid $73 million for the entire property in 1996. The company thought it would be good for the city and a good fit for the company as it wanted to be the focal point of the city's skyline. GM immediately set about renovating and revamping the labyrinth-like complex, which was notoriously difficult to navigate (people got lost in it on a regular basis) and was not considered one of the city's most desirable spots. But $600 million and 13 years later, GM's Renaissance Center headquarters is finally presentable, and the property surrounding it - including a recently completed riverfront walkway - is actually very nice. But now, with GM's fortunes plummeting faster than Superman on a bender, the question of where the new headquarters of a seriously compacted GM should be has been brought up. CEO Fritz Henderson says that nothing is imminent, but the speculation has been rampant ever since the news leaked out on Monday. One scenario has GM selling the RenCen and moving its headquarters to its Technical Center in Warren, which would be the most cost-efficient solution. Another scenario has the company putting the RenCen up for sale but consolidating its offices within the building, using half of its current space. And a third scenario has GM moving its corporate headquarters out of the state completely, to the southeast, south or southwest.  A move by GM out of Detroit would be a huge blow, but it's an idea that could become a reality. Stay tuned. - PMD

The UAW. That it's the "Dead Union Walking" is indisputable at this point, but if you needed any more evidence that the end is near there's this: As first reported by the Associated Press in Shanghai, GM plans to begin exports of vehicles made in China to the United States within two years. The Shanghai Securities News and other reports today suggest that GM intends to sell 17,335 made-in-China small cars like the Chevrolet Spark in the U.S. market by 2011. That number would triple to more than 51,000 by 2014. GM would probably become the first automaker to begin exporting to the U.S. from China, unless another automaker beats them to it.

arrowup.gifarrowup.gifarrowup.gifGTO: Pontiac's Great One. Publisher's Note: A new and very large (10.5" x 12") coffee table book about the Pontiac GTO is making its debut this month, and I will warn enthusiasts right now: It's a must-have book, no matter what your particular auto passion is. Written by Darwin Holmstrom with photography by David Newhardt, GTO: Pontiac's Great One is the definitive record of how the legendary Pontiac GTO came about, complete with anecdotes by the people who were there and who made it happen. Holmstrom's entertaining, informative and appropriately irreverent writing style captures GM's "maverick" division well and gives one of the all-time great American cars ever built its proper due, and David Newhardt's beautiful images of famous GTOs completes the impact of the book. GTO: Pontiac's Great One is jam-packed with information, but as with any great automotive story it's the people who make the legend of the GTO that much more special. Given the death knell of Pontiac, the remembrances and stories of those times brought to life by Holmstrom are especially poignant. And one photo in particular - of Jim Wangers' GTO Judge parked in front of the Fox & Hounds Inn (on Woodward Avenue just south of Long Lake Rd.) - got to me. The Fox & Hounds was a famous watering hole for anyone who worked at MacManus John & Adams (which eventually became D'Arcy MacManus & Masius), the advertising agency that had the Pontiac account in the glory days and that was located just across Woodward Avenue on the corner. There was a reason all of those great ads came out of that ad agency, because it had a ringside seat right on Woodward and if you couldn't "get" Pontiac after hearing the engines roar and smelling the burnt rubber, then you didn't belong there. Anyone who worked on the Pontiac account spent many an afternoon (and on into the very late evening) at "the Fox" dreaming up new ad campaigns, carousing and generally just reveling in an era that was flat-out fun to be a part of. The rest of the story? The Fox & Hounds was torn down over a year ago to make way for a new development that is now stalled in the dismal Michigan economy, and the vacant land is a sad reminder of the Glory Days that aren't likely to return. A different time and a different era indeed. GTO: Pontiac's Great One will be available beginning May 17, 2009, at www.motorbooks.com and www.amazon.com and any major bookstore. I highly recommend it. - PMD

(Photos by David Newhardt)

 

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