Toyota, GM. It's a knock-down, drag-out tie. GM announced today total global sales of 9.37 million vehicles in 2007, up 3 percent due to rapid growth outside of North America. "We set a record in China with more than a million vehicles sold. We nearly doubled our sales in Russia to an all-time record of more than 258,000 vehicles delivered. And we set a record in Brazil with nearly a half-million vehicles sold," John Middlebrook, GM vice president of global sales, service and marketing, said in a prepared statement. That means the two auto industry giants are deadlocked at the top. Toyota announced on January 10 that it had sold 9.37 million vehicles in 2007.
BMW. A separate "Green" channel for BMW? You gotta be frickin' kidding, but that's what Stefan Krause, BMW AGs board member for sales and marketing, wondered out loud to Automotive News at the auto show. The last thing BMW needs is to chase its tail by entertaining the notion of bringing yet another channel to the marketplace. Something will cure these guys of wanting to be all things to all people eventually - hopefully - but in the meantime Herr Krause should keep his mumbling meanderings to himself.
Henrik Fisker. We've been waiting for the "magic" to happen from this guy ever since he went off on his own to become a coach builder. We're still waiting. Certain members of the media will continue to fawn over this guy and canonize his every move, and for no good reason that we can see, apparently. And that's fine, man, as The Dude would say. Us? We'll continue to wait and see if the guy actually does anything worth noting a few years from now. But dang, if we ever need a Chief Executive of Smoke and Mirrors, Fisker would be on our short list.
Dan Knott. Chrysler gets at least one thing right by appointing Dan Knott vice president of the Jeep product development team in its newly revamped product development organization. Dan is one of the "best and the brightest" in this business, and it's a great move by Chrysler.
Publisher's Note: Our East Coast correspondent, A.J. Morning, filed this report from the auto show in Washington, D.C., this week. - PMD
“Our mojo is back and we’re not letting it go again...”
Washington D.C. Mark LaNeve, General Motors North America Vice President of Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing, delivered these words during a keynote speech to an assembled Washington press yesterday. Those words – seeming lifted directly from much of what Peter has said in these very pages – indicate that GM in 2008 is not just awake and alert for the first time in possibly a generation, but positively firing on all cylinders and dead serious about taking the fight to the streets.
When asked about GM’s mismanagement of several of its brands, LaNeve didn’t mince words: “If you’re a performance-oriented brand, like Pontiac building performance cars, why would you have a van? Duh? Why would you have an Aztek? Double-duh?”
Yes, he gets it.
He went on to describe how, when meeting with a Senator recently, the Senator stated, “Mark, the problem is that you’ve got to build cars that get 30 miles per gallon.” Incredulous, LaNeve responded “Senator, we already have fifteen of them, right now!”
Clearly, GM intends to show the public (and this week, the assembled group of clueless Feds) that it is still America’s car company. Walking into the well-lit DC Convention Center, GM absolutely dominates the landscape – Chevrolet alone seems to occupy nearly as much space as all of Toyota/Scion and Honda combined on the floor below. The message being delivered this year is really one single note being broadcast by a symphony of existing and emerging technologies: We’re all going green, and there’s no going back.
Every manufacturer seems to have some form or another of ‘green’ technology on display, but none so much as The General. This seems to be the one company above all others that recognizes, in the effort to wrestle ourselves free from the grip of dependence on foreign oil, there is no one magic bullet. Instead, a flurry of technological bullets – with ethanol, partial-electric hybrids, plug-in electrics, and hydrogen fuel cells all making-up various parts of a multi-faceted answer to one of the most complex questions of our time.
To drive the point home, GM offered several of us test drives in a series of fuel-cell powered Chevy Equinoxes. A ten-minute drive on DC streets was enough to make it clear that a truly “green” zero-emissions vehicle can make for an excellent daily-driver. Infrastructure remains to be solved, and hydrogen is definitely years away because of it, but there is no doubt in GM’s commitment to getting the motoring public further away from gasoline and much more into electricity as a means of getting us where we want to go, literally, on a day to day basis.
Several other manufacturers sent out their top brass to DC, with Chrysler’s Jim Press giving a talk to introduce Dodge’s new Ram pickup, Journey crossover-ute, and two-mode hybrid Durango. This was the first time I got to see Press speaking on behalf of Chrysler, and he clearly seems to be both a class act and a knowledgeable car guy – he was able to describe, without the benefit of notes or a teleprompter, practically every nut, bolt, and new feature of the Dodge Journey, Ram, and redesigned Caravan (the rear-end of which looks as if it was restyled by refugees from Kia’s design studio). Press also fielded lots of questions from those assembled, and remained available afterwards to talk shop and discuss some of the finer points of the vehicles (and the industry at large) with inquisitive members of the media. This doesn’t nominate him for sainthood, but it shows there’s at least one guy at the top at Chrysler who Gets It.
The problem is, while GM is showcasing everything from fuel-efficient subcompacts to petrol-hybrids to plug-in electrics to fuel cells – not to mention the new Malibu, which is just a Damn Good Car – all Press could point to at Dodge was a two-mode hybrid for their SUVs, and slight gains in mileage for the big Ram.
I can’t help but wonder, after seeing both men speak, if Jim Press wishes he much more to talk about on the Green front, as Mark LaNeve did so well. Actually, I wonder if Press wished he had more to talk about on any front, the way GM can right now.
They all have their work cut out for them. For too many of the motoring public, “diesel” means big clunky Oldsmobiles spewing huge clouds of smelly black smoke and spending its life at the repair shop – while Audi has spent the last 2 years dominating every major endurance road race in the world with its brilliant TDI racers.
“Hybrid” still makes people think “Prius” (which is, I think, Ancient Greek for “handles corners like a runaway shopping cart”) instead of what Chevy’s Volt promises and their fuel-cell Equinox already delivers: Solid performance without compromise.
Perhaps it was because of the single-minded emphasis by all involved on pushing “the green agenda,” or maybe it was because this is self-important, stuffier-than-thou Washington, but it seemed as if nobody wanted to talk about performance. Yes, Chevy showed this year’s Corvette in both regular and Z06 form, and Ford brought along a Shelby Mustang GT500KR (looking good in blue-on-white, I might add), and Nissan finally showed off its don’t-call-it-a-Skyline GT-R, but nobody is as-yet drawing the intersection of “green” and “high-performance.”In America, the most car-obsessed nation on Planet Earth, that intersection needs to be drawn, mapped, and built. Performance cars are always the most exciting cars on the road, and set the pace for the companies who build them. If we’re going to shake off our dependency on all of that oil that keeps causing us so much trouble in the Middle East, it needs to happen, not in a few years, but today.