I am in Tokyo for a simple reason: Love. Being here also is made easy due to the fact that nowhere in the world can you cover the world’s automotive industry with greater ease than in Tokyo. Companies that are in charge of about a third of the world’s automotive output are not more than a few subway stations apart. Sure, companies like Toyota or Mazda officially are headquartered elsewhere, but they have substantial presences in Tokyo. From where I live, it’s 45 minutes to Toyota, 30 minutes to Honda, 30 minutes to Nissan in Yokohama. All by train, few people still drive in the world capital of cars. [Continue Reading]
After decades of slogans like “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” and “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet,” General Motors GM +1.27% has retreated from its overtly patriotic marketing approach since emerging from government-funded bankruptcy. Maybe that was a wise move, given that American taxpayers paid for the $50 billion bailout of “Government Motors” and not all of them were happy about it.
But another dynamic also seems to be at work: The auto maker has fundamentally shifted its focus. American taxpayers may have rescued GM during its moment of need, but it is China that is disproportionately benefiting from the bailout of America’s erstwhile automotive icon. [Continue Reading]
Where did the names of Volkswagen’s Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo come from? What is their meaning? For four decades, it was shrouded in mystery. Forty years later, a famous former Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Carl Hahn, and his illustrious former sales chief, “WP” Schmidt, help us get to the bottom of an unsolved question. [Continue Reading]
Of all the issues broached in the presidential campaign, the auto-industry rescue of 2008-09 stands out as an example of the triumph of spin over facts.
Keying off the New York Times’s headline for Mitt Romney’s 2008 op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” President Obama has argued that the only alternative to his “bold” rescue of General Motors and Chrysler would have been a disorderly liquidation of the entire U.S. auto industry. Yet a close reading of Mr. Romney’s op-ed reveals that his proposal was actually quite similar to the course of action the president took, right down to government funding of the bankruptcy reorganization process and warranty backstops. [Continue Reading]
WHEN President Obama announced in March 2009 that his administration would guide General Motors and Chrysler through a government-financed bankruptcy, he made it clear that the taxpayers’ $80 billion would buy nothing less than a sweeping transformation of the entire auto industry. [Continue Reading]
Note: This op-ed disturbed GM a lot. Ed wrote it for the New York Times when he and I were at TTAC. While we were still talking, GM’s Selim Bingol complained to me that the story is unfair, and that a car can’t possibly be a lemon before it’s launched. I replied that I’m not the New York Times, and to complain there. Soon, there was no more talk.
GENERAL MOTORS introduced America to the Chevrolet Volt at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show as a low-slung concept car that would someday be the future of motorized transportation. It would go 40 miles on battery power alone, promised G.M., after which it would create its own electricity with a gas engine. Three and a half years — and one government-assisted bankruptcy later — G.M. is bringing a Volt to market that makes good on those two promises. The problem is, well, everything else.
GENERAL MOTORS raised more than a few eyebrows last week by announcing plans to repay what it describes as $6.7 billion in outstanding loans to taxpayers. So provocative was this announcement that it all but overshadowed the real news of the day: G.M. had lost $1.2 billion since exiting bankruptcy in July, and its fourth-quarter results were expected to be worse.
The company’s chief executive, Fritz Henderson, called the repayment plan “a personal commitment.” The Obama administration, wardens of the 60 percent taxpayer stake in the company, declared itself “encouraged” by the news. Many commentators followed suit. But in the premature rush to herald the beginning of the end of the government’s involvement in the auto industry, a number of key considerations were left out. [Continue Reading]
Did you ever hold a 70s vintage Volkswagen car catalog in your hands? You know, the ones without a picture of a car on the cover? Just “The Rabbit,” “Der Käfer,” “Le Golf?” One distinct color per model, that’s it? Yes, those were the handiwork of yours truly. Making them was dangerous business. Those catalogs left dead bodies behind. [Continue Reading]