Audi’s Chief Engineer Doomed By Dieselgate, Again

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R&D chief of the German premium brand Audi used to be the dream job of any engineer. Dieselgate has turned it into a suicide mission. Audi’s chief engineer Stefan Knirsch is at the end of his career only nine months after taking the job, German media reports. This would be Audi’s second R&D boss to lose his job over dieselgate. Volkswagen’s statements that the cheat was the work of a few rogue engineers, and that nobody at the top had any idea, turn into a bad joke.

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Hallway Radio: Audi’s Stadler next #dieselgate victim, replacement ready

What, me worry? Yes, a lot.

What, me worry? Yes, a lot.

NOxious #dieselgate emissions have decimated rows of Volkswagen managers. Now, the deadly diesel discharges are beginning to poison careers of top managers at Audi. After Monday’s revelation that Audi-developed 3 liter diesels also contain cheater-software, Audi’s CEO Rupert Stadler has come under intensive fire. Volkswagen chief Matthias Müller is livid, Volkswagen’s hallway radio says. Müller trusted Stadler’s solemn vow that Audi is clean, and he looks like a liar. Stadler doesn’t think of stepping down, German media says, but the hallway radio already has a candidate for Stadler’s throne. [Continue Reading]

Will Cadillac defect Detroit, and take Manhattan? GM says it’s “possible.”

New perspectives for Cadillac

New perspectives for Cadillac.

According to usually reliable contacts close to the upper echelons of GM management, the company is thinking very seriously about moving its premium brand Cadillac from grungy Detroit to swank Manhattan. [Continue Reading]

That hurts: Chinese government punishes Audi and Chrysler for price fixing. More fines to come

Winterkorn in Beijing - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Foreign brands own more than 70 percent of the world’s largest car market China, and they are taking home outsized profits. China’s government is putting an end to this. China’s antitrust regulator, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), found Audi and Chrysler guilty of monopoly practices. “They will be punished accordingly in the near future,” NDRC spokesman Li Pumin told Reuters. The still unannounced fines can be up to 10 percent of the automaker’s domestic annual sales revenue. [Continue Reading]

Gallery of rare Nissan Skylines shows: The path to Audi’s success was long and arduous. Surprisingly, Nissan is already halfway there

1957 Nissan Skyline Deluxe

1957 Nissan Skyline Deluxe

When Nissan showed its turbo-powered “200GT-t” Skyline to the Japanese media today, I did not need to speak Japanese  to understand what they are driving at. “Premium” was about every second word spoken during today’s launch at Nissan’s waterfront test track in Oppama. Seeking to spice up its earnings with a little of that secret Audi sauce, Nissan wants to shed its commoner image and enter the rarefied strata of the premium car market. If you think that’s a joke, you should have been there (as I was) when Audi tried the same, in the last century. Against all odds, and many decades later, Audi succeeded. Volkswagen’s premium brand sold 1.6 million units globally last year, 16 percent of the Volkswagen Group total. When it comes to profits, however, Audi is the biggest contributor to Volkswagen AG’s bursting coffers. That gets automakers thinking.

Nissan is not alone in its desire to sell cars with extra pricing power under the hood. Whenever quarterly numbers are announced, the world’s auto executives want to be like Audi. [Continue Reading]

Does Beijing-Shanghai Tension Spell Trouble For GM and VW?

Jiang Zemin and the Communist Youth League, in happier times.

Jiang Zemin and the Communist Youth League, in happier times.

 

Ever since the dramatic 2012 downfall of the colorful Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai, the Western press has been fascinated with China’s “princeling” plutocrats and the Central Government’s efforts to restrain them. No wonder: the battle is China’s basic political division, pitting the bureaucratic and ideological power of the Beijing Central government against the economic power of Southern Chinese entrepreneurs centered around Shanghai. Under former Shanghai mayor Jiang Zemin, China opened rapidly to the foreign investment that spurred decades of florid economic expansion… and sowed the seeds of China’s major political problems, corruption, inequality and environmental ruin. The downfall of Bo Xilai, a protege of Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai clique and member of its successor “Princeling” clique, was taken as a sign that Xi Jinping is serious about continuing Hu Jintao’s campaign against the ill-gotten gains of the Shanghai boom… a signal that is growing louder as the investigations widen.

Why the ten-cent lecture on Chinese politics? Shanghai’s automotive star rose alongside Jiang Zemin’s, and the city with which the he is synonymous has become one of China’s biggest automotive players and partner to the two biggest foreign presences in China, Volkswagen and GM. If Xi Jinping’s reform movement continues to target Shanghai and  its Princelings, and especially if the investigations draw closer to Zemin himself, automakers could find themselves on awkward ground. Caught between the guanxi (connections) culture of the world’s new largest market for cars and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of what is still the most profitable market for cars, automakers with Shanghai exposure have reason for concern.

[Continue Reading]

Audi sees red. At Mazda. Mazda sees red. At Audi.

Audi red - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt
tmsbannerSomeone at Audi had a great idea for the Tokyo Motor Show: “How about we only show red cars in our booth? Talk about maximized visual impact.” It was a great idea. Until this morning. [Continue Reading]