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4/1/2005

Lutz Sets Record Straight - GM/Ford Share Slips

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 5:47 pm

A little over a week ago business pages in newspapers across the country, as well as trade rags like Automotive News and consumer mags like Autoweek all ran stories about GM’s Co-Chair Bob Lutz’s statement that depending upon future sales results, the General might actually “kill-off” either Pontiac or Buick. This week on his GM blog Fastlane, he set the record strait and backed way off that statement.

Many of you probably read something to the effect that “GM is considering shedding a brand.” Let me say it now, for the world to hear: No, we have no plans to shed a brand. Period.

To my ears, that was great news, I root for the General. But two items that showed up today portend not such good news for the home town boys.

In two different stories, related news shows that our domestic manufacturers have some extremely high hurdles ahead of them due to escalating gasoline prices and declining market share, due to, you guessed it, high gas prices!

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Regular gasoline pump prices in the United States may average as high as $2.50 by Memorial Day, shattering the records as futures prices climb to new peaks, analysts said on Friday.

U.S. retail gasoline is already running above $2.15 a gallon, well beyond last spring’s peak of $2.05, according to government and industry surveys.

&

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp. (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F) posted weaker March U.S. vehicle sales on Friday, losing further market share to Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. <7203.T and Nissan Motor Co. (7201) as high gasoline prices hurt sales of fuel-thirsty sport utility vehicles.

The two biggest Japanese auto makers recorded double-digit sales gains and their best-month ever, as their aggressive expansion into new segments of the market and fresher lineup of cars and trucks wooed customers away from the U.S. auto makers .

The exodus by car buyers, out of U.S. brands and into those of their foreign rivals, is a worrisome trend for Detroit, where Ford and GM have been struggling to revive profits in their automotive operations.

I love big cars, always have, even though I have owned more than my share of Fiats, Mazdas and small BMWs. I drive a Pontiac Bonneville SSEI at the moment, and it does get about 23-26 mpg on the freeway, but on surface streets, where I drive the most, it struggles to return 12.5 per gallon of premium! That’s wasn’t fun at 2 bucks per, and will be dreadful if/when gas hits $3 later this season, and it most likely will! My lease is up in a month . . . what to get now? There’s a question for you!

[Update: 04/02]
Similar discussions can be found at True Talk Blog, where after meeting Bob Lutz at the Auto Show Tom asks, is there still time for GM to make a comback? While at Auto Muse, E.L. Eversman comments on how detructive soundbites can be.

2/13/2005

Bob Lutz’s Field of Dreams

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 5:05 pm

In his latest FastLane blog post, Field of Dreams, Bob Lutz reveals some of his personal automotive-business history and also announces that a great new era of car design is upon us. Go there and see the pic of the Kadett he turned on its back while he was at Opel in the ’60s! Lutz is truly an industry icon, and those of us that are rooting for GM to finally and completely get its act together wish him all the best. He wraps up by saying:

It makes it a very exciting time to be in this business. Because we’re getting
back to what it’s all about: Building the stuff that dreams are made of.
OK, I’m dreaming of RWD, 400+ HP, 4-seater, IRS, under $40K & great looks — Bring it on, Bob!

2/1/2005

Keystone Restyling Reborn

Filed under: — maiers @ 2:38 pm

We’re proud to announce that Keystone Restyling, one of BTG Motoring’s premiere lines of aftermarket hoods, has joined forces with the manufacturing giant Core Molding Technologies (CMT) of Columbus Ohio. CMT has steadily grown its marketshare in the FRP market and now enjoys relationships with every major North American-based truck manufacturer and leading companies in other segments including the ever growing aftermarket for custom products.

The major changes include the technology used in manufacturing their hoods. The majority of aftermarket hoods available today use the antiquated spray-up/chopper gun method of composite production. CMT employs wet layup of true fiberglass "cloth" which results in a much superior, incredibly stronger final product. Finish times for the installer are therefore minimized as there is much less cleanup and surface prep before final paint and installation.

Keystone Restyling hoods take full advantage of this technology. Their product line includes applications for Chevy, Dodge, Ford and GMC truck lines plus Acura, Honda and Mitsubishi passenger cars. Order fullfilment times have been streamlined by this new alliance and product is now shipping upon demand.

1/31/2005

Where Will Maserati Go?

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 11:25 am

One of the stories in today’s online Automotive News involves Ferrari spinning off Maserati. (subscription required to read story)

Ferrari to spin off Maserati in preparation for its IPO

Hoping to improve its balance sheet, sports car maker Ferrari is expected to approve Monday the spin-off of its loss-making Maserati luxury sports car subsidiary to Fiat group. The move is seen as a preliminary step toward an initial public offering of Ferrari shares later this spring.

What might this mean to us on this side of the pond? A couple of possibilities are:

  • Future Maseratis would be engineered by Fiat or Alfa instead of Ferrari.
  • Maserati and Alfa would get combined and spun off as a luxury-sports group to stand on their own.
  • VW could come back into the picture and get Maserati from Fiat to have access to the new Masser’s alloy body platform.
  • GM could agree to the forced buyout of Fiat now that it would get Maserati, too.

Who knows? Guess we’ll see if Mr. Goodwrench is going to have to learn Italian!

1/27/2005

Pontiac, maybe there’s life after all!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 6:03 pm

[Welcome Fastlane visitors! Take a minute and read our story on Cadillac and then let us know which performance car you would recommend to our friend.]

I am a long time Pontiac enthusiast and was encouraged today to discover on Bob Lutz’s Blog, some insight into the marque’s immediate future. Seems like there is a lot of great new product coming out in the next few years.

I hope they don’t kill the Bonneville as a model name, it would be really cool if they made it a high-performance sports wagon like the Dodge Magnum Hemi! Hopefully they will get the next GTO right, style-wise as the performance is certainly there right now, especially with the new 6.0L powerplant!

Cadillac, You’ve come a long way, Baby!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 5:53 pm

If you’ve been to any of the major car shows these last few years you might just wonder “What the heck is going on at Cadillac"? Even their TV commercials are aggressive and feature Led Zepplin tunes. I mean, Cadillac is an old man’s car, right?.

Well, times do change, and so has Cadillac. At the 1999 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Cadillac introduced the Evoc show car and in 2002 the Cien supercar concept to a stunned automotive press. British designer Simon Cox, inspired by the F-117 Stealth Fighter, penned the Cien to embody the new Art & Science design language of Cadillac. A 750 hp 7.5-liter mid-engined Northstar XV12 gave the look some real grunt.

Cadillac Cien
Cien Show Car - LA Auto Show 2003 - photo: ABDesign

The Evoc foreshadowed the XLR production vehicle, which has been on the streets for a year. XLR, a production sibling of the C6 Corvette, shares the hydroformed frame of the new Vette along with its aluminum honeycomb composite floors, touch to open door latches, and magnetic shock absorber systems, all which debuted on the Caddy.

Cadillac Cien
XLR Production Model - LA Auto Show 2005 - photo: ABDesign

Now Cadillac has launched its “V” series of production performance vehicles. Beginning with the CTS-V, the STS-V will join the fray this fall followed by the XLR-V. Cadillac V-series is much the same as AMG is to Mercedes or “M” is to BMW. “V"-Series models were created for Cadillac to showcase its performance models and parts. The CTS-V was given the LS-6 Vette engine that delivers 400 horsepower and a tire-spinning 395 pound-feet of torque! The new STS-V will feature a supercharged Northstar V8 with 440 hp and 430 lb/ft of torque and a 0-60 time of less than 5 sec. Truly world class performance numbers.

Cadillac Cien
STS-V Performance Model - LA Auto Show 2005 - photo: ABDesign

Acceleration is cool you say, but what about handling? That’s the most important development at Cadillac, as far as I am concerned. Since the development of the Sigma platform from which the CTS was the first production model, each Cadillac, the CTS, XRS, XLR and the STS have all had their final ride and handling packages evaluated and perfected at Germany’s Nürburgring. Road & Track Magazine weighs in thusly:

The importance of Germany’s Nürburgring in Cadillac’s renaissance cannot be overstated. It is the one place where all the major manufacturers test, where the stopwatch separates the poseurs from the real deal.

Jim Taylor, who was the vehicle line executive involved in the Sigma platform before becoming Cadillac’s current general manager, used his experience and connections at Opel to test the original CTS at the Ring. To him, testing at the track is the critical element that differentiates the merely good from the truly great.

“You look at the hardware kings, which are the Germans. How do they get there differently?” Taylor says. “They may have some actual parts that are different, but you can buy that stuff. The real difference lies in the black magic in developing a car, finalizing its handling in a truly demanding test environment.” The 14-plus miles and more than 175 turns of the Nürburgring is that environment.

“Any glitches or shortcomings of the car in handling, cooling or brake feeling come to the fore very quickly and by quite a large margin at the Nürburgring,” says John Heinricy, GM’s director of high-performance vehicle operations. “If you make a car competent here, there’s no place it can’t handle.”

Indeed, the powers that be at GM were so taken with the development potential of the Nürburgring that they created the Milford Road Course, which incorporates part of the “Ring” into its 20 turn handling loop design and can be configured in a multiple of ways. With an elevation change of over 100 feet, initial development can be done at the MRC, with final evaluation and “street cred” runs done at the actual Nürburgring itself. In R&T Jim Taylor continues:

There are certain elements of sustained high-speed running at that track we can’t replicate here. And also, there is an element of being in the performance club…it’s not just how quickly you can go around a turn, it’s the lap time around the whole Ring. Doing it in 8 to 8 1/2 minutes puts you into the club.”

So if anyone is actually wondering, this is why Cadillac is featuring a performance theme in its advertising, and why the 0-60 acceleration time of a new Cadillac is important. They really do want to be “The Standard of the World” again. They are not there yet, but are certainly on the right track! If you are a real, concerned American and are shopping for a beautifully designed performance vehicle, you owe it to yourself and to your country to consider a Cadillac. It sure feels good to be able to say that again! (db)

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