'HotWheels' Blog

      We're Talking All About Cars Here, & Trucks, & SUVs!


New Xenon Body Kit for the Dodge Charger

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 12:56 pm

Xenon body kit for the new Dodge Charger

Xenon has just released its newest fantastic body styling kit, and this time it transforms the 2006 Dodge Charger and R/T into an aggressive looking beast! To go along with wild front and rear fascias are side skirts and side moldings, a three piece rear deck spoiler and from their GTS line, headlight/taillight blackouts and window vent guards for all four side windows.

Dodge Charger GTS headlight blackouts

BTG Motoring has them and are shipping on order. If you have a Dodge Charger, don’t miss out on this one!


A Camaro For The 21st Century!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 8:44 am

Over at GM’s FastLane blog, they have a special treat!

2009 Camaro

If you’re a Camaro enthusiast, you’re going to love this video. A couple of months ago, the blog team was able to get Tom Peters, lead designer of the Camaro, on video driving it for the first time.

The video is at YouTube – No smoky burnouts with this bazillion dollar show car/prototype, but the sound of that exhaust sure is sweet! Tom Peter’s commentary on the design and process of creating the new Camaro is not to be missed. Also, this week GM made it official – Camaro is a go for 2009!

Way to go, guys! Mustang needs a playmate!


Chinese MGs Assembled In OK?

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 7:58 am

Wow! Take one abandoned British automotive icon, mix in a huge chunk of Chinese money and manufacturing expertise and shake, not stir, in an Oklahoma Indian tribe and what’ve you got? Well, maybe the next entry-level European sports car assembled in Ardmore, Oklahoma! From the Business section of today’s LA Times:

A struggling Chinese manufacturer, the remnants of a failed British automaker and an ambitious American Indian tribe plan to pool their resources to rescue the iconic MG sports car from the automotive junkyard.

A consortium led by Nanjing Automobile Group announced a $2-billion plan Wednesday to construct a state-of-the art production facility in China, reopen a shuttered MG factory in England and open an assembly plant and a distribution center in the small town of Ardmore, Okla.

If the Nanjing-led group succeeds in rolling out the MG TF coupe by the middle of 2008, it could enter the U.S. market ahead of larger Chinese rivals Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. and Chery Automobile Co.

So, what will OK get out of it?

The Chinese-led group also will create 500 jobs in a state that has been hit hard by restructuring in the auto industry. This year General Motors Corp. closed a plant in Oklahoma City that employed 2,400 people.
Amy Polonchek, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, said the project was expected to deliver about $69 million in direct investment and generate $189 million in new economic activity.

And, why the Indian connection? What do the Chickasaws bring to the party?

The new MG team also is counting on additional help from the Chickasaws, a 38,000-member tribe based in Ada, Okla. Under federal law, Indian tribes are considered sovereign nations and are exempt from paying taxes. Hale said his group was researching ways that the MG operation could benefit financially from a partnership with the tribe.

“I can tell you, there may be some unique tax advantages there,” he said.

Some ol’ song – Money, money, money!

I always hated that the British car industry gave up and died. The cars weren’t very good, especially compared to the Japanese clones of the day, but they had something that car manufacturers are only recently understanding again – character.

They better imbibe this newest MG with tons of that – otherwise it’s just another Asian clone of something that wasn’t exactly great, but was unique and entertaining.


Chrysler To Announce Challenger Is A Go!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 8:34 am

Here’s a good one – Chrysler is green lighting the Dodge Challenger.

Chrysler to announce plans for new Challenger

The Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler AG is expected to announce on Friday a new Dodge Challenger coupe styled and named after the automaker’s 1970s muscle car, The Wall Street Journal said.

The V8-powered Challenger won’t be sold until next year, but Chrysler will promote the car this summer to try to pull customers into showrooms, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the company’s plans.

Chrysler’s announcement of the new Challenger tomorrow at a NASCAR race in Daytona Beach, Florida, was moved forward by several months in hopes it will create some buzz for the automaker, the newspaper’s sources said.

Just don’t try to drive one between two road-blocking bulldozers! (db)

[Chrysler, Dodge Challenger, Vanishing Point[/tags]

Can Ghosen and Kirkorian Save the General?

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 7:45 am

Or would this end up like Chrysler, with the biggest of the big three foreign owned. Either way, this is interesting! From Automotive News today: (registration req.)

Kerkorian proposes GM, Renault-Nissan alliance

Investor Kirk Kerkorian is advocating an alliance of General Motors and Renault-Nissan, according to a securities filing.

In the filing, Kerkorian says that the Renault-Nissan alliance is receptive to buying “a significant minority interest” in GM. The filing also says that Kerkorian’s investment company, Tracinda Corp., of Beverly Hills, Calif., has discussed the matter with Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan.

Kerkorian, who controls 9.9 percent of GM stock, sent a letter to GM Chairman Rick Wagoner on Friday “in which Tracinda proposed that General Motors’ Board of Directors establish a committee to immediately and fully explore, together with management, a possible opportunity to join the partnership-alliance between Renault, S.A. and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.,” the filing said.

Barbarians at the gate? Or, saviour on a white horse? Time will tell.


Renting a Chevy Malibu in Oklahoma

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 1:59 pm

Last weekend I spent at least 6 1/2 hours in a Chevy Malibu rented from Hertz. Although a completely unremarkable car as far as looks are concerned – not ugly, not pretty, not designerly . . . just not much of anything, it did get me there and back without incident. But, for a rental, it’s not what’s on the outside that counts, so here goes.

I did like the power of the v6, and it seemed plenty smooth at 70 & 75 mph, the posted maximums on the rural OK 4-lanes and turnpikes. These aren’t the best surfaced highways on the planet, and the Malibu’s suspension seemed to soak up the bumps and many-times-repaired pavement plenty well, although there was a bit too much corkscrewing for my taste on the most severe surface level changes. Steering was direct and secure, just not super communicative. Brakes seemed OK, although I never had to really get on them very hard – actually I didn’t notice much about them so they are probably pretty good overall.

So it goes, rides and stops decently. What’s up? Well, although the gages themselves were well placed, look pretty cool and have good-contemporary-legible markings, the interior still feels plasticky and cheap, even though the car came well equipped with power windows and a power sunroof. The center stack laid out the radio and ac controls in an easily understood and useful manner, and the radio had XM, which kept me in touch with FoxNews all weekend. Screaming across the flatlands of northwestern Oklahoma listening to my favorite TV news shows, now that was cool. Gas mileage must have been pretty good – a rough estimate of miles driven and gas purchased puts it somewhere over 30 mpg.

Most major complaint was seating. The intrusive headrests are slanted forward slightly, and in a reverse of those on our Envoy, which are too far rearward to use as headrests, those on this Malibu cause you to have to bend your neck forward, or else recline the seat backs too far back in order to hold your head up straight. I finally had to do that and then pull the seat bottom forward one notch too far for leg comfort in order to comfortably reach the steering wheel. I would hate to have to live with that seating arrangement. After having some of the best, most comfortable seats in our ‘01 Bonneville SSEI, and decently comfortable seating in the Envoy, I was disappointed that GM let this much bad ergonomics exist in a mainstream mid-size, mid-price Chevy sedan.

Guess that’s why Toyota and Honda are still kicking the General’s butt! I give the Malibu a C+, mostly for the power of the engine and the mileage. The rest is too ugly and too uncomfortable for anything but a rental. Sad . . .


Lamborghini Countach Wall Art

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 5:46 pm

Rich guys that love cars, and love art, have all the fun! Take for instance Richard Moriarty from Newport Beach, CA – his idea of decorating a wall might cause a few gasps when you first enter the room, but hey – we like it!

According to the LA Times today:

Getting the Lamborghini into the house took about an hour, but the project was conceived months ago, when architect Fleetwood Joiner began designing Moriarty’s new home, $2-million worth of steel-and-concrete that will overlook Newport’s Back Bay when construction finishes later this year.

“This was one of the original ideas for the house,” Joiner said. “The skylight was designed to fit the car.”

Joiner has installed offbeat elements in previous mansion projects — including indoor rifle ranges, bowling alleys and a 28-foot-high interior waterfall — but the Lamborghini is “one of a kind,” he said.

The car will hang over a solid glass staircase leading to Moriarty’s wine cellar. The car will also plug into the home’s electrical system so its inside lights can be switched on.

Read the whole thing and see more pics here.

Asked if he was satisfied with the mounted “art” Moriarty replied:

“I want to stencil some tire marks on the wall,” he said. “Seriously.”

Wow! What can we say?


New Xenon Body Kit for Chrysler 300, 300C & 300 SRT-8

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 5:21 pm

Just released and available from BTG Motoring is Xenon’s fantastic new body kit for the 300C. As you can see from these pics of Southern California 300C owner Dane Taylor, the designers and craftsmen at Xenon outdid themselves on this one!

Xenon 300C body kit

We know that Dane is totally stoked, because he told us so, and so will anyone that enhances the look of their 300C with this kit.

Xenon 300C body kit

Xenon offers these items: 300C replacement front fascia, a front air dam, rear window spoiler, rear deck spoiler, side skirts, hood scoop and a rear valence with dual exhaust openings, or you can get all these in 4, 5 and 6 piece body kits, depending upon what model of Chrysler 300 you have.

Chrysler 300 C xenon body kits

See them all at BTGMotoring.com.


New S4/RS4 B7 Exhaust by LaBree Motorsports

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 1:01 pm

BTG Motoring is proud to announce the release of the latest/greatest T-304 stainless-steel exhaust systems for those performance beasts, the 2005.5 – 2006 Audi S4 & RS4 B7s.

LaBree Motorsports exhaust for the B7 Audis

What makes these so special is the attention to detail by LaBree, with all flanges machined flat out of 3/8″ cold roll steel to mate perfectly, even without gaskets, and the 2.5 inch mandrel-bent tubing is professionally TIG welded to the flanges on the inside which are then ported and polished for maximum flow with minimal turbulence.

LaBree machined flanges -- ported/polished for maximum flow

The level of LaBree’s craftsmanship can be seen in these downpipes:

LaBree Motorsports downpipes

Proud owner J. Giritlian already has his LaBree system installed and has sent pics to BTG. We know that he is styling and now we can’t wait for some sound clips and trap time results from him!

Audi B7 exhaust by LaBree

You can see the LaBree Motorsports downpipes and back/half muffler systems for Audi B7 at BTG Motoring’s special LaBree section. Don’t miss out on the special Group-Buy-Pricing that continues through April 30th or until the group-buy quantity runs out!


The General Kills Off the Goat – Again!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 11:11 am

[Originally posted at Okie on the Lam]

GM cancelles the GTO - Again
The decision by General Motors to cancel the Pontiac GTO after this current ‘06 model year pales in significance to other things going on around the world, but to old GM fans, like myself, it’s another sign that what was once the largest, most powerful corporation in the world, is on life-support – and as hard as it is to imagine, just might not make it. Automotive News had the announcement yesterday.

General Motors has told Pontiac dealers that it will discontinue the GTO coupe at the end of this model year. GM will make the last deliveries of the vehicle to dealers by the end of September, sources close to Pontiac say.
When Pontiac launched the GTO in 2003, it projected 18,000 annual sales. The vehicle was criticized for bland styling, and some fans of the original GTO complained that it lacked nostalgic styling cues.

A Pontiac spokesman confirms the GTO will be discontinued after the 2006 model year.

Eric Bryant at AutoBlog
expressed his feelings over the canceled GTO like this:

In this case, I feel a bit sorry for GM. It did exactly what its fans wanted it to - bring over one of the magnificent rear-wheel-drive Holden products from Australia. Pontiac never quite figured out the marketing, though; it was too expensive and sophisticated for the muscle-car crowd, too GM-ish to attract buyers away from other $35K coupes, and of course its bland styling was glaringly apparent to anyone who ever laid eyes on an ‘05 Mustang. Let’s not forget the nasty price-gouging that occurred early on, either.

I spent many an hour as a teen pouring over the wonderful Pontiac illustrations that made their mid-to-late-’60s catalogs so special, longing for a GTO in my driveway. I had a buddy with a ‘66, a classmate with a ‘67 – the closest that I came was a ‘67 Le Mans coupe, Sprint edition, with the rather outrageous overhead-cam six, floor-mounted shifter and a Rochester Quadra-Jet 4-barrel carb, (huge-monster secondaries!) – yeah, the same one I macked the big-white horse with.

2010 CamaroAll last year the General was saying that an ‘08 Goat would be coming, with all new (more GTO-esque) styling, based on the Zeta platform being developed by Holden in Australia, but in the same announcement as the cancellation of the ‘07 model, they seem to be backing off the launch of a new model – the weak US dollar a likely culprit.

There is no replacement coupe planned at this time and because of the strong Australian and weak U.S. dollar, the GTO had to be priced thousands over where GM originally wanted it – in the mid-twenties, the source says. “It never did as much volume as we had hoped,” the source says.

Pontiac is considering a replacement in the lineup for a RWD performance vehicle, but does not have anything to announce yet, Hopson says.

Zeta is supposed to spawn a new Camaro (red car above) for 2010 as well. With Chrysler doing so well with the 300C, Charger, Magnum and the upcoming Challenger, GM had better get its collective you-know-what together and join the rear-wheel-drive party before it’s all over – again.


Whipple Superchargers for Ford 24V V-8 Have Arrived!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 7:52 pm

Wow! What a lot of folks have been patiently waiting for has finally happened. Whipple Industries is now shipping their Intercooled Supercharger Kits for the Ford 24-valve 5.4 litre V-8 used in the 2004 - 2006 F-150, F-250 and Expedition. This is a monster-power-producing kit, that results in up to nearly 475hp and 550 lbs. of torque! That sounds like diesel torque numbers!

Whipple Supercharger Kits for Ford 24V 5.4 litre V-8s

These Whipple supercharger systems, co-developed with Ford Racing, come complete with massive air-to-water intercooler, Ford Racing flash tool, Ford Racing electric water pump, wind-tunnel tested cold air intake, 75mm MAF, high-flow big port intake manifold as well as all the necessary hardware for, according to Whipple, an easy do-it-yourself installation.

There are both black painted and kits with all the aluminum housings polished to a high luster available. Currently shipping are kits to fit the 2004 F-150, 2005-2006 F-150 and F-250 and the 2005-2006 Expedition. Now there just is no excuse for having an underpowered Ford truck!

See them all over at BTG Motoring.


DaimlerChrysler Woes – Investigated in UN Oil for Food Scandal

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 2:11 pm

Business as usual in Germany? I think not.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY - In a nation where a handshake can launch a deal and business is considered a noble calling, scandals at some of Germany’s largest companies have brought embarrassment to a corporate culture proud of its honor system.

Allegations and admissions of bribery, corruption and misdeeds have surfaced at the highest levels of business at five of Germany’s blue-chip companies: BMW, Volkswagen, DaimlerChrysler, Infineon and Commerzbank. Several executives have resigned or been fired.

Some face criminal investigations.

If anyone noticed, it was announced over a week ago that the Chairman of DaimlerChrysler and head of the Mercedes Benz division of the company, Juergen Schrempp, was being replaced by Dieter Zetsche, who is currently running the Chrysler division here in the U.S. Forbes Europe also announced that former Zetsche-Chrysler-colleague, Wolfgang Bernhard, may be making his return to DaimlerChrysler. He was denied the job of head of the Mercedes car division last fall after tangling with Mr. Schrempp over funding of the failing Mitsubishi division of the company. Mitsubishi was subsequently left to dangle in the wind on its own, despite Schrempp’s failed attempts to funnel more cash into it.

DaimlerChrysler’s numbers have been terrible for several quarters, with the U.S. Chrysler division being the only bright light, mainly due to strong product such as the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum & new Charger, and the Hemi engine mystique promulgated across both car and truck lines. Zetsche is credited with keeping Chrysler U.S. focused despite the turmoil that ensued after the so-called “merger-of-equals” that resulted in control of the combined company going to Germany.

In the Aug. 15 issue of Business Week University of Chicago Graduate Business School Professor James Schrager discusses the future of DaimlerChrysler and answers the question: What about Mercedes?

Dieter [Zetsche] may be the one guy who can keep Chrysler and Mercedes together because he knows what it took to fix Chrysler, direct it, and what it’s going to take to keep it in good health. But he has bigger fish to fry – Mercedes.

He’s got to fix a series of unfortunate moves that Schrempp made: making small cars at small prices, diluting Mercedes’ image of exclusivity, performance, and prestige for the sake of volume. That’s a big problem.

Second on the agenda is making Mercedes cars the true world standard again. They need fewer electronics as well as better quality in Germany and to fix the U.S. plant in Alabama, where the M-Class is produced.

Zetsche needs more midsize and large cars. [Mercedes] is being attacked on all sides. Audi and Jaguar have fabulous all-alloy cars. They’ve been getting ahead while Schrempp was worried about boardroom fights over Mitsubishi and Smart.

When asked if the professor thought that the company should keep Chrysler or float it off as a separate company, his advise was:

I would get rid of Chrysler. The job of fixing Mercedes-Benz is so big and the boat anchor of Chrysler is so heavy that I’d try to float Chrysler on its own.

Know any car companies that desperately need some rear-wheel-drive hits like the Magnum and the 300? Yeah, me too, but that won’t happen. But as they say in the Ginsu knife commercials, “But wait! There’s More!”

LGF posts that the U.S. government is investigating DaimlerChrysler’s possible involvement in the U.N. Oil for Food Scandal.

FRANKFURT, Germany - DaimlerChrysler AG said Friday it is cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department, which is investigating claims that the company’s Mercedes Car Group may have paid bribes to foreign officials and that senior executives were aware of it.

When asked for a written statement regarding any participation in Saddam’s little side deals the company responded like this:

The German-American automaker said in a filing that the SEC had asked it for details on any role it may have had in the scandal-tainted program, set up to govern the sale of Iraqi oil under Saddam Hussein, and to see if the company had violated any provisions.

DaimlerChrysler spokesman Toni Melfi declined to comment Tuesday.

Makes you wonder if the changing of the guard at DaimlerChrysler is a result of these ongoing investigations. Makes me kinda glad that we bought a GMC instead of a Magnum!


BTG Motoring Adds Xenon Kits for 2005 Mustang

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 11:24 am

Our sister site and online store, BTG Motoring, has just added the complete line of 2005 Mustang Xenon body kits and GTS™ light covers for the 2005 Mustang and 2005 Mustang GT.

2005 Ford Mustang Xenon body kits

This is in addition to the great New Mustang Borla exhaust systems that we have been selling for some time.

If you have an ‘05 Mustang, check it out!


GM’s Game Plan – Bob Lutz Reveals All . . . Well, Not Exactly.

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 3:15 pm

In his latest post at the GM blog, Fastlane, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz gives us as much information as possible in a frank look at the General’s upcoming game plan for getting out of its current troubles.

A good and fair question. Let’s start by saying there’s no magic bullet for our issues, at least none that we’ve uncovered. The truth is we’ve spelled out in several forums and in several media interviews what we intend to do to address the challenges we face. What we won’t tell you is exactly how we intend to do those things.

I can tell you this: First and foremost, our recovery is riding squarely on the back of our new product programs. There has never been a turnaround in this industry that didn’t happen because of hot-selling cars and trucks.

Fair enough. At least it’s clear that they understand that no amount of corporate money jockeying or aquisitions or sell-offs is going to fix GM. It’s all about the product! And we mean ALL about the product: the actual physical entitiy itself, the dealership experience, the warranty experience and the long-term service. But first, they do have to get the vehicles right.

My wife and I just “bought” an ‘05 Envoy, 2WD short wheelbase with the straight 6. Interesting SUV, great motor. We were able to buy instead of lease due to heavy incentives and a great interest rate from our federal credit union (cheaper payment than using the free GM money due to the additional $3K in rebate). Being able to get a total of eight grand off the MSRP on a vehicle that was manufactured less than three weeks before its purchase indicates that GM knows they are not pricing vehicles correctly. I hope that they figure this out fast, and fix it. What a marketing coup they would have if the Envoy would have stickered closer to what we actually paid for it!

Also great would be a no-haggle pricing policy for all GM brands, like now exists with Saturn. They almost lost the Envoy sale to a Chrysler Pacifica due to our LA CarMax dealer and its no-haggle policy. Most people just hate that part of car buying, and if you didn’t feel like you were getting hosed everytime you bought or leased a vehicle, I’m betting folks would be willing to do it more often. I know that we would.

The A3 – Audi Gets It Right!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 8:56 am

Dan Neil’s “Highway One” column this week in the LA Times (reg. req.) reinforces this author’s opinion that Audi has a winner in its new A3 model, just released this month for the U.S. market.

Audi’s timing couldn’t be better. The German prestige brand is bringing the five-door hatchback version of the A3 — a compact premium car, for the purposes of pigeonholing — to the U.S. market just as our Rabelaisian appetites are starting to get the better of us.
The Europeans learned long ago not to measure prestige by the yard or ton. What I propose, in a time of general belt-tightening, is that there is a certain cachet in appropriateness.

The Audi A3 is everything you might want in a premium car, only less.

There’s lots between those opening and closing lines, so register (it’s free) and read it all. Congrats, Audi! A job well done. Ford has nothing like it . . . Poor old GM, this is what the G6 should have been.


Give Chrysler Its Due

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 7:56 am

MSNBC News tells the story of how the Mercedes half of Daimler Chrysler is faltering but Chrysler is now red hot in the market.

(…) In the United States, former money pit Chrysler is hot. After years of red ink, including an incredible 5.3 billion loss in 2001, Chrysler is lean and healthy. As rivals Ford and GM lose market share, Chrysler has gained for six consecutive quarters, and earned more than 250 million from January to March. Last week it reported a sizzling 9 percent rise in April sales, led by popular new models like the 300 sedan and the Dodge Viper. While the rest of Detroit lives off the SUV, Chrysler is now the only member of the Big Three automakers that makes even one popular car in the U.S. market.

Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler’s flagship German brand and erstwhile cash cow, Mercedes-Benz, is in deep and serious trouble. (…)

And Mercedes is saying it’s not concerned about trying to be a the top of the J.D.Power’s Initial Quality Survey? OK . . .

But what’s up with Chrysler? What a difference a model or two or three makes! 300C, Magnum, Viper – got to give them credit where it’s due. Except for Cadillac, there are no other domestic rear-wheel-drive sedans to compete with those first two, and the ‘Vette and Viper don’t seem to actually compete in the same market segment, one being a brute and the other a gent.

So, congratulations, Chrysler on a job well done. Wonder how long it will be before Deter gets called back to the Fatherland to work some magic on the Mercedes half of the family?


First Chrysler – Now General Motors

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 9:29 am

Automotive News [reg. req.] tells of a new Kirk Kerkorian stab at buying up a piece of the automobile industry, this time his target is GM.

“The vultures are now flying over the carcass,” said Richard Steinberg, president of Steinberg Global Asset Management, a Florida asset management firm that owns debt issued by GM and and its finance unit GMAC. “I think he’s trying to wake up management. I don’t get the sense that Kirk Kerkorian wants to control General Motors.”

Interesting. GM stock is rising on the news, and dragging the whole market along with it. Maybe this will be the kick-in-the-pants that the union needs to renegotiate the whole retiree health care disaster that is crippling the world’s largest automaker.

Irregardless, if the General doesn’t speed up the release of world-class new product, it won’t matter in the end.


BMW’s 1st Qtr. Profit Falls, 3-Series Changeover Part of Cause

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 5:30 am

According to Reuters, the slide in BMW profits this first quarter of ‘05 is less than was expected, so things at the home of the Roundel are actually looking up, a little. Everyone on the Old World side of the pond are hurting from the strength of the Euro and at BMW, the actual cost of rolling out and promoting the new 3-Series is still not known. (Now that’s odd. Over here the marketeers would know that number to the second or third decimal point!)

BMW’s first-quarter pretax profit fell 4.6 percent, the world’s largest premium carmaker said on Tuesday, as the weak dollar and the changeover in its key 3-Series car dragged on its core automotive result.

BMW reaffirmed though that it expects earnings this year to roughly match its record 2004 result, helping soothe investor fears after rumors of a profit warning surfaced last week.

Earnings before taxes declined to 812 million euros ($1.05 billion), compared with an average Reuters poll estimate of 834 million and 851 million euros for the first quarter last year.

“Significantly higher raw material prices, currency factors and increased competitive pressure all had a negative impact during the first quarter 2005,” the company said in a statement.

Even though “BMW remains one of the most fundamentally solid companies in the industry", world stock markets have not gone out of their way to reward BMW’s stock. As per Reuters, even though BMW stock trades at 10 times estimated earnings, it is still surpassed by Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen stock.

Another thing that BMW, and the rest of the world’s automakers need to fear – the Audi A3. I just took a good look at that product and it is fantastic. Hot Avant styling, a really well integrated version of the new Audi grill, tons of room and space utility inside and a TT inspired interior design theme. At $30K fully equipped, what’s not to like? To graduates of ‘05, the hot tip is A3!


GM’s Gary Grates Let’s It Loose!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 2:50 pm

Well, you have to give GM lots of props for standing tall against what they perceive as unfair treatment by the press, ie the LA Times. At the GM corporate blog, Fastlane, Gary Grates, GM North America Vice President, Communications, explains their actions in pulling all corporate advertising from the Times last week, and gives us insight into their attitudes toward criticism, both positive and negative. It’s a long post and well worth the read, here is just a taste:

We were one of the first companies to establish a blog where our executives could express their opinions in their own words, unfiltered by anyone else, and hear back directly from enthusiasts and others interested in what we do. Bob Lutz has stated repeatedly in this forum that criticism is welcome, and we’ve published a good amount of it, along with the praise.

But neither do we think that any business should remain mute when it sincerely believes it has been treated unfairly or attacked by reporting that is unsupported by facts and unrelated to reality. It is extremely rare that we take the kind of action we did with the Times, but it is fully within our right to spend our advertising dollars where we see fit.

We anticipate having more to say once the Times reaches its own conclusions, and we’ll share that with you here when the time comes. Until then, acting in good faith and out of respect for the Times’ process for dealing with such issues, we will opt to not add fuel to the media fire.

Guess we’ll wait for the Times’ ombudsman’s decision and see where the General goes from there. Now it’s really getting interesting. You know the old adage about exposure. Wonder why Ford hasn’t stirred up a fuss with someone to get their press freebie?

What Does It Mean To Drive a “GM"?

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 10:19 am

In the Fastlane blog post Sharpening Focus, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz explains the recent corporate reorganization at the top instituted by GM Chairman Rick Wagner, wherein Wagner is taking over responsibility for all of No. America, and Lutz is being moved to be the head of product development worldwide. Now, actually this is old news, blog wise, but a short blurb in today’s LA Times called All GM Brands to Get Logo made me go back and reread the Lutz announcement to see if I could find any hints at this new development.

My first reaction was, “wait a minute, they all HAVE logos now!", then I paid attention . . .

Saying that many consumers are unaware that Cadillac, Saab, Chevrolet and other brands are part of General Motors Corp., the automaker on Tuesday announced that it would add the GM corporate logo on the side of all its vehicles.

The addition of a silver badge with the GM logo on all 2006 model-year vehicles coincides with the automaker’s recent efforts to promote the GM brand, with increased spending on advertising and marketing.

OK, now I get it. But my question to Lutz, Wagner, and Mark LaNeve, who is now head of sales & marketing for No. America, is this – What happens to the significance of your divisional brands if you successfully brand all your vehicles as GM? What makes a GM Chevrolet Impala any different in the minds of car shoppers from a GM Pontiac Grand Prix? Not much, at least in today’s models, and many of those are destined to continue into ‘06, ‘07 and beyond due to the General’s killing of the Zeta rear-wheel-drive platform to speed up development of the next generation of trucks and SUVs. (Bet that decision sure looked better a few weeks ago before gasoline prices started their race toward the stratosphere!)

To be perversely positive about this GM branding decision, maybe it’s the upper management’s recognition that heritage aside, they have so much overlap in their overall product structure that no future plan can be conceived that will save it as it currently exists. At one time, in the early seventies, there was talk in Washington of severing Chevrolet from the GM family for anti-trust reasons and forcing it to become a standalone entity. Chevy was that strong. That plan failed in large part because Ford, Chrysler & AMC/Jeep (all separate US companies at that time) all feared the competition that would be unleashed with a Chevrolet unburdened from the stoic GM management’s restraints and from a lean/hungry General Motors forcefully separated from its Chevy cash cow. It would have been interesting.

But nothing like that would be possible today. GM no longer has anywhere near 50% of the U.S. market share it did in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Those were salad days for the then largest company in the world. Today, the General must go on a radical “fitness” program, shed dead weight, and speed up development of world-class products, or it’s not going to make it. If you drive the new GM products, and I have leased two since 1988, a Buick and a Pontiac, they are much better than they were in the early ’90s. Unfortunatley, the competition from Japan mostly, and Europe kinda, at least status wise, not to mention Daimler/Chrysler’s rebirth of a modern rear-wheel-drive platform for Chrysler and Dodge has upped the anti faster than the General has been able to react.

I was actually hopeful until I read about the outright killing of the Zeta program, and doubly disturbed to find out that, according to Automotive News, all the products were fully engineered, ready to go to tooling. Later it was announced that Cadillac’s Sigma rear-wheel-drive platform might be shared with some Pontiac & Buick models, but the Zeta was a more modern architecture and would have had less cost built-in as it was not intended for luxury vehicles like the Sigma. So maybe we will get an ‘08 or ‘09 rear-wheel-drive Pontiac GTO, but at what price level? Surely at a premium over what the Zeta based Goat would have been.

So, let’s see what the boys of the Renaissance Center’s upper floors come up with. I just hope they dont’ screw up Cadillac, which has truly put its house in order and only needs a few more product tweaks, mostly in interior materials quality/texture, to be totally competitive in the luxury performance universe. Good luck guys, you’ll need it!


The Empire Strikes Back - GM Pulls Ads From LA Times

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 9:47 am

In this AM’s Automotive News email wrap up and in the online edition of the Los Angeles Times it was announced that General Motors is suspending ALL advertising in the LA Times over what it calls “factual errors and misrepresentations in the newspaper” according to a company spokesman. AN goes on to say: [Reg. required]

GM did not specify what spurred it to pull its advertising, but the paper’s auto writer Dan Neil on Wednesday published a critical column about the company’s brand strategy and called on GM to “dump” Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner.

The LA Times response today to yesterday’s pullout by the General includes the following: [Reg. required]

A GM executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday’s review of the Pontiac G6 by Times Pulitzer Prize-winning automobile critic Dan Neil was particularly offensive.

Neil wrote that “GM is a morass of a business case” and called for the ouster of GM’s chairman and chief executive, Rick Wagoner. Among other things, Neil took the company to task for not more aggressively developing fuel-efficient cars and focusing instead on SUVs.

The Dan Neil critical bombast that appeared in Wednesday’s Highway1 section was certainly biting and hyper critical, especially of the newish Pontiac G6, which Neil describes as:

The G6 is not an awful car. It’s entirely adequate. But plainly, adequate is not nearly enough.
You want excitement from the “Excitement” division? Try to get this thing to turn in a sharp corner.


This is an uncompetitive product, an assertion borne out not by my say-so but by sales numbers.

To be fair to the Pontiac, he has a couple of nice things to say about it, amid a plethora of negativity. To be fair to Dan Neil, on most of the points that he covers, I admit, regretfully, that I agree.

You see, when the G6 appeared at the Detroit Auto Show a few years ago it was a stunner, both inside and out, heralding a Bob Lutz driven rennaisance of design for the Pontiac division. With Bob’s track record at Chrysler for bringing incredible show cars to market with a major part of their mojo intact, I, and many others, were expecting him to do so here. But like the ill-fated first generation Olds Aurora and the current Buick LaCrosse, the G6 just didn’t make it out of the “clinics” with its excitement DNA on board.

Bob seems to be directly answering Dan Neil’s call for his head in the most current post at the Fastlane blog, which posted yesterday:

Some of you may may remember my opening salvo for this blog back in January: “After years of reading and reacting to the automotive press it is finally my turn to put the shoe on the other foot. In the age of the Internet, anyone can be a journalist.”

He goes on to assure his readers that his participation in the GM blogging experiment will definitely continue, and that those in power at the General

hear your words loud and clear. We’re redoubling our efforts to build great cars and trucks and we’ll continue to talk about them, right here.

What’s most interesting are the comments, where over-and-over Fastlane readers are pleading with GM to build world-class vehicles so that they can justify buying American, again . . . or still! This writer heartily agrees with that sentiment. I’ve been car shopping for several months now, and the only vehicle in the GM inventory that does anything for me is the Cadillac CTS-"V", which I simply cannot afford. The last two vehicles I’ve leased have been a supercharged Buick Regal GS and a supercharged Pontiac Bonneville SSEI, and both are discontinued, the Regal gone as of the ‘05 model year and the Bonne is gone as of this summer. Maybe I’ll just buy-out the Bonne off lease and sit tight for a few years while/if the company gets itself sorted out. The only Ford product that has any interest for me is the new Mustang (too small for our needs) and Chrysler is a German company, not a domestic any more.

Tom at The True Talk Blog also weighs in on the issue:

Is blogging going to save GM? Nah. But Bob Lutz is showing he’s going to do everything possible to do so, even if it means doing something stupid like blogging.

Swade at Trollhattan blog seconds the emotion:

If you haven’t been tuning in, Bob’s blog is a great forum for not only hearing him address some issues that get twisted in the press a little, but it’s also a great place to read comments from GM customers. People just like you and me.

And Neville Hobson at NevOn blog discusses the effectiveness of Fastlane as a communication tool for the General:

GM made it pretty clear from the outset that the primary purpose of the blog is to engage with customers and car enthusiasts about one topic - GM’s cars. And they have stuck to that goal. Judging from the many comments to every post, that’s what visitors want to talk to GM about. Indeed, just about the only comments that aren’t about the subject matter of a particular post are those by communicators commenting about the blog or the podcasts.

Ok Bob, if you are actually in charge of product worldwide for GM and haven’t just been given a sideways promotion into obscurity, go out there and kick ass, take names, and get the job done! With the resources and depth of talent that GM has at its disposal combined with a corporate commitment to world class products at all price levels, there is no reason that General Motors cannot survive and thrive. Just look within at your Cadillac division. Ten years ago, who would have ever thought a Caddy would again be cool . . . fast . . . and desirable?


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.


5-Sec. Movie Winner

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 9:52 am

Cadillac has chosen the winner in it’s 5-Second Movie contest, and the winning flick is “Tuesday", a short (no kidding!) biographical film whose maker will now receive a new CTS/V for his effort.

You can see the four finalists, some of the other entries, and a very cool website here. Congratulations to the winner. I’m just a bit jealous of his prize!


Cadillac BLS to Launch in a Year

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 3:05 pm

In his blog post today, A Cadillac for Europe, Bob Lutz announced that the new-small Cadillac, the BLS, will have its European launch within the year. Then he went on to make this statement:

This vehicle, the Cadillac BLS, is about bringing the right products to the right markets, and doing it effectively and efficiently. It was developed specifically for European roads and drivers, and, as such, is not intended for American needs or tastes.

Now I don’t know about where you live, but out here in Los Angeles the freeways are crawling with all manner of vehicles originally designed for the “European market", the BMW 3-series, the Audi A4, and soon the A3 series, VW Golf & Jetta, Acura TSX (originally the European Accord), some Smarts, and all the old 2002s, VW Beetles, Minis, et all. Sorry Bob, that statement just doesn’t make much sense. The reason that the import brands have been kicking the backsides of the domestic makers for years in cars (not in trucks until just recently) was because of the special characteristics their products had because they were “developed specifically for European roads and drivers” You new Cadillacs feel and drive the way they do because their ride & handling was finalized at the Nurburgring!

Even back in Tulsa, OK, over 20 years ago there were a lot of 3-series Bimmers, Bugs and the occasional Mini, so a recent phenomina this isn’t. What we suspect is that for the U.S., GM would like for Pontiac & Staurn to supply the smaller-sized high content vehicles with the new G6 and Aura and that the addition of the BLS to our market would put too much downward pricing pressure on these, or worse, would hinder Cadillac in its desire to continue its upmarket push.

Too bad for us. The BLS looks like a really neat vehicle. If it works well in Europe, maybe we’ll get it later.


The Summer “Solstice” - A Real Deal!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 6:33 pm

Today on the GM corporate blog, Fastlane, Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz announced the final pricing for the new Pontiac Solstice:

When Solstice goes on sale this summer, it will, officially, be priced at $19,995 — and that includes the $575 destination charge. You heard it here first.
And this is for no “stripper” model as it will feature a five-speed manual transmission, 18-inch wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes, a glass rear window instead of plastic, and a CD-player — all standard equipment.

Solstice concept at the 2003 LA Auto Show — photo: ABDesign

Now what we are really interested in is the GXP version that we hope will be available not too far after launch. Please, Bob, don’t make us wait a year for that one!


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!

GM, Fiat Put Option — Over and Done

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 10:32 am

Oh well! My dreams of going down to my local Saab or Cadillac dealer and picking up a new Alfa Brea or Maserati Quattroporte will remain just that, dreams. It was announced today that Fiat and GM came to an agreement that dissolved the “put” option that would have forced General Motors to buy the automotive part of the Fiat companies. Reuters reports:

MILAN (Reuters) - General Motors Corp. will pay Fiat 1.55 billion euros ($1.99 billion) in a deal to drop an option which would have forced the U.S. giant to buy the Italian firm’s loss-making car unit, GM said in a statement.

In the statement, GM said both the Fiat-GM Powertrain and the purchasing joint ventures would be dissolved.

GM will also acquire an interest in “key strategic diesel engine assets and other important rights” through the deal.

GM will return its 10 percent stake in Fiat Auto. … “

After all those 0 percent auto loans, dealer cash allowances, consumer rebates and all, what’s an easy 2 billon dollars between friends anyway?


300C SRT8

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 9:47 am

Today, Wards Auto World Online takes an up-close-and-personal look at Chrysler’s latest SRT performance model, the 300C SRT8, and comes away much impressed!

When can you call a 4,160-lb. (1,888-kg) fullsize sedan nimble? When it’s packing 425 hp from the all-new Hemi 6.1L V-8 found under the hood of the ’05 Chrysler 300C SRT8.

The 300C SRT8 is the second vehicle in the Chrysler stable to wear the badge of the SRT performance-tuning unit, following the Crossfire SRT6. Engineers and designers were careful not to go overboard on the styling of the 300C SRT8, largely because the Chrysler-brand interpretation of the SRT performance formula is more subdued than the extrovert styling expounded by Dodge-badged SRT models.

“For us, Chrysler is sophisticated, refined performance technology,” says Dan Knott, director, Street and Racing Technology (SRT)-Chrysler Group. “The individual who is sitting at a light in a Chrysler SRT, he or she knows in their gut they can blow the doors off of the guy sitting next to them. In a Dodge, it’s much more about bad, bold and in your face.”

We can’t wait to get our hands on one as well, and our BTG Motoring affiliate will be right there with the first and best aftermarket accessories for this new domestic “super sedan", just like it has been for the “regular” 300C. Wards wraps up their comments with these words:

Chrysler has once again raised the bar when it comes to performance and affordability with the 300C SRT8. While its horsepower rating falls a bit shy of some of its performance division-tuned competitors – including the Mercedes Benz E55 AMG (469 hp) and Cadillac STS-V (440 hp) – it’s pretty darn close.

The 300C SRT8’s $39,995 base price is the ultimate equalizer. The cost is nearly half the $79,500 base price of the E55 AMG. On a performance-for-dollar scale, the 300C SRT8 may be the most logical buy in the performance-sedan segment.

Now that’s what we’re talking about!


Not Just a ‘One Trick Pony"!

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 9:19 am

Ward’s Auto World
reports today that the executives at the Chrysler branch of Daimler/Chrysler are determined to keep the hot buzz going for the 300C and it’s stablemate at Dodge, the Magnum.

Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, Chrysler Group says it already is pursuing derivative options for its LX rear-wheel-drive platform, including a possible stretched version.

The auto maker vows it will not repeat the mistakes made with the Chrysler PT Cruiser, which was an initial hit that commanded long waiting lines for delivery to which Chrysler over-reacted by adding production at a second plant in Graz, Austria.

“We don’t see the 300 as a one-car wonder. It’s not going to be like the PT that was strong only a few months,” says Eric Ridenour, executive vice president-product development at Chrysler Group. …”

300C Convertible Show Car Interior — SEMA ‘04 (photo by ABDesign)

We certainly hope that Chrysler follows through with its plan to offer more variations of this dynamic and exciting platform. A convertible and/or a limo would be great places to start! For those of you lucky enough to already own one, here is a high-flow 300C intake system to consider, and here is a cool stainless steel 300C exhaust system!

My hat’s off to Chrysler for its bold interpretation of the classic “Big American Car"! I just hope that GM steps up and brings out some new affordable product with this much style and in-your-face attitude, and that they do it soon.


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!


What to Buy?

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 10:24 am

We should all have such a problem! One of our good buds is wanting to get away from his tricked out GS400 (chipped, big brakes, lowered, cat/back, yadda, yadda) and go with something a little more Western this time. An STS-"V” would be perfect, but that’s not available until the end of the year and this purchase will happen in the next few months. So here’s the short list:

Cadillac CTS-"V”

Chrysler 300C - SRT/8

Mercedes CLS

Let us know which one you would choose via the comments, and if you know of something else in the same league that is available now that you would rather have, tell us that, too!


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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