No. 968
October 17, 2018
 

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On The Surface


Tuesday
Feb032009

ON THE TABLE

February 4, 2009

 

Audi. A couple of weeks ago, we were praising Audi for their ballsy "progress" print campaign that ran on Inauguration Day. Today, we're burying them for their stupid-silly Super Bowl commercial that ran on last Sunday's game. First off, we like the actor Jason Stathan a lot (rent "Crank"), and we like Audi a lot, too, but put them together in a meaningless creative exercise that did zero for the brand? Not so much. Audi flunked last year's SB test with their "Godfather" rehash, and they flunked this year with their time-travel spot. Next year we hope Audi either sits out the Super Bowl altogether or comes up with something that's actually worth looking at. Memo to Audi - and this applies to all car companies too - committing to buying time on the game is only about a tenth of the battle. The real hard part is coming up with an idea that's actually Super Bowl worthy, and worthy of the brand. Audi didn't.

arrowup.gif Hyundai. The Korean auto company had a huge, elevated presence on the game, which was more than a little jarring considering that it's so unexpected from this previously Meister-schlock brand. The whole "buy a car from us and if you lose your job you can bring it back" come-on was kind of "old school" Hyundai and a creative gutter ball, but the performance stuff featuring the Genesis Coupe shot by ace director Jeff Zwart elevated the brand tremendously. Somewhere in there could be the real Hyundai, and as soon as they resist their natural tendency to roll around in Retail Land (except on dealer spots that is), they actually might succeed in recrafting their image upward. Until then, we'll just have to wait and see.

The Auto Biz. As predicted, January sales were in the dumper, big time. As a matter of fact it was the worst sales month since January 1982. We won't bother listing the makes and the percentages because everyone was down (except for Subaru and Hyundai which were both up 8 percent), and it's tediously redundant at this point (Chrysler down 55%, Ford down 40%, GM down 49%, Toyota down 32%, oh, never mind). Suffice to say at an annual selling rate that's shaping up to be less than 10 million, the domestic automobile industry cannot support three automobile manufacturers. And if it stays below 10 million, this economy can only support one U.S. automaker. Period.

The Auto Biz, Part II. How bad was it? According to Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis, it was the worst unit sales month for the U.S. auto industry since January 1963. As a matter of fact, according to GM sales estimates, more vehicles were sold in China last month than in the United States for the first time in history. Oh the horror, the horror.

arrowup.gif Car Buyers. The U.S. Senate voted to allow loan interest and sales taxes on vehicle purchases to be deductible from federal income taxes late yesterday by a 71-26 margin. The proposal was added to the economic stimulus bill under debate in the Senate and strongly urged by the National Automobile Dealers Association. Nice, but not enough. Immediate cash on the hood right now is the kind of stimulus consumers need. Looking at their watches waiting for tax time? Not so much.

Chrysler-Fiat link. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne continued his Linguine Offensive in Detroit on Monday talking positively but avoiding saying much of anything of substance. Will it work out? Insert Italian shrug here. If the planets aligned just right and absolutely everything that needed to fall into place fell into place with not a minute to spare, there might be a fiber-optically slim chance of Chrysler's survival. Let's just say we're talking a giant "if" at this point. But, at an industry sales level of under 10 million? Not a snowball's chance in hell.

arrowup.gifDetroit, Michigan. From the "Holy Shit!" File comes word that people are actually pumping money in to this region, and it has nothing to with the car biz. The State of Michigan has landed a $54 million deal to build and develop a major motion picture studio facility on the vacant GM truck facility property in Pontiac. And, an $86 million digital animation and visual effects studio will be constructed using the vacant MGM Grand Casino building in downtown Detroit. The downtown property, abandoned when MGM opened their new casino, will be the new home of Wonderstruck Studios - a partnership between Wonderstruck Studios LLC and SHM Partners of Los Angeles - and it is expected to create more than 400 jobs. The Pontiac venture could grow to be much larger in scope down the road too. Good News given everything that has been going on around here and especially for February, traditionally the grimmest month in the Motor City. Bad News in that a whole raft of nicknames has sprung up in an attempt at attaching a catchy name to this phenomenon. Here are a few: Motorwood, Digitroit, BrrrBank, Hubcap Valley, Mitten Hills, and our current favorite - Deadwood.

arrowup.gifarrowup.gifarrowup.gifThe Auto Biz, Part III. Chris Bangle, the polarizing American designer who left a brilliant, adventurous design stamp on BMW, or, the guy who single-handedly took the field of automotive design down a notch or three with his clownish interpretations of design "reach" - depending on how you look at his legacy that is - is leaving BMW to pursue other design interests outside of the auto industry. He will be replaced by Adrian van Hooydonk, a guy responsible for perpetuating many of the questionable BMW design cues that have emerged under Bangle's tutelage. As for Bangle, we have only one thing to say: Would you miss him?

arrowup.gifJohan de Nysschen. The president of Audi America told a Green Car Summit on Capitol Hill that plug-in electric hybrids present a multitude of problems. "If the auto industry in the U.S. goes down this road and is compelled to invest in (plug-in) technology and then faces the reality ... that no one wants to buy them because they make no economic sense. That is how they will go out of business," de Nysschen said. "We need a balanced approach, an integrated approach that sees a complementary role" for plug-ins. And that’s our AE Quote of the Week.

GM, Chrysler. The two names most frequently mentioned as key players on President Obama's auto industry fix-it team are Steven Rattner, a New York-based private equity guru (Quadrangle Group) and now, according to The Detroit News, Stephen Girsky, a longtime industry analyst who now heads Centerbridge Industrial Partners, also a private equity firm. Let's see, it was the financial guys who drove Detroit off a cliff, and now it's the financial guys who will "fix" what ails Detroit? Memo to GM and Chrysler: That pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel isn't hope - it's a frickin' freight train.

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