No. 969
October 24, 2018
 

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On The Surface


Tuesday
Feb052008

On The Surface #431

arrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifBob Nardelli, Chrysler LLC. "Minimum Bob" went on record last December as saying that Chrysler needed a kindler, gentler approach with its suppliers and that he would see to it that this would happen. Last Friday, Chrysler cancelled $200 million in contracts with troubled supplier Plastech Engineered Products Inc. and demanded its tooling back, according to The Detroit News. With trucks on their way to pick up the Chrysler-owned tooling, the supplier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which blocked Chrysler's move. Chrysler insisted that its entire U.S. production was in jeopardy and plants were idled. In contrast, Ford and GM are working with Plastech to ensure continued delivery of parts. Chrysler, which already invested extra money in Plastech (as did GM and Ford) to keep it afloat, had decided that they're throwing good money after bad. Even though a settlement between the two warring parties was reached Tuesday afternoon, there are a couple of things to think about here. Chrysler is extremely short on cash, so idling plants and shrinking inventory is/was not necessarily a bad thing. But had those plants stayed idle too long, Chrysler would have had a major problem on its hands. It's obvious to us that the clock is ticking on the Cerberus love affair with the auto business, and these latest actions don't exactly suggest to us that Cerberus is in this thing for the long haul, either.

arrowdown.gifVW. The brainiacs at the German automaker are getting ready to introduce their new Chrysler-based minivan, the Routan, at the Chicago Auto Show. Interesting timing. Why? Hmm, let's see, 1. Customers are walking away in droves from minivans in favor of crossovers in the U.S. market, and a VW minivan (due next fall) couldn't come at a worse time. And 2. VW comes up with yet another nonsensical vehicle name that has people scratching their heads. What are these guys thinking? Or better yet, have they just stopped thinking altogether? The Microbus Concept VW unveiled in Detroit years ago is the vehicle they should have built if they wanted to get into the people mover business. Instead, they actually believe that a warmed-over Chrysler minivan with a couple of VW emblems on it and a name that will have people saying "What?" constitutes their next brilliant move in the U.S. market. All together now, Not Good.

arrowdown.gifThe UAW. The UAW is on a charm offensive with the media and the public, but does anyone really care anymore? Doubtful. Plus, at the union's biennial four-day political conference in Washington, D.C., Ron Gettelfinger gave his keynote address during the Super Bowl. Yup, Ron, the world does revolve around you.

arrowdown.gifThe "New" Chrysler. Marketing chief Deborah Wahl Meyer tries to bring her "Shiny Happy People" Toyota sensibilities with her in a new campaign touting yet another "new" Chrysler with regional spots that debuted Super Bowl Sunday all over the country. Trying to shove Jim Press's "customer-driven" Toyota mantra down consumers' throats, the spots - including a fanciful animated assembly line - failed miserably. Memo to his Press-ness and Deb: People don't care one lick if you're a customer-focused company or not when they don't like 90 percent of your product lineup.

arrowup.gifGo Daddy. Tasteless, juvenile - and brilliant - the Go Daddy Super Bowl spot, which directed viewers to the company's website to see Danica Patrick in a spot that they couldn't air on the broadcast due to network censor concerns, drew a staggering two million hits.

arrowdown.gifAudi. Now that the gushing over Audi's Super Bowl spot has eased a little bit, the bottom line is that it wasn't all that great, folks. We stopped reading some of the reviews when one so-called ad "expert" termed it as being "original." Ahem, how can a spot that rips off a 25-year-old classic American movie possibly be original? Let's just say it was the most egregious case of borrowed interest we've ever seen. And what about the tagline, "Old luxury just got put on notice" - ? What do a faux Rolls-Royce grille and the word "luxury" have to do with Audi, especially the R8? Isn't this the same company that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its Le Mans-winning racing program over the last ten years? Isn't this the same company that has bent over backwards trying to prove its technical credentials and engineering savvy in that same timeframe? Isn't this the same company that has carved out a bold, "marching to a different drummer" positioning to go up against BMW and Mercedes in the U.S. market? Then what the hell do the words "new luxury" have to do with their flagship mid-engine sports car? Audi would have been better off just showing the R8 running down a wet windy road with plenty of authentic engine sounds - at least we would have gotten a good look at the car along with our cliches.

CadillacManning.jpg 
(Photo by Paul Morton for General Motors)
NFL champion quarterback Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Cadillac General Manager Jim Taylor with a Cadillac Escalade that was awarded to Manning for being named the Super Bowl XLII Most Valuable Player Monday, February 4, 2008, in Phoenix, Arizona. Cadillac is the official vehicle sponsor of the National Football League. In other news this week, GM is unveiling a several vehicles at the Chicago Auto Show, including the 2009 GMC Sierra Hybrid pickup (in Crew Cab form) and a new GMC Denali XT concept. The Denali XT
has a unibody architecture and rear-wheel drive, and the first combination of GM’s two-mode hybrid system with an E85 ethanol-capable engine. Denali XT’s new, more efficient 4.9L version of GM’s small-block V-8 features fuel-saving technologies such as direct-injection technology and Active Fuel Management. The Denali XT utilizes all-electric drive at low speeds to help deliver a 50 percent fuel economy improvement, according to GM. And of course GM unveiled the Chevrolet Traverse, which we mentioned in this week's Rant. See our GM gallery HERE

Ford-EdgeSport.jpg 
(Photos courtesy of Ford)
Ford is making news at the Chicago Auto Show with two entires: A sport version of its popular Edge crossover and a new small urban van that it will be importing from Ford of Europe. Designed to have a factory custom look, the 2009 Ford Edge Sport comes standard with 20-inch premium painted wheel package with branded center hubs, but the big news is the available 22-inch polished aluminum wheels and low-profile, 40-series Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires. The Ford Edge Sport has an eight-piece body kit that includes a unique front air dam, side skirts, lower door caps and a rear skirt, all finished in body color, instead of the dark lower on other Edge models. The front air dam features integrated fog lamps and a lower grille insert. Other details include Sport badging, polished dual exhaust tips and “foundry gray” smoked headlamp and taillamp lenses. Inside, dark gray leather seats feature suede-feel patterned inserts in a combination of light and dark gray. Contrasting, light gray stitching is used on the seats, steering wheel and shift knob and an etched metal effect is used on the instrument panel center console. In addition to the Sport Blue paint (shown), the Edge Sport will be available in Ebony, Brilliant Silver and Redfire.

The Ford Transit Connect is purpose-built for small business owners in need of a versatile compact van that offers a fuel-efficient alternative to full-size commercial vans. Finally leveraging its global product portfolio, the Transit Connect features a drivetrain and chassis designed and engineered by Ford of Europe, with the interior and exterior designed in Dearborn. It was named International Van of the Year when launched in 2003. The Transit Connect will appeal to everyone from traveling musicians to caterers - and everything between. We expect it to be a big hit.

Ford is further expanding its "smart" features for truck customers with a collection of industry-exclusive technologies for F-Series trucks and commercial E-Series vans called Ford Work Solutions that will help make business owners more productive and successful, including: 1. An in-dash computer developed with Magneti Marelli and powered by Microsoft Auto that provides full high-speed Internet access via the Sprint Mobile Broadband Network and navigation by Garmin. It’s the first broadband-capable in-dash computer in production. This system allows customers to print invoices, check inventories and access documents stored on their home or office computer networks – right on the job site. 2. Tool Link, a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) asset tracking system developed in partnership with DEWALT, the industry leader in professional power tools, and ThingMagic, the industry expert on embedded RFID technology. This enables customers to maintain a detailed real-time inventory of the tools or equipment stored in the pickup box. 3. Crew Chief, a fleet telematics and diagnostics system, which allows small fleet owners to efficiently manage their vehicles, quickly dispatch workers to job sites and keep detailed vehicle maintenance records. And 4. A Cable Lock security system developed in partnership with Master Lock®, the industry-leading lock manufacturer, to discourage theft of expensive tools too large to fit in the cab.

Ford also unveiled a new Ford Focus Coupe-Cabriolet in Europe, which will make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Check out the Ford Gallery HERE.