No. 976
December 12, 2018
 

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On The Surface


Tuesday
Mar252008

On The Surface #438

March 26, 2008

Publisher's Note: It's becoming apparent that with the major auto show schedules playing out the way they do - with L.A. at the end of the year, followed by Detroit, Chicago and Geneva - that the New York International Auto Show is suffering. There was an overall lackluster feel to the show this year, which had members of the media grumbling almost from the moment they set foot in the Javits Convention Center. That said, I thought I'd give you a wrap-up of the show with some quick hits and misses from last week. The good stuff? The new Honda Fit was outstanding and so was the shimmering BMW Concept CS. The Saleen Raptor supercar and the Saleen Dan Gurney Edition Mustang were both enthusiast worthy. The Toyota Scion Hako Coupe concept was really good in the flesh. And the Ford Transit Connect could easily be our big city taxi of the future. The full lineup of the Dodge Challenger showed promise. The Pontiac Solstice Coupe and the G8 GXP almost made us forget about the sport truck. Almost. The Nissan Denki Cube and the Mitsubishi iMiEV electric concepts were both very interesting. So was the Mazda2/Demio. The new Nissan Maxima? I haven't made my mind up yet. It could be pretty good, or it could fall in the next category too. The not so good stuff? The new Acura TSX is 2008's version of asleep at the wheel. How can a company do such a great job on the Fit and unload this monument to tedium on the public? Absolutely mystifying. And I refuse to get excited about the Hyundai Genesis Coupe because it rates as just "ok." The Kia Koup Concept might fare better, but frankly, when you know the Krazy Koreans are behind both of these cars all you can do is file any optimism about them under a giant boulder of salt and just move on. The Concept Kisashi Series vehicles from Suzuki were mildly interesting, until they started blending in to the we've-already-seen-it-before "derivative" woodwork in about five minutes. And the Worst in Show? No surprise here, but that honor goes to the Pontiac G8 Sport Truck. Not because I don't like El Caminos, because I do. As a matter of fact, I spent many a blissful hour behind the wheel of a GMC version of one in my role as a driver/gopher back in the day. But a Pontiac? No frickin' way. I predict GM will back away from bringing the Pontiac Sport Truck over here, unless Chevy wants it in order to bring the El Camino back. Oh, and one more thing. The Worst Media Unveiling? Hands down the Mercedes-Benz faux political convention - for their Bluetec diesels - complete with falling red, white and blue balloons and raving campaign "supporters" waving "Bluetec" campaign placards. It was so tedious that I forgot what M-B was selling. Oh well, there's always next year... - PMD

GM, Chevrolet. It wasn't really big news or all that unexpected, but GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz revealed to Automotive News at the New York show that GM is contemplating putting the 2.0-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged, 260HP four-cylinder engine from the Pontiac Solstice GXP (and Sky Redline) into the 2009 Camaro as a standard engine package - if gas prices continue to spiral upward. GM will sell all of the V8-powered Camaros they can build to old-school enthusiasts, but if Camaro is going to be able to sustain itself in the market for the longer term, then the 4- and 6-cylinder versions will be the ones that have to deliver the kind of all-around goodness needed for the Camaro to succeed.

BBDO West. It was reported yesterday in AdAge that Mitsubishi Motors North America is readying a review of its U.S. general market creative agency. It was also announced that BBDO West, Los Angeles, which won the account three years ago, would not be participating in the review. Memo to BBDO West: Would you miss it?

arrowdown.gif Passenger, L.A. In order to recruit up to 5,000 members for its Chrysler Advisory Board, Chrysler teamed with Passenger, Los Angeles, for the on-line forum "listening" effort. The company will provide the software-servicing platform and consulting on how to best optimize the program, while screening the volunteers, according to AdAge. Our AE Quote of the Week goes to Justin Cooper, Passenger co-founder and chief innovation officer, who had this to say to AdAge: "People feel empowered by becoming brand-advisory members, and brand advocacy is the byproduct of this." If it were only that easy, Justin, and besides, are you suggesting you can turn shit into Shineola too? Good luck with that.

arrowdown.gif Joe Laymon. First off, the Ford Human Resources chief tried to hold off Automotive News from writing a wildly premature story about Jim Farley being the heir apparent to CEO Alan Mulally by divulging a list of possible successors in a move that ended-up backfiring in a big way by drawing even more attention to the story. What part of that actually seemed like a good idea at the time? Secondly, Laymon also went out of his way to praise Chrysler’s “Minimum Bob” Nardelli with the following statement: “Nardelli has skills that will work in this industry. Those who have been second-guessing how good he’s going to be will be proven wrong.” Oh really, Joe? What skills are those, exactly? Wreaking havoc throughout the organization with his inherent lack of product feel or even a rudimentary understanding of the nuances of this business? How about by being woefully out of touch with the burgeoning realities facing Chrysler? How about his piss-poor communication skills and his utter futility in communicating with the media – that is when he’s not avoiding communicating at all - unless it’s by carefully arranged media séances orchestrated by his hand-picked PR mouthpiece in New York? Or how about his absolutely uncanny inability to understand even the basic of marketing concepts, unless its being spoon-fed to him by Peter Arnell, of course? Yup, sounds like exactly the kind of skills that this industry needs more of, Joe.

Joe Laymon. After one day of publicly being the "owner" of Ford's succession planning process, Joe Laymon resigned yesterday (it had been long in the works) and will be replaced as head of human resources and corporate services by Felicia Fields. Laymon was named vice president of human resources and medical services at Chevron Corp. After ol' Carlos takes Chrysler off of Cerberus' hands, maybe Joe can bring "Minimum Bob" Nardelli over to Chevron...

Ford. The company finally unloads Jaguar and Land Rover to India's Tata Motors for $2.3 billion. Ford will also deposit approximately $600 million into the pension fund for Jaguar and Land Rover workers once the deal is completed in June. One problem, however. What are all the Ford execs who drive Jag and Land Rover company cars going to do now?

Fiat. The Italian auto company is eyeing the U.S. as a location for a manufacturing facility to produce Alfa Romeo cars and Iveco trucks in the 2011-12 time frame. The company is already talking to U.S. automakers about sharing production facilities, according to the Financial Times. Specifically, Fiat is considering southeastern Michigan as its prime target for producing vehicles here. Long suffering Alfa fans haven't been able to buy their favorite car here since 1995. That's all well and good - if they don't screw it up, of course - but we're just as interested in seeing Fiat bring their new little 500 here.

arrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifarrowdown.gif Chrysler. From the "Not Good" Files comes word that Mike Donoughe, one of Chrysler's best and brightest vehicle engineers, resigned yesterday. This after Donoughe was named head of Chrysler's ultra-confidential "Project D" just this past January. Donoughe was leading the development on the next-generation global mid-size car platform to replace the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger, clearly the most crucial product development program in the company. The Wall Street Journal reported Donoughe left the company after clashing with senior management, according to their unnamed sources. Chrysler denied the "clash" story in a prepared statement, but no one's buying it at this point. The culprit strongly rumored to be the cause of Donoughe's departure? Peter Arnell. Not Good indeed.

arrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifarrowdown.gif Buzz Hargrove. The egomaniacal Canadian Auto Workers president is on a rampage, telling everyone within earshot that his union will not accept a U.S.-style two-tier wage deal from the U.S. automakers during upcoming contract negotiations in July. Reuters quoted Hargrove as saying: "It's my last set of negotiations and my legacy is not going to be that the sons and daughters of current workers that were hired over 20 years ago are going to come in at the same rate in 2008 as their parents did in '86 or '87." That's right Buzz, it is, of course, all about you, isn't it? No one has done more damage to the CAW union's cause than this buffoon has. His over-the-top posturing and juvenile stump speeches have grown more tedious by the episode, and his head-in-the-sand, out-of-touch view of the world has become nothing more than a wincing embarrassment with each passing day. The pathetic thing in all of this is that the louder Hargrove gets, the more people tune him out. He just might get his wish in the end because what's left of the "Detroit Three" will eventually stop listening to Hargrove altogether - assessing his clown act behavior as being counterproductive and an obstacle to the process - and then walk production right out of Canada completely. Some legacy, eh, Buzz?

Hal Riney. Publisher's Note: One of the most talented and influential advertising professionals of all time died yesterday from cancer at the age of 75. Riney was responsible for some of the most memorable and effective ad campaigns in history, including work for E. & J. Gallo winery, the Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler brand, Henry Weinhard beer and the remarkable spot he created for Ronald Reagan's political campaign entitled "Morning Again in America." But probably the single most important work Riney ever created was for GM's Saturn brand. Shrewdly avoiding focusing on what was then a decidedly very ordinary car, Riney instead created an aura for the brand, a blissful state of mind portrayed brilliantly in a client presentation film called "Springtime in Spring Hill." The film, which closed with the memorable theme line - "A different kind of company. A different kind of car." - became the pivotal launch spot for the Saturn campaign, setting the tone for the brand for years to come. Mr. Riney is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Sutherland Riney, and two children from a previous marriage, Benjamin, 21, and Samantha, 19. His ashes will be spread at Mount St. Helens, Wash., where he grew up and loved to fish and hike, Ms. Riney said. A wake celebrating his life is being planned to take place in about a month, according to AdAge. In a shallow world where the term "legend" is used at the drop of a hat and the adjective "great" is thrown around flippantly with little or no meaning, Hal Riney's legendary work will endure for all time, and he will be remembered as being the greatest adman of his generation. - PMD