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June 26, 2019

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On The Surface


On The Surface #455

July 23, 2008

Carlos Ghosn. He tells the media yesterday at the opening of Nissan's glistening new headquarters that the company's bet on electric vehicles is real and that Nissan will make money doing it. He also said that electric vehicles must be all electric to be sustainable for the long term, in other words, no stinkin' range-extending gasoline engines on board for Nissan. We'll see about that.

The Ethanol Lobby, GM. Get ready for the backlash against corn-based ethanol that's growing by the day. After GM put their stake in the ground and went "all in" on ethanol, the reality is that it's still not available on a broad enough basis to matter. And this business of every farmer with a spare bit of land planting corn isn't working out so much either. Cellulosic ethanol and other processes show promise, but in the meantime the ethanol "miracle" is stuck in neutral, going nowhere.

Malcolm Bricklin. It's hard to muster any sympathy for Malcolm Bricklin, given his track record, but he might just have a legitimate beef this time around. His Visionary Vehicles filed a lawsuit in the  U.S. District Court in Detroit against China's Chery Automobile Co., accusing the company of defrauding Bricklin's start-up after the two formed a joint venture to import Chinese cars to the United States. Bricklin claims that Visionary lost over $26 million in the blown-up deal. "We brought them people, we brought them money, we brought them ideas, we brought them everything we were supposed to, and they took everything, and it's a real shame," Bricklin said at a news conference in New York. Bricklin formed the venture with Chery in 2004 to import its cars to America as early as 2007, but the deal fell through because Chery obviously felt that they would have a better chance of making it in the U.S. with an established company, so they cut Bricklin out and hooked up with Chrysler. Something tells us that ol' Malcolm has a real shot of winning a substantial settlement from the Chinese company, which by all accounts has conducted itself with less than a modicum of integrity in the matter, to put it mildly.

Bill Gates. He buys significant stake in Auto Nation. Can a national dealer relief fund be far behind???

Mercury. From the "Back From The Dead" File, in Ford's radical new product program Mercury will play a key role as a conduit of small cars. Who would of thunk it?

GM, Chevrolet. Publisher's Note:  We have no idea why Chevrolet decided that this past Monday had to be the day to announce the production version of the new 2010 Camaro, since production isn't slated to begin until next February 16, 2009, but they did anyway, so here are the particulars: The Camaro LS and LT will be equipped with the same 3.6L direct-injected V-6 currently available in the Cadillac CTS, which delivers 304HP and an estimated 26 mpg on the highway, with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic. The Camaro SS gets the 6.2L LS3 V-8 delivering 422HP with the six-speed manual gearbox. Active Fuel Management will be available on the Camaro V-8s equipped with the automatic transmission, and in that configuration the highway fuel economy number is said to be 23 mpg. Other highlights include four-wheel independent suspension, including a 4.5-link rear suspension design, four-wheel disc brakes standard on all models (including four-piston Brembo calipers on SS models), variable-rate power steering with the rack mounted forward of the front axle for greater driver feel, sophisticated Stabilitrak stability control system with Competitive/Sport modes for the SS models (including launch control on SS models equipped with the six-speed manual transmission). A variety of 18", 19" and 20" wheels will be offered, and a special RS appearance package will be available on LT and SS models, including HID headlamps with integrated halo rings, spoiler, specific tail lamps and 20-inch wheels. Other standard Camaro stuff includes six standard air bags, with head curtain side-impact air bags and front seat-mounted thorax side air bags, Bluetooth phone connectivity, premium Boston Acoustics audio system, USB connectivity, remote vehicle start, OnStar, etc., etc., etc. The Camaro, as our readers may remember, was introduced at the NAIAS in January 2006. Since then, GM and Chevrolet have done everything in their power to make sure that the car was overexposed every step of the way. Shown online, in magazines, at various auto shows and even in the movies - it even had a starring role in Transformers - the Camaro will be three years old in consumers' minds by the time it starts hitting vehicle showrooms next March because Chevy just couldn't refrain from showing the car every chance they got. Not Good to say the least. Yes, the drivers looking for rear-wheel-drive and kick-ass V-8 performance at a decent price point will scarf up those versions of the Camaro at a rapid clip, I have no doubt. But the Camaro can't survive in this economic climate on sales of the V-8 alone. It's the standard Camaro - the V-6-powered LS and LT versions - that Chevy has to sell in droves, and whether they can do that or not will be the billion dollar question and determine if the Camaro will be considered a hit, or another botched launch from Detroit along the lines of the recent Ford Thunderbird fiasco. We'll term the Camaro launch as a giant "we'll see" for now. - PMD

(John F. Martin/GM)
The production version of the new 2010 Camaro (shown with the RS appearance package).

The formal introduction of the new 2010 Ford Mustang will take place at the L.A. Auto Show in November, but Ford gave road racing enthusiasts a sneak peek at the (camouflaged) car last Saturday evening at one of the premier vintage road racing events in the country - the Kohler International Challenge with Brian Redman Presented by Ford - at Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The next-gen Mustang led a parade of enthusiast-owned Mustangs around America's most famous natural-terrain road racing circuit, a blistering fast (and beautiful) 4.048-mile layout that is carved out of the rolling hills of the Kettle Moraine region of north central Wisconsin. Ford became a presenting sponsor of the event this year as part of its plan to turn up the heat on the Mustang in preparation for its head-to-head fight with the Chevy Camaro next spring.

arrowup.gifMeadow Brook Concours d'Elegance. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the 2008 Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance weekend promises to be bigger and more extravagant than ever, thanks to the efforts of Chairman Larry Smith and the superb group of committed enthusiasts he has assembled to make sure the event lives up to its world class status. In addition to the Historic Races at Waterford Hills, annual art auction and motoring tour, the Destination d'Elegance debuts on Saturday, August 2, and features gourmet food, shops, cooking demonstrations and wine tastings. The Concours itself takes place Sunday, August 3, and will showcase significant Ferraris, 8-litre Bentleys, 16-cylinder cars, GM's 100th Anniversary celebration featuring the magnificent Bill Mitchell era concept cars, the Model T's 100th Anniversary, flying cars, vintage motorcycles with sidecars, the Class of 1933 and the North American debut of the B.A.T. 11. Visit for more info.