January 26th, 2011 at 12:00pm
A group of eight automakers are getting together to work on car-to-car communications. Toyota is recalling 1.7 million vehicles worldwide to replace faulty parts including defective fuel systems. Italian sports-car builder Pagani revealed its latest creation and this thing is crazy looking! All that and more, plus guest host Peter De Lorenzo shares his thoughts on GM CEO Dan Akerson and his latest moves to put his “stamp” on the company.
This is Autoline Daily for January 26, 2011. I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, filling in for McElroy. Anyway, here’s what’s going on.
As much as I hate to say it, autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation. Taking one step closer to this goal, The Detroit Free Press reports a group of eight automakers are getting together to work on car-to-car communications. The idea here is to get all vehicles on the road to talk to each other. Sure, each automaker could develop its own version of the technology, but if their cars can only communicate with each other what good is that? There needs to be a standard, which is what they’re studying. With funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation the OEMs will each build eight vehicles AND retrofit another 2,000 with the technology to study how well it works. The cars will warn drivers of potential dangers, especially those that are not detectable with radar or are out of their view. They also have to work on security so computer hackers can’t compromise the system. It’ll be interesting to see how well the pie-in-the-sky stuff actually works in the real world.
NEW MPG RULES ON THE WAY (subscription required)
Later this year the U.S. EPA along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will announce new fuel economy rules for 2017 through 2025. Surprisingly, California has agreed to follow suit. According to Ward’s, the agencies and the state will announce their proposals on September First. Last year the EPA said it was considering a 62 MPG requirement by 2025 which is just 3.8 liters per 100 km. That represents a 6 percent increase annually but regulators are also looking at increases of between 3 and 5 percent.
ANOTHER TOYOTA RECALL (subscription required)
From the “Not Good” file comes word of another black eye for Toyota. The automaker is recalling some 1.7 million vehicles worldwide to replace faulty parts including defective fuel systems. The lion’s share of those vehicles was sold in Japan, but it also includes some 425,000 in North America. Historically, January is turning out to be a bad month for Toyota. The Wall Street Journal reports this is its third million-plus call-back for the month in as many years. The company says no accidents or injuries have been reported because of this defect.
LEAF NAMED CAR OF THE YEAR IN EUROPE
Earlier this month the Chevy Volt was named the North American Car of the Year, but in Europe they decided to give the honor to another electric car (big surprise). According to the Detroit News, the Nissan LEAF was named the Car of the Year in Europe. Nearly 60 journalists from 23 countries picked the LEAF and the company was awarded the trophy yesterday in Paris.
SHORTER NASCAR RACES?
There are a lot of things NASCAR could do to make its races more exciting for fans, but here’s a new one. According to the AP, the chairman of Fox Sports, David Hill, says NASCAR needs to shorten its races to fit into a three-hour broadcast window because they’re too long and that’s contributed to low ratings. But he doesn’t believe he has much of a shot convincing NASCAR to make the change. This is something I’ve been advocating for years, keep the premier races at 500 or 600 miles – in the case of Charlotte – but cut the lesser races to 300 or no more than 400 miles. What do you think?
Italian sports-car builder Pagani has revealed its latest creation and it’s spelled H-u-a-y-r-a. I’m guess Hy-ra. This thing is crazy-looking! Check out that grille, those side-view mirrors and the gull-wing doors. NOBODY is going to confuse this thing with a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. Inside, things are a little tamer, but not much. Its leather-lined cockpit looks comfy and is trimmed with carbon fiber. The Huayra is powered by an AMG-built 6.0-liter V-12 engine. With twin turbochargers it delivers more than 700 horsepower! When you factor in a curb weight of less than 3,000 pounds, top speed should be nearly 230 miles an hour! Too bad it can’t outrun ugly.
After the break, a few thoughts on GM CEO Dan Akerson and his latest moves to put his “stamp” on the company.
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
The battle for the Hearts and Minds of the media – automotive and otherwise – as well as consumers who bother to pay attention, has well and truly begun. On the one side you have GM’s PR troops, who are primed, ready and already going full-bore spinning the story that it’s Morning Again at General Motors, and that CEO Dan Akerson is the visionary who will lead the company back to the Promised Land through a laser-like focus on the customer. On the other side you have me – soon to be joined by others (as soon as they get their heads out of their you-know-whats and start burrowing through the fog of war laid down by GM’s PR troops) – who see a different Dan Akerson, one who is an ego maniacal corporate opportunist with an overwrought sense of himself who has been handed the keys to an American icon simply because he was the best alternative that the board of directors had at the moment. And who will now put his new found – and instantly accrued “wisdom” about the car business to work in remaking the company, even though that wisdom is made up more of knee-jerk reactionary pronouncements than earned understanding of what’s really going on.
No, the real story is that Lt. Dan is one who will shake the neck of GM until it falls limp in his hands so that he can then rebuild it in his image. And believe me that image is not one of a customer-focused, enlightened, tech-savvy automotive company of the future, by any means.
Instead, it will be a company stripped to the bone in the interest of delivering short-term, eyeball-popping profits for the next couple of years, but which will then be left a woefully uncompetitive, hollowed out husk of a company by 2016 because of a product development process decimated by functionaries imbued with the Akerson gospel of speed and cost cutting – product relevancy and integrity be damned.
So please spare me the hyperbole associated with Dan Akerson and how he is the latest in the long line of saviors for General Motors. Lt. Dan is a corporate blunderbuss masquerading as a switched-on visionary auto executive, except there’s nothing visionary about the shallow reservoir of knowledge that this guy brings to the table every day.
Instead, it just falls under the time-honored dictum of a little bit of knowledge is a very dangerous thing.
The Bottom Line?
It’s going to be delicious to see how all of this plays out but one thing is certain, traditional PR tactics are not going to work this time. This is a different time and a different era and there isn’t enough “spin” at the disposal of GM PR’s troops to present “Lt. Dan” as the next auto industry Messiah. He is woefully miscast in that role, and there isn’t enough “there” there.
Dan Akerson is the wrong guy, at the wrong time, at the wrong car company.
And as long as he’s at the wheel, GM’s long-term future is at risk.
That’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
But before we go, don’t forget to join us tomorrow as we broadcast LIVE from the Washington D.C. Auto Show. John will be talking with policy makers, technology experts and corporate leaders, so be sure to tune in. That’s tomorrow at NOON on our website, AutolineDetroit.tv. And thank you to everyone that participated in our ticket giveaway. You’ve cleaned us out! Enjoy the show, and I’ll see you tomorrow.