Episode 586 – GM’s 2010 Earnings, Daimler’s Hiring, Spyker Selling Sportscar Outfit to Save Saab

February 24th, 2011 at 12:42pm

Runtime 8:20

General Motors reported its earnings for 2010 and overall the numbers look pretty good.  In a sign that the global industry is turning around Daimler announced it plans to hire over 10,000 workers this year.  Tiny Dutch automaker Spyker is selling its sports car unit to a Russian businessman in an effort to reduce its debt and allow it to focus more resources on saving Saab.  All that and more, plus the one, the only Jim Hall shares a few his thoughts on Cadillac’s controversial Urban Luxury Concept.  Find out why it may not be such a bad idea after all.


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Why hello there!  James Hall, the evilest host of Autoline Daily ever.  From my secret lair at the earth’s West Pole I’ve been masterminding a plan to control the media.  With McElroy out of town the time is ripe to strike a crippling blow.  Soon 2953 Analytics will be the world’s sole source of high-quality automotive analysis.  All others shall bow before me, COLONEL HALL!  AH HA HA HA!  In the meantime, here’s the freshest, best and most aromatic news from the cyberweb’s murky depths.

In a move that’s sure to make all automakers nervous, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a family can sue Mazda over seat belts. According to the Detroit News, a woman was killed in an accident while only wearing a lap belt in a 1993 Mazda MPV.  Federal regulations did not require shoulder belts for all seating positions for 1993 light trucks.  The family of the victim says Mazda should have installed shoulder AND lap belts in the vehicle, which, at the time, weren’t required. The Court didn’t find the company liable for any wrongdoing; it’s just allowing the case to go to trial. But this can’t be good news for automakers; this decision will just make it easier for people to sue them over liability issues.

General Motors reported its earnings for 2010 and overall the numbers look pretty good. It posted a $4.7 billion “profit of net income attributable to common stockholders,” whatever that means. However, the company is still losing money in Europe, posting a $600 million loss before interest and taxes. Also, profitability fell in its international operations mainly because of China, dropping to $300 million from $400 million.  GM’s profit also fell in South America. But as we reported earlier the company was able to pay its hourly employees over four grand in profit sharing because its overall numbers were strong.  Oh yes, GM will be paying shareholders of the new company a $3.11 dividend as well.

In a sign that the global industry is turning around, Daimler announced it plans to hire over 10,000 workers this year. According to the AP, strong demand in the U.S. and China is spurring the hires. Daimler plans to hire nearly 7,000 skilled workers worldwide, and in the U.S. the company plans to hire 1,300 workers for its truck plant.

Talk about slow motion . . . Volkswagen and Porsche’s merger seems to be stuck in first gear as the two automotive giants face one roadblock after another.  Blame the ever-thorough German legal system for some of the latest delays.  According to Bloomberg, prosecutors are investigating allegations of share-price manipulation by two former board members.  There are also some tax disputes and U.S. lawsuits to take care of.  Because of these issues – and others – the official, final, functional merger probably won’t take place until next year, which is, like, two years LATE.

Spyker is in the news again.  Last year it took on the failing Saab brand and now Bloomberg reports the tiny Dutch automaker is selling its sports car unit to a Russian businessman in an effort to reduce its debt.  Vladimir Antonov – no relation to the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer . . . that we’re aware of – is a former chairman and shareholder of Spyker.  He’s paying 15 million Euros – roughly $21 million – for the company’s supercar division, which sold just 36 cars in 2009.  But to be fair they were 36 really, REALLY expensive cars.  Spyker is doing this to help its balance sheet which will cut its interest payments and to focus more of its limited resources on resuscitating Saab.

It’s always fun to take a peek at the personal finances of automotive executives.  No, I’m not some perverted voyeur; it’s just nice to see if they’re really earning their keep.  Has Chrysler’s Italian import been delivering?  You be the jury.  The Detroit Free Press reports Fiat paid Sergio Marchionne roughly $5 million last year, 27 percent less than in 2009.  To working stiffs like you and me that’s a ton of moolah, but in the world of top-level executives it wouldn’t get you enough mileage on your Marquis Jet card for a trip to Pomona.  When you factor in how much this man works it probably averages out to about eight bucks an hour. Okay, maybe ten.  On the other hand, Chrysler has not disclosed how much it pays Marchionne.  The government restructuring put a salary cap of $500,000 on the company’s top 25 executives.  HOWEVER, Fiat employees – like Sergio – are exempt from this restriction.  So who knows what amazing, unbelievable or otherwise fantastical amounts of money he earns.  I’d bet it’s in the tens of hundreds of dollars . . . or maybe even more.

Coming up next, you asked for it . . . well, actually not YOU, but I’ll give you my two cents on one of Cadillac’s more controversial concepts.

At last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show Cadillac rolled out a rather controversial concept that can be called the CULC.  Okay, the company dubbed it the Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept, but I still prefer CULC, and I don’t care if the design is three years old.  I don’t care that Bob Lutz didn’t get it and thought a mini-Escalade was a better idea.  I don’t care if it repulses traditional Cadillac owners.  General Motors needs to build this car.

For some background, you should be aware that the CULC was a component of something called the “micro exotic” project back three years ago or thereabouts. The idea was to devise a small, fuel-efficient car that could warrant more than bottom-feeder pricing. What the hell, it works for Mini and should pan out for the Cinquecento for Fiat in the United States.

So why not do something like this at GM? Naturally, such a car couldn’t be a Chevy, they’ve got entry-level small cars so that leaves Buick and Cadillac.  But when the Micro Exotic was underway, Pontiac, Saturn and Saab were still considered viable endeavors. Not so now. So with only two logical nameplates left at GM for a premium-priced small car and with the way the tri-shield brand is evolving, mayhaps Buick would be more appropriate if you wanted to draw the youngest Y’s.

That said this car is exactly the kind of product Cadillac needs for the second and third decades of the 21st century. A car like this is about tomorrow, not a tip of the corporate hat to times past like the MINI and Fiat’s Cinquecento. The Europeans have done a great job so far with leveraging the retro appeal of both vehicles.  There are those who believe the MINI is getting a little long in the tooth and that it has a cartoon interior.  As much as I like MINIS, I don’t completely disagree with the observation.  Right now the Cinquecento pretty much spot-on for what the company needs to relaunch the Fiat nameplate in North America. But growing Fiat on this side of the Atlantic, building on the Cinquecento, will not be an easy task.

But the Cooper and the 500 aren’t the issue here, GM is missing out on the premium B-car image market, a market that should be used to snag the youngest customers early and bond ‘em to your products before they’re old enough to know better.

Besides, I plain old love this dinky Cadillac’s attitude.

Build this car General Motors! But please with a 1.4-liter turbo four rather than some clunky, rev-resistant lump of a three-pot engine.

And that’s it for today’s installment of Autoline Daily.  Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of this week’s mini-series.  You don’t want to miss it.  And with that we can wrap things up, come full-circle and finish the job, because we are done.  But before I, COLONEL HALL – Majordomo of ALL the moonmen, say adieu, you require reminding about this evening’s festivities.  Open your web-browser of choice and navigate to our site, AutolineDetroit.tv.  Do it around 7:00 p.m. Eastern time and you will be rewarded with the internet’s most entertaining and informative automotive program.  That’s right, it’s Thursday night and that means Autoline After Hours.  Captain Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, is skippering the show this week.  He is joined in-studio by none other than Commodore Scott Burgess of the Detroit News.  Of course yours truly, Admiral Hall, will also be on the bridge so DON’T MISS IT.

And with that, good bye, I will see you tonight.  No, seriously, YOU’D BETTER BE THERE!  Oh yeah, there will be a test . . .

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43 Comments to “Episode 586 – GM’s 2010 Earnings, Daimler’s Hiring, Spyker Selling Sportscar Outfit to Save Saab”

  1. HtG Says:

    tj, Lexus emailed me a brochure. Click the link, and there is a panel on the LFA back there. Have they no mercy?


  2. tj Martin Says:

    If Cadillac were to bring out the CULC it would fail miserably . Say what you will about the BMW MINI ( obviously aspects of the car are wearing thin with me as well ) the simple reality is BMW played on the publics Heartstrings by revitalizing an Icon Brand of the motoring industry : whereas Cadillac has Zero Credibility building a small car . Perhaps even less in light of Cadillacs so called BMW 3 Series competitors of the past etc.

    Truth be known in the EU/UK even the FIAT 500 is struggling to compete with the MINI in spite of being cheaper . Being based on a cheap FIAT platform not helping its image in the least .

    No John if GM really wants to get serious about entering the Premium Small Car segment , its the 2004 Chevy Nomad they should bring back to life .

    Bring back an American Icon . Do it right ( for once unlike the Prowler ) and GM would have a hit on its hands . For the Premium Price they’re looking for !

    Heck I’d even buy one !

  3. Lex Says:

    Admiral Hall,

    I believe you are right about the CULC. My only comments is that it should be a Chevy.
    The New Daewoo based Aveo replacement called the Sonic looks really BAD! The name Sonic is also really BAD! It should be scraped or renamed the “Tracker”. I can see the CULC as a “Chevy Urban Long-Distance Commuter”. It would have the Cruze’s powertrain, i.e. 1.4 litre turbo, or a Voltec powertrain.

  4. tj Martin Says:


    I’ve seen that commercial on TV . A bit odd if you ask me , but there you have it .

    Sure do like the LF-A though . Insane !

    Wish someone would do a Book/Bookazine on the LF-A .

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    If the CTS and SRX copulated and had a handicapped baby, it would be the CULC

  6. tj Martin Says:


    You would have to remind me of my 10 day SRX Cadillac Nightmare from Hell experience last June wouldn’t you :o )

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    tj since the SRX is built on an Equinox chassis and the latter has been so universally acclaimed, I don’t understand how the Caddy could have made such a negative impression on you!!!

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Annoyingly entertaining…………..great job Jim. (keeping John on his toes) And I agree with your Cadillac rant; build it GM (and don’t skimp on a thing), “The New Standard of the World” if I’ve got my quote correct.

  9. dcars Says:

    Obi wan Kenobi Comments on Jim Hall:
    “He’s more machine now than man; twisted and evil.”
    Jim Hall on David Welch: Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends. Yes, your thoughts betray you…..

  10. bob Says:

    “tj Martin Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    If Cadillac were to bring out the CULC it would fail miserably ”

    I TOTALLY agree. This silly concept is all flash and no substance. The interior is laughably tinny-plasticky. Cadillac, in case you forgot, 58-year-old ( 2-9-53, QED) baldie Hall, is supposed to be a LUXURY maker.

  11. bob Says:

    Hall did a POOR job today. Not only was the show really late (John usually starts at 12 noon sharp), Hall was trying too hard to be way too cute (in his own mind, always). I was thinking that his target audience was kids 5-12.

  12. bob Says:

    The REASON, you clueless Hall, BMW and FIAT DID build the MINI and the Cinquecento AGAIN, along the lines of their predecessors, is that the ORIGINALS were AUTOMOTIVE WORKS OF ART, ie CLASSICS, at least in the exterior styling, which counts for a lot.

    Your STUPID, STUPID Cadillac looks like a hand-held vacuum cleaner appliance by comparison or even without comparison. It has LOSER written all over it. GET REAL, Hall!

  13. bob Says:

    It is the same thing, Hall, that Hollywood does, these cklowns are all out of ideas, so half their movies are REMAKES of past big hits. Same thing with the retro-mobiles.

  14. dcars Says:

    GM needs to look more closely at it’s European operations…. if they aren’t already doing so. GM sells more cars in China than the US and only makes $300mil.? Jim I think you need to have a talk with Akerson something similar to your discussion with Admiral Motti.
    Sorry for all the star wars references.

  15. bob Says:

    Speaking of Caddy, there were a few lease offers in the brochure I got in the mail the other day, and it is striking how OVERPRICED the STS COUPE is, it is easily $10k more than its 4-door cousin, which is far more practical and has far more interior room.

    The Coupe styling will grow obsolete in 15 minutes or 15 months, who cares, but the main purpose of the coupe is to make the STS sedan look like an incredible bargain at $32k (BUY a 2011!), almost as cheap as a much smaller, weaker and not at all luxurious new FOCUS with its options!

  16. bob Says:

    “pedro fernandez Says:
    February 24th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    tj since the SRX is built on an Equinox chassis and the latter has been so universally acclaimed, ”

    Everything has its PRICE, Pedro. While the $22k Equinox looks like a real bargain, putting a Caddy badge over its nose and selling it for twice the price is patently LUDICROUS and only a damned fool would buy it.

  17. tj Martin Says:



    Have you already forgotten my abysmal review of the SRX I wrote here last July ? I think you or someone else called the lengthy review ” Depressing ”

    The horrific Blind spots . Pathetic acceleration ? The CRAP brakes ? The Seats that start out so wonderful , then morph into Spanish Inquisition Torture Devices the more you drive it ? The lack of storage space in the ” Trunk ” ( seats up ) Getting my tail whipped on a Colorado Pass ( Vail – Leadville ) on paved roads by a stinking JEEP 4dr Unlimited ? The lousy MPG ?

    ( remember I was doing a comparison with the Infinit FX35 )

    Equinox Shmeekuinox . They are both POS !

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yeah, I can just see the typical Caddy owner getting their pre-order ready for this POS CULC. Man, Juke, Moco, CULC, Acura, what the hell is happening to this business?

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    Bob, then by your account buying a Ghost is a waste of money when the 7 series with same drive-train and optioned-up interior can be be had for a lot less $$$. Who knows the 7′s most likely a better handler.

  20. tj Martin Says:

    @Bob ;

    It hit me after I tapped the submit button my Equinox comment might raise your ire .

    So sorry about that and we’ll just have to Agree to Disagree on the Equinox .

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “the ORIGINALS (Mini, 500) were AUTOMOTIVE WORKS OF ART, ie CLASSICS, at least in the exterior styling,”

    The Mini was also the beginning of the front drive, transverse engine layout that is now dominant in small-midsize cars. There were differences from today’s cars, like the “classic” Mini’s sharing oil between the engine and transmission, but in 1959, that power train arrangement was real innovation for maximizing cabin space in a very small car.

  22. tj Martin Says:


    ” what the hell is happening to this business ? ”

    Same thing thats happening to all the businesses today . They’re being run by Bean Counters and the Investors instead of Business Men and Enthusiasts .

    Oh and a healthy dose of Excessive Greed as well

  23. dcars Says:

    Was the SRX truly that bad? I like the looks of it, but is the Enclave better? One of my friends is considering it, but they will not consider any foreign vehicles. So its either one of the Enclave family of vehicles or the Ford Explorer.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I haven’t driven an SRX, but I’m sure I’d find the power underwhelming, adequate, but little more. I really don’t understand their using the 3.0 liter version of the 3.6 that they use in everything from Malibu to the CTS. In cases like the CTS where both the 3.0 and 3.6 used in the same vehicle, the mileage ratings are the same, or, at most, 1 mpg different on one, but not both of the city/highway ratings.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Enclave is bigger and roomier than the SRX, and has a third row of seats if you need it.

    The SRX probably drives a little “sportier,” and should get a little better gas mileage since it is ~600# lighter than the SRX. The Enclave has the 3.6 engine I mentioned in #24 as its only engine.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    @bob, re. #15

    You are referring to the CTS, not the STS which is sold only as a sedan. The CTS is sold as coupe, sedan, and wagon.

  27. dcars Says:

    Thanks for the info Kit. I recommended the cts wagon, but his wife said “no.” to bad for him.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I like the CTS wagon, but it is more expensive, and more thirsty than the cars I buy. I hope it succeeds, though.

  29. Ralph Says:

    Enjoyed the show today Jim. You need a little deeper laugh to be really scary though. Think Bela Legossi!!

    Bob,RE: posts 12,13,15,16 etc. You shouldn’t hold back. Tell people how you really feel. Keeping all that rage and ire bottled up will detroy you some day. Just kidding.
    Are you sure you aren’t Nick’s alter ego??

  30. Michael Says:

    @ #15 – Bob, who wrote “The Coupe styling will grow obsolete in 15 minutes or 15 months…”

    I couldn’t disagree more. I understand there are folk out here who don’t like the coupe – But for the life of me, I honestly just don’t understand why.

    That car is pure badass! And will always BE badass.

    I’m sorry Bob, but when you say it’s appeal will fade (and quickly), you sound like those idiots who said Rock & Roll was a fad, and whose grown children then turned around and said Hip Hop music was a flash in the pan. Heck, I’d like to say that Justin (mop-head) Beiber is a fad, but I think the kid’s likely here to stay (for at least a little while longer, anyway).

  31. paulstewart Says:

    Jim Hall good job as always !

  32. Phoenix Mark Says:

    @ pedro and tj,

    ” what the hell is happening to this business ? ”

    Don’t forget the government….

  33. tj Martin Says:

    @dcars ;

    Yes ! After putting some 1200 miles in ten days on a Cadillac SRX i can say without a doubt that it is a complete and utter POS .

    In the end there was nothing and i mean nothing good I could say about the car without lying thru my teeth .

    It was by far the WORST new car I’ve driven in the last decade bar none .

    The blind spots out the back are bad enough but then there’s the blind spots out the front window ( and I’m 6’4″ ) And seriously both handling and acceleration wise I Could Not Keep up with a JEEP Wrangler Limited on a paved two lane . The SRX losing grip left and right thru the turns ( and I have some racing/rallying experience/training so … )

    I’d by anything over the SRX especially in light of the price .

  34. SalvadorG. Says:

    I think the heat is getting to James Hall…

    1. I’m glad by the Federal Court decision to able to sue a company for something that wasn’t even require at the time they make a car. Now I can finally sue Ford Motors for not installing disk brakes or seat belts or air bags, etc. etc. etc. On the original Model T.

    And 2.
    James Hall, your out of your freaking mind; the Culc (and to be honest I thought it was ‘The Cult’ which is actually better) Nice concept, and ONLY as a Concept, What’s wrong with you James Hall, even Mercedez don’t sell their ‘B Class here and you want Cadillac to do it.

    -Yes, the heat is getting to James Hall or maybe is just the age.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    tj I have found that most SUV type vehicles I have driven recently suffer from 1) too thick A pillars and overly large outside mirrors which create a dangerous blind spot when you’re turning in either direction.

  36. tj Martin Says:

    @pedro ;

    Its not just the A Pillars on the SRX its the view over the hood , the fender bulges that interfere etc , thats a royal mess . Trying to gauge where the front wheels were even in a parking lot was a nightmare .

    Seriously !

    Yes I know the FJ I’m considering has a blind spot out the back ( which is why mine will have the bleeping camera ) but the SRX’s blind spots are everywhere .

    It’d take less time to tell you where the blind spots are not .

  37. tj Martin Says:


    I’ll have to go with Bob on the CTS coupe as well . Not that I think its a bad design . Its pretty benign if you ask me . But it is a style ( the Wanna Be Stealth Fighter Look ) that is destined to become irrelevant in a very short time .

  38. XA351GT Says:

    The only problem with bringing back the Nomad is that GM would price it out of reach like every other cool car they have come out with in the last 10 years, Example SSR,GTO ,Camaro V6, Solstice. I know the Solstice had a 20K base price ,but the cheapest I ever saw one at a dealership was 24K + . Compared to other cars in their classes they were always overpriced.

  39. pedro fernandez Says:

    Guys, at the rate we’re going, soon every single car will be priced out of most working folk’s price range, I was recently flabbergasted by an Accent’s sticker price at a local dealer, even though I was told by the technician I met that price is “nowhere close to what you would pay”.

  40. Artimus77 Says:

    Grrrrrrrrrr!!! CULC MAD, CULC SMASH!!!!!!

    Has anyone made that joke yet?

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If Chevy did a “new Nomad” the way they did the sSR, it would be very expensive. If they did it more along the lines of HHR and PT Cruiser, built on the Cruze platform, it wouldn’t have to be so expensive. I might like that latter, if they put that 4 cyl. diesel in it.

  42. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >In a move that’s sure to make all
    >automakers nervous, the Supreme
    >Court ruled yesterday that a family
    >can sue Mazda over seat belts.
    >According to the Detroit News, a
    >woman was killed in an accident
    >while only wearing a lap belt in
    >a 1993 Mazda MPV.

    What the Supreme Court’s ruling amounts to, is ex post facto law sneaking through the back door. If, up to a certain hour it was legal for cars or light trucks not to have shoulder belts in some seat positions, and then a law is passed requiring them after said hour, fine. But I don’t think its fair to punish anybody, or any corporation, for not being in compliance with a law before it was signed and put into effect. The constitutions of not only the USA but every civilized country specifically forbid ex post facto legislation. If we can’t count on our own Supreme Court to uphold the constitution the way our founding fathers intended, our nation is in big trouble.

  43. M Campbell Says:

    Thanks for the great show Jim, and for your insight last night as well. Totally agree about the CULC, it could be a good transportation solution for many people I know who want their eco-friendly daily driver to have a bit of pizazz.

    @ Ralph #29. You know he is. The attacking nature, sentance structure, and use of capitalization give it away. That and the fact that he still doesn’t comprehend that the Transit Connect isn’t a competitor to the Equinox.