April 9th, 2012 at 11:45am
The full-size car segment is starting to heat up in the American market. Chrysler will unveil two new concept vehicles at the Beijing Auto Show in two weeks. Mazda is struggling financially, which is why the financial community wants to see the company dump some of its non-core assets. All that and more, plus John talks to Jessica LaFond from Chrysler about a program the company uses to develop future management.
Welcome to a new week of Autoline Daily. It’s April 9th, I’m John McElroy and here’s the news.
FULL-SIZE SEGMENT HEATS UP
The full-size car segment is starting to heat up in the American market. At the New York Auto Show last week Chevrolet showed off the new Impala, the best-selling car in the segment. And Toyota showed off the new Avalon. Ford recently tweaked the Taurus, and Nissan did the same for the Maxima. A year ago Chrysler redid the 300, which makes the Buick LaCrosse the oldest car in the segment. So far this year those six big sedans have racked up sales of 126,000 units, easily outselling the 36 hybrids and electrics that are in the market, which had sales of 110,000 units.
The new Avalon, by the way, is the first time Toyota has completely designed a passenger car in the U.S. The car was styled at Calty, which is Toyota’s design center in California. All the engineering was done at its sprawling tech center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the car itself will be built in Kentucky. This move is yet another example of how Japanese automakers are trying to cope with the high cost of the Japanese yen.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
About five years ago Lincoln dumped longstanding nameplates in favor of MK-this and MK-that. Has the strategy actually worked? Well, according to a Detroit Free Press article, no. Town Car and Navigator are still the best-known Lincoln names. MKZ, which has received half a decade of advertising and marketing, is still not as well known. Six years after the name change and the old names still score better? Lincoln, I think the market is telling you something.
CHRYSLER TEASES BEIJING REVEALS
Chrysler will unveil two new concept vehicles at the Beijing Auto Show in about two weeks. One is a 300C created with the Chinese market in mind. Supposedly it features special Chinese-themed design elements. The other concept-in-question is a Jeep Wrangler inspired by the year of the dragon. Chrysler is practically nonexistent in China and the fact that it developed two concept vehicles for the show, shows it really wants to make an impact.
AKERSON’S PAY FROZEN
You know, maybe GM really is Government Motors. The U.S. Treasury Department just froze CEO Dan Akerson’s compensation at $9 million. Other executives will have their pay frozen as well but the government did agree to raises for a few executives. I think that the optics just weren’t very good, what with executives making millions in an election year, and with the UAW squawking that management is making too much.
MAZDA NEEDS TO SELL ASSETS
Mazda is struggling financially, which is why the financial community wants to see the company dump some of its non-core assets, like the Hiroshima Carp, a professional baseball team and the Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a professional soccer team. Mazda also owns a hospital and $5 billion in land in its home city of Hiroshima. The company is forecasting it will rack up its largest loss in 11 years and dumping those non-core assets could sure pay a lot of bills.
Say, have you ever heard of the Chrysler Institute of Engineering? Me neither. It’s a program that Chrysler uses to develop future management and we’ll have more about that right after this.
THAT AH-HA MOMENT
Jessica LaFond is model responsible for minivans at Chrysler. That’s their internal way of saying she’s the chief engineer. I asked her to give me one of those “Ah-Ha Moments” that really helped her in her career, and to talk about the Chrysler Engineering Institute, a program within Chrysler to train technical people for the company. I want to thank the Automotive Next program at Inforum for helping to arrange this interview and to Chrysler for sponsoring it. Let’s go to that interview right now.
(The Ah-Ha Moment is only available in the video version of today’s program.)