Episode 914 – GM Design Shaken not Stirred, Renault to Add Brands, Ford and GM Get Green

June 19th, 2012 at 11:53am

Runtime: 8:15

GM is shaking up its designers in hopes of increasing brand identity. The world’s largest automaker wants to move away from the current regional design scheme and toward one with global brand designers. Renault plans to add two luxury brands to its portfolio in an effort to bolster its sales and image. Ford and GM are touting their own environmental accomplishments. All that and more, plus a look at the Dodge Dart.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily for June 19. I’m John McElroy, and here’s what’s happening in the global automotive industry.

General Motors is changing the way its Design operations are organized. It will now have designers more aligned around its brands rather than having them organized on a geographical basis. GM’s vice president of Global Design, Ed Welburn says this will give GM a more consistent brand message, a better understanding of each brand’s customers, and allow more parts sharing across brands. Ken Parkinson will head up Chevrolet and GMC design worldwide, Mark Adams will head up Cadillac and Buick design. Dave Lyon will head up GM Europe design with responsibility for Opel and Vauxhall. Clay Dean will head up advanced design worldwide.

In an effort to offset slumping car sales in Europe and be more competitive around the globe, Renault is considering adding two brands to its line-up. Luxury brands. Renault may revive the Alpine brand for sports cars and create a high-end brand called Initiale Paris. Renault’s sales in Europe have dropped nearly 20% this year which is over two and half times more than the industry as a whole in the region.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told environmental groups it will not regulate carbon dioxide emissions from airplanes, ships and large off-road vehicles such as mining trucks. The EPA says it doesn’t have the resources it needs to monitor all sources and will only focus on the largest contributors to greenhouse gases. Environmental groups say about a quarter of all emissions in the U.S. come from planes, ships and off-road vehicles.


Ford says it wants to cut the amount of power it uses to make each vehicle 25 percent by 2016. It’s already down 20 percent since Alan Mulally took over in 2006. More efficient machinery and production methods, combined with better capacity utilization get the credit. Energy efficiency both in factories and cars is a big part of Mulally’s strategy for the company.

Speaking of sustainability, GM now has its 100th landfill-free facility. It’s focusing on reducing waste and recycling or re-purposing materials like cardboard and old tires. GM says it recycled the equivalent of 38 million garbage bags at its plants worldwide last year, and has cut waste by 43 percent since 1997.

Automakers are scrambling to bring more social media applications into their vehicles, but they need to modify them so they don’t cause more distraction. Mercedes-Benz is now brining its app development in house to make apps like Facebook and Yelp safer for drivers. It formed a new operation called Mbrace2 reconfigure some features and eliminate others. Facebook in particular loses the ability to send custom messages, instead relying on ‘boiler plate’ responses. On Yelp, the system will focus on simpler star ratings rather than reviews and allow hands free dialing to the businesses being searched for.

2013 Dodge Dart
(The Dodge Dart review is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

Dodge has a lot riding on the new Dart. This represents the first time it will have a fully competitive car in the C-segment in the North American market.

Make sure you don’t miss Autoline After Hours Thursday night. It’s going to be the most unique show we’ve ever done. That’s the night we’re celebrating 15 years of Autoline and I’m inviting everyone who’s ever been on any of the Autoline shows to be here that night. We’re going to have a party that’s part of the show and a show that’s part of the party. So join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for what promises to be an internet first.

But that wraps up today’s report, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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27 Comments to “Episode 914 – GM Design Shaken not Stirred, Renault to Add Brands, Ford and GM Get Green”

  1. Brett Says:

    “our most unique show”…. sigh.

  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Dodge Dart: tough segment; the Dart will make a dent, how big a dent (to be seen). Not my first choice (in the segment) but not my last either.

    See you at this week’s AAH; sounds fun.

  3. HtG Says:

    One Sunday morning, many years ago, I turned on a panel discussion show about automobiles, and thought, ‘What in the world is this? Who are these smart people that know so much about the auto industry?’ I’ve been hooked ever since.

  4. GPL Says:

    HtG, ditto. I’ve lost track of how long it has been since I first started watching Autoline.

    I once asked a friend who is a loyal UAW member whether he watched Autoline. He replied that he did not because it was not union approved. ??? He also did not read the local paper or any automotive blogs for the same reason.

  5. SHAN Says:

    Why manufacturers keep putting wimpy engines in these “newly designed” models??? I don’t get it! A another example besides the Dodge Dart having a underpowered engine is the Subaru BRZ/Scion.

    Btw, CNET blasted the Dodge Dart in a online review saying it was mediocre in ride quality and performance. These cars are not worth 20k plus, which is what they really will cost you after the dealership does it’s magic with financing.

  6. Tony Gray Says:

    Add me to the crew HtG and GPL. When Autoline Detroit left TV I was devastated…when it went to Autoline Daily…I was elated.

  7. Tony Gray Says:

    I suppose it was like Star Trek, the Original Series. Star Trek found new life in syndication and Autoline found another gear on the Internet!

  8. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    GPL – Are you sure your friend could read???

  9. MJB Says:

    GPL, You gotta be kidding me. Are there still UAW lackeys towing the line to that extreme?!? These must be the same ones driving around with the bumper-sticker that reads, “Out of a job yet? Keep buying foreign.”

    On the social media enabled cars (Mercedes), why in the world are they even ALLOWING Facebook access in a car? I don’t care how much they dumb-down the interface and force the user into boiler-plate replies/posts. NOBODY SHOULD BE FACEBOOKING BEHIND THE WHEEL! This is absolutely ludicrous! Shame on any automaker for bowing to public pressure in the name of technological advancement and being ‘the first to do it’ when it comes to equiping automobiles with things like these that add more distraction than value.

    Just because we ‘can’ do something doesn’t mean we ‘should’.

  10. GPL Says:

    BiA and MJB, yep. In every other way, I liked and respected the guy, but he bought every word the union fed him. When he and some other neighbors, also UAW and otherwise normal likable folks, started talking about work, you could almost hear the relays click as the union implanted microchips in their brains took over and they started bad-mouthing the company and singing the union’s praises in unison. It was a little disturbing. Like something out of a sci-fi movie. I moved from there a few years ago, so I don’t know if any of them still have jobs.

  11. W L Simpson Says:

    Unionism, Fascism, one & the same. Been there,
    done that, hated every minute, union/wise.

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I watched Autoline on TV, I think Speed channel, and have been a regular since it’s been on-line, except sometimes when I’m occupied, like with vacstions.

  13. C-Tech Says:

    With the re-alignment of design at GM it will be interesting to see how much brand design there will be over corporate design. One of GM (and other makes) shortcoming was producing vehicles across different brands that looked alike.

    Will Renault ultimately need to try to re-enter the North American market to increase sales?

    How much did it cost GE, Catepillar, and shipbuilders to lobby congress and the EPA to get this exception?

    Mercedes may be better off tinkering with their cars to compete better with BMW and Audi.

    If the Dodge Dart is solidly built and trouble-free it will will do well enough in this segment. Add power at the same mileage and it will succeed.

  14. Fred Says:

    Is it just me, or does the new Dodge Dart look similar to the previous Ford Focus ?

  15. Jon M. Says:

    That automakers are scrambling to bring more social media applications into their vehicles is a complete contradiction to the safety features and devices they build into their cars. It’s like an arsonist selling you a smoke detector! What business does a driver have using social media while behind the wheel anyway? Whatever happened to keeping your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel? Let Apple, Microsoft and other technology companies build high-tech goodies to play with at point A and/or point B. Automakers should focus on building the goods that get us from point A to B without ANY (as opposed to less) distraction.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, the most disappointing thing about the Dart,, is that I like the it’s based on, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta so much better. Not only does the Alfa look a lot better, at least to me, but it is a 5-door hatch which I like a lot better than a sedan.

  17. HtG Says:

    I see automakers increasingly accommodating both the young and the old. The smartphones and incar tech distracts the young, while driving aids and high seating positions make driving easier and safer for an older population. You can guess why I think the Dart was made wider and longer for the US.

    This isn’t the kind of stuff that made me interested in cars. BTW, you can’t fix stupid; last week I changed from the right lane to the middle since there was a car on the shoulder doing a tire change, but watched in my rear view mirror as some gal in a Civic entered the right lane and zoomed passed everyone else oblivious to the new law in NY telling drivers to clear the right lane if possible. So it goes.

  18. cwolf Says:

    Can the Focus finally rein supreme over pedro’s Corolla in global sales? Likely so!;esp. if the Matrix and old models are excluded from Corolla’s total. The article in TTAC states that all the Focus were of the current generation,to boot! Appearently that slow speed “clunk” we heard of doesn’t bother most folk or it has been corrected. One thing,for sure,these Focus buyers don’t read or follow the advice of CR.

  19. cwolf Says:

    I gotta get me one of them thar bumpa-stickers so I’za can paste it on the back of one of them thar foreen luxury models parked at Wallymart! Just kid’in.

  20. C-Tech Says:

    @ #16
    Unfortunately the marketplace in the U.S. does not value the very practical design of a hatchback. Personally I have always liked the design going back to the 1980 Chevy Citation (if they only got the brakes to work right!). That car was roomy, versatile, and (for its time) got good gas mileage. I have been in Saab 900′s to Vegas and you really can’t beat a hatchback for versatility given their size. The old 3-door Ford Focus was a great young person’s car and some older hot rodders sing the priases of the 1st gen. Barracuda.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If Ford would get more serious about Asia, I’d think the Focus could be the top seller world wide.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I liked the old Focus 3-door and 5-door hatches, except they were a little “rough around the edges.” I waited for the redesign, but instead of making them more refined as I wanted, they dropped the body styles I liked, so I bought a Malibu Maxx.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The first generation Barracuda wasn’t a hatchback; it had a small trunk lid and a big, but fixed rear window, but it had a fold down rear seat, uncommon at the time. A college room mate bought one new when he graduated, and still has it.

  24. cwolf Says:

    I always thought the earlier Focus hatch looked a little bullbous from the back. I still think the lil’wagon was good looking and more ideal for me.I see one on occasion and mentally wish for them to return. I would prefer a wagon like this over a little SUV.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I liked the looks of the earlier Focus hatch, especially the 3-door. I like wagons and hatches a lot better than SUV’s, because they get better gas mileage and handle better. A Focus hatch or Jetta wagon drive the same and get the same mpg as the sedan counterparts. The wagon and hatch are more practical, and there is no compromise. I guess most Americans don’t see it that way, but we’ve had little opportunity to find out, given the few wagons and hatches available in the U.S.

  26. C-Tech Says:

    @ #23
    True about the Barracuda, my mistake about it being a hatchback, but the folding seats and big glass panel made it more useful than the Camaro and Mustang. The European market will pay for hatchback or wagon while there are fewer buyers in the U.S. The Magnum was a very useful wagon alternative to an SUV, and so is the CTS wagon. One is gone and the other may not survive.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I liked the Magnum, and might have bought one had it been around a few years earlier when was still working. I like the CTS wagon too, but not enough to buy one. It’s too pricey and too thirsty for my tastes.

    As I remember my friend’s Barracuda has a flat floor with the back seat folded down, more so than most of today’s vehicles.