July 18th, 2012 at 11:32am
Cadillac will unveil its ad campaign for the new ATS small sedan during the Olympic opening ceremonies. The French government is telling PSA it needs to meet conditions for stimulus funds. Ford is in talks with Canadian labor over cost issues, the company is also looking to cut 15 percent of its Aussie workforce due to low demand. All that and more, plus Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo on why GM should have an official museum like many other automakers.
Hello and welcome to the wonderful world of Autoline Daily. It’s Wednesday, July 18th, 2012. I’m Peter De Lorenzo, The Autoextremist, filling in for John, who’s out today, so let’s get to it.
CADDY ATS MAKES OLYMPIC DEBUT
As the world introduces its greatest athletes, GM will introduce its latest offering from Cadillac. The ATS sedan will premiere with as many as nine 30-second ads, plus another one-minute spot during the Olympic opening ceremony. The ads show the car on a worldwide adventure seeking out challenging roads across several continents. I’ve seen it and it’s good stuff, featuring excellent work by my old pal Jeff Zwart.
FRENCH GOV’T ORDERS PSA CONCESSIONS
Last week PSA, the parent company of Peugeot and Citroen, announced it will shut a plant in France down in a move to restructure the company. Now the French government says the company needs to make concessions if it’s going to receive aid from the government. According to Reuters, France is preparing a stimulus for the auto industry but wants companies to make concessions like suspending dividends to get the aid. The plan is expected to be unveiled at the end of the month.
CANADIAN LABOUR COSTS
And speaking of labor issues, Ford says it is looking to cut wages in Canada. According to The Detroit News, the company says labor costs in Canada are the highest out of any country it does business. The average employee makes $34 an hour compared to $28 in the U.S. A strong Canadian dollar is making it more expensive to build cars in the country. Ford will also cut 440 jobs or about 15 percent of its workforce in Australia, and it will also cut production in the country by nearly 30 percent because demand for the Falcon is declining.
VW CUTS 5-CYL FROM JETTA
Yesterday we reported that Toyota won’t offer a four-cylinder for the 2013 Sienna, now Volkswagen is dropping the 2.5 liter 5-cylinder from its Jetta lineup in favor of a 1.8-liter turbo four. The move comes as Germany’s largest automaker seeks to improve fuel economy and performance in its base level Jettas. The new 1.8-liter turbo engine will be built in Silao, Mexico.
Sound the alarm! You know things are bad in Europe when the world’s greatest road racing circuit, the Nürburgring, is in financial distress. The track is estimated to need 13 million Euros worth of investment to stay afloat otherwise it will likely enter bankruptcy at the end of the month. The track needs the money to pay back a nearly 300 million Euro loan it received in 2009, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
Coming up next, a few of my thoughts on why GM needs a museum to properly showcase the company’s heritage. We’ll be back right after this.
GM’S HERITAGE NEEDS A HOME
There are some great automotive destinations in the world. Volkswagen has Autostadt in its hometown of Wolfsburg, a theme park devoted to everything VW, and you can even take delivery of a car while you’re at it. Audi, BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz have stunning museums awash in the history of their respective brands. Ford is affiliated with one of the most important historical museums in the world, and there’s even a modest museum dedicated to the product history of Chrysler in Auburn Hills.
Are some of these museums over the top? Absolutely. But these manufacturers rightly see these kinds of structures as part of their continued brand building. And they’re absolutely right to think that way.
But GM? The No. 1 or No. 2 automaker in the world (depending on what day it is) has an 81,000-square-foot warehouse in Sterling Heights, Michigan, called the GM Heritage Center where it keeps a smattering of its most important cars. And it’s not even open to the public on a regular basis.
Now granted, the very last thing on CEO Dan Akerson’s “to do” list is funding a museum for General Motors, so the likelihood of GM spending $100 million on a museum is, well, it’s just nevergonnahappen. Because the reality for Akerson and his troops is that they’re operating in a 24/7, all-hands-on-deck frenzy, developing competitive products, putting out fires, trying to move the sales needle, cutting costs, trying to maintain momentum in China, trying to grow business in new markets, etc., all the while waiting impatiently to get out from under the tainted moniker of “Government Motors” that no one wants to hear about anymore down at the RenCen.
But, and this is a very big “but,” despite GM’s swirling maelstrom of problems and challenges, the fact that it doesn’t have a proper museum is bordering on the criminal.
I get that under Dan Akerson GM is more about cost cutting than brand building, and for the very short term maybe he’s right. But there’s a bigger long-term issue at stake here, and if Akerson wants his legacy to be one of other than “the guy who was there after GM emerged from bankruptcy,” then maybe he ought to heed history, or at least acknowledge its importance to the company and put plans in motion to build a proper museum to showcase GM’s glorious past, ever-changing present and promising future.
And it just might have the beneficial side effect of convincing people that GM is so much more than a faceless enterprise, an iconic American company filled with colorful stories, True Believers, imaginative solutions and flat-out creativity that once dominated the business and set the standard for future generations.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
But before I go, I want to remind you to join us for Autoline After Hours this Thursday. John and I are going to be chatting with Joel Ewanick, the head of all marketing and advertising at General Motors. This is going to be a great show, so tune in this Thursday at 6PM Eastern time for some of the best insider discussion in the automotive business.
Anyway that’s it for today’s show, thanks for watching and I will see you tomorrow.