October 24th, 2012 at 11:47am
As Ford continues to feel the sting of Europe’s economic woes, it looks like one factory may be on the chopping block. Peugeot is poised to receive French aid unless a Volkswagen stock holder can convince the European Commission otherwise. Hyundai debuts a new crossover at the Sao Paolo Motor Show. All that and more, plus guest host Peter De Lorenzo explains why Corvette is laying out a step-by-step plan on how NOT to launch a sports car.
Hello sports fans, I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, filling in for McElroy the next couple of days here to confirm that, as baseball begins its World Series tonight in San Francisco, that we are all Tigers now… or at least here at Autoline HQ. Anyway, go Tigers and now the news…
FORD FEELS EUROPE’S PAIN
And we’ll start over in Europe where Ford may be ready to make a cost cutting move by closing its Belgium plant that makes Mondeo sedans and S-MAX minivans. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company, which lost over a half a billion dollars in Europe the first six months of 2012, is ready to close the 48-year-old Genk facility located just outside the capitol of Brussels idling as many as 4,300 workers. No official announcement from Ford just yet.
VW STUMBLES, KEEPS SMILING
Meanwhile, the company which seems to have been immune to the world recession — Volkswagen AG — hit a bit of a snag, Bloomberg reports, as profits dropped 1.6 percent for the first 9 months of the year. Despite that downturn, the company is still optimistic that it will not only match last year’s operating income of $14.6 billion (11.3 billion euros) but will also beat 2011′s sales and auto delivery numbers.
PEUGEOT AID IN DISPUTE
While the numbers may be down at VW, times are a little bleaker at the continent’s second-largest automaker, Peugeot. So bad that the French government has guaranteed the company $9 billion (7 billion euros) of new bonds in exchange for influence on both the board of directors as well as a special outside committee that oversees Peugeot’s operations. However that may not be a done deal. VW’s second-largest stockholder opposes the aid and will ask for a European Commission review of the matter.
GM CONJURES MAGNESIUM MAGIC
General Motors is testing a new process to use lightweight magnesium sheet metal in cars. Automakers have struggled to make magnesium sheet metal that is strong enough and doesn’t corrode. GM says its process allows the material to be molded into rigid shapes and it has a proprietary method to make the magnesium corrosion resistant. GM says using the material could lead to double-digit gains in fuel economy. Magnesium is 33 percent lighter than aluminum and 75 percent lighter than steel.
HYUNDAI’S HB20X DEBUTS
Hyundai revealed a new small crossover at the Sao Paolo Motor Show called the HB20X. Powering the car is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 128 horsepower that can be matched to either a manual or automatic transmission. The HB20X, which will be built in Brazil, is exclusive to that market and goes on sale next year.
Coming up next, a few of my thoughts on why GM should keep its lips shut about the new Corvette until it debuts at the Detroit show. We’ll be back right after this.
LOOSE LIPS SINK ‘VETTES
The new Corvette will make its debut at a special event in Detroit on January 13th, and between now and then I can assure you that we will be inundated with videos, “sneak” images and other pertinent attacks of Internet information from here on out, all designed to make enthusiasts salivate at the prospect of the first new Corvette in years.
And it will be all wrong, and on so many levels too.
The prevailing mindset proffered by sparkly image wranglers these days (and when I say “image wranglers” I am referring to advertising, marketing and PR operatives) is: 1. You must manipulate the playing field. 2. That means that absolutely nothing can be left to chance. And 3. Only we know the what, where, when, why and how of it all, and we will orchestrate to a fare-thee-well in order to accomplish our mission.
But do you really need to beat the anticipatory drums for one of the most iconic sports cars in the world? Do you think there’s a chance that A. Someone with even a shred of automotive curiosity wouldn’t have heard something about a new Corvette coming? Or that B. It wouldn’t be instantaneous news across the mediasphere the moment it was unveiled?
But if I were tasked to lead the launch of the new Corvette, I wouldn’t allow any teases of any kind. That means no early discussion of its content, no hints at what it will or won’t do, no emblem reveals, no engine spec disclosure, no design reveals in the shadows, no n-o-t-h-i-n-g.
Remember, this is the Corvette we’re talking about here. It is one of exactly two automotive nameplates in this business – the Ford Mustang being the other – that transcend all consumer groups in this country. Nearly everyone has some sort of personal Corvette story, or a remembrance of the car from some point in his or her lives.
I would venture to guess that if Chevrolet operatives had completely kept a lid on the new Corvette and released zero information of any kind, the resulting media frenzy would be spectacular, and if the new Corvette lives up to its billing, even more so.
Let this be a forewarning to the enthusiasts over in Dearborn who are feverishly at work on the next-generation Mustang. Pay attention to how Chevrolet is setting the table for the new Corvette and use it as a road map on how not to do it.
Remember that creating excitement does not mean controlling every last shred of information.
It means letting people’s imaginations and emotional connections run wild with anticipation.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
By the way, for those of you who have been counting, this is Autoline Daily number 999. Tomorrow I will be honored to host the 1000th newscast. Quite a momentous occasion. So tune in tomorrow. And don’t forget that I’ll be hosting Autoline After Hours tomorrow night talking about advertising and marketing with Mark LaNeve, GM’s former ad chief now working for Ford’s Team Detroit as well as advertising journalist Jean Halliday. That’s it for now. See you tomorrow.