Episode 282 – Henderson Shown The Door, November Car Sales, Audi A8 Unveiled

December 2nd, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:32

Yesterday CEO Fritz Henderson resigned from General Motors. November sales for the U.S. are in and even though sales are down from October there are some encouraging signs. Audi debuted its brand-new A8 in Miami. All that and more, plus John fills you in on the latest from the LA Auto Show.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. There’s a big management change at GM. November car sales are in. And Audi debuts its brand-new A8 in Miami.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, December 2, 2009. I’m Murray Feldman Fox 2 News, Detroit, behind the wheel again for John who is taking a break from the cold Michigan weather. That’s right; he’s out in sunny Southern California at the LA Auto Show, and we’ll hear from him a little later in the show. Anyway, here’s what’s happening.

Now you see him, now you don’t, the man who led General Motors into and out of bankruptcy has been shown the door. Yesterday Fritz Henderson resigned as CEO of the organization, a position he’s held since March when Rick Wagoner was ousted by the Obama Administration. No word yet on how long it will take to find a permanent replacement, but Ed Whitacre, Chairman of the Board of Directors, has taken over the position until a new CEO can be hired. According to the Detroit Free Press, GM’s board was skeptical that Henderson, a company veteran with 25 years’ experience could bring about the change it needed.

Look… there is nothing that can bring a company down more than speculation that the CEO does not have the blessings of his board and chairman.

So, you have to hand it to the board. They decided for whatever their reasons that the CEO Fritz Henderson had to go. As their board meeting ended in Detroit they quickly called a news conference, made the announcement, and in less than an hour cut off any damaging speculation before it could leak out of the board room. A great PR move here in Detroit.

But wait a minute, this is the day Henderson was to keynote the LA Auto Show press preview. With hoards of reporters getting their first glimpse of the new, out-of-bankruptcy General Motors.

This was to be GM’s coming out party, the time to show that they’re starting to roll down the track to profitability. Instead they are showing a company that is stuck on the track with leadership up in the air. There will be questions now about who will get the job—how the GM culture will change—and how their business plan may be altered.

All of that may be today’s headline from the LA Auto Show, instead of the headline GM needs to get out. That’s it’s back in the car business and showing off promising new models. GM had a golden opportunity to steal the spotlight in LA until the night before the show was to open to the press… when the company pulled their CEO off the podium and announced we don’t have a plan ‘B’. We’re working on it.

November sales for the U.S. are in and even though sales are down from October there are some encouraging signs. According to the AP, sales were down 11 percent but the seasonal adjusted annual rate was 10.9 million units higher than expected and higher than October’s rate. Hyundai saw sales rise 6.2 percent, Toyota was up 2.6 percent and Ford was up a modest 0.1 percent. Seeing sales slide were Honda, down 2.9 percent, GM down 1.8 percent and Chrysler saw sales slide even further, down 25 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing stricter side air bag standards. According to the Detroit News, the agency wants longer and stronger side air bags in order to prevent passengers from being thrown out of vehicles during rollovers. The safety agency says this will save over 400 lives at a cost of $54 per vehicle or $920 million dollars a year. The requirement would apply to vehicles that weigh 10,000 pounds or less and automakers would have until model year 2017 to fully comply.

Daimler announced it will move some production of the Mercedes C-Class from Germany to Alabama. According to Bloomberg, the company is looking to cut costs and rely less on producing vehicles in Germany. Daimler says the move will save the company 2,000 euros or $3,000 per vehicle.

For cars, weight is the enemy of performance. To win this automotive battle of the bulge, Ward’s reports that Porsche is switching to lithium-ion batteries on three of its models (subscription required). No, it’s not going the hybrid route; the new li-ion packs will replace heavy lead-acid batteries and save around 22 pounds in the process. Saving weight is great, but it’s not cheap. The batteries cost nearly $3,000!

Monday night Audi unveiled its redesigned A8 sedan at a SPECTACULAR event in Miami, Florida. The company invited a huge number of people from all over the world to see the reveal. It also constructed an entire building on Miami Beach to premiere the new flagship sedan. Actress Lucy Liu was even on hand to emcee the event. The car offers a host of new features and a familiar but distinctive design. We’ll have more on the new Audi A8 in the coming days.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. I’m Murray Feldman, Fox 2 News Detroit. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next time, but coming up after the break, John fills us in on the latest from the LA Auto Show. He’ll be back right after this.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

23 Comments to “Episode 282 – Henderson Shown The Door, November Car Sales, Audi A8 Unveiled”

  1. Nick Stevens Says:

    Despite mr. Feldman’s comments, I see nothing positive in Nov sales, and whether they were a few decimal points higher than the very dismal predictions, the actual numbers are still dismall as hell. And it is not just the Big 3, Honda is suffering too, and if it does not take some radical action, its inventories will most likely go from the unacceptably high 80 days worth of cars on Nov 1, to 100+ days on Dec 1!

    Hyundai’s impressive 40-50% rise is also not nearly as impressive as it sounds, because, remember, the comparison is to the rrally terrible Nov 2008!!! If you look at market share and absolute sales numbers, even Nov 2009 was pitiful.

  2. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Murray said:

    “Monday night Audi unveiled its redesigned A8 sedan at a SPECTACULAR event in Miami, Florida. The company invited a huge number of people from all over the world to see the reveal. It also constructed an entire building on Miami Beach to premiere the new flagship sedan. Actress Lucy Liu was even on hand to emcee the event. The car offers a host of new features and a familiar but distinctive design. We’ll have more on the new Audi A8 in the coming days”

    You BETTER have MUCH, MUCH more, since you wasted 100% of the text above and provided NOTHING, NOT ONE technical detail or even the most basic stats for the new A8!!!!!!!!

    Who the eff cares if the event was spectacular, and which obscure bimbo auto illiterate was cluelessly hired by Audi to introduce the latest version of the very slow selling A8?

  3. Jim Sachetti Says:

    PS This BS may cut it with the widows and orphans that watch the local news, Murray, but it sure does not cut it in any auto enthusiast website!

    I am really steamed about this content-free teaser!

  4. Tony Gray Says:

    I very much appreciated Murray’s editorial on GM’s insane timing behind the firing of Fritz on the eve of the LA Show. Those of us outside of Detroit don’t get to hear that very often.

    On the Mercedes move, this may be a significant challenge to BMW’s dominance with their 3 series. While I personally don’t think the C Class is up to that level, making it in the US will have some consider that in their purchase decisions, and may just tip the balance in favor of the three pointed star.

  5. pedro Fernandez Says:

    What Mr. Feldman neglected to mention is that the Audi was carjacked to Liberty City right after the show. Is there anyone brave enough to take that cursed GM CEO position? hello, anybody? Don’t even bother to buy or rent a house if you get the job, just get a room at the nearest Holidy Inn express, it’s supposed to make you smarter.

  6. Nick Stevens Says:

    I quite like the current C-class, exterior styling wise I prefer it to the 3 Series, and even the interior is probably better.

    I don’t like the brand new E class exterior, while I did like its predecessor a lot, I may even get me a 2005-2007 diesel version a few years from now, at a deep discount.

    The 3 series and the C class will do much better when their makers finally bring here the smaller gas and diesel engines they offer in Europe. They will need to do that anwyay, since both BMW and Merc do not have high MPG parent companies (like Lexus has in Toyota, Infiniti in Nissan and Acura has in Honda) to prop up their fleet average MPG, and the new 35 MPG CAFE will be quite hard for Merc and BMW to satisfy without the small diesels and small gas engines.

  7. Nick Stevens Says:

    # pedro Fernandez Says:”.. Is there anyone brave enough to take that cursed GM CEO position? hello, anybody?”

    FOrd found Mulally, for the right price I’m sure they can find a good one, but will Obama let them offer a high salary? It is Taxpayer Motors after all…

    ” Don’t even bother to buy or rent a house if you get the job, just get a room at the nearest Holidy Inn express, it’s supposed to make you smarter.”

    Sergio Castro-Macaroni did buy a condo in Detroit, and he does not even live here full time, just so he can have a private place to stay over the weekends when he visits Chrysler-Fiat. This move was appreciated by the media here.

  8. Nick Stevens Says:

    Hey Jim-dude,

    Chill out, man, and see a hot off my email article on the new A8. The 8-speed tranny is sure welcome news, I have not read the rest myself, will do now:

    http://www.nextautos.com/first-look-2011-audi-a8?src=Nextscreen

  9. Lex Says:

    John and Murray,

    When is Mercedes Benz going to bring their “A and B” Class vehicles to the United States?

    Who is next in line for the CEO Position at GM?
    Ed Whitacre and the entire GM Board should consult with Warren Buffet for his recommendations for the Top Job at GM. I would like to suggest Jay Leno be considered for the CEO Position at GM. Jay Leno is a real automotive enthusiast who would be a wonderful spokesman and guiding force at General Motors. Mr. Leno has a passion for the entire automotive industry who appreciates it’s past accomplishments and future potentials. General Motors needs a passionate outspoken CEO. Someone like Carlos Gohen at Nissan / Renault, or Sergio Marchionne at Fiat / Chrysler to make consumers want to rally around an automotive brand.

    I would also like to say that GM needs to pair down to only two brands. Cadillac as the Luxury Brand and a “New General Motors” which sells the remaing GM fleet / models under one single corporate identity. I believe this revamping of the “General Motors” Brand will reduce costs and allow GM to regain market share. Cadillac would absorb Buick, while Chevrolet, GMC and all others like Pontiac and Saturn/Opel would become the “New General Motors”. The Mr. Goodwench Brand needs to be further developed into a one stop shop for all your GM automotive needs.

    Keep American Working!

  10. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    I wonder if VW is going to make the same mistake of bringing to market its own version of the A8, that poor selling Phaeton.

  11. Nick Stevens Says:

    Lex,

    I believe Merc will bring the larger B class here, not the A class, in the next couple years.

    I have seen both A and B class and I like both quite a bit, even tho the A class is a refreshed 90s, rather old, design by now. The A is way too small for US tastes but works great in Europe where you need to parralel park in tight places every day to avoid paying $9 (six Euros) or more for an hour’s (!) parking.

    Interesting suggestion about Jay Leno. He could sure be the spokesman and the enthusiast for GM products, but I am not sure if he is equipped to make financial and production decisions.

  12. Steve Salis Says:

    Glad to see that Friz is gone but its equally important to get rid of UAW leadership. Gettlefinger and his comrades helped cause more wealth destruction than Bernie Madoff yet they are still around. The culture at GM is broken and it must change drastically if GM is to survive. The purpose of GM is to build interesting reliably world class vehicles at a profit. The current mgt and labor force have proven that they don’t know how to do this. I’d like to see the CEO come from Toyota or Honda and I’d like to see the UAW monopoly broken. Its going to be much harder for GM to build quality cars while it has to use only the overly powerful UAW labour force. Even GMs bad managers are making money in regions where they do not have to use the UAW monopoly.

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    Steve,

    Re the UAW, very true, but won’t happen under this Congress or this White House. The US taxpayer already shelled out dozens of billions of hard-earned $ to let the UAW survive by not letting GM file for Ch 11 a long time ago, when it should.

  14. Don MacConnel Says:

    Mr. Whitacre handed Mr. Henderson impossible goals and I Mr. Henderson realized it and made the remark that he served at the pleasure of the board.

    Corporate culture changes don’t happen in 100 days but executives like Mr. Whitacre enjoy being seen as taking lightning swift, decisive and brutal actions. It’s the Theory “F” style of management where “F” stands for Fear. That style of management won’t work to improve GM or any other corporation.

    If Mr. Henderson made one critical mistake it was not immediately acting on a new CFO.

    Of course accepting the CEO position in the first place was probably a mistake. I wish him well.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Lightness is a virtue in cars, but the idea of spending $3000 for a battery to crank the engine in a Porsche to save 22 pounds is downright silly. There would be many more cost-effective ways to reduce weight by 22 pounds, without using an expensive battery which will probably end up being short-lived and unreliable in the engine cranking application.

  16. Max Christensen Says:

    Nick/Jim/Thor

    I for one find Lucy Liu a hell of a lot more attractive than ANY car! A little fluff once in a while never hurt anyone. Chill out!

  17. C-tech Says:

    Is that a mis-print about the $3000 battery in a Porsche?
    It might be wise for GM to consider someone from outside the company, but understands production for the CEO position. Will someone contact Roger Penske? Condoleeza Rice?
    Interesting move for M-B for the C-Class.

  18. jesse Says:

    Up is up and down is down.GM,CHRYSLER down in sales.Doesn’t give one alot of hope when month after month it’s the same song by these two.I’d take that CEO job at GM for a while.I’d make some real world changes,immediately,do something about that 40,000$$ VOLT that never gets here,and might even make some sales!!They need a regular,every day Joe at the helm who’s in touch with reality and the world out here.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t know who now buys the C-Class in America; I’ve never personally known anyone who bought one, but if they sold the wagon with a manual transmission and 4 cylinder diesel, I’d be interested, wherever they build it.

  20. Nick Stevens Says:

    There is a serious demand for small, not oobese, fuel efficient wagons, but few automaker offer them, and those who do, do very well. Like Subaru. Others offer 5-door semi-wagon hatches like the 5 door elantra, and also do very well.

    The fact that the Honda CR-V sold more units than the Honda Civic is unheard of and is proof and evidenbce of the above. If Honda offered a wagon, any decent small wagon (the tiny Fit excepted as too small) they would not have 100 days of inventory, unheard of for Honda!

  21. Nick Stevens Says:

    Fiesta will get a small Ecoboost engine, but not now.

    “DETROIT — When the 2011 Ford Fiesta launches, it will be missing one of Ford Motor Co.’s most promoted technologies. But an EcoBoost engine is on the horizon for the new subcompact.

    “It’s coming,” Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of global product development, told Automotive News.

    The Fiesta will go on sale next summer, powered by a naturally aspirated, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 119 hp and 109 pounds-feet of torque. A turbocharged, direct-injection engine — hallmarks of the EcoBoost name — will come later, but Kuzak wouldn’t say when.

    Ford has confirmed it will launch a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine beginning in the European Ford C-Max in 2010. It’s unclear whether the EcoBoost engine for the U.S. Fiesta will be 1.6 liters or smaller. In Europe, the Fiesta is available with naturally aspirated gasoline engines with displacements of 1.6, 1.4 and 1.25 liters.

    By 2012, Ford says it will produce 1.3 million EcoBoost engines globally, including 750,000 in the United States. By 2013, EcoBoost is on tap to be available in 90 percent of Ford’s global vehicle lineup.”

  22. Dave Says:

    ON Fords Ecoboost, they talked it all up that they will be the best ting every more power and good mpg, but just like all this auto makers do. They will offer the motors and jack the price way up, or only put thim in the TOP of the line model. I am all for a company making money, but dont tell me that this will help people use less fuel and be “GREEN”. Why is the Ecoboost only put in to the SHO not offered in base models, oh that cant sell the base for 45 grand.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The current “ecoboost” turbo V6 used in the SHO and other vehicles is a big, powerful engine made for use in big, heavy vehicles. It is safe to assume that the next “ecoboost” turbos from Ford will be much smaller, probably 4 cylinder engines, and maybe some ~1 liter 3 cylinder units for European and Asian markets.