Episode 398 – Docherty Named To New Position, Spyker In The Red, China Extends Car Incentives

May 24th, 2010 at 11:50am

Runtime 6:50

Susan Docherty, who was recently replaced as GM’s head of U.S. marketing, was just named the company’s Vice President of International Operational Sales, Marketing and Aftersales. Spyker, the sports-car company that just bought Saab, is not making any money. The Chinese government extends car incentives to help spur sales. All that and more, plus a look at a new program from Autoline called Open Line, that allows anyone to call in and weigh in with their opinion on anything going on in the world of cars.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, May 24, 2010. And now, the news.

The game of musical chairs for GM’s executives continues. Susan Docherty, who was recently replaced as the head of U.S. marketing by Joel Ewanick, was just named the Vice President of International Operational Sales, Marketing and Aftersales. She will be in charge of doing that for GM’s Asia-Pacific, Latin-America, Africa, Middle-East, Russia and CIS operations. Docherty replaces Don Johnson who will have a new position named soon. And hopefully this will be the end of musical chairs at GM, because the word on the street is that morale is rock bottom over there because of the constant changes.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about Victor Muller, the entrepreneur who just bought Saab. But now Bloomberg reports that his sports-car company, Spyker, is not making any money. In fact, it’s been losing money for years. And it quotes Muller as saying that if it does not turn a profit by 2012, there will be no more Spyker. But Muller says he believes it will turn a profit by then, thanks to help it’s going to get from Saab. But I would point out that Saab has not made a profit in decades.

The Chinese government is considering extending its cash-for-clunkers program. According to Gasgoo, the incentive is set to expire at the end of the month but it hasn’t spurred sales as expected. In the first quarter of the year only 24,000 buyers have received the subsidy. And in related news, China’s government will also offer tax credits for buyers of hybrids and electric vehicles. The government will offer up to $8,800 for EVs, and less for plug-ins and hybrids.

Automotive supplier Johnson Controls is offering to buy the interior and electronics business from Visteon. But even though that would give it $1.2 billion, Visteon issued a nasty press release questioning JCI’s motive. The Detroit News reports that Visteon has had ” . . . extensive and difficult experiences with Johnson Controls in prior transactions.” It also questions whether JCI truly wants to buy part of Visteon, or is merely delaying Visteon’s emergence from bankruptcy because the two are competitors. There have been plenty of hostile takeovers in this industry, but I’ve never seen such nasty public statements from one supplier talking about another.

As the temperatures rise so do cones and orange barrels. It’s the season of road work! Construction crews are getting busy repairing frost-heaved pavement and patching cratered asphalt, but an unexpected shortage may put the brakes on these necessary fixes. The New York Times reports that there’s a shortage of road paint, which is needed to paint lane dividers on roads. Much of the scarcity stems from a lack of an obscure chemical compound called methyl methacrylate. Dow chemical, a major producer of the stuff, had production problems this year and other companies that make it have scaled back because of the recession. To save paint, some officials will experiment with using reflective buttons to divide lanes instead of painting them.

If you’re a motorcycle fanatic then pay attention. There isn’t a better way to carry you to your final resting place than this. Autoblog reports that an automotive engineer in Auckland, New Zealand, built a motorcycle hearse! The two-seat two-wheeler is powered by a Harley-Davidson V-Twin engine and can carry up to 440 pounds in an underbelly cradle. Morbidly fascinating!

Have you ever wanted to personally contribute your opinion to what’s going on with cars and the auto industry? Well, technology is making that very simple to do. More details after the break.

We’ve started a new program called Open Line that allows anyone to call in from anywhere and weigh in with their opinion or insight on anything going on in the world of cars. Michelle Naranjo is the host of Open Line and earlier I asked her to recap what went on in last week’s show.

You can get all the information you need to join the discussion on Open Line at our website, autolinedetroit.tv. That’s tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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

38 Comments to “Episode 398 – Docherty Named To New Position, Spyker In The Red, China Extends Car Incentives”

  1. Nick Stevens Says:

    Good show, John.. and thanks for uncovering that Spyker-Saab debacle.. GM of course wanted to get rid of that loser Saab, but how was the Swedish government convinced to help out these amateurs and their project that had zero chance of success from day one? Ihope the Swedish taxpayers will not feel the pain, when they have to bail out these clueless people…

    As for GM musical chairs, don’t bet they will ever end. And I don;t know whose morale is down at GM, the only one should be Susan Doherty herself, and she fully deserves it, being a clueless auto illiterate and having failed at EVERYthing GM ever asked her to do.

    There must be a reason they have not fired her outright, but instead “exiled” her to intl ops. Maybe she knows too much, maybe she would sue them for allegedly hindering women from breaking the glass ceiling.. What a load of crap!

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    Well if Susan fails in her new position, she can always get into either the food service or hospitality industry. By the way, early reviews of the Cruze are quite good, why the hell has it taken so long for GM to build a quality small car?

  3. tj Martin Says:

    Spyker not making any money . Now there’s a real surprise . they’ve been in the RED since day one and haven’t seem the light of a profitable day since .

    Which begs the question . Why was GM willing to sell Saab to Spyker who are so deep in debt , yet were unwilling to let Saab go to Koenigsegg who with CvK at the helm and all his other ventures is and has been financially stable .

    Could it be possible GM let Saab go to Spyker precisely because they ( GM ) knew Spyker would ultimately fail ?

    Or am I just being a cynic when it comes to GM’s business practices of late ?

  4. dcars Says:

    Your shows are very innovative, they leverage all these new technologies to bring a new focus to a mature industry.
    I have often thought that the current marketing techniques (of car companies) don’t utilize the new technology to their advantage. Ford is starting to open up this communication venue, but I think they are just scratching the surface.
    Again, John – Cheers to you and your staff for taking some risks and trying new things.

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    Early very positive reviews for the Cruze, Ford thought they had a slam dunk with Fiesta/Focus but wait, GM has finally built a world-class small car. Things are going to get very interesting in the next 18 mos.

  6. dcars Says:

    My guess was that Spyker was willing to pay more and not leave GM ultimately responsible for the collapse if it happens.

  7. Nick Stevens Says:

    “pedro fernandez Says:
    May 24th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Early very positive reviews for the Cruze, Ford thought they had a slam dunk with Fiesta/Focus but wait, GM has finally built a world-class small car.”

    I have said similar comments before. it will be the excellent Cruze that will save GM, not the stupid Volt. The cruse is a real genuine excellent value, while the Fiesta a more stylish, overpriced little car for the younger buyers (not to mention secretaries of all ages). And the Cruze is Focus-, not Fiesta-sized.

    Yes, it will be interesting to see at whose model sales’ expense the cruze sales will be.

    I think all of these excellent different vehicles, the new Cruze, the Equinox, and esp. the new Buick LAcrosse and other buicks coming (regal etc) all have a common denominator, and it sure is not clueless Susan Doherty (LOL).

    It is the great late (retired, not dead yet) BOB LUTZ!

  8. Nick Stevens Says:

    The Cruze is also lucky that the current civic model, which is in its size class, and which came out a long time ago, in 2005, will not be changed any time soon! This is an unprecedented delay, there used to be a srtict 4-year cycle for Accords, Civics, Corollas and Camrys, while more expensive models had many more years in a cycle (S-class, 7 series or LS400)

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    I just wasted 3 mins watching this Youtube video of a pathetic “comparison” done by Top Gear mag.(Philippines) between a Civic and a Cruze. Holy crap, we complain about our resources and news media but this report was apparently done by morons. I’ve seen much better stuff done by amateurs on You tube. Is the Cobalt discontinued or will it go on as a rental fleet car, much like they did with the Malibu “Classic” a couple of years ago?

  10. Nick Stevens Says:

    The Cobalt will be discontinued asnd not missed. The two may coexist for a year or less but that’s about it. I doubt there are many Cobalt rentals as families need bigger vehicles than that. I was surprised how cheap was it for a AAA member to rent a small car (Aveo or ..) for 3 full days on a weekend ($50 ALL included). Even the mazda6-malibu-Impala or Kia optima I reserved (preference on mazda 6) was only $70 for three full days (Sat-tue)

  11. Brett Cammack Says:

    Lohman’s Funeral Home here in the Daytona Beach area have been using this Harley-Davidson hearse setup for some years now.


    As the URL infers, the picture is of the unit in use taking local Harley dealership magnate Bruce Rossmeyer to his final rest last summer after a fatal motorcycle crash in Wyoming.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yeah, around So. Fla the car rental rates are really low, even the local branches that cater to locals have excellent rates. Enterprise periodically has a 3 day weekend deal for the price of one day. Just don’t rent one if your car breaks down or get into an accident and need one immediately, then they take you to the cleaners.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Since my Corolla has so many miles and I don’t wanna get stuck in Hickstown, I always rent a car when I have to go further than 200 miles each way. Tiny sum of money for peace of mind. This way I also get to play car critic and ask myself: would I buy this or not?

  14. Nick Stevens Says:

    Weekday rates are not low, only weekend and weekly rates. A two day prius from Herts was more than $180 last year after whatever dicsounts!

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    I have also noticed rental car companies are keeping their cars longer, they’re better made. the last Sonata I rented had about 34k miles. I remember back in 1979, I went to California and Hertz gave me a Ford Fairmont, which I had actually considered buying at one time, Whoa! what a piece of automotive manure that was, I recall it had about 30k miles and when we got to Vegas, the A/C was ineffective and the car kept dying on me. Had to bring it in and they gave me an LTD.

  16. Salvador G. Says:

    1. Spyker and SAAB, I can practically smell the bailout.

    2. What I like to know is – What is the reasoning behind the constant changes at GM/ oh wait!/ Marketing and Sales are down and because they signed contracts, rather than firing these people they’re place in another lower position as far away as possible.
    - And let the Musical Chairs continue –

    3. Is there any place in America where they placed reflective buttons on the road before or is this the first time??

    4. Has anyone seem the new Ford Fiesta TV commercial??
    This is the American one…

    This is in the UK…

    Which car would you buy??

  17. Nick Stevens Says:

    We were given a Fairmont in June 1981 in San Diego, I drove it and it had no problems I can remember, but of course it was a primitive box. But back then I had no idea what a decent car drives like.

  18. Chuck Grenci Says:

    The biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever driven was an AMC Hornet (it was in the Government Vehicle pool at the VA Hospital I used to work at); calling it a ‘slug’ would be kind….lol.

    Anyway, I ‘googled’ up some Cruze video reviews and they, for the most part, give a generally good review on the Cobalts replacement; good for Chevy (again, Europe gets the option of two diesels and two gas engine; what’s up with that?; rhetorical question).

    Good show as usual John; thanks for all you do.

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    “But back then I had no idea what a decent car drives like.”

    Actually I’m wrong, as I was then the owner, for more than two years, of a VW Dasher wagon. it drove great, but reliability wise it was utter junk, it was designed to live for 60k miles and after that many parts just wore out. Somehow I did not pay attention to the Fairmont when I drove it in the San Diego area.

  20. XA351GT Says:

    The Cruze maybe a nice car ,but it is BORING. I saw it at the Philly auto show in Feb and it had no traffic around it at all. The Fiesta had a fairly large group around it . Now buyers and tire kickers are different things. Maybe the Ford drew a bigger crowd ,but will draw fewer buyers then the Cruze . Time will tell. The Fiesta is small ,but has a great deal of content for the price.

  21. Drew Says:

    I am disappointed that the base engine in the Chevy Cruze only develops 128 hp. My friends basic Hyundai Elantra has a 140 hp engine. Maybe one day GM can catch up to the Hyundai??

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    One of the most boring, unexciting cars to drive has been the Corolla, but due to its practicality and reliability, it’s been the best selling car in its class for a very long time. This just in from Reuters, Seoul just threatened to pipe Mr Smokey Hyundai’s daily rants into the North using powerful loudspeakers, the Pyongiang regime immediately apologized for the sinking of the ship, vowed to end their nuclear threats, and live in harmony from now on.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Drew: it seems the domestics are always doomed to play catch up with the imports. Finally GM has a decent small car. along comes an Elentra which will be better in just about every way, soon the replacement Civic will also be superior and then both the Cruze and Focus will seem outdated after only a couple of years and it’s back to the drawing board.

  24. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Pedro, LMAO!!!

    Korea= New East/West Germany for New Cold War between China and US. VDub, Merc, Audi, BMW Survived didnt they? I just hope HKAG, etc… ends up being just as lucky.

    The Cruze is a starter product. It needs 2 or 3 generations of refinement on the powertrain front. 128 From a C-Segment car even if it got 100 MPG is unacceptable for many Americans. That’s like 75 HP in a B-Car.

    Focus and Elantra will be in the 160-170 HP Range. Then again for that segment those 2 cars I predict will be fighting for King of C Cars. That still leaves me thinking. Why would they give Focus 160-170 HP, and then give Fiesta just 118 HP? 52 HP seems like a big ass gap to me. Fiesta needs 135 HP STANDARD at least to even justify the difference.

    Its unthinkable for a car maker to have such a gap between 1 segment. I could see if Focus has 140 HP, but its going to be hitting the 160s-170s.

    That’s what I mean about those gaps Ford Has to fix in order to totally change MY perception of their company. Ford is good as Honda, but in terms of attention to major Details such as HP Gaps, etc…its definately not as good as Hyundai.

  25. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Pedro You also have to understand that with sanctions, South Korea would have the strongest trump card.

    North Korea’s Food Sercurity situation is so dier, that South Korean sanctions will actually turn out to kill more people in North Korea than the 46 who died on that South Korean ship.

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    No Korea’s wacko leader is a reckless, angry, seldom laid douche bag who hates the West and to him, S Korea is just a US puppet, he would like to make life even more miserable for his Southern neighbors than even his own people. H e will continue to escalate the situation because he has China backing him up. Didn’t GM learn how not to make a small car with Cavalier/Saturn/Cobalt?

  27. Nick Stevens Says:

    The markets for the Cruse and the Fiesta are different. The prices may be similar, but the Cruze is one size up and more of a family car. besides, there are always the die-hard Chevy or Ford fans that will not consider the other brand, but this is more in trucks and for older people than in cars for young people.

    Both vehicles could have better engines, but Ford and GM, who both have such engines, will offer them in more upscale versions and probably not immediately this fall. The small ecoboost should be offered in both the fiesta and the new Focus.

  28. Nick Stevens Says:

    Targeted sanctions (not on everything but on the luxury goods Mental-Ly-Ill and his clique of murderers enjoy, rare cognacs, porn etc.) will not cause hunger in North Korea, they are already starving and being fed by the Red Cross and other intl agencies anyway.

    I am surprised the regime has lasted so long, Mental Ly Ill may die any day anyway. I remember I was sailing with a colleague in the summer of 94 when I heard on the radio that his father died, the original NK dictator. I had a South Korean professor come work with me fora full year (fellowship by their government) and he thought, when i asked him, that NK-SK unification would happen when the old man died, but it sure did not.

  29. Nick Stevens Says:

    More on Susan Doherty from TTAC:

    “As you remember, Susan “If you know what I’m good for, answers on a postcard, please” Docherty got canned from her job of Sales and Marketing of U.S Operations, to make room for Joel Ewanick. Back then, many thought it was only a matter of time before ol’ Doperty (see what I did there?) got the ol’ heave ho from GM CEO Eddie Whitacre. Unfortunately, it seems someone still likes her (again, answers on a postcard, please) and she’s now landed another gig at GM. Only this time, they’ve let her loose on the golden goose (hey, see what I d….never mind).

    Susan Docherty will be shanghaied. DetNews reports that Miss Susan Docherty will be vice president of sales, marketing and after sales for GM’s markets of Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Russia. Technically correct. Practically, she’ll be responsible for the marketing of GM vehicles in China and other key growth markets that fall under the purview of GMIO (GM International Operations), operating out of Shanghai. Shipped to Shanghai will be the person who worked on the marketing for Saab, Hummer, Saturn and Pontiac. Oh, and had a hand in this. In Shanghai, she’ll be working out of China’s second largest building, the Jin Mao Tower, where GMIO has a low-rent presence on the 10th floor.

    Now to all those who think “Hang on, Cammy! Aren’t you being a tad harsh and taking this out of context?” I say one thing. Further into the DetNews article GM CEO Ed Whitacre was quoted to have said “Growth in China and other emerging markets is important to the company’s future…We are counting on Susan to make significant contribution, and I am glad to have her running this critical part of our business.” No wiggle room there, eh, Ed? You’re counting on Susan to deliver growth in one of your key markets? Well, can’t say I blame you for putting trust in her. I mean, Hummer, Saturn, Saab and Pontiac were such rip-roaring successes, right? Cammy out.”

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    The way i see it, kicking Doherty’s ignorant posterior all thw way across the pacific gets rid of her useless and annoying presence, and by sending her to china, no matter how hard she tries, she is unlikely to screw up the (by far0 fastest growing major car market in the world..

    OR so Whiteactre THINKS!

  31. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    East and West Germany all over again. Except this time the power in the US Sphere South Korea, and the Power in the Chinese Sphere North Korea are doing the real dirty work while us Americans and Chinese do the secret work, and the visbile Border Guard work.

    The only way I see China going to war with us over a NK/SK Border skurmish is if the Chinese themselves were backed into some kind of Bamboo Curtain, which by the way could happen as many people (even many who post on this forum) spew trade war like rhetoric against China.

    A Trade war with China could possibly become a hot military war. Like I said before, its not fair to force a country that has 750 Million peasants who live in 1850s Devner to have a currency even remotely close to our parity.

    Americans cant compete against China, tough titty is the way I see it. Its just how things are. It time for us to become that desparate country that could again. Lets use our despair to build a new 21st Century America.

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    “The Detroit News is reporting that Lexus has issued a stop sale on its LS 460 and LS 600h (standard and long-wheelbase) luxury sedans due to a problem with the electronic steering system that can temporarily cause the steering wheel to become off-centered. Apparently, the wheel will return to its correct position after about five seconds of misalignment. Toyota issued a recall on Friday, May 21st to address the defect. Click here to see the recall notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

    Only days after I thought about considering the LS 460 (preferably the sports edition) for my next car in 5 years or so…and the above is no silly-ass driver error either!

  33. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I think you guys want China to purposely be in a disadvantage. At the way the Yuan is pegged now, by the time China reaches our living standards here in the US for its poor and Middle Class, to buy 1 Yuan it will be 4-5 Dollars.

    That way we would become China’s Cheap Labor Market. Multiple Chery, Geely, Great Wall, etc.. Factories in Detroit. Yeah it could happen. With Autoline Chongquing having segments about how vital Cheap Labor Detroit Factories are to Chinese Companies.

    China, the Country that could kick our ass, and then build us up again.

    Then again, by then Robots will have developed to the point to where they are like the Robots in I-Robot which made cheap Human American/Immigrant labor obsolete. Another reason why I find that whole Illegal Immigrant Debate a good laugh. Who cares, in 20 years it will be robots doing that same work.

  34. Nick Stevens Says:


    Who needs a cute little fiesta for $23k, or even a Cruze, when you can have a real and indestructible car like the legendary 90-93 Accord, for peanuts? This one closing in to 400,000 miles.

  35. Nick Stevens Says:


    Or a 300,000 mile CRV for that matter…

  36. pedro fernandez Says:

    Jeez, Smoke, you’re all over the place today, how about this: Jose, who used to mow the lawn for a Ford assembly factory in Michigan got laid off cause the factory closed down. He moved back to Mexico, where he got hired by Ford at their Fiesta assembly line making less money, doing a more crucial job. How’s that smokey? and the second coming of Santana will rise and invade Arizona and take over and eliminate the illegal immigration law and will marry Paris Hilton and inherit the fortune and become the richest man in America.

  37. Nick Stevens Says:

    More on the planned PRIUS MPV from autoblog:

    “When Toyota gets around to expanding its Prius line-up next year, the first model to benefit from the badge will be a compact MPV reportedly badged the Alpha. The small van will apparently be based on a stretched version of the current Prius platform, will add a third row of seats and should be the first production Toyota hybrid with a lithium ion battery pack. Toyota is currently testing a fleet of plug-in Prius hybrids with lithium batteries, but those aren’t slated for production until 2012.

    The seven-seat Alpha is expected to be about one foot longer than the current Prius hatchback, while a shorter, five-seat version of the Alpha that may look similar to the Hybrid-X concept from 2007 and could retain the nickel-metal hydride batteries of the current Prius to keep costs down. If all goes according to plan, expect the Prius Alpha to launch around March of next year.”

  38. Zieke Says:

    Looks like some of ya are a little hard on Susan here. I believe that she has had to live with alot of boneheaded decisions made by GM long before she was in the mix. Some of my GM vehicles have borne this out. I’m sure she was aware of the challenges faced and the consequences of them failing. She seemed to have been put in the positions of trying to revive auto lines that were already doomed, and no one was surprised when the revival didn’t happen. I, for one think Susan is pretty gutsy, because she could have taken the easy way out,resigned GM, and gone to work for a better managed auto co.