Episode 407 – GM Hides Management Changes, VW Forces Americans to Get Fit, Tupolev 007 Aerosled

June 7th, 2010 at 12:08pm

Runtime 7:02

GM publicly announces one management change while sweeping several other significant changes under the rug. Volkswagen puts its American workers through a physical training program to better prepare them for their jobs. A Cold War-era Soviet vehicle turns up at Connecticut’s Concours d’Elegance. All that and more, plus John tests out the new Hyundai Tucson.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, June 7, 2010. And here’s some of the top news in the global automotive industry.

More management changes at GM. John Lauckner, who had been running product planning, was named as president of a new group, GMVentures LLC, which will be identifying and investing in new technologies for GM. And, he’ll be reporting to GM vice chairman Steve Girsky. GM publicly made that announcement, but what it did not publicly announce was that Lauckner will be replaced by Steven Carlisle, who had been running sales. Autoweek got a copy of an internal memo and confirmed the changes with GM. It reports that Carlisle will report to GM Chairman Ed Whitacre, not to Tom Stephens who heads up all product development and engineering.

GM also did not publicly disclose that Dan Hancock, who had been running GM Powertrain, will now be heading a new group called “global strategic product alliances.” He’ll be replaced by Jamie Hresko, who had been head of global quality for GM. Hresko will be reporting to Tom Stephens.

So why would GM not publicly disclose these moves, except for the Lauckner announcement? For one thing, it seems to have wanted to put the spotlight on Lauckner, which sure sounds more like a lateral promotion, rather than a true move up the corporate ladder. Also, by not announcing the other moves, GM seems to want to cover up yet another a big management shakeup. And it sure sounds strange having product planning report to Whitacre and not Stephens. After all, Stephens is in charge of design, engineering and product development. Why doesn’t Whitacre trust Stephens to run product planning? We’ll learn more when GM decides to go public with all this.

Victor Muller of Spyker cars made big news earlier this year when he bought Saab from GM, and now it looks like he’s wasting no time shaking things up. Ward’s reports that the company is dropping its griffin badge from print advertisements, replacing it with the Saab wordmark. The famous emblem will still be used on its vehicles, though. He’s also getting rid of the tagline “Born From Jets” that Saab used in the U.S. and replacing it with the one used elsewhere in the world: “Move Your Mind.” The shift is an attempt to attract new buyers to the brand since there aren’t enough diehard enthusiasts to keep it going.

Japanese line workers often start their day with calisthenics and singing the company
song. And now Volkswagen is requiring production workers at its new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to go through a fitness training program! According to the Detroit News, the company wants to turn its workers into “industrial athletes” that can lift, grip, bend and push without tiring. Since April, trainers have had employees participating in on-the-clock workouts tailored to their future production jobs. VW doesn’t do this at any of its other plants, but it says some workers have already lost 30 pounds.

Autoblog is running this story. Here’s something crazy that turned up at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance in Connecticut – it’s the Tupolev 007 Aerosled. Built during the Cold War, this propeller-powered craft was designed to pick up Soviet cosmonauts that landed in the Siberian wilderness. It could zip across varied terrain, quickly traversing lakes, marshes and even snow. Its nine-cylinder Vedenyev radial engine delivered 365 horsepower through a double propeller. This is definitely something you don’t see every day! It looks like something out of a James Bond movie. Again, we thank Autoblog for these photos.

Hyundai is clearly on a roll these days, and the secret to its success has to do with the cars and trucks it’s coming out with these days. Or, I should say, how it equips those products. More on that, right after this.

While other automakers tend to rely on sales incentives to get people to buy their products, Hyundai seems to be interested in offering them more value. Instead of offering discounts, it offers more and more equipment, as I found out during one of my recent test drives.

Last month sales of the Tucson where up a whopping 226 percent compared to a year ago, and up more than 13 percent from the month before.

Be sure to join the conversation tonight on Open Line, where anyone or everyone can join in. Hosted by Michelle Naranjo, Miss MotorMouth, you’ll be intrigued by the variety of topics covered, and impressed by the people who show up. Check out our website at Right Here for all the details. That’s Open Line tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern Time – call in at 1-218-936-6581 and PIN 25049.

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

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18 Comments to “Episode 407 – GM Hides Management Changes, VW Forces Americans to Get Fit, Tupolev 007 Aerosled”

  1. G.A.branigan Says:

    That rooski aerosled was sold at Barrett-Jackson about 3 or 4 years ago.pretty neat toy and who doesn’t love the sound that a big round motor makes.very cool imho.

  2. Zieke Says:

    Good for VW. I don’t blame them for wanting a fit work force. It’s too bad that there so many obese people that they had to do this.

  3. Todd J. Says:

    That’s pretty cool about VW. I think a lot of companies could offer these kinds of resources as potential employee benefits to woo them for employment. If I was in that industry, I would be more apt to want to go to VW now than any other company.

    The Russian recovery boat is pretty cool!

    More of the same from GM of course. You’d think they were run by the government by the way they act… oh, wait…

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    You got to hand it to Hyundai, they keep innovating and giving buyers more for their money, just when you think Equinox/Terrain is a sure fire winner for GM, along comes Tucson to take some of the sales away, I’m sure they will do the same with the upcoming Elantra and Accent vs Cruze and Aveo for GM. This revolving door at GM is really getting old, the lack or leadership from Whitacre is incredible, he makes Mullaly look more genial each passing day.

  5. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The problem with GM is still zero effective leadership.Time to take a broom and sweep away all of upper management and get some proven people in place…….or kiss GM goodbye.

  6. dcars Says:

    It’s kind of nasty, “were going to open a new factory and all those Americans are so fat we’ll make them exercise.” Sounds pretty arrogant and something that M&B would do. At times I’m not very proud of my German cultural heritage.

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I don’t care too much how GM handles their management personnel (as long as they keep their eye on the prize; make good, no make that better cars for all of us and ‘Make the Best Car Win’ mean what it says).

    The Russian recovery vehicle; yeah, I think I saw in in “Popular Mechanics” in 1960 something (or was it 1930 something). Got to love the radial engine though.

  8. dcars Says:

    My bet GM still needs to make changes and don’t want the bad press that they have received in the past. To think that the needed changes would only take a year is optimistic.

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    dcars Says:
    June 7th, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    “It’s kind of nasty, “were going to open a new factory and all those Americans are so fat we’ll make them exercise.” Sounds pretty arrogant and something that M&B would do.”

    As I read it, the employees are doing the exercise while “on the clock.” That being the case, I don’t see a problem with it. They can look for jobs elsewhere if they don’t like it.

    If they were told to do certain exercise on their own time, and there was some sort of “big brother” system to check on it, that would be a problem.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    G.A.branigan Says:
    June 7th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    “That rooski aerosled was sold at Barrett-Jackson about 3 or 4 years ago.pretty neat toy and who doesn’t love the sound that a big round motor makes.very cool imho.”

    I, too, really like the sound of radial engines. I wouldn’t make a very good judge at an aerobatics competition, because I would have a pro-Sukhoi bias, since Sukhois have radial engines and the other airplanes used in the competitions have flat sixes.

  11. Nick Stevens Says:

    I don’t care for Hyundai’s bloated styling with the Tucson. It’s ugly and ungainly in the exterior.

    Just back from my trip, the MPG as measured manually anD accurately dropped from 33 to 32 and 31 before it jumped back to 33-34 in the last leg (ohio with cruise at 70-72)

    The external styling of the MAlibu was far superior than that fat bloated Tucson. The interior was good for the most part, and I bet it would only cost them $100-$200 to replace the godawful hard door pockets and plastics with materials that match the rest of the car.

    Its range was OUTSTANDING, AT OVER 500 MILES, but when it went below 60 miles, it stopped giving me a number and just said Range too low”, which really is very counterproductive, and made me put another $7 gas when I was only 5 miles from home, after which the range went up to 109 miles. It is 86 this morning, but I will do some errands before returning it.

  12. Nick Stevens Says:

    I just added a reply on the 6/4 comments.

    Overall, I really that for family cars like the Malibu and esp. fro the more conservative Buicks, today’s 4 cylinder engines have plenty of power. The particular 6 speed transmission I had did not like to accelerate, but this was less than 1% of the total time I drove it. 99% of the time, people will not even notice they do not have a V6.

    After all, the HP of the V6s of 20 years ago was far inferior to the HP of a big 2.4-2.5lt 4 today. Even the v6s in the Camry and the Accord, they made like 170 HP and today’s 4 make more or much more than that.

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    I checked the Malibu LT I got at KBB and its MSRP is $23,475, maybe you can get it for $20K (Average GM incentives are 3,700 the highest in the industry!).

    It is quite long at 192″X70″X57″ and weighs 3436 lbs

    the 6 sp auto has overdrive and ‘tapshift” which i did not use (must have been the two “+” things left and right on the steering wheel, that may have improved acceleration.

    169 HP @ 6400 RPM, 160 lbft @ 4500 RPM

    Late last evening I tried to dim my rear view mirror, but the button I pushed brought “Onstar” on, am operator asked me what was the problem and I told her I pushed the button by mistake.

  14. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Well Nick to each his own, right?

    I personally find that by far to be the most beautiful CUV/SUV on the market.

    After that:

    Porsche Cayenne

    KIA Sportage

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    H-S: don’t make me laugh, putting the Cayenne and the Sportage in the same comparison.

  16. HarryZ Says:

    I think GM exec are doing great job in achieving their goals, which is making huge money from the IPO. Com’on, guys, do you really think Whitacre took over CEO job for the sake of “GM” (Cars/Employees, etc). How often you get opportunity to have a company as big as GM to go IPO? You would be an idiot not grabbing it! Just stay in the job for 1 yr, then take the money and go… You don’t have to know or even like anything about cars. Everybody likes money!!

  17. casual observer Says:

    I too love the look of the new Tucson, haven’t seen any on the roads in the metro Detroit area though, must be in short supply because it sounds like they are selling well.

  18. DBruckbauer Says:

    Re: VW. “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!” my apologies to Peter Sellers.