Episode 411 – GM Backs Off “Chevy” Mandate, BMW & Saab In Talks, China Nissan’s #1 Market

June 11th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:38

General Motors quickly backed off its mandate to employees to say “Chevrolet” and to never say “Chevy.” BMW and Saab are in talks about sharing parts and technology for a new small car. Nissan Chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn says China is now the most profitable market for the company. All that and more, plus a look at one of the coolest car collections in California.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

This is Autoline Daily for June 11, 2010.

When Victor Muller, the CEO of Saab, was on Autoline Detroit recently, he announced he wants to bring back a modern version of the original Saab 92. Now Bloomberg reports that the Swedish automaker and BMW are in talks about sharing parts and technology for a new small car. BMW could provide Saab with engines, transmissions and the Mini Cooper platform to build the new model

Like touching a hot stove with its hand, yesterday General Motors quickly backed off its mandate to employees to say “Chevrolet” and to never say “Chevy.” In a memo that was leaked to the outside world, the mandate exploded across the national media in the United States, subjecting GM once again to criticism that management had no clue what it was doing. But here’s why they did it. Chevrolet is now a giant global brand, not just one in North America. Well over 3 million Chevrolets are sold worldwide. And while the term Chevy is common in North and South America, it’s not common elsewhere, and that’s why Chevrolet wanted the consistency of using one name all around the world.

And speaking of GM, former chairman Rick Wagoner was elected to the board of the Washington Post, an unexpected and somewhat surprising development. I say surprising because Rick often had a contentious relationship with the media, so who’d have ever thunk he’d end up on the board of a giant media company?

European automakers are vociferously opposed to a free-trade agreement with South Korea. According to the AP, the European Union has an agreement with South Korea and would like to approve it by the end of the year but it hasn’t been ratified yet. In the meantime automakers are doing their best to make sure the deal doesn’t go through, because last year over 300,000 vehicles from South Korea were shipped to the EU while only 40,000 European cars were let into South Korea.

Reuters reports that Nissan Chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn says China is now the most profitable market for the company. Last year the company sold 750,000 vehicles in the country. He says growth in the auto industry will mainly come from emerging markets like China, India and Latin America.

In other China news, GM and its joint venture partners, SAIC and Wuling, are set to expand capacity at two plants. According to Gasgoo, they expect to sell a new car every five seconds. Capacity at the two sites will jump from 890,000 units to over 1.3 million by 2012.

MERCEDES LAUNCHES NEW CAMPAIGN (subscription required)
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mercedes-Benz is launching a new global marketing campaign today complete with a new tagline, “The best or nothing.” The Journal also reports that the German automaker is redesigning its iconic three-point star logo, but no photos of the updated emblem were shown. We contacted public relations at Mercedes but they didn’t get back to us in time for our taping.

In related news, Cadillac has subtly redesigned its wreath-and-crest logo again. The new emblem debuted on the 2010 SRX crossover, but frankly the changes are so subtle that they’re very hard to spot. Basically all that’s changed are the areas between the various colored sections of the crest. They’re raised up a little bit instead of being completely flat. This is meant to give the emblem a more shimmering, “jewel-like” appearance.

In other Cadillac news, Edmunds.com Inside Line reports that the brand’s long-running Northstar V-8 engine is set to go out of production! The last one is scheduled to be built sometime at the end of July. The all-aluminum dual-overhead-cam engine was a technological masterpiece when it launched back in 1992. Dropping the Northstar leaves Cadillac with a huge hole in its powertrain lineup. No real replacement has been named leaving only GM’s venerable OHV small-block engine family to carry the V-8 torch, at least for now.

Coming up next, a look at one of the coolest car collections in California. We’ll be back right after this.

Bruce Meyer is a car collector extraordinaire. He has all kinds of Ferraris and Porsches in his collection, the cars of famous movie stars and race cars, but at his heart, Bruce is a hot rodder. Take a look at this clip that comes from the Autoline in LA series that we did in 2008. It’s a great description of why he loves hot rods.

By the way, you can get the DVDs from the Autoline in LA series, or watch it for free. Just go to our website AutolineDetroit.tv and look in the archives for show #1220.

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

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

32 Comments to “Episode 411 – GM Backs Off “Chevy” Mandate, BMW & Saab In Talks, China Nissan’s #1 Market”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    I think we forum members should take full credit for GM hitting the “DRIVER! REVERSE!!” button on the Chevrolet-Chevy debacle.

  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    The Chevy ‘Bowtie’ is so iconic and recognizable that no matter what part of the world and no matter what word is used to describe it, it will be understood. And if one or the other is used, and one fellow to another doesn’t recognize the alternate name, (the other guy’s going to say, “same thing”) and then the world will be that much closer to knowing either/or mean ‘Chevy’ (that’s how it happened here)

    It’s a shame that they let the Northstar languish without any heir to the throne; while not perfect, with a new generation built on the same architecture, they could have continued the engine and changed it from very good to excellent.

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    “The best or nothing” sounds pretty lame; maybe it doesn’t translate well and sounds much better in German.

  4. LEX Says:


    Great Show!

    Do you think that Chrysler / Fiat will bring back the “Eagle” line up of vehicles which they acquired during the AMC / Jeep purchase? My Co-Worker just gave up her Eagle Talon which she had for 15+ years. The Eagle line up could be used for those Lancia’s vehicles Fiat is planning to bring to the US. What are your thoughts?

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The “never say Chevy” decree never stopped “chevy.com” from linking to the, uh, Chevrolet web site.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Is the DTS scheduled to go away in July, or will it switch to a Chevy V8?

  7. Mike W Says:

    In regard to dropping the demand that Chevrolet is a “Chevrolet” and not a “Chevy”: Remember, just like GM, Coca Cola is also an international brand, and it is called Coke, as well. Of course, it might be too complicated for GM to figure out, having 2 names for the same brand. After all, when management LOOKS like they don’t know what they are doing, as John pointed out, it might be because they actually don’t.

  8. Brett Cammack Says:

    I hate to pick nits, but that should be “Backpedaled” not “Back Peddled”. Just ’cause the spell-checker says “okay”, it ain’t necessarily so.

  9. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Why dont they call them Chevys Globally and call it a day? Its an American product, the people who are driving them in other countries probably wanted those “Exotic” American names in the first place.

    Its pretty bad when all of us Foreign car guys where crying about how Chevy is an American Icon that should use the name Chevy.

    Its nice to cater local markets, but some companies are missing that “Exotic” portion.

    When I Drive American I want a Hamburger, or a New York Strip.

    When I drive Japanese give me Sushi, or give me Sake.

    When I Drive Korean Give me Kimchi, give me that rice wine.

    When I drive German I want German Chocolate Cake, I want Heineken.

    Chinese Cars need to be Sweet and Sour Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, etc…

    Russian Cars need to be Vodka.

    Indian Cars need to be Curry, etc…

    Middle Eastern Cars need to be Kabobs.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    H/S says:

    “When I drive German I want German Chocolate Cake, I want Heineken”

    Why Heineken in Germany? Heineken is Dutch.

  11. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The “chevy” turn-a-around was totally expected.What I wonder about is the GM board of directors paying attention to what the morons are doing?And why do they sit back and do nothing?GM’s management is totally clueless yet they are allowed to continue……..kinda makes one wonder at what th’ hell are they thinking?

  12. GPL Says:

    “When I drive German I want German Chocolate Cake…”

    German Chocolate cake is American. It is named after Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, which is in turn named after its creator, Samuel German.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    People, forget about this Smokey guy, he’s obsessed with Kia and Hyundai to the point where he’ll soon claim that the Koreans invented the automobile, baseball, landed on the moon and discovered America.

  14. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Kit, I forgot.

    The Koreans love Euro Cars, and that’s one of the many reasons why they have retooled to make these Asian European (Korean Renaissance) Cars.

    Every Euro brand has a presence in South Korea, unlike some other countries (Cough, Cough, US). On top of that, they sell all of the Models the American Euro car lovers get pissed off at the Euro Brands for not making it available in America.

    Think about this:

    1. A Base Golf in the US Goes for $17,620. A Base Golf in Korea goes for 33.9 million won or $27,217.

    2. An Elantra Blue (Cheapest version in America) costs $14,145. The Cheapest version in Korea costs $9621, and it has more and better Equippment than the Cheapest Elantra here, which kind of pisses me off.

    The Euro Cars cant win in Korea based on taxes etc.. alone.

    Too bad, the Americans should take a lesson from this as domestics SHOULD BE THE CHEAPEST CARS AVAILABLE IN AMERICA!!!

  15. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    $7K Aveos, $8500 Cruzes, $10K Malibus, etc… without any cheapening of the cars to get the price that way should be the way to go.

    I forgot, this is America and us Americans are quite the self destructive bunch. Not going to happen.

  16. John V. Says:

    No flagship powertrain to replace Northstar. Unbelieveable! If they don’t have a special V-6 or some other replacment not found on Buick or Chevy, it’s back to the Roger Smith days of badge engineering.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    People have forgotten all the hoopla back when GM was installing Chevy and Pontiac engines in Buicks and Olds. now it’s done all the time and no ones gives a crap. The Northstar is a dinosaur of an engine compared to what the competition has now. Note to GM: it’s not just looks and how well the body panels fit, there’s something called ENGINEering

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    June 11th, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    “People have forgotten all the hoopla back when GM was installing Chevy and Pontiac engines in Buicks and Olds.”

    I remember it, and the uproar kind of amused me because the Chevy engines were probably better than the others. That was especially true in the case of the Olds V8 with the aluminum rocker arm pivots that often self destructed in less than 50K miles.

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    Not to mention that horrendous 350 cu. in. diesel wannabe that fell apart after a few years.

  20. Alex Kovnat Says:


    >European automakers are vociferously
    >opposed to a free-trade agreement
    >with South Korea. …………..

    > (European) automakers are doing
    >their best to make sure the deal
    >doesn’t go through, because last
    >year over 300,000 vehicles from
    >South Korea were shipped to the
    >EU while only 40,000 European
    >cars were let into South Korea.

    I think the matter of whether one should buy, for example, a Hyundai Sonata when South Korea only allows so many cars from the USA or Europe into their country, should be a matter for each person’s individual conscience.

    The way I see it, its more than bad enough as it is when my car is weighted down with ever more stringent safety requirements, and constrained by ever more draconian fuel economy requirements, to fulfill someone else’s emotional, intellectual or ego needs.

    Must I have my choices further constrained, must I be denied a Hyundai or Kia or whatever, because these same power-hungry intellectuals don’t like the idea of the USA or Europe importing more South Korean cars than the other way around?

  21. XA351GT Says:

    Wow so GM backed off the no chevy mandate , I was waiting for the no Caddy mandate today.

    If Europe wants a free trade agreement than I hope they have the taxes on Korean to Europe cars the same rate as Europe to Korea cars or it isnt fair or free.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Like someone said here yesterday, Chevy sounds too much like Chery and they are coming in a few years, I think GM had a reason for the change, they just didn’t expect such a backlash.

  23. LEX Says:

    Hey Perdo Fernandez,

    I remember when my Brother-InLaw purchased new his 1979 Screaming Chicken Pontiac Trans Am with a Oldsmobile 403 engine. He was not happy about the name on the engine, but he loved that cars and sold it eight years later for the same amount he paid for it.

    General Motors had been very dumb in continuing to produce engines under different brands.
    Today, General Motors uses it’s brands for styling purposes only. The Guts of their vehicles have always been a product of GM’s Engineering and Technology Departments. I believe with Peter De Lorenzo that GM and all OEM’s need to use racing, especially Nascar, as a way to test and improve the durability, performance and efficiency of their new engines and powertrains. Racing promotes innovation. Nascar has constrained the Automotive mainstream with the Car of Tommorrow! I would rather see a Real Camaro versus a Real Mustang versus a Dodge Charger / Challenger on the oval track racing head to head.

    Win of Sunday – Sale on Monday!

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    Lex: when all is said and done, it comes down to the drive train. Old Toyotas and Hondas were rust buckets and their interiors looked like shit, but their engines were still going strong year after year and countless miles and people still sought them. Same was true with the old American engines, they were durable beyond belief, for example, in Cuba they still keep the 40′s and 50′s American cars going with makeshift parts and little maintenance, a testimony to their quality and durability.

  25. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Cubans drive new Foreign Cars, this whole Old American car thing is just propaganda to lead the ignorant who doesnt do the proper research astray into believing Fallacious policy that regards this tiny country we can EASILY destroy in a week as a threat.

    Cuba a threat to the US? What a laugh and a Crock of Bullshit, Lies, and Propaganda. Im no Commie, but who cares anyway since it doesnt even matter anymore. This Foreign Polcy with Cuba is about as Asinine as if the US based its current space program on the Ancient Mercury Space Program.

    OH YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT IT IS. Stupid Ass Wasteful multi Stage rockets in the year 2010 are you F-ing kidding me?

    Our policy of confrontation and the expenditure of taxpayer and Military dollars and resources with countries we can wipe out in a week’s time is nothing but a Corporatist/Government alliance to obtain resource extraction sites for our companies.

    Nothing to do with Freedom, as Americans themselves are the only ones taking away freedoms from other Americans with more draconian legislation.

    Nothing to do with Ideology as oppositional ideologies, even Chinese Communism WILL fail.

    Its all about Getting resource extraction sites for our companies, and Cuba=Sugar and Oil, like Iraq=Oil, Iran=Oil, Venezuela=Oil, Zimbabwe= Minerals, Afganistan=Oil, Opium, and Minerals.

    Whats really bad is that the leaders in some of these countries violate basic international human rights giving and excuse to drum up war for our Corporate Ran Government.

  26. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    If Mexico all of a sudden forced the Big 3 Out of their country with a Cease and Desist order we would use the human rights violations at the border as an excuse to invade as a shadow reason to invade, while the real reasoning behind the invasion was to keep our plants there for cheap labor.

    That’s the American Empire. The new way of doing an empire. Soft Power Using Cultural, Economic, and Iconic influence with the persistent threat of Overwhelming Hard Power if we dont get our way.

    The Land Grab Empires of old are done. The British Empire was the last of those Dinosaurs. The American Empire is the First of the Mammals, and the BRIC Alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China) has the next turn at the wheel.

    Alex, on that issue all I have to say is this.

    1. Comparing population to rates of sale, in all fairness if America had Europe’s population we would sell twice as many HKAG cars in America than Europe. Americans are snapping Korean cars up in higher rates, than Europeans. The Euro Market has more sales, but we have a higher rate of sale.

    2. Comparing a continent of 730 Million people to a country of 60 million in terms of exports is just asinine.

    Ill Explain:

    The European Leaders need to sit their asses down and shut the hell up. The reason: When you compare population to sale, the Koreans buy a boatload more European cars than Europeans buy Korean cars.

    At the Rate Koreans buy European cars compared to their population, the Koreans could have 500 Million people and European car Sales in Korea would easily outnumber Korean Car Sales in Europe (Population. 730 Million) by 50-100K Units a year.

  27. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    If Europe had Korea’s population

    I find this European Posturing to be very unfair, and nothing short of bullying. Put my Korean Car Bias aside, and you guys will have to agree.

    Unlike the Europeans The Americans might have a gripe, but since GM pretty much destroyed Daewoo via Rape and Pillage I think we should back off.

    Tips to boost sales in Korea:

    ” Why American cars are unpopular in Korea?

    In a survey of 27 experts in Korea conducted by the industrial news desk of The Dong-A Ilbo, 18 said U.S. cars are unpopular in Korea because of “problems with products.” Notably, many of them said the overall quality of American cars is poor, and that they are too big with low fuel efficiency.

    Kim Ki-chan, chairman of the Korea Academy of Motor Industry, said, “American carmakers have been focusing more than financing rather than the products themselves,” adding, “Lack of competitiveness at plants can be seen in the vehicles.”

    Many critics also said American cars do not cater to Korean tastes. As for luxury vehicles, Koreans like the stately look and dignity, but American cars are seen as too decorative by Koreans.

    In a survey of general Korean consumers, 16.8 percent cited poor design as why American cars do not sell well in Korea. Another 18.7 percent said they would buy other cars even if American models were sold 10 percent cheaper, citing poor design.

    Notably, American cars with poor gas mileage have grown less popular around the world in the wake of the global financial crisis amid high oil prices last year and this year. Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, with their strong lineup of smaller vehicles, have made great strides abroad, after General Motor and Chrysler underwent bankruptcy protection and Ford struggled due to a managerial crisis.

    No notable trade barriers

    Most experts also brushed aside the notion of trade barriers in Korea. On trade barriers other than tariffs, if any, nine (33.3 percent) cited car standards and regulations such those on as safety and environment, while 10 (37 percent) noted consumer taste and public sentiment.

    Kang Cheol-goo, a director at the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, said, “Since countries have different climates and driving cultures, the standards and regulations for vehicle safety and the environment should be different,” adding, “When Korean automakers export cars, they also meet the standards of the importing country. These cannot be considered trade barriers.”

    As for consumer taste and public sentiment, another expert said, “They could be an obstacle to selling American cars in Korea, but I wonder if we can call it a trade barrier.”

    “Should the Korean government go so far as to stage a campaign to promote purchase of U.S. cars?”

    An imported car industry source said, “In the past, there were practical barriers, including a ban on advertisements for imported cars,” adding, “I don’t see any notable barriers other than tariffs.” ”

    Fix that perception, and that alone might fix American sales in Korea enough to the point to where we wont have anything to complain about.

    Until you fix that perception, America has NO RIGHT to complain about Koreans buying American cars.

    The Koreans fixed their quality for us. Out of respect, its time we do the same.

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hey Smoke, when did you visit Cuba to note that Cubans don’t drive old American cars anymore? The truth of the matter is that only govt personnel or tourists who rent 2 or 3 yr old cars are the only ones you’ll see driving anything bu American iron from the time b4 Castro took over. Necessity is the mother of invention and the natives have managed to keep those relics going any way possible. It’s not that you can go to the nearest Fiat or Hyundai dealer and get yourself a new vehicle, that simply does not exist there. I don’t even think they have used car lots there, it is strictly private owner to private owner transactions.

  29. Julius Lambert Says:

    Remember that STS&CTS V’s with 468 hp state of the ART supercharger sitin between the heads of a 4.0 NorthStar.Caddy—OH I mea Cadillac dropped it in 08 for an antiquated PUSH ROD CHEVY that pumps out 555 hp.They should stuck with 4 valves& DOHC technology.that4.0 is about 242CI/468 hp that is 1.93 hp/CI.the 350CI chevy is 350/555hp that is 1.58 hp/CIHell,look what was developed out of Duntov’s lil 265 chevy courtesy of RUSSIA.

  30. Julius Lambert Says:

    If GM would have punched out the N/S to 350CI@1.93[hp/CI]=675hp[5 yr.old tech].UHO,there lies the problem.GM pushing Chevy-Chevrolet globally,man they cann’t have a Caddy with more HP than a ZR1.
    GM, Ford is going in the opposite direction.Everything is going European,OH there lies another of GM’s problems.
    By the way, that supercharger on the ZR1 was stolen from the N/S program.It is state of the ART on a push rod engine.Have a GOODDAY——–

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    While, for marketing purposes, the Cadillac DTS probably needs an engine more “high tech” than the pushrod 5.3 used in Chevy pickups, there is little evidence that overhead cam valve trains are necessarily better than pushrods in large V-8′s that will not be run above ~5500 rpm. The most obvious comparison is the Chevy 5.3 and Ford 5.4 used in pickups. The power is essentially the same, but the Chevy gets better gas mileage, both in EPA ratings and Consumer Reports tests. I’m not sure what the extra camshaft and extra 8 valves buy you in the Ford engine.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    There’s a great article on the topic of OHC vs pushrod engines at:
    The article is a few years old, but it still is relevant.