AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Soon-to-retire General Motors CEO Dan Akerson maintains that the U.S. government’s choice to bail out the Detroit giant saved money despite losses after the Treasury Department offloaded its remaining shares.
An article published on 247wallst.com named Volvo among brands it predicted to disappear by 2014, but president and CEO of Volvo Cars of North America John Maloney says it isn’t true.
You know there’s trouble in paradise when the newly-appointed Australian CEO of Mistubishi calls his company’s products overpriced and wonders why anyone buys them.
Update: Chrysler called us to clarify that it wasn’t Marchionne, but instead Roy Peters, the project’s lead electrical engineer.
Coasting along with traffic, eastbound on Interstate 69 through Michigan, we were road testing a 2012 Jeep Compass when several car lengths in the distance a ragtag convoy of cars swarmed around a single sports coupe.
Throwing a curve ball right down the media’s throat, Lotus issued a press release today that aimed to disarm and diffuse the flurry of speculation and jokes.
It did so by writing in completely unacademic, and some might argue, unprofessional style. Above the text, a borrowed copy of Sniff Petrol’s satirical photo (seen above) that portrays CEO Dany Bahar as “Baghdad Bob,” Iraq’s ex-information minister notorious for insisting things were fine.
Here’s a quick recap of what lead into today’s hilarious SNAFU.
Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne was featured yesterday on CBS’ 60 Minutes discussing his life as the head of both Fiat, Chrysler and how he brought the American brand back to health from the brink of collapse.
In the interview, Marchionne addresses the state Chrysler was in when he came on board to resurrect the company, saying employees were afraid and that the hierarchical corporate structure in place was crippling to operation.
The 13-minute clip also looks at the upcoming Dodge Dart, which first debuted in January at the Detroit Auto Show. We also get a peek into Marchionne’s life in Italy, where he isn’ allowed to go anywhere without being in a bullet-proof car with police escorts.
Watch the video below, it’s well worth the time.
The past 20 years were pretty stable in the automotive industry. Mostly predictable releases with a steady rate for manufacturers to introduce new models that seemed like a consistant recipe for success.
Then, suddenly with the start of the current model year, things changed. In fact, it looks like this is just the start of a serious upswing in new releases. According to a story published on CNN Money, the auto industry replaced 16 percent of its fleet annually between 1991 and 2011.
That figure jumped to 23 percent with the 2012 model year, which started in October. Apparently keeping this fresh is the snake oil for successful car companies, because next year that number will grow to 32 percent, effectively doubling the rate new models hit the market. Given this manufacturer mayhem, we decided to round up the new cars you should expect to see soon.
Honda is an interesting case as they’ve recognized that their luxury brand, Acura, is simply being outdone by the competition at every turn. They decided to completely redesign their line to quell complaints that their cars are little more than rebadged Hondas. The first to look for: their new ILX compact sedan. As for Honda, they are already planning to release a new generation Civic after the media chastised them for an uninspired release.
Next up, Nissan. While they don’t hold a big market share in the U.S., Carlos Ghosn, their CEO is making plans to expand the 8.2 percent they have now to ten by 2015. In order to do that, they are revamping half of their entire line. Nissan is targeting the burgeoning EV market with their Leaf, which first became available last year. Look for updated Altimas, Sentras and Pathfinders in the near future.
Toyota suffered after the tsunami, but is coming back with a fury. The automaker is releasing a brand-new sports car, the FR-S, developed in partnership with Subaru and set to sell with a Scion badge. The RAV-4 and Lexus ES sedan will also get updates.
Chrysler will move toward smaller cars, something the brand has historically struggled with. The shrinkage can be attributed to Fiat, their new owners, and how their new 40 mpg Dodge Dart borrows heavily from the Italian engineers.
Ford and GM are trying to hang on to their chunky market shares, 17 and 19.7 percent respectively. Both companies are following the industry strategy: refreshing their popular sellers and releasing redesigned cars in their luxury brands. Look for a re-engineered Lincoln MKZ from Ford and Cadillac‘s new compact ATS and larger XTS sedans from GM.
Finally, there are some changes in the pipeline for German luxury cars. Audi just confirmed that their compact Q3 SUV will be sold in the U.S., along with the re-release of the compact A2 sedan. Mercedes-Benz is opting to offer their smaller B-Series and A-Series cars to remain competitive in the Yankee market.
[Source: CNN Money]
Ford CEO Alan Mulally isn’t on his way out, though succession plans are being considered according to a top Ford executive.
Mark Fields, Ford‘s president of the Americas, emphasized the importance of developing a succession plan, despite there being no plans for Mulally’s retirement. Fields, who is one of the candidates to move into the position said ”It’s something we’re all very committed to, and there will be great opportunities within Ford,” in an interview with the Detroit News.
Mulally is nothing less than an icon at Ford, and in the automotive world overall. He is credited with piloting Ford through the economic storms of the last decade and successfully leading the company to being the only member of the big three to decline a bailout.
That success came with heavy debt, but the company seems to be have effectively avoided disaster and found their way back into growth. That success got final affirmation last Friday when the company officially announced plans to reinstate cash dividends for their stock, effective in January 2012.
Restoring dividends “gives a lot of encouragement to our employees, our stockholders and our communities that we’re going to stay focused and move the business forward,” Fields said.
The company originally planned to wait until their credit rating was restored to investment grade. In light of strong sales and consistant growth Ford executives decided to move forward despite Moody’s and S&P upgrading them to one notch below investment grade.
[Source: Detroit News]
Parlato has actually been with the company for a few months, but Lotus spokesman Kevin Smith told Automotive News Lotus hadn’t made the announcement until recently because they had been too busy appearing at auto shows.
Parlato’s move to Lotus is part of an effort by the company to improve their market share. The switch actually took place mid-September, though the official announcement didn’t come until November 16.
Before coming to Lotus, Parlato ended a 20-year career with Ferrari on January 1, 2010, of those 20 years, he spent seven as CEO.
Smith said Lotus is looking to strengthen their dealer network in the U.S. in anticipation of increased sales.
“[Parlato] is a welcome addition to the team,” Smith said. “He’s brought in a lot of energy already and great contacts in the industry.”
[Source: Automotive News]
Yesterday, the CEO of General Motors, Dan Akerson purchased $250,500 in shares of the automaker, buying 10,000 shares at $25.05.
As of yesterday, Akerson owns 103,600 shares in the company. This last week has seen the worst stock market decline since 2008, with the crash has wiping out more than $6.7 billion from the value of the stock held by the U.S Treasury Department.
GM shares fell $1.62, or 6.34 percent, closing at $23.92 in the NYSE yesterday.The US Treasury holds 500 million shares of GM. At its peak, the stocks were worth $19.5 billion on January 7, closing at $38.98 per share. Today, the Treasury’s holdings are worth $11.96 billion.
[Source: Automotive News]
The next CEO of Ford Motor Co. probably will be a company insider, Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said Friday. The current Ford CEO is 65-year old Alan Mulally who is still performing and has no plans of retiring just yet.
Ford Jr.also explained that it would be “very unusual” if Mulally’s replacement came from outside. The executive chairman went further into detail explaining that Mulally holds “Business Performance Review” meetings once a week, to encourage executives from different sections of the company to participate and learn about the business as a whole. The meetings are also designed to help “train the next generation” of leadership for the company.
[Source: Detroit News]
To help Japan recover from the recent earthquake and tsunami many foreign companies have donated to relief charities. Aston Martin is the latest to contribute. It’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ulrich Bez is giving up his personal Rapide super-sedan at the Bonhams Auction at Newport Pagnell, with all proceeds going to Japan.
He said; “Nobody could have failed to be moved by the recent events in Japan and we at Aston Martin are no exception. After many years presence in the market and closer ties being forged with the Japanese automotive business in recent projects, we have many friends in the region and we wanted to do something to help. The Bonhams Aston Martin Auction seems the perfect platform to encourage the extended Aston Martin family to support this cause, so we have decided to auction my Rapide which I have used in my role as Chief Executive to represent Aston Martin at numerous events in both UK and Europe. I hope this superb car will raise a substantial amount to help make a difference.”
This well appointed, V12 luxury car will hit the auction stage on May 21. The new owner will get a great car and help a great cause at the same time.
Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson will retire from Saab on May 19th, with the 59 year old executive leaving Saab during a tumultuous time. Saab Chairman Victor Muller will act as interim CEO as a search for a replacement gets underway.
Jonsson, who was reportedly planning to retire regardless of the situation, will assist with the personnel changes and be available to Saab until September 1st. Jonsson, who worked for Saab for nearly 40 years, released a statement, that read”The last three years have of course been very demanding and forced me to focus on one thing only — my work. Now it is time for me to also spend some time on other things that had to stand back for my duties to Saab. I am convinced that Saab is on the right track toward replacing the entire product portfolio by October 2012 — when the next generation 9-3 will be launched — as well as creating a stand-alone company with a financially sound business model.”
Saab sales were up 15 percent in 2010, and parent company Spyker expects the division to be profitable by 2012.
[Source: Automotive News]
Mitsubishi has been in the news quite a bit lately, mostly to do with the rumors that the Lancer Evolution is to be killed off by 2013. Those rumors also suggested that Mitsubishi will now focus their energy on hybrids and full-electric vehicles.
Now comes the news that Mitsubishi North America has a new President and CEO, to perhaps get things back on the right track. Yoichi Yokozawa will take the helm from Shinichi Kurihara as of April 1, 2011. Kurihara will be returning to Japan to continue working for the company.
Yokozawa is not new to the company either, having already served 13-years with Mitsubishi, which included heading the brands European board.
Yokozawa has worn many hats within Mitsubishi and we wish him all the best for the future. And Mr. Yokozawa if you’re listening, don’t kill off the Evo.
Press release after the jump:
Jonathan Browning will replace Stefan Jacoby as Volkswagen Group of America’s CEO starting next month. A veteran of Ford and General Motors, Browning joined VW in June of this year, and is expected to oversee major developments in Volkswagen’s North American operations, including their new Tennessee factory and their aim of selling 800,000 VW brand cars by 2018.
“Volkswagen will play an even stronger role in the important U.S. market going forward,” said Christian Klingler, Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG for Sales. “Jonathan Browning is an acknowledged expert on this market, its customers and its sales structures.”
During his tenure with the GM and Ford, Browning oversaw both the Vauxhall and Jaguar brands during the earlier part of the decade.
Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking is leaving his position at the helm of Germany’s most renowned sports car maker and he isn’t leaving voluntarily. Wiedeking was sacked by the Porsche’s executive board late yesterday so that the company could move forward with a “merger” with Germany’s largest automaker, Volkswagen. The now former CEO opposed the deal and so has been removed, along with the company’s chief financial officer Holger Haerter.
The reality is that the merger is anything but and that with Wiedeking gone Volkswagen will now look to add Porsche as one of its many brands (10 in total) that include such names as Bentley and Lamborghini.
Wiedeking has run Porsche for the past 16 years and can be credited for saving it with the introduction of the Cayenne SUV. In fact, he took it from the brink of bankruptcy to being the world’s most profitable automaker. For that he will be well rewarded with a $71 million severance.
Unfortunately Wiedeking’s ambition became his own downfall as he attempted a takeover of Volkswagen, a company 16 times Porsche’s size. The move might have worked too, were it not for the crumbling worldwide economy, which slowed the company’s cash flow and made the enormous amount of debt wracked up in the attempted VW takeover too much to bear.
Volkswagen has reportedly offered to buy Porsche outright but wants it to fix its finances first. That plan may already be in the works as Porsche has also announced it will raise $7 billion in equity from Qatar Holding LLC.
Volkswagen’s board of management will reportedly meet today to decide on further action.
Porsche’s executive position has fallen to production boss Michael Macht.