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Friday
Jan292016

The Adventures of Huckleberry Marchionne

By Christopher A. Sawyer

FCA's latest business plans calls for the Chrysler 200 (shown) and Dodge Dart to be phased out in favor of more trucks and SUVs.Earlier this week, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced some major changes to its business plan. What sparked the most interest was the delay in launching Alfa’s new lineup, and Sergio Marchionne’s statement that Chrysler would be dropping the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart, replacing them with crossovers a these cars came to the endow their product cycle. Lost in all of this is the fact that this is the 107th (only a slight exaggeration) change to the company’s business plan since Fiat scooped up Chrysler in the riptide of the global economic downturn.

Perhaps prophetically, the presentation begins with a picture of Mark Twain and, perhaps, his most famous quote: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Though I am certain Marchionne and his team thought this funny, it arrives after news stories chronicling FCA’s reliance on purchasing credits from other automakers in order to meet its U.S. Greenhouse Gas Compliance (a.k.a. fuel economy) targets, a softening of the global market (especially China), slowing U.S. sales on the horizon, FCA’s hounding of GM as a merger partner, and more. The company may not be dead, but it looks desperate.

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Friday
Jan292016

NASCAR’s Caution Clock Nonsense

By Christopher A. Sawyer

The incredible growth enjoyed by NASCAR from the mid-1990s through approximately 2009 came through the self-induced CART/IRL split, a major marketing effort, and the rise in sports-based pursuits as a younger generation came of age. Of these, the most important was the CART/IRL war that took single-seater racing off the radar of those who were other than die-hard fans. From a series that had Formula 1 management worried it could expand beyond the borders of North America and provide a cheaper alternative to Grand Prix racing, it collapsed in a heap of acrimony that threatened the very health of  the Indianapolis 500.

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Friday
Jan152016

British Survey: EV Demand in Single Digits

By Christopher A. Sawyer

British auto insurer Adrian Flux surveyed 1,784 British motorists to determine whether they plan to buy an electric vehicle in the next five years. The insurer of modified and unusual vehicles noted that the number of electric cars on Britain’s roads has increased to more than 40,000 from just 3,500 two years ago, and wondered if this rate of growth would continue or even increase.

The survey showed that just over three percent of those surveyed were considering buying an EV in the next half decade, while 23% were undecided, and 73% said they had no plans to buy one. This is bad news for automakers, who are being forced by legislation to increase their electric vehicle offerings. The Nissan Leaf, BMW i8, VW e-Golf, Tesla Model S and others have joined the party, and are soon to be joined by vehicles like the Chevy Bolt. But who will buy them?

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Friday
Dec112015

VW Begins to Put its House in Order

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Volkswagen’s response to the diesel scandal has been moving forward with blitzkrieg-like speed. At a press conference this week at the company’s Wolfsburg headquarters in Germany, Chairman of the Board of Management, Matthias Müller stated, “We are doing everything to overcome the current situation, but we will not allow the crisis to paralyze us. On the contrary, we will use it as a catalyst to make the changes Volkswagen needs.”

VW’s internal investigation is overseen by a special committee of the Supervisory Board, and contains approximately 450 experts from both inside and outside the company. The Group Audit investigation team was mandated to investigate relevant processes, reporting and monitoring systems, and the infrastructure associated with these areas. Once complete, it will send its findings to a group of investigators from the international law firm Jones Day. The law firm has a parallel mandate from the board to clarify facts and responsibilities, and to conduct a forensic investigation with operational support from the audit firm Deloitte. So far Group Audit’s process examination laid blame for the NOx software scandal on the interaction of three factors:

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Friday
Nov132015

Odds and Ends, 11/13/15

Nissan has just launched a redesigned and reengineered small pickup, the NP300 Navara, in Europe, and claims it is as comfortable and refined as the company’s crossovers. What’s of most interest is that the Navara is the stablemate to the Nissan Frontier, which is ripe for change in 2016. Interestingly, the double cab version of the truck comes with a five-link rear suspension to improve ride quality without compromising payload capacity, durability or off-road performance. It’s reported to be 44 lb. lighter than the outgoing live axle system. We’ll have to wait and see if it makes the trip across the Atlantic.
   

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