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Wagoner Is Out At GM
Mar29

Wagoner Is Out At GM

By Brendan Moore

03.29.2009

rick-wagonerRick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, will resign as part of the conditional approval for further federal aid for the struggling company.

Automotive News, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal are all reporting that Wagoner’s departure is imminent and that he was asked to leave as one of the many preconditions Washington wants in order to release more federal funds for GM’s restructuring.

General Motors has asked for approximately $30 billion USD in aid from the government, and has already received $13.4 billion of the total. The remaining $16.4 billion has been requested by GM, and a decision has been promised from the Treasury by March 31. GM almost ran out of money at the end of 2008 before it received the first loan.

Wagoner has been CEO of GM for eight years.

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VW Decides Rabbit Name Isn’t So Cute After All
Mar27

VW Decides Rabbit Name Isn’t So Cute After All

By Brendan Moore

03.27.2009

vw-logoAfter reviving the Rabbit name in North America for the hatchback known in the rest of the world as the Golf in 2006, VW has decided to change the name back to Golf. The Rabbit name was used in North America previously when the Golf was introduced in the US  in 1975, but was dropped in the region with the 1984 model year. In the rest of the world, the Golf name has been used from the beginning of the model’s existence, and has never been changed.

The return to the Golf name in North America will happen with the 2010 production models due in the US in October 2009, and will be shown on pre-production models at the New York Auto Show next month..

The whole idea behind bringing back the Rabbit name in 2006 was that American consumers would really respond to the warm and fuzzy memories of the original Rabbit. It didn’t work out like that; consumers for the most part just yawned when greeted with the retro name.

VW, for its part, says that the underwhelming response to the name change for the Golf has nothing to do with their decision to go back to the Golf name. Rather, it has to do with VW’s decision to use the same name for every one of their models worldwide.

Tom Wegehaupt, spokesman for VW, stated, “A lot of consumers tell us they prefer the name Rabbit, but we are moving to this name strategy. There is so much weight behind Golf — we have sold more than 26 million in 30 years in 120 countries.”

The VW spokesman also commented that VW will add a diesel engine to the Golf this fall. This interesting engine is the same one currently used in the Jetta diesel; a 2 liter inline four-cylinder, 50-state-compliant clean diesel with 140 hp.

COPYRIGHT Techshake – All Rights Reserved

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Auto Industry Malaise Affects Everyone
Mar26

Auto Industry Malaise Affects Everyone

By Brendan Moore

03.26.2009

going-out-of-business2I talk to a lot of people about cars, I talk to them about the industry, etc. Some of the people I talk to are hard-core auto enthusiasts, but most of the conversations are with regular people who are not aware of which new models are coming out, have no idea how much horsepower their car has, and are aware that the auto industry is in a bad spot, but only in the most peripheral way.

For the hard-core enthusiasts, these are certainly depressing times. I know a lot of enthusiasts that are just in a funk, and have been for some time. Every day seems to bring more bad news about some company’s financial health, more bad news about new models being cancelled, etc. The steady drip, drip, drip of negative news coverage is just wearing them down. And it’s wearing down their interest level in all things automotive and it’s wearing down whatever love they have for things automotive.

We’re no different here at Techshake; we’re susceptible to the same feelings as any other enthusiast, except perhaps more so. We read everything, and when everything you read is awful, it’s tough to maintain an impartial view of the industry’s problems. There has been a lot to write about in the auto industry lately, but the steady drumbeat of bad news tends to tamp down a writer’s enthusiasm for reporting or commenting on it.

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Tata Nano Debuts among Storm Clouds
Mar24

Tata Nano Debuts among Storm Clouds

tata-nano

By Brendan Moore

03.24.2009

tata-logo-2The Tata Nano was rolled out to the press yesterday in India by a beaming Ratan Tata, it’s father and CEO of Tata Motors. Production this year is expected to top out at 35,000 units, but that is because of production constraints, not market demand. There is a base model available for $2230 USD, which is widely expected to be quite popular in India, the Nano’s home market.

But all is not well.

Tata is in a tremendous cash squeeze and had it’s first quarterly loss in seven years. They have delayed payments to suppliers and vendors as a result. Their new acquisitions, Land Rover and Jaguar, are struggling along with everyone else in the awful new-car market. There are also doubts about Tata’s ability to keep costs (and therefore retail prices) down on the Nano in the future, as well as concerns about the company’s production capacity.

There are also questions about the market segment the Nano now occupies (by itself). Just how big is the market? What geographic areas comprise the market? Will a “loaded” Tata sell in Western countries? When will competitors show up?

Lastly, environmental groups are up in arms about the potential prospect of millions of inexpensive cars adding to the cumulative total of greenhouse gases being spewed into the environment. Tata, for it’s part, says that meeting the emissions regulations of the EU or the US is not a problem for their Nano.

None of this matters to Tata, at least in front of the press. It was all smiles yesterday, and any potential issues were brushed off in statements to journalists.

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Jaguar Bests Lexus in Reliability Survey
Mar19

Jaguar Bests Lexus in Reliability Survey

By Brendan Moore

03.19.2009

jaguar-logo-smallHas the Earth stopped rotating on its axis?

Have pigs sprouted wings?

Has Hell frozen over?

No, but Jaguar, a brand long stained with the reputation of unreliability, has beaten out Lexus for the top spot in J.D. Power’s annual reliability study. Lexus has held that top spot for 14 consecutive years.

Not to give short shrift to Buick, who tied with Jaguar for the top spot and also dethroned Lexus this year, but Buick tied Lexus for first in 2007 and therefore didn’t have as far to go in terms of improvement. Buick beating Lexus is not surprising; Jaguar beating Lexus is about the same as the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl next year. Or Myanmar winning the World Cup.

I speak from experience. Back in the day, I owned four Jaguar sport coupes; two with six-cylinder engines and two with twelve-cylinder engines. I loved those Jaguars in an almost desperate way.

But things went wrong with the Jaguars frequently, things that would have been laughable if they hadn’t been happening to me. The electrics in the cars were constantly acting up; electric components wouldn’t work, or, bizarre things would happen, like the windshield wipers coming on when I went over railroad tracks. The carburetors were so temperamental as to defy description. The cars leaked just about every fluid that existed in the car – radiators, radiator hoses, engine oil, transmission oil, brake fluid, etc. I had large rubber mats on my garage floor for years.

The interior bits would loosen or break with regularity. The windows on two of the cars leaked. The paint on three of the cars had serious imperfections right from the factory.

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