By Brendan Moore
In another surprise move, General Motors has announced some senior management changes today, courtesy of Ed Whitacre, Chairman of the GM Board and acting CEO.
Nick Reilly’s previously-temporary move to Europe has now been made permanent as his new position is President of GM Europe. He is being replaced in Asia by Tim Lee, who is now the President of GM Asia out of Shanghai.
Bob Lutz is no longer in charge of marketing at GM; he has his old job back as an advisor to the CEO, with a brief that covers product development. Susan Docherty is now is charge of Sales and Marketing at GM, which has been re-combined into a single unit, as it was before Lutz took over Marketing just a short time ago.
Mark Ruess, who came out of GM Australia just recently, and has to be considered a dark horse for his new position, has been appointed President of GM’s North American Operations by Whitacre, a position previously eliminated earlier this year.
No successor to the vacant CEO position was announced today.
It is obvious that Whitacre is intent on jolting GM’s management into a state of high urgency and focus. Whether this strategy is a successful one remains to be seen.
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GM’s press release after the jump –
By Andy Bannister
Recent news that, in the teeth of the deepest national recession since the 1930s, Ford is raising prices in the United Kingdom – its biggest European market – exposes the short-sightedness of the company’s decision to pull the plug on local car production.
When I was a kid growing up here in England, most people assumed Ford was a British-owned company, and the simple reason for this was that all its line-up were proudly made in the UK, principally at the company’s giant Dagenham and Halewood plants.
Today, however, Ford cars sold in Britain all come from abroad, principally from Germany, Belgium and Spain – countries which are in the Euro currency zone.
With the decline of the British pound against the Euro – down around 30% since 2007 – this means that imported Ford cars have become increasingly unprofitable for the firm, hence the latest 2.7% price hike, on top of a string of other small raises.
By Kevin Miller
Hyundai’s second product launch at the LA Auto Show came today, when Hyundai Motor America’s President/CEO John Krafcik introduced the 2010 Hyundai Tucson small crossover. Although the Tucson was designed in Hyundai’s Frankfurt design studio, it employs the same stylish Fluidic Sculpture design themes as the 2011 Sonata, which was designed in Hyundai’s California studio.
This is only the second generation Tucson, but it is a huge step forward from the original, which debuted in 2005. Whereas the first-gen Tucson was boxy and clumsy looking, the new one has an appealing, emotional design. The shapely good looks continue inside of the Tucson, with such available features as heated leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, iPod/USB music interface and available touchscreen navigation system.
Much like the new Sonata, the Tucson is lighter, more powerful, and has better fuel economy than its predecessor. Eschewing a V6 engine, Hyundai’s new 176 HP, 2.4 liter Theta II GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) four-cylinder engine is used exclusively in the Tucson. Coupled with Hyundai’s new six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, it has more power than the outgoing optional V6. The new Tucson gets twenty percent better fuel economy than the old four cylinder in the outgoing vehicle with an EPA rating of 23/31 MPG which is better than its key rivals, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
By Kevin Miller
Buick is in a product renaissance, with the Enclave and LaCrosse leading the way. Last month Buick sold its 100,000th Enclave crossover. The brand’s conquest rate has tripled in the last year, and the import conquest rate has quadrupled.
Onscreen text before the Regal launch stated that the Regal’s “Arrival is a departure”. That is very true for the North American market, where Buick has been selling to customers in the AARP demographic for decades.
With that said, the North American premiere of the Regal launches the car as Buick’s performance flagship. Though pricing won’t be released until sometime next year, the Regal is billed as a premium sedan at a non-premium price. The driving experience is said to be absolutely European, which is believable since the Regal is essentially a Buick-branded version of the Opel Insignia, which itself was the European Car of the Year last year.
By Kevin Miller
Toyota revealed their all-new third-generation Sienna minivan at the LA Auto Show yesterday. While minivan sales have been losing market share in recent years, with GM, Ford and Hyundai suspending their minivan programs, Toyota has upgraded its Sienna to take on the class-leading Honda Odyssey.
The new Sienna seems to take a few of its styling cues from Toyota’s Venza, and definitely has a more stylish look than the outgoing van. The new Sienna will be available in five different grades (base, LE, SE, XLE and Limited), two engine choices, seven- or eight-passenger seating. The Sienna continues to be the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.
Of the different trim levels, the SE stands out from the crowd. The Sienna SE rides on a lower, sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch wheels with low-profile tires. The SE also features a sport-mesh front grille and larger lower grille, enhanced lower side moldings, and more aggressive front and rear bumpers. Exclusive instrumentation and unique interior trim provide for a dynamic interior look.
By Kevin Miller
Hyundai Motor America has had a great year in 2009. At 30.1 MPG, Hyundai has the highest corporate fleet fuel economy average in the US. In a year where car sales have fallen, Hyundai has increased their market share from 3% in October 2008 to 4.3% in October 2009. In January, their new Genesis sedan was named North American Car of the Year. Shortly thereafter the Genesis coupe launched. JD Power ranked Hyundai the highest non-premium brand in initial quality (fourth overall), and the Hyundai Assurance program along with their early rollout of the CARS rebate program have all led to Hyundai’s increase in market share.
Following that momentum, yesterday at the LA Auto Show Hyundai introduced the sixth generation of their Sonata sedan, and in a typical case of attempting to surpass the competition, the 2011 Sonata is bigger and more fuel efficient than ever before. Though it competes in the midsize segment, the Sonata’s class-leading interior volume draws a Full-Sized rating from the EPA. As in the outgoing fifth-generation car, electronic stability control and six airbags are standard equipment in the new Sonata.
By Andy Bannister
Alfa Romeo has released the first pictures of its crucial new mid-range hatchback, but the car’s launch next spring could be overshadowed by continuing doubts about the company’s long-term future.
The Golf-sized five-door will replace the ageing Alfa Romeo 147, and was until recently to be called the Milano. Instead the company has sprung a surprise by reviving the historic Giulietta name, first used by the company on a famous model of the 1950s and then again on a wedge-shaped saloon in the late 1970s.
It will be officially unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show in March next year, by which time Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne should have announced his plans for the future direction of Alfa Romeo. Recent noises from him haven’t been encouraging.
It seems to be going that way…
By Brendan Moore
Now that the dust has cleared from yesterday’s resignation of Fritz Henderson as CEO of General Motors, and it has become obvious that Henderson didn’t jump, but rather, was pushed, the speculation about a successor is rampant.
Ed Whitacre, the chairman of the GM’s newly-active (hyperactive, perhaps) board of directors, and, the guy that did most of the pushing of Fritz Henderson, is known to favor bringing in an auto industry outsider as the next CEO of GM.
Henderson struggled from the start of his CEO tenure with the perception that he was part of the old GM, and therefore would be unable to shake up the company enough to achieve its new business goals. He was a “lifer” at GM, a company man who followed his mentor, Rick Wagoner, the previous CEO, right to the top of GM. Unfortunately, the knock against Henderson was always that he was “Rick Wagoner 2.0”, and he has now followed Wagoner right out the door, via a forced resignation.