If you read our F1 post from several days ago, the world known as Formula One was on the brink of becoming CART Wars, PART II. A majority of the teams who race in the international F1 Championship were prepared (so they said), to launch a breakaway series, due in large part to their dissatisfaction with the requirements set forth by the governing body and its president, Max Mosely.
Though none of these entries are planned for sale in the North American market, each brought something interesting to the show this year. Renault looks to refine a new approach to the luxury segment, as conservative as the Avantime was not, and Citroen and Peugeot explore alternative powertrains in large luxury coupe-looking sedans.
Renault is not expected to build this two-door, four-seat vehicle, though its headlights and grille could appear on future Renaults. Also of interest is the powertrain, a 3.5L twin-turbo V6 delivering 420HP through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is an evolution of Nissan’s VQ engine family and it is likely that a seven-speed automatic will find its way into Nissan and Renault model lines sooner rather than later.
Definitely one of the best-looking products in all four Paris show halls, the 908RC previews the styling direction for the next iteration of Peugeot flagship, 608. As with Nepta, there’s something interesting about the powertrain. In this case, the 700HP 5.5L V12 diesel is due to be used in Peugeot’s next Le Mans attempt. If Audi can do it, why can’t Peugeot?
Aside from the terrifically deep red paint, which looked far better in person than in photos, this concept felt overdone. Instead of predicting Citroen styling, however, the star is under the hood. Citroen is looking to have a diesel-hybrid in their range in 2010, and the C-Metisse (and Metisse means hybrid in French, by the way) sported a 208HP 3.0L V6 diesel with electric motors supporting it. The motors were at the rear wheels, and good for 20HP each.
The buzz around the global auto industry on Friday June 30 was that a possible tie-up between General Motors, Renault and Nissan was being seriously discussed by GM’s board. A meeting held on June 20 in Nashville (Nissan North America’s new headquarters) between Kirk Kerkorian, Jerry York and Carlos Ghosn explored possible relationships. Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. owns 9.9% of General Motors – the 4th largest shareholder – and Jerry York, Kerkorian’s right hand man, is Tracinda’s representative on GM’s Board. Carlos Ghosn is chairman of Renault and chairman of Nissan. Could he also become chairman of General Motors and then rule the auto world with 25% of the global market?
GM’s Board had a urgently called telephone conference on Friday to discuss the issue. No news yet.
General Motors Share Price Skyrockets
GM’s share price rocketed 8.6% on Friday on the news and skeptics opined that Kerkorian had orchestrated the news to win back the losses his investment in GM has taken over the past year. Others saw this as another wake-up call to Rick Wagoner that the restructuring of General Motors is not moving fast enough and that someone like Carlos Ghosn is needed to impersonally and analytically cut through the inertia that faces the General. Admittedly, Rick Wagoner has one of the toughest jobs on the planet and steering GM is like steering the Titanic. It cannot change direction quickly. But Ghosn demonstrated that you can turn around a huge ship – Japan’s second largest carmaker Nissan returned to profitability two years following Ghosn taking the helm.
Personalities, Personalities, Personalities
Think about the personalities. Wagoner the low-key professional chairman trying to improve the General incrementally. Bob Lutz the charismatic product czar of GM whose impact is just beginning to be seen in newly introduced products. Jerry York the impatient financial wizard from Chrysler/IBM/Tracinda who is delving into GM’s operations. Kerkorian the “long term investor” trying to make a risky investment a sure thing. Carlos Ghosn another charismatic exec credited singlehandedly with saving Nissan. Wow! This is fun!
Don’t Forget China
Oh, don’t forget. GM has a solid presence in China and Renault and Nissan much less so. This tie up could really benefit Renault and Nissan in China.
Stay tuned. This will play out quickly over the next week or so. Is Kerkorian just playing with his share price? Is he really able to goose GM into accelerating its restructuring? Will any sort of relationship develop between GM/Renault/Nissan? Between Wagoner/Lutz/Kerkorian/York/Ghosn?