Category Archive:

General Motors’ Failures – Kudos for Trying

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General Motors Company (formerly “Corporation”) today is a shadow of its former self.  It sells fewer models through fewer brands since its bankruptcy in 2009.  It is reconstructing itself and building itself into a competitive and profitable car company.  That transformation appears to be going very well.

Over the years, however, General Motors has often tried to be a trailblazer (no pun intended) in new vehicle design and development.  Many of these vehicles failed, but we believe GM deserves a tremendous amount of credit for trying where other companies did not have the creative thought or resources to make a “segment breaking” product.  Here are some examples…


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Audi e-tron Spyder

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Sometimes things start out great and end up only OK, or perhaps worse. The smell of coffee in the morning. Most Superbowls. A full bottle of Patron. We recently had the opportunity to experience the Audi e-tron and came away excited by the vehicle, but wondering why we got to see so much of it.


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Luca trumps Max: New Era in Formula One Announced

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Thumbnail image for fia-chef_max-mosley_ferrari-boss_luca-di-montezemolo.jpgIf 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.


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Silverstone: The Beginning and End of Formula One

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silverstone-F1.jpgOn May 13, 1950, the first ever (modern era) Formula One Championship Grand Prix was won by Giuseppe Farina in an Alfa Romeo-dominated event in which the Italian manufacturer cruised to a 1-2-3 finish. Luigi Fagioli and British driver Reg Parnell filled the remaining podium positions. The circuit was a WWII bomber airfield called Silverstone. The circuit has been a part of Formula One since that time, although races have, on occasion been run at other Britich tracks. This weekend, Silverstone hosted its last Grand Prix, and in addition to the race, manufacturers and the governing body announced they are going their separate ways as well. And so, Silverstone may go down in history marking the beginning and in some respects, the end of an era in modern motorsport.


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Chrysler BK May Signal New Era for US Manufacturers

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Fiat500-interior.jpgImagine this: You own a business. One day, you receive a telephone call from the owner of a competitor of yours. After many discussions, you’re essentially offered the opportunity to create a new company overseas; one that will then purchase the assets of the competitor at a highly reduced (but court approved) price, including parts, trained staff, union agreements, and, if you like, part or all of a fully established dealer network. And, your deal will have solid backing from a variety of sources, including the government. If you own Fiat, then that is essentially what you’re doing right now with Chrysler Corporation.


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Stick It To The Man

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I remember the call like it came just last week, because it did.
“Katrina, I have a new car.”
“How exciting!”
“It…it has a stick shift.”
“Even better!”
“You don’t understand! I don’t know how to drive a stick. I need you to teach me.”
“You’ve made me a very happy woman, grasshopper.”


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California Loses More Car Operations

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On Friday, March 7, two announcements were made that impact the Southern California car culture and, to some extent, the global auto industry.
Volvo Cars of North America Returns to Rockleigh Headquarters
The first was that Volvo Cars of North America is returning to its former headquarters in Rockleigh, New Jersey at the foot of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Beautiful location and much closer to Sweden, but we can’t help but wonder how the Volvo mindset in the USA will change with a New Jersey perspective rather than one from California? But, this does make sense.

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Jaguar and Land Rover Likely Will Move to Jag’s Old HQ in Mahwah
In due time, Jaguar and Land Rover locations will very likely move from Irvine, California back to Jaguar’s old HQ in Mahway, New Jersey. One veteran Land Rover manager quipped, “Well, I’ve worked for Land Rover through four owners. One more (Tata) won’t be too much different.”
This means that Ford’s Premier Automotive Group headquarters building in Irvine will be pretty empty except for some Ford regional and PR offices. This is also where Ford has some advanced design activities.
Chrysler Pacifica to Shut Down, Operations Relocated to Auburn Hills
The second announcement was that Chrysler is closing its Chrysler Pacifica operation in Carlsbad. Used as an advanced concept design center and monitoring operation, several Chrysler show cars were designed at Chrysler Pacifica and in the heyday, were fabricated by Metalcrafters in Fountain Valley. Here is Chrysler’s blurb on the demise of Pacifica: “Increasingly, we are leveraging resources worldwide, forming new joint ventures and alliances and consolidating operations in order to better achieve global balance and manage fixed costs. These moves are designed to help Chrysler become a more globally focused manufacturer, with design, engineering, sourcing and a local presence to serve local customers.
As such, we are closing the Pacifica Advance Product Design Center, consolidating the Advance Design function in Auburn Hills. Advance Design remains an integral part of our future design efforts, led by Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President — Design.
These changes set the stage for Chrysler’s future global growth efforts, which also include our intent to establish global expertise in design, engineering and sourcing through centers of excellence. These actions will help the Company meet its long-term globalization goals.”
Expect Many Staffers to Refuse to Move – Nissan’s Experience
Volvo, Chcysler Pacifica and soon Jaguar Land Rover will lose valuable and experienced staff who will refuse to relocate out of Southern California. This is what happened when Nissan North America moved from Gardena to Nashville, Tennessee in 2006. Less than 30% of their folks went with them and it has been turmoil ever sense.
All of these operations (with the exception of Nissan North America which was “born” in Southern California) moved to Southern California to be part of the most trend-setting area in the USA and arguably the tip of the spear in advanced automotive design in the world. In the case of PAG, it can be argued that staffers spent too much time at their desks to really benefit from being here. But designers need to breathe the air and see the colors and vibrancy of the area. Viewing the world as a designer in Detroit is, simply, different.


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"How I Spent My First Media Preview" by Katrina, Age 27

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When I arrived in Chicago night of Feb. 5, forecasters were predicting a nigh-apocalyptic snowfall. But I’m from Detroit, and I was in Chicago, and I like to think that upper Midwesterners are made of sterner stuff than the norm.
Still, I knew I’d need to fortify myself against the coming snow and arctic cold. How does the traveler far from home and operating at the mercy of automakers and their PR departments manage such a feat? The image above should provide a clue, as should the photo after the jump.


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Bring on the Marching Bands – No More Halftime Pageants

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This has nothing to do with cars or trucks, but about the halftime shows shown at extravaganzas like the Super Bowl and BCS Championship Game. Our stories about auto company and Bridgestone ads stimulated the idea.
Super Bowl Halftime Lame – Bring On the Marching Bands
I don’t know how much Tom Petty cost to entertain the nation for twenty minutes, but it was too much. And it’s not that I don’t like Tom Petty. I have just gotten sick of these extravaganza halftime shows that Bowl Games think are necessary to put on while people are getting their snacks and going to the john. At least Petty did not have a wardrobe malfunction and the manufactured crowd was on their best behavior – young and energetic.
God Wants Marching Bands: But, God intended for football halftime shows to feature marching bands. Not Tom Petty. Not Janet Jackaon. From time immemorial, marching bands have been featured at every high school and college game. Some bands are military bands. Some are pageant bands. Some do a little of both.
Military Bands – Precision and Discipline: The military bands have the toughest job. They will have an eight minute drill in which they continuously change formation from one geometric pattern to another. Countermarches. Minstrel turns. Freeze steps. Parallelograms. Squares. All precisely designed to amaze the audience. Texas A&M is a rare example of a military band. I say rare, because a military band takes a lot of practice to make look good. Lines have to be straight. Timing has to be perfect and the music has to be great. Takes a huge amount of discipline.

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Pageant Bands – Easier than Military: The pageant bands may begin a show with a military fanfare, but then evolve into designs and pictures that usually have the band members wandering from one spot to another. Much more chaotic than military bands. But the fans seem to like them and it’s easier to train a pageant band than a military band.
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National Band Contest: So, here’s the idea. Scrap these halftime concerts and have a national band contest. The national band contest would end at the Super Bowl where the best high school marching band in the country would go against the best university marching band in the country. I guess you could have military and pageant band sections. The university bands would be judged by conference – an ACC Champ, a Big Ten Champ, a Pac Ten Champ, etc. Then at the national championship game – the BCS game, the best college band would be selected. High schools would be selected on a state-by-state basis with state winners moving to regional, sectional and, finally, national.
Still have to find a way to judge military bands vs. pageant bands, but there must be a way. Just find a way to get us away from the terrible halftime shows the BCS and Super Bowl have subjected us to for the past decades.


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Invisible Explorer

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Say it isn’t so! I sincerely hope that I’m wrong on this one, or at least over-reacting. Ford’s initial Press conference at the 2008 North American International Auto Show left me wondering, “”What about the Explorer?” Ford began the Sunday with Bill Ford, Mark Fields, Country music superstar Toby Keith, and enough fireworks and decibels to put a chill up your spine. We were shown the newly-redesigned F-150, the Verve Concept, and a herd of Mustangs. We saw the Explorer America Concept, or at least I think we did. It came on and off the stage faster than Charles Manson at a parole hearing. The pitch went something like this. “Unit body, 2.0 liter Ecoboost Engine, Adios!” I found this especially disheartening, because the vehicle looked so great. A forward-looking design that keeps real truck cues. Not another tall wagon!


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