Happy New Year to all of you! And to kick it off, we had a session with Eugene’s best fortune teller (who drives a 1988 Corolla wagon, naturally) to get a preview of the top automotive stories of 2016.
VW Adopts Hairshirt Fridays
After almost a year, the internal and criminal investigations of who precisely was culpable in VW’s “Dieselgate” cheating scandal were both inconclusive. In a complex negotiated settlement with Germany’s head prosecutor and the EPA, VW agreed that all its employees would be issued hair shirts to wear on Fridays for one year as a symbol of their collective guilt and atonement. No word yet on whether that includes retail sales persons and VW’s Supervisory Board members. The alternative offered was for all employees to wear a sew-on red badge with Betrüger (Swindler) on it, but the hairshirt was voted as the preferred option.
Subaru Sales Decline
After thirty seven continuous years of sales increases, and the fastest growing market share, Subaru sales suddenly stalled in 2016. A Subaru US executive explained it this way “we have effectively reached 100% market share of passenger cars in the Snow Belt, thus there is no further growth potential for us until we can convince Sun Belt car buyers of the benefits of AWD. We are working very hard on that. In the meantime, some of our traditional buyers in so-called “Granola markets” are turning to other brands as a form of protest due to over-saturation. We are considering launching a new brand for them“.
The Last Sedan Rolls Of The Assembly Lines
CUV sales continued to explode as 2016 got underway, and all the automakers shut down their sedan lines in order to switch production over to the hot-selling cross-overs. The last sedan still being sold was the 2016 Toyota Camry, but by the time Toyota pulled the plug, it was taking $12,000 in incentives to sell them. By November, the last Camry rolled off the lines in Georgetown, Kentucky.
2017 Ford F-150 MPG First Pickup To Exceed 30 MPG
Determined to show that it’s possible, Ford introduced the 2017 F-150 MPG, the first truck to exceed 30 mpg in EPA tests. It’s powered by a new version of Ford’s 1.0 L “Fox” EcoBoost three cylinder engine, as also used in the Fiesta. For use in the F-150 MPG, three turbochargers, one for each cylinder, allow boost has been increased, resulting in 160 hp and 165 lb.ft. of torque. When asked about performance with the 1.0L triple, a Ford spokesperson said it was “better than some of our V8 powered trucks in the past”. We can safely assume that refers to the early 1980s.
GM And Uber Merge; New Company Is Called General Mobility
Not to be left out in the autonomous future and rush towards the new mobility economy, Uber and GM merged, forming a new company called General Mobility. Given that both companies have a market cap/valuation of some $50 billion, one might have assumed that it would be a “merger of equals”. But given Uber’s momentum, lofty valuation, accumulated experience in the mobility sector and aggressive investment in robotics, Uber stock holders ended up with 755 of the new company’s shares. As a concession to GM’s legacy value, the new company was not named “Uber Motors”.
In a statement, soon-to-be-retired GM CEO Mary Barra said that the slow-moving General Motors would now take off at Internet speed, accelerated by Uber: “All you need to do is put a catalyst to GM, and in a short period, you can alter the growth rate. The growth rate will be like an Internet Mobility company.”
When told that those words sounded almost exactly like those spoken by former AOLTime Warner execs after their (ill-fated) merger, Barra said “I don’t remember that”.
1500 hp 2017 Dodge Challenger Helldragon
“There’s no such thing as too much horsepower“, Dodge’s General Manager (Chrysler no longer identifies its division GM’s by name, as they invariably don’t stay longer than three months) said in announcing the new 1500 hp Helldragon. We’re working closely with the best engine builders in top-fuel drag racing, and they’ve assured me that we still have a long way to go before we reach the limit of what’s possible.
Honda Abandons Asia And Europe, Incorporates In Delaware And Moves Headquarters To US: “We’re 100% American Now!”
Honda’s CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, announced that Honda was abandoning Asia and Europe, and moving to the US to concentrate on the North American market. “We’ve essentially been making all of our profit in the US for several decades now, and our losses in Europe and Asia have been growing. And our line up of vehicles are already all designed for the US market. We love America! The quality of life is so much better here, and our Japanese employees at our American facilities increasingly refused to come back home. So we decided to just make the jump and become all American” Hachigo explained.
Sergio Marchionne Starts Wearing A Suit And Tie And Quits Smoking
Word finally got back to Sergio that the reason his repeated overtures to GM for a merger were rebuffed was because GM CEO Mary Barra was turned off by his rumpled sweater smoky smell. “It looks like he sleeps in that uniform…and he reeks; who would want to merge with him?”
Porsche Announces New Golf-Class Hatchback “Canman”
With VW brand sales falling, Porsche is taking up the slack with a Golf-based hatchback to expand its product line. Ferdinand Porsche was a big fan of small cars, so it’s perfectly logical that one would finally be made bearing his name. Pricing starts at $40,000, but a well-optioned Canman can easily top $75,000.
Elon Musk Announces That Tesla Will Go Bankrupt; Tesla Stock Soars 28%
Elon Musk announced that Tesla would go bankrupt before the end of the year. TSLA stock soared 28% by day’s end, and was still climbing in after-hours trading. One analyst said: “Investors have become so used to Tesla not meeting its projections, that this latest announcement is being shrugged off.” One Tesla investor said: “this is wonderful news…Tesla is throwing off the shackles of the capitalist system so that it can finally soar.”
So what does your crystal ball foretell?