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Next Week: 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img General Motors ::: 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

CADILLAC makes the most visually evocative cars on the road in the sub $100K market. Pointedly, they rule the sub-$50K market. The 2011 CTS Coupe brings a certain superstardom in at a low starting price – $38,165.

There’s drama in every edge and appropriate character line; all pointers to a carefully considered aesthetic.  Visually, the 2011 CTS – Sedan, Sports Wagon, and Coupe – tip the hat to the past while looking boldly forward. Trouble is, the new Coupe’s driving manners are – at first turn of the wheel – not as inspired.

Will a week’s time improve the experience? Can the CTS Coupe’s beauty eclipse perceived foibles? More on this slick Caddy next week.

GM IPO: $26-$29 per Share

by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img GM via carofthecentury ::: GM IPO

TIMED during the midterm elections, GM announced an initial public offering later this month of its revamped common stock for between $26 and $29 a share. The US Treasury which owns just over 60% of General Motors will reduce its stake to just over 43% at a loss which the government hopes to recoup with an increase in stock value over time. If history’s any judge, it may be a while.

Old Infiniti Q45 Ad Asked A Damn Good Question

by Gunnar Heinrich ::: YouTube ::: Infiniti Q45 Advert – Where Were The Cars We Were Promised?

AH, the Q45. The last of the luxury sedans offered by Infiniti before Nissan’s luxury nameplate went all bling and $#1t.

Pity that Infiniti never got the Q45′s formula of svelte, Japanese luxury for the American market quite right. Seems somehow odd, considering that so many agree that Infiniti design has since managed to nail the FX SUV and G coupe. The Q never did best the Lexus LS in sales, quality, or curb appeal, let alone match the cache of its Teutonic rivals.

But that didn’t stop Infiniti’s marketing team for taking a few jabs at their domestic competition at the turn of the Millenium. Where were the cars we were promised? is a straightforward US campaign and a direct shot at General Motors for all those far-flung space-age concepts that Harley Earl & Co. teased us with in the 50s and 60s that the General never delivered.

Needless to say, Infiniti marketing had a point. It’s just too bad that Infiniti Q45 wasn’t the car to deliver the way of the future.

GM Posts Q1 Profit. Sign of Brighter Days Ahead?

cadillac advertby Gunnar Heinrich ::: GM posts profit

LOVE or hate the General and its tightened stable of four core brands, it seems universally encouraging that the automotive sector and GM that the car company propped up by American and Canadian tax dollars is turning a profit rather than bleeding more red. A sign of brighter days ahead?

According to GM: [our] first quarter adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) was $1.7 billion, after adjusting for the favorable impact of the sale of the Saab brand.

That means $865 million Q1 profit, according to the BBC and GM’s press release.

Regarding the Saab sale, Saab CEO has said GM sold the Swedish car maker to Spyker for about $74 million. That figure differs from GM’s which is stated at $123 million.

Around that same period, Beijing Automotive paid $200 million for the old 9-3 and 9-5 assemblies which according to SaabSpyker CEO Victor Muller were funds that Saab banked – not  former parent company GM.

This suggests that the General is gaining ground on the back of a stronger product line.

Decisions, Decisions: Corvette Coupe v. ZR1

2010 corvette coupe

By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG GM

THERE is much to recommend GM’s plastic fantastic.

Besides the brash styling that broadcasts American brawn, on paper, Corvette remains a bargain:

For $48,930 you have the low entry-point to start the Chevrolet LS3 V8; a righteous 6.2 liter, 430 horsepower engine that makes 424 lb-ft of torque happen @ 4600 rpm.

Couple that with a moderate curb weight of 3,208 lbs and the standard coupe’s good for the claimed 190 mph top speed.

Better still, it’ll average 26 mpg which is thriftier on regular than my Saab convertible.

But here’s the question – Would you pay better than twice the price to buy the Corvette ZR1?

corvette zr1 2010

For $106,880 you get the Chevrolet LS9 V8; 638 horsepower that summons 604 lb-ft of torque.

Massively powerful, GM’s slotting this beast against the likes of Ferrari (599) and Lamborghini (Gallardo).

To add that it’s still cheaper than its competition means less than the virtues of the ZR1′s aluminum frame along with “visible carbon fiber components” that grant a power to weight ratio advantage over the Italians.

Oh, and top speed is 205 mph.

Does this make the ZR1 twice the Vette?

Having driven (only briefly) the standard coupe, it’s easy to say a staunch “Hell, No!” And they both look pretty much the same, aside from the ZR1′s quad pipes and tacky see-thru engine window on the hood.

Nevertheless, track considerations are another matter.

True, it’s unlikely that many buyers cross shop Ferraris with Vettes.

Prancing Horse buyers factor an image/performance decision ratio of somewhere around 60/40. For Lamborghini, we could argue 65/35. The ZR1 appeals to those who seek raw performance in a car destined for racing.

The difference is, however, that unlike, say, a Viper which exacts its might with all the finesse of a jackhammer, the Vette remains a sharp implement.

Handling, braking, and the effects of accelerative force are all considered in what amounts to GM’s best engineering efforts this side of the CTS-V.

Short of driving both cars, we can safely surmise that the standard Vette minus all the fixin’s (Carbon fiber brakes, HUD, etc.) represents the superior value. The ZR1 is less bang for your buck and more of an all-in American style.

2010 vette zr1

I Dream of Saab

saab convertible

By Gunnar Heinrich| IMG Saab Automobile AB

SAD to know that what we’ve come to love cannot be forever.

To the Saabists out there – we few but passionate Svenska automobilists – my heart goes out to you on the eve of this terrible news.

Saab Automobile AB will now close after several botched attempts to find suitors.

Truthfully, Saab hasn’t been Saab for some years now. Since 2003, the 9-3 sedan (the bread ‘n butter of Saab’s smart portfolio) was sold as a rebadged Opel (generic as any midsize rental Euro car can get) streamlined in a mistaken quest to compete for BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 sales.

The 9-3 and the effort to drive Saab mainstream was but one of many tragic missteps by GM’s global brand of gross incompetance.

General Motors never understood Saab. Never wanted to, either.

Time and again Saab slipped the world clues as to the true capacity of their creativity despite the fiscal shackles that restrained it. The 9-1X a super techy and oh, so svelte hatchback that if priced in the $20K’s would’ve flattened BMW’s MINI. Even the new 9-5 seemed brimming with promise.

No one ever thought the Turbo X a credible alternative to an Audi S4 or a BMW M3. Nor could we reasonably contemplate purchasing a 9-3 SportCombi in place of a Volvo V70.  The customers were very different, even if the price ranges were similar.

And therein lies the crux: Saab drifted away from what Saab did best – selling smart, sleek, turbocharged hatches. MINI has proven that there’s a market for quirky, upscale hatchbacks (even in America) and can now claim the market for its own.

Automotive enthusiasts everywhere have reason to morn tonight. For Saab, a company whose premise was building cars that are more than just appliances for getting us from points A to B, has died. And with it, a piece of the automotive soul.

GM Webcast – Product Technology

lasalle-buickThe way of the future…

By Gunnar Heinrich

CALLING all blogs.

GM’s set to announce it’s latest and greatest efforts in developing a relevant march into the uncertain future.

The General will appear armed and ready with product brimming with new potential (we pray) including but not limited to the following:

  1. A new, smaller Cadillac 3er/C-Class/ A4/ IS fighter called “ATS”.
  2. Much anticipated by the Sunshine State’s pensioner set – the Cadillac DTS (née Sedan DeVille) successor XTS will also be formally announced
  3. Buick will showcase a brand new midsize saloon
  4. And there will be news about the 2011 Chevy Malibu

Lock it here for the press conference with GM CEO Fritz Henderson which will go live at 08:00 EST.

If the embedded player functions as reliably as an old Chevy Citation, tap this link >>> GM Product Technology

ADL TV | GM @ 100 Yrs: Cadillac

gm-100-years-cadillac-automobiles-de-luxe

“MISTER EARL”

There’s nothing quite like having the man who designed the Corvette Sting Ray tell you, the interviewer, that you’re not giving GM’s larger-than-life chief designer Harley Earl enough respect.

My question: “Did you ever work with Harley Earl back in the day?”

Bob Veryzer: “He was around. It was never Harley Earl. It was always Mister Earl.”

To which GM’s VP of Global Design Ed Welburn added, “It was only until recently that people started calling him Harley Earl.”

Apparently, GM’s artistic duo hadn’t seen any of Buick’s “My name’s Harley Earl” TV spots. Nevertheless, at this gala in honor of Cadillac, clear respect for an icon was the order of the evening.

gm-100-years-automobiles-de-luxe

Last summer we drove up to Saratoga Springs, New York where instead of placing bets on horses we braved the worst tempests that the Hudson River Valley could throw our way to tape a story about Cadillac’s past and where it might fit in GM’s tomorrow.

GM had turned 100 years old and the Saratoga Auto Museum threw a party in honor of Cadillac. Many GM big wigs were there, including GM’s G.M. for Cadillac, Jim Taylor.

As grim as Caddy sales looked last July, the financial markets had yet to crash and the General was still almost a year away from filing for bankruptcy protection. We were in, if you like, the eye of the perfect storm.

In this segment with a T.R.T. of 07:15, we watch some of the best and worst of Cadillac’s past; hear comments from the marque’s fans; and get a real sense that in the midst of the celebration, GM’s top brass knew what was to come.

“This is a new world we’re going into,” Mr. Taylor notes, “Quite frankly I don’t think anybody realizes how big a difference there’s going to be. Until you wake up in four or five years and realized what happened.”

_

_________________________

Credits

Executive Producers: Gunnar Heinrich & Neil Rogers
Editors: Michael Russell | Neil Rogers | Kevin Kusina
Camera: Joshua Schnitzer | Gregory Dwyer | Neil Rogers
Writer | Host: Gunnar Heinrich
Special Thanks: GM | Saratoga Auto Museum | Dres. Ward Heinrich, Sr. & Jr.| J.M. Ficca

GM Bankruptcy & Cadillac

cadillac-sixteen

By Gunnar Heinrich

THERE’S just no replacing Cadillac.

As GM files for bankruptcy today, it’s worth noting that the second of four divisions that GM intends on keeping is America’s last true luxury car maker.

Yes, Mercedes-Benz builds ML and GL-Klassen in Alabama. And true, there is still Lincoln whose Town Cars ferry America’s big shots from one city block to the next.

But neither count, really. Lincoln has no soul. And Mercedes-Benz is still very German. It doesn’t matter where they build ‘em.

So, Cadillac is “ours”, for better or for worse. And in recent days, it’s been for better.

A quick recap of recent stock.

The CTS is the sharpest midsize luxury sedan on the market. It’s just too bad that only the limited production CTS-V truly performs.

And the Escalade still has its over-sized thumb on the pulse of the luxury SUV market. Everyone else (the Europeans, in particular) can’t match the large truck’s big pimpin’ cred. We should also be mindful that this is the only Caddy that still makes into pop culture’s lexicon.

The SRX and STS are both due for an overhaul. Hopefully, they’ll get just that. The DTS just keeps on tickin’ for Florida’s senior citizenry.

For its part, the General sees a certain value in a strong Cadillac and has sacrificed stronger divisions – Pontiac – to ensure that the crested wreathed logo lives on to float GM through another day or another bond(s).

Let’s hope in this brave new GM to come,  the company in its leaner form will be able to further Cadillac by building fewer cars of greater quality that will exceed their rivals -not merely hope to match them.

What else should we expect from the “standard of the world?”

Lutz on Letterman Talks About The $100K Car

bob-lutz

Bob Lutz cuts past the fact that the Volt has a range of 40 miles and costs $40K.

By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG CBS via YouTube

ONE hundred grand seemed to be the magic number.

Soon-to-retire GM Product Czar Bob Lutz was on Letterman recently (yours missed the initial broadcast). This media appearance, the Detroit exec extraordinaire managed a back ‘n forth with our man Dave far better than he did with our man Stephen (Colbert).

In the jolly banter, there was one reference that Mr. Lutz kept coming back to: the one hundred thousand dollar car.

Apparently, the EV1 – conspiracy theorists pay attention now – cost General Motors over $100K per electric car. According to Mr. Lutz:

“The people never owned them [EV1's]. We were absolutely unable to sell them. Finally, we leased them for $300 a month. And the maintenance of this fleet that we owned was becoming so onerous that after a billion dollars the finance guy said that’s enough.”

Mr. Lutz’s account of history did gloss over the fact that there were plenty of EV1 drivers who wanted, nay, demanded to keep their cars – in vain. But moving on…

The next reference to the one hundred thousand dollar car was the Corvette CR1. Our man Dave asked Mr. Lutz why small California car co. Tesla could produce an electric auto with a 200 mile range and mighty GM could only manage a 40 mile range on the Chevy Volt.

Mr. Lutz: “We can. But we need to sell things (Chevy Volts) in volume. We have a $100K car that sells fairly well, it’s called the Corvette CR1…”

-Signature Dave laughter filling time -

Mr. Letterman: “Can I have one of those, Bob?”

Mr. Lutz: “We can’t survive on selling hundred thousand dollar cars.”

Fair enough. But you’d think that a car was ready to be built in America and sold worldwide would have the scale of production to lower the costs of parts…like price on lithium ion batteries. Does the old Ford model of mass production not work for Chevrolet?

Mr. Lutz closed his time on the show by showcasing the $40K ($32,500 +/- after Gov’t incentives)Volt that may appear in what showrooms remain next year. Mr. Letterman pretended to be shocked by the car’s electricity. And Mr. Lutz closed on a note of patriotism.

While this style of present-our-case and pitch-the-product may seem outdated to some- Price Is Right-ish? – we can only hope that it was effective.

Further, though I’ve never had any great love for Bob Lutz, watching him representing GM was oddly comforting. It’s like he didn’t scoot out the backdoor, but was, in fact, seeing this one last sale through.

For an exec who could just as well be sitting back and watching the clock run out until he collects his pot ‘o gold, ending his tenure on a note of commitment to GM was the right thing to do.