Between time off over Thanksgiving, a quick trip to the LA Auto Show, and a bunch of stuff happening in the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting much here lately.
While I’m putting a few things up now, that will probably also be the trend through the holiday season.
It turns out that radio stuff comes first, followed by web committments, then social media…and after that, we get to blogging.
I’ll try to make more time for it in 2013, because I really enjoy this.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (those are my holidays, if yours are different, I hope you enjoy them, too.)
Next time you flip on a light switch, or turn on an appliance, give thanks to Nikola Tesla.
Edison invented the light bulb. But, it only gave light to the wealthy before Tesla developed the alternating current that even enters the houses of the poorest Americans.
So, there’s a sense of irony that a company that’s taken Tesla’s name is being honored by Motor Trend for building cars for a very small segment of the population.
I need to use a lot of caution here, as I have not driven any of Tesla’s products. My few attempts to request a drive have not met with much success, and I admit I haven’t pushed the point.
I’m a juror for the North American Car and Truck of the Year Award, and the Model S is not on our short list. I suspect that’s because most of the fifty jurors have not had a chance to experience the vehicle.
Still it would have been a long shot for our award, which goes to a vehicle that is the most ground breaking in its class.
While I’m sure the Model S is an awesome vehicle, you can do a lot more with a car when your sales expectations are modest, and you have a lot more pricing power. That has to be taken into account when you evaluate a vehicle.
While the Model S has a base price in the upper fifties. You have to pay six figures to get the version with the really useful 300 mile battery.
There are other brands that brought great technology to the masses in 2012. The Fiat multi-air engine that is in several trims of the Dodge Dart will save a lot of fuel, in a little car that feels bigger, and is a lot of fun.
The mild-hybrid eAssist system on the Chevy Malibu is another way to get fuel saving technology to the masses.
And, while they aren’t available this year, the “energi” plug in hybrid system on upcoming versions of the Ford Fusion and C-Max give both vehicles up to 100 miles per gallon “equivalent.”
And Tesla has not been able to prove that it’s going to be able to consistently mass produce and deliver the Model S.
Don’t think of me as somebody who hates electric vehicles. I’m constantly defending the Chevy Volt in front of conservative friends who say it was forced on GM. I’ve also driven some EV prototypes that were neck snapping fast.
But, I’m also a realist. EV’s haven’t met sales expectations. They likely won’t until the costs and charging times fall, and the ranges grow.
I was inspired to write this after reading a blog this morning that asked if Tesla was the “next Apple.”
It made me recall that Apple’s computers were mostly niche products, and the company often faced the possibility of failure, until something magic happened. The iPod , iPhone and iPad have brought portable music, video and computing technology to the masses, at reasonable prices.
The auto company that does this will be the one that really lives up to the legacy of Nikola Tesla.
Now that Bob Lutz has retired, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has to win the award as the most quotable auto executive.
Top executives don’t appear in public that often, and when they do—like at today’s investment announcement— it’s an opportunity to talk about a number of things. And while Marchionne will refuse to answer a question, he doesn’t play the semantic games or stick to the talking points.
He’s pretty direct, even when he’s asked about his own retirement…whenever that may be.
“The games are on. Let people work their butts off and we’ll find out what happens when I’m ready to step down. It ain’t gonna happen tomorrow. So, they are going to have to work a lot.“
This was in response to the changes in Ford management. Marchionne has said publicly that he’s not leaving before 2015. But, he does admit he has to leave sometime.
“I think the actual physical act of retirement is certainly within my capabilities.“
“If I could make more Wranglers, I’d be as happy as a pig in do-doo,” he said. “We’re at the limits. I promised I would not move the Wrangler out of Toledo, notwithstanding what Mr. Romney said.”
That last reference to campaign claims, that Marchionne quickly disputed, that Chrysler was moving Jeep production to China.
Marchionne is also very direct when asked about the European market. He said they had to take a lesson from what Chrysler did in the United States. That includes a frank discussion of what they need to do, to set up a starting point for moves to turn things around.
“Europe needs to do exactly the same thing. The methods that we were using up to now have not worked. I learned a long time ago that if the damn thing is busted and it ain’t running, throw it out, get something new, and start all over again.”