Marry Barra and a new era at General Motors

1 2015 Cadillac Escalade

What a difference a couple of years makes. GM was left for dead by many after the 2008 economic meltdown. In our polarized political climate, it seemed that watching GM collapse was essential to validate their view of the world. The notion that the government would extend a lifeline and not let GM and Chrysler liquidate was heresy in many circles. Never mind that it would have decimated countless auto suppliers as well and destroyed hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The auto bailout, however, was much more than a government handout. It was an event that made it possible to make stryctural changes to GM that were necessary for the company’s survival and long term health. But even after the bailout, many were skeptical that GM could survive, let alone thrive. This is where the new management team found itself, and they deserve credit for moving the company forward. BusinessWeek noted the progress as GM made the hsitoric announcement that Mary Barra would take over as the new CEO:

As Barra takes charge, GM is looking stronger than it has in decades. It’s in its third straight profitable year and feasting on the fruits of bankruptcy, which in its case include lower labor costs, less debt, and the elimination of weak brands and redundant dealers. Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays (BCS), expects it to earn about $6 billion in 2013. As the automaker sees the benefits of all the products it’s launching and additional cost reductions, its profit could reach $10 billion in 2017, according to Johnson. In 2010, GM had the second-biggest initial public offering in U.S. history; shares are trading at a high; the company returned to the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index; and it won back an investment-grade credit rating for the first time in eight years from Moody’s (MCO). Warren Buffett has been buying the stock. China, where Buick is a status symbol—it was the ride of China’s last emperor—is now the company’s biggest market.

And GM is no longer “Government Motors.” On Dec. 9, the day before Akerson announced his retirement, the Department of the Treasury, which had been selling about 1 million GM shares a day as the year was ending, declared it had sold the last. The federal government will recoup about $39 billion of its $50 billion investment. Supporters of the Obama administration’s decision to take over GM, who now include Akerson, contend that the jobs saved at both the company and its huge network of suppliers more than repaid U.S. taxpayers. According to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., the takeover preserved 2.6 million jobs in 2009 at automakers and companies that depend on the industry. The center calculates that a collapse would have eliminated $284 billion in personal income in 2009 and 2010 and cost the federal government $105 billion in unemployment benefits and reduced Social Security contributions. GM says it has invested $8.8 billion in U.S. facilities since 2009 and created 25,500 jobs for new and existing workers.

Barra’s promotion is historic given her gender, but it also marks a new era in the history of GM. The bailout years are now behind the company, and Barra has an opportunity to continue the progress made over the past 5 years. Read the entire article, as she seems particularly qualified to lead this effort.

New Corvette Stingray delivers impressive gas mileage

6 2014-Chevrolet-Corvette-047

The all new, 2014 Corvette Stingray has generated a ton of buzz with the new C7 body style, and now it’s making headlines for . . . gas mileage! That’s right. GM announced that the 2014 Corvette Stingray will deliver up to an EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon in the city, and 29 mpg on the highway, when equipped with an all-new, seven-speed manual transmission. The estimate reflects an average of fuel economy in both the default “Tour” mode, which delivers 28 mpg highway, and driver-selectable “Eco” mode, which delivers 30 mpg highway.

So you’ll get some serious power with 455 horsepower, incredible new styling, and now some decent gas mileage as well. It looks like a hit.

Electric competition coming for Tesla?

Tesla Model S f

Tesla is riding high right now, as the Tesla S is a beautiful car and it’s piling up awards. The company is certainly worthy of all the praise directed its way. But, things are changing quickly in the auto business, as technological innovation is progressing rapidly. Thus, things can change quickly for Tesla as well with competition lurking.

GM and Honda made big news this week with an announcement that they’re teaming up to develop a mass-market fuel-cell system for future cars. The system, which is expected to debut in about 2020, chemically “burns” hydrogen to generate electricity without toxic emissions.

That electricity can then be used to power an electric motor: In other words, these will be electric cars, only without the batteries. GM and Honda also pledged to work on storage technologies for all that hydrogen, as well as on infrastructure — places to “get gas” for your future hydrogen-powered ride.

This doesn’t mean that the world is giving up on battery-powered electrics, of course. Batteries remain heavy and expensive, and take a while to recharge, but Tesla Motors has recently made it very clear that a great car can be built around a big heavy battery pack, despite the trade-offs.

But the GM-Honda link-up, along with Toyota’s recent confirmation that it would launch a fuel-cell car next year (a car that seems likely to be aimed directly at the Model S, by the way), is a good reminder that battery-electrics aren’t necessarily the way forward, just one of several possible ways.

That’s something that investors in any car company, including Tesla, should keep in mind.

Of course, this article is aimed at Tesla investors, and the stock issue is separate from the company and its current and future prospects. The stock may be a bit overpriced yet the company’s outlook can be fantastic.

Tesla has proven to be a leader in this space, and I think they can handle the competition. But the competition will be there.

Jay Leno checks out the new Corvette Stingray

Here’s a great video from Jay Leno’s garage about the all-new C7, the badass 2014 Corvette Stingray. The new model is definitely a game-changer as opposed to some of the more evolutionary designs we’ve seen from Corvette.

GMC Conversion Vans

You may have heard the term “conversion van” floating around your head. It’s important to know the differences between the several types of vans out there. It will help you to determine which of van is perfect for you and your needs. So just what is a conversion van?

Basically, it is a full-size cargo van that has gone through different modifications to create a more functional van. Modifications are completed on the vans to maximize their functionality and produce more favorable conditions for customers. These conversions are generally done by third-parties, rather than the original manufacturer of the van.

History of the Conversion Van

The first vans of this type were first seen in the 70s and 80s. These early vehicles generally just had a few seats installed into the cargo area, often had custom artwork painted on the sides, and were popular with rock bands. Their ability to carry multiple passengers at the same time brought a great amount of appeal to the vans.

After the mid to late 80s, these vans started featuring more luxurious features such as padded seats, custom lighting, and wood trim. The features enhanced the driving experience for many of the owners and produced a more comfortable atmosphere in the interiors. In addition, families and older folks started using them as the ultimate camping and road trip autos.

These vans also started to see features such as sleeping quarters, cooking appliances, as well as televisions and DVD units.

These vans start as a full size, windowless ½- or ¾-ton cargo vans. For instance, GMC conversion vans may start with the GMC Savana or other such vehicle. Upgrades are added to these base models to “convert” them to a vehicle that will do more than just haul stuff around.

Four Types of Conversion Vans

Currently there are mainly four types of conversion vans:

Motorhomes that begin with a full-size cargo van that is then increased in length by a few feet. These vehicles feature camping and road trip friendly features such as, microwave, refrigerators, and toilets. These are very family friendly for long road trips. These are also still very popular with rock bands on tour

Disability vans have modifications that allow it to be wheelchair accessible, including a higher door clearance and roof height. Often these vans feature hydraulic lifts.

Office vans function as traveling offices complete with a desk and chair fastened to the floor. These types of vans are particularly popular among traveling salespeople.

Travel vans are perhaps the most popular today. They feature many of the comforts that make traveling pleasurable including beds, kitchen and cooking appliances, and storage cabinets. These vans also have equipment such as TVs and DVD players, as well as sound systems.

As you can see, there’s a conversion van for almost any need. If you are looking for such a van, you can find several companies that can help you.

Big Three report solid sales gains for June

Ford, Chrysler an GM all had solid sales gains in June. Here are some highlights:

- The just-redesigned Ford Escape set a record with sales up 28% while the Ford Fusion sedan, which is about to get replaced by a newer version, also set a record. In addition, Ford Explorer sales were up 35% from last year.

- Combined sales of all seven Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac crossovers were up 30% versus a year ago. That’s great news for GM, since they are generally higher profit vehicles than cars.

- The Fiat had its fifth consecutive month of record sales. More Fiat 500 vehicles were sold during the first six months of this year than during all of 2011.

Let’s hope the good news continues.

GM CEO takes off the gloves in swipe at Lincoln’s viability

Things are heating up again between the General and the Blue Oval as GM CEO Akerson takes a hard swipe at the slumping Lincoln brand. GM must be very confident in the new Cadillac models coming very soon and flat out unimpressed on the new Lincoln’s coming to showroom floors. It’s time both brands look at targeting the real sales leaders in the luxury market and at this point I have to say the new Cadillac XTS and ATS are good starts.

From Auto Blog:

“They are trying like hell to resurrect Lincoln. Well, I might as well tell you, you might as well sprinkle holy water. It’s over.”

So says General Motors CEO Dan Akerson, speaking to reporters from The Detroit News. Fightin’ words to be sure, though it seems the suits at Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand that competes with Cadillac here in the United States, have declined to comment on Akerson’s statement.

The dismissal of the Lincoln brand seems especially interesting given Akerson’s reported take on the current state of Cadillac. Akerson is said to believe that Cadillac isn’t yet where it needs to be, saying the brand needs another 12 to 24 months of gestation. By that time, there ought to be bookends to the current CTS in place in the form of the ATS (smaller) and XTS (larger, replacing the STS and DTS).

Still, Akerson doesn’t expect to “blow the doors off” Cadillac’s competition, saying instead that “they will be very competitive.” We’d think Caddy would be aiming squarely at something more like “class leading,” but what do we know?

Read the full article.

General Motors Regains Sales Crown

After three years of being bested by Toyota, General Motors is once again the world’s best selling automaker. General Motors sold 9,025,942 in 2011, a 7.6 percent increase over last year’s figures. General Motors even bested Volkswagen, who have made it a public goal to become the biggest automaker on the block. Toyota trailed both GM and VW though, whose sales dropped 6 percent in 2011.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chevy Creates “Road We’re On” Video Series to Showcase Owners’ Stories

What elevates a car from a mere appliance is the connection the owner makes with it. A faithful companion, partner in crime, and object of desire, cars become part of the lives we lead, and the stories we leave behind.

Throughout 100 years, there are plenty of stories involving Chevy’s cars and their owners. Chevy’s online video series “Road We’re On” showcases theses personal stories people have had with their cars, both past and present. Often times these experiences not only involve a single person either, but whole communities.

The first of eight episodes is titled “Welcome to Bridgeview. ” This first series focuses on the effect Chevy has in the small town of Bridgeview, Pennsylvania. Bridgeview is a town seemingly ripped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Everybody knows each other, and their stories often intersect with one another as well. It is this effect of Chevy’s products on both individual people and communities that has woven Chevy into the very fabric of America.

The episodes can be viewed individually on Youtube and on Chevy’s site rodewereon.

Chevy to produce an all-electric version of the Spark

Chevy has announced it will produce an all-electric version of the Chevy Spark mini car, the Spark EV. This vehicle complements Chevy’s growing range of EVs, including the Volt and the 2013 Malibu ECO with eAssist technology. It will be sold in limited quantities in select U.S. and global markets starting in 2013. See here for more information.

Also, in an effort to meet the growing demand for safe, connected personal transportation, GM has decided to work on the next-generation EN-V concept vehicle and brand it with the Chevy badge. This two-seat, electric urban mobility concept is a zero-emissions vehicle powered by lithium-ion batteries. The Chevy EN-V concept will be updated with new features that customers need such as climate control, personal storage space and all-weather and road condition operation.

To learn more about the Chevy EN-V, check out the release here.

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