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.

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