By Rosemary Westwood - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 0 Comments
The U.S. auto industry once again turns to a sports car for salvation. But with sales on the rise and new technologies, this time there’s reason for optimism
If the American auto industry were to write its own Hollywood-style comeback story—from the depths of its 2008 crash to its improbable return to the top of the world—the ending might look a lot like the 2013 Detroit auto show. And cast in the starring role would be General Motors’ 2014 Corvette Stingray.
The company unveiled its cherry-red sports car to eager journalists on the eve of the world’s most important auto show this week, almost 60 years to the day after it first introduced the revered American nameplate. By the next morning the brightly lit and packed Cobo Center was buzzing about one car above all others, as cameramen and their tripods crowded around the ’Vette to get a closer look at its race-car-influenced aluminum body and luxe interior. GM’s marketers gushed that it is faster than a Ferrari, more nimble than a Porsche and $30,000 cheaper than either. America had, for the first time in memory, unveiled the kind of car that kids might hang a poster of on their wall. High-tech, even fuel-efficient, it left no question: America is back. A “technological tour de force,” said GM’s North American president Mark Reuss.
- Jessica Darmanin’s Instagram diary
- The best, worst and weirdest at the Detroit auto show
- Return of the trucks
- Will the Furia help the Toyota Carolla become cool?
- Cancel the obituaries
By Kate Lunau - Monday, February 13, 2012 at 11:05 AM - 0 Comments
Hired to promote the Mini Cooper Roadster, an ad firm bought naming rights to a cold snap before it wreaked havoc
As of last week, a cold snap across Eastern Europe was responsible for at least 175 deaths. For BMW, the parent company of Mini Cooper, the bad weather had an unfortunate association. Hired to promote the Mini Cooper Roadster, an ad firm bought naming rights to the cold front before it wreaked havoc—and named it “Cooper,” after the car. (The ad agency and BMW have since apologized.) The Free University of Berlin’s meteorological institute sells naming rights to high- and low-pressure systems in Central Europe, which the ad firm must have hoped would raise awareness of the Cooper brand. “People take the same risk when they associate themselves with a cause or a sports team, or use a celebrity endorser,” says Kenneth Wong, a marketing professor at Queen’s School of Business. The problem is that the weather is more unpredictable than, say, Tiger Woods—and a bigger danger to others.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 1:30 PM - 6 Comments
Car companies are increasingly taking safety out of your hands and letting computers do the work
The implication, of course, is that they don’t trust us. Why build a car that commandeers the brakes and wheel if not to eliminate that pesky statistical variable known as “human error”—which is to say, the fallibility that makes us all kin? The sooner we accept this truth the better: in Canada alone, 2,100 people die in traffic accidents each year. Fully 90 per cent of accidents are attributed to driver error.
But there’s something about piloting an automobile that stirs the inner irrationalist, which might explain the glee YouTube viewers have taken in video captured during a recent car safety demonstration in Gothenburg, Sweden. The exhibition was supposed to show off the vaunted “city safety” feature on Volvo’s S60 sedan, which applies brakes automatically in the event of an imminent crash.
Instead, a dais full of journalists was treated to the spectacle of the shiny, orange sedan plowing headlong into the back of a strategically placed transport trailer, then bouncing back after impact with its windshield wipers flapping ridiculously. Erik Coelingh, technical leader of Volvo’s so-called “active safety” program, recently told Maclean’s that the braking system had failed due to lack of power from an improperly charged battery. But there was no avoiding the tsunami of ridicule this sort of footage tends to elicit. “What’s the problem here?” snickered one Web commenter. “It came to a complete stop, no?”
By Jason Kirby - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 2 Comments
Audi is taking aim at its bigger rival BMW in the race to become the top German luxury brand
As corporate brand battles go, Coke vs. Pepsi and Nike vs. Adidas are fine for the masses, but among the amply-lucred, nothing beats the raucous showdown between Audi and BMW for the hearts, minds—and wallets—of luxury car buyers. In the past few years, the two German automakers have stepped up their ad campaigns, calling each other out in TV spots and on billboards. But after months of red-hot sales, Audi clearly has the momentum.
In almost every month this year, the company has broken its previous worldwide sales records. In Canada, Audi is leading almost every other brand so far this year in growing its sales, up 33.3 per cent to roughly 12,700 vehicles, compared to the first 10 months of last year. And thanks to the fat margins on every new A4 sedan, Q5 crossover and spaceship-like R8 sports car, Audi fuelled half of parent company Volkswagen’s profits last quarter.
By macleans.ca - Monday, June 14, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 3 Comments
Our second annual survey of companies in Canada that prove it pays to have a conscience
For many successful companies, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a boardroom buzzword, but a key to business. So, for the second year in a row, Maclean’s has partnered with Jantzi-Sustainalytics, a global leader in sustainability analysis, to present the country’s Top 50 Socially Responsible Corporations.
While the reasons each company was selected vary—from Gildan Activewear donating more than half a million dollars to Haitian relief efforts, to Loblaw’s commitment to acquiring all of its seafood from sustainable sources by 2013, to Nike making World Cup jerseys for nine national teams out of bottles found in landfills—the underlying goal is the same: make the world a better place. As well as the Top 50 list, which begins on page 42, we look into how CSR might help with major PR problems, like BP’s oil spill, and whether the recession made the business world any less socially responsible.
By macleans.ca - Monday, June 14, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 28 Comments
These companies have made doing good a big part of their business
Click on a company name for more details:
Ballard Power Systems Inc.
BMO Bank of Montreal
Brookfield Properties Corp.
General Mills Inc.
Gildan Activewear Inc.
H.J. Heinz Company
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Kinross Gold Corp.
Loblaw Companies Ltd.
Nexen Inc. .
State Street Corp.
Sun Life Financial
Suncor Energy Inc.
Talisman Energy Inc.
TD Bank Financial Group
Westport Innovations Inc.
For the related article and methodology, The Jantzi-Maclean’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2010 click here.
By Steve Maich - Friday, August 7, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 3 Comments
A weekly scorecard on the state of the economy in North America and beyond
Ladies and gentlemen, the recession is over. Or at least it seems to be winding down. Unless it isn’t. The past few weeks have been a little dizzying for those not accustomed to the wildly contradictory messages common in the world of economics.
What is a poor citizen supposed to think when Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney comes out one day and says the recession is all but over, and then Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (backed by a passel of big bank analysts) emerges a day later to throw cold water on the idea.
Is the recession over or what? As is so often the case in the world of economics, the answer is “yes and no.”
Carney and Flaherty were speaking honestly and accurately about two separate but related realities. Carney was referring to the technical definition of a recession, and the news there is encouraging. All signs suggest that Canada’s economy is growing again, and will likely grow more toward the end of the year. Commodity prices have rebounded, housing has stabilized and job losses are slowing. That means that the pressure will soon be on for Carney to squeeze off the easy money tap, to keep inflationary pressures at bay. Continue…
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 11:20 AM - 43 Comments
A man of a certain marital status, age, self-consciousness is not simply buying a car. He is telling the world how he sees himself.
To know why the American auto industry is in such a mess, you only have to ask my neighbours. Once, long ago, the aspirational young couples and empty-nesters on my midtown Toronto street might have driven American cars. Now they would rather be on fire.
Walking down the street, I count several Audis, a few BMWs, a couple of Volvos, the odd Mercedes-Benz or Saab. Not an American car in sight. Why? Much has been made of Detroit’s history of poor quality, and deservedly so. But it isn’t really about that. If it were about quality, or safety, or price, or any of the things people claim to care about when they buy a car, my neighbours would have all bought Japanese and Korean. That the street is instead tiled with European cars tells you something else was on their minds. And that something is self-image.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 8:40 AM - 5 Comments
Exclusive report: A conscience for business
Does Rio Tinto Alcan really deserve special recognition for hiring a woman as CEO? Given that women make up more than half the population and have been protected against discrimination by human rights legislation for decades, one would hope that such an event is now so commonplace that it doesn’t merit a mention at all. Same goes for Nike’s decision to focus on eliminating child labour from its supply chain, or BMW’s decision to introduce a hybrid car. Aren’t these things that companies should be doing anyway?
The reasons for recognizing them are stark and simple. In the mining sector where Rio Tinto operates, like it or not, women CEOs are still a rare find. Similarly, in the apparel sector, many of Nike’s competitors are still blithely unaware of the working conditions at their foreign suppliers. By the same token, BMW’s willingness to embrace novel technology for the good of the environment is still uncommon among luxury carmakers. It requires a leap of faith, for which the economic return is far from guaranteed.
By Colin Campbell - Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 4:40 PM - 6 Comments
Luxury car companies are seeing rising sales and winning market share even as more modest brands are crumbling
To call Marcus Breitschwerdt, the head of Mercedes-Benz Canada, an auto industry anomaly would be an understatement. He isn’t just a happy auto executive, he oozes confidence. Ask him about the downturn that has decimated his industry and sent some competitors to the brink of bankruptcy and he’ll tell you the troubles are being blown out of proportion. The Canadian economy is on solid ground, he says. Look no further than the rising sales Mercedes posted in each of the first three months of this year.
That’s not all. Breitschwerdt will even tell you that a recession is a good thing. “They help you to get rid of the not-competitive parts of the economy,” he says, sitting in his office overlooking a dealership in a small strip mall in uptown Toronto. While he’s reluctant to talk specifically about other carmakers like General Motors or Chrysler, he will say that he’s not a fan of government bailouts to underperforming companies.
By Colin Campbell - Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 8:00 AM - 36 Comments
As GM files bankruptcy, a look at who’s to blame and what’s next for the U.S. auto industry
UPDATE (June 1, 2009): General Motors, the once proud icon of U.S. capitalism, filed for bankruptcy Monday. In the following piece, published last November in Maclean’s, Colin Campbell navigates through the rise and fall of the U.S. auto industry. In doing so, he identifies what went wrong at GM and explains whether the car company is even worth saving.
In hall No. 5, tucked far away from the main action at the high-profile Paris Motor Show last month, visitors who looked hard enough would have found the booth belonging to General Motors Corp. Those who went to the trouble—and not many did—were disappointed with what they found.
Paris was the place GM had decided to raise the curtain on a critical piece of its future in a world increasingly focused on efficiency and economy—the Chevy Cruze. The Detroit company is pinning its hopes on the lightweight Cruze to lure car buyers in Asia, Europe and North America away from bestsellers like the Honda Civic. Yet there were none of the usual showbiz trappings at its unveiling: no models leaning against the hood, no rock-concert special effects to usher in the age of the Cruze. Just a plain white stage and the car itself: a conventional, even understated, four-door family sedan. It “had all the pomp and circumstance of a Tuesday,” noted one auto critic. Perhaps it was just as well then that few journalists bothered to show up.
Most automakers look to the Paris show to highlight their next small, fuel-efficient wonders. It’s a science fair disguised as a car show. Mercedes-Benz and BMW were unveiling their first hybrids. Nissan snagged attention with its tiny Nuvu. Hyundai brought along its new mini-car, the i20. But at GM’s second-floor exhibit, visitors were confronted by a collection of massive Hummers and a hulking Cadillac Escalade. “This was emblematic of GM,” says Maryann Keller, an independent auto analyst who has covered the industry since the 1970s. “Here’s this show dedicated to small cars, new technologies, electric vehicles. Why, to Paris, would you bring Hummers, the Escalade and a Camaro? What planet are you on?” Continue…
By Jason Kirby - Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 3:47 PM - 0 Comments
In the money:… The plug in electric car is fast moving from pie-in-the-sky concept
In the money: The plug in electric car is fast moving from pie-in-the-sky concept to on the ground reality as evidence mounts that high fuel prices are forcing drivers to hang up their car keys. BMW plans to have an electric version of its Mini on U.S. roads by next year. Nissan aims to offer an electric car to commercial fleet customers by 2010, with consumer models to follow two years later. Meanwhile GM is sticking to its goal of getting the Chevy Volt into dealer showrooms by 2010. The company is working with 30 U.S. utility companies to make sure the electrical grid can handle the extra power demand. Until the cars are actually available, and people prove they’re willing to shell out for them, there will be questions about the viability of plug ins. But things have definitely come a long way from when the electric car was written off for dead.
Trading down: I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised that Malcolm Bricklin is suing Chinese car maker Chery for fraud. In a lawsuit Bricklin accuses the company of reneging on a joint venture that would have seen Bricklin’s Visionary Vehicles sell Chery cars in the U.S. Instead Chery ditched him and signed on with Chrysler. What is surprising is the language and alleged losses thrown around in the suit. Continue…