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 Tamsin McMahon - Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 12:02 PM - 0 Comments
Automakers are flooding to the Deep South for cheap, union-free labour
When German executives from Volkswagen descended on Chattanooga, Tenn., last May for the grand opening of their $1-billion plant, they pointed to the warm Southern hospitality and the cultural amenities of life on the banks of the Tennessee River as key reasons for deciding to build their first North American auto assembly shop in 20 years on the site of a former wartime-era munitions factory in the Deep South.
Auto industry analysts pointed to other reasons the automaker chose Chattanooga: the region’s high unemployment and strong anti-union sentiment, which promised both a massive labour pool willing to work for cheap and more than half a billion dollars in government incentives—nearly $200,000 per worker. Luring Volkswagen, which promised to hire nearly 2,000 workers for as little as $14.50 an hour, was deemed a huge coup for the city of 170,000. Since the plant opened, the city’s unemployment rate has dropped from nine per cent to 7.3 per cent. Volkswagen-branded shirts became the city’s most coveted fashion item.
Volkswagen is merely the latest foreign automaker to target the southern U.S. for expansion into the North American market. It’s a trend that is profoundly reshaping the American manufacturing landscape, pushing the country’s auto belt south from Michigan and Ohio into the cotton fields and cow pastures of Alabama and Mississippi in search of cheaper labour and fewer costly union battles. It’s not the first time the industry has seen a shift to the South, as automakers decamped for places like Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri in the 1980s in search of cheap labour. But the present-day move appears both more profound and more lasting. For every job created by foreign automakers, mostly in the South, the Detroit Three have shed six jobs, nearly half in Michigan, according to the Center for Automotive Research. It’s a push that now threatens the future of high-paying manufacturing jobs in Canada, and maybe even the future of unionized workplaces.
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Recovering car companies are turning to big-name actors to voice their latest ad campaigns
Want more proof that the U.S. auto industry is starting to recover? There are more celebrities than ever lending their voices to car commercials. Jon Hamm, the star of Mad Men, recently lent his perfect advertising-man voice to a commercial for a Mercedes-Benz hybrid vehicle, which he assured us would lead to a “cleaner, safer future.” Not to be outdone, Ford hired Hamm’s Mad Men supporting player, silver-haired John Slattery, to do a commercial for its Lincoln line of cars. Last month, General Motors announced that Tim Allen will be “the new voice of Chevrolet,” while Jeff Bridges continues to do voice-overs for Hyundai, though an arcane Academy rule forced them to pull his voice from a commercial the night he won an Oscar.
Which stars are picked for which cars? That depends on whom the company is trying to reach. Mad Men, which has a small viewership but an older and more affluent one, is perfect for selling expensive luxury vehicles. Ford marketing director Matt VanDyke told the New York Times that his company picked Slattery because he “represents the potential customer” they’re seeking—men in their 40s and 50s with a lot of money to spend. Chevrolet’s Cruze, a compact car, needs a star with broader appeal: Allen, whose voice is recognizable all over the English-speaking world thanks to Toy Story, is the perfect choice to tell us that we should spend what little money we have on a car.
What we’re not seeing much of, yet, are commercials where the actors appear in the flesh, like Ricardo Montalban selling “Corinthian leather.” Slattery is the only one of these celebrities who does his selling on-camera, wearing glasses and looking pensively at us while he drives. This may be not in spite of the fact that he’s less of a star than Hamm, Allen or Bridges, but because of it: car companies worry that people, as opposed to voices, may be too associated with their characters, whereas with Slattery, VanDyke said, “Whether you know him from Mad Men or not, it doesn’t really matter.”
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…