Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Highs and The Lows of 2015

Alexander Carabitses

Hello to all!  As the holiday season is finally upon us, it also means that we are a few weeks away from wrapping up 2015.  It also seems like a great time for me to break down the bests and worst of the automotive industry in 2015, enjoy...

I'm the type of person who always likes to end on a high note, so I'm going to start off cynical by mentioning all of the things that irked me in 2015.

The 2015 North American International Auto Show was my first low point.  The Ford GT, the Buick Avenir Concept, and the Acura NSX made the show bearable, but if you were to put those debuts aside, you would find nothing ultra-notworthy.

My second low point is the all-new Toyota Prius.  I've heard from other automotive journalists that it's a big improvement over the old model, which isn't saying much because anything is as improvement over ground-zero.  The design is odious, which make lose interest in wanting to care about the rest of the car.
(Image credited to Toyota)

I'm moving on to Mitsubishi, which earns a spot on both of my lists.  This is a brand that lacks a clear styling language.  The half-ass refresh of the Lancer, the botched up Outlander Sport, and the overhyped Outlander show that the brand still needs a lot of help in making good looking cars.  However, if Hyundai-Kia can get it right, why can't Mitsubishi?
(Image credited to Mitsubishi)

Speaking of Hyundai Kia, why does the company think that after one generation of luxury cars, they can just spin off the Genesis and Equus into their own brand, named after the former car?  Hyundai still doesn't have credibility in the luxury segment, and it won't for at least 15 years.
(Image credited to Hyundai)

Dieselgate is an obvious low point for me, as well.  I'm not panning to the environmental movement, rather I am angry that somehow, cheating on emissions regulations is considered to be a bigger deal than what GM did a decade ago when they okayed the implementation of ignition switches that could and did kill people.  I acknowledge that global warming is an issue, but I still find that what VW did isn't as bad as what GM did.  I am pissed that VW's former chairman, Ferdinand Piech, may have scared those under him into cheating by threatening to take away their jobs.  I should also mention that the EPA has to pay a heavy guilt burden, as its system in testing cars isn't able to detect cheat devices like the ones used by VW.  You'd think that given how challenging their regulations on fuel economy have become, they'd anticipate a few cheaters who would struggle otherwise.  This may be why Piech decided against the high road, which would have been to spend more money in developing  truly clean diesel engines.  Blame the government folks!
(Image credited to

As strange as it may sound, GM is a low point for 2015.  Their decision to finally sell the Envision in the US comes a little over one year since the vehicle was first shown in China.  One will make the argument that it had to do with the fact that there were talks on whether it would would be built here or imported here from China.  However, this became a talking point as of a few months ago, when it really should have one year ago.  My point is that GM is very inefficient when it comes to making decisions.  An example would be the fact that the company is still deciding on whether or not they should produce the Buick Avenir Concept, which is a no-brainer because it would do great in China.  The "old GM" and the "new GM" are really the exact same company, with the only differences being 1) there are fewer brands, and 2) the products are far superior to anything that GM has ever produced.  Beyond that, the company still needs help, both in upper management and marketing.
(Image credited to Buick)

My nest low point is FCA.  It seems like every other week, the company is announcing a delay of a certain product.  This summer, investors nearly had a heat attack when they learned that most of FCA's 5-year product plan was either shelved or delayed. Then came reconciliation, with the announcements of both the next dodge Charger and the return of the Barracuda.  However, last month, it was announced that the production of the Alfa romeo Giulia is being delayed; we'll see it in showrooms around early 2017 if we are lucky, and to add salt to the wound, the company mentioned that Alfa's first crossover has been delayed.  An updated version of the product plan is supposed to be announced soon, but I'm beginning to lose hope in Sergio Marchionne's bold vision for this company.

Finally, I am going to go full circle and mention the NAIAS, only this time its the 2016 show; more specifically, the floor plan.  The organization claims that it was years in the making, but I don't think that it really matters given that several key brands will not be attending. Mini, Tesla, and Jaguar Land Rover have already announced that they aren't participating. Combine this with the fact that many of the already announced debuts are mid-cycle refreshes, this auto show seem far less significant than it has been in years past.  Now I realize that the aforementioned brands are not attending of other reasons, such as the lack of debuts, as well as the fact that they are focused on different marketing efforts.  Still, you'd think that the show organizers would at least try to court a few more exotic car brands to the show, to join Aston Martin who has replaced Bentley as the only high end manufacturer of the show. The first photo below showcases the floor plan for the Detroit Auto Show in 2007, while the second one is the 2016 floor plan.  Check them out and draw your own conclusion.
(Images credited to NAIAS)

To keep this post from running too long, I have decided to do a separate post for the high points that will be out in just in time for Christmas.  Until then, have a good week.