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Oracle of Delphi

Surrounded by Traffic and Nary a GM in Sight

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By Warren Brown

Sunday, July 20, 2008

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. -- Getting here on "the 405," that north-south stretch of interstate running through the greater Los Angeles area, is hell. But it's also instructive agony for anyone trying to understand the problems of General Motors in North America.

My assessment is based on empirical observations made on a drive from the Los Angeles International Airport to this resort/bedroom community straddling the Ventura and Los Angeles County line.

Did I say "drive"? Allow me to correct that. No one drives on the 405. They sit. They park. They creep. They attempt to make forward progress, only to be blocked by one obstruction or another, which requires them to sit some more, engines thrumming, exhaust gases pouring from hundreds of cars and trucks going nowhere.

In that stagnant motorized mélange lies the current agony of GM North America. In one lane, for example, is GM's Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle. In another is a giant GM Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. It's a "dualie," or a "DRW," meaning that it has dual rear wheels. It's a work truck. But whoever owns it apparently doesn't work much. The thing is free of dust, dirt, dents and scratches.

Creep down the road a little farther. Aha! There's another GM truck -- this one a GMC pickup. Look around. How is it possible? How can it be true? I see only two GM cars. Two! They are a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and a Saturn Aura.

I'm on a road in the United States of America, albeit in the grand Republic of California. There are foreign cars all around me . . . but only two cars from GM, the biggest car company in the country. California is still America, isn't it?

An estimated 11 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States are sold in California. GM obviously sells trucks here. But does it sell cars in California? The sad answer for GM is "not many." The same goes for Ford and Chrysler. When it comes to cars in this land of automobiles, apparently most of them parked on the 405, the domestics get kicked to the curb.

Statistics vary by source. But empirical observation says it's safe to assume that automotive dealer groups here are correct when they say that domestic cars account for about 30 percent of new-car sales -- that's "cars" as in sedans, coupes and wagons -- in California.

On the truck side, domestic manufacturers do better -- still holding the lion's share of trucks sold in California and elsewhere on the West Coast. But therein is a problem in a place where traffic does not move and where the price of regular unleaded gasoline is approaching $5 a gallon.

Big trucks suck fuel. That is not a good thing for commuters who burn as much gasoline idling as they do actually moving from one place to the next. Those people are abandoning trucks and the companies that make them. Those still in the truck market are asking for more fuel-efficient models, including gas-electric hybrids and trucks with four-cylinder engines.

GM, Ford and Chrysler, all of which have concentrated on big trucks with big engines -- the kinds of trucks American consumers wanted when gasoline was cheap -- have been caught in the lurch. That is why GM, as it announced last week, is cutting truck production (again), white-collar jobs (again), suspending its dividend and borrowing $2 billion in an effort to help save $15 billion through the end of 2009.

GM needs the money to dig itself out of the hole it dug with trucks. If the company uses the money as wisely as it did in remodeling the estimable Chevrolet Malibu LTZ, reviewed in this Sunday's On Wheels column, it has more than a fighting chance of success.

But GM is going to need something else -- a better sense of balance. When the truck market returns, as it will, GM is going to have to avoid going truck crazy, shoving trucks into every available and conceivable truck niche at the expense of developing worthy cars.

I mean, it's just odd sitting there on the 405, surrounded by a sea of cars from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and -- can it be? -- an old Fiat, with a relatively few big GM trucks floating in the distance.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...8071701959.html

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>>"It's a work truck. But whoever owns it apparently doesn't work much. The thing is free of dust, dirt, dents and scratches."<<

What a load of unmitigated crap.

I'm going to state that a lack of scratches & dirt on Mr Brown's keyboard indicates he apparently doesn't do much research or writing.

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Mr. Brown probably is a d-bag, but I'm afraid his observations are very realistic. I don't spend a lot of time in Southern California, but I live in Houston - probably one of the fastest growing cities in the country and extremely far removed geographically and mentally from Detroit (and the rest of the Midwest). Unfortunately, I notice pretty much the same thing here - very, very few GM "cars" on the road - especially few new ones. I'm seeing the Malibu pop up here and there, but I can literally go days without seeing one - a Camry on the other hand - they're like stink on &#036;h&#33; in Houston. I can drive 5 minutes and probably see 7 of them between here and my grocery store. Now, I'd be willing to bet GM does a little bit better here in Houston than they do in LA, but that's just an educated guess. What's real sad IMO is the shear volume of new Tundras I see all over the place (mostly driven by "city slickers", hehehe) - that had me more worried about GM more than anything up until gas became ridiculously expensive this spring. Although as the market shifts away from trucks, GM probably isn't worried as much about the Tundra anymore. And giving the Silverado credit in Houston, I probably do see more Silverados, especially when it comes to contractors and actual workers, etc,etc.

But when it comes to mainstream mid size sedans, coupes and compacts - there's nary a GM in sight - and that's just a downright fact. I always think that Bob and Rick should come and stand on a busy street corner here near Rice Village or Memorial Park or something - they'd be very disappointed - and probably overwhelmed with a sense of "how in the world did this happen??" I would say the most "popular" GM car I see (new) are the newer Impalas. I'm not sure if it's because they're fleeted out pretty heavily or what, but there seems to be quite a few on the roads. Now, I don't see the Impala in Camry or Accord numbers, not at all, but enough that I actually notice them, and I can almost guarantee that if we drive around more than 5 minutes today, I might see 1 or 2 in that 5 minutes. I'm actually starting to see more Cobalts sprinkling in with traffic and the new Lambda vehicles are starting to pop up on a daily basis too (I'm not a big SUV guy, but that GMC Acadia is actually a very nice SUV) - and down in Sugar Land where I work there seems to be a few Buick Enclaves running around (very nice suburb of Houston). So GM still resonates with some people here in Houston - but not even close to Toyota/Honda/Nissan (for cars) - and I mean it's not even close. :mellow: GM *MUST* figure this problem out - first and foremost. And I say, they're doing a downright &#036;h&#33;ty job of trying. They need more compelling, out of the box advertising - period! Hook up with Apple or Google or something, get some fresh ideas brewing for their advertising - because clearly they don't know how to do this. Every time I see a new Camry with paper plates I think - "well, there's someone that didn't drive a Malibu - because they either don't know about it, or they think it's junk without even considering it".

One thing I will say, and I don't know if it's a Texas thing - but I do see a lot of Fords on the road here. Escapes, F150s, Expeditions, even Fusions. I would be willing to bet that Ford does better than Chevy here in Houston, but that's just my observation.

Oh, and although I see more foreign luxury cars (because there simply is more foreign luxury cars) - I do see quite a few Cadillacs here. In ritzy neighborhoods, the Escalade count is very high.

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I'm in the middle of the country and I often sit in traffic with no domestics around. When they are around they're either full-size trucks (a declining market) or older rustbuckets.

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Oh, just thought about it - I see G6 Pontiac's more often then you would think too. But again, not too terribly often.

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By Warren Brown

Sunday, July 20, 2008

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. -- Getting here on "the 405," that north-south stretch of interstate running through the greater Los Angeles area, is hell. But it's also instructive agony for anyone trying to understand the problems of General Motors in North America.

My assessment is based on empirical observations made on a drive from the Los Angeles International Airport to this resort/bedroom community straddling the Ventura and Los Angeles County line.

Did I say "drive"? Allow me to correct that. No one drives on the 405. They sit. They park. They creep. They attempt to make forward progress, only to be blocked by one obstruction or another, which requires them to sit some more, engines thrumming, exhaust gases pouring from hundreds of cars and trucks going nowhere.

In that stagnant motorized mélange lies the current agony of GM North America. In one lane, for example, is GM's Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle. In another is a giant GM Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. It's a "dualie," or a "DRW," meaning that it has dual rear wheels. It's a work truck. But whoever owns it apparently doesn't work much. The thing is free of dust, dirt, dents and scratches.

Creep down the road a little farther. Aha! There's another GM truck -- this one a GMC pickup. Look around. How is it possible? How can it be true? I see only two GM cars. Two! They are a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and a Saturn Aura.

I'm on a road in the United States of America, albeit in the grand Republic of California. There are foreign cars all around me . . . but only two cars from GM, the biggest car company in the country. California is still America, isn't it?

An estimated 11 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States are sold in California. GM obviously sells trucks here. But does it sell cars in California? The sad answer for GM is "not many." The same goes for Ford and Chrysler. When it comes to cars in this land of automobiles, apparently most of them parked on the 405, the domestics get kicked to the curb.

Statistics vary by source. But empirical observation says it's safe to assume that automotive dealer groups here are correct when they say that domestic cars account for about 30 percent of new-car sales -- that's "cars" as in sedans, coupes and wagons -- in California.

On the truck side, domestic manufacturers do better -- still holding the lion's share of trucks sold in California and elsewhere on the West Coast. But therein is a problem in a place where traffic does not move and where the price of regular unleaded gasoline is approaching $5 a gallon.

Big trucks suck fuel. That is not a good thing for commuters who burn as much gasoline idling as they do actually moving from one place to the next. Those people are abandoning trucks and the companies that make them. Those still in the truck market are asking for more fuel-efficient models, including gas-electric hybrids and trucks with four-cylinder engines.

GM, Ford and Chrysler, all of which have concentrated on big trucks with big engines -- the kinds of trucks American consumers wanted when gasoline was cheap -- have been caught in the lurch. That is why GM, as it announced last week, is cutting truck production (again), white-collar jobs (again), suspending its dividend and borrowing $2 billion in an effort to help save $15 billion through the end of 2009.

GM needs the money to dig itself out of the hole it dug with trucks. If the company uses the money as wisely as it did in remodeling the estimable Chevrolet Malibu LTZ, reviewed in this Sunday's On Wheels column, it has more than a fighting chance of success.

But GM is going to need something else -- a better sense of balance. When the truck market returns, as it will, GM is going to have to avoid going truck crazy, shoving trucks into every available and conceivable truck niche at the expense of developing worthy cars.

I mean, it's just odd sitting there on the 405, surrounded by a sea of cars from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and -- can it be? -- an old Fiat, with a relatively few big GM trucks floating in the distance.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...8071701959.html

Ah, what's going on in that picture PCS? :lol:

Edited by gmcbob
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Ah, what's going on in that picture PCS? :lol:

:smilewide: Just a few of the Opel girls and me. The next time I'm at my condo on Lake Conroe, in Conroe, Texas, I'll invite y'all up, we can discuss it.

Edited by Pontiac Custom-S
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Talk about an exaggeration...I see plenty of GM vehicles daily...many more trucks than cars, granted I am starting to see more and more cars pop up...even in my town (which coincidentally is the same city in which this article is based. JDP is just right down the way...)

I saw my first G8 (it was a black GT as well...very hott), I have been noticing more and more Malibus (which have a very nice presence when seen in person surprisingly enough), and I have also been seeing a good amount of CTS's...of course, plenty of vettes as well....

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:smilewide: Just a few of the Opel girls and me. The next time I'm at my condo on Lake Conroe, in Conroe, Texas, I'll invite y'all up, we can discuss it.

Sounds good to me! I'll bring the Shiner Bock - you bring the Opel girls. :cheers:

Seriously though, whenever you're down let me know.

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I saw my first G8 (it was a black GT as well...very hott), I have been noticing more and more Malibus (which have a very nice presence when seen in person surprisingly enough), and I have also been seeing a good amount of CTS's...of course, plenty of vettes as well....

I've only seen one G8 So far and it was a GT With an Enterprise Sticker. I've seen LOTS of Retail CTSs and Malibus as well.

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I've only seen one G8 So far and it was a GT With an Enterprise Sticker. I've seen LOTS of Retail CTSs and Malibus as well.

I've seen 3...a red one driving around in Denver, a white one parked at an Alamo rental facility at Denver Intl' Airport (don't know if it was a rental or not), and a black one last week in Miami. Haven't seen any here in Arizona yet. I've seen lots of CTSes and Malibus..

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Talk about an exaggeration...

+1

So Cal is a hugely diverse region, and if West LA isn't exactly the bastion of domestic car prevalence, I still see lots of Impalas, Monte Carlos, and Fusions in, say, East LA, SGV, or IE.

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I bet if GM built MORE cars on the FWD W-body chassis and imported

a ton of FWD Saab-esque cars here from Europe they would be

selling cars like hotcakes! Esp. with how well SAAB & Saturn do in

terms of profit margins. RRRRakin' in the dough.

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+1

So Cal is a hugely diverse region, and if West LA isn't exactly the bastion of domestic car prevalence, I still see lots of Impalas, Monte Carlos, and Fusions in, say, East LA, SGV, or IE.

Yeah, lots of regional variations... when I'm in So Cal, I'm usually in LA County beach towns (Santa Monica, etc), OC beach towns, San Diego downtown and beaches, or some inland areas like Hollywood, Irvine, etc. I see a ton of imports--esp. BMWs, Hondas, and Toyotas....when I see current Impalas, etc they appear to be rentals..

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