At That Same Old Railstation, Asking For One First Kiss

Lately we’ve been chewing the gristle on the topic of Maserati and by association Fiat. Are they too far gone to save?

As we all know, we’re living in a dispiriting age of mass extinction. Once assured populations are collapsing. Things we considered fixtures in the firmament drop like leaves. Oldsmobile was once the biggest selling car in the US market. Dead.

Take GM’s recent decision to end their presence in the Euro market, for example. I called it GM’s Teutoburger Wald moment though perhaps a more careful sifting in GM’s recent history might find a better instance of the finitude of this firm’s corporate reach.

Was it when they ceased production of Australia-only Holdens? Or when Saturn, Olds and Pontiac were nixed.  Ford’s position in Europe is not what it was either. They are giving up on saloons.  There are many other brands seemingly in a good position to

Rover 75: wikipedia.org

press on, business as usual, but who are actually one or two models away from irrelevance. Honda in Europe springs to mind. Mitsubishi is another. Do we need  SEAT at all? So, if not mass extinction then some elimination of brands is in the offing. DS, naturally, is on the hit list.

Today’s question is concerns a triage. There is global overcapacity, too many cars chasing too few customers. It would help everyone if 33% of global vehicle manufacturing capacity simply dematerialised today. So, which firms does the readership consider worth axing (with the condition that all affected workers would be reassigned to equal-or-better paying positions in the sustainable energy sector).

To help out I will present an easy to scan list of brands you can look at (see below). Ask yourself this: does the world really need cars from this company? The fact the company might have a great heritage is simply not part of the calculus. We must, in the words of the UK’s greatest living statesman and stoutest defender of the Union, D. Cameron, be “hard-headed”.

Wos Lee Glowing Sunrise Model J: wikipedia.org

Alfa Romeo – Audi – Aston Martin – BMW – Bentley -Buick – Cadillac – Borgward -Chevrolet – Chrysler – Citroen – Daihatsu – DS- Fiat – Ford – Honda – Hyundai – GAZ – Genesis- GMC -Infiniti – Isuzu- Jaguar -Jeep -Kia – Lada – Land Rover – Lexus – Lincoln – Lancia – McLaren- Maserati – Mazda – Mercedes – MG – Mini – Moskvitch -Mitsubishi – Nissan – Opel – Perodua – Peugeot -Porsche – Proton – Renault – Rolls Royce – Seat – Skoda – Smart -Subaru – Tesla – Toyota – Vauxhall – Volvo – Volga – Volkswagen.

This is list is a little Eurocentric/Western. I have forgotten 312 Chinese brands such as Fang Wao, VCU Mighty Leap, Guan Ho Automotive, Hissing Leopard, Wos Lee Glowing Sunrise Motors, Qoros, LPL Automotor Shanghai, BWM Kowloon , Mecedes Bens Saloons and many others. You can treat those as you wish.

Maybe a better question is which of this list is living on time they do not themselves own?

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

18 thoughts on “At That Same Old Railstation, Asking For One First Kiss”

  1. Before you slip into unconsciousness, I’d like to have another …..
    Another glancing chance at bliss.

  2. More seriously,
    A. Do we know whether the plethora of Chinese brands means they too are hit by the same 33% overproduction cisis?

    B. There are big national variations. I have no figs for other countries, but what I do see in France are plenty of new DSs, Clios and Méganes (although that name gets stuck on any Renault between a Clio and a Senator — about 20 different types), and Dacias which will keep selling as long as Romanian labour stays relatively cheap and further discrimination against all ICE cars stays slow.

    Old stagers include that Rover 75, which easily outsold the Kappa which it aped.

    C. Of course, the gilets jaunes, now in Belgium too, might put a temp roadblock on Macron’s deceitful huge fuel tax hike before giving drivers enough realistic alternatives to cope.

  3. Good evening, Richard. I’ve been pondering your question but trying to avoid the obvious/trite answer, which would involve simply listing those brands whose declining market share is threatening them with irrelevance and ultimate extinction. Instead, I’ve been trying to imagine an alternative market where individual brands retreated from trying to cover every possible market segment and instead focused on what they do best. My Euro-centric plan looks something like this:

    Budget/Economy:
    -Citröen
    -Dacia
    -Fiat
    -Skoda

    Mainstream:
    -Ford
    -Honda
    -Hyundai
    -Kia
    -Mazda
    -Nissan
    -Opel
    -Peugeot
    -Renault
    -Toyota
    -Volkswagen

    Premium Luxury:
    -Audi
    -Jaguar
    -Infiniti
    -Lancia
    -Lexus
    -Mercedes-Benz
    -Tesla
    -Volvo

    Premium Sporting:
    -Alfa Romeo
    -BMW
    -MINI
    -Porsche

    4X4:
    -Jeep
    -Land Rover
    -Mitsubishi
    -Subaru
    -Suzuki
    -Toyota

    Luxury and Grand Touring:
    -Bentley
    -Maserati
    -Rolls-Royce

    Sports Cars and Convertibles:
    -Lotus
    -Mazda
    -Porsche

    Supercars:
    -Aston Martin
    -Ferrari
    -Lamborghini
    -McLaren

    So, in the words of bouncers everywhere, “If you ain’t on the list, you ain’t coming in!”
    This is, I accept, an entirely unfeasible fantasy on my part and one that smacks of Soviet-era central planning. Still, it’s food for thought…

    1. It´s always good when people question the framing of questions. And from that point of view your response posits an alternative for a third of companies walking into the night, namely, they all contract back to where they should be. I don´t know which is more feasible but alas, the tragedy will be that everyone fights to the death and one third will go under. This is really an example of game theory in action. Prisoner´s dilemma, perhaps, for car makers.
      Toyota is already a generalist – leaving on 4×4 to them seems a bit random. I know the Land Cruiser is fab but still, a lot of Auris and Yaris customers drive off happy every year in well-made rock-solid cars. Surely that´s worth something?
      I´d be inclinded to ask you to re-order your categories somewhat. But,yes, a good and thoughtful response.

    2. Toyota make the Prius which is justification enough for their continued existence. You don’t have to like them but they are the superior urban taxi.

      Toyota also make the Century, Hilux and Land Cruiser, icons all. Plus the occasional iconic sports car.

  4. Hi Richard, Toyota is also listed under Mainstream, which covers the Auris, Yaris etc. This is really a “quick and dirty” first cut. I’m sure it could do with some refinement. The immediate casualties are all the American brands apart from Jeep, Daihatsu, DS, Isuzu, Lada, Perodua, Proton, Seat and Vauxhall

    1. I missed that (even though I looked to check). Maybe put Citroen on the hit list. Yes, it does seeem now that Vauxhall is part of PSA it´s reason to be is undermined. PSA say “electric cars” – but really, all cars need to go that way. Why have an electric car brand on its own? Or make Citroen the el-car brand?

  5. Sorry General Motors but you aren’t offering anything anymore. I happen to like the current Cadillac sedans but they are not enough. You’ve already killed a few storied car brands yourself so time to go.

    1. Toyota versus GM. There´s no argument: Toyota gets through to the other side and the world would be better off without GM. I notice GM has nixed or seem to have nixed most of their saloons which were the best cars they made apart from the Buick Regal. The ATS died a little while back. The XTS and CT6 are gone now as well. They´ve close a slew of saloon-making factories. The CT6 might carry on a-while since it got some recent revisions but I don´t suppose it´ll be there in three years.
      By the way, the ATS coupe has an exellent interior (dark brown hide with burl walnut door inserts. It´s a good looking car too.

    2. The CT6 may look underwhelming (especially compared with the chearper ATS) but it hides a unique and stunning inner beauty. It reminds me of the old GM, when engineering gave marketing something to talk about, only this time the marketing failed.

      Talk about hiding your light under a bushel, it’s not even shown in the brochure, just for us and a few lucky junkyard dogs.

    3. Is that the world´s stiffest front sub-frame? Those vanes must make it a really robust shape. It looks partially cast – can´t be, can it?

    4. Yes that part is cast aluminum, I wonder whether practical benefits accrue. GM has a history of structural innovations, e.g. space frames clothed with plastic panels, hydro-formed single piece frame rails (C5 Corvette), which they often touted heavily before abandoning them in favor of more conventional solutions.

    5. Gooddog: cast aluminium. That´s astonishing. There are islands of excellence in GM and all for nought as the sea of mediocrity is always washing on their shores. You could argue that there´s no point in blowing a lot of R&D budget and build cost if it means some witless peice of cost cutting is necessitated in plain sight. Customers and people like me can be very shallow and so over-value a scruffy moulding or flubbed detail inside the car while forgetting the kind of engineering you have showed here. I really like that cast aluminium part, someone really cared.

      Would anyone care to support my idea that if GM is axed, the Cadillac part is kept?

    6. Richard, I would happily save Cadillac but it sounds as if GM is going to do what it does best and kill it first. If the sedans are killed and there are only SUVs left then what is the point?

    7. From the reading I do around the US industry, the plight of Cadillac is something of an open wound amongst what our American cohorts term Gearheads. There appears to be a groundswell of goodwill towards the marque, but a palpable frustration at GM’s serial ability to snatch failure from every opportunity.

      There is only one reason to save Cadillac (in my view) and that is to execute it properly – something GM seems haplessly incapable of doing. Heaven knows, they’ve had enough time to make a decent fist of it. Maybe it’s time to let someone else have a go? And while I hold to the platonic ideal of Cadillacs as being large, rather formal saloons and Coupés, I think, executed well, a Cadillac could be just about anything.

      One last observation – in the US at least, I believe the market has solidified. Large and formal = SUV. I can’t see that changing, even if the oil prices spike again…

  6. There is of course a difference between a company going under globally, and its struggles in individual markets. The Japanese in general are weak in Europe but strong in North America and China and at home. Then there’s the split between cars and crossovers – GM’s not going anywhere bad by cutting out saloons in North America; they have crossovers, SUVs and trucks by the bucketload here, and cars and crossovers in China. Plus they haughtily ignored Trumpus Maximus this past week after closing five accessory and car plants in Canada and the US this past week, and he didn’t do much more than metaphorically shake his fist and promise tariffs. The CT6 will come from China after US production ends – Cadillac quality is execrable anyway, the bottom of the GM pile – they hardly make enough of the cars to learn how to properly assemble them, and that includes the ATS I test drove. Car and Driver found last month their new XT4 had obvious quality issues around the windscreen trim.

    FCA, Ford and PSA are in dire straits in China – they stand good chances of becoming irrelevant in that market. But not elsewhere. Mitsubishi was on the ropes, and had suffered three bouts of being caught lying and cheating by the Japanese government in 2001, 2011 and 2015. Then they caught the rescue rope of Renault Nissan, so bodged out-of-date design will continue to be sold worldwide for some time to come – they’d be my choice for casting off into the void. Suzuki couldn’t keep up and exited North America in 2011, but seem to have India covered, but they’ve always seemed more competent overall than Mitsubishi.

    As for Buick Regals/Insignias made by PSA/Opel for sale in the US, a smashing sales success they are not. Honda is very strong worldwide. Subaru sells like mad in the US. Mazda seems a bit small everywhere, which is scary because they seem quite competent. Hyundai/Kia won’t disappear.

    Overall, I’d say it’s impossible to tell who’ll sink next, or shrink their product lines. Being global companies, they have options not obvious to the enthusiast in the street in any given country or region. What individuals see around them may well not reflect the global position of a vehicle manufacturer.

    1. Why am I not surprised the Buick is not a success? In isolation it´s a lovely car (based on seeing the EU-market version) but in the US Buick always adds two or three glaring demerits to ensure only die-hards will go for them. I am sorry to hear Cadillac can´t put together a car to your satisfaction. Are they so bad overall? According to 2018 JD Power they lie in the middle ranks, just under BMW. Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover are the worst, alas. The best: Genesis, Kia and Hyundai.

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