Monday, November 10, 2014

1407 Auto Bottom Feeders and the Naked Hitchhiker

Suggestion: Merge Fiat and Renault and make one gigantic, monopolistic global manufacturer of clunker cars.


Call it Reniat or Finault.  


This space predicted in 1999 that the “alliance” between Nissan and Renault would drag Nissan down and it has.  Everyone knew what to expect when Fiat bought Chrysler out of bankruptcy:  Your Dodge Dart would suddenly become a Fix It Again Tony special and it has.


“Shipping crap” as Lee Iacocca called it once was the territory dominated if not outright owned by the American manufacturers, although the Brits held a minority stake in bad and still do.


But Detroit’s once lofty position at the bottom of the heap has become a worldwide phenomenon.  In fact these days you’re probably in better shape with a Buick than an Infiniti.


America’s auto industry: Teacher to the World.  A triumph of bad build.


Granted every maker has benefitted from two outside sources as they race down the toilet.


First is the major supplier of air bags, Takata.  The bags can melt.  They can explode.  They can fail to deploy.  And almost everyone gets their bags from Takata.  Even the good guys like Honda and Toyota.


Second is the infotainment technology, developed by the same kind of brilliant minds that gave us things like Windows 8.  Most of these are more distracting than cell phones, CB radios and naked hitchhikers combined.  Not only are they distracting, but largely serve no useful purpose.


When your computer crashes, it’s a glitch. When your infotainment center crashes, it’s a real crash … or can be.


Back to Finault.


The Fiat 500 is generally at the bottom of the reliability ratings.  They’ve now infected the “all new” Chrysler 200 with the same bottom feeder ranking.  It’s like they sat around at the boardroom in Turin to answer the question “We’re pretty bad.  How can we make things worse?”


The Renault-Nissan arrangement is too complicated to unravel, with more moving parts and joint or overlapping and unbalanced percentages than can be untangled.


And this shows that even a supposedly great man can fall victim to the Peter Principle (managers rise to their level of incompetence.)


Carlos Ghosn (pronounced goan; rhymes with phone) is probably the best car guy still employed.  But he’s running the whole Renault Nissan show, flitting from France to Japan so often he may be the world champion Frequent Flyer.  And in his spare time, he’s also chairman of the Russian company AvtoVaz, which makes cars that pretty much look like Renaults instead of the 1929 Packard clones they made until 2008.


Over in Turin, is Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne, no slouch of a car guy either.  But Marchionne doesn’t have those frequent flyer miles.  And he’s running one company, unlike Ghosn who is running something more like the United Nations.


Sweden is down to one brand, Volvo, owned by a company in China.  It started its deterioration under ownership by Ford and continues down the same path today.


Germany has problems of its own. Look at some of the reliability figures for Daimler, Audi, Volkswagen and BMW.  Germans with quality and engineering problems?  


Look out, y’all.  GM is creeping ahead you.  And that company, back from the dead, is driven by (shudder) a girl!


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

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