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3 Familiar Models May Vanish as Sales Shift to SUVs

Ford Taurus exiting for a second time, along with Fiesta and Chevy Sonic.

by on Apr.05, 2018

The Taurus is one of two Ford models that are expected to be dropped over the next few years.

March saw an even bigger surge in demand for SUVs, CUVs and other light trucks but, according to industry data, sales of sedans, coupes and hatchbacks continued to decline – an ongoing trend that is expected to lead to the demise of a number of once-popular passenger car models, including Ford’s big Taurus and subcompact Fiesta, as well as the little Chevrolet Sonic.

And even more passenger car models could be on the way out, according to industry sources, even as manufacturers move to expand their light truck portfolios to take advantage of one of the biggest market shifts in decades.

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“I think we’re going to see some contraction in passenger car nameplates,” said Stephanie Brinley, principle automotive analyst at IHS Automotive. “That’s not to say they’ll go away. Some people still like them….but there’ll be some rationalization over time.”


The Sky Isn’t Falling, Says GM President

Batey counters concerns raised by Ford CFO that auto sales have peaked.

by on Aug.02, 2016

GM North America Pres. Alan Batey introduces the 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback at the NAIAS.

It’s been a great ride for the U.S. auto industry. After crashing into the worst recession in decades, it rebounded to record sales of 17.5 million vehicles last year and, until recently, seemed poised to top that number again in 2016.

But there’s been a growing chorus of concern in recent weeks, industry insiders like Ford Motor Co. Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks warning that the ride is over, and that U.S. car sales are about to start the inevitable slide. Just don’t count General Motors North America President Alan Batey among those who says the downturn is about to begin.


“We think the industry will plateau at some time, but everything we see says that into the near future the industry will remain strong,” Batey told reporters.


GM, Ford Insist They Will Remain Profitable in Deep Recession

Taking a “forward lean” into a “downside scenario.”

by on Mar.28, 2016

GM's Alan Batey introducing the 2017 Chevy Bolt.

Seven years after Detroit’s auto industry nearly collapsed, officials at the two largest domestic makers are taking pains to assure investors they will not only survive but thrive during the next big economic downturn.

Fears that the U.S. car market has peaked after hitting record sales of 17.5 million vehicles last year has made Wall Street increasingly wary, driving down the share prices for all the domestic makers, even as they report strong profits. But two top General Motors and Ford executives painted very different pictures for investors as the New York Auto Show opened to strong public attendance.

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“We believe the market is eventually going to plateau, but not in the immediate future,” declared Alan Batey, president of GM North America, during the annual Automotive Summit sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. And even if sales do take a tumble, he stressed, “We have reduced our break-even point to between 10 million and 11 million annual sales for the industry.”


Automakers Shift Production as Sedans Slide, SUVs Surge

More Santa Fe Sports, fewer Sonatas, at Hyundai’s Alabama plant.

by on Jan.08, 2016

The Santa Fe Sport. Hyundai believes it could sell lots more if it had the production capacity.

Hyundai plans to add production of its Santa Fe Sport at its assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama this coming summer, hoping to keep up with a surge in demand for utility vehicles driven, at least in part, by low fuel prices.

The boost in production of the Santa Fe Sport will come at the expense of the Hyundai Sonata, since the capacity of the Alabama plant will remain around 400,000 a year. But that’s no surprise, industry analysts say, as Sonata sales in the U.S. slipped 1.7% in 2015 due to lagging demand for sedans, in general. Sales of the compact Hyundai SUV, however, were limited by a lack of supply.

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And Hyundai isn’t alone, said Stephanie Brinley, a senior automotive analyst with IHS Automotive. “What we are seeing in the 2015 results is an increased appetite for SUVs, with sedans taking a hit.”


Akerson Retiring, Barra Becomes New GM CEO, with Ammann President

51-year-old Barra is industry’s first woman chief executive.

by on Dec.10, 2013

GM names Barra its new CEO - and the first woman to lead a global automaker.

Just a day after the federal government ended its ownership stake in the post-bankruptcy General Motors, the automaker has announced a sweeping change in its management line-up.  That includes the retirement of Chairman and Chief Executive Dan Akerson, with Mary Barra taking his place as CEO of January 15, 2014.

The well-respected Barra, currently GM’s global product development czar, will become the first woman to serve as the chief executive officer of any major auto manufacturer in the world.

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Her new second-in-command will be Dan Ammann, a New Zealand native who signed on as GM chief financial officer after assisting the maker through its 2009 bankruptcy.

“I will leave with great satisfaction in what we have accomplished, great optimism over what is ahead and great pride that we are restoring General Motors as America’s standard bearer in the global auto industry,”  Akerson said in a message to the maker’s 85,500 employees.


Chevy Names Batey New Global Brand Boss

Move comes days after Docherty’s unexpected resignation.

by on Jun.25, 2013

Chevy's new global brand czar Alan Batey.

Just days after the head of Chevrolet’s struggling European arm unexpectedly tendered her resignation, General Motors has appointed Alan Batey as its new global brand czar.

The appointment is one of a series of actions by GM meant to shore up Chevy’s image not only in the U.S. but in worldwide markets that have come to increasingly dominate the bowtie brand’s sales.  Nearly three of every four products badged Chevrolet will be sold outside the U.S. in 2013, GM forecasts.

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“Chevrolet is our mainstream global brand, and with the growth we are experiencing and the barrage of new products we have coming, the time is right for us to have a single leader responsible for managing the brand around the world,” said GM CEO Dan Akerson.


Ewanick No Rogue Player, Says CEO Akerson

GM officials offer insight into ouster – and future ad strategy.

by on Aug.02, 2012

Former GM marketing czar Joel Ewanick was a team player, suggested CEO Dan Akerson, countering reports he was ousted for rogue behavior.

Ousted General Motors global marketing czar Joel Ewanick was no rogue operating outside the corporate playbook, GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson made clear during a conference call with industry analysts today.

It was the chief executive’s first comments on the sudden departure of 52-year-old Ewanick since the marketing chief was summarily shown the door by the giant automaker last Sunday.  Though termed a “voluntary” resignation, subsequent comments by a GM spokesman – and speculation both inside and outside the company – has raised questions about whether Ewanick had committed a significant ethical breach that led to his summary termination.

During a call to discuss GM’s weak second-quarter earnings, Akerson and other officials made it clear that the company is not about to make any significant changes in the often-controversial marketing strategy laid out during Ewanick’s two years on the job.

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“What you saw in the marketplace was a thought-out strategy,” said Akerson, who added that Ewanick had operated as part of “a team,” and not as a free agent or cowboy.

(GM earnings tumble 40% during Q2. Click Here.)

The CEO declined to discuss the specific reasons for Ewanick’s departure, however.  Insiders report that intense negotiations ended Sunday with the marketing executive allowed to bill the move as a resignation.  But spokesman Greg Martin raised serious questions when he later stated that Ewanick, “failed to meet the expectations the company has of its employees.”

The rumor mill quickly went into overdrive, receiving numerous, and clearly unsubstantiated, calls suggesting a serious ethical breach was committed.  Other reports, widely circulated, have indicated Ewanick may have failed to follow proper channels in approving a mega-million-dollar deal with the wildly popular Manchester United soccer team, and a subsequent partnership with the Liverpool Football Club.

Both deals were signature moves for Ewanick, whom Akerson recently described as a “glass-breaker” willing to slaughter sacred industry cows.  He terminated long-time partnerships with key ad agencies such as Campbell-Ewald, which had represented Chevrolet for more than half a century.  He pulled GM out of the Super Bowl and denounced Facebook advertising days before the social media site’s closely watched IPO.

(For the original report on Ewanick’s ouster, Click Here.)

It’s no surprise, said a close friend of Ewanick’s, that “the long knives came out as soon as he was gone.  Everyone wanted to help drag down his reputation now that he couldn’t fight back.”

Akerson’s comments don’t entirely solve matters.  The question of why Ewanick was pushed out is still a mystery, though today’s 40% decline in GM earnings – coming a day after the maker reported a 6.4% decline in July sales while the overall market was up markedly – suggests that the real problem was Ewanick’s failure to deliver new customers.  That, ultimately, is what a marketing chief is supposed to do.

Ewanick might have been “disruptive,” said analyst Rebecca Lindland, of HIS Automotive, but “disruptive doesn’t (necessarily) mean positive results.”

(For more on July sales, Click Here.)

GM’s market share has slipped by nearly two points compared to year-ago levels, at 18.1%.  Rival Toyota has gained nearly two points during the same period – though that includes business it recovered after the disastrous production cuts it suffered in the wake of Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

There has been some speculation that GM’s interim marketing chief Alan Batey – who appears to be the man to beat for a permanent assignment – might make some major changes in direction. But when asked if he might walk away from the Ewanick-approved “Chevy Runs Deep” ad tagline, or cancel plans to shift global GM advertising to a newly formed consortium called Commonwealth, Batey responded, “the simple answer is no.”

The fact that GM actually expanded the Manchester United relationship on Monday, the day after Ewanick’s departure, should have been a signal that the maker will hold to the status quo, at least for now.

“As I told you, this has nothing to do with our strategy,” continued Batey. “We are executing as per our plan. We have always been one team, and that continues. So you shouldn’t read anything into this that we didn’t announce, and there is nothing else to add to that. But are we changing strategy? Are we evaluating any of our partners? No.”

If any decision is likely to be reversed in the near-term, it is GM’s move to pull $10 million in advertising on Facebook.  There have been numerous meetings between senior GM executives and their counterparts at Facebook, meetings that have gone all the way up the chain of command to GM CEO Akerson.

But Ewanick had telegraphed from the start that the Facebook ad cancellation would be reviewed, so this is no surprise.

“There is no change in direction,” Batey repeated during today’s call.  “There’s no change in priorities.”

Shake-Up at GM As Maker Prepares for Critical New Product Launches

“Playing offensive,” says NA Pres. Reuss.

by on May.18, 2012

GM shakes up its sales management ranks in advance of launching critical new products like the Cadillac XTS.

You might want to pick up a scorecard to keep up with all the changes as General Motors shuffles the key players in its sales operations.  The moves are timed to prepare for a host of critical new product launches coming over the next 18 months, including replacements for the makers aging full-sized pickups.

The realignment also suggests the maker wants to build up more momentum after a few months of lackluster sales.  While it has been gaining ground in the retail market overall GM sales fell behind the rest of the industry in March.

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GM North America president Mark Reuss said Alan Batey, 49, has been appointed to the newly created position of GM vice president, U.S. Sales and Service, reporting directly to Reuss. Other changes include: