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GM and Carfax to Help People Identify Open Recalls

Better yet, it is a free service available to all.

by on Apr.16, 2010

Carfax also sells full vehicle reports.

General Motors Company is giving millions of vehicle identification numbers (VINs) to Carfax for its cars, trucks and crossover models with so-called “open recalls” or ones that have not been  performed.

This means that starting in May owners of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles, as well as customers in the market for used models, will be able to check for unrepaired safety, non-compliance and emission recalls through Carfax at The VINs provided also include used Hummer, Saab, Pontiac and Saturn models – brands that GM no longer sells after its post-bankruptcy reorganization.

A recall may be mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), though none ever has been, as makers negotiate and shape the recall with NHTSA, and then conduct a “voluntary recall” of the defective vehicles.


Lajdziak Takes Over at Smart

Schembri moves on “new duties” at Penske retail organization.

by on Jan.04, 2010

Former Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak has replaced Dave Schembri as President of smart.

Faced with a massive slump in sales, the Penske Automotive Group has shaken up the management team at its smart USA operation.  Jill Lajdziak, the long-time head of General Motors’ Saturn brand has been name the new president of smart, which serves as U.S. distributor for the pint-sized fortwo, built in France.

Lajdziak replaces Dave Schembri, the automotive veteran who helped develop the smart franchise for the Penske Group and then brought it to market in early 2008.  A corporate release said Schembri, a Detroit native, will “transition into Penske Automotive Group’s retail operations.”

"smart" Move!

While the release contained strong praise for Schembri, there’s little doubt that the demanding Roger Penske has been frustrated by smart’s performance.  In the first months after the brand went on sale, in mid-January 2008, it scored a solid success, but that reflected fortuitous timing, as much as anything else, the launch coinciding with the record run-up in U.S. fuel costs.  Once pump prices peaked, in July 2008, sales tumbled sharply.


GM Offering Big Incentives on Pontiacs and Saturns

Dealer discounts of up to $7,000 per vehicle are aimed at clearing out the lots as brands prepare to close.

by on Dec.29, 2009

GM is offering dealers up to $7,000 to clear out inventories of Pontiac and Saturn models.

Big sales are typical in the days after Christmas, especially if you’re looking for holiday cards, wrapping paper and ornaments.  But General Motors is offering some big deals of its own on two of the brands it will soon abandon, and they make the sales at the local discount malls seem paltry by comparison.

At Jim Causley Buick-Pontiac-GMC, in the Detroit suburb, shoppers are being offered $6,500 discounts on models such as the Pontiac G3 and Solstice roadster, “and they’re going fast,” says salesman Mike Smith before rushing off to deal with a line of waiting customers.


That’s a sharp turnaround from earlier in the month when Causley’s showroom was uncomfortably quiet, particularly for the Pontiac brand, one of four marques GM decided to abandon – along with Saturn, Saab and Hummer – as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.  Worried about being able to service or sell vehicles sold by those brands down the road, many potential customers were steering clear.    (more…)

Lajdziak Leaves Saturn for Smart USA

New VP must reverse plummeting sales.

by on Dec.09, 2009

Former Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak will join the smart car organization. She's shown here in January 2008 accepting an award for the Saturn Aura.

Former Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak will join the smart car organization. She's shown here in January 2008 accepting the North American Car of the Year award for the Saturn Aura.

Jill Lajdziak, the former head of GM’s Saturn unit, is joining smart USA as executive vice president of sales and marketing – and the point person in the brand’s bid to reverse a devastating sales slump.

After scoring a big boost in 2008, much of it driven by record gas prices, smart, a division of Germany’s Daimler AG, has experienced an unanticipated slide prompting questions about the brand’s long-term viability in the U.S. market – even as other makers push into the small and urban commuter market segments.

A smart Choice!

A smart Choice!

“I am pleased that Jill has accepted our invitation to join smart as we enhance the position of the smart brand,” said Roger Penske, PAG Chairman and a well-known Detroit-based entrepreneur. “With her background building the Saturn organization and her expertise in customer satisfaction, product marketing, and brand development, Jill is an outstanding fit, and I am confident that she will help us grow the smart brand” Penske said.


Q&A: Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak

What Penske can do that GM couldn't.

by on Jun.05, 2009

Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak accepts the award for the midsize Aura, named North American Car of the Year at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show.

Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak accepts the award for the midsize Aura, named North American Car of the Year at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show.

It likes to bill itself “a different kind of car company,” and that’s likely to be even more true in the future, now that Roger Penske has signed an agreement that will likely make him the new owner of General Motors’ Saturn division by the end of the year.

The once-promising brand showed significant momentum in its early years, but GM admittedly starved Saturn of product until it was too late, and while it has recently expanded the line-up, to much praise, the ailing automaker has decided it needs to pare back to just four key brands if it’s to survive its bankruptcy.

What happens now? turns to Jill Lajdziak, the constantly-moving dynamo who has been serving as general manager of the Saturn division since March 1999, and has been with General Motors since 1980.  The brand’s greatest strength is its 192 dealers and 358 “rooftops,” she is quick to assert.  But it will, as she admits, take more than stores to make Saturn work, post-GM.

Q: As recently as January, GM was still looking to find a way to keep Saturn in its line-up. What happened since then?

Lajdziak: When we sat down, in January, we were looking at lots of other opportunities within GM.  (But) GM figured out it could only afford to support four core brands, both from a marketing and manufacturing standpoint.  From my vantage point, that was great and set up every (surviving) brand to be successful long-term.  That’s important for both General Motors and for the country.  But there wasn’t any room for Saturn. (more…)

A Diesel Running on Gasoline is Just as Sweet

By using compression ignition, a gasoline-fueled engine can be as efficient as an oil burner, and maybe less expensive.

by on May.21, 2009

Members of the GM's HCCI team preparing a prototype engine for testing.

Members of the GM's HCCI team preparing a prototype engine for testing.

The battle between the Otto cycle and the Diesel cycle in auto engines goes back more than 100 years. Diesels have a fuel economy advantage, roughly 20%, compared to traditional gasoline engines largely because of a higher compression ratio needed to ignite the fuel and the elimination of “pumping losses” caused during the intake stroke of a gasoline engine when it is operating at partial throttle.

However, the fuel injection system of a diesel and the heavier components required to hold up to the higher pressures make it much more expensive – these days thousands of dollars more – than a gasoline engine. Tighter emissions laws on cancer-causing particulate matter are adding to the expense and reducing fuel economy. Also, diesel fuel doesn’t ignite as readily as gasoline, which makes cold starting problematic.

As automakers continue the unending quest for greater fuel efficiency, a hybrid combination of diesel and gasoline engines is being studied to see if the best characteristics of both can be obtained.

One such initiative is going on at General Motors where a homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI) engine is under study. An HCCI engine, when combined with other advanced technologies, can provide up to 15% greater fuel economy than a comparable, non-HCCI engine by using the diesel combustion process.

“HCCI delivers enhanced fuel savings without sacrificing the performance consumers have come to expect,” said Dr. Uwe Grebe, executive director for GM Powertrain Advanced Engineering.    (more…)

GM Bankruptcy, Once Unthinkable, Now Seems Absolutely Unavoidable

Over the past four years, GM has tried all kinds of strategies to keep the wolf from the door. It has now been blown away.

by on May.07, 2009

Ray Young and Company Employees Close New York Stock Exchange

"Once you start losing revenues, you get into a vicious cycle that you can't get out of very easily."

General Motor lost money again in the first quarter of 2009 , and is just as certain to lose money again in the second quarter, given the company’s deep cuts in production now in the schedule.

Bankruptcy, once unthinkable, seems unavoidable in the wake of the $6 billion first-quarter loss — and a $10 billion cash burn — which only exacerbated the company’s already precarious financial situation. Worse, the company revenues plunged by nearly 50% in the first 90 days of this year, suggesting that the Obama Administration’s Auto Task Force really did have cause for recommending the dismissal of former GM chairman Rick Wagoner.

“Once you start losing revenues, you get into a vicious cycle that you can’t get out of very easily,” observed Ray Young, the company’s youthful chief financial officer who was plucked off the finance staff last summer to help guide GM through the grave and grave-digging crisis it is now facing.

Young also outlined another of GM’s serious problems. The drumbeat of bad news is drowning the company. “A lot of impact is already in the marketplace. We have anecdotal evidence that that spills over into places like Brazil. We can’t quantify the bankruptcy concerns, but there is an impact. If we have to go through a court process, it’s going to have to be quick,” he said.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe clear implication was that a long stay in bankruptcy court could very destructive to the company’s health. Perhaps any stay is fatal.  GM needs to get customers to focus on the company’s products, not the bad news, Young said during a conference call with reporters and analysts. How GM can do that, given the lack of significant new products and the plentiful supply of bad news is not at all clear, to put it kindly.    (more…)

Penske Denies Saturn Bid During Earnings Call

Penske Automotive Group Q1 income is slashed nearly in half.

by on May.05, 2009

Chrysler has maintained its contractual commitment to NASCAR during its bankruptcy.

Chrysler has maintained its contractual commitment to NASCAR during its bankruptcy.

Auto mogul Roger Penske played down suggestions he was preparing to pounce on General Motors’ Saturn Group, during a conference call today with reporters and financial analysts.

 “Penske Automotive has not made an offer to GM for Saturn,” he said. Penske added that the time frame for making any kind of offer was “extremely short.”

GM said this week that it was convinced it could sell Saturn to outside investors, but did not identify any of the potential buyers. Penske, however, also acknowledged that current recession has made opportunistic acquisitions possible both the U.S. and Europe.

Penske also said he believed Chrysler could emerge from bankruptcy a very viable company. “I really believe Chrysler can come out of this a stronger company,” he said. Penske, of course, runs Chrysler’s NASCAR racing operation through another subsidiary, in what was once a lucrative contract.

Penske Automotive Group Inc.’s first quarter income was slashed nearly in half by the ongoing turmoil in the automotive industry, which trimmed the company’s revenues by one third.  (more…)

Saturn Sale by GM Grows More Likely

Restructuring process goes forward, one small step at a time.

by on May.04, 2009

It may still fly if a buyer surfaces.

It may still fly, if a buyer surfaces.

General Motors Corporation is apparently growing more confident that it can sell its Saturn brand. GM said Monday morning that there are a number of competing bids for Saturn, and there is sufficient interest to complete a deal prior to the end of the year.

“The process to sell (Saturn) is moving ahead,” GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson told, saying it planned to move forward with the disposition of the Saturn distribution network, which is partially owned by the GM and Saturn dealers.

“A number of potential buyers have surfaced and expressed interest in the Saturn brand and retail network. GM will be reviewing expressions of interest from the potential buyers and will look to secure an agreement with a specific buyer later this year,” GM said in a statement.

GM said it had retained S.J. Girsky & Company of New York to act as an advisor for this transaction. Saturn will continue to keep its retailers updated on its progress throughout this process, GM said. (more…)

General Motors U.S. Sales Plunge 34% in April

The "Total Confidence" plan is extended into May, as sales continue to languish.

by on May.01, 2009


There was a glimmer, but just a glimmer of hope. Total sales were up 11% compared to March, as traditional spring selling season begins.

Declining sales continues to be the trend at General Motors in the United States, with sales off -34% in April. The company wholesaled 173,007 vehicles. GM total truck sales (including crossovers) of 102,032 were down 28% and car sales of 71,775 were off 41% compared with a year ago.

Year to date, GM sales have declined 45%, with cars, at -47%, leading the drop.

As a result of a continued weak market, GM’s 2009 second-quarter production forecast is set at 390,000 vehicles (172,000 cars and 218,000 trucks), which is down about 53% compared with a year ago, when GM North America built 834,000 vehicles (382,000 cars and 452,000 trucks) in the second-quarter of 2008. Virtually all of GM’s North American plants will be closed for this summer. 

There was a glimmer, but just a glimmer of hope. Total sales were up 11% compared to March, as traditional spring selling season begins. However the sales increase was largely attributed to an increase in fleet sales. GM’s car sales compared with March were up only 2,900 vehicles (4%), while truck sales increased more than 9,500 vehicles (16%), and crossover sales were up nearly 4,200 vehicles (14%).

Critics of GM, who say that it is too dependent on truck sales, apparently are not talking to buyers. And politicians and others who keep babbling on about the industry’s “green future” should also note the distinctive lack of customer greenbacks supporting hybrids. Only 1,534 hybrid vehicles were delivered in the month. This includes total sales from a wide range of GM hybrid products: the Chevrolet Malibu, Tahoe and Silverado, GMC Yukon and Sierra, Cadillac Escalade, Saturn Aura and Vue hybrids. So far, in 2009, GM has delivered 5,156 hybrid vehicles.

The company tried to put positive face on what remain disastrous results.

“From a retail standpoint, GM and the industry continued at about the same selling rate as February and March. We see that stabilization, along with a firming up of our fleet business and improvement in Silverado and Sierra sales, as an encouraging sign,” said Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing. (more…)