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The Latest Auto Extremist Rants

by Editor
28 May 2023 at 9:31am

Editor's Note: Can it really be 24 years since we started Yes, and it has been one helluva ride. Peter talks about what it all means in this week's column. In On The Table, I have a few thoughts, Aston Martin unveils the DB12, we take a look at an exquisite Delahaye, and Honda announces a new SCL500 "scrambler"-style motorcycle. Our AE Song of the Week features the great Tina Turner and "What's Love Got To Do With It." We also share our original AE masthead and some of our now-infamous AE Words & Phrases from the past two-plus decades. In Fumes, Part XIX of Peter's series "The Great Races" takes us back to one of Dan Gurney's greatest driving performances. And finally, we'll have complete results from the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix in The Line. Enjoy it all. -WG

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Twenty-four years ago, when I became tired of what the ad biz had become, tired of the ass kissers and the other two-bit players who had turned what was once a pretty interesting profession into a vapid wasteland, I knew I had to do something different. I had also grown tired of seeing the auto business – as practiced here in Detroit – sink further into the Abyss of risk-avoidance-driven mediocrity, and watching legions of so-called "executives" make horrendous, piss-poor decisions day after day on behalf of their respective auto companies.

As I watched the carnage unfold around me, I knew that something had to be said by someone who had firsthand knowledge of what was going on – someone who was in the trenches and on the front lines of the ongoing battle. That someone turned out to be me. And became my forum to say it.

As some of you may recall, originally Autoextremist was a concept I had for a new car magazine back in 1986. The print version of Autoextremist was going to target hard-core enthusiasts, while telling it like it is with a distinctive, combative style. It would also be the first enthusiast car publication that wouldn’t accept advertising.

The state of the enthusiast car mags back then was a dismal parade of sameness that left me cold, and I was determined to breathe some life into the genre (and it is different today, how? –WG). But my ad career got in the way, and by the time I looked up it was the late spring of 1999, and I knew that if I didn’t do it then, I’d never do it – so the time was finally right for Autoextremist. The Internet, of course, would replace the print magazine idea, but the essence of my original manifesto written back in 1986 remained unchanged.

And that's how this publication and "The High-Octane Truth" came about, whether people were ready for it or not. A lot has changed about this business over the ensuing years, but as I am continually reminded, a lot hasn’t.

Over the course of the past 24 years, it has been The Best of Times, and it has been The Worst of Times. And it has been a journalistic rocket ride like no other. When we started this publication back on June 1, 1999, there was no real plan other than that I was ready to recount a lifetime of automotive history that began in Detroit’s heyday, combine that with my life’s work in the auto advertising and marketing trenches, and blow the lid off of the status quo in a business that had become petrified and jaded. I was going to tell the real stories and name the real names, and I wasn’t going to hide behind the usual journalistic chestnuts of “deep background” and “off-the-record” sobriquets. I was going to make people accountable in a business in which not being accountable had become a cottage industry.

Back when we started AE the car business as writ large here – this once-glorious, exuberant business that created The Arsenal of Democracy and made up the fabric of American industrial might – had become overrun with bloodsucking parasites and spineless weasels.

This industry that once boasted industrial giants who roamed the earth creating fabulous machines while leaving heroic legacies in their wake had been reduced to a mewling chorus of sycophants making excuses for what couldn’t be done and why “they” – aka Detroit – couldn’t compete, while churning out mind-numbing, rolling monuments to mediocrity that drove millions of consumers away, for good.

Watching Detroit’s collective market share do a pirouette into The Darkness was not so much sobering as it was frightening, and my writings took the fight to these purveyors of boneheaded excuses and feckless mediocrity and changed the conversation forever.

I challenged every single convention and blew the lid off of the excuse-making machines that the car company PR functions had become, and turned this business on its ear, which was, in reality, much harder to do than it sounds now.

I think it’s interesting now to recall the relationship between the press and the auto companies back then. There was no news or opinion of any substance, just rote regurgitation of auto company press releases with an occasional “tough” question thrown in for good measure. And if it was too “tough” an editor would get “the call” and be taken to the proverbial woodshed by the Chief PR minion because, well, you know, it just wasn’t done. And for their penance the offending scribes would be denied access to a top executive – especially the CEO – which at the time was akin to the death penalty. Without access they wouldn’t be able to distinguish themselves in the swirling maelstrom of predictability that the industry press corps had become. Without access, they were pretty much dead.

But the key differentiator for me was that I didn’t care about access, because I not only knew the Detroit auto executive mindset intimately, inside and out, I had it down cold. I knew what they thought and why they were thinking it. So much so in fact, that on more than one occasion – okay, make that many more times than I can even count – I heard comments from top executives that went something like this: “I don’t know who you’re talking to, or where you’re getting your information, but it’s so uncannily accurate that it is scary.”

In fact, it was so disconcerting to the car company PR minions that it struck fear into their very hearts and kept them awake at night. And as they watched their digital clocks tick over with a sickening thud in the middle of the night, the prayers that could be heard in the darkness sounded achingly similar: “I hope he stops. Or starts writing about somebody else. Or gets hit by a truck, whichever comes first, Dear Lord.” But those prayers fell on deaf ears.

I am gratified to say that changed the tone and tenor of the media coverage of this business once and for all. Countless imitators and wannabes sprang up and are still springing up to this day. I have had writers attempt to copy my style while brazenly calling it their own, and I’ve even had Internet trolls blatantly steal my copy and post it on their websites thinking no one would notice. But it didn’t really matter in the end, because the voice – and the impact – of rang loud and true and has been powerful for, as hard as it is to believe – 24 years – and the imitators and freeloaders slunk away from under the rocks from whence they came.

I walked away from car advertising because the relationship between the car companies and their ad agencies had become so polluted that it was too embarrassing for words, a sickening dance of egregious malfeasance that was an insult to the craft – on both sides of the ball. What had once been a pretty damn great way to make a living – one filled with bristling creativity and collaborative excellence – had deteriorated into a cesspool of go-along-to-get-along cowardice and “thank you, sir, may I have another?” bullshit. The profoundly inept were leading the spineless order takers, and the resulting chaos masquerading as marketing was devastating.

Is it better now? Let me ask that question again – is it really better now?

Yes and no. The products are dramatically better, make no mistake about that. In fact, we are able to access and experience the finest machines in automotive history at this very moment in time. And that is no insignificant thing.

But the romance and art that once fueled this business, and the passion and willingness to do great things and strive for excellence that took it to lofty heights, are now confined to the thriving pockets of True Believers spread out among the car companies. These are the people who keep the passion of this business alive and who stay true to their beliefs against overwhelming odds. Because in reality this “new” auto business has been defined by the deal makers and the interloping carpetbaggers hell bent on maximizing their balance sheets while embracing commoditization and globalization. The art of the machine means less than zero to them and has become irrelevant, and the art of this business is dying with it. And it’s sad.

As I’ve said repeatedly, this business isn’t for the faint of heart. And though it seems that there are legions of recalcitrant twerps and two-bit hacks running around out there who add nothing of import to the discussion and who pump up their self-worth for reasons that remain a mystery, the real essence of the business remains unsullied.

When we first contemplated doing Autoextremist, I wrote a manifesto for what it was and what it was not. And I am proud to say it still resonates today.

I began with the premise that designing, engineering and building automobiles is one of the most complicated endeavors on earth. And to do it properly takes vision, creativity and an unwavering passion that makes other pursuits seem positively ordinary. Note that there is nothing in there about doing it just good enough to get by, engineering to the lowest common denominator, covering your ass or any of the other pillars of “standard operating procedure” that once dominated certain quarters of this business and have been, for the most part, purged.

Except that isn’t really true, unfortunately. All the bad old habits are still present and accounted for and then some, and as much as reasoned, logical and eminently bright executives in charge at these auto companies protest otherwise and insist that “we don’t do that stuff anymore,” that kind of bad behavior is just a bad product or marketing decision away from rearing its ugly head, and usually at the most inopportune time too.

From the very beginning we exposed the go-along-to-get-along, kick-the-can-down-the-road hordes on a regular basis, because the damage they cause can bring these companies to their knees in a heartbeat. 

A key point in the Autoextremist Manifesto? Mediocrity – in any way, shape or form – isn’t bliss. Instead, it’s an insidious disease that has not only decimated this industry, it has screwed up life as we used to know it too.

At some point this business – and American life – turned down the wrong path. Pushing the envelope, getting knocked down and picking yourself back up and going at it again, battling to the buzzer, and striving for achievement were part and parcel of the upward trajectory of the automobile business – and country – we used to live in. Achieving greatness wasn’t just a goal, it was an expectation to shoot for, because anything less would be, well, ordinary. And even worse, boring.

Today this business has too often given way to an unspoken attitude of just doing enough to get by because when it comes right down to it, judging by the chorus of muttering I hear, doing more begs the question, “Does it really make all that much difference?” Fundamental accountability has been replaced by “It’s not my problem.” And “It’s okay, at least you tried” has become more than just an acceptable phrase, but a mantra that too many people live by. After all, when everyone gets a group hug and a trophy just for showing up, why bother extending effort to do better, or achieve greatness, or strive to be the best?

Why bother, indeed.

The result? Abject mediocrity. And it’s everywhere. It’s in this business and it’s rampant throughout the country. Some people have actually said to me (and with a straight face too), “Get over it, it’s the world we live in today.” But I’m not buying it and it is simply unacceptable to me, which is why I will continue to call people and companies out on it whenever and wherever I see it. It’s not a value-added path for this business, and it’s already proven not to be the answer for the country, either.

The stellar machines of our day – and we are living in the golden age of automotive greatness in case you haven’t noticed – aren’t the product of “it’s good enough.” Instead, these machines bristle with the passion, vision and commitment of the men and women who created them, those “True Believers” that I often write about. If it weren’t for them, this business would be riding on the Last Train to Nowhere, next stop, Oblivion. 

And, what about the business? This "Grand Transition" to EVs is turning out to be a living, breathing nightmare, at least for those not flush enough to afford the new wave of EVs. Yes, I get it, we're going to get there eventually, but it may not look like everyone thinks it's going to look like once we do get there. I firmly do not believe that BEVs are the only solution, and with the myriad problems associated with EVs - the piss-poor infrastructure, the charging conundrum, the high cost and the real question of battery recycling - other solutions should be valid – like hybrid/ICEs and hydrogen alternatives, both in fuel cells and as a fuel. And I can't discuss the future of this business without talking about the concept of fundamental affordability. The upward march of vehicle pricing and transaction prices might be wondrous for the manufacturers and their dealers in the short term, but there will be a cost that none of these players are really preparing for or being realistic about. Everyday consumers are being priced out of the market, and unfortunately the manufacturers and their dealers are projecting a worrisome "What me worry?" attitude, and it's simply not sustainable. I have praised Ford for the pricing of its outstanding Maverick Hybrid pickup, but they remain unable to build enough of them to satisfy demand. That says a lot about Ford's inability to build things with any level of competence, but it also says a lot about the company's lack of commitment to that particular product. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Ford EVs may get all of the attention, but the Maverick remains the most significant launch by the Dearborn-based manufacturer in at least a decade. And if the other manufacturers in this game don't wise up and start bringing out nicely-equipped vehicles for $35,000 and below, I guarantee there will be a reckoning to come that will shake the foundation of this industry.

To say that has been a labor of love doesn’t even begin to cover it. It has been my passion – and my life – for 24 years. And I’m not going to say that the time flew by either, because it hasn’t. I have lived every single moment of it and every bit of it is seared in my memory. 

Suffice to say that you have no idea of the time, effort and energy that it has taken to deliver the Bare-Knuckled, Unvarnished, High-Octane Truth to you every week. It has been an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege – as Cameron Crowe once famously wrote in Jerry McGuire – that few people can comprehend and even fewer will even begin to understand. (Actually, make that pre-dawn, as Peter starts writing at 3:00 a.m. most days. -WG)

It was our blood on these tracks. And it was our unwavering passion and unflinching standards amidst the torrent of mediocrity and just plain dismal behavior on the Internet that stood out. That’s not just us talking, that is the consistent refrain we hear from upper echelon auto executives, members of the media, and from a countless number of our readers out there, week in and week out.

The fact of the matter is that you can go anywhere and read anything about cars on the Internet, but we’re extremely grateful and proud to say that the best and the brightest came here.

Our conversations have been interesting these last few years. We have been going back and forth about about what would eventually happen with The questions hang like lead balloons over everything: How do we feel about it? What does it all mean? And most important, how much longer am I going to do it? How much longer can I do it? And so on. 

But the reality is, when faced with the real possibility of pulling the plug on, I have come to the conclusion that I am not ready to walk away from it. Yes, I will admit that it is a giant pain in the ass sometimes, because we’ve set a high standard here that isn’t conducive to phoning it in, or going through the motions in any way, thank goodness. And those high standards push me to keep bringing the High-Octane Truth to you every week. has sharpened my focus and my thoughts even more and helped me realize that there are no free rides or guarantees in life. I am lucky in that I found something in that has kept me motivated and sharp for 24 years. And I truly appreciate the fact that I have it.  

We’re very proud of what we achieved here, and extremely thankful for the support, for the kind words and for all of the True Believers we’ve met along the way.

It has been all-encompassing. It has been tough. And it has been, at times, soul-sucking exhausting. But if I had a do-over, I would do it all over again. Because even though it has been a relentless grind, I am very proud to say that we’ve made a difference and we’ve made a lasting impact. We set out to influence the influencers in this business and that is exactly what we did and will continue to do. It has been one glorious ride. 

WordGirl and I thank you for listening and, as always, thanks for reading.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth, 24 years on.

The Autoextremist. East Lansing, Michigan, March 1976.



Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG


by Editor
21 May 2023 at 12:11pm

Editor's Note: Since this site has always been about the words, Peter discusses some "meaningful" words this week. In On The Table, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a new entry-level SL, Cadillac has announced the Escalade IQ, an all-electric version of its flagship Escalade, BMW has produced a "one-off" concept for an unknown individual, and VW continues to hammer away with its all-electric ID. Buzz, a vehicle that still isn't here yet. And our AE Song of the Week is the memorable "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds. In Fumes, Part XVIII of Peter's series "The Great Races" takes us back to Riverside International Raceway for the 1964 L.A Times Grand Prix for Sports cars, which featured a "who's who" of driving talent. And finally, we have the qualifying results for next Sunday's Indianapolis 500 in The Line. Onward. -WG

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Since we’re in this giant holding pattern as we wait for the Grand Transition of our transportation fleet to begin, five words come to mind that we often use around here: It Won’t Be Long Now. In the past, these words were tossed around at auto shows by executives representing underperforming car companies as they promised that because of the new products they have coming over the next eighteen months or so, everything would get better. Alas, that wasn’t always the case for the car companies in question; in fact, it was a 50-50 proposition, at best. 

There’s no question in my mind that BEVs could suit most urban dwellers just fine, as long as they have access to home charging. But who’s kidding whom, here? The infrastructure to support the massive shift to electric vehicles just isn’t there. Yes, it is expanding by the day, but, really? We have a long, long way to go before it’s a real thing. (Hint: When you start seeing islands at your local gas stations set aside for charging, that’s when you’ll know that progress is being made on a charging infrastructure.) And let’s not forget the ugly reality of owning a BEV in colder climates. The range is reduced by half. Yes, by half. And that conjures three other words we like to use around here: Not. Very. Good.  

But, make no mistake, It Won’t Be Long Now has taken on a new meaning for the auto industry. The headlong rush into BEVs has become the quintessential quest for all involved. The VW Group, still moaning over the giant fraud it committed with its diesel emissions debacle – and the estimated $40 billion that it cost the company – is putting its full industrial might behind BEVs on a scale that has the rest of the industry shaking its head. As in, VW’s bet is such an all-in commitment that anything less than a sensational outcome could cripple the company for years to come. But undaunted, the rest of the industry is scaling up its own BEV plans as well. Every manufacturer is promising incredible BEVs that will push us into the future at a furious pace, or, It Won’t Be Long Now, on the grandest of scales.

For consumers, the premise is that if we all wait long enough the sky will be bluer and the grass will be greener, and all things will come together as planned. Except we all know that is a not going to be the case. Because the “end of this year” as some manufacturers have promised will slide into the middle (or end) of 2024 at the earliest. And that’s not all. The large majority of this coming brace of new BEVs will start arriving well into ’24 and on into ’25 and '26. So, actually, it will be a long while before we’re tripping over BEVs in this market. Wake me up in 2030 – it promises to be a blissful BEV Land by then.

There are other words roiling around in my head this morning besides our favorite five. Words that have meaning well beyond what they suggest on the surface. For instance, I’m okay, which can mean everything from yes, I’m actually okay to, I am the furthest thing from being okay. Or, the classic, I’m fine, which usually means the direct opposite, especially between significant others. And then there’s the go-to, I’m good, which encompasses a vast spectrum of feelings.

And there’s we’re taking it one day at a time. In standard sports speak this usually means substituting game for day. Yes, of course we’re taking it one day-game-series-quarter at a time. What else can the operatives in this business do? After all, what was a given yesterday may not even be a given today, let alone tomorrow. But that doesn’t prevent CEOs from waxing eloquently about how grand it’s sure to be in the EV Nirvana that’s right around the corner. Yet so far this has been a painful exercise in overpromising, while underdelivering by half. This simply isn’t sustainable, which is why even the Wall Street-types are starting to push back hard on the glowing statements being uttered by various CEOs about our EV Future. And when the Wall Street-types stop buying your shtick, then things are bound to get ugly in a hurry.

Another personal favorite? One of the classic scenes in the Steven Spielberg film Catch Me If You Can has Leonardo DiCaprio – as the young master con artist Frank Abagnale – watching an old movie where the doctors on screen weigh in on a medical diagnosis with the words, “I concur.” DiCaprio’s character then employs the same words to great effect while posing as a young doctor in Georgia. 

The words I concur are succinct and convey an instant and emphatic meaning. We use the phrase often around here; in fact, it seems to come in handy on multiple occasions. 

Is this Grand Transition really happening? Yes, it is. Does anyone really know how it’s going to shake out? Not a chance. 

"A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall," as Mr. Dylan said.

I concur.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG

by Editor
15 May 2023 at 11:20am

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Let’s face it, as consumers of all media, from a la carte apps to additional TV platforms on the Internet, we’ve become used to the financial hosing we have to put up with each and every month. Let me rephrase that: We’re not used to it at all; we just put up with it. And lately, it seems consumers are starting to push back on the concept of a la carte viewing options, finding out that the dizzying smorgasbord of opt-ins actually ends up costing more than the old cable package plus a few extra movie and sports channels.

That this isn’t sitting well with consumers is not hard to understand. We can only take so much before we get really agitated. And when it comes to getting “nickel and dimed” to death every time we turn around, it tends to instigate short fuses all around.  

Wading into this swirling maelstrom – three years too late and woefully out of touch with consumer perspectives per usual – comes the automobile industry, whose collective “Big Idea” to accelerate future profitability is to monetize just about everything that moves in your vehicle. Want heated seats? It’ll cost ya. Want a heated steering wheel? It’ll cost ya. Want advanced connectivity and the latest access to entertainment, mapping and communication? It’ll cost ya. Want your advanced performance and safety systems to be engaged and ready? Well, let’s see, that’s a package that will definitely cost ya – every damn month. Let’s just call it for what it is: Hosing on Demand.

That this is the strategy that the brainiacs in the auto industry have come up with speaks volumes. I blame it on the flawed – and deeply held – logic that suggests that our future vehicles will simply be software platforms that the auto companies can mine for data and boatloads of ca$h-ola with impunity. This concept originates from certain thought leaders (cough, hack) in the industry who have a deep-seated inferiority complex that revolves around the belief that they are second-class citizens when compared to the “geniuses” in Silicon Valley. These CEOs and COOs are so desperate for legitimacy in the larger business arena that they believe that forcing “software monetization” down consumers’ throats will give them the credibility they crave.

Have you ever wondered why every announcement about a top-level executive appointment coming out of the Detroit-based auto companies of late is an executive with Silicon Valley credentials? The “software monetization” angle is why. As for the wider spectrum of automobile companies out there, the transition to EVs has auto execs licking their chops at what they see as unlimited profitability from “software monetization.” In their collective minds it’s a sure thing-can’t miss. But something tells me that their expectations are wildly optimistic. And as if right on cue, there’s a different perspective out there that has just arrived on the scene.

Cox Automotive has released new consumer research that suggests automakers may face challenges if they expect to generate significant revenue from subscription-type features, also known as Features on Demand (FoD). The Research & Market Intelligence team at Cox Automotive understands the importance of the trend toward Features on Demand, and the new study “Software Monetization: The Emergence of Vehicle Features on Demand” is the team’s first comprehensive look at the topic.

The study was undertaken to gauge consumer awareness of automakers offering Features on Demand as part of their new-vehicle sales strategies, including the belief that FoD was likely to become a growing trend in the automotive industry. The team surveyed more than 2,000 in-market vehicle shoppers in late December and early January to determine their interest in vehicle features through subscription-type services. Additionally, the study explored the consumer benefits and barriers for FoD. 

“Our initial research indicates that the transition to Features on Demand will be an uphill battle for many automakers,” said Vanessa Ton, senior manager of market and customer research at Cox Automotive, who helped lead the research project. “In the market right now, there is low consumer awareness and some skepticism on the part of shoppers. To gain consumer acceptance, automakers must ensure consumers perceive subscription-based features as a good value and not just a money-grab.”

“Some skepticism on the part of shoppers”? I predict that skepticism will grow into a loud drumbeat against what is, as Ms. Ton suggested, a money-grab.

The Cox research also shows that, at least initially, most shoppers (58%) expect an FoD approach to be too expensive, and there are concerns about data security and privacy. Skepticism was apparent in the research, as three out of four respondents agreed with the statement, ‘Features on Demand will allow automakers to make more money’. Further, 69% of respondents indicated that if certain features were available only via subscription, they would likely shop elsewhere.

“As consumer familiarity is low, automakers will have to be careful in how they present an FoD strategy and make sure not to turn off shoppers from the start,” added Ton. “Our research suggests that free trial periods might be one way to approach the issue.”

I predict that free trial periods will not work either. Why? Because people are wary of sign-ons for features at an initial inexpensive rate, which predictably jumps to an entirely different rate after a given trial period. Have trouble keeping track of all of your various streaming services now? Just imagine trying to keep up with the menu of car features that you signed up for – at least the ones you remember anyway.

It’s obvious that manufacturer operatives have huge dollar signs in their eyes with the promise of “Software Monetization” and “Features on Demand.” And the transition to EVs is only fueling their optimistic greed. But if they can’t build EVs fast enough without catastrophic quality issues to meet – the alleged – demand, and the national and local infrastructure isn’t even close to being there, then what are we talking about here?

We’re talking about auto company CEOs and COOs making flawed assumptions about the future of profitability, fumbling their way out of the car business and stumbling deep into Software Hell, aka Hosing on Demand.

I’ve seen this movie before; it never ends well.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG

by Editor
8 May 2023 at 12:39pm

Editor's Note: Peter unloads in no uncertain terms on the current state of F1. In On The Table we wake up to realize that the Audi TT is 25 years old, and our AE Song of the Week is the riveting "Walking In Memphis" performed by Marc Cohn. In Fumes, Part XVI of Peter's series "The Great Races" marks the three pivotal races that established the Shelby American Cobra as a force to be reckoned with in American sports car racing. And finally, in case you need it, we have coverage of F1 from Miami in The Line. Onward. -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. After forcing myself to endure the Formula 1 “show” from Miami on Sunday, I was left with the sickening feeling that it was the biggest waste of time and money being shoved down car enthusiasts’ throats at the moment.

Yes, the “stars” were in abundance – and I use that term with nothing but derision – “stars” who didn’t have a clue as to why they were there other than the fact that their publicists went to great lengths to arrange for grandiose photo “ops” for their charges, because, well, it was the place to be last weekend, and if they weren’t there, it would be catastrophic! The parade of “stars” was so tedious it was flat-out embarrassing, and that was 15 minutes in to the 90-minute pre-show. Oh, and we were graced with the knowledge that “Mr. Cruise won’t allow interviews.” As if we could give a shit. I witnessed more empty vessels masquerading as “important” humans there than our esteemed representatives in Washington.

That the race promoted two stalwarts of our vacuous, so-called “culture” – crypto and Fast X – speaks volumes. Oh yes, the race. That’s what it was supposed to be all about, right? The race that was so predictable that the pre-race talk that Max Verstappen would actually have a hard time coming back from ninth starting position to challenge his Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, for the win was laughable. The Red Bull squad is so clearly and overwhelmingly superior to every other team on the grid that Verstappen could have started last and still won.

F1 boasts of its technological superiority, but all it really proves is the age-old racing adage: “How fast do you want to go? Well, how much money do you have to spend?” The powers that be in F1 are barnstorming mercenaries who wend their way around the globe extracting obscene amounts of money from everyone and everything in their path. The “show” is a sanitized and homogenized facsimile of a race weekend. Everything is orchestrated to be predictable, because heaven forbid if the F1 practitioners encounter anything untoward or unimaginably unseemly. And the disgusting display in Miami underscored all of it.

The other laughable thing about F1? The smug overlords running F1’s “greed circus” are openly stating that the idea of adding teams to its current roster of teams would dilute their financial interests too much, to the point that they are steadfastly against it. That this specifically translates to meaning that they are adamantly against the proposed American-funded teams trying to gain entry to the series speaks volumes. My interest in F1 has been declining for years. The reason I forced myself to watch the whole wretched event in Miami was to take the temperature of F1, to see if there was even a glint of hope that things were somehow getting better in some way. Well, things are not getting better for F1. In fact, things are getting appreciably worse. 

I know that there will be many racing enthusiasts out there who consider F1 to be the pinnacle of auto racing, and who will take great umbrage with what I have to say in this column. I don’t really care. I will gladly watch any INDYCAR race over just about any F1 race, the worthy exceptions being Silverstone, Spa and Monza.

One last thing. The next example of F1’s wretched excess – at least here in the U.S. – will take place in Las Vegas in October. The ticket prices, suite packages and everything else associated with this event are setting unheard of records for stratospheric pricing. The Greed Circus grinds on.

So, at the end of this discussion a giant question remains. Is the car enthusiast thing becoming a lost cause? Are we forced to accept the sanitized version of “racing” called F1? And, while we’re at it, are we really going to slink off and wait for EVs to put us out of our collective misery once and for all? Are we all – collectively – going to join the go-along-to-get-along hordes being farmed over to EVs even though serious questions remain about the plundering of raw materials, the lack of a fundamental infrastructure and the substitution of one source of power (gasoline) for another (coal)?

I don’t think so, and not by a long shot, thankfully. It doesn’t hurt to take a step back and remember the following very important points:

You have to love the car business. Well, let me rephrase that. Some of us immersed in this seething cauldron of runaway egos, shortsightedness, intermittent brilliance and, remarkably enough and against all odds, indomitable spirit, love this business. (Then again, when it comes right down to it, it depends on the day.)

We love it for the unbridled creativity demonstrated by its True Believers, who keep stepping up to the plate and swinging for the fences. We love it for the relentless 24/7 churn – and associated weariness – that it entails (even though everyone complains about it, they wouldn’t have it any other way).

We love it for the brief shining moments when an exceptional design or product advancement emerges to remind us all of what turned us on about the business in the first place, even though those moments are fleeting, at best.

But then again and truth be told, we love to loathe it too. It can’t be helped. We despise the carpetbagging mercenaries who seem to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune moments to wreak havoc on this business. Oh, you know who I’m referring to, several of whom were even present and accounted for in Miami over the weekend.

We cringe at the legions of spineless weasels that populate almost every corner of this business and the dutiful, sniveling minions who project a positive demeanor but who wallow in serial, abject mediocrity at every turn. That part of the business is always depressing and tedious, there’s no doubt.

But yet, we press on. And for good reason too.

Yes, the overhyped, overblown and overrated aspects of this business, which we loathe, aren’t going away any time soon.

But fortunately, the fundamental enthusiasm displayed by the True Believers and everyday enthusiasts alike who still like – make that love – everything to do with the automobile isn’t going away any time soon, either.

Thank goodness.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG

by Editor
1 May 2023 at 11:04am

Editor's Note: This column displays a side of Peter that few people are aware of. The edgy Autoextremist needs no introduction, of course. But this column is special. Peter's Rant takes the form of an ode to this particularly fraught time in the business. Strange days indeed. In On The Table we feature the latest from Alfa Romeo, and our AE Song of the Week is the classic "Crazy" performed by the great Patsy Cline – a song that was written by Willie Nelson, who turned 90 last week. In Fumes, Peter delivers Part XV of his riveting series "The Great Races" – this week going back to Brands Hatch, England, for the 1967 6-Hour BOAC International 500 – the last major international sports car victory for Jim Hall's famous Chaparral team. And finally, we have coverage from INDYCAR at Barber Motorsport Park; the F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the Gran Premio MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn de España, with more superb photographic work by AE Special Contributor Whit Bazemore in The Line. Enjoy! -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo


The darkness beckons at 3:00 a.m.
A cup or two or three to jump-start me
The news is weird, spinning like a top
On one side, sketchy optimism
On the other, the ugly reality
Believe your eyes, not the stories

On the way to the EV Promised Land
The bumps and grinds and promises
Are getting to be a bit too much
The Future is starry bright, if we just hang on
But '24, '25, '26?
Who has that kind of time?

Flying cars and IPOs
Takeovers in the search for more control
The bootlickers and the shallow men
Hankerin’ for another piece
Elbows out juggling empty lots
Something tells me we’ve lost the plot

It’s all happening
Everything all the time

The media goes on genuflectin’
Not even pretendin’
Why bother askin’ when no one’s watchin’?
The newly anointed King can do no wrong
Pay no attention to those flyin’ roofs
They’re just a blip on the way to sainthood

The Sturm und Drang oozes
It’s the Swirling Maelstrom writ large
The chaos is the juice, or is the juice the chaos?
Pay no attention to that PR Man Behind the Curtain
The tongue is forked, the agenda is clear
And don’t kid yourself, the chips still set the tone

The bad taste is palpable
The wait is long and debilitating
Even Godot has come and gone
But don’t worry, it won’t be long now
Wide-open promises, unlimited profits
Just don’t ask when or how

It’s all happening
Everything all the time

It’s all about the content, stupid
Leveraging everything that moves
There’s gold in them thar subscriptions
Revenue for the taking
Stop calling it a car company
It’s a tech company in the making

Forget about Old School
There’s no future in old
The sooner we get with the program
And leave the past behind
The better off we’ll be
It’s as simple as a-b-c

The Wall Street Willies call the shots
It’s all about what they’re gonna say and do
Thumbs up and the stock soars
Thumbs down and we told you so
What about the consumers?
As long as they’re payin’ their monthlies, who cares?

It’s all happening
Everything all the time

The prognosticators are having a field day
Making it up on the fly
Forget about tea leaves
Now it’s watching chip dust through an hour glass
Do they really know what’s coming?
Or are they just spewing by the by?

We’ll get it all sorted out
Or so they say
But who is “they” anyway?
What have they ever done to deserve
More than a glance and a glimpse
As we ride on by?

Batteries on the brain
Cheaper better faster
Smaller lighter longer
The ICE Era is over
Or sometime soon
It was a good long run, Baby

It’s all happening
Everything all the time

Too many promises
Too much optimism
Waiting for a trigger
So everything comes good
I’ve seen this movie before
It never ends well

The hucksters have come out of the woodwork
New companies in name only
It’s gonna be great
Until the inevitable wreck
When there’s no “there” there
What did you expect?

In the meantime, the dealers
Are hangin’ by a thread
This crisis is messin’ with their heads
They can’t sell what they don’t have
Empty lots, empty promises
Can we interest you in a ‘17 Lexus?

The darkness hovers
Just as black at 5:00 a.m.
How can that be?
And what have we learned?
Nothing new, nothing much
It’s complicated

It’s all happening
Everything all the time

And that’s the Electrified High-Octane Truth for this week.


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG

by Editor
24 Apr 2023 at 12:03pm
Editor's Note: This week, Peter reminds the industry that the EV "thing" is burdened by two critical issues, largely generated by the industry players themselves. In On The Table we remember industry giant Lloyd Reuss, and we take another look at the all-new 2023 Honda Civic Type R, some special versions of the Mercedes-Benz EQS EV, as well as a couple of Honda scooters. And our AE Song of the Week is the classic "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison. In Fumes, Peter delivers Part XIV of his popular series "The Great Races" – this week taking us back to Daytona International Speedway for the 1967 Daytona 24 Hours. And finally, we have coverage from the two-day INDYCAR test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which turned out to be just one day because of rain. And the NASCAR crash-fest from Talladega, plus another look at the superb photographic work by AE Special Contributor Whit Bazemore from the MotoGP in Austin, Texas, in The Line. Onward. -WG

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. As the Swirling Maelstrom continues around the EV “thing” and this industry’s adaptation to it, I’m afraid much is being lost in translation. Too much, to be exact.

The latest hand-wringing revolves around the whole charging thing. Let me correct that: It’s not only the latest concern, but it will remain the dominant topic for at least the next decade. To say the EV infrastructure is a work in progress is an understatement for this and frankly any other year in the history of this industry. We – meaning the business, the infrastructure and consumers – simply aren’t there yet. And we’re not even close to meeting the infrastructure requirements for the EVs scheduled to hit the market in the next eighteen months, let alone the torrent of vehicles coming in ’25, ’26 and ’27.

The horror stories about the ramshackle EV charging “network” in this country seem to be growing exponentially by the day. Take your pick: Charging stations in poorly lit and/or unsafe locations. Charging stations that either aren’t working to capacity or aren’t working at all. Charging stations that are not only too far off the beaten path, but once you get there, again, they’re not working.

Yes, people with homes can charge easily enough (well, sort of, depending on the system -WG), but apartment dwellers are forced to endure all of the above just to get enough juice for the week. This seems to be the unending Shit Show facing this business right now, and there are no quick fixes either. It’s obvious that the companies involved in establishing charging networks were big on the potential profits – and lousy on the execution and the concept of maintaining the charge points. Ongoing and consistent maintenance of the existing charge points would be a huge step in the right direction, but judging by the current shape of the charging networks scattered around the country it is not the priority it needs to be and should be. (And no, that certain EV automaker previously headquartered in California and now located in Austin, Texas, is not immune to problems with its homegrown charging network either.)

I should point out the other dimension to this whole charging thing and that is that there’s an attitude “out there” among the EV cognoscenti that suggests that consumers should be prepared to alter their thinking about road trips and get used to the idea of 20-minute – minimum – stops for recharging on the road.

I’m sorry, but WTF? I don’t care what kind of EV charging “oasis” with shopping, entertainment, food, coffee and whatever other accoutrements associated with ideal road tripping is created, let me make this perfectly clear: consumers will not put up with 20-minute charging as a matter of course in their EV travels. The fact that there are prevailing thoughts among EV acolytes in this industry that this should somehow be acceptable and “the cost of EV ownership” is wrong-headed and flat-out dumb.

I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it a thousand more times: Unless and until a consumer can pull off of a freeway and fully charge their EV in the same time it takes to fill up a current ICE vehicle with gasoline, then this whole “EV adoption” thing is going to be excruciatingly slow and play out over the next decade, not next week.

Warning to this industry: It collectively needs to adjust its attitude, not the other way around. It’s clear that there are certain factions within this industry that believe automakers will ultimately dictate EV technology to consumers – the way it’s dispensed, the way it’s packaged and the way it’s applied across the board. And they would be sorely mistaken too. 

The history of this industry is littered with companies that made assumptions only to have consumer indifference and/or earned hostility bite them severely in the ass. Any assumptions being made about what consumers will and will not do with regard to the adoption of EVs is a Fool’s Errand of gigantic proportions.

If it were my call, I would immediately halt EV technological development devoted to the “20-minute” charging time right now, and instead shift the focus to consumer-centric usability and speed.

This industry needs an attitude adjustment when it comes to the application of EV technology, and the clock is ticking...

And that’s the High-Voltage truth for this week.


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG

by Editor
17 Apr 2023 at 3:17pm

Editor's Note: This week, Peter reprises his discussion about the importance of Design, which is especially appropriate given the design atrocities from BMW and Mercedes-Maybach of late as seen in On The Table. We also take a look at the all-new 2023 Honda Civic Type R and some special versions of the Mercedes-Benz EQS EV, as well as the 2024 Porsche Cayenne and the 2024 Buick Envista in On The Table. And our AE Song of the Week features "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger. In Fumes, Peter delivers Part XIII of his popular series "The Great Races" – this week giving us a brief history of Nassau Speed Week, and why it was so important - and fun - back in the day. And finally, we have racing highlights from INDYCAR and IMSA at Long Beach, NASCAR from Martinsville and MotoGP from Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas - featuring the superb photography by AE Special Contributor Whit Bazemore - in The Line. We're on it. -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. In this conclusion of my series on Automotive Design (read Design Matters, Part I and Part II – WG), it’s clear that I place a high value on the efficacy and execution of design. It’s also no secret that I believe that design will maintain its position as the Ultimate Initial Product Differentiator going forward, in fact, even more so than ever before.

This series has generated a lot of comments from within the industry, especially – and understandably so – from the design community. I would say that the vast majority of the comments we received were positive, and that’s gratifying, because I have the utmost respect for the creative talents who work in the design houses all over the world.

As I’ve said many times before, the artisans who toil in design studios are the most influential people in the automobile business. They set the tone for brands and lead the word-of-mouth, “street look” discussions, and their visionary work can make – or break – a car company’s fortunes. It’s grueling work, too, because designers live in a particularly strange Twilight Zone where they have to dwell in the past and present, while working on a future that’s coming well down the road. That means lead designers have to present “new” designs to the media and public that have been basically “baked” three-to-five years before. Then, they go back to their respective studios to put the finishing touches on designs that will appear five years into the future.

This work requires, vision, discipline and a savagely creative mindset that is instantly graded the moment the wraps are taken off of their latest designs. It is a tough, tough profession, but when you talk to designers, most wouldn’t trade it for anything. Seeing something in concept or production form that they had a key role in creating presents a level of exhilaration that’s extremely hard to beat.

That intro was kind of a labyrinthian way of getting to my final discussion topic, which is a question that I get asked all the time: “Given everything you know (and have discussed especially these past few weeks), who’s doing design well right now?”

That’s the billion-dollar question, isn’t it? Design matters more now than at any other time in automotive history. In this 24/7, nanosecond-attention-span world we live in today, the hot “street look” of the moment captures all the attention and interest, and usually results in red-hot sales figures too. 

Exotic cars lead the discussion, but just because a car is expensive doesn’t mean its design is automatically compelling. Unless, of course we’re talking about Ferrari. The newest Ferrari – the 296 GTB – is compact, lightweight and has a taut skin that stretches over its fenders and haunches to create a damn-near perfect form. It is simply extraordinary from every angle, and it is the definitive supercar of the moment.


The 2022 Ferrari 296 GTB.




But you’re probably saying, that’s Ferrari, we expect a Ferrari to have jaw-dropping street presence and compelling design. Fair point, but I can also mention several exotics that have little to no appeal at all. We’ll skip that for now, however.

When I consider contemporary design, I am going to leave pickups, SUVs and crossovers out of the discussion. I am just not interested, and even though they are the overwhelming choice in the mainstream market, they bring nothing to the design table. At all. The exception being the Cadillac Lyriq, which is arriving in showrooms now. It is compelling design that satisfies from all angles.


That word “mainstream” is key. It’s one thing to do provocative concepts that shine under the auto show lights, but it’s quite another to bring those high-concept executions to the street. Bill Mitchell, the exceptional design legend who inherited the mantle from Harley Earl and propelled GM to incredible heights during the company’s heyday (1957-1977), specialized in bringing concept car looks to the streets and byways of mainstream America. It was a 20-year period unrivaled in automotive history, in fact. No one did it better, and no one influenced contemporary automotive design quite like Bill Mitchell did. The 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer; 1963 Corvette Sting Ray; the Mako Shark concepts; the Corvair Monza GT and SS concepts; the 1963 Buick Riviera (although I prefer the ’65), the Oldsmobile Toronado; the Cadillac Eldorado; the Chevrolet Camaro; the Pontiac Firebird, Grand Prix and GTO; and the list goes on and on. 


Bill Mitchell and the 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer.


The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.


The 1963 Buick Riviera.


The 1961 Corvette Mako Shark I and 1965 Corvette Mako Shark II.

And when I think of Mitchell and his thoughts on design, and his absolute belief in bringing the “good stuff” to mainstream America, I believe there is one contemporary car that would meet with his approval, and that is the Cadillac Celestiq (images below). Yes, it is super pricey (at around $300,000), but after this machine appeared as a concept last year, it is now due to be built at the end of this year pretty much untouched and intact, and I believe it will resonate with people like few machines have in the last 25 years. Why? It is fluid and expressive, its surface detailing is impressive and its overall form is flat-out gorgeous. I would argue that no mainstream contemporary car manufacturer stuck to its guns like GM Design has with the Cadillac Celestiq. There are no design shortcuts on the Celestiq. GM Design executed it with passion and the result is simply spectacular. The street presence of the Cadillac Celestiq will be unmistakable. Mitchell would have been pleased.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

(GM Design Images)
The 2024 Cadillac Celestiq.


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG


by Editor
10 Apr 2023 at 1:14pm

Editor's Note: Last week, Peter talked about the issue of Fundamental Affordability that's overwhelming this business in "The Wrong Road." This week, Peter addresses the precarious nature of the technological storm we find ourselves living in today, and how one car company in particular has been egregiously flouting the rules while invading our privacy. In On The Table, we have a brief look at the new Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid and a continued look at the all-new, all-electric 2025 Ram 1500 REV – a vehicle boasting promises that we doubt Stellantis can keep. We also remind our readers of the 75 years of Porsche celebration at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Our AE Song of the Week features a memorable song by Tears for Fears - "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." In Fumes, Peter delivers Part XII of his popular series "The Great Races" – this week covering the entire 1970 Trans-Am Series, when the "Pony Car" wars were fought in the showrooms and on North America's finest road racing tracks. And finally, we remember one of the OG's of Speed, Craig Breedlove, plus results from the NASCAR dirt race at Bristol in The Line. Onward. -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo


Welcome to your life
There's no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you

Those are the opening words from the song “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by the group Tears for Fears. It’s our AE Song of the Week featured in “On The Table” and it’s especially appropriate for what’s happening today. That there’s growing concern “out there” in the real world about where this hyper technology immersion we’ve been living with for more than a decade is taking us should be no surprise. 

It’s constant. It’s overwhelming. It’s invasive. And it’s debilitating. That we’ve all become addicted to it should be no surprise either. With each latest “breakthrough” in our ability to exploit our current communication platforms – or whatever the “next” platform is – we’re all being sucked further down the rabbit hole. And I’m quite sure with each so-called “improvement” we’re losing our grip on what’s real, what’s valuable and what, in fact, is actually worth it.

Yes, the benefits of this technology immersion have been notable too. To discount that is simply not being realistic. In many respects, our lives have been radically improved, but I believe we are reaching the limit of the efficacy of this technological explosion. 

I’m arriving at the subject of this column because of something that has emerged in the last week. As reported in The Guardian, it has been revealed that, according to ex-Tesla employees, denizens of that car company regularly shared ‘intimate’ car camera images gleaned from customers’ on-board cameras, in what is being called ‘a massive invasion of privacy.’

The Guardian continued:  

Tesla assures its millions of electric car owners that their privacy “is and will always be enormously important to us”. The cameras it builds into vehicles to assist driving, it notes on its website, are “designed from the ground up to protect your privacy.”

But between 2019 and 2022, groups of Tesla employees privately shared via an internal messaging system sometimes highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras, according to interviews by Reuters with nine former employees.

Some of the recordings caught Tesla customers in embarrassing situations. One ex-employee described a video of a man approaching a vehicle completely naked.

Also shared: crashes and road-rage incidents. One crash video in 2021 showed a Tesla driving at high speed in a residential area hitting a child riding a bike, according to another ex-employee. The child flew in one direction, the bike in another. The video spread around a Tesla office in San Mateo, California, via private one-on-one chats, “like wildfire”, the ex-employee said.

Other images were more mundane, such as pictures of dogs and funny road signs that employees made into memes by embellishing them with amusing captions or commentary, before posting them in private group chats. While some postings were only shared between two employees, others could be seen by scores of them, according to several ex-employees.

Tesla states in its online customer privacy notice that its “camera recordings remain anonymous and are not linked to you or your vehicle”. But seven former employees told Reuters the computer program they used at work could show the location of recordings, which potentially could reveal where a Tesla owner lived.

One ex-employee also said that some recordings appeared to have been made when cars were parked and turned off. Several years ago, Tesla would receive video recordings from its vehicles even when they were off, if owners gave consent. It has since stopped doing so.

“We could see inside people’s garages and their private properties,” said another former employee. “Let’s say that a Tesla customer had something in their garage that was distinctive, you know, people would post those kinds of things.”

Tesla didn’t respond to detailed questions sent to the company for this report.

Am I shocked that this was going on? No. When human beings are involved in the application or the digestion of technology, human nature and human failings always become a factor.

Am I shocked that this happened at Tesla? Not in the least. Fueled by the most unprincipled leader in all of American business, a person who has regularly thumbed his nose at laws, restrictions and safeguards designed to rein in technology and/or bad behavior, we’re talking about a company that has functioned as a corporate outlaw from the very beginning. 

The fact that this company has consistently promoted its “Full Self Driving” option when, in fact, it didn’t even approach the capabilities promised, is unacceptable. And the fact that they charged $10,000 for it is even worse. But the most egregious thing this company did was to enlist its owners – some of whom were unwitting participants – into doing so-called “beta” testing of the fundamentally unproven option out in the real world. And it is beyond unconscionable. This is no laughing matter, either. Because whether blind consumer belief in St. Elon’s Big Lie about “FSD” or out of sheer personal stupidity and/or irresponsibility, people actually died while engaging this technology. There’s a reason Tesla is now under the gun from NHTSA for this despicable behavior, and as I have stated before, I expect the company to pay a heavy price – running into the billions of dollars – for operating with the integrity of a scofflaw. 

So again, reading that some Tesla employees found amusement in eavesdropping on the personal lives of its customers through the onboard camera systems on Teslas is no surprise. But I would like to point out that if, let’s say, a domestic automaker did anything even approaching this behavior, you can be sure that company would be hauled before Congress for a public whipping, humiliation and “consequences.”

But there have never been any real consequences for Musk’s car company, and that’s the point here. The fact that Tesla has operated outside the bounds of respectability since Day One has been well-documented. It has accumulated a long list of incidents of corporate malfeasance, but it has managed to escape serious consequences because of a combination of Messianic fervor from Muskian devotees blind to the underlying bad behavior at work, to Wall Street-types who have consistently ignored the ugly realities being deployed by the company in order to hyper-inflate its stock price and capitalize on it.

This car company is made in the image of one of its co-founders – someone who is decidedly lacking in character, someone who believes he is smarter than everyone else and needn’t be bothered with conforming to the “mundane” laws that guide mere mortals. In other words, it is a full-blown Muskian Nightmare. And it’s a pathetic commentary about where we are today in terms of this technological imperative that is consuming us on a daily basis. That we’ve probably reached the point of no return with all of it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

But still, it’s not very good, is it?

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.



Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG

by Editor
3 Apr 2023 at 12:15pm
Editor's Note: This week, Peter hammers on one of his favorite topics about this business: Fundamental Affordability. A question that manufacturers refuse to address. In On The Table, we take a look at the all-new, all-electric 2025 Ram 1500 REV. We also preview the celebration of 75 years of Porsche at the Petersen Automotive Museum, and we learn about the new Genesis GV80 Coupe Concept. We also feature the BMW M2 and share some news from GM's BrightDrop. And we take another look at Cadillac's custom ordering facility for the Celestiq. Our AE Song of the Week features a wonderful collaboration between Pink and Nate Ruess. In Fumes, Peter continues with Part XI of his popular series "The Great Races" – this week taking us back to the 1967 Road America Can-Am, the series' debut at the legendary racetrack. And finally, we have results from INDYCAR in Texas, F1 in Australia, MotoGP in Argentina, NASCAR in Richmond, and the return of the Brabham BMW B52 Turbo to Goodwood, all in The Line. Enjoy! -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Now that the average price of a new car is approaching $50,000 – yes, you read that correctly – I have to ask the obvious question to the auto manufacturers and their dealers: What the hell is everyone thinking? 

Do you actually think this is sustainable going forward? I know the manufacturers and their dealers discovered the proverbial pot ‘o gold at the end of the rainbow during the pandemic era through to the present day. Meaning, they figured out they could completely walk away from the old – and costly – floor-planning model supporting huge parking lots of inventory in favor of switching the consumer mindset from “walk around the lot and see what you like” to “you better give us a deposit now, or there’s somebody right behind you on the list.” In other words, take it or leave it.

Talk about a target-rich environment. Price dickering became a thing of the past, as consumers were forced to pay sticker, at least. And the unfortunate “first-on-the-block” types willingly paid huge amounts of ca$h-ola over sticker. And in case you’re wondering, it’s still going on.

Walk through any dealer showroom today and the answer to your questions will probably play out like this:

Consumer: “I’m interested in that BelchFire SuperSUV. What can you tell me about it? I don’t see any on your lot and you have just the one really loaded one on your showroom floor.”

Salesperson: “Yes, you have excellent taste. It’s a very desirable and popular vehicle. We have a few coming in, so we can put you on the list. We don’t really know when they’ll arrive and we have many people already on the list.”

C: “You don’t know when one will arrive?” 

S: “We get a few in every week, but since there are seventeen people ahead of you on the list, I really I can’t say when you can expect one to get here. Maybe in a couple of months. We know the colors and equipment of the ones coming in, so, if you would like to give us a $2500 deposit today, we can get you on the list…” 

C: “What about the one on the showroom floor?”

S: “Well, yes, that’s a beautiful one. It’s completely loaded and stickers for $65,000.” 

C: “Well, it’s the color I want, so…”

S: “I need to tell you that the sticker is $65,000, but we add a ‘market adjustment’ to the sticker price.”

C: “Really? How much additional is the ‘market adjustment’?”

S: “It’s $7500.”

C: “You’re joking, right?”

S: “No, we’re definitely not. Would you like to take that one?”

C: “Uh, no, definitely not. And now I’m not interested in getting on one of your lists, either.”

But this is just one dimension to the current pricing environment in the automobile business. The other is the pure and simple fact that cars and trucks are just getting too damn expensive for a large swath of the consumer buying public. The average car payment has gone from around $500/month just three years ago to approaching $700/month today. And, as I’m sure you’ve seen the articles in mainstream publications, $1,000/month payments are becoming far too common.

Ding, ding, ding! What part of “not sustainable” do the players in this business not understand? Do they think consumers will keep showing up in showrooms cheerfully muttering, “Thank you sir, may have another?” 

I’ll answer that one for you: How about no? 

I have praised the Ford Motor Company repeatedly for the pricing and product strategy of the Maverick pickup truck in past issues of AE. Forget about the F-150 Lightning and the Mach-E because the Maverick is, in my estimation, the most desirable – and significant – of all of Ford’s offerings. The base price on the current Maverick XL is $22,595. I priced a top-line Maverick Lariat with the hybrid powertrain as I was writing my column, and I came up with a price – with options including the Luxury package – of $35,855.

To me, that’s an acceptable price point, but, as you might imagine, it’s like finding a ghost in the marketplace. Ford completely misjudged the potential of the Maverick. In other words, building them is an issue – as with everything Ford tries to bring to market – and finding them at dealers is even more of an issue. 

So, there’s that. Add the coming “EV Transition” to the current sales environment and you can multiply the badness exponentially. Yes, I’ve been assured that “affordable” EVs are on the way, but the manufacturers’ idea of “affordable” and the reality for consumers are too vastly different concepts.

Show me a manufacturer who creates a well-equipped and desirable EV with at least a 200-mile range – with the emphasis on well-equipped and desirable inside and out – for less than $30,000, all-in, and I’ll show you a winning combination in the marketplace.

The rest of the chatter is just so much noise. 

My point is that this industry is headed down the wrong road. I don’t care what the demographics/wealth statistics say, people are going to stop showing up in showrooms en masse, and one day the manufacturers are going to wake-up and say, “What happened?” Let me correct that, it will be more like “Waaaahhh happened?” 

And the sound of moaning, groaning, whining and "Woe is me" will be deafening.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG

by Editor
27 Mar 2023 at 2:02pm

Editor's Note: This week, Peter reminds us of just how far this business has fallen from its glory days. In On The Table, the Camaro fades from view - for now - and Dodge waves its freak flag high one last time. And Peter features one of the most brilliant singer/songwriters of all-time – Laura Nyro – in our AE Song of the Week. In Fumes, Peter continues with Part X of his popular series "The Great Races" – this week taking us back to the 1964 Road America 500 sports car race. And finally, we have results from the first MotoGP of the year in Portugal, Whit Bazemore returns with his evocative take on what's wrong with MotoGP right now, and we highlight NASCAR's visit to Circuit of the Americas, all in The Line. Onward. -WG


By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. A long time ago in an auto business far, far away, things were actually quite different than they are today. As in, 180 degrees different. Confident, seasoned executives roamed the earth with one overriding mission: to create truly great cars and trucks while doing it with a swagger that left mediocrity right where it belonged – like a house of regret on the side of the road.

Decisiveness was part and parcel of the standard operating procedure, from styling (now “Design”) and engineering, to product development, manufacturing, marketing and sales. It was go hard all the time, because anything less just wouldn’t cut it. Hesitation wasn’t part of the equation and wafflers didn’t last long. This was probably due to the fact that the annual product change was so all-consuming and so brutally demanding that every single automaker – at least here in the U.S. – was expected to produce “new” and “different” every fall. How they accomplished what they did still boggles the mind. Mild “refreshes” – which are so common in today’s world – just wouldn’t cut it back then. And frankly, we were all the richer for it. Yes, as I’ve said it many times before, it was a different time and a different era.

In what other time period could it have happened that the great engineer Bill Collins (who passed away just recently) told John DeLorean that they could stuff a V8 into the “mid-size” Pontiac Tempest body and make a screamer out of it. DeLorean did green-light the project and then promptly took credit for it in order to accelerate his career at GM (it worked, as John Z. was a relentless self-promoter), but it was Collins who was the true father of the now-legendary GTO. In order to make it happen, it was called an option package to avoid undue scrutiny from the No Fun League down on the 14th Floor at GM headquarters. That worked, too, because by the time the suits found out what was going on, the GTO was a spectacular, runaway sales success, and no one dared screw up a good thing. (Even GM’s fabled bean counters could be pragmatic when need be.) The point being that True Believers even back then took action when presented an opportunity. 

Now? Yes, in GM’s case the True Believers still make decisive commitments to building the best that they can build (See Corvette, Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwings, Cadillac Celestiq and Lyriq EVs), but generally, the “biz” is mired in compromised mediocrity. Much of it is brought on by an oppressive environment dictated by Wall Street-types and “activist” board members who insist that they only have the best interests of these companies in mind, when in fact they have a brace of hidden agendas all their own. Back when the auto business was firing on all cylinders, so-called “qualified” board members who brought their own hidden agendas to the table to the detriment of all concerned were a non-factor. No one had the time or the inclination to indulge their whims, so they were rooted out and marginalized. Or, they never got near a board to begin with.

And back in the day, the business wasn’t subject to flash-in-the-pan wannabe “executives” who stumbled around, careening from one instant solution to the next, only to find out that what they deemed the “future” didn’t really work all that well either. Those shiny happy executives who are wandering around in today’s world wouldn’t last a quarter back when it really mattered. No one had time for that kind of executive back then. In fact, that kind of executive wouldn’t even get a whiff of a top job. Throw in the misguided bleating from knee-jerk politicians in search of a sound bite, eager to share their “concerns” about a subject matter they know absolutely nothing about, and you have a recipe for unmitigated disaster. (In case you’re wondering, knee-jerk politicians with a limited mental capacity to understand anything certainly isn’t a contemporary phenomenon; they’ve been an ugly reality of corporate America – and life – since Day One.)

I reserve particular ire, of course, for the legions of dimwits weighing-in on marketing and advertising campaigns that they’re singularly unqualified to comment on, let alone have real input affecting multi-million-dollar marketing and advertising campaigns. Yes, there are contemporary advertising campaigns worthy of praise and honor. But I defy anyone to show me anything that holds up to the monumentally influential advertising campaigns for Pontiac back in that GM division’s heyday. Some have mentioned the Dodge muscle car work as worthy of that status, but I beg to differ. Some of the Dodge stuff is worthy, but it only scratches the surface of that brilliant Pontiac work.

So, somewhere over the decades this industry has succumbed to the swirling maelstrom of shit that defines the business today.

Decisiveness is too often delayed by middling compromise.

Brilliance is being constantly tempered and downgraded by the winds of the “acceptably appropriate.”

Bold advertising and marketing strokes are relentlessly watered down and corroded in order to appease constituencies that should not matter. 

That shoulda-coulda-woulda regrets and excuses have come to dominate this business in the throes of the EV “revolution” does not bode well for our driving future. 

Where are we now? 

This business is too often lost in mediocrity. Not always, but just enough to make one look off to the horizon and wistfully wish things were different. 

I’ve lived through the heyday of the auto business. Will we see the likes of those glory days again? 

Short answer? No. 

It’s a different time and a different era, one totally devoid of the exuberance, optimism and unbridled, swashbuckling excitement that defined this industry’s greatest, high-flying period.

I just hope there are enough superlatives left to look forward to.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

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