• Jan 3, 2011
The Detroit Auto Show is coming up. After that, we go to the Chicago Auto Show. Then New York and maybe Geneva. We are going to hob-knob with most of the auto industry titans: CEOs, Design Chiefs, Product Development Bosses.

We will be at dinners, group interviews, one-on-one interviews and members of the media will have time "on the sidelines" with these decision makers, sometimes without their pubic relations handlers listening in, trying to keep their bosses from making a headline.

I have a handful of questions for companies and executives I plan to ask. And the rest of the Autoblog staff is jotting up their notebooks with interview appointments and questions they want to ask. But how about you, dear readers, chiming in with yours? We'll do our best to get them answered.

My Questions:

1. For Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn: Why all the rhetoric on sales goals? You want one million VWs and Audis sold in North America by 2018. Why? How about getting quality ratings going in the right direction first? VW quality scores have actually fallen in the last two years. Shouldn't quality be "Job One," to quote an old Ford ad slogan? Making it so much about sales seems like a recipe for driving the entire organization toward the wrong goal. Take care of quality and pricing, and sales will take care of themselves.

2. For Honda Motor CEO Takanobu Ito: When is Honda going to re-assert leadership in powertrains? I can still feel what a CVCC engine was like to drive. I can close my eyes and remember the beautiful gearbox on the manual transmission. We just aren't seeing this sort of leadership from Honda anymore, at least not in the U.S.

Are you serious about hybrids or not? The Accord Hybrid was a "non-starter." And the new Insight is a yawn, even for a hybrid. Are you serious about EVS, or not? You said you were going to bring a diesel engine – your wonderful diesel sold in Europe – to the States, only to kill the idea. I would suggest that there is no sound business case to be made for General Motors bringing out the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric. But the fact that it did shows that the company is seizing a leadership position trying to change the story about how we drive.

And your design department? Have you looked around a Honda showroom lately? The Ridgeline is a bust. The Element was close to a bust. The CR-Z is a puzzle whose early sales suggest it's a bust, too. I can't find any reason to tell someone they should put it on their list. The Accord Crosstour is not awful, but that's the best I can say. Yes, you own the subcompact crossover market with the CR-V. The Accord is the Accord. The Civic remains strong, but we want a five-door variant back in the showroom. The Odyssey is a pleasure among minivans. But there some big misses here for every hit you turn out.

But most of all, we want something from Honda we can get psyched about. What do you have to say?

Click through to the jump
for more questions.

3. For GM CEO Daniel Ackerson: Sure you sold a whole flock of Volts to General Electric. But these cars need to sell to the public. What's your gameplan if Volts don't sell well...if the order bank isn't as deep as you think? Will it be a failure of the idea, or the execution by Chevy? Is there anything more automakers can get from Washington as far as policy or added incentives to get these cars established?

4. For Mitsubishi Motors President Osamu Masuk: What gives? I've lost the plot with your company in North America. Mitsubishi has become the new Isuzu. Sales are non-existent. Dealers have to be bleeding. Can you explain to us the plan for North America? I have driven a few of the new vehicles, and I remain hard-pressed to find anything that I would tell a friend about why they should check out the Galant or Outlander when they are shopping for a new vehicle. Maybe if the Mitsubishi is $5,000 less than comparable Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford or Chevy, I would tell someone to check it out, but I would still be wary of the treatment anyone gets at a Mitsubishi dealer these days, not to mention the eventual resale value. Tel us what the story is.

5. For BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer: The X6 and then 5 Series GT. Now front-drive BMWs. And the "Joy" ad campaign. I feel like BMW, similar to VW, may be overly preoccupied with sales growth without proper consideration to honoring the brand equity you have in the BMW marque. We mostly love the 3 Series and the 5 Series. The 1 Series? Yup. But BMW seems like a brand that is trying to stretch, but at the same time I wonder if focus is being lost. Share your thoughts.

We don't want to give up all my questions for the executives we will talk with. But if you readers want to add some questions here in Comments, we'll do our best to get some of them answered at the first couple of auto shows we attend.


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  • 127 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      For Subaru: why did your cars get so boring? Where's the turbo wagon? The manual transmissions? Four speed automatics? Are you serious?



        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh, and for GM: WTF happened with the G8? I want a Commodore Sportwagon. Manual. Thanks.
      • 4 Years Ago
      @Honda "The Civic remains strong, but we want a five-door variant back in the showroom."
      We also want wishbones on all four corners, like they were in the 90s models, a new Type-R, and Acura to go RWD. Of those three, fully independent wishbones would be a start.

      Have you considered sacking all of the car guys and letting motorcycle guys take over, since they still create exciting products?

      Aren't you the company that used to make the Integra Type-R, NSX, S2000, and Prelude Si/Type SH? What happened?

      How much longer do you expect to remain independent? Who would you like to get acquired by and why?

      @Nissan
      Why don't we have a Silvia/240SX successor?

      How can you produce the 370Z and GT-R, yet mess up the Sentra SE-R? How are you going to get the SE-R back to it's 1993 high water mark?

      How big of a mistake was the Renault merger?

      @GM
      When are you going to race the Volt technology?

      When are we going to see the light truck diesel that was killed before the bankruptcy again, and what about the Cadillac V8 that met the same fate?

      @Subaru
      Why is there no turbo flat 6 in the Legacy?

      What is in the future for the Subaru AWD system? Torque vectoring?

      What's next, as far as racing goes?

      Are there plans for a Subaru competitor to the Fit, Yaris, and Mazda 2? Maybe like the Subaru R1/R2 with a 1.8L turbo boxer and AWD?
      • 4 Years Ago
      For Mazda-

      Will you please build a production Shinari?
      • 4 Years Ago
      SAAB?!
      • 4 Years Ago
      To Honda:
      What happened to your MPG and technical supremacy? Why is the Accord only 2nd best MPG in the market and only after Hyundai released their Sonata?
      Why no Diesel in the US?
      Why do you insist copying Toyota in a bad way?
      Why needlessly bigger Accord?
      Why are you always behind in transmission?
      Why Accura is so fugly?
      Why all these doomed to fail, sub-par models (CR-Z, new Insight, Ridgeline)?
      How can you sell a 25MPG and fugly Crosstour?

      To Subaru:
      When will you retire your 4AT?
      When will you retire your 20 years old EJ boxer?
      When will you learn how to make fuel efficient turbos?
      When will you loose the fugly 'park bench' spoiler and horrible sound?
      • 4 Years Ago
      The fact that you typod "Pubic" instead of "Public" not once, but TWICE in this article made my day.
      • 4 Years Ago
      To Acura and Lincoln:

      Why did you insist in selling us overpriced and rebadged Hondas and Fords?

      when will you make your cars RWD?

      Finally: STOP with the mega grilles!!!
      • 4 Years Ago

      Thanks for putting VW at the top of the list. But you forgot to mention the Lame-ness of 'American market' designs that look like Toyotas. Too, Maybe we should mention that the way into American hearts is not just reasonable quality at a reasonable price, but the impression that the Brand ACTUALLY CARES about the consumer. For VW, everyone knows what they were and now they know what they are trying to do - with a product that comes across as cheaper, where's the value? Dah.

      Thanks too for bringing up the quality issue - not necessarily an issue I've had with mine; I have an excellent mechanic that knows VWs and is actually called by dealers - but I've heard the horror stories from people that take them to dealers. Years ago, VW would actually bring over their own mechanics to train the dealer mechanics. I'm not sure, but I don't think VW is directly involved that way any longer. Still, the dealership service has it's reputation - But hey, we're just slow brained Americans who don't know anything...right VW?........U no, stewpud?
      • 4 Years Ago
      To the Domestics:

      Can you make cars that people really want to buy and stop relying on fleet sales and government intervention to artificially boost your numbers? Some progress has been made but hype about a car doesn't necessarily translate into sales, Ford Fiesta.

      Can you show us some honest accounting books instead of ones that make Harry Potter look like a work of nonfiction?

      Can you stop using 100 different types of bolts and screws because different UAW plants are contracted to use different parts form different suppliers? Seriously I can nearly take apart my entire Mitsubishi with a phillips screwdriver and a 10mm socket.

      Can we stop pretending that changing the lights, adding a badge, and some leatherette seats to a $25,000 car makes it a $45,000 car? Lincoln and Cadillac.

      Can we as American taxpayers say FU to paying for the UAW pensions and healthcare instead of being forced to pay because of a bailout we didn't vote for?
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Can we stop pretending that changing the lights, adding a badge, and some leatherette seats to a $25,000 car makes it a $45,000 car? Lincoln and Cadillac."

        Which Cadillac cars fit this bill? I see multiple Lincolns (if you include grille), but not any Cadillacs.
      • 4 Years Ago
      My one word question for Ford......Ranger? was a sarcastic way of telling Ford there are a whole lot of us who want a new Ranger. We don't want a larger Ranger. We don't want a F150 rebadged as a Ranger. The smallest, stripped down F150 is still too large. I'm well aware of Ford not building the Ranger anymore.
      • 4 Years Ago
      All of your questions are pretty mean spirited and tactless. I would be surprised if you got a decent answer to any of them. Here are the questions I would ask:

      Ford: Any plans to sell diesel Fiesta/Focus in the US? Any chance for a Focus SVT?
      GM: What are your plans for the Voltec system BEYOND the Volt itself?
      Chrysler: Diesel Wrangler? Pentastar V6 for 1/2 ton Rams?
      Toyota: Any significant plans for the Tacoma/Tundra?
      Honda: Where's the sport? Why nothing beyond the tepid Civic Si?
      Nissan: What was the reason behind developing the Juke?
      Hyundai: When are you going to make cars that DON'T look like they've already been wrecked? (I kid)
      BMW: What is your brand development strategy for Mini?
      Mercedes: What are your plans for Smart in the US?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Regarding question #1:

      I'm a bit of a VW enthusiast as well and have owned 2 in the past, an MKII GTi, and an MKIV Jetta.

      It concerns me that they're looking for sales growth over quality, and that keeps me a customer of Subaru for the time being. VW is looking to be the new GM, who was passed by Toyota, and we both know where those two ended up. I fear the same for VW. But, that's just the car business. It's never about quality. It's about features... media reviews... initial quality reviews (which are a load of crap)... and SuperBowl commercials. I wish them luck, but wish they were more focused.
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