Five questions we're asking auto execs at the start of 2011. What are yours?
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.
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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