• Jan 20, 2011
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne answering questions – Click above to read more

We told Autoblog readers that we had a few questions for auto executives at the North American International Auto Show that we would be asking. We did get to ask most of our questions, but even better, we got to ask a bunch of questions that you, our readers had.

We didn't get to all of them, but we are going to do our best via follow-up email, as well as the upcoming Washington DC and Chicago auto shows. Stay tuned for another column where we tackle even more of your questions. This is just Part One.

Q: Can we get a diesel Jeep Wrangler?
A: Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said a diesel is very desirable in the Wrangler and a distinct possibility. There is demand for it. Other Chrysler execs even told Autoblog there is a business case trying to be made. Stay tuned.

Q: How about a Focus SVT?
A: You got it. Except it's called the Focus ST, like in Europe. Ford decided it should have one nomenclature worldwide.

Q: Ford Global rear-drive platform for a Lincoln luxury car?
A: Chief marketer James Farley says he doesn't believe that Lincoln really needs an up-market luxury car to thrive. He says the heart of the luxury market going forward is $30,000-$50,000. More important than an up-market rear-wheel-drive sports car is the entry level Lincoln being developed off the Focus platform. That will be pieced under the new MKZ, which will have a design distinct from the next Fusion.

Continue reading for more answers.

[Image: Bill Pugliano/Getty]

Q: How about a B car from Subaru?
A: Subaru chief Tom Doll says that it would be nice to have, but he notes that Subaru is going to tackle fuel economy with innovative engine technology and design when the new Impreza arrives, scoring around 35 mpg even with the company's all-wheel-drive system.

Q: Any chance mid-sized trucks will stage a comeback to cope with higher fuel economy needs?
A: Not much. Certainly not body-on-frame mid-sized trucks. The Ford Ranger is going away. The Dodge Dakota is going away, according to Chrysler's Marchionne. To compensate, Jeep will have a Wrangler with a flat-bed. And here is an idea we heard kicked around – a new Explorer Sport Trac built off the new Explorer. If it comes to pass, look for the bed design to be a bit more utilitarian than the old one. And Ford's Farley says the company is looking at derivatives of the Transit Connect. Maybe even one that has an open bed.

Q: Why no American muscle cars in Europe except through the gray market?
A: GM President Mark Reuss says the company has a lot of priorities, but that isn't one of them. He thinks the market is too small to make the investment. Ditto when we asked Ford's Jim Farley.

Q: Why no six-speed transmission in Subarus?
A: Subaru marketing chief Tim Mahoney says that the company has not seen a need for the investment yet. But Subaru is always very cagey. We'd be shocked if it didn't turn up in the new Impreza. It's hard to imagine they can get the 35 mpg in the Impreza they say is coming without it.

Q: Can we get a hatchback Civic?
A: Not from what we could tell. Honda seems content to handle its hatchback demand with the Fit.

Q: [We finally caught up with Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn. He can be notoriously tough for a U.S. journalist to access. But we button-holed him at the Audi stand without a PR representative] Why is it so important to remind us all the time about this sales goal of one million VWs and Audis in the U.S. by 2018. Why not focus on improving quality, which has been going in the wrong direction the last two years. And this goal of being number-one in the world? Have you learned anything from watching GM and Toyota?
A: Winterkorn: "We have four goals – To sell 10 million vehicles a year by 2018. Earn more than 8%. Have the best team in the industry. Be #1 in quality." So, yes. Leading in quality is the last of four goals. The VW CEO is certainly dug in, and convinced this constant reminder of the sales goals, in virtually every speech, is the right way to go. Of course, even with his recent contract extension, he will be handing off the meeting of that goal to the next CEO to complete.

Q: How about that "Joy" campaign at BMW?
A: BMW U.S. chief Jim O'Donnell told us the Joy campaign is going to become "less visible" very soon.

Q: "When are we going to see an AWD Fiesta or Focus to back up Ford's recent US Rally push? Also, can we get a 3-door Fiesta or a Mustang-based wagon?"
A: Not a big market for three-door Fiesta, says Ford's Jim Farley. No shot for Mustang wagon. Ford execs were cagier about AWD for Fiesta or Focus, though Focus would be the more likely to eventually have it as an option.

Q: For Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne: "How in the world are you going to avoid the mistakes that have plagued Chrysler mergers and major-stake adventures of the past? Moreover, what concrete steps have you taken, and will continue to take to ensure higher quality vehicles with better design that are competitive with a market that is constantly evolving?"
A: Marchionne says that they are investing big in quality improvements. As one of the Autobloggers who has driven all the recently redone products, I can tell you that Charger, Compass, Patriot, Challenger and to some degree the Chrysler 200 have been upgraded by leaps and bounds. The Town & Country is much better. And the Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango are both very good, good enough to be finalists for North American truck of the Year. Marchionne says Chysler won't get traction with doubters until third-party validation from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power has a chance to materialize. That takes time.

Q: For GM CEO Daniel Ackerson: Where's my money?
A: We didn't have a chance to ask Akerson directly. But I did see him at the GM Holiday party before I wrote the previous column. I might extrapolate from our chat about GM's IPO that had you bought some GM stock when it was issued in November, you would be making money now. Ironically enough, Akerson, a self-described hardcore Republican, probably didn't favor the bailout before he was on GM's board. He is very anxious to get rid of the government as a shareholder. But we suspect talking to GM execs that it has more to do with wanting the freedom to pay themselves much more in salary and bonuses than the government will allow at present than it does with how car buyers feel. So far, it doesn't look like consumers care one way or the other as GM sales and market share are going up.

Q: Why no VW Tiguan TDI in the U.S.?
A: Volkswagen execs tell us that the Tiguan is already suffering for being too expensive relative to the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. The diesel would add another $3,000 up-charge making it truly out of whack pricing-wise. Only VW nuts who were still buying Eurovans at the end would be tempted. And there were about 100 of those a year.

Q: For GM: When can we expect "full" product lines for Buick and Caddy?
A: Cadillac won't have new product until half way through 2012... one replacement for the Deville and STS called the XTS, plus an entry level car below the CTS called the ATS. Possible roadster after that by mid-decade. The CTS and SRX on top of that, plus hybrid versions and the Escalade. That's it for Caddy. On the Buick side, new Verano, Regal, LaCrosse and Enclave and Lucerne. Jeeez. How many Buicks do you want? The crossovers are going to be GMCs, which are sold in the same showroom.

Q: Why can't I buy a fuel efficient van with a manual transmission that is tall enough to put a motorcycle into?
A: Because you don't live in Turkey. Nobody wants a manual tranny van in the U.S. any more except you, seven auto journalists and Cheech and Chong.

Q: To Ford: The supposed reasoning behind alphanumeric "names" is to put more emphasis on the brand. Wouldn't it make sense to first have a well-defined brand strategy for Lincoln, other than re-badging Fords? How about some unique products? And why are you sticking with the MK- names.
A: From Ford's Jim Farley. The MKS and MKT are not rebadged Fords. And the MKZ replacement will have a unique design set apart from the Ford Fusion. The Focus-based Lincoln will also have a unique design. The alpha-mumerics, like them or not, are staying. Can't keep switching name strategies. Hopefully, the new Lincoln campaign launched a few months ago will be effective and we will stay with the positioning.

Q: To Audi: Why the long lag between base and S model and RS? BMW and Mercedes-Benz release their M and AMG variants almost concurrently with the base models.
A: Really? In the U.S., M and AMG models tend to come out later as well. The 1 Series M Coupe is just coming out in a few months. and was just shown at the NAIAS. In any case, Audi staggers the releases in order to keep the line fresh through the cycle. They deem it smart marketing and product management to have the performance and cabrio versions in the middle of the product cycle. Plus, if they released all the variants at once, the showrooms couldn't cope.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 74 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm concerned about James Farley's comments. I disagree with most of what he said, and feel he's less than on-track with the typical customer.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I live in PA. Just cleared a few inches of fresh powder out of my driveway this morning, matter of fact. That said, there is no shortage of RWD luxury cars around my area. Not like Ford couldn't offer an AWD version of the car as well, no? The problem is Ford has developed a full-size, FWD platform that "can" be had with AWD as an option (read: Taurus), rather than doing a RWD platform with an AWD option. Unfortunately, that does not fit well with either the enthusiast market, or the traditional high-level luxury market.
        So....IMO, this would be a great opportunity for Ford to differentiate the Lincoln line buy producing a full-size, RWD platform w/optional AWD, and keeping it as a Lincoln-only platform.
        I just feel Mr. Farley's comments are off base because it pretty much means Lincoln is going to be limited to an entry-level car only, and he seems to think that's a good idea. Hasn't Lincoln been dying on the vine long enough?
        • 3 Years Ago
        He's on-track, katshot. It snows in a largely populated area of the country. New york, New Jersey, PA, CT, MA, and many other states. We get snow. We get ice. We do not want rear wheel drive only luxury cars. The don't handle well at all in snowy and icy conditions. If Lincoln does introduce a rear wheel drive luxury sedan, it must also be all wheel drive. Some people don't seem to get that. Ford however, does get it.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Man, that Mustang wagon would have been awesome!
        • 3 Years Ago
        Kind of ironic name though, horse-wagon.

        I would like to see a nice sport sedan RWD, MT, etc from Ford. But, ain't gonna happen; most people don't care. They want gadgets.
        • 3 Years Ago
        This whole wagon fetishism is just silly. The couple dozen or so of you out there suddenly feel validated because, thanks to the internet, you now all know each other exist and form a feedback loop. The sad truth for you is that the wagon you think you want is now called a mini van. It's time to finally accept this reality.
      • 3 Years Ago
      "From Ford's Jim Farley. The MKS and MKT are not rebadged Fords."
      From Jake: Yes they are. Tell me how they aren't.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ RickyBobby: Mercury is already dead. Last one off the line was a (go figure) Gran Marquis.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @muttons: Tell me how the Ford Edge and the Lincoln MK-whatever aren't identical except for the grille & taillights.
        • 3 Years Ago
        the only car in the lincoln line up with some resemblance to its ford counterpart is the MKZ and even so, i'd say is different enough for the ordinary person to not even notice they are the same.

        not everybody is an enthusiast. most people don't notice the same doors across the two lines and focus more on the nose and tail, and those are VERY different.

        the navigator is the most similar to the ford, but people never seemed to care about badge engineering there?
        • 3 Years Ago
        You clearly haven't seen a Ford Flex and a Lincoln MKT parked next to each other.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @jeff: I really don't know (or care) which "MK"-thing is which Ford, but since you bring it up:

        Full year 2010, Lincoln sold:
        22.5k MKZ
        21.9 MKX
        14.4k MKS
        7.4k MKT

        For comparison, Ford sales were:
        219k Fusion
        119k Edge
        69k Taurus
        34k Flex

        The Flex is a dud, as everybody already knows. Without Googling them, I have no idea what the MKS or MKT even look like, and am not going to bother. The MKS and MKT are sales anyways disasters. Interesting side note that the MKZ has half the upsell rate (1/10) of it's MK-whatnot equivalents (1/5).

        What I *do* see are the Edge and the MK-Edge. And it appears that those CUVs have *identical* cut lines to swap exterior body panels back and forth without any problem. I think the Fusion and MK-Fusion are similarly identical with swappable body panels. As these are the big sellers, don't you think that these are more important?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Oh, yeah, chroming mirrors / door handles / tacking on an extra Lincoln badge don't count...
        • 3 Years Ago
        @johnh

        JohnH says, "Without Googling them, I have no idea what the MKS or MKT even look like, and am not going to bother."

        Yet you took the time to look up sales figures on all those vehicles and make 5 different posts about the cars/CUV's you have no interest in or admittedly know nothing about?? You couldn't pick one out of a crowd but you know everything about them??

        By the way, the Fusion/MkZ share door skins and roof only. The Edge/MkX share only door skins and roof. The MkS/Taurus don't share any exterior panels nor does the MkT and Flex. Not that you care, I just wanted to save you the time of having to google all of them.


        • 3 Years Ago
        @jayH: Park the siblings in the *same color* next to one another, ask "people" to spot the difference. They'll eventually say "the grille" and the badge, maybe the lights, door handles. Oooh, mirrors.

        They're the same car, the same way the Corolla and Prizm were the same. See one of each parked together -- even different generations -- and if they're the same color, you do a double-take. Thing is, that was a push *down*. Taking a car and pushing it *up* is a bad idea.

        So, if Ford continues this strategy, it should really develop the Lincoln line first, then create a mass-market Ford version from that.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Why don't they just bring over some Aussie Ford Falcons to have a distinct product line for Lincoln or, before its death, Mercury? Similarly GM had started to make Saturn their Opel brand, but the death knell had already sounded by then. GM could have had Buick as FWD luxury, Caddy as RWD-AWD luxury, Saturn all Opels, Pontiac as entry-level Caddys and Chevy as the mass market brand.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Thank you for asking my question. They kind of gave you the stiff arm with the answer without regarding facts.

      Lets look at a few lag times:
      Current Gen C-Class and C63 AMG version: 9 month lag (Jan 2007-Sept 2007)
      Current CL Class - CL65AMG : almost 1 year lag (2006-2007)

      BMW 3 Series coupe lag: Just under 1 year lag (2007-2008)
      His example of 1 series is correct: 3 years (us release 2007 as 2008 model) longest non-audi lag I could find. No other BMW was greater than just under 2 years.

      Audi A5- Audi RS5: Almost 4 year lag 2007 (with 2008 deliveries) -not yet available for order in US
      B7 A4-RS4: 3.5 years (2004-2007)

      My point was sound. Audi drags it's feet with the RS' that why it always seem they are being compared to last gen BMW/Merc. Or its newest hot rod BMW/Merc vs OLD RS warhorse.
      • 3 Years Ago
      No ford you do need a rear-drive platform!
        • 3 Years Ago
        The only "pure" AWD-designed cars are Subaru, and (to a lesser extent) Porsche. Most other cars chassis aren't laid out specifically with AWD in mind.

        Most Audi cars are designed as FWD with AWD tacked on. Like Volvo or Acura. Or Ford. Using a Haldex coupling on a FF car like Acura / Audi doesn't magically transform the car chassis into an AWD one.

        The R8 is designed like a RWD car with AWD tacked on. It is fundamentally a RWD chassis, which happens to be AWD, rather than a FWD chassis. Like a Gallardo.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Audi is doing very fine without~

        Mustang is enough.

        • 3 Years Ago
        @John H.

        Yes.. it is designed "LIKE" a RWD car, especially in marketing speak. Let's make no mistake. Rear biased All-Wheel-Drive platform is not RWD car.

        Audi doing fine means with its trademark Quattro, not necessarily fwd.

        With Linconln's 'new' 'high-tech' image it is pursuing, AWD fits much better with the strategy than RWD in the line up.

        • 3 Years Ago
        Not up here in the Northeast we don't. Trust me, we don't miss those days of fishtailing all over the place and getting stuck. No thanks, we do very well with front wheel drive/all wheel drive. I wouldn't turn down rear wheel drive/all wheel drive. But rear wheel drive all by itself no longer cuts it up here.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I always loved VW's but sadly the quality issue was its demise for me. If not for the quality, I would have been a life long VW fan and customer.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Business case for a diesel Jeep Wrangler?

      $5/gallon gas by early 2012, a plateau there for a year or so, with a general rise in the years beyond.

      Is that enough of a business case?
      • 3 Years Ago

      To VW; You couldn't and haven't found a way out of a paper bag when it comes to marketing. The Eurovan was a perfect example of that. (to be clear, just in case, VW never had a diesel Eurovan stateside) though they did and still do, elsewhere. As to the Tiguan, how could they not have known about the price differential before they brought it here?

      That's like saying "the Routan would have one engine choice (Chryler's) because VW drivers aren't concerned with engines". Geese HOW CAN THEY BE SUCH DUMB-ARSES? Oh, the new VW head overseeing the US (was at GM) says we'll continue on with the Routan. We'll figure out the rest of the line-up and how to iron-out the wrinkles such as whether it's climate controls or seats!!!!!! Did I mention DUMB ARSES? I heard that they are working on a 7 passenger SUV for the US market - nice one, idiots.
      • 3 Years Ago
      During a casual conversation with the local Ford dealer I asked about a Transit pickup. They just laughed at me and said no way.
        • 3 Years Ago
        a transit pickup would require a heftier platform than a unibody shell
        • 3 Years Ago
        I can't believe they don't think a manny Transit van would sell..... fleets and delivery companies would be all over it if it were cheaper.

        • 3 Years Ago
        The Transit pick-up (big Transit, not Connect) in Europe is really nice. It has a huge (6'x10'?) aluminum bed with hinged sides all the way around for easy loading, or take them off for flatbed use. I don't recall the weight rating, but for people who need volume instead of weight capacity, it is great. This would probably cut into F-Series sales though, which would keep Ford from bringing them the US.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Good article. I would love to see more of them. They ask relevant questions that I found interesting.

      Flatbed Wrangler with a diesel and removable roof/doors/windshield: truck-gasm!
        • 3 Years Ago
        and manual transmission
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Cheech and Chong"? Seriously?????
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Entry level Lincoln on the Ford Focus platform" Ford just doesn't get it with Lincoln.
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