Question of the Month March 2001

Is the promise of global e-commerce for suppliers and automakers too far ahead of the reality?
Yes 67%
No 33%

Global e-commerce:
A definite ‘maybe’

In my opinion, you have to push this type of enterprise. I compare it to changing from R12 to R134a (refrigerant for AC) and any other change. (I know R134a was mandatory but it took almost 10 years to do.) As people have to use this way of doing business, the more familiar it will become. Without an integration of both systems problems and private and public dislikes/likes cannot be researched and improved upon. Yes, it may be too early for some, but the ones who have the forethought to venture and integrate as much as possible will be way ahead of the game when the “reality” catches up with the rest.
Bud Coleman
Fort Worth, TX

In some cases e-commerce might be (ahead of reality), or other cases no.
Sheldon Starr
Buffalo Grove, IL

All large/fast-paced companies that have e-commerce already, will even grow faster. The companies that don't have the knowledge or the equipment to keep up “will fall away.”
Jack L. McCallister
Paint Associate
Honda of America Mfg. Inc.
Hilliard, OH

Tongue in Jeep?

Shame on you, Drew Winter, for attacking DCC's lawsuit against GM for stealing their grille design (DC Lawsuit Marks a New Industry Low, WAW — March 2001, p.7). Any sane person can tell they are trying to pass the Hummer off as a Jeep. Why, if I try to hop into a Hummer one more time while searching for my Jeep in a crowded parking lot, I'm gonna sue them, too!
Mark Haglund
Manager - Remanufacturing Operations
Delphi Diesel Aftermarket
Troy, MI

Your editorial on the H2 grille and the brand copying implications were interesting. As an insider, I can assure you that what is hinted was meant to be. My bosses and everyone concerned knew what was going on. It was a standing joke. Not only that, but at Milford, there is a prototype running around with a front license plate that reads “HEEP.” So to defend Big Blue the way you are doing is being partial to a company that has to steal competitors' ideas in order to sell vehicles. On the other hand, it says a lot for Jeep to have GM copying their grille; if you can't be original, copy a winner.

I find DCX/Jeep to be hypercritical in that they “adapted” their seven-slotted grille from Larry Shinoda's concept, per the Ward's Auto World article of March 1998! Boy, do they have a short (and selective) memory!
Don Bamford
Sr. Development Engineer
Roush Industries

How wet can you get in 5 seconds?

I was struck by the choice of words used in two articles, ‘Toyota Goes Totally Frivolous,” and then “Astra Ragtop Slated for Geneva Motor Show” (see WAW — Feb. ’01, pp. 73 and 75).

Speaking of the push-button control for stowing the top, common to both vehicles, oozing over the $58,455 Lexus, Katherine Zachary says “The electric motor-powered retractable hardtop goes down with a simple touch of a button, and in a mere 25 seconds.” However, two pages later: “The job takes a rather tedious 30 seconds, though” in the Astra.

Is this enough of a difference to account for the change in tone? I for one have had enough editorializing-passing-for-reporting during the last presidential campaign. Try not to let your opinions obscure with the facts.
H.W. Doty
GM Powertrain
Milford, NH

Editor's note: Author Katherine Zachary points out that 5 seconds can seem like a long time when you're waiting for a convertible top to close, especially if it's raining.

Where are the Ed Coles when we really need ’em?

I was moved by Jerry Flint's article, “Save Chevrolet” (see WAW — Feb. ’01, p.23). I am one of those old GM nuts and bolts kind of guys, who began driving in the late ’50s and bought a ’62 Vette for my first new car. But there was a different era of CEOs in those days. They loved cars and loved getting their fingers greasy. Along came Roger B. Smith and car products took a back seat. We are reaping the damage of those Smith years. I pray we can get more guys like Ed Cole, Jim Perkins, Bill Mitchell back into GM. Bring products to the marketplace that car people want to buy before it is too late. Who would have thought that a customer could not buy a sport model with a 5-speed? Such was the case back in the late ’80s when I wanted to buy a Beretta GT with a 5-speed. It didn't exist. I haven't bought a GM product since. I would like to, but they do not offer what a gear head would like to buy, except Corvette. Bring back the Chevrolet kind of guy to manage the process. Save Chevrolet!
C. E. Heckert
Salem, IN

What can you expect from the guys who killed Oldsmobile? First they are getting rid of the best products they have (Intrigue, Aurora, Bravada) and the best V-6 engine. But more importantly, if you can't make money selling 280,000 cars a year, what kind of manager are you?
Jerry Wille
Delco Electronics, Retired
Oak Creek, WI

GM fit and finish is flawless

While I agree with much of what Jerry Flint writes, I must take most stern issue with his constant referrals to GM having poor fit and finish interiors. He seems to have a blind spot or a gene deficiency he just can't overcome! This oft-repeated bogus claim of his seriously dilutes his claim to fame as a credible automobile guru!

I'd like him to quit making this idiotic and untruthful pronouncement unless he can show us some evidence of it. I buy at least two new GM cars a year and cannot in all honesty find one shred of truth to his claim. I haven't seen a flaw or an ill fit since the mid ’70s, and even back then GM was better than the competition.

If grouchy old J.F. can show me one flaw in either my 2001 Suburban or my wife's new Alero, I'll buy him a Big Mac meal with his choice of dessert!

I think some grease in his diet may be good for him!
Duane L. Allen
Mason, Ml

Eagerly awaiting new Corolla

I found “Corolla is a Rightful Car of the Century Nominee” (see WAW — March ’01, p.56) to be a most insightful article about Toyota and Akihiko Saito, 1993 Corolla project manager. Put my vote on the 1993 Corolla. I bought a 1993 Corolla LE new and I have always been wowed by the numerous luxury features in an inexpensive compact car. The car is eight years old and is made with quality materials that hardly show any wear. It drives and feels new. We fully expect to keep the car at least another 10 years.

I am looking forward to seeing the newly designed 2002 Corolla in person to see if Toyota really has exceeded the excellent 1993 design. My only wish for the new Corolla would be a new 4-cyl. direct (gasoline) fuel injected/electronic valve actuating engine.
Phil Young
San Diego, CA

Being German is not the issue

In your February 2001 issue you published my comments to the question “Will German management be able to reverse Chrysler's fortunes?”

What troubles me is the limited space available to answer such a complex question. These economic times have had an effect on all automotive manufacturers and related component suppliers. The situation in itself has very little to do with the fact that a German company has ownership of them.

Currently many suppliers are “doing their part” in complete support of the current management team at Daimler-Chrysler. We will continue to do so as well.

I do feel as a “consumer” that DaimlerChrysler's aggressive styling is exciting and shows their commitment to their customers. As you should have done with the previous comments, please publish these as that of a “consumer.”
Steven R. Bland

Will European mystique become European mistake?

I am extremely interested in the turnaround plan at Chrysler, and I sincerely hope that someone can pull the rabbit out of the hat. You see I am a double tweener. First, I am not management and I am not labor, so no one really speaks up for me. Second, I am too young to retire but I have too much time invested here to jump ship and start over. I don't really have much choice but to support the program and pull hard on my oar in hopes that we can turn the boat around before it goes over the brink.

It is tough to get enthused though. A couple of decades back folks in Europe criticized the American auto companies for trying to run European auto operations with American thinking. They were turning in less than stellar performances and the American thinking was the root cause. Well, the reverse also holds. There are a number of examples of unsuccessful attempts by European auto companies to run American operations with European executives and European thinking with pretty miserable results (Renault, Fiat, etc). In fact you would have to say that the Europeans have been much less successful that the Japanese at building a presence in North America.

Why do we now think that a pair of Europeans, especially ones from an arrogant company culture who believe themselves to be the supreme auto folks in the world, can turn around the smallest of the Big Three without turning it into the biggest niche player in North America? I am sure these guys are accessible, straightforward, charismatic, skilled car guys, but I fear they still have European thinking about how you should build and sell cars. In spite of all the talk about the global auto industry, and in spite of the fact that everyone's cars have four wheels and an internal combustion engine, car buyers in different parts of the world have very different ideas of what they want from a car and how they want to buy one.

Our guys also have European ideas about how you run a company and motivate employees. Demanding to be addressed as Herr Doctor, and letting employees learn about major announcements from the news media might be the right thing to do in Europe, but it doesn't get you many points on this side of the pond. Maybe, too, these guys don't realize how humiliating it is to work for a company that breaks every purchase agreement we have for the sake of 5%. It also doesn't help when their boss brags about his success as a liar.

I very sincerely hope that our two boy wonders can adapt their thinking and steer the ship on a successful course. I very much need for them to do that. So far though, I continue straining at my oar and waiting to be impressed.
Name withheld

Let's not forget Chevy's ‘small block’

With reference to Matthew Kievit's statement that “the Buick 225 V-6 of 1963” is the longest-lived engine (see WAW — March ’01, p. 11). The longest “in production” automotive engine in North America is the still Small Block Chevy. This is a testament to the simplicity, durability and timeless nature of Ed Cole's design. The first production engines were built in Fall of 1954 at St. Catherines, Ont., engine plant for use in the ’55 Chevy. The engine is still in production at that location and is used in 2001 Chevy Express and GMC Savana full size vans.
T.J. Johnson
DRE at GM Powertrain
Warren, MI

GM needs a new SUV marketing strategy

GM really needs to clear up their SUV marketing strategy. They have too many brand names for essentially the same SUV. I must say that it is much easier to follow Ford's and DC's SUV marketing strategy. In the Ford stable if I wanted the premium SUV I would be looking at the Lincoln Navigator. If I wanted something a little bit more affordable I would be looking at the Ford Expedition. It's not so clear with the GM large SUV strategy or for their midsize SUV strategy for that matter.
Name withheld

Where's the postcard?

What happened to the postcard you used to have in the magazine? Why did you discontinue it? Many of us would like to know.
Ronald C. Tranciar
Eastpointe, MI

Editor's note: You're the first to wonder, John. With the increased use of the Web and a rapidly rising cost of printing and production of the magazine (it costs extra for special paper and to “score” the card so it can be torn out), we thought we might get as good — or better — responses by asking readers to respond via e-mail. The jury's still out, but we've actually noted a doubling in the number of “letters” (most coming via e-mail) compared to those coming via the post card.

Olds lament

Helen Jones Earley really hits a home run by her notation that “Olds died when BOC was formed” in the “No More Merry Oldsmobile” (see WAW — March ’01, p.86).
Claude Corden
Laboratory Manager
Ti Group Automotive Systems
Sanford, FL

We want diesels now

Just read the article on the VW 150 hp PD engine (see WAW — March ’01, p.112). YES YES YES we want this engine in North America. And the 2.5 V6 TDI in the 4-Motion Passat too, and all the CDI diesels from Mercedes-Benz, and the new Ford-Navistar Powerstroke V-6. We want it all! NOW!

Spread the word, get it out, a better technology already exists. Forget those lame expensive hybrids, that is an immature technology at best that is years from being practical. The new diesels can be over here by 2002 if the fuel was clean enough, and the refiners will not clean up the fuel unless there is a consumer demand to do so.
Brian Kmetz
’97 Passat TDI
’85 MB 300D-T

From the beginning, Honda's Hybrid ad campaign of “World's most fuel efficient vehicle” has bothered me. In the real world (at least in the U.S.), those of us that are familiar with the wonderful VW TDI consistently get 50 mpg on the road while retaining significant performance (0-60 in the eight second range)… Not to mention being able to put four people in the car!!!

Now that VW/Audi have officially released this little gem that is capable of 79 mpg, will that shut up Honda?
Gary Miyakawa
Roswell, GA

Hold the line at 50Gs

I realize that you love your Porsches and Audis, but I really think you should keep your fifty grand cutoff for the 10 best list. I think the true test of engines are the flawless performance and longevity in a package that's affordable. Your award helps force all automakers to raise the bar. The end result is that my everyday boring V-6 engines are now lasting to 200,000 miles like my old V-8s, while getting 28 mpg like those horrible I-4's from the ’70s.
Kevin Kryshak FRV Inc.
DePere, WI

Question of the Month

May 2001

Have shortened development times led to the recent rash of quality problems for Big Three automakers?

E-Mail, FAX or Write your response along with your comments to:


FAX: 248-357-0810

Write: Ward's AutoWorld 3000 Town Center, Suite 2750, Southfield, MI, 48075. You must include your name, address, and phone number and whether your comments are on or off the record.