Monday, October 25, 2010

Warren Buffett on BYD, Unions and Detroit

Kill It With Fire recently had an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a Q&A session with Warren Buffet. Among the numerous questions answered by Mr. Buffett were a few about the auto industry. As an aside, Mr. Buffett is an excellent public speaker ready to share many funny stories from his life. Mr. Buffett was also extremely generous with his time as he took individual pictures with every attendee. Back on the automotive front, first was a question about Buffett's recent vote of confidence in BYD amid rumors that he might sell his share. Famous for not investing in companies and industries that he does not understand personally, Buffett nevertheless believes that BYD will succeed. Buffett’s reasons behind his optimism about BYD are not based on the company’s battery expertise but are rather much simpler and fundamental. He sees BYD succeeding because it has an excellent management team lead by its CEO Wang Chuan-Fu. Buffett was initially impressed by Chuan-Fu’s ability to turn BYD into a major player in the auto market in under a decade. He was further impressed by Chuan-Fu’s character during the lengthy purchasing process when Chuan-Fu honored the original contract instead of looking for a loophole to void the deal even though his company’s value had gone up fivefold.

Buffett also touched upon the future of Detroit. He likened its demise to that of New England textile mills that lost out to union free Southern states. Buffett eventually sees the area shifting its lost jobs towards other industries, but does not see Detroit returning to its former glory years.

And for those wondering, the world’s third richest man’s daily driver is a gold Cadillac DTS.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Volkswagen Jetta Commercial Review

All car commercials have the same purpose, to sell cars. However there are three distinct methods of accomplishing this that manufacturers use most often; the "you should buy our car because of its amazing specs and features", the "you should buy our car because its got a huge discount" and the third category that tells you a funny or interesting story that is only slightly related to the vehicle featured. The latest Volkswagen Jetta commercial called "Moonlighting" certainly fits into the third category as it shows a guy moonlighting at odd jobs to save up for his own new Jetta. The jobs that he goes through suck, but in the end it turns out that the Jetta's new low price of 15,995 allows him to buy not one but two Jettas. Overall the commercial does a good job of using light humor to introduce the new Jetta and its lower price. Its minute long format helps to create a storyline without the need to rush through the scenes thus making the ending that much better. View the commercial in its entirety below.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Best of the Paris Motorshow

The biannual Paris Motorshow is always filled with lots of interesting concept and important production debutes, and this year was no different with many exciting and wild concepts taking stage. To make sense of all of the excitement here are the best concept, best Lotus concept, most significant production debut, most outrageous concept and least likely to make it to production technology.

Best Concept

Certainly the toughest category with lots of amazing concepts to pick from including the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, Audi Quattro Concept, and Jaguar C-X75. However the honor of best concept goes to the Renault Dezir Concept and its Hot Wheels inspired design.

Best Lotus Concept

Lotus deserves and gets its own category for its prodigious output of five concept cars. While all of the sports car concepts featured a very similar design the Elan concept had the crispest and most appealing design with the Espirit concept coming in a close second.

Most Significant Production Debut

This year continued the trend of manufacturers releasing production car debut photos and specifications in advance of the show and thus taking some of the excitement out of the production category. One of the most anticipated production debuts before the show was the Land Rover Evoque. After the dust settled and all of the production cars made their debuts the Evoque was still tops in the category. Featuring fresh modern styling the Evoque brings a new direction for the brand necessary to survive in the future.

Most Outrageous Concept

The Paris motorshow is always good for a few wacky concepts and this year was no different with a handful of four wheeled creations masquerading as cars. However, the Citroen Lacoste Concept takes the win with this collaboration with the famed French clothes brand. Citroen even says they have hopes of making this concept go to production, but it's unknown if they are actually serious.

Least Likely To Make It To Production Technology

A decade or even as recent as a few years ago electric cars were often labeled as pure auto show fantasy land, but with the prospect of actual mainstream battery powered vehicles going on sale this is no longer the case. Thus to make a big splash automakers need to create concepts that use even more innovative and further out technology than battery power. The best example this year was the Jaguar C-X75 concept that featured electric motors at every corner and a pair of micro-turbines for range extension. Jaguar promises exceptional performance and fuel economy that sounds too good to be true, as we can only hope that someday we will finally get our long promised jet powered cars.

Friday, October 1, 2010

September 2010 Sales

September of 2009 was a poor month for automakers as the industry tried to recover from cash for clunkers, thus it was no surprise that September 2010 sales would be significantly higher than a year ago. In fact all but five brands improved their sales upon a year ago and almost all of those brands saw double digit growth. Chrysler paced everyone with a 92% improvement while other domestic brands showed strong sales improvements as well. Luxury brands were led by Infiniti's 25% sales improvement. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the month was the fact that Lexus' 5.5% drop in sales joining the likes of Volvo, Suzuki and Smart.