Spent the better part of the last two days driving the Ford Fusion Hybrid (see today's Wheels) back from the press event in Quebec City the hard way - the idea was to try it in other-than-the-usual freeway mode, hitting some of the smaller (and larger) towns along the way, both in Quebec (how stupid is it that you still can't make a right turn on a red light in most of La Belle Province? More on that in a later blog) and Ontario.
Now when I'm on my own nickel, I'm not likely to be picking hostelries with free Internet access. So while I was all over the declaration of Chrysler's bankruptcy yesterday morning BEFORE it happened (round of applause here...) it was only late last night that I learned - not at all surprising, actually - that the impact was being felt almost immediately in Canada, although by all accounts (all we get from a privately-held company) the Canadian operations of Chrysler weren't in all that bad shape.
But some parts suppliers in the US, being understandably reluctant to be added to the already long list of creditors of the US Chrysler organization, have suspended deliveries to both the Bramalea (Chrysler 300 / Dodge Charger / Dodge Challenger) and Windsor (Caravan and VW Routan) assembly plants.
So while those operations appear to still be part of whatever long-term plans Fiat may have for what's left of Chrysler, workers were apparently told last night that the plants will be shuttered for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months until things get sorted out.
It's yet another example of how complicated the car assembly business is - thousands of parts, literally from all over the world, each must arrive at just the right time to allow the process to continue.
While the 'kanban' (Japanese for 'just in time') process may be efficient, it is clearly vulnerable to any breaks in the chain.
On the General Motors front, it seemed to be missed by most news outlets - at least in Canada - that while the Pontiac brand is biting the dust, so too are SAAB, Hummer and Saturn.
SAAB and Hummer have been up for sale for some time, so far without any takers, so their demise isn't surprising.
General Motors bought SAAB almost in a huff when their bid for Jaguar was topped by Ford. Feeling a perhaps desperate need to acquire an exotic foreign brand, they settled on the quirky, almost quixotic "other" Swedish car company.
(Ironically, Ford also bought "the" Swedish car company, Volvo, and is trying to sell it now too. Maybe ABBA will buy it back.)
Anyway, the everyone's-out-of-step-except-my-boy SAAB wasn't a very good fit for a huge and conservative organization like General Motors.
In order to make money in the car business, you either have to build relatively few cars and make a boatload on each (Porsche is the current master of that strategy) or build a boatload of cars and make a few bucks on each.
SAAB as a brand wasn't strong enough to command a high-enough premium to make a go of the Porsche approach, yet every attempt GM made to try and apply the mass-market approach to build SAABs off existing Opel platforms took away the quirkiness that was the main part of SAAB's appeal.
I mean, if SAABs are made to be more like BMWs to appeal to a larger market, the long-term fans of the brand won't buy them, and more mainstream buyers will just buy the BMW.
Hummer is an example of yet another aspect of the car business - how fast the market can turn on you. Just a few years ago, Hummer was one of GM's stars, a brand with huge visibility, including support from the now greener-than-thou governor of a certain West Coast American state.
Now Hummer is an environmental pariah, the poster child for the automobile's contribution to Global Warming. Its brand equity approaches zero, and despite the package coming with Jim Taylor, one of GM's brightest young (and Canadian) executives, who helped steer Cadillac to its recent (and again, relative) success, GM can't even find a solvent Russian oligarch to take it on.
As noted in this space a few days ago, Saturn was a brave attempt at redefining how domestic car companies operate, as design/engineering, manufacturing, and sales/service organizations.
It was very good at the latter - it still scores very highly in all customer service surveys; I have always wondered why GM wasn't able to apply those lessons to their other brands.
Saturn was not so bad on the manufacturing side - its assembly operations were relatively free from labour strife, and were decently good at quality and productivity.
But Saturn seldom scored on the product side, especially in the early years. Customers seemed to love the company despite, rather than because of, the cars themselves.
Later Saturns have been domesticated variants of Opel products - fine cars per se, but that's a product development strategy that can be (and is being) appropriated by Chevrolet (the new Chevrolet Malibu pretty much makes the Saturn Aura irrelevant).
If Chevy dealers could now adopt some of the sales and service principles of Saturn, they might just have something. Especially since in many cases, the same people own both Saturn and Chevrolet stores.
GM is still hanging on to GMC as a stand-alone truck brand which, again as noted here earlier this week, never made sense to me and makes even less sense now. We'll see how long that lasts.
One more thing while I've got your attention (if I still do; I know blogs are supposed to be short, but once I get started...) one thing I don't understand about the killing of Pontiac is that the one unique product it had that people actually had some interest in (i.e., not the Solstice, whose fifteen minutes of fame are long past) - the Vibe compact crossover - is also being killed, and apparently won't migrate over into some other product line. Seems to me it would be as good a Chevrolet as it is a Pontiac, and while the bunker-on-wheels styling of the new generation doesn't appeal to me, compact crossovers seem to be one segment where there is still some enthusiasm in the marketplace.
I used to say that the people at the top of GM were making a lot more money to make these decisions than I was for criticizing them.
Maybe I should apply for the job - how much worse could I do?