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    1. Member
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      04-23-2019 11:51 PM #1
      Very long and wide ranging interview in Automobile Magazine.

      https://www.automobilemag.com/news/j...llac-autonomy/
      I will say that the principle of putting some distance between an empowered semi-autonomous Cadillac division and the rest of the corporation to me to this day makes a lot of sense.

      I think the issue was up until that stage, until the Cadillac division had been created and empowered to control its own product manning, marketing, and distribution, all of those things had been done corporate generically for all the brands. I always said that the rules of the luxury market are different than the rules of the mainstream market. What’s good for Chevy isn’t necessarily good for Cadillac.

      The thing is if you didn’t have geographic separation, the meetings and the decision makers and the faces won’t change. Did it have to be New York? I don’t know. It’s an expensive place, which I encounter every day of my life [living in nearby Hoboken]. But it’s also clear that folks who rooted for Detroit felt betrayed. Cadillac had an enemy. The truth of the matter’s quite different. I always say that it felt to me that Cadillac had its roots in Detroit, always will be from Detroit and Detroit’s their hometown, and we wish that our hometown would be rooting for us as we go and challenge the world to become what we used to be.

      The way I saw my job at Cadillac was to grow the company again. To achieve that by addressing the constraints in the product portfolio, in terms of powertrain availability. Engines were generically developed with the Chevy brand in mind and, then, “Okay, well, yeah, it’s good enough for Cadillac.” The strong U.S.-centric focus that so characterized Cadillac’s entire existence was precisely what inhibited it from getting the products that it needed because the volumes just weren’t there to justify the investments, and every one of the [proposed] projects would bomb out on the financial evaluation. GM—having gone into bankruptcy and emerged from it very successfully—has a very vigorous set of requirements for new investment. There are no pet projects.

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    3. Member rickhamilton620's Avatar
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      04-24-2019 12:42 AM #2
      This was a great read. TIL that it wasn't Johan's fault that Caddy was moved to NYC...

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      04-24-2019 01:45 AM #3
      What's the deal with all these former higher-ups giving their take on why GM sucks? I don't see this with any other company.
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      04-24-2019 02:59 AM #4
      Nice read, thanks for sharing.
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    6. Senior Member 2.0T_Convert's Avatar
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      04-24-2019 07:55 AM #5
      Quote Originally Posted by NoXenons View Post
      What's the deal with all these former higher-ups giving their take on why GM sucks? I don't see this with any other company.
      To be fair he isn't just dissing GM, seems to be throwing some mild shade at the entire stock market and ever increasing profits driven business model.

      It feels like car companies are operating today on two almost diametrically opposed prerogatives. The stock market, which is all-important, wants companies to be all over autonomy and electric vehicles and the future. At the same time, it wants them to deliver record profits now. Any interest in market share for market share’s sake or having a diverse model range or having a global footprint has gone out the window.

      The stock market’s short-term focus is troublesome not just for the auto industry, but also across all sectors. It is problematic. Because it really does force management to optimize the short-run results. When you do that, then you can just steer for the best possible long-term outcome that ensues from all the short-term optimization. If you are a leader now at any one of the world’s auto companies, you are facing a set of circumstances, which in terms of the complexity, probably exceeds that that’s ever gone before.
      But seriously...

      “Okay, well, yeah, it’s good enough for Cadillac.”
      That's reading Cadillac for filth.
      Last edited by 2.0T_Convert; 04-24-2019 at 08:47 AM.

    7. Member Travis Grundke's Avatar
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      04-24-2019 07:56 AM #6
      Pretty fascinating interview, and I find it interesting that he was so open. Also surprising that he had very little to say about his most successful stint: Audi.

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      04-24-2019 08:14 AM #7
      Quote Originally Posted by NoXenons View Post
      What's the deal with all these former higher-ups giving their take on why GM sucks? I don't see this with any other company.
      I think he's pretty positive about GM (and Cadillac).

      It's FCA that he views most bleakly.

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      04-24-2019 08:15 AM #8
      Quote Originally Posted by Travis Grundke View Post
      Pretty fascinating interview, and I find it interesting that he was so open. Also surprising that he had very little to say about his most successful stint: Audi.
      He has a lot of good things to say about VW, in general.
      I take his positive comments about VW, to be about the entire VAG.

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      04-24-2019 08:28 AM #9
      Great interview, wow. Cleared a lot of things up.

      Some questionable things though:

      Cadillac—certainly during my time there and I have no reason to assume anything different now—absolutely wants to be American. It wants to be the personification of American luxury. The one area, though, that you have to acknowledge whether you like it or not, is that the European brands in particular are seen as benchmarks for excellence and execution. In regard to technologies, finish, craftsmanship—those kinds of things. And I would say justifiably because they do it really well.
      I think there are different ways to do luxury. Cadillac should have limited its benchmarking of the Europeans to fit and finish. There is nothing American about the Alpha platform Caddys, maybe outside of the CTS-V.

      I think he gets some of the challenges of autonomous driving, but not the big one- that it's pretty much going to kill the concept of car ownership, and by extension, brands. When you jump into a cab/Uber/Lyft/bus/train/plane, generally speaking you don't give a **** what brand it is, as long as it is safe, comfortable and timely. Most people hate driving, and as the population ages a growing number of people won't be capable of it.

      So there will be a big shift away from people owning cars to transportation as a service. I get that car companies want to own the tech but they are car companies, not tech companies. The solutions for autonomous driving are going to come from the tech industry, and by extension if the tech companies are smart will not be limited to any brand. Car companies will just become another supplier in the hardware stack. The few surviving brands will be iconic names most likely specializing in cars people still want to drive... Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, maybe the Miata etc.

      I really think if autonomous driving pans out it's going to be a blood bath for the industry. I don't see someone who owns a 4 popper Camry buying another one if they can hail an autonomous ride.

    11. Senior Member AZGolf's Avatar
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      04-24-2019 10:42 AM #10
      Quote Originally Posted by CTK View Post
      I think he gets some of the challenges of autonomous driving, but not the big one- that it's pretty much going to kill the concept of car ownership, and by extension, brands. When you jump into a cab/Uber/Lyft/bus/train/plane, generally speaking you don't give a **** what brand it is, as long as it is safe, comfortable and timely. Most people hate driving, and as the population ages a growing number of people won't be capable of it.
      I think he did a fair job addressing that. He said that mobility is changing, that in Germany, 25% fewer 21-year olds have a license than a generation ago, and that young people aren't brand loyal with cars anymore, that their brand loyalties are to different types of products, but not cars. He also had a pretty lengthy rant about what a huge cost and pain it is to have a car in NYC in particular. I viewed his statements however as part of the difficult balancing act between current products and future products. Like where he said there will be fully autonomous cars by 2025, but only as geofenced taxis. i.e. exactly what Waymo is doing today in Phoenix, for example and that mainstream adoption could be more like 2035-2040 and they need to be selling the right products today while also losing money on developing products for the future.

      It was a long read and I think it showed that he certainly had a good understanding of all the different moving parts and changing trends both between the current buyers, near future, and the long future where mobility may not even involve many personally owned cars at all. I thought his mention of how "Book by Cadillac" held the potential to actually make some of the cars like coupes and cabriolets more viable, as they are the kind of cars that people love to drive for short periods of time, like a weekend or maybe a month or so, but not to own long term. In a Book like service where you can swap cars 10 times a year, that could help make the emotional vehicles much more viable. I had never thought about it, but clearly he did and I think he's absolutely right. It just seems that consumers aren't ready for Book for the most part, but perhaps in a few years? Who knows.

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      04-24-2019 10:45 AM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by whitejeep1989 View Post
      He has a lot of good things to say about VW, in general.
      I take his positive comments about VW, to be about the entire VAG.

      Johan...is a big picture kind of exec. Various OEMs have different POVs of his time with them (Infiniti folks still speak ill of him to this day, GM--somewhat neutral, VAG guys same) but personality wise, he fits more within a German structure IMHO.

    13. Member Crispyfritter's Avatar
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      04-24-2019 10:48 AM #12
      Quote Originally Posted by CTK View Post
      Great interview, wow. Cleared a lot of things up.

      Some questionable things though:




      I really think if autonomous driving pans out it's going to be a blood bath for the industry. I don't see someone who owns a 4 popper Camry buying another one if they can hail an autonomous ride.
      You're not wrong, but it will take a generation (about 20 years).

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      04-24-2019 11:07 AM #13
      Def have way more respect for him after this... seems he was more a victim of GM than a driver of the shenanigans. I still blame him for the alphanumeric nonsense that plagues Infiniti/Cadillac though. XT what? QX who?

      And yea full autonomous cars aren't coming any time soon, but the stock market is valuing companies like Uber on what they might be doing decades from now. In that context the prospects of a run of the mill car maker like Toyota or Nissan are pretty bleak.

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      04-24-2019 11:17 AM #14
      Quote Originally Posted by AZGolf View Post
      I think he did a fair job addressing that. He said that mobility is changing, that in Germany, 25% fewer 21-year olds have a license than a generation ago, and that young people aren't brand loyal with cars anymore, that their brand loyalties are to different types of products, but not cars. He also had a pretty lengthy rant about what a huge cost and pain it is to have a car in NYC in particular. I viewed his statements however as part of the difficult balancing act between current products and future products. Like where he said there will be fully autonomous cars by 2025, but only as geofenced taxis. i.e. exactly what Waymo is doing today in Phoenix, for example and that mainstream adoption could be more like 2035-2040 and they need to be selling the right products today while also losing money on developing products for the future.

      It was a long read and I think it showed that he certainly had a good understanding of all the different moving parts and changing trends both between the current buyers, near future, and the long future where mobility may not even involve many personally owned cars at all. I thought his mention of how "Book by Cadillac" held the potential to actually make some of the cars like coupes and cabriolets more viable, as they are the kind of cars that people love to drive for short periods of time, like a weekend or maybe a month or so, but not to own long term. In a Book like service where you can swap cars 10 times a year, that could help make the emotional vehicles much more viable. I had never thought about it, but clearly he did and I think he's absolutely right. It just seems that consumers aren't ready for Book for the most part, but perhaps in a few years? Who knows.
      I don't want to bring bad vibes from another thread into this one, but the bolded point above is what I was getting at, during a discussion about certain car brands being "stigmatized". While the above comments are about the German market, I would have to say that brand loyalty is probably pretty weak in the US too. Other than birthright loyalties to pick-up truck brands, most people I know buy whatever car they like and can afford. Leasing increases "brand-fluidity". The used car market probably sees very little brand loyalty, and is probably driven primarily on price. If the product meets a person's needs, then they buy/lease it, regardless of brand. I know people who bought Kia Souls and even Chrysler PT Cruisers, because they liked the small one-box utility shape and easy ingress/egress. These people never owned a Kia or Chrysler before. I know people who have jumped from Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Benz, and BMW with each lease. I have personally had a lot of Wranglers, but my loyalty is more for that particular vehicle, rather than the entire Jeep brand. Heck, there's even a popular meme that suggests Millennials and other urban dwellers have to Google what their Uber/Lyft looks like, because most people are pretty clueless/passionless about cars these days.

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      04-24-2019 11:22 AM #15
      Quote Originally Posted by CTK View Post
      Def have way more respect for him after this... seems he was more a victim of GM than a driver of the shenanigans. I still blame him for the alphanumeric nonsense that plagues Infiniti/Cadillac though. XT what? QX who?

      And yea full autonomous cars aren't coming any time soon, but the stock market is valuing companies like Uber on what they might be doing decades from now. In that context the prospects of a run of the mill car maker like Toyota or Nissan are pretty bleak.
      I don't want to be the defender of Alphanumerics, but is Cadillac's scheme really any harder than what BMW is doing?

      BMW has a range of SAVs (now that's some dumb $hit) called X1 through X7. The number indicates where the CUV exists within the line-up.
      Likewise, Cadillac's CUVs range from a similarly labeled XT4 through XT6. The numeric suffix means the same as with BMW. The Escalade is its own thing and has a "real name", but even Porsche mixes up numeric names and vehicles with "real names".

    17. Member Travis Grundke's Avatar
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      04-24-2019 11:31 AM #16
      A good book to read is Six Men who Built the Modern Auto Industry It showcases the rise, personalities, and conflicts of the biggies over the last 100+ years.

      With many things, serendipity can play a large part in the success or failure of a particular executive's tenure with a large firm. Johan was lucky to be with Audi at a time when there was massive investment into the brand and technology. Johan would not be nearly as revered had his time been spent with SEAT. Not necessarily a reflection on the person, so much as the circumstance and mission they inherit.

      Sergio at FCA, for all of his bluster, had the overall direction of the industry correct. He was able to pickup ChryCo for a song and leverage the investments already made into the product line (Jeep, primarily). Would he have been as successful had ChryCo not been on the verge of launching the revamped Grand Cherokee, RAM, and Wrangler? Perhaps - but he got to ride a wave that definitely helped.

      If I had to guess, Johan thought that he would be given more latitude at Cadillac - and the higher ups denied the investments he sought. The result is a somewhat suicidal mission. Would he have had the same success at Audi, had VAG not been willing to make the investments in the brand that they did? Good question.
      Last edited by Travis Grundke; 04-24-2019 at 11:40 AM.

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      04-24-2019 11:31 AM #17
      Quote Originally Posted by CTK View Post
      Great interview, wow. Cleared a lot of things up.

      Some questionable things though:



      I think there are different ways to do luxury. Cadillac should have limited its benchmarking of the Europeans to fit and finish. There is nothing American about the Alpha platform Caddys, maybe outside of the CTS-V.

      I think he gets some of the challenges of autonomous driving, but not the big one- that it's pretty much going to kill the concept of car ownership, and by extension, brands. When you jump into a cab/Uber/Lyft/bus/train/plane, generally speaking you don't give a **** what brand it is, as long as it is safe, comfortable and timely. Most people hate driving, and as the population ages a growing number of people won't be capable of it.

      So there will be a big shift away from people owning cars to transportation as a service. I get that car companies want to own the tech but they are car companies, not tech companies. The solutions for autonomous driving are going to come from the tech industry, and by extension if the tech companies are smart will not be limited to any brand. Car companies will just become another supplier in the hardware stack. The few surviving brands will be iconic names most likely specializing in cars people still want to drive... Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, maybe the Miata etc.

      I really think if autonomous driving pans out it's going to be a blood bath for the industry. I don't see someone who owns a 4 popper Camry buying another one if they can hail an autonomous ride.
      I think these autonomous pods will more likely be rolling advertising for products/experiences from other aspects of our lives, rather than existing car brands.
      There will be Nike pods for the sporty crowd, Pandora/Sirius-XM pods for audiophiles, Whole Foods pods for people going to the grocery chain, Four Seasons/etc... for people looking for a luxurious night on the town, etc....

      I agree that the surviving car brands will likely be the ones that are targeted to self-driving on weekends and vacations, or for people that will avoid the pods. Ford and Chevy probably survive, due to trucks, Pony Cars, and Sports Cars, but their line-ups might only be those extremely polarized types of vehicles. Range Rover and Jeep probably survive for the same reason. Bentley, Rolls, Ferrari, Aston, Lambo, Audi, BMW, Benz, maybe Jag also survive, IMO, for the same reasons.

    19. 04-24-2019 11:36 AM #18
      GM—having gone into bankruptcy and emerged from it very successfully—has a very vigorous set of requirements for new investment.
      So vigorous, in fact, that it caused them to underinvest in their cash cow half tons and allow Ram to rival them in sales with an arguably better product.

      Great job, GM.

    20. Member Maximum_Download's Avatar
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      04-24-2019 11:49 AM #19
      Quote Originally Posted by Rob View Post
      So vigorous, in fact, that it caused them to underinvest in their cash cow half tons and allow Ram to rival them in sales with an arguably better product.

      Great job, GM.
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      04-24-2019 11:51 AM #20
      Quote Originally Posted by CTK View Post
      And yea full autonomous cars aren't coming any time soon, but the stock market is valuing companies like Uber on what they might be doing decades from now. In that context the prospects of a run of the mill car maker like Toyota or Nissan are pretty bleak.
      I'm sure Uber will pitch a tent and easily pump out millions of in house designed autonomous EVs.

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      04-24-2019 11:53 AM #21
      Quote Originally Posted by whitejeep1989 View Post
      I don't want to be the defender of Alphanumerics, but is Cadillac's scheme really any harder than what BMW is doing?

      BMW has a range of SAVs (now that's some dumb $hit) called X1 through X7. The number indicates where the CUV exists within the line-up.
      Likewise, Cadillac's CUVs range from a similarly labeled XT4 through XT6. The numeric suffix means the same as with BMW. The Escalade is its own thing and has a "real name", but even Porsche mixes up numeric names and vehicles with "real names".
      Cadillac's system is actually worse. With BMW, ultimately it all comes back to the leading number. X3 = 3 series crossover. Odd numbers are conventional, even numbers are coupes. Perhaps now Cadillac is aligning their numbers (i.e. XT5 and CT5 are on the same "level"), but it's been a disaster for the last couple of years.

      And this misses the broader points that 1. Cadillac is not BMW and doesn't have the leeway for this nonsense and 2. Cadillac has a deep library of awesome car names to draw on that will set them apart rather than alphanumeric nonsense that makes them look like the store brand 1998 BMW they've become. It's absolutely no coincidence that the only model in their lineup anyone cares about is the only one with a real name.

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      04-24-2019 11:57 AM #22
      Quote Originally Posted by whitejeep1989 View Post
      I think these autonomous pods will more likely be rolling advertising for products/experiences from other aspects of our lives, rather than existing car brands.
      There will be Nike pods for the sporty crowd, Pandora/Sirius-XM pods for audiophiles, Whole Foods pods for people going to the grocery chain, Four Seasons/etc... for people looking for a luxurious night on the town, etc...



      Quote Originally Posted by whitejeep1989 View Post
      I agree that the surviving car brands will likely be the ones that are targeted to self-driving on weekends and vacations, or for people that will avoid the pods. Ford and Chevy probably survive, due to trucks, Pony Cars, and Sports Cars, but their line-ups might only be those extremely polarized types of vehicles. Range Rover and Jeep probably survive for the same reason. Bentley, Rolls, Ferrari, Aston, Lambo, Audi, BMW, Benz, maybe Jag also survive, IMO, for the same reasons.
      I can't see how most mainstream brands make it in the long term. VW is huge right now and with their investment into electrification I think they'll do okay*, but even if they don't they should have Audi, Bentley and even could leverage the Bugatti name to sell some cars.

      Mitsubishi, Nissan, Mazda, Fiat, Chrysler, plus several other regional brands like Seat, Skoda, and Renault could easily get the axe. I'm honestly wondering about Honda and Toyota at this point. Toyota is massive, but unless they're hiding a lot of tech they haven't been investing in electric cars like the leaders have. Honda is a relatively small company still, with most of their cars being sold in the U.S. and Japan. Could they remain independent? Maybe, but it will be tough if they don't change quickly.


      *Could the electrification move that was forced by Dieselgate actually save them in the long term? Could be!
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      04-24-2019 12:40 PM #23
      I particularly agree with his take on electrification being a necessary leap-of-faith for manufacturers (stock market pressure), but at the same time the combustion engine will still be with us for a very long time yet.

      Also, even he knows the Cadillac interiors are not up to standard.

    25. Senior Member AZGolf's Avatar
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      04-24-2019 12:42 PM #24
      Quote Originally Posted by Rob View Post
      So vigorous, in fact, that it caused them to underinvest in their cash cow half tons and allow Ram to rival them in sales with an arguably better product.

      Great job, GM.
      GM has been investing in their truck platform. In fact, they just released a 4-cylinder engine that gives you the power of a V6 with the fuel economy of a V8! Full-size truck buyers love 4-cylinder engines, so this was a gre- wait a minute.

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      04-24-2019 12:51 PM #25
      Quote Originally Posted by Air and water do mix View Post
      I'm honestly wondering about Honda and Toyota at this point. Toyota is massive, but unless they're hiding a lot of tech they haven't been investing in electric cars like the leaders have. Honda is a relatively small company still, with most of their cars being sold in the U.S. and Japan. Could they remain independent? Maybe, but it will be tough if they don't change quickly.
      Toyota's fleet is already in compliance with the coming EURO7 regulation so they have no incentive to pump out electric cars just to meet CO2 targets.

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