Pit Notes – March 2009

When it rains on the Detroit auto scene it pours, literally. The Detroit News reported that leaks in the roof of its Cobo Center exhibit hall threatened to splash salty and corrosive water onto priceless cars on display in the Championship Auto Show held there recently.  Bob Larivee, Jr., chief executive officer of Championship Auto Shows Inc. in Auburn Hills, which runs 18 auto shows around the country was quoted, “You’re not going to get a guy to bring his $400,000 hot rod here from L.A. if the car might sit in a building with water leaking on it.” Worse, the newspaper noted, the political squabble over who will repair the facility could threatened the North American International Automobile Show.

A white paper by Auto Pacific substantiates that auto industry atomization, increasing sales by creating more models to fit specific needs, no longer works. “With 2007 showing more models with fewer industry sales, the industry became unstable. By the end of 2008 with industry selling at a 10-million per year rate, sales per nameplate cratered. 2009 promises to be even more dire.” The paper charts some of the consequences of nameplate proliferation on profitability and the effect on dealers, autoworkers and consumers when nameplates are eliminated.

The Texas Auto Writers Association has established a scholarship fund of $50,000 and is forming a committee to establish rules and standards for a Scholarship Program. Entries open for its Excellence Craft Writing Contest open June 1 and close September 1. . . . Two GM retirees living in South Carolina wrote CEO Rick Wagoner suggesting he, “view your retirees not as legacy costs but as an army of volunteers willing to help in the fight to return GM to profitability.” They offered 400 hours of work for $1.00 per year. For example, they wrote, “Do you have an OnStar call from someone who is stranded in Greenville? We’ll pick them up and fix them dinner while their car is being fixed. Do you have a truckload of tires at Michelin in Spartanburg. We’ll drive them to Bowling Green, if the teamsters don’t mind. Did your only door seal release engineer just quit? We’ll come up to Warren and break in a new one.”

Cadilla De Ville Parade Phateon "Popemobile" Photo Courtesy of Petersn Automobile MuseumNoted in passing: The customized Cadillac De Ville Parade Phateon “Popemobile” has been acquired by the Petersen Automobile Museum. . . . Racer Joel Miller, borrowing from a long-standing Jack Daniels promotion, plotted the entire body of his Star Mazda Championship car with 5 inch square “billboard” spaces available at $200.00 each for the season. (The distiller awards brand-loyal drinkers deeds to one inch square land parcels.) . . . GM might have considered something like that before disbanding its performance group or tried auctioning paddock passes as now being done by Formula One, although it is for charity. And last, the 1965 Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe that clinched the first and only World Manufacturers Championship for the U.S. when Bob Bondurant drove it to victory at Reims, France is expected to bring a record eight-figure price for an American automobile when it is put on the block during the Dana Mecum Spring Auction, May 13-17, in Indianapolis, Ind.