Deadline Detroit | Starkman: This Bloomberg Automotive Writer Is GM’s Worst Nightmare

The writer is a Los Angeles freelancer and former Detroit News business reporter. This column from his blog, Approved by Starkmanis republished with permission.

By Eric Starkman

Mary Barra

Mary Barra, president and CEO of General Motors, is undoubtedly feeling the pressure these days. GM is late to the EV prom and has few offerings in the market. The readily available one, the affordable Chevy Bolt EUV, is so badly missed that GM was forced to cut the price by $6,000 because dealers couldn’t move the vehicle from their lots. Elon Musk and his cronies regularly mock Barra on Twitter for his bold claim that in a few years GM will sell more electric vehicles than Tesla.

Closer to home, Ford CEO Jim Farley has been thrilling Wall Street and the media with his electric vehicle offerings, including his Mexican-made Mustang Mach-E SUV and F-150 Lightning pickup truck. Never mind that both vehicles have already had safety recalls; Farley is an affable guy and an amazing salesperson. Farley’s cousin was beloved comedian Chris Farley, and his other cousin is Tripp Tracy, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers and is now a television and radio hockey commentator in North Carolina. Farley hosts a podcast on Spotify, so entertaining people is also part of his DNA.

Farley is also working on the cheap, saving on the $23 million in compensation he received last year. Barra received $29 million, a humbling ride from the $40.3 million Automotive News said he earned in 2020. At some point, GM shareholders will start asking, “We’re paying that much to Barra, why? Wall Street’s two most sophisticated investors, George Soros and David Tepper, recently sold their holdings in GM.

Barra desperately needed to create buzz for his EV ambitions. GM recently hosted a group of automotive writers at a shmoozefest in Park City, Utah to unveil its highly touted 2023 Cadillac Lyriq. In the past, GM reimbursed professional and freelance journalists for their travel expenses to attend such lavish events, but I’m not sure this is still the case. Let’s be charitable and assume that rave reviews like this and this weren’t hampered by financial influences or GM PR charms.

Meet Bloomberg’s Hannah Elliott

Hannah Elliot (Picture: LinkedIn)

Bloomberg’s Hannah Elliott, who under Bloomberg’s ethics rules was no doubt obligated to have her company pay for her company, was the only reviewer to give the Lyriq a warm thumbs up. Elliott knows quite a bit about luxury cars and motorcycles, but she’s not an automotive writer per se.

“Most people at Bloomberg write about how to make money; I write about how to spend it,” Elliott told specialist watch publication Hodinkee, where she was photographed looking stylish wearing some very expensive timepieces.

Elliott doesn’t like being played for a fool, so she was surprised to learn that the $62,990 Cadillac SUV she was given to drive around Utah was a work in progress, not the first vehicle. fully electric Cadillac customer ready.

Here, in Elliott’s words, is why it was misleading for GM to give auto critics a vehicle not yet ready for prime time.

(It) meant that any criticism I might develop regarding (the Lyriq) could be brushed aside with a airy “It’ll be fixed by the time we get to production” comment from the sales people. It felt like an escape. Potential customers for this vehicle deserve to know exactly what they’re getting into, not an approximation of something yet to come.

Elliott appreciates the pressures Barra faces.

The thing is, Cadillac is doing everything it can to get people into the Lyriq — fast. And it doesn’t work.

Cadillac Lyriq (Photo: Nissangeniss)

In 2020, Cadillac announced that it would advance Lyriq production by nine months. At the time, it seemed obvious that to keep up appearances, parent company General Motors needed to produce an electric vehicle that would be more easily swallowed by the general population than the anticipated $200,000+ Hummer and some (yet) future pickups. electrical. Rival Ford began selling the Mustang Mach-E EV SUV in late 2020 and began production of the F-150 Lightning EV pickup truck this spring.

Meanwhile, every other luxury brand, from Audi and BMW to Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, is already knee-deep in electric vehicles.

Elliott was just starting to warm up. I can’t do justice by paraphrasing his review, so here are some more.

Maybe the Lyriq vehicles that Cadillac will sell next will have more comfort. The one I drove lacked the essentials we’ve come to expect from even non-luxury vehicles: all-wheel drive, head-up display, and hands-free driving. At GM, the hands-free system is called “Super Cruise”, but in this car, as in the first customer vehicles, it was not functional. Customer cars will receive Super Cruise as an over-the-air update later this year, a spokesperson said. The AWD system just wasn’t ready enough to go into cars, the engineers told me. They had already developed the RWD system for the Hummer, so they used it for Lyriq.

Cadillac does not currently offer an official company home charging system; it says it will offer an Ultium-branded charger later this year. (Ultium is GM’s all-new battery system and platform. The company will spend $35 billion through 2025 to design it as a dedicated EV platform that can be calibrated across models in its lineup, from l ‘Equinox to the Hummer, which should help the automaker save money, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.) In the meantime, customers can purchase a Clipper Creek home charging system through Cadillac to power the Lyriq. Prices on the Clipper Creek website start around $350 and go up to over $1,600.

GPS and navigation systems aren’t quite ready for prime time either. In order to loop around the Park City area, I had to scan a QR code on my phone and then sync the phone to Bluetooth to use my own phone’s map that way. As I hiked near Wasatch Mountain State Park and circled scenic vistas near Jordanelle State Park, I flipped through the map feature on the dashboard just to see what was happening. would pass. Although it showed accurate depictions of the road occasionally, most of the time I was in the car, it showed a pixelated screen of gray.

This will all be settled by the time the next batch of customers take delivery, spokespeople told me. What a surprise.

Elliott had a few good things to say about the Lyriq, but dismissed it as a “capable SUV, but not yet in demand.

“At the latest, GM said it wants to sell 400,000 electric vehicles in North America by the end of 2023. At this rate, it’s going to have to move mountains to get there. Ski chalets included,” Elliott said.

Buy wool by truckloads

One has to imagine that GM buyers buy wool by truck since the company has a habit of shooting the material in the eyes of journalists.

In 1980, GM introduced its front-wheel-drive X cars which were also meant to be groundbreaking, including the Chevy Citation. Automotive writers gushed about the Citation, unaware that the ones GM gave them to test drive were specially modified versions of the car, into which the serious steering torque was engineered. X-cars had a host of safety and other issues, and according to publication HotCars, the manufacturing debacle nearly sank the company.

As I recently noted, I was one of the unfortunate victims deceived by the Citation hype, and I doubted the company had changed so much in the years since. While Barra was not responsible for the X-cars debacle and deception, she was framed by executives who were. Old habits die hard, especially at a lumber manufacturing company that in 2008 was sued for bankruptcy.

Another day, another reminder

My problem with electric vehicles is the accelerated rate at which the Biden administration wants to explode century-old technology and its related ecosystems without much analysis, consideration, and planning.

The public does not understand the endgame of the administration. Biden’s vision is to make America dependent on foreign countries to mine the metals needed to produce electric vehicles, so that they suffer the consequences of environmentally destructive processes. China has a lock on those metals, but Biden hopes to break that country’s control over the electric vehicle supply chain. China recently warned in a government-controlled publication that if Biden goes ahead with his plans, he risks starting World War III.

Building electric vehicles is considerably more complex than building gasoline engines, and GM and Ford have yet to master the legacy technology. Consumer Reports ranks four GM vehicles on its list of nine least reliable SUVs, and owners of Ford gasoline-powered vehicles have had so many recalls that their dealers might consider charging them rent.

It hardly inspires confidence that Ford’s electric Mustang, introduced in late 2020, has already had six recalls, and the F-150 Lightning, which is only available in the spring, was released first. of what will no doubt be a litany of recalls given Ford’s trouble-ridden history of building vehicles. Meanwhile, Toyota has recalled its first electric vehicle because the wheels could possibly fall off.

The automotive press would be well advised to exercise critical judgment and follow Hannah Elliott’s example. Mike Bloomberg’s billionaire friends are lucky to have been assigned an incredibly savvy reporter to advise them on how best to spend their money.

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