Are“Rules of the Game” Facing Pressure for Major Changes?
EDITOR's NOTE: Hey Mac Nice To Have You Back!!!!
By Mac Gordon
Senior Editor at largge
The Auto Channel
On a background note, who would have dreamed in 2003 that such mainstays and legends as Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Mercury, Saturn, and Pontiac would become has-beens or that Cadillac and Lincoln would be surviving only as full-line brands complete with midsize and even “baby” models?
For that matter, retiring Automotive News editor Peter Brown kept alive his sterling record as an auto industry forecaster. Brown, a daily-newspaper veteran from Ann Arbor, MI, was on the money with his prophesy that Automotive News, a tabloid and daily since its founding in the 1920s, would “never” adopt a magazine format to rival the “buffbooks” (Car and Driver, Motor Trend et al.)
Over the years, starting with Automotive News' employment of yours truly as a copy reader in July, 1944, this chronicler has indulged in fearless forecasts, inspired by news-gathering junkets to such auto meccas as Wolfsburg, Paris, Milan, Valencia, and Tokyo.
Brown and the publisher of Automotive News, Keith Crane, will remain a vital cog in automotive publishing, going further than Detroit's daily newspapers in defending the “equities” of the 1,700-member-franchise system when GM, Chrysler and Ford opportunistically pared their dealer ranks, during the federal bailout years of 2007-10.
At age 85, I fondly recall numerous talks at state dealer conventions (Wyoming, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, South Carolina) being introduced as a “franchise system defender” “brand champion” in the Oldsmobile shutdown year) covering every NADA convention for Auto Age magazine and the unforgettable Motor News Analysis newsletters.
When our dealer advisory board complained about my being “too anti-factory,” that raised an issue which irked me no end.
The late Ben Bidwell, a high ranking executive of Ford and Chrysler, bitterly griped to us about being “anti-factory.” “You've been a pain in the ass ever since you started those goddamn newsletters,” Ben wrote. “No non-dealer should be such a factory hater.”
To this day, Mac Gordon regrets turning down a $25,000 buy-in offer for a bankrupt Ford-Lincoln-Mercury store in Port Huron, MI
To be a dealer was always my lifelong desire. “Gordon Ford never happened, Bidwell declaring years later, “Mac, you're a great writer, but great writers would be lousy dealers.”
My favorite interviews over a 65-year auto writers career:
Edsel Ford II-Ford Credit President “I'm far from a numbers man but Ford Credit is a must in the Ford world.”
Heinz Nordhoff-CEO of VW Werk, “We would like to sell more cars in Israel and the Middle-East. Our family enjoys vacations in Israel.”
Roger Smith-GM CEO-”I'm proud of creating Saturn. It's a shoe-in best seller, now and going into the future.”
In Turin, at a Fiat Media Dinner-”The Renaissance started here, and we intend to keep it going with Alfa, Fiat 500 and all those beautiful Italian brands.”
At a Yugo press trek, back in 1984-85-grimacing as YugoSlavs sought to enter global market with poor junk-was it this fiasco that scared off the Chinese?
Finally, Japan-Upon entering the U.S. market in the 1950s-A Toyota Hollywood press agent hosted the L.A. media by leaving a $100 bill under each attendee's dinner plate. That was Japan's reaction to negatives about the first Corolla and Civic cars.
Japan prospered where China, Russia and others feared to tread-A Toyota family member, in a prophesy of success at a media preview in Evansville, IN. “We must keep our standards world-class in entering all the markets-or we would fail.”
That Japan should roll up its global role as a perfectionist player, was the story of stories in my 67-year career. At the end of WWII-Japan as an industrial threat was little noticed. Hats off to the automakers from Japan for shedding their biases. Japan quality has dominated and inspired all since 1944!
As for a favorite brand in all my years covering the auto industry, Lexus overall, BMW notwithstanding!
To come-How pickup trucks stole the thunder!
Best wishes, Mac