Editor’s Note: This week, Peter reminds us – yet again – that it’s the True Believers who will ultimately make the difference between success and failure for the auto companies. In On The Table, Ford aims to control the Cars & Coffee cottage industry with its new $350,000 Mustang GTD, Lamborghini previews its first EV concept, the Lanzador, Jaguar Classic makes us drool, and Mercedes-AMG unveils the new Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe, its new flagship model. Our AE Song of the Week is one of our favorites, “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty. Peter delivers Part IV of his much-talked-about series “The Glory Days” in Fumes, the inside story of his brother Tony’s exploits with the famous Owens/Corning Fiberglas Corvette Racing Team. And finally, in The Line, we feature coverage of the MotoGP race from Austria, and the NASCAR road race from Watkins Glen. Enjoy it all. -WG  
By Peter M. DeLorenzo 
Detroit. Though some readers have grown tired of me using the term “swirling maelstrom” to describe this business, I have yet to find a more apt descriptor. It’s a land where you’re only as good as your last hit, a state of mind where you’re forced to make what’s happening right now work, while struggling to make what’s happening next come into focus. It’s a cruel, at times nonsensical world that punishes those who would deign to march to a different drummer, but it’s only those who dare to break through that gauntlet who rise to the top.  
It’s easy to get mired in the minutiae of this business – the endless meetings, the constant “reviews,” the continuous hand-wringing and second (and third) guessing. Overthinking might be an operational component in corporate America, but in the automobile business it’s a full-blown cottage industry, which makes effectual decisions extremely hard to come by. Why? Because 90 percent of the time is spent worrying about what an upper executive in question might want or might be thinking, which forces underlings to become interpreters and acquire the skill set of nuanced anticipation.  
This business is unfortunately littered with so-called genius executives who parachute into the decision process, make a few pronouncements, then helicopter out. And the worst part of this phenomenon is that they come back six weeks later and question why a particular direction was undertaken, totally forgetting that’s what he or she directed. Thus, time, effort and money are wasted at a prodigious rate because executives are too self-absorbed to get their heads out of their asses and realize how destructive their behavior is. And no, it isn’t exclusive to the automobile business, but it’s decidedly more pathetic when product programs or advertising campaigns are on the line. 
And yes, product. Product is the straw that stirs the drink, the raison d’etre of the automobile business. It’s not selling air. It’s not about what a company’s vision of down the road will be. That’s all well and good and fine and wonderful, but it’s not the business right now, let alone the business for the next 36 months. It’s about product cadence, which means having the right products, at the right time, for the right market segments. Whatever a company’s vision is for the future doesn’t matter if it isn’t generating serious profits to fund that future.  
Remarkably enough, some companies forget all of this. They get sidetracked and off kilter, they chase their tails, they start listening to the dulcet tones of their own thought balloons, and they become buried under the heavy mantel of their own hubris. In short, they lose their way and start making mistakes. Except this isn’t a business that tolerates mistakes. It’s not a strike three business, either. It’s two strikes and you’re out. And in this league, playing catchup is not only a brutally tough and long road, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. And in the new reality of this globally-driven automobile business, when companies are betting their futures on the ability to manufacture EVs while generating real profits with ICEs, some car companies are just not going to make it. 
The companies stocked with True Believers, the ones unafraid to dream, the ones focused on delivering the best in all aspects of this business – Design, Engineering, Product Development, Marketing – will succeed. It not only requires savvy management, it requires a complete cessation of the normal bureaucratic cesspool that paralyzes these companies, which means loosening the reins of the True Believers so that they can do what they’re capable of doing. 
When it comes to The Future of this business, I will bet on the companies who value their True Believers, because those companies who refuse to do so will be ringing their death knells. 
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week. 
Editor’s Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on “Next 1 Entries” below. – WG

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