Editor’s Note: This week, Peter’s Thanksgiving column also includes many things he’s not thankful for this year. In On The Table, we preview the Cadillac OPTIQ, which will serve as the entry point for the brand’s EV lineup in North America. And we take a look at two new all-electric concepts that Kia America introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Our AE Song of the Week is “Dance Hall Days” by Wang Chung. In Fumes, Peter continues his story about Jim Hall’s Chaparral Cars racing team. And finally, in The Line, we have Formula 1 results from the Las Vegas Grand Prix and MotoGP results from the Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar. Onward. -WG
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. Since the publication date for this week’s column is the day before Thanksgiving, it behooves me to write about being thankful for all of the blessings we have, and there are indeed many. Except before I can do that, I must talk about what I’m not thankful for in this current day and age. (Fair warning – it’s not all auto related.) And that list is long.
I am not thankful for the cacophony of rancor that permeates every aspect of our society. It has become sickening and untenable, fueled by factions craving attention, who insist they’re right and everybody else is wrong. I will add the word despicable, too, because it has begun to destroy the quality of our lives in such a way that a general depression has set in, with people seeing no way out of this mess. I retain the slimmest of shreds of optimism that we will find our way out of this sorry state, but I can point to no evidence to think that. At this point, all I have is the concept of hope, which admittedly is the most tenuous of thoughts.
I am not thankful for the plague that I refer to as the “Muskian Nightmare.” The depressingly malicious conduct that seems to fuel this grandstanding unctuous prick’s public persona, marked by outlandish and offensive comments at every turn, and feverishly seconded by acolytes who were blinded to reasoned, rational thought so long ago it is not funny in the least. All I can say is that we must do better than to place this borderline con artist on a pedestal. A longtime friend and colleague of mine (Mr. Arthur M.) forwarded this quote from Bret Stephens (The New York Times) on Monday: “Now I’m rooting for Tesla owners to trade in their Model 3s for a Rivian or any other electric car that doesn’t run on a high-voltage blend of bottomless narcissism, knee-jerk bigotry and probably too much weed.” To say that I concur with that perspective is the understatement of this or any other year.
I touched upon this last week, but I am not thankful for the current state of Formula 1. The carpetbagging mercenaries in charge of the sport at this moment are running what’s left of the sport right into the ground. Last weekend’s Las Vegas event was a painfully embarrassing display that was so far removed from what F1 should be about that I have serious doubts that the sport can recover. I am normally not a big fan of Max Verstappen, but his lengthy interview in Las Vegas where he commented on what the sport should be about, which is passion and the heroic tracks, resonated deeply with me. He’s right of course, but the powers that be in F1 are now so well and truly removed from reality that this is going to continue to get much worse before it gets even the least bit better.
I am not thankful for the current state of the auto industry. The new UAW contracts have been portrayed as a breakthrough, but as I’ve stated previously, those negotiations with what’s left of the Detroit 3 were held in a vacuum, a notion of what this Detroit-centric business used to be. Were the monetary gains for the union long overdue? Yes, of course, but the ultimate cost will probably be that Detroit will be less competitive in the new world auto order, except in the ICE arena, which will sustain these locally-based companies long into the next decade, at least.
There are other aspects of the business that I’m not thankful for as well. It’s clear to me that the business just feels like we’re officially out of ideas. Yes, I am encouraged by the fact that design seems to be gaining even more prominence by the day, but there’s a numbing sameness to everything that’s being introduced, and it’s depressing. After all, how many mid-size crossover vehicles do we really need? You’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart because they all seem to blend together, which contributes mightily to the fact that everything about the business just feels low energy right now. There is little real enthusiasm or excitement even when something new does get introduced. It’s like we’re all just going through the motions. And the reason is clear: We’re in a real identity-crisis moment for the industry, because it has one foot in the future and one foot in the past. And this just in: the average consumer doesntgiveashitdotcom. It’s clear, too, that EVs aren’t a panacea, no matter how feverish the fervor for them is “out there.” And the whole Autonomous Vehicle discussion has blown up real good, thank goodness.
And finally, I’m not thankful for the current state of auto advertising and marketing, because it resolutely sucks, suffering from the same relentless lack of inspiration and creativity that has intermittently plagued it for years. (But, in fact, this is circular, because it’s hard to give a shit when it’s all so boring.) Marketing and advertising always seem to reflect the current state of things on a societal/global level, and as I said previously, we’re in extremely depressing times.
Enough of that.
I am thankful for the True Believers in this business, those restless souls who refuse to phone it in and who enthusiastically apply their creativity and passion to this business every day. Without them I seriously fear for the future of this business.
I am generally thankful for people who actually give a shit, no matter what endeavor they’re involved in. It’s still refreshing to see people who are genuinely passionate and committed about something in their lives. It makes life worth living, more tolerable and just plain more fun.
WG and I are thankful for our readers, who have been with us either from the very beginning, or as recently as just last week. We care deeply about what we do, and we retain a passion for this business that, although it has been diminished at times, is still fiery and intact. It has been a wild ride, to put it mildly, as we approach 25 years of the High-Octane Truth next June.
We wish the best to you and yours this Thanksgiving, and please remember that we’re never promised tomorrow, so be thankful for your blessings, and make each and every day count as best as you can.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
Editor’s Note: Click on “Next 1 Entries” at the bottom of this page to see previous issues. – WG