By Peter M. DeLorenzo 
Detroit. It has been a hell of a year, to put it mildly. In addition to the usual kaleidoscope of shit that’s part and parcel of the Swirling Maelstrom that churns and defines this industry on a daily basis, an entirely new dimension to the ongoing Shit Show reared its ugly head: The EV “thing” became a thing. A very big thing. And the hand-wringing over the EV “thing” never stopped.  
Auto companies went all in – you know who you are – going deep on the “It Won’t Be Long” mantra that we’d all be shiny happy consumers reveling in the day-to-day efficacy of EVs in no time. Except a funny thing happened on the way to EV Nirvana: 1. The “show pony” six-figure EVs were relatable – and affordable – only to a select few. 2. Speaking of EV affordability – or lack thereof – consumers genuinely interested were forced to scramble to find EVs that were at least somewhat realistically affordable. That didn’t go well for too many buyers. 3. The infrastructure for charging – except for the Tesla superchargers that were accessible – was not only almost nonexistent, but the few that were available were either not working or underperforming. And the concept of servicing the infrastructure that was in play was either woefully lacking or nonexistent as well. Clearly, plans for maintaining the EV charging infrastructure were an afterthought in the “Grand Transition.” And 4. With lengthy charging times and the aforementioned piss-poor infrastructure, the idea of realistically going on a road trip with an EV became not only instantly problematic, it was no damn fun. (And before all of you EV True Believers raise your pitchforks, the email we have received about this issue – even from the hardcore EV-ers – was decidedly grumpy about the reality of road-tripping in an EV. As in, Not. Very. Good. -WG) 
Meanwhile, certain automakers – again, you know who you are – were so far over their skis with their commitments to the EV “thing” that big trouble ensued almost immediately. CEO after CEO got up in front of the salivating media and promised all sorts of things, boasting of many clean factories that would be churning out a wide range of EVs to eager EV buyers in no time. Except the fervor didn’t last long. Chasing down the raw materials was one thing; assembling the battery packs with a modicum of efficiency was another. And then actually building the vehicles added an entirely new – and shaky – dimension to the EV “thing.”  
The result? Costs skyrocketed and product plans blew up, which destroyed any sense of a reasonable product cadence for these companies. EV models promised for 2024 began to slide. Late ’25 became the new time frame, and then – wait a minute, well, on third thought – they started talking earnestly about late ’26. And now we’re hearing the first rumblings of, you guessed it, ‘27! 
The fallout has been swift and unrelenting. Ford just informed suppliers that it’s slashing production of its F-150 Lightning pickup in half for ’24. And other manufacturers are blowing up their EV product plans trying to anticipate what’s next. Meanwhile, EV zealots both from within and outside the industry are saying there’s no problem with demand for EVs, that it’s a vicious plot by the anti-EV cabal that exists “out there.” Except that dealers – both import and domestic – are watching as EVs are piling up on their lots and, to make matters worse, EV resale value is flat-out dismal. 
So, how’s that “Grand Transition” to EVs going, exactly? To be charitable, it’s an excruciating work in progress and realistically, I see the percentage of EVs in this market not reaching 25 percent until 2032, or after. This will be a long, hard road, and as I’ve stated repeatedly, the manufacturers who are vigorously investing in and pursuing new-generation ICE vehicle programs – while selectively competing in viable EV segments – will be the ones that not only survive, but thrive. 
Oh, and by the way, I started a fire a few weeks ago by calling out this phenomenon of stupid vehicles running rampant on the streets and byways of this country right now. The giant trucks and SUVs that are passing for everyday transportation these days are just embarrassingly stupid. It’s hard to imagine that these manufacturers and their salivating customers have gotten to the point of thinking that it’s perfectly okay to be rolling down the highway in a 6,000-lb. – and more – vehicle, that it is somehow acceptable.   
This just in: It isn’t.  
Little did I know (Well, we kinda knew. –WG) that it would cause much hand wringing and gnashing of teeth across the land. It seems that a lot of people were in deep agreement with the premise that these leviathan trucks and SUVs masquerading as daily drivers are peak stupidity, and cringe when encountering them in their day-to-day travels.   
Another dimension to this phenomenon? The aggression displayed by too many of the drivers manning these land yachts. I don’t know what’s triggering it exactly, but I’ve noticed that a high percentage of these drivers engage in egregiously stupid maneuvers, seeming to say, “As a matter of fact, I do own the frickin’ road.” That it’s not a good look is obvious; that I’ve witnessed too many risky, flat-out dangerous moves is simply unacceptable.   
Am I painting with too broad of a brush? No, because I’m clearly not lumping all truck and SUV drivers in this category. It’s just a development on our streets and byways that can’t be ignored.   
And then we heard from the faction that I describe as “The Cold Dead Hands Posse.” As in, “I will drive whatever the hell I want and no one’s going to tell me otherwise.” And we can relate to that sentiment, because we’ve said from the beginning here at AE that people should drive what they like and like what they drive. And we still stand by that. But commenting on the descent into stupidity that I’m seeing on the roads was bound to spark comments from both sides of the issue, and I not only expected it but, going on 25 years here, I am used to it by now.    
Needless to say, I would love to see a burgeoning streak of rational thought creep into people’s car buying decisions. Do you really need a giant “show pony” 6,000-lb.+ pickup as a daily driver, just to pick up a few bags of mulch in the spring and do assorted other tasks throughout the year that could be accomplished in a more normal-sized vehicle? No, you don’t, but again, who am I kidding? We’re going to continue down this road until there’s a major “adjustment” in the market, unfortunately. That could happen with a significant, unexpected financial disruption to the economy, or some sort of world-altering event that would change everything. I want neither of those things to happen, but a few smarter vehicle choices would indeed be welcome.  
There’s one more thing that I need to mention as far as these Peak Stupidity times we’re living in. I have beat on this drum for years now, but car and truck pricing and the lack of affordability has reached the critical stage. For the people who can afford to spend $100,000-plus on a vehicle without thinking about it, I’m sure they might be dismissive of the concept of affordability as being irrelevant to their circle of concern. But that would be a mistake, because the lack of affordability in our vehicles should be everyone’s concern.   
Why bother getting worked up over this? Because, short of shopping the select few models offered by Honda, Kia, Hyundai and Chevrolet, the average buyer’s choices for affordable new vehicles are severely limited.   
This is not only stupid, it’s not sustainable.   
I keep excoriating the domestic-based manufacturers to wake up in this regard, but I’m not seeing any signs of it. Ford needs to build more Mavericks, but they seem incapable or unwilling to do it. Chevrolet needs to offer a price leader Colorado that still has a modicum of desirable equipment, but there’s nothing in the works. And GM CEO Mary Barra has promised a new Chevrolet Bolt for 2025 with built-in Ultium EV technology, which is great news, but what would be even better news is if this upcoming advanced technology Bolt was priced at or below the price of the 2023 Bolt. I won’t hold my breath. 
The fact that our domestic automakers are basically ignoring this affordability issue is not only monumentally stupid, it will bite them in the ass over the long haul. Buyers will simply stop shopping these domestic automakers and wander away to other brands for their transportation needs. And this just in: They won’t be back.  
The AE Stupid Meter is pretty unforgiving. People involved in this industry need to wake up and start actively doing something about these issues, and quick.  The clock is indeed ticking.  
That said, it’s time to get into our AE Year in Review. WordGirl is going to open the proceedings with something new this year: her carefully curated Top Ten Rants for 2023. 
Editor’s Note: If 2023 in the auto business felt like the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, that’s because it was Groundhog Day. Except instead of being a “fantasy/comedy” like the movie, this year was a relentless reality show, complete with elements of boredom, frustration and despair. That said, we here at AE did our best to bring you the High-Octane Truth each week, in all of its apocalyptic glory. As we combed through the past 12 months for the highs and lows, a few Rants stood out and now comprise my Top 10 Rants for 2023. Here you go! -WG  
THE EXCITABLE BOY. Peter’s alternate persona makes a rare appearance in this look behind the curtain at what drives the Autoextremist. 
LOST. A look at just how far the business has fallen from its glory days.  
IT IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. A poignant reminder to savor the life that is right here, right now. 
THE AE BRAND IMAGE METER: THE “WE TOLD YOU SO” EDITION. A perennial favorite – the Autoextremist’s no-holds-barred take on automotive brands. 
AMERICA WIDE OPEN. It’s more important than ever to think about what Independence Day really means. 
SOUL SURVIVOR. A true AE classic – Peter’s in-depth look at the iconic and gone-too-soon Pontiac. 
RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT. A bittersweet look at the waning of the ICE Age, complete with a few of Peter’s favorite ICE machines.   
THINKING ‘BOUT THE TIMES I DROVE IN MY CAR, PART I. This now-legendary column reminds us of the inescapable role the automobile has played in defining who we are. 
RUNNIN’ DOWN A DREAM, PART II. Fast-forward to 2035 in Peter’s dream about what will be going on in the industry. 
NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING. EV Nirvana is upon us! Or is it? Who knows!  
Thank you! And don’t forget to check out our Best of “On The Table” for 2023. And now, Peter wraps up this past year. -WordGirl 
I would have loved to have been at the final brand naming meeting, because they obviously missed having someone there who could clear his or her throat and exclaim: “Uh, WTF are you morons thinking?” Yes, every once in a while, when you think that this business couldn’t possibly get more mired in mind-numbing boredom and tedious corporate inertia, a lightning bolt of pure absurdity strikes with no warning whatsoever. So, there I was, at my desk, contemplating what my first column for the new year would be about – and frankly not coming up with anything interesting – when a gift emerged out of the blue. Sony Honda Mobility unveiled the brand name for its new line of EVs at CES in Las Vegas, which will start arriving in 2026: Afeela. Are you afeeling me? Afeela is the brand name that Sony and Honda alighted upon to present its EVs to the public? Afeela is the brand name that Sony and Honda will stake their joint technical prowess on? Afeela is the brand name that will inspire consumers to take a serious look and maybe even buy? In the immortal words of the great Vince Lombardi: “What the hell is goin’ on out there?!?” Straight from the “You Just Can’t Make This Shit Up” File, Sony and Honda provided everyone with a piñata of endless laughs and ridicule, and it was damn-near priceless. 
Well, well, well. Ford’s “I’m a genius just ask me” CEO, offered up a monumental mea culpa to financial analysts for the company’s abysmal performance in 2022, after the company posted a crushing $2 Billion loss for the year. Jim Farley did his best, fall-on-his-sword presentation to the analysts and media by stating: “This has been humbling for both me and the team.” No. Shit. Dot. Com. 
Let me remind everyone for the hundredth time that Farley was to be “The Savior” who was appointed by Chairman Bill Ford to lead the Ford ship to the Promised Land, a fantasy world akin to an idyllic state of mind awash in bunny rabbits, rainbows and endless profits. Instead, the “Boy Wonder” has run the whole enterprise aground.  
In case you’re wondering, this was not only a spectacular embarrassment for Farley and his minions; it was a shocking report from a company boasting the F-150 pickup (both ICE and EV versions), the Bronco SUV, and the Mach-E EV. Remember, this was a company that thrived on the constant drumbeats generated by its PR minions, who touted the company’s “can’t-miss” product lineup at every opportunity – in other words, every day ending in a “Y”. This company-generated PR “noise” was then projected into the media landscape with considerable help from the Detroit Free Press (aka The Ford Times). It was not uncommon for newspaper readers in this town – at least the ones who are left – to be burdened with a 5,000+ word piece on Ford and Farley, which seemingly occured every other week. Tedious doesn’t even begin to cover it. 
In fact, too often the road to reinvention is riddled with broken dreams left smoldering by the side of the road. And some executives are meant to find that out the hard way. Indeed, the smarter auto executives are focusing on the fundamentals of designing, engineering, developing and building vehicles first. All of their vehicles. It does no good to brag about future EV projections if you can’t take care of the basic fundamentals – the blocking and tackling of this business – right now. EVs are the shiny objects filled with promise and potential, but ICE vehicles pay the bills, and they will continue to do so for years to come. These smarter execs will also take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, whether they be in EVs or with ICE vehicles. They will steadfastly avoid skipping a step, because understanding the past, they know that would prove to be costly, on too many levels. The road to reinvention is paved with good intentions, but it is an unruly one. But then again, it is meant to be. Nothing is given or preordained and certainly nothing is guaranteed, for individuals or companies. 
And there’s one final excuse for the CEO Monsters that we’ve well documented over the years – the always popular and predictable, “It Won’t Be Long Now!” mantra. This phrase is right in line with “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” as in, “Don’t dwell on those piss-poor financial numbers, ignore the fact that we can’t launch a vehicle to save our life – and when we do the quality and recall incidents are so prevalent that they destroy our bottom line every single quarter – because it’s all good! It really is! We’ve got sensational products coming, including EVs that will turn the marketplace on its ear! Things may look bleak now, but trust us, It Won’t Be Long Now!” 
Ah yes, it won’t be long now, indeed. Even though a company continues to wallow in mediocrity that shouldn’t in any way diminish the notion that its “I’m a genius, just ask me” CEO has it all figured out. After all, don’t be hatin’ on us because we have the best team in place that will allow us – soon enough, just you wait and see – to rule the automotive world.  
If I were to deliver a “State of the Auto Industry” speech today, it would revolve around two specific themes: 1. How delusional thinking is still running rampant in the business today. And 2. How the “It Won’t Be Long Now!” mantra continues to wreak havoc on this business on a daily basis. 
All together now: Not. Very. Good. 
I often wonder about this crazy automobile business, and when I do, the same question keeps coming up over and over again: Why? As in, why is it that it always seems to be a revelation to operatives in The Biz when compelling design sells cars and trucks? Is it really that hard? They can digest all of the strategic marketing analysis that is available to them, they can formulate a logical “can’t miss” marketing strategy that covers all contingencies and accounts for all variables, and yet they often ignore the one mitigating factor that will make or break a product launch: Design. 
It doesn’t matter how sound a marketing strategy is, and how many millions of dollars have been spent to get to that point, because if the vehicle in question has something visually lacking, it will arrive in the market with a thud. This is especially true in this “look-alike” era, where so-called crossover/SUVs share the same basic shape configuration and struggle to find some worthwhile visual differentiation. On the other hand, there’s Ferrari… 

The Ferrari 296 GTB.

The Ferrari Roma.

The Ferrari Purosangue. 
Yes, I get it, it’s easy to post Ferrari pictures and talk about outstanding design, but that’s exactly the point. There’s a reason that Bill Mitchell, the GM design legend, brought the latest Ferrari models to the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, and parked them in the GM Styling viewing courtyard. It was to inspire his design troops and expose them to what was going on in the design centers of Italy. And it worked. Mitchell was considered to be the master of bringing design concept looks to the mainstream automobile business here in the U.S., and GM dominated the market because of it in its heyday.  
GM is leading with design statements again from Corvette and Cadillac, but the Korean manufacturers have the bit in their teeth too, and they’re leading with compelling mainstream designs of their own. But as I said, too often auto companies come up short when they bring designs to the public, which makes me wonder why? 
Here’s another question: Why is that automobile dealers regularly squander the hundreds of millions of marketing dollars spent by the manufacturers to position their products? I’ve seen manufacturers nurture and fine-tune their brand images down to the very last detail, making certain that all possible contingencies are accounted for and properly vetted, only for the whole thing to come apart at the dealer level because of a bad in-person experience. After all of the rah-rah dealer shows in Las Vegas, complete with the obligatory group-think buy-in and nodding approvals from the dealers in attendance, they go back to their dealerships and allow the whole thing to come apart because of their tactics that are, how shall I say this, incongruous with the brand image at every level. I’ve seen countless examples of this over the years too. 
Nothing blows up a brand image more convincingly – and with stunning immediacy – than a dealer who conducts its business with an ingrained egregious attitude aimed at extracting as much short-term profitability as possible from prospects, while completely forgoing any sense of brand image whatsoever. Yes, this is the car business after all, as dealers will say, and consumers have to be savvy before they walk through our doors. Really? There’s a reason a majority of car-shopping consumers despise setting foot in a dealership. Simply put, it’s because bad things happen there. And it has gotten much worse in these supply-challenged times we’re living in. 
Don’t like the “take-it-or-leave-it-because-someone-behind-you-will” situation? Tough. Don’t like the fact that all of the cars on a dealer’s lot are pretreated with some sort of “mystical” ceramic coating that you didn’t ask for and don’t want to the tune of $1,000 extra? Too bad. I have nothing against a dealer’s ability to make a profit – that’s the name of the game after all – but there’s a fine line between making a profit and flat-out exploiting consumers, and too often dealers are operating on the wrong side of that line. 
I am seeing that because of the high interest rates and the free fall in used car prices (although they seem to be firming up a bit) that some dealers are softening their stance and actually trying to work with consumers as much as possible, knowing that these are difficult times for everyone, as they value the fundamental concept of gaining repeat business. But who’s kidding whom here? All it takes is one unscrupulous rogue dealer – and the negative word-of-mouth fallout that ensues from their actions – to blow up a $100 million marketing campaign. After all, it’s hard to embrace high-minded concepts from a manufacturer like “we provide an uncompromised experience that will envelope you in luxury” – or something like that – when a dealer is playing Hose-O-Rama on a consumer’s head. (And true to form, dealers are already squawking that the high interest rates are cutting into their ability to make money on F&I, a source of pure, unfettered profits. To that I say, Boo-Fucking-Hoo.) 
There are plenty of other “whys?” of course. As in: 
Why is a “legacy” auto company that claims to be an essential part of the American fabric at every opportunity simply unable to launch a vehicle without myriad problems showing up? The systemic failures are mind-blowing at this juncture, and the excuses are indeed wearing thin. 
Why does the U.S. Government continue to allow Tesla to operate with impunity? The major recall just announced over Tesla’s “full self-driving” technology isn’t enough. The consumers who paid $10,000 for a technology that didn’t come close to offering what was promised by its Blowhard-in-Chief should be paid back that money in full. Period. After all, people died using this alleged technology. Until there are real consequences for this ongoing Muskian nightmare, it will continue to be a complete travesty. 
Why is the EV infrastructure lagging behind BEV development? I have thought about this a lot, and I have to say that I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s three things: 1. The idea of a competent EV infrastructure was thought of too late in the process. 2. The cost and technical expertise needed to support and service new and existing EV charge points was never built into the equation. And 3.There wasn’t enough profit potential visible. Unless and until these points are addressed, the whole EV “thing” is going to take time, a long time, to come together. 
Why do certain auto manufacturers continue to underwrite NASCAR at this point? And what again is the point exactly? Does the internal explanation revolve around the concept that a certain level of image wrangling needs to be maintained? I’m not buying that for a second. The NASCAR imperative seems to exist within these companies out of sheer “we’ve always done it” inertia. And that simply isn’t good enough. The OEMs could easily cut their financial involvement in NASCAR by 75 percent and guess what? The NASCAR Circus would figure out a way to go on. 
Why do the EV startups (Lucid, Rivian, Fisker, etc.) get most of the attention from the automotive media? And why is the collective media surprised when those same startups have serious problems and are unable to meet even a fraction of their original production/sales goals? This is recurring unmitigated bullshit that needs to stop if the auto media wants to retain a shred of integrity. Memo to the carpal-tunnel challenged scribes: Call these companies out right from the start and adopt a giant “we’ll see” skepticism before the bullshit pile gets too high to get out from under. Because the way you’ve been doing it makes you look foolish. 
(WHY? – 3/1) 
The concept of AI car repossessions may bring a laugh now, as in, sure, but make no mistake, this is just one more step along the way to the driving equivalent of a vanilla shake with a shot of mediocrity. Let’s say you want to take your family to the Badlands National Park one summer in The Future, with a few unplanned stops along the way? And what if, in order for all of this to work, and in keeping with the idea of applying technology across a broad spectrum of the populace – to the lowest common denominator, in other words – the nanny technologistas in the government went ahead and created the National Bureau of Electronic Movement (NBEM), a clearinghouse of sorts to monitor the burgeoning transportation needs of the collective “us.” And let’s say that in order to plan that sort of a family vacation, you would first have to apply to the NBEM, plotting out your trip to the smallest detail, leaving no charge, food, bathroom or snack stop left out. 
Sounds delightful, right? No? I’ve gone too far – off the deep end, in fact – and I’m projecting a societal development that will never happen? Don’t be so sure. The rapid development of AI is swallowing everything having to do with our life as we know it whole. The indiscriminate onslaught of AI, which is often portrayed as something akin to a benign force for good, is incredibly naïve and flat-out wrong. With each “next step” AI development that promises to get us closer to a societal nirvana where things are no longer bad, or hurtful, or negative, or challenging, I cringe, because we are getting one step closer to having our basic freedoms compromised or removed altogether as being irrelevant compared to the “greater good.” 
You can laugh now, but I don’t find it funny in the least. Robot-motoring is not something I aspire to. And it’s not something you should aspire to, either. 
Memo to automakers everywhere: Beware of Geeks bearing imaginary gifts. It will cost you dearly. Right now, the automakers in this town are falling all over themselves sucking up to and acquiescing to hordes of so-called “tech” people who are inundating their halls and having an inordinate amount of sway with people who should know better. Just one example? The CEO at that car company in Dearborn has been dangerously under the influence of these ex-Silicon Valley-types, and it has proved to be costly, with the positive results missing in action from the get-go. But then again, there’s no one over there tapping him on the shoulder saying, “Excuse me, but I believe you’re resolutely full of shit,” so the carnage will continue. 
One area in particular is being overrun by these geeks, and that is the marketing arena. There are some higher-ups in this town who think that because of the fallout from the great tech explosion there are hordes of “gifted” people available who are ready, willing and able to dispense their “wisdom” on this business, especially when it comes to marketing. But it is a Fool’s Errand of the first order. Why? Just as everyone has an opinion about what makes a great vehicle, there are plenty of “armchair experts” out there bringing their whims and biases about how to market cars and trucks to the Motor City. That some of these geeks have been given a wide berth in this town is embarrassing, wrongheaded and wildly off the mark. Misguided people who have no business dispensing marketing advice being given weight and influence at this juncture is an indictment of where this business finds itself right now. It is both silly and pathetic, and it’s going to cost these companies millions in mistakes and do-overs.  
Why? Part II. Because, the automobile business is one of the most complicated endeavors on earth, and just because a person has seen a version of success in the tech industry, does not mean that whatever accrued expertise he or she brings to the table is necessarily applicable to a business that isn’t easily defined by knee-jerk reactions, or subject to the whims of an “armchair” marketing expert. 
Am I shocked that this happened at Tesla? Not in the least. Fueled by the most unprincipled leader in all of American business, a person who has regularly thumbed his nose at laws, restrictions and safeguards designed to rein in technology and/or bad behavior, we’re talking about a company that has functioned as a corporate outlaw from the very beginning. The fact that this company has consistently promoted its “Full Self Driving” option when, in fact, it didn’t even approach the capabilities promised, is unacceptable. And the fact that they charged $10,000 for it is even worse. But the most egregious thing this company did was to enlist its owners – some of whom were unwitting participants – into doing so-called “beta” testing of the fundamentally unproven option out in the real world. And it is beyond unconscionable. This is no laughing matter, either. Because whether blind consumer belief in St. Elon’s Big Lie about “FSD” or out of sheer personal stupidity and/or irresponsibility, people actually died while engaging this technology. There’s a reason Tesla is now under the gun from NHTSA for this despicable behavior, and as I have stated before, I expect the company to pay a heavy price – running into the billions of dollars – for operating with the integrity of a scofflaw.  
So again, reading that some Tesla employees found amusement in eavesdropping on the personal lives of its customers through the onboard camera systems on Teslas is no surprise. But I would like to point out that if, let’s say, a domestic automaker did anything even approaching this behavior, you can be sure that company would be hauled before Congress for a public whipping, humiliation and “consequences.” 
But there have never been any real consequences for Musk’s car company, and that’s the point here. The fact that Tesla has operated outside the bounds of respectability since Day One has been well-documented. It has accumulated a long list of incidents of corporate malfeasance, but it has managed to escape serious consequences because of a combination of Messianic fervor from Muskian devotees blind to the underlying bad behavior at work, to Wall Street-types who have consistently ignored the ugly realities being deployed by the company in order to hyper-inflate its stock price and capitalize on it. 
This car company is made in the image of one of its co-founders – someone who is decidedly lacking in character, someone who believes he is smarter than everyone else and needn’t be bothered with conforming to the “mundane” laws that guide mere mortals. In other words, it is a full-blown Muskian Nightmare. And it’s a pathetic commentary about where we are today in terms of this technological imperative that is consuming us on a daily basis. That we’ve probably reached the point of no return with all of it shouldn’t surprise anyone. 
(IT’S NOT VERY GOOD, IS IT? – 4/12) 
I should point out the other dimension to this whole charging thing and that is that there’s an attitude “out there” among the EV cognoscenti that suggests that consumers should be prepared to alter their thinking about road trips and get used to the idea of 20-minute – minimum – stops for recharging on the road. I’m sorry, but WTF? I don’t care what kind of EV charging “oasis” with shopping, entertainment, food, coffee and whatever other accoutrements associated with ideal road tripping is created, let me make this perfectly clear: consumers will not put up with 20-minute charging as a matter of course in their EV travels. The fact that there are prevailing thoughts among EV acolytes in this industry that this should somehow be acceptable and “the cost of EV ownership” is wrong-headed and flat-out dumb. I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it a thousand more times: Unless and until a consumer can pull off of a freeway and fully charge their EV in the same time it takes to fill up a current ICE vehicle with gasoline, then this whole “EV adoption” thing is going to be excruciatingly slow and play out over the next decade, not next week. 
The darkness beckons at 3:00 a.m.A cup or two or three to jump-start meThe news is weird, spinning like a topOn one side, sketchy optimismOn the other, the ugly realityBelieve your eyes, not the stories 
On the way to the EV Promised LandThe bumps and grinds and promisesAre getting to be a bit too muchThe Future is starry bright, if we just hang onBut ’24, ’25, ’26?Who has that kind of time? 
Flying cars and IPOsTakeovers in the search for more controlThe bootlickers and the shallow menHankerin’ for another pieceElbows out juggling empty lotsSomething tells me we’ve lost the plot 
It’s all happeningEverything all the time 
The media goes on genuflectin’Not even pretendin’Why bother askin’ when no one’s watchin’?The newly anointed King can do no wrongPay no attention to those flyin’ roofsThey’re just a blip on the way to sainthood 
The Sturm und Drang oozesIt’s the Swirling Maelstrom writ largeThe chaos is the juice, or is the juice the chaos?Pay no attention to that PR Man Behind the CurtainThe tongue is forked, the agenda is clearAnd don’t kid yourself, the chips still set the tone 
The bad taste is palpableThe wait is long and debilitatingEven Godot has come and goneBut don’t worry, it won’t be long nowWide-open promises, unlimited profitsJust don’t ask when or how 
It’s all happeningEverything all the time 
It’s all about the content, stupidLeveraging everything that movesThere’s gold in them thar subscriptionsRevenue for the takingStop calling it a car companyIt’s a tech company in the making 
Forget about Old SchoolThere’s no future in oldThe sooner we get with the programAnd leave the past behindThe better off we’ll beIt’s as simple as a-b-c 
The Wall Street Willies call the shotsIt’s all about what they’re gonna say and doThumbs up and the stock soarsThumbs down and we told you soWhat about the consumers?As long as they’re payin’ their monthlies, who cares? 
It’s all happeningEverything all the time 
The prognosticators are having a field dayMaking it up on the flyForget about tea leavesNow it’s watching chip dust through an hour glassDo they really know what’s coming?Or are they just spewing by the by? 
We’ll get it all sorted outOr so they sayBut who is “they” anyway?What have they ever done to deserveMore than a glance and a glimpseAs we ride on by? 
Batteries on the brainCheaper better fasterSmaller lighter longerThe ICE Era is overOr sometime soonIt was a good long run, Baby 
It’s all happeningEverything all the time 
Too many promisesToo much optimismWaiting for a triggerSo everything comes goodI’ve seen this movie beforeIt never ends well 
The hucksters have come out of the woodworkNew companies in name onlyIt’s gonna be greatUntil the inevitable wreckWhen there’s no “there” thereWhat did you expect? 
In the meantime, the dealersAre hangin’ by a threadThis crisis is messin’ with their headsThey can’t sell what they don’t haveEmpty lots, empty promisesCan we interest you in a ‘17 Lexus? 
The darkness hoversJust as black at 5:00 a.m.How can that be?And what have we learned?Nothing new, nothing muchIt’s complicated 
It’s all happeningEverything all the time 
So, at the end of this discussion a giant question remains. Is the car enthusiast thing becoming a lost cause? Are we forced to accept the sanitized version of “racing” called F1? And, while we’re at it, are we really going to slink off and wait for EVs to put us out of our collective misery once and for all? Are we all – collectively – going to join the go-along-to-get-along hordes being farmed over to EVs even though serious questions remain about the plundering of raw materials, the lack of a fundamental infrastructure and the substitution of one source of power (gasoline) for another (coal)? I don’t think so and not by a long shot, thankfully. It doesn’t hurt to take a step back and remember the following very important points: 
You have to love the car business. Well, let me rephrase that. Some of us immersed in this seething cauldron of runaway egos, shortsightedness, intermittent brilliance and, remarkably enough and against all odds, indomitable spirit, love this business. (Then again, when it comes right down to it, it depends on the day.) 
We love it for the unbridled creativity demonstrated by its True Believers, who keep stepping up to the plate and swinging for the fences. We love it for the relentless 24/7 churn – and associated weariness – that it entails (even though everyone complains about it, they wouldn’t have it any other way). 
We love it for the brief shining moments when an exceptional design or product advancement emerges to remind us all of what turned us on about the business in the first place, even though those moments are fleeting, at best. 
But then again and truth be told, we love to loathe it too. It can’t be helped. We despise the carpetbagging mercenaries who seem to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune moments to wreak havoc on this business. Oh, you know who I’m referring to, several of whom were even present and accounted for in Miami over the weekend. We cringe at the legions of spineless weasels that populate almost every corner of this business and the dutiful, sniveling minions who project a positive demeanor but who wallow in serial, abject mediocrity at every turn. That part of the business is always depressing and tedious, there’s no doubt. 
But yet, we press on. And for good reason too. 
Yes, the overhyped, overblown and overrated aspects of this business, which we loathe, aren’t going away any time soon. But fortunately, the fundamental enthusiasm displayed by the True Believers and everyday enthusiasts alike who still like – make that love – everything to do with the automobile isn’t going away any time soon, either. 
Thank goodness. 
Let’s just call it for what it is: Hosing on Demand. Wading into this swirling maelstrom – three years too late and woefully out of touch with consumer perspectives per usual – comes the automobile industry, whose collective “Big Idea” to accelerate future profitability is to monetize just about everything that moves in your vehicle. Want heated seats? It’ll cost ya. Want a heated steering wheel? It’ll cost ya. Want advanced connectivity and the latest access to entertainment, mapping and communication? It’ll cost ya. Want your advanced performance and safety systems to be engaged and ready? Well, let’s see, that’s a package that will definitely cost ya – every damn month.  
As most longtime readers know, I have gradually become even more aggravated with the state of the so-called car “thing” as it exists today. It’s clear that the car enthusiast culture – or what’s left of it – has been overrun by con artists, clueless marketing twerps, greed merchants, poseurs and too many (but not all) in the media who display more go-along-to-get-along, “Thank you sir, may I have another” cheerleading than your average SEC school. Where is it all going? Nowhere good, I’m afraid.  Right this minute there are shiny happy auto marketing troops gathering out in Pebble Beach, patting themselves on the back that they’re present and accounted for at Monterey Car Week, even though the research gleaned and goodwill bestowed to prospects amounts to a giant bowl of Not So Much. As for the few brighter lights at the car companies who realize that the million-dollar bills they accrue at Pebble Beach really don’t add up to much of anything quantifiable, they’re unfortunately offset by the marketers who are whining because they aren’t there and who can’t wait to get out there next year. So, it seems that the cycle will continue.   
So, let me get right to it. The High-Octane Truth about the strike is that it doesn’t really matter what the “percentage” of the wage increase negotiated by the UAW is. And it doesn’t really matter what COLA allowances are determined, or what any of the other various demands are that Fain is making.  Why? Because Detroit, as we know it or knew it – is dead. The automakers based here are operating on a crushing cost deficit to competitors like Tesla, as well as the Korean, Chinese and Japanese manufacturers. And that deficit will not shrink with this next labor contract. Instead, it will grow larger. The collective Detroit-based manufacturers are going to be saddled with per-hour labor costs that will make them even less competitive, at a crucial time in the industry when the alleged “Grand Transition” to EVs is supposed to be picking up steam and sucking every bit of cash that the auto companies can muster.  
None of this makes me happy in the least. The thought of that Unctuous Prick in Chief – the Muskian Nightmare himself – lapping up more market share makes my skin crawl. And watching this industry, which has dominated this region and been part of the industrial fabric of this nation for 125 years, become marginalized is excruciatingly painful to me.  
Where is it going? The car companies based here are going to have to rely on making excellent ICE vehicles for many, many years to come in order to survive, while they launch BEVs in fits and starts. I predicted that the “Grand Transition” would be fraught with peril for the automakers based in this region. That is the ugly reality, and I wish it wasn’t the case, but it’s the High-Octane Truth.  
Is all of this sustainable for Jeep? Nine consecutive down quarters suggests that it isn’t. I have seen flat-out greed consume auto manufacturers over the years, and the formula is always the same, which goes something like this: Initial success x an over-optimistic expansion of a brand xwildly aggressive pricing = diminishment of a brand and ultimately, certain market disaster. Jeep finds itself in the crosshairs of a bad situation caused completely by its own flat-out greed. If Jeep operatives aren’t careful – and don’t wake up and change course – they won’t be able to extricate themselves from this downward spiral.  
But wait, there’s more stupid to discuss. The current marketing of pickup trucks seems to thrive on stupidity. Take the words “tough,” “adventure,” “America” and “American Built” along with some other go-to words, put them all in the Giant Advertising Cliché Hopper and voila! – a new truck commercial emerges. Is this bad? I’m not sure if “bad” is the right adjective in this case. It’s expected, predictable, formulaic, rote and unimaginative. It’s also a study in abject mediocrity. I’ve often wondered – and this goes for all three of the domestic-based truck manufacturers plus Toyota – why these manufacturers continue to show their trucks blithely pounding the off-road landscape into submission. I guess that the hoary notion of “tread lightly” is no longer a thing. Instead, these manufacturers show their trucks engaging in stupid off-road behavior every chance they get. I understand the fact that off-road “cred” is the thing nowadays when pushing trucks and SUVs, but it grew tedious years ago, and it seems to be getting worse and more pronounced with each new commercial. To what end, exactly?  
Speaking of stupidity, we can’t close out the year without mentioning a particularly stupid move – so stupid, in fact, that we’ve decided to create an all-new award for it. The AE Award for Peak Stupidity 2023 goes to GM for their decision to drop Apple CarPlay from their vehicles in favor of GM’s proprietary infotainment system. This bone-headed move, first reported way back in the spring, resulted in a swift and deserving backlash. As usual, the company bumbled and stumbled through their reasons for doing this, mostly recently landing on “safety” as their justification. Let’s call it what it is – a shameless and brazen money grab – not to mention a gigantic data grab. GM has gone on record saying it anticipates earning $25 Billion – with a “B” – from subscriptions by 2030. So it’s money, money, money – and data, data, data, pure and simple. There are now legions of people who will cross GM off their shopping lists forever. This has disaster written all over it for GM, and it’s unmitigated bullshit to boot. (Is it just me, or does it seem like peak stupidity is not only “having a moment” – it has basically become standard operating procedure in the auto biz? -WG)
So, we’ve come to the end of another year of Creating content for this website can be exhilarating, debilitating, depressing and yes, even flat-out fun at times. Or all of the above, all on the same day. I learned early on that the reality of doing this website means that, if I write something people agree with, I’m a hero. If I write something that people disagree with, I’m an asshole. Such is life when you’re a national commentator who is expected to offer up a new column every week.  
Not that I’m complaining – actually, far from it. People who knew me before AE know that I’m exactly the way I was way back when. Someone who was gifted a living, breathing history of this business, and who was willing to offer commentary and perspectives that others would either shy away from or wouldn’t think of verbalizing out loud. And someone who never ever suffered fools, gladly or otherwise.  
I still get excited about the best things that define this business: The creativity by all of the talented men and women involved in the actual designing of vehicles inside and out. It’s a true art form, and there is nothing, and I mean, nothing more breathtaking than taking a walk through a design studio and experiencing the brilliant work on display. It gives you a feeling of hope for The Future that’s difficult to put into words, even for me. 
And then there’s the feeling from a vehicle that has been developed, nurtured and polished to a high degree in every facet of the game. Superb steering, confident braking, remarkable cornering, and, of course, responsive engine and transmission performance. Wheeling a remarkable machine bristling with those qualities never gets old – in fact, if you haven’t experienced it in a while you owe it to yourself to get behind the wheel and have at it. It’s reaffirming. And if it isn’t, maybe it’s time to engage in a different pursuit. 
Yes, I still find the business exciting, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that some parts of this business piss me off more than ever. Serial incompetence is still rampant in this business. Classic mistakes are not only still being made, they’re being repeated by executives and organizations that should know better. It’s a weird Auto Twilight Zone where what came before never happened and where every day is a new day. Sometimes it seems that there has been no accrued knowledge of any sort, and we’re being forced to witness a slow-rolling train wreck that could have easily been avoided.  
Yes, this inexorable automotive march continues. To where, no one really knows for sure. The EV thing is definitely coming, and it will still be coming fifteen years from now. Make no mistake, the developments in battery technology, weight reduction and charging speed are unfolding at a furious pace, and the seemingly insurmountable problems of today will give way to radical solutions in ten years. But that means that the ICE Reality will continue unabated for a long time to come, and as I’ve stated repeatedly, that is a very good thing as far as I’m concerned.  
Where does all of this leave AE? has sharpened my focus and my thoughts even more, and helped me realize that there are no free rides or guarantees in life. I am lucky in that I found something in that has kept me motivated and sharp for going on 25 years. And I truly appreciate the fact that I have it, because despite all of the negatives going on in this business today, I still believe in the essence of the automobile.  
Yes, the business itself can be mind-numbingly tedious at times, as I’ve well documented over the years. And it is without question one of the most complicated endeavors on earth, made up of so many nuanced ingredients that it almost defies description. But the creation of machines that are safe, reliable, beautiful to look at, fun to drive, versatile or hard working – depending on the task they’re designed for – is more than just a cold, calculated business. It is and has been an industrial art form that has come to define who we are collectively. 
The automobile obviously still means more to me than it does for most. I grew up immersed in this business, and the passionate endeavor surrounding the creation of automotive art has never stopped being interesting for me. And it is very much art, by the way. Emotionally involving and undeniably compelling mechanical art that not only takes us where we want to go but moves us in ways that still touch our souls deeply. As I have reminded everyone often in writing this column, I for one will never forget the essence of the machine, and what makes it a living, breathing mechanical conduit of our hopes and dreams.  
And finally, in case you’re wondering, I’m still hungry. I still want more from this business because I believe it is always capable of more. We’re on the precipice of monster changes in this industry, and I expect that some legacy companies will not exist in their current form within five years. Again, constant change is the nature of the game.  
And I still believe in the True Believers. I believe in their vision, their dedication and their endless capacity to dream of what could be, because without them this business would cease being viable. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved here, and extremely thankful for the support, for the kind words and for all of the True Believers we’ve met along the way.It has been all-encompassing. It has been tough. And it has been, at times, soul-sucking exhausting. But if I had a do-over, I would do it all over again. Because even though it has been a relentless grind, I am very proud to say that we’ve made a difference and we’ve made a lasting impact. We set out to influence the influencers in this business, and that is exactly what we did and will continue to do. It has been one glorious ride. WordGirl and I thank you for listening and, as always, thanks for reading. We wish the best to you and yours for this Holiday Season and a Happy and Peaceful New Year. We will see you back here on January 10, 2024. 
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for 2023. 

Editor’s Note: Click on “Next 1 Entries” at the bottom of this page to see previous issues. – WG

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