BLOG: Larry P. Vellequette

Fiat's cute cartoon characters suggest buying a 500 -- or else

Posted 3:38 pm U.S. ET, Aug. 27
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Says Fiat's cartoon badger: "We have several friends in the bear community. You know what I'm saying, right?"
Since Fiat was reintroduced to the United States in 2011, the Italian brand has stretched the advertising envelope. But a new animated spot set to debut on Gas Station TV this month touting the fuel and ecological advantages of a Fiat 500 minicar may be the brand’s most wry offering yet. The one-minute commercial features animated woodland creatures -- a rabbit, a ...
     Continue reading "Fiat's cute cartoon characters suggest buying a 500 -- or else" » Aug 27, 2014 3:38 pm U.S. ET
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Will Marchionne's profits grab come up empty?

Posted 5:16 pm U.S. ET, Aug. 6
Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne today seemed like a grizzly bear standing amid a stream of happily swimming salmon. In comments to analysts, the enigmatic Chrysler boss said he was "envious" of the profit margins of his suppliers, and vowed to seek a share of their newfound wealth. Have no doubt: Profitable suppliers are the salmon in this scenario, and Marchionne i ...
     Continue reading "Will Marchionne's profits grab come up empty?" » Aug 6, 2014 5:16 pm U.S. ET
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Why a squeeze is coming to auto dealers

Posted 10:28 am U.S. ET, Aug. 5
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Take note: there is a squeeze coming to an auto dealer near you. Two important factors to new automotive sales -- low interest rates and relatively high values for used automobiles – are forecast to move in unwelcome directions that soon will make it more expensive to buy a new car, SUV or pickup. The forecasts, delivered at the 2014 Managem ...
     Continue reading "Why a squeeze is coming to auto dealers" » Aug 5, 2014 10:28 am U.S. ET
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Why the supplier price-fixing investigation looms large

Posted 9:40 am U.S. ET, Aug. 4
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- There's three dozen people in the auto supply chain who should be on the mind of everyone attending the Management Briefing Seminars here this year.  For more than three years, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and its counterparts in Europe and Japan have been working over automotive suppliers like a boxer on a heavy b ...
     Continue reading "Why the supplier price-fixing investigation looms large" » Aug 4, 2014 9:40 am U.S. ET
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Let's hope for a litter of Hellcat kitties

Posted 12:01 am U.S. ET, July 19
Spend a few minutes with Chrysler Group’s new monster power plant -- the 707-hp, 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V-8 -- and you will be left, as I was, with one overriding question: What else can you put it in? Not to say that it’s out of place in the 2015 SRT Challenger. It’s not. It absolutely belongs there and fits like a glove. But very few automakers t ...
     Continue reading "Let's hope for a litter of Hellcat kitties" » Jul 19, 2014 12:01 am U.S. ET
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Why fuel economy faces law of diminishing returns

Posted 3:02 pm U.S. ET, July 11
In economics, it’s known as the law of diminishing returns, the shrinking benefit you get when you pour ever-increasing resources toward achieving a singular goal. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency showed a good mathematical example of the principle today with a graphic it released about the consumer benefits of fuel economy. For consu ...
     Continue reading "Why fuel economy faces law of diminishing returns" » Jul 11, 2014 3:02 pm U.S. ET
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Minivans are too practical to have the reputation they have

Posted 3:13 pm U.S. ET, July 9
Here’s an automotive exercise: Think of the most practical product you own, something you use every day. Maybe it’s a pen you keep in your pocket, or a garment, a briefcase, a handbag -- whatever. Do you like it? Probably, or you’d switch to an alternative. Is it stylish? Maybe, but it doesn’t really have to be in order to be practical. Yet, becau ...
     Continue reading "Minivans are too practical to have the reputation they have" » Jul 9, 2014 3:13 pm U.S. ET
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Why the bankruptcy legacy seems different at Chrysler and GM

Posted 3:02 pm U.S. ET, May 22
Maybe it’s the five-year bankruptcy anniversary, or the juxtaposition of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles laying out its five-year business plan as General Motors struggles to contain a ballooning recall crisis. Either way, time and careful observation have now clarified for me a theory that I’ve noodled over since that dark spring in 2009. You see, there is a funda ...
     Continue reading "Why the bankruptcy legacy seems different at Chrysler and GM" » May 22, 2014 3:02 pm U.S. ET
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Can I request a Jeep Gladiator in the plan?

Posted 2:06 pm U.S. ET, May 2
To borrow a line from The Blues Brothers movie a few decades ago, Chrysler Group is “getting the band back together” on Tuesday to reveal its next five-year business plan. So I wonder: Is it too late to put in a request? If it’s not, if there’s still time, then what I’d really like to hear next week is that CEO Sergio Marchionne and company ...
     Continue reading "Can I request a Jeep Gladiator in the plan? " » May 2, 2014 2:06 pm U.S. ET
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Ohio man's collection of '36 Fords going to auction

Posted 12:01 am U.S. ET, April 19
As a young man, Emery Ward Jr. fell in love in 1936 -- with a Ford. He never got over the attraction. In fact, the older he got, the more it intensified. After Ward died in 2007, the objects of his affection -- a collection of nearly two dozen 1936 Fords of every shape and stripe -- remained locked away in a barn in Sandusky, Ohio, near the shores of Lake Erie. Until now ...
     Continue reading "Ohio man's collection of '36 Fords going to auction" » Apr 19, 2014 12:01 am U.S. ET
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CEO media scrums are as ineffective as they are dangerous

Posted 9:22 am U.S. ET, April 18
Journalists chasing a meaty story can act like a pack of wild dogs sometimes. They tear into the living flesh of their subject and rip it away, scurrying off to some more private place to process their information meal in peace. For the most part, this process is figurative. No one’s flesh is ripped away. But this week in New York -- and earlier this year at the D ...
     Continue reading "CEO media scrums are as ineffective as they are dangerous" » Apr 18, 2014 9:22 am U.S. ET
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Waiting for Alfa. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Posted 10:46 am U.S. ET, April 15
If you show up decades late for your own surprise party, are guests still expected to cheer your arrival? Maybe not for most. But it might be a different story if your name is Alfa Romeo. This week, the Alfa Romeo 4C will appear at the New York auto show, marking the sporty two-seater’s North American debut. There won’t be a formal news conference -- the 4C ...
     Continue reading "Waiting for Alfa. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting." » Apr 15, 2014 10:46 am U.S. ET
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Auto companies are buying the creative souls of late night TV

Posted 6:42 pm U.S. ET, April 1
Two bedrocks of late night TV did something so unseemly last week it looked as though they had responded to an unholy informercial. Are you an artist looking to sell your soul, but don’t want to stand at the Crossroads waiting for the Devil? If you are, then we’ve got great news! Detroit wants to make you a counteroffer! That’s right: Cash-rich auto co ...
     Continue reading "Auto companies are buying the creative souls of late night TV" » Apr 1, 2014 6:42 pm U.S. ET
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Jeep's software fix and the law of unintended consequences

Posted 12:30 pm U.S. ET, Feb. 21
Jeep set a global sales record in 2013 at 731,565 vehicles. It also had a big number of recalls of its vehicles.But one of last year's Jeep recalls led to an unintended consequence for some owners of 2005-10 Grand Cherokee and 2006-10 Commanders -- a consequence Chrysler now says it intends to fix, at least for most people.Here's what happened.In May, Chrysler Group recall ...
     Continue reading "Jeep's software fix and the law of unintended consequences" » Feb 21, 2014 12:30 pm U.S. ET
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Succeed Sergio? You'd have to be a bit crazy

Posted 12:01 am U.S. ET, Jan. 20
Many journalists went into the Detroit auto show with questions about CEO succession at various automakers.Why didn't Ford's Alan Mulally trade Mustang 50.0 for Windows 8.1? Would Mark Reuss or Dan Ammann be team players for new coach Mary Barra at General Motors?Fiat-Chrysler tried to cut off speculation by announcing that CEO Sergio Marchionne would stick around for "at ...
     Continue reading "Succeed Sergio? You'd have to be a bit crazy" » Jan 20, 2014 12:01 am U.S. ET
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Did new Chrysler spot show hot-selling Ram pickup with a nose job?

Posted 3:39 pm U.S. ET, Dec. 30
Did Chrysler Group's Ram truck brand just show the face of its next pickup?In a new commercial that appeared during the final regular season NFL games, Ram threw in two images that show a pickup featuring the familiar Ram's head badge and a decidedly different nose. The images -- which appear onscreen for only a few of the spot's 30 seconds -- were first noticed by a comme ...
     Continue reading "Did new Chrysler spot show hot-selling Ram pickup with a nose job?" » Dec 30, 2013 3:39 pm U.S. ET
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Why dealers should hire teachers, not tech guys, to deliver cars

Posted 2:35 pm U.S. ET, Dec. 11
Most dealers right now are struggling with a fundamental part of their business: how best to deliver sold cars.Specifically, how should dealers educate their paying customers on all the cool technology that a new car, pickup or SUV contains?Should the salesperson do it as part of the overall relationship-building process, even though that will suck away valuable commission ...
     Continue reading "Why dealers should hire teachers, not tech guys, to deliver cars" » Dec 11, 2013 2:35 pm U.S. ET
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Dodge pitchman Burgundy calls Durango 'terrible car'

Posted 3:59 pm U.S. ET, Nov. 21
You know that plethora of new, hilarious Ron Burgundy ads for the 2014 Dodge Durango? The ones that helped propel Durango sales up 59 percent in October?Well, Dodge's new pitchman , comedian Will Ferrell -- in character as the oafish San Diego newscaster Ron Burgundy -- went decidedly off-message during an appearance Wednesday on Conan O'Brien's late night show."It's a ter ...
     Continue reading "Dodge pitchman Burgundy calls Durango 'terrible car'" » Nov 21, 2013 3:59 pm U.S. ET
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SD card players offer good customer service opportunities

Posted 4:03 pm U.S. ET, Nov. 7
Smart dealers and sales reps should look hard at the customer satisfaction opportunity as the CD player disappears from vehicles.The CD player's main replacement, the Secure Digital card reader, does a better job than its predecessor in about a quarter of the space.Meanwhile, SD cards themselves -- known to most consumers as the little one-inch plastic things that store th ...
     Continue reading "SD card players offer good customer service opportunities" » Nov 7, 2013 4:03 pm U.S. ET
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What's happening with Jeep's trailer hitch recall? Not much

Posted 3:33 pm U.S. ET, Oct. 25
DETROIT -- I know government moves at its own pace, and sometimes that pace seems agonizingly slow.It has now been more than four months since Chrysler Group reached its settlement with federal safety officials over a request to recall 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Libertys.In that time, none of the estimated 1.56 million 1993-98 Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Lib ...
     Continue reading "What's happening with Jeep's trailer hitch recall? Not much" » Oct 25, 2013 3:33 pm U.S. ET
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Great Odin's raven! Ron Burgundy shills Dodge Durango

Posted 3:11 pm U.S. ET, Oct. 4
It looks like the polyester-clad cult icon who believed diversity "was an old, wooden ship used during the Civil War era" is the newest spokesman for the Dodge Durango.Great Odin's raven!Ron Burgundy -- the bombastic, fantastically ill-informed San Diego newsman created by comedian Will Ferrell in 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy -- is hawking the Dodge brand's ...
     Continue reading "Great Odin's raven! Ron Burgundy shills Dodge Durango" » Oct 4, 2013 3:11 pm U.S. ET
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Chrysler's IPO filing an expensive distraction

Posted 5:31 pm U.S. ET, Sept. 24
The breathless hullabaloo over Chrysler Group's long-awaited filing for an initial public stock offering has the automotive world abuzz with revelations of perceived palace intrigue under the Pentastar.Contained in Chrysler's nearly 400-page S-1 filing Monday were details of executive compensation and suggestions of another delay of Alfa Romeo's return to the United States ...
     Continue reading "Chrysler's IPO filing an expensive distraction" » Sep 24, 2013 5:31 pm U.S. ET
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Chrysler's Hurricane engine coming in 2016

Posted 3:12 pm U.S. ET, Sept. 19
Chrysler Group has planned a hurricane for 2016, and like a parched Texas ranch, frankly, it could use the rain.The Hurricane coming three years from now is actually a rework of the company's base 2.0-liter I-4 engine, or, more specifically, the 2.0-liter engine's cylinder head, code-named Hurricane.The new head, according to Chrysler documents, "is an engineering challeng ...
     Continue reading "Chrysler's Hurricane engine coming in 2016" » Sep 19, 2013 3:12 pm U.S. ET
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Many C-Max owners -- including me -- knew the mpg estimate was askew

Posted 12:41 pm U.S. ET, Aug. 15
I don't want to say I told you so, but … wait; that's not entirely true.I do want to say I told you so.Back in mid-October, about two weeks after I bought my 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid SEL, I wrote a column explaining that I couldn't come close to its promised 47 city/47 highway/47 combined mpg.I went so far as to meet with the C-Max's chief engineer, asking him what I ...
     Continue reading "Many C-Max owners -- including me -- knew the mpg estimate was askew" » Aug 15, 2013 12:41 pm U.S. ET
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