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The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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On: Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 3:47PM | By: John Welch

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Mulally and Whitacre make nice-nice;

Whitacre does not extend nice-nice to schleps within his own company;

and the new Toyota Sienna debuts, renders Venza pointless . . . or was it the other way around?

The Good: Great minds think alike. Alan Mulally and Ed (re: 'Tex') Whitacre Jr. are eerily similar in many ways, the most obvious being their prominence within automotive companies that they have no experience running. Mulally proved that reasonable (re: not formulated within the American auto-industry's "culture of greed") business sense can save nearly any sinking ship. Now Whitacre Jr. must do the same for GM, and he is following Mulally's lead.

Mulally joined Jim Cramer on CNBC last night, but was not specific about his conversation with Whitacre. "He's reaching out just the way that I did when I came in," Mulally said of Whitacre. "You want to be supportive because we have a lot of industry issues that we work together." Mulally was polite but firm about avoiding details of the conversation beyond that. Mulally said he had talked with other industry executives, including former GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, when he joined Ford as an industry outsider in 2006.

Ford, the only large U.S. automaker not to reorganize under a U.S. government-supported bankruptcy in 2009, posted a third-quarter profit that surprised Wall Street analysts and now expects to be full-year profitable in 2011.

Mulally's arrival didn't quite bring the "Executive Musical Chairs" that Whitacre has supervised over at GM, which brings us to the BAD . . .

The Bad: There has been plenty of fall-out from Whitacre's decision to fire the snot out of Fritz Henderson ("resignation" my ass). The list of long-time GM execs to depart the GM roster grew by two this week.

Brent Dewar, who has been with GM since 1988, was recently promoted to the corner office at Chevrolet. Formerly GM's European design chief, Dewar may have been expecting a little more gratitude for his years of hard service helping deep-six GM. Susan Docherty, formerly head of Buick-GMC was chosen to head U.S. sales, a position Dewar had postured for. What, Chevrolet not good enough?

Michael Richards, who recently left Ford after a 28 year stint, took the reigns of Buick-GMC eight days ago. Yesterday he quit. Hhhmm, both Richards and Dewar assumed their positions when Vice Chairman Bob Lutz was in control of GM's marketing efforts. Under Whitacre's sweeping rearrangement, Lutz has been removed from his position as "Marketing-Maven," and has been replaced by Susan Docherty. Dewar and Richard's abrupt departure suggests that they wanted to work under the Henderson-Lutz regime, and are maybe less than pragmatic about the new government-appointed management.

Richards had worked for Ford 27 years before he was pushed out of his job as general marketing manager for Lincoln-Mercury. The announcement that Lutz had appointed him to head Buick-GMC came just hours before Whitacre announced Henderson’s departure. We remember the fracas surrounding that turn of events don't we? Susan Henderson, keepin' it classy . . .

Dewar will work with successor James Campbell through April 1st, “to ensure a smooth transition at Chevrolet” before retiring “to dedicate more time to his family and to pursue personal interests,” GM said in a statement. He will also serve out the remainder of his 31-year GM career as an adviser to Reuss.

The Ugly: Well, the ugliest thing on my mind at the moment is how freaking tired I am of reporting nonsense from GM and Toyota. Doesn't Lotus or Ferrari or freaking Skoda want to do something, anything, interesting already?! Sheesh. So, I've already covered the requisite GM news today, why not move on to my number two "least-favorite topic," Toyota.

The new for 2010 Toyota Sienna made its grand entrance this week ("grand" might be over-stating things; Sienna info is completely buried across these innerweb's), suddenly rendering the Venza, or itself, completely irrelevant.

Is this diatribe an excuse to rail on the Venza some more? Sure it is, but that doesn't make the abolition of fakie-wagons any less important. Wagons themselves are kewl, not status-mobiles made to look like the mulatto product of a coupe-wagon shotgun marriage. Which is what the Venza is. Pointless, other than to deliver a Camry that appeals to jerks with ride-height OCD. Or arrogant-ass Soccer Moms. Or newly-minted Executive-Idiots who grew up way too sheltered to have stumbled on the knowledge that BMW exists.

A choice of two responsive DOHC engines will be available: a 3.5-liter V6 or 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. Both engines offer the latest in efficient, lightweight technology, including Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), roller rocker arms and an Acoustically Controlled Induction System (ACIS) that changes the length of the air-intake pipe to supply more torque on demand.

The 3.5-liter V6 makes 266 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, with expected EPA-estimated mileage ratings of 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway (16 mpg city/22 mpg highway on AWD models). It also has a 3,500-pound tow capacity. With 187 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine produces responsive power that exceeds some competitor's V6 performance, while delivering expected EPA-estimated fuel efficiency ratings of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway.

Add in its cargo advantage over the Venza, nearly identical fuel mileage, and considering the new corporate Toyota face looks much better on the Sienna than the Venza, why in the hell would anyone buy a damn Venza?! It's only sold here, in the States, so it must be a direct jab at American common sense. Eff you, Toyota; quit starting trends that insult the bejesus out of us 'Merrikens who are actually paying attention to the new car landscape. Sienna, good. Venza/Crosstour/ZDX/X6 et. al., UGLY!!

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