It’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for another round of my Five For Friday: Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for December 13, 2013. Mary Barra is the new CEO of General Motors, Holden throws in the towel, the Honda Ridgeline gets new life, the Ford Mustang gets a burnout facilitator, and an eight-speed transmission for the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Mary Barra Becomes First Female CEO Of General Motors
It didn't take long for Dan Akerson's successor at General Motors to be named, as the board of America's largest automaker tapped Mary Barra as the next chief executive of the company almost immediately after the departing CEO announced his retirement. Barra is a 30 year veteran at GM who worked her way up from the factory floor to become head of product development for the company. Not only is Mary Barra the first female CEO of a global automaker, but she will also preside over a General Motors that is free of U.S. government ownership: the feds sold off their remaining shares of the conglomerate this past Monday.
02. Holden To Stop Production In 2017
Not all news was bright at General Motors this week, with the brand's captive Australian manufacturer announcing that it would cease building vehicles by the end of 2017. The BBC is reporting that close to 3,000 people will be out of work due to a combination of high labor and manufacturing costs combined with plunging market share that have the 65 year old company to the closure point.
Holden had been receiving taxpayer assistance over the past several in order to help it regroup and plan out a path forward, but Australia's prime minister pulled the plug on the subsidies earlier this month. Holden, which has from time-to-time assisted GM's American operations in platform development and delivered such rebadged models as the Pontiac GTO, will join Ford of Australia on the dust heap to mark the end of the country's home-grown auto industry. Only Toyota plans to continue producing cars within Australia's borders for the foreseeable future.
03. Honda Forges Ahead With Ridgeline Mark II
It might not impress with its sales figures, but Honda remains committed to the Honda Ridgeline mid-size pickup. The Automotive News has published a reporting detailing the Japanese company's plans to produce an all-new Ridgeline within two years of the slated end of the current version's run this summer. The next Ridgeline is predicted to follow a similar unibody design path, although no specific details about the truck have been discussed by Honda at this point. Honda's truck hasn’t evolved since it was first introduced in 2005, and has sold only a quarter of a million examples since then - a rounding error compared to the units moved by major players like Ford and General Motors.
04. 2015 Ford Mustang Debuts 'Burnout Control System'
The 2015 Ford Mustang launch was fraught with leaked images and specs, and just because the car has been made public doesn't mean the secrets have completely dried up. Motor Authority is claiming that the Mustang will be offered with a 'burnout control system' that will…facilitate burnouts. Ford has confirmed there is an additional 'special feature' that has yet to be announced, but won't comment on whether 'burnout control' is an accurate description. In a strange coincidence, all eight-cylinder Ford Mustangs have always been equipped with an undocumented burnout control function called the brake pedal, which is activated by the left foot while the right foot depresses the accelerator.
05. Eight-Speed Autobox On The Way For Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
With a seven-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, it was clear that the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray's six-speed autobox wasn't long for this world. Edmunds claims that an eight-speed automatic is very close to replacing the less-capable slushbox, potentially for the next model year, in an effort to boost its already excellent fuel economy even higher. The eight-speed unit will also most likely be smoother than the current six-speed. Given the nature of GM's parts sharing, it shouldn't be long before other eight-cylinder platforms - ahem, the Silverado - benefit from this efficiency-oriented transmission technology as well.