Every year when we turn the calendar to the next year, I think back to the biggest automotive stories of the year. It was a year of transition and struggles for the auto industry as a whole. Letís just say there was never a shortage of things to talk about on the air. I present to you my picks for the top automotive stories of 2018, in no particular order:
Carlos Ghosn In Jail
Perhaps the most shocking story of the year was Nissanís CEO landing in jail in Japan. Ghosn was arrested November 19, 2018 as he was getting off his private plane. Another Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, was also arrested and both were charged with financial misdeeds. Ghosn remains in jail today.
Elon Musk Continues To Amaze
The ever-controversial Tesla CEO continue to make headlines. Remember the 12 Thai children who were trapped along with their coach? For some reason, Musk took to Twitter to call one of the successful rescuers a pedophile. We also saw him on television smoking marijuana. The big story, however, was the trouble he got into with the Security and Exchange Commission. The SEC took offense to his sudden and short-lived announcement he would take Tesla private, violating numerous laws. That little stunt cost Musk 20 million dollars and he had to step down as Chairman of Tesla.
General Motors Layoffs
This was the most vocal I was all year on the air. After a profit of 2.5 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2018, and reporting they had 20 billion dollars of cash on hand, GM announced it would close 5 assembly plants and lay off 14,000 workers. The reason? To amass cash to invest into self-driving cars, a segment I contend there is no market for in the near future. Then as the icing on the cake, GM ran adds all through December showing their own employees pitching employee pricing for everyone. I wonder if any of those on TV are among those losing their jobs.
The Sudden Death of Sergio Marchionne
Easily the saddest story of 2018, we learned in July that Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne had suddenly passed away with no warning to anyone, especially those at FCA. I had a lot of admiration for the job Sergio had done. We still donít know an exact cause of death, only that it was related to shoulder surgery he had. Sergio was known for wearing sweaters, not wearing ties, chain smoking cigarettes, and working very long hours. He will be missed.
Ford Announces The End Of Cars
This was another story I was riled up about on the air. I lost what little respect I had for Ford CEO Jim Hackett with this announcement. Personally, I never understood how he got the job in the first place after his claim to fame was being CEO of a desk company. Like GM CEO Mary Barra, Hackett was to be big into electric and self-driving cars. Some CEOs, like Hackett, should study the cyclical nature of the auto industry. Low gas prices have fueled truck and SUV sales, but low gas prices can change in a heartbeat and Americans will want their cars again, and Ford wonít have any, other than the Mustang. As I ended one rant on the Car Pro Show, I said: ďBill Ford, you made a bad hire. Cut your losses now.Ē
Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Pedestrian
Word came in March that an Uber self-driving car had hit and killed a pedestrian walking a bicycle across the street in Tempe, Arizona. The Volvo did not recognize the person as a pedestrian, and therefore did not activate the emergency braking system. In video shot inside the car, it also appeared the human driver behind the wheel was not watching the road.
- Jeep made quite a stir by verifying that 2020 would bring the long-awaited Gladiator, a pickup based on the popular Wrangler chassis.
- Some automakers decided to challenge Tesla for all-electric luxury vehicles. Porsche is coming with the Taycan, Audi E-Tron, and Jaguar I-Pace are among the EVs weíll see soon.
- President Trump sent shivers up the spines of many automaker CEOs by redoing the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, and by announcing steep tariffs on China.
- America continued to transition from cars to SUVs and trucks. We donít have December numbers yet, but in November of 2018, cars fell to an all-time low of just 29% of sales. Note to Ford, thatís still 5 million sales annually.
- The truck wars continue with new entries from Chevy, GMC, and Ram. All three were much improved, but also we saw loaded half-ton pickups approaching $70,000 and they just keep selling. Ford launched its F150 Powerstroke diesel and it has been very popular.
Photo Credit: krung99