The Speculator's 2019 Version of The Crystal Ball Method of Prediction

Mark Reuss
General Motors President Mark Reuss…more about him later. – All Photos by Randy Stern

Can’t kick a good idea, but we cringe on the bad ones!

How many rumors have you heard that make you wonder the overall intelligence of humanity? How many of those rumors do you think that you can come up with something better?

The Speculator column is one that answers those questions. Or, rather, address then, put them through the spin cycle, and see what path they could lead us.

Of course, they will also yield questions. Questions that are related to the industry’s health, a company’s fitness, and products that could engage customers.

Let me fire up The Speculator’s crystal ball and see if we can get some answers to these questions.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport Up North

HOW WILL GENERAL MOTORS AND FORD MANAGE THROUGH PLANT CLOSURES, LAYOFFS, AND VEHICLE CANCELLATIONS IN 2019? I wish I had the ultimate answer here, but let’s talk through this. Ford stated they took a loss of $1 billion due to tariffs from imported steel. The company has already announced the elimination of four car lines form their lineup by 2020, while rumors persist of further cuts at the company. GM has already announced the elimination of six car lines, the closure of six production facilities, and the cut of 14,500 jobs. Both companies are banking on new SUV/crossovers to balance the losses. OK, fine, but what if consumer tastes change? They’ll crawl through – Ford has new products coming faster than GM, which may tip to Dearborn’s advantage. This will be one story to track this year.

WITH MORE PEOPLE JUMPING THE SHIP CALLED THE "RENAULT NISSAN MITSUBISHI ALLIANCE," WILL THERE BE PLAN TO KEEP THE PROMISES MADE FOR 2022? What a fine mess you got everyone into, Mr. Ghosn! This income reporting case against Carlos Ghosn has been claiming the jobs left and right. There has been no stone left unturned – no matter which company and what location this viral pall has cast its shadow upon. I fear that this does not bode well with the promises of the 2022 plan that would see fewer platforms across the three main companies. It was also designed to boost Mitsubishi worldwide, something a good chunk of my readers would like to see succeed. But, I wonder if there's more to the story than just Ghosn's criminal charges? There is, but do we have time for conspiracy theories and governmental intrigue? The plot may be thickening, but for how long? We'll see…

FORD AND VOLKSWAGEN…? Based on the press conference today, we are seeing this tie-up as an alliance to produce commercial vehicles for markets outside of North America. Furthermore, both Dearborn and Wolfsburg will be co-developing electric and autonomous vehicle infrastructures. And, that’s it. No co-ownership. No takeover. Just an alliance. If you were expecting anything more from this tie-up, forget it.

“CADILLAC IS GOING TO BE ABOUT CADILLAC.” WHAT IS MARK REUSS TALKING ABOUT? The only discernable piece that was stated by GM was that Cadillac will lead in the company’s electrification push. But, is that all? One look at the newly released 2020 XT6 mid-sized SUV tells us one thing – it needs more pizazz. The XT4 is extremely stylish and stands out in a crowd. The XT6 appears to be toned down and subdued, with some distinct Cadillac elements. One wonders if this is the way Cadillac will approach design for its future vehicles. Another concern is the backtracking on the announcement of the elimination of its largest sedans – the XTS and CT6 – and the closure of its plants. Because of the advanced engineering and sharp styling of this sedan, GM stated they will keep CT6 for North America. This car would be easily produced alongside the CTS in Lansing, because of its rear-drive-biased platform. Rumors also have the CT6 coming from their Chinese plant – the one producing the plug-in hybrid model for all markets. Hopefully, there will be some sort of trade agreement with reduced tariffs for it to happen. If “Cadillac is going to be about Cadillac,” then it has to return to a place where it was truly “the standard of the world.” If not, then Cadillac, GM, and Reuss may be facing the “penalty of leadership.”

GAC Trumpchi crossover

BETWEEN BREXIT, TRUMP’S TRADE “POLICIES,” AND THE “NEW NAFTA,” IS ROME BURNING…OR PARIS? If Paris was burning, there will be some massive slaying on the ball scene (or on RuPaul’s Drag Race) from here to eternity! Ahem…trade is a touchy subject and the key players involved in these trade wars and alliances have forgotten what was important for their respective country to accomplish in each scenario. We are already seeing a loss in jobs and deeper losses on the balance sheet. Jaguar Land Rover is cutting 4,500 jobs in the UK. But, that is just the beginning. Who knows where this will lead, but there is a general consensus that USA auto sales could drop to below 17 million units in 2019. In other words, we could see an economic slowdown. If we don’t, we pretty much sweated those bullets. As optimistic as I can be, I’m not seeing how we cannot be immune from these trade issues when it comes to our wallets.

DEAR FORD, WHERE’S THE !@#$%^& BRONCO? Ford decided to introduce a few new and revised vehicles ahead of the long-promised, long-awaited Ranger-based Bronco. The first one was the 2020 Explorer, built on a new rear-drive-biased platform with the Lincoln Aviator at Chicago’s Torrence Avenue facility. Also slated for introduction this year is a new Escape and updated F-Series Super Duty, among others also rumored to appear. The way these rumors were being formed pointed to a glaring omission – the Bronco. Since Ford talked about the Bronco before any new Explorer, Escape, or anything else – show us the Bronco! We’re waiting! And, make it quick before our interest starts to wane. And, yes, there is a customer base for this vehicle that have been on pins and needles to throw money at their local dealership to get one.  

CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE MINNESOTA CAR SCENE FOR A MOMENT? I could, but we would bore those outside of this realm. However, I am seeing some normalization on some fronts. Yet, everywhere I turn, somebody is f—ing up the scene with one thing or another. In order to become successful in this car scene, you have to be mature enough to handle the trolls, haters, and other wankers who are a part of it. If you don’t like someone, don’t give them any mind. Simple! Let them do their thing – right or wrong.

IT’S ALL ABOUT PRODUCT, RIGHT? WHICH PRODUCTS WOULD THE SPECULATOR LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN…SOMETIME SOON, PREFERABLY? Other than Ford getting the Bronco in front of us, Genesis needs help – badly! We were told that we would see a SUV to be sold alongside the three sedans. We were also given mixed messages regarding the sales channel that should be selling this upscale brand for Hyundai. In 2018, Genesis sold half of their volume from 2017. This is not good news. With the G70 awaiting customers, the new SUV should turn sales around. Before you do that, please resolve your dealership channel issue immediately! Plus…when will Nissan show us the new mid-sized pickup? That Frontier is pretty old and the competition is heating up. We'll wait…


NOW, WHICH VEHICLES IS THE ESTEEMED MR. STERN LOOKING FORWARD TO WORKING WITH IN 2019? I am starting a new schedule of vehicle subjects soon. So, I can only talk about what I do not have set up and want to work with to answer this burning question. The 2019 Genesis G70 is on top of my list. This is the most important premium car right now – on the heels of winning both the Motor Trend Car of The Year and the North American Car of The Year. Also, I hope to get a crack at one of the newest Subaru SUVs – the Ascent and the Forester – as well as the new Nissan Altima. In the long term, I would love to check out the new Ford Explorer and Mustang Shelby GT 500, Lincoln Aviator, Kia Telluride and K900, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Palisade, and Volkswagen Passat. Perhaps a revisit to my favorite car of all time – the 2020 Lexus RC F in the Track Edition. That would be delicious!

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