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Old 06-01-2010, 01:21 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default GM VP: Z/28 Coming, Cadillac Gunning for BMW, next-gen Camaro to Alpha





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“Our goal is Cadillac against BMW -- very clearly. We will bring performance to these cars…and be on par or better than BMW. That is our plan.”

Those fighting words came from Karl Stracke, GM’s Vice President of Global Vehicle Engineering, who stopped by this week for a meet-and-greet and to check out the Motor Trend HQ in El Segundo, California.

A mechanical engineer of German extraction, Stracke is the type of auto exec who makes auto journos happy and PR guys cringe. Five minutes into the nickel tour of our facilities and out of earshot of his PR handler, Stracke casually served up unprompted confirmation of the return of the Camaro Z/28. Not exactly breaking news -- while GM has yet to officially confirm it, the Z/28’s resurrection is something of an open secret -- but Stracke’s casual bomb dropping set the tone for the rest of his visit.

We popped into our photo studio for a quick look around, but ended up staying on to watch a Hot Rod photo shoot, as you can see from my grainy cell phone pictures. Moments later in our company garage/tech center, he threw a leg over a racy MV Agusta crotch rocket, which instantly gave me empathy for his PR handler as the $18,500 motorcycle is on loan to our sister pub, Motorcyclist (sorry guys!). But hey, he’s a gear head through and through; Stracke owns a Harley-Davidson V-Rod and has a Corvette Grand Sport as his daily driver. The man likes 'em loud and/or fast and clearly has a passion for wheeled product.

etween bites of lasagna at lunch, Stracke constantly asked us for feedback on his cars, and returned refreshingly blunt answers. He is outspoken; a bit like Lutz, but with a German accent. Since being promoted to VP of Global Vehicle Engineering in December of 2009, Stracke has already started stirring the pot, Maximum Bob-style. Earlier this month, in an incident reported in The Detroit News, Stracke soundly trashed the outgoing Chevy Cobalt with the statement, “Look at this car, it’s horrible. How did this get through so many people?”

Stracke went on to shed bit more light on just how such vehicles can sometimes slip through the cracks when I brought up a topic we’ve moaned about here at Motor Trend – the Chevy Camaro's interior.








When I quizzed him on two of the most galling parts of the Camaro cockpit -- the stale jelly donut-shaped shifter knob and oddly contoured steering wheel, Stracke didn’t strike the usual defensive posture of an auto exec, but nodded his head in agreement. He went on to say that, in addition, he found the steering wheel controls set too far inward, necessitating the removal of hands from the wheel or an awkward reach with the thumb. He claims to have fought to change this with the design team and his then bosses -- taking it all the way up (and out of his department) to guys like Lutz and Ed Welburn. But given the hugely popular response the concept Camaro received, Stracke said he was overruled and the product team was given marching orders to bring to make the production car as close to concept as possible -- with little regard for such practical tweaks.

Stracke said that kind of mistake won’t happen again. And that we’ll see hints of it starting with future models (hinting at the Z/28 again…) and when the all-new, Alpha-based (not Holden/Zeta) Camaro makes its debut.

“We need to win,” he said repeatedly. “Not just shoot for the middle.”

Our lunch topics ranged widely -- from A- and B-segment cars to trucks to Buick, Caddy, and the surging Chinese market. We also got pretty nerdy -- which should provide relief to the tech types who think GM has lost its engineering way.



Regarding his campaign to throttle BMW, Stracke says his performance division already has the technical firepower to easily put the Bavarians on notice. Unfortunately, some of those products and systems have been shuttered or shelved when GM was in the throes of bankruptcy, but Stracke is confident that even without them, Cadillac will prevail with an approach that relies on high technology and basics, like weight reduction.

“We will be better than BMW on unsprung mass,” he claims
But it wasn’t all high-test, race-track talk either. Stracke spoke briefly about Buick’s resurgence and how the company wants to grow the brand into a full lineup vehicles, starting with a compact sedan based on the same global architecture as the Cruze and a small crossover below the Enclave. He says Buick will slot in below Cadillac in terms of performance, but will be on par when it comes to NVH levels, etc. We also talked hybrid…tires?
Yup. One of Stracke’s boldest, most esoteric claims during our whirlwind lunch was that the Chevy Volt’s Goodyear tires will be “the best on the market,” with a combination of the “lowest rolling resistance, best stopping distance and impressive ride quality.” Those who know tires, know that these characteristics are usually in direct conflict. Although we can’t say we’re as excited as Stracke is, we’re certainly curious to experience them for ourselves.

The take-away message from Stracke’s visit to MTHQ is that the “New GM” no longer suffers from the problems of group think and buck passing that plagued the old GM. Stracke is confident that GM’s coming products are on target and ready to blow away the competition.

“We know what we need to do. Good products…strong products…with the right powertrain.”
Long time GM watchers and auto industry cynics might have a different view of Stracke’s outspokenness and New GM spin. After all, it’s not like he’s an industry outsider parachuting in to shake up The General. Stracke joined GM’s Opel division in 1979 and his worked his way up ever since. But my gut instinct tells me that any time you have a Harley-riding, Corvette-driving, plain speaking instigator in charge of making cars go at GM, that’s a good thing.

Good luck Karl.




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Old 06-01-2010, 01:36 PM   #2
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It all sounds good, now let's see it.
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Old 06-01-2010, 02:08 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by justincredible View Post
It all sounds good, now let's see it.
Indeed. Talk is cheap, I'll believe it when I see it.

And I still think a luxury econobox(Buick's Cruze platform-mate) is a terrible idea....
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Old 06-01-2010, 02:10 PM   #4
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Now if they could only include a car that runs on empty promises in that new lineup...
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Old 06-01-2010, 02:49 PM   #5
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Sounds great -bring on the new domestic car industry.
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Old 06-01-2010, 03:22 PM   #6
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Our goal is Cadillac against BMW -- very clearly.
Man, he'll be devastated when someone tells him about the SRX, XTS and the upcoming Lambda FWD-based large SUV.
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Old 06-01-2010, 03:28 PM   #7
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^ In order to compete, they'll have to consider RWD in their lineup. Having said that, I'm looking forward to what's coming.
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Old 06-01-2010, 07:23 PM   #8
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Gm's been saying this for years. Im not buying it until I see it.
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Old 06-01-2010, 08:50 PM   #9
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Where Is My Z28 At????!?!?!
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Old 06-02-2010, 07:57 AM   #10
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You know it takes 5 years to develop a car? A new guy comes in and everybody expects immediate changes, but the reality is his legacy won't be realized for 5-10 years.

I'm not really a domestic car guy, because they've mostly (not all) created crap during my driving life, but I am an American and I want the best for America. GM and Ford and all the manufactures that have plants in America, make me a good car and I will buy it.
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Old 06-02-2010, 08:33 AM   #11
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GM and Ford and all the manufactures that have plants in America, make me a good car and I will buy it.
Yeah about that.....stick to Toyota or Honda.
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Old 06-02-2010, 10:37 AM   #12
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Yeah about that.....stick to Toyota or Honda.
Or not. They make boring cars and their quality isn't as great as the hype.
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Old 06-02-2010, 12:49 PM   #13
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Or not. They make boring cars and their quality isn't as great as the hype.
I think his point was about who exactly has factories here in the states.......
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Old 06-02-2010, 01:28 PM   #14
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Yeah about that.....stick to Toyota or Honda.
And the profits get to go to Japan. Yay.

I would rather buy from a company with factories here (that means they follow decent environmental standards unlike many other places), with workers from here, and the profits going to a corporation here. That is if all other things are equal though. Whether they are or not is questionable.
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Old 06-02-2010, 02:19 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by sxotty View Post
And the profits get to go to Japan. Yay.

I would rather buy from a company with factories here (that means they follow decent environmental standards unlike many other places), with workers from here, and the profits going to a corporation here. That is if all other things are equal though. Whether they are or not is questionable.
Pot calling the kettle black (oh that's right Subaru is Australian car not Japanese right )
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Old 06-02-2010, 04:06 PM   #16
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Pot calling the kettle black (oh that's right Subaru is Australian car not Japanese right )
So I am subaru? Otherwise I fail to see how I am a pot

I live in the US I couldn't care less if they were from Japan, or Australia, or wherever. It is just blatant self interest that if all things are equal buying from a company based in your country is preferable. As I said all things are not equal.
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Old 06-03-2010, 02:00 PM   #17
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Earlier this month, in an incident reported in The Detroit News, Stracke soundly trashed the outgoing Chevy Cobalt with the statement, “Look at this car, it’s horrible. How did this get through so many people?”
If you turn back the clock and read magazine reviews they raved endlessly about the new level of quality engineering that was put into the Cobalt. GM likes to prop up today, and bash the past.

Its like in 2001 when folks said that the VW Jetta had resolved all of the issues that plagued the outgoing models.

Nothing new here. GM has a LONG way to go in gaining the trust of people that have been burned by their product over the last 30 years.
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Old 06-04-2010, 06:55 PM   #18
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waiting for ATS-V. should be a monster.
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Old 06-08-2010, 08:02 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by sxotty View Post
And the profits get to go to Japan. Yay.

I would rather buy from a company with factories here (that means they follow decent environmental standards unlike many other places), with workers from here, and the profits going to a corporation here. That is if all other things are equal though. Whether they are or not is questionable.
so much wrong with that statement... but ill just ignore it
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Old 06-08-2010, 10:48 AM   #20
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so much wrong with that statement... but ill just ignore it
You already failed at ignoring it so you may as well try and say something intelligent.
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Old 06-08-2010, 01:12 PM   #21
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I LOL at all of this....

Good luck GM... shouldn't you have been trying to do this 10+ years ago?

I really LOL at one of the top GM suits calling his own product trash. Well freaking DUH man, c'mon. All design/decision employees should be forced to drive a different manu's vehicle every single month. I think it'd become very clear to them why the public makes the buying decisions they do.

Last edited by Brahmzy; 06-08-2010 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:56 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by sxotty View Post
And the profits get to go to Japan. Yay.

I would rather buy from a company with factories here (that means they follow decent environmental standards unlike many other places), with workers from here, and the profits going to a corporation here. That is if all other things are equal though. Whether they are or not is questionable.

I can buy their stock right? It's traded globally right? I think the profits are going many different places, not just back to the country of origin.
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:57 PM   #23
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I LOL at all of this....

Good luck GM... shouldn't you have been trying to do this 10+ years ago?

I really LOL at one of the top GM suits calling his own product trash. Well freaking DUH man, c'mon. All design/decision employees should be forced to drive a different manu's vehicle every single month. I think it'd become very clear to them why the public makes the buying decisions they do.
It's actually the opposite! They are forced to drive the worst GM vehicles that don't/can't be sold. The Ass-tec was a perfect example.

But I agree with you.
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Old 06-08-2010, 07:09 PM   #24
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I can buy their stock right? It's traded globally right? I think the profits are going many different places, not just back to the country of origin.
Dividends are not the same as profits. Still that is a somewhat valid point, but to have a reasonable argument you would need to show the
What matters is where the money is actually going. Where are the taxes going? And so on.

http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/da...tm#rom60909_47
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Old 06-09-2010, 10:17 PM   #25
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And I still think a luxury econobox(Buick's Cruze platform-mate) is a terrible idea....
I think GM needs a VW GTI/Jetta fighter.

Picture a 280 HP Buick Astra 2.0l turbo 5-door. I could go for that.
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