GM Wants China’s Super Rich Buyers So Badly It Resurrected Its Co-Founder

GM china luxury imports

GM sets its sights on China’s luxury car market, Dodge goes green and gold, Honda cuts Japanese production. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

GM Goes Upmarket In China

2022 Gmc Hummer Ev GM
Photo credit: GMC

China’s car market is booming and GM is losing ground to homegrown vehicles. In fact, Chinese sales of Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet models have dropped by a third over the past five years. In order to prop up brand presence, Reuters reports that GM plans to woo rich urbanites with high-end imports.

Using a new direct sales platform called Durant Guild, the company will host invitation-only events to showcase possible products, open “experience centers” in urban hubs and potentially stage pop-ups at selected sites, they said.

“Durant Guild is not a volume play, but if we do a good job and the products sell well, it will create a lot of buzz around Cadillac and Chevy and will help how people perceive our products and technology,” the head of GM in China, Julian Blissett, told Reuters.

So what sort of high-end imports is GM talking about here? Think about the hottest cars in America right now, vehicles like the GMC Hummer EV, the Chevrolet Corvette, and the Cadillac Escalade. I wouldn’t be surprised to see vehicles along those lines make it to China through Durant Guild. This is similar to what Tesla is already doing in the country.

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Of course, the name of the program itself has some history. It’s Durant Guild as in William C. Durant, co-founder of General Motors. They are really serious about this Durant thing. Check this out, from GM’s press release:

The logo of The Durant Guild is based on the signature of William Durant, founder of General Motors. By layering different historic documents from various periods of Durant’s work that contain his signature, the core characteristics of his handwriting have been made visible. Durant‘s name is now the ultimate signature for GM’s most elite products and a promise of aspiration to its customers.

While it might seem strange to think that some GM products are seen as high-end imports, the upper echelons of the GM range is filled with world-class products right now, so there’s a chance this Durant Guild plan could work.

Dodge Goes Green And Gold

Dodge Challenger and Charger Swinger
Photo credit: Dodge

Dodge promised seven special edition version of its muscle cars for 2023, and they seem to be rolling out really quickly. The Dodge Challenger and Charger R/T Scat Pack Swinger models are the third and fourth last-call special editions of Dodge’s iconic V8 bruisers. While they don’t pack any hugely distinctive performance upgrades, they promise to be very green and very gold.

Let’s start with the green. Not only are the stripes on both models green, color choices include F8 Green, Sublime Green, and White Knuckle for people who want a little less green. On the inside, things get even more green with green stitching on the seats, console, and doors. Topping it all off is a green instrument panel badge, which should contrast nicely with the wood-like grained aluminum interior trim.

As for the gold, Gold School wheels feature an unsurprisingly gold finish while throwing things back to the Y-spoke wheels seen on the Dodge Ram SRT-10. Throw in gold badges and a gold Shaker hood on Challenger models, and the two-tone color process is complete.

Both the Challenger R/T Scat Pack Swinger and the Charger R/T Scat Pack Swinger are widebody models, so massive flares, 11-inch-wide wheels, and six-piston Brembo brakes come standard. Very nice. While not as wild as the Charger Super Bee, I’m really digging the colorways of the Swinger cars. Expect pricing and availability to be announced later this autumn.

Honda Slashes Japanese Production

2023 Honda Civic Type R
Photo credit: Honda

While some automakers feel cautiously optimistic about the car shortage improving, others may be yet to see the bottom of the car shortage. Reuters reports that supply chain issues will force Honda to cut Japanese new car production this September.

Honda’s assembly plant in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, will slash output by about 40% this month, while two lines at its Suzuka plant in western Japan will cut back production by about 20% in September.

Honda blamed delays in receiving parts and logistics on COVID-19 outbreaks and semiconductor shortages. The output reduction will affect a variety of vehicles, including the Vezel sports utility vehicle, Stepwgn minivan and Civic compact car.

Summer was a critical time for supply chain repositioning and it seems like Honda may not have stockpiled enough components to avoid Japanese production disruptions. While most vehicles built in these plants aren’t destined for America, the Honda Civic Type R will be built in Honda’s Saitama complex, so these production cuts could affect availability of Honda’s latest hot hatch.

Magna Is Already Producing Saleable Fully Autonomous Vehicles

Magna Cartken
Photo credit: Magna International

Mass-produced fully-autonomous vehicles for commercial use are already being made by Magna International, although they won’t be carrying people any time soon. Automotive News reports that Magna is producing Cartken autonomous delivery vehicles, which are about the size of coolers.

It made an initial order of 50 Cartken Model C robots at its plant in suburban Detroit and is increasing capacity, Matteo Del Sorbo, executive vice president at Magna, told Automotive News.

The agreement calls for Magna to build thousands of the six-wheel robots, but the companies did not provide an exact number or a dollar value for the contract.

Now this seems like a pretty good use case for autonomous vehicles. Small deliveries don’t always require human input and autonomous supply carts for things like UberEats could be remarkably efficient. Indeed, the vehicles made by Magna are made for sidewalks. I don’t see many obstacles other than deep snow and people messing with the vehicles and tiny autonomous delivery vehicles have seen some success before, so there’s a good chance that these tiny vehicles will soon be scurrying around a city near you.

In addition to these really cute delivery robots, Automotive News reports that Manga plans on making actual cars in America through its Magna Steyr contract manufacturer subsidiary. You might know Magna Steyr for such hits as the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the Toyota GR Supra, and the first-generation BMW X3.

“We want to enter the U.S. market. We are intensively looking for a location right now,” Magna Steyr’s vice president, Kurt Bachmaier, told Automotive News affiliate Automobilwoche.

Having an American contract assembly plant would make Magna Steyr attractive to EV startups looking to qualify for North American production requirements set out by the Inflation Reduction Act. We’ll be watching closely to see what location Magna Steyr picks for its American plant.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Thursday is here, which means that the weekend is just around the corner. Today, I want to ask you what the most regrettable car modification you’ve made is. Whether a poorly-matched 12-inch subwoofer that made anything in your rearview mirror purely theoretical or solid engine mounts that transmitted vibrations directly to your spine, we’ve all done things with cars that we’d like to forget.

Lead photo credit: Chevrolet

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29 Responses

  1. Am I the only one who isn’t all that excited about all these “special” Chargers and Challengers? They’re pretty much just paint jobs and funny names on cars that have essentially been the exact same for the last decade plus. It just feels like a cynical cash grab to me…especially when you can probably find 20+ V8 versions of either within an hour of you for 25-40k…with the top end of that budget capable of getting you a decent enough example of the 6.4 liter.

    I *somewhat* understand the appeal of them and also understand that they’re decidedly not meant for me as someone who drives FWD turbo 4 popper imports, but come on. This is getting a bit silly…and if you really value an engaging drive you can get a big ole V8 in a Mustang or Camaro that are much better platforms. I recently had a Camaro SS as a rental and it was so much better in the twisties than anything that big and heavy has any right to be. I wish I’d had the tremec rather than the 10 speed but you can’t win em all…options are limited when you’re staying in Hawaii.

    1. To be fair, unless Dodge snuck it in a press release and I didn’t see it within the past 4 years, the Charger Super Bee is the first time you can get the drag radials, line lock, etc. from the Challenger Demon/1320 in the Chargers.
      So, while no new engines or higher outputs (that we know of, which has a 99% chance of being true anyways) are on offer, they are atleast trying different combinations they haven’t done yet.
      If current rumors are to be believed, one of the 6 special editions is supposed to be a ‘tribute’ to “The Black Ghost” in Redeye form, and I’m definitely excited the company is willing to make a tribute like that.

    2. It is ridiculous that the entire Dodge nameplate has relied on sales of two niche cars for 5 years or more.

      Its even more ridiculous that it has worked. For five years or more.

      1. I simultaneously loathe and respect it. The cars are absolute dinosaurs. They have drab interiors, they return horrendous fuel economy, they’re more or less one trick ponies (fast n loud in a straight line), the platform dates back to the early 2000s, they can’t touch the handling prowess of any of their rivals, they’re not SUVs, etc. On paper they shouldn’t have been viable 5 years ago, let alone in 2022.

        …and yet they continuously sell in droves. I think I see as many Challengers in my area as I do Camrys. As I said in my original comment, you can get into a totally decent example of the 6.4 liter V8 for under 40 grand. It’s hard to know if Dodge is smart or just lucky, but somehow, against all odds, these cars still print money for them.

        Even in this day and age, there’s always someone who wants a big burbling V8…and if you’re one of the only games in town there’s no need to reinvent the wheel….although it sure would be nice to see some hybrid technology applied to a V8 to keep the engine viable for a few more years.

    3. The special editions are perfect because they get instant sales from the weirdos who think *their* special edition Charger or Challenger is the one that’s going to be worth big money in the future. In that respect, you’re exactly right that it’s a cynical cash grab, but a very effective one.

      As for the LX cars vs the Mustang or Camaro, remember that in many cases these have to do family duty too, and back seat size is really important to those buyers. The number of buyers who truly value at the limit handling , even for RWD V8 coupes, is pretty small. Most people want to drive fast in a straight line, have a mean sounding exhaust, and make a styling statement. In those respects, the Big 3 are all about equal and you might as well buy the one that can haul a kid or two as well.

    4. They embody cool like no other car on the market. Mustang and camaro are better cars but they aren’t cooler cars. There’s some unquantifiable trait in the lx cars that gives them the personality and presence. I too drive a fwd 4 banger hatch (and have for years) and I absolutely dream of owning a widebody lx of any capacity.

    1. You can buy one of these, but you have to leave the garage door partway open to let others know you’re REALLY open to…things.

      The Dodge Swinger: With 8-speed Astroglide transmission.

      The Dodge Swinger: Everyone will want a turn.

      The Dodge Swinger: Try every one!

      The Dodge Swinger: Once for old times sake.

      The Dodge Swinger: Lots of room up front, and in the rear.

      The Dodge Swinger: Old and kind of pathetic, but performs surprisingly well!

      The Dodge Swinger: You’ll go through a lot of rubber.

      The Dodge Swinger: Come and get one in the end!

  2. Wow, I’m pretty sure GM’s official corporate histories only gave the bare minimum attention to Durant for decades (he was fantastic at buying companies, but really terrible at running them, and brought GM to the brink of bankruptcy twice, being forced out by shareholders both times).

    I mean, it’s kind of nice to see, even though the current company called General Motors was only founded 13 years ago. If this works, maybe they’ll bring back an actor portraying Harley Earl for Buick

    1. Seemed noteworthy the press quote mentioned generating buzz for Cadillac and Chevrolet but specifically failed to mention Buick. Given the Buick buyout discussion from earlier in the week, that maybe looks like it’s not in their long-term thinking

      1. Buick’s only reason for existence is its value in China. If that is fading, then I could see Buick joining Olds, Pontiac, and Saturn well before the ’30’s roll around.

  3. I would say the majority of the modifications that younger me did to his cars were regrettable in hindsight, which is why my philosophy is to pretty much stick to stock nowadays.

  4. Once upon a time, I had a ’78 Chevy Nova with a 305 2-barrel and an automatic. It ran fine after it warmed up, but the choke didn’t work and I had to “two-foot” it for a few minutes to keep from stalling. Instead of just replacing the choke coil, or converting it to a manual choke, I listened to some friends of mine and went to a swap meet and got a Quadrajet and a 4 barrel intake manifold. They said, “it’ll be faster, and if you keep your foot out of the secondaries, it’ll actually get better mileage!”

    Yeah, no. Gas mileage went from a tolerable 15 down to 12, and it took two weeks of fiddling to keep it from bogging down when I stepped on the gas. And then the choke on the Quadrajet went out, and I ended up converting it to a manual choke anyway. I sold the car not long after that.

  5. I own a fully restored 1932 Chevrolet. The seating position is very cramped, so I asked a local shop to install a new piece of wood that would allow the seat to be mounted further back. They say they misunderstood me. Possibly.

    They removed the “B” cross brace and bodged a new piece into the same area but further back. This did nothing for the rigidity of the body frame work.

    Now the doors won’t close. It is going to cost north of $5K to rebuild the body frame. I am sad.

  6. I put at least $1,800 worth of woofers and bass amplifiers into an 89 Dodge Colt hatchback. Probably more.

    Two 12 inch and two 8 inch were in the hatch, in separate tuned enclosures, and a ten inch installed under each of the front seats. About 800 watts per channel in the hatch, and another 300 watts under the seats. With a $200 head unit, and only modest upgrades to the rest of the speakers. The rest of the speakers and amplifiers for the mids and highs, plus miscellaneous parts for the system were right around $500 all-in. In 90s dollars.

    If I turned it up even a little, all three mirrors showed nothing but fuzz. If the windows were half down, the top edges would vibrate with what looked like a half inch of travel. And the battery would die within an hour, even while driving. (I’m surprised I didn’t torch the alternator.)

    I’d spent so much money on getting crazy levels of seat feel. The opening beats to New Order’s Blue Monday could feel like being punched in the head. The bassline of Sinead O’Connor’s I Am Stretched on Your Grave could make you gasp for breath, as if your lungs were being actively collapsed by the music. Dead Can Dance’s The Fatal Impact was a full-body experience. Taco Bell before listening was not an option!

    After all that investment and work installing it, I played it loud for maybe twenty hours or so total, including showing off to other like-minded idiots. It was totally unbalanced, but damn, did it ever bring the feel!

    Once I turned the bass down to about 10% of it’s peak, all the mixed blend of Goth, hard rock, progressive rock, trance, rave and classical music I listened to sounded glorious inside the car, but still sounded like total shit outside the car. I could’ve been just as happy spending a less than third of what I put into it. As it turns out, I wanted the “effortless” quality that came with high quality amplifiers more than the “hit” of high powered amplifiers, and the speakers were so much overkill.

    But yes, I was one of those idiots who put over $2,500 worth of stereo equipment into a car I’d bought brand new for $8,000.

  7. I had a 1990 300ZX when I was to young to have such a car… I bought shitty “titanium look” fart can mufflers and a shitty ebay cold air intake that involved ripping out the factory airbox. The car droned like crazy on the highway and honestly the muffler looked dumb. Fast and Furious was big at the time and I was pretty dumb at the time. I’d love to find another stock 300ZX now that I am older and possibly wiser.

  8. Car regrets? I have one and am working on another possible. One of the many ‘80s 1.8l Subarus I bought out of a back yard had been parked due to a stopped-up catalytic converter. I dragged it home with a rope, rodded out the converter, the cut off the rotted out rear section, then drove it over to my buddy’s exhaust shop where he ran 2&1/2” (iirc) tube and a Cherry Bomb ‘muffler’ out the back for me. Bad decision: it had no twist down low, and the drone was infuriating. The only upside was that the noise of the thing made deer scatter on my late night party-runs on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Never again!

    Which segues into my possible. I have a basically stock ‘02 wrx which I haven’t done too much to. Everybody says, ‘Dude, you need an exhaust: you already have the chip!’ Uh, no: I prefer lower power & stealth. The possible mistake I made was installing a lightened flywheel when I did the clutch. 8 months later, it started an occasional misfire-one of the causes of which can be a lightened flywheel. Still working through a ~ $2k list of other possible causes, most of which are maintenance items or slight upgrades before I give up & put a stock flywheel back in so I can go get a real tune on it.

  9. Side Window deflectors. After having much success with a hood based deflector, I decided to spend way too much money on the side window version.

    The hood one used existing holes with a snap in piece to screw it down. Never moved, even when I sold the truck.

    The side ones however were held in place by the pressure of the window mounts, gaskets, etc. Cut to driving down the highway at a 70 and WHOOSH CRASH, there go two of them. Threw the others out and will not buy them again.

  10. ““Durant Guild is not a volume play, but if we do a good job and the products sell well, it will create a lot of buzz around Cadillac and Chevy and will help how people perceive our products and technology,” the head of GM in China, Julian Blissett, told Reuters.”

    Very, VERY conspicuously absent? Buick, which from the second year of the SAIC-GM partnership, was GM’s biggest and most important brand in China. If you owned a Buick – any of them – then you were viewed as ‘having made it.’ It didn’t matter if it was the Lucerne or the GL8 (which is based on the ancient GMT200 ‘Dustbuster Minivan’ platform. Still.) Owning a Buick was owning a real luxury car, and a symbol of status and wealth. The tri-shield was a big fucking deal.

    But Buick has declined by nearly 40% in the past 5 years alone. Some folks at GM have publicly mused about how Buick in China is a ‘lost opportunity’ or ‘wasted effort.’ The latest generation GL8 is based on the Pontiac Aztek (no, SERIOUSLY,) but has an absolutely bonkers interior. But it was introduced in 2016, and SAIC did all the work. There’s a “new” one for 2022, but really? It’s just a refresh of the 2016 with an SAIC-designed-and-built 48V mild hybrid.

    “Honda blamed delays in receiving parts and logistics on COVID-19 outbreaks and semiconductor shortages. The output reduction will affect a variety of vehicles, including the Vezel sports utility vehicle, Stepwgn minivan and Civic compact car.”

    This is a really big thing. Saitama is one of Honda’s largest plants, and actually three plants in one complex – Sayama, Yorii, and Ogawa. Sayama was to be shuttered in 2022 (it was built in 1964 and needed major rebuild,) Yorii continues to operate, and Ogawa is their main foundry and casting.
    And Civic Type R bodies are built exclusively in Yorii. So get ready for even more insane ADMs on those. This is also going to hurt their bottom line, because Yorii is the only plant producing HR-Vs for North America; over 150,000 of them in 2021. A multi-week reduction or shutdown could easily translate to thousands of lost sales. The HR-V is their #2 seller behind only the CR-V (made in East Liberty, Greensburg, and Alliston.) It’s going to be expensive.

    “Today, I want to ask you what the most regrettable car modification you’ve made is. Whether a poorly-matched 12-inch subwoofer that made anything in your rearview mirror purely theoretical or solid engine mounts that transmitted vibrations directly to your spine, we’ve all done things with cars that we’d like to forget.”

    Solid transmission mounts (as in solid welded steel, zero rubber) coupled with a 4 puck cable operated clutch and way too aggressive gear cuts. Yep, non-hydraulic. Every day was leg day AND arm day with a side of heart attack because of how rigid it was. You had to treat the clutch like an on/off switch, and shove hard, even with synchros.

  11. Those delivery vehicles are never going to cut it. People will steal what’s inside, destroy them and take anything that’s worth selling. Unless you give them guns and AI to use them. What could go wrong with that?

  12. They have delivery bots like that here in Helsinki. They were having issues in places where pedestrians press a button to get the traffic lights to change, they would just stay there if no one came.

  13. When I was 17 I thought it was a good idea to pop rivet galvanized steel plates into the flow of my 66 Mustang to cover a massive hole. Then I put tar on it to seal it. Heavy regret, but many years out of it.

  14. Like an idiot I didn’t know that you couldn’t combine two speaker chanels into one speaker and almost set fire to my first car when I replaced the 8 track with a CD player(I was 17 and stupid, I regret not keeing the 8 track now.)

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