Bob Lutz, the former product visionary at General Motors, got it right. His book, “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters,” chastises automakers that focus on profits (and money in general) at the expense of the products being offered.
The basic philosophy is that without products that people actually want, there is no business. “Bean counters” serve the product, not dictate it, because they are not product specialists.
It's obvious the industry has been paying attention. It creates beautiful cars that are also functional. Moreso in the United States, though.
The Great White Myth is that the needs of Canadians are front and centre when it's time to put new product in the pipeline. Canada might get different packaging, options and trim designations, but it's rare that an automaker develops a vehicle just for Canada. The point is further driven home when a car like the Buick Verano sedan is pulled despite being the company's bread and butter here. The Verano doesn't fit with U.S marketing plans, which matters more than how it fits here.
Canada is relatively small potatoes and to make matters worse it has the population of California but split into a half dozen buying regions.
“I spent a lot of my career in Europe,” Nissan Canada's Joni Paiva told Automotive News Canada in the December issue, “and in 2,000 kilometres of difference you can cross three countries and three very different markets with different trends. I see that in Canada. I see many different markets. And we read that in the numbers, too. It's not rocket science.”
At least Nissan is launching a new vehicle — possibly a new compact utility vehicle — for the Canadian market early in the new year.
But it's also not rocket science that most of the Canadian auto industry is on the outside looking in, supplying U.S. operations. In the upper ranks, Ford Canada's CEO position is considered a sales job. There are no Canadian design centres and innovation for this market is left to small companies, usually building tiny electric cars, with no affiliation to the traditional automakers.
Other than just selling more light trucks, how does the auto industry plan to leverage the fact that nearly 70 per cent of all Canadian sales are light trucks? How will it deal with electrification of this market given that all its EVs are small cars?
No one seems to get it, but they'll need to get it soon.