Seven Deadly Automotive Sins

Many lessons have been learned through the collapse of the US auto industry a couple of years back. Yet somehow, not everybody has taken them to heart. Just like European policymakers are taking their sweet time with the radical reform that’s needed, so too are automakers in the old world ignoring the lessons of GM and Chrysler.

With both Fiat and Opel in obvious trouble right now, I got the idea to fictionally (but appropriately) highlight some common mistakes that can eventually kill an automotive company altogether. And I thought the famous seven deadly sins provide the perfect parallel.

Gluttony is the desire to consume more than that which one requires. Some may get away with branching out into new segments, but not all. The word gluttony means to over-consume something and sometimes this manifests itself in automakers stuffing itself with the launch new models when the market clearly isn’t hungry for them

There are some that believe the US automakers went under because they had too many cars, most of them bad. I also believe pie charts and market surveys can’t tell you wen to diversify, but trying to build every car will always be a bad thing. Just look at Nissan Motors Europe, they are relying on just a few decent products instead of trying to make coupes, SUVs and superminis off the same production line.

But often companies squander money on costly foods for their egos, by gobbling up struggling adversaries that they can’t really digest (like the Chinese are doing right now).

Lotus’ attempt to build so many sportscars at the same time could be considered to gluttonous - like trying to swallow something bigger than you in one gulp.

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, which some upmarket companies are clearly guilty off. Often, German automakers that I’d prefer not to mention get into the habit of charging €1000 ($1,300) for a bit of paint on the wheels or an armrest. The excessive pursuit of power can leave your clients bitter when they realize they’ve practically been robed. And this isn’t strictly a Ferrari or Audi thing, as full-size pickups are notorious for being cash-cows in the US.

Sloth: Ever thought the busy bees in the auto industry are always thinking up new technologies? That’s not quite true. This is probably the deadliest of all the sins when it comes to the auto industry. You’ve got some makers who just refuse to change their ways and keep the old products on the market for too long.

A friend of mine who works in internet advertising said the other day that the web will change everything. If two new cars are launched the same day, on the next everyone will know which one is better and why.

The British auto industry famously went bust when VW Golfs became faster than sportscars they made (crudely). Indifference and laziness will cripple a supply chain, kill demand and tarnish your corporate image.

Failing to offer the right car at the right time can prove fatal!

Wrath is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest. This isn’t a common occurrence in the auto industry, but anger gets the best of you, you can get trapped in the pursuit of things that aren’t relevant. A corporate big wig might decide his C-segment hatch needs to have better stereos or other creature comforts, when in reality the market wants something else altogether.

Envy is a bit like greed, but it differs in one major aspect. Instead of just wanting what others already have, it means you want to also deprive him of it. Making a cheaper car, a faster car than the one your competitors make will again leave your company strapped for cash. Selling the most cars in a year can sound good, but if you’ve cut corners to get there, GM will take back its title because you’ve skimped on safety… Toyota!

Lust for carnal pleasures obviously doesn’t apply to the auto world, but the Latin “luxuria” it’s derived from can also describe restlessness and lack of control. “We should make a sexy coupe, cabrio, wagon and shooting brake out of every car” is what everybody is thinking right now, but that detracts from the simple, basic Civic, Golf and Camry that’s supposed to sell in the millions every year.

Finally, there’s pride, or the excessive belief that your iDrive, boxer engine, soft-top roof and wood-trimmed steering wheel are all better. This interferes with recognition of new technologies, like folding metal roofs, turbocharging, aluminum or carbon fiber care better. By the time you realize, you’ve already been “dammed”.

This might all have seemed a bit trivial, but Lotus had tried to build just one of those five new cars, we would already have a winner by now. Less is more these days - and if you can make two into one, one many into one MQB platform like VW is doing, you’ll also be down in costs an up in demand.

But some old ways will never be changed, and we predict one or two major failures in the auto world in the short to medium term, due to greed, sloth and gluttony.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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