Longtime automotive journalist and Automotive News Product Editor Rick Kranz knows how to ask just the right question at just the right time to get auto execs to say just the wrong thing. The "wrong" thing, in this case, is usually what public relations handlers have been trying to prevent their auto execs from telling the media for some time.
Case it point: Here are three interesting pieces of info that we didn't hear anyone else get, including ourselves, at the 2011 L.A. Auto Show. Thankfully, Rick did.
- Ram Truck CEO Fred Diaz told Rick that Chrysler is evaluating both a unibody and body-on-frame midsize pickup in both front- and rear-wheel-drive configurations. "As a global organization, we are now starting to look at what we can bring to the market that would actually work in Europe, Asia, the U.S., Mexico and so forth, and get the platform right so that we can enjoy the economies of scale that come with that. ... It's something we're evaluating," Diaz said. (Ed. note: The vehicle above has no official plans for production. Still, it is an interesting concept in light of Diaz's comments.)
- General Motors North America President Mark Reuss told Rick regarding the new midsize, body-on-frame, rear-drive little pickup that this new vehicle will be more about lower cost of ownership than high technology. "You may have 85 or 90 percent of what a big pickup will do ... but rather than putting full-blown four-mode or two-mode hybrids in large pickup trucks and trying to get efficiency out of it, which is extremely expensive, we can do things with (little pickups) with lower displacement, hybridization and alternative fuels," said Reuss, who continued to say the new Colorado would be "really cheap to run."
- Don Butler, Cadillac's marketing president, told Rick that a diesel engine is under consideration in one (and possibly several) of the luxury brand models. The diesel "could be a potential hedge in the U.S. because of the diesel's great torque, great performance with great efficiency," Butler said. Naturally, it makes sense for Cadillac to suggest this option with competitors in the luxury segment like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all using their own turbo-diesels in the luxury class, but it could also imply some big changes for newer versions of vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade (and Escalade ESV and EXT) that will be based off the coming new Chevy and GMC pickups. But Rick notes that this time around if GM is going to come back to diesels in their cars and light-duty trucks, it had better be a homerun.