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  • Writer's pictureMike V.

Weekend Reading

Reuters: Huge trucks haul jobs and profits for the Detroit Three

Mickey McMaster is on his 12th pickup truck. The 61-year old farm equipment dealer in Decatur, Texas, two weeks ago treated himself to a 2019 GMC Denali for around $69,000 - a reward for long hours at work. “For me this is the Cadillac of trucks, it’s a real luxury vehicle,” McMaster said. “I’ve worked my way up to afford a truck like this and it shows that I’ve earned it.” McMaster is the kind of customer General Motors Co is banking on as it plans to add 1,000 jobs at a plant in Flint, Michigan that will build a new generation of its largest pickups. Demand from Texas and other heartland states for big pick-ups is providing a lifeline to many workers the No. 1 U.S. automaker is laying off at plants elsewhere. The Detroit Three automakers and thousands of their U.S. workers are counting on customers like McMaster to keep buying bigger and more luxurious pickup trucks even if overall U.S. vehicle demand weakens this year, as most analysts predict.

At Flint, GM will build a new generation of its heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierras, including luxury models that are some of the most profitable vehicles on the planet. GM, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Ram division own the segment and are each doubling down with new or redesigned models launching this year. Sales of heavy-duty pickups in the United States have grown to more than 600,000 vehicles a year, up more than 20 percent since 2013, according to industry data. Prices for luxury models can easily top $70,000.

GM is laying off thousands of U.S. workers and planning to shutter five North American factories, Flint is hiring. The plant runs on three daily shifts, six days a week. As the new model’s assembly system ramps up, the plant’s capacity will increase by more than 25 percent, plant manager Mike Perez told Reuters. The Flint plant plans to add 1,000 workers, more than half of the 1,500 factory workers who have asked to transfer from plants GM has targeted for shutdown as part of CEO Mary Barra’s restructuring plan. “We’re bringing in 50 to 100 people every week,” said Perez. A highlight of the new assembly line: two-story tall Fanuc robots hoist a cab and a bed for a truck from separate pallets, swing them in opposing arcs, then gently lower them onto a truck frame to be bolted together by different robots.

Detroit Three executives boast that the heavy-duty pickup market is protected by “moats” - a 25% tariff on imported trucks and decades of engineering that have yielded vehicles that haul 30,000 pound trailers, ride like large luxury sedans, and offer the same safety and connectivity technology as a BMW or Lexus luxury car. Pickup trucks account for three-quarters of the 235 or so new vehicles Carey “CW” Williams sells each month at his Decatur dealership. And nearly half of those are higher-end, luxury models that can sell for $70,000 or more. Williams said he is not concerned about the new Ram trucks as competition for GM.

Mark Ary, 37, a second-generation owner of an HVAC installation/repair business, paid $65,000 for a white 2019 Silverado High Country. He liked the air conditioning for the truck’s rear seats, its 360-degree cameras, and hands-free technology that allows him to call and text. “GM really stepped it up with the technology for the 2019 truck,” Ary said.

Ford, the leader in the heavy-duty pickup segment, will launch later this year versions of its F-series Super Duty pickups with a 7.3 liter gasoline engine - more than three times the displacement of the power-plant in a typical Ford Fusion sedan. Fiat Chrysler’s Ram brand is revving up a redesigned lineup of heavy-duty pickups offering optional 12-inch display screens and a 6.7 liter Cummins Inc diesel engine that delivers 1,000 pound-feet of torque - enough to haul a 35,000 pound trailer. GM’s Silverado and GMC heavy-duty trucks will offer new diesel engines, 10-speed transmissions and trailer-towing capability “well in excess of 30,000 pounds,” said Tim Herrick, the executive chief engineer for GM’s large pickup and SUV programs. The new Chevrolet and GMC trucks coming down the Flint assembly line stand out from older models on the same line. They are taller and have more imposing hoods and grilles than the older trucks.

Each has luxury heavy-duty pickup models, such as Ram’s Laramie Longhorn, Ford’s Limited and Chevrolet’s High Country. GM has developed a multi-model luxury truck sub-brand, GMC Denali. Now, 60 percent of GMC heavy-duty pickups sold wear the Denali badge, GMC global brand chief Duncan Aldred told Reuters. With a diesel engine, sticker prices top $70,000. Heavy-duty pickups are not subject to the same federal fuel economy rules as lighter trucks and sedans. They fall under less stringent standards applied to commercial trucks, where a vehicle’s capacity for work allows for more fuel consumption. These pickups do not have mileage estimates on their price stickers as lighter trucks do. The growing sales of heavy-duty pickups and their evolution toward luxury, personal use vehicles is drawing criticism from advocates of curbing carbon dioxide emissions. “With a 7.3-liter engine, Ford’s new massive pickup deserves to be launched as the Ford Valdez,” Dan Becker, director of the Center for Auto Safety’s Safe Climate Campaign, wrote in an email. In Flint, the assignment to build GM’s new heavy duty trucks is a lifeline for workers like Randy Randall, a 41-year GM veteran who said he has worked at several GM plants, moving when layoffs hit. Now, he checks trucks at the end of the Flint assembly line. Randall smiled as a screen in front of his GMC truck flashed a message that it had passed the tests. “It’s got a great future,” he said.

Super Bowl coach Bill Belichick’s 3 most important stories of winning

We know Bill Belichick as one of the greatest coaches in the history of professional sports. The ultimate team sports coach who gets every ounce out of his players, leading them to victory after victory, getting them to believe in the process and to work together. Bill Belichick’s story is most compelling for the reason that we should never let one failure, especially in our first “dream job”, ever define us. Because there’s a lot more of the story to be written. What’s inarguable is his desire, work ethic, attitude and commitment to excellence. He figured out from his lessons as an assistant coach what it took to take players to fit a system that worked out to the ultimate advantage of his team. The name of the game is winning, and Belichick is obsessed with winning.

1. Winning is a culture, a system and a process that must always be refined and evaluated

Early on in his career, Belichick put together a plan on how to scout players, evaluate them and determine whether they would fit well within his system. He mastered this, passing down the wisdom to every part of his organization. Everything is done in the name of winning, which is all any great competitor should ever aim to do.

“His philosophy from the beginning was ‘No stone left unturned’ and ‘No envelope unpushed in order to win.’ And the result of that was you worked to exhaustion. But he never asked you to do anything he wasn’t doing.” — Rick Venturi

He obsessed over all the small details, and looked at his head coaching job from a 360° view. It wasn’t just about the preparation for games and practices. It was about all the preparation ALL YEAR LONG in drafting players, evaluating players, motivating them, getting them to play in his system and building a culture of winning where from the top-down to the bottom-up, winning was an obsession.

If you’re aiming to start your own business, build your writing career or pick up that side hobby that will lead to your personal freedom, know that your game plan for winning should focus on an all-encompassing view. There are so many things that involve “winning” and being successful. It’s not just the “doing”, it’s the things like relationship-building, marketing, advertising and continuous learning and improving that make you a winner.

2. Losing is your best friend

The best part about Belichick as a winner is that he learned from losing what wouldn’t work, and he improved mentally as a coach to understand how to be better next time. His evolution as a coach came from the losses, the bumps he took in Cleveland as a first-time head coach. They’ve also come from his big losses in New England, which have been few and far between.

That said, it’s noteworthy to point out that he was aiming to avenge his loss in last year’s Super Bowl tonight against the Los Angeles Rams.

Losing will humble anyone, even the greatest winners of all time. What defines winners are the lessons they learn from losing. It’s said that after losing to the Giants and in Super Bowl XLII, Belichick apologized to his team for a lack of preparation and for being unable to finish off an undefeated season. The loss motivated him to come back and win again.

Some people go their whole lives thinking that losing is like a curse — that we should always avoid it at all costs and treat it like the plague when it happens. But the greatest winners know that losing is what propels, inspires and leads us to keep going and to win the next time. If you’re willing to put in the time after losses, failures, adversity and mistakes, you’ll learn one of life’s greatest nuggets of wisdom: Adversity and losing is your best friend.

Think of some of your greatest triumphs and low points. What did those losses or mistakes teach you? You probably hated them at the time, but if you were willing to put in the focus to learn how to improve, didn’t they lead to bold, powerful growth moments? If they haven’t already, I promise you they will.

3. Become obsessed with your passion and fuse it with your natural talents. Then, become the best you can be

Bill Belichick is where he is today because he is absolutely infatuated, obsessed and enthralled with the game of football. Football is his life. Within football, he satisfied his competitive desire to win, motivate, inspire and get people to work together for a common goal: winning. Everything ties back to his competitive greatness, obsession with his passion and his desire to solve problems and develop schemes that will lead to victory.

The man is a master tactician. In order to become an expert or master of what you do, you need to make a considerable investment of time and effort. You learn from experience, surely, but you also learn tremendously during the “downtime” of when you’re not actively competing for what it is that you do.

Think about what it is that you love to do. When you’re able to build the time into your schedule, become obsessed with your passion. I highly recommend that it’s a passion that melds naturally with your talents. Go “All In.” Watch what happens. And let me know if I can help you on your journey.

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