What the auto bosses are hoping for in 2011
We slipped Santa's elves a few reindeer steaks and, while delivering the presents, they scribbled down the New Year's resolutions some of the car company bosses had pinned to their computer screens.
Here's what they had to say...
Fiat: Sergio Marchionne
Resolution: Figure out what to do with Alfa Romeo
What's the issue? At the beginning of every year Alfa announces new targets: losing weight, going to the gym, all the usual stuff. At the end of every year, it is just as fat, wheezy and unprofitable as it was at the end of the previous one. Now Marchione has to decide whether to invest a fortune in one last bid to make it healthy, or simply flog it to VW who quite fancies another brand - as it has been, ooh, months since it last bought another car company.
Mini: Wolfgang Armbrecht
Resolution: You can have too much of a good thing
What's the issue? Mini has shown how far the Mini can be stretched : not quite as far as the new Countryman. The Mini has to be a small car (the clue being in the name), so in future play about with the basic model. Two seater, coupe, city car: all good. Strange would-be VW Golf competitor: not good.
Ford: Alan Mulally
Resolution: Persuade Americans to buy European Fords
What's the issue? Ford makes great cars in Europe and big-selling SUVs and pick-ups in the States. Being a logical type of guy, Mulally thinks Middle America should drive Fiestas and Focuses, so he doesn't need to have separate ranges of cars on opposite sides of the Atlantic. It makes perfect sense, but then Al Gore made perfect sense against George Bush and look what happened to him.
GM Europe: Nick Reilly
Resolution: Look like you mean it
What's the issue? Plenty of people in Opel actually wanted to be bought by the consortium financed by a Russian state bank with close links to Vladimir Putin (coverage of Putin on German TV must be a bit different to what we get to see). Now GM Europe has to persuade everyone that Opel-Vauxhall really is going to make it. It has spent 10 years making cars people don't want and then discounting them to death, and now has to actually start selling the things at a profit.
Renault-Nissan: Carlos Ghosn
Resolution: Convince everyone that electricity is the new petrol
What's the issue? Renault is betting big on electric cars – over £3 billion big. The Nissan Leaf is just the first of a huge family of electric cars set to whirr out of Renault and Nissan dealerships over the next couple of years. As Sir Humphrey used to say in Yes, Minister when presented with a particularly scary plan, "That is a brave decision, Minister".
VW: Martin Winterkorn
Resolution: Just say no – for once
What's the issue? Most people treat themselves with a nice meal or a new pair of shoes. VW buys car companies: it is currently digesting Porsche and has taken a stake in Suzuki. There are plenty of rumours that it wants to buy Alfa Romeo in 2012. Could Alfa be VW's wafferr-thin mint?
Saab: Victor Mueller
Resolution: Still be around as an independent company to make a resolution for 2012
What's the issue? What's not the issue? A brand trashed by the previous owner, 2010 sales targets that retreated quicker than the Mussolini's army, a new 9-5 that has been mauled by the press and a forthcoming 9-4 SUV so misconceived it does not even have a diesel option. After you've sorted out Saab, Victor, perhaps you could give us world peace.