Wednesday November 30, 2005
Movin' Down: The Power Information Network reports that "an increasing number of owners of top-of-the-line luxury cars are trading in their high-priced wheels for entry-level luxury cars and even switching to the non-luxury brands' bigger, pricier compact and midsize cars."
I can explain part of it - now that non-luxury cars offer all the features of luxury cars, why pay more? I remember back in 1997-98 when a very full-of-himself Jac Nasser bragged about introducing parts commonality which resulted in de-contenting Lincoln and moving all Ford passenger cars slightly toward the Escort-level end of the meter. Some other automakers followed suit. Now they're getting their comeuppance as savvy consumers switch to Toyota Avalons, Acura TLs, Hyundai Azeras and the like.
For instance, a few of weeks ago (Nov. 4th posting), I opined that the Honda Civic's interior seemed more upscale than that of the Lincoln Zephyr.
Bad Pick: Martha Stewart has been selected as spokesperson for the new Buick Lucerne sedan. This is stupid. Martha is over; her show's ratings are falling off a cliff.
Why didn't Buick choose Rachael Ray instead? She's hot!
And a hottie, too.
What Happens When ... you put a lot of sugar (or donuts) in a Porsche's gas tank - here.
Where Would You Like To Sit? In the old days, such questions were asked so that prospective diners could select from 'smoking' and 'non-smoking'. In those times, my wife and I would reply, "We want the 'non-screaming' section." We were looking for a brat-free meal - and I'm not referring to sausage.
I'm talking about those idiot adults who drag their ill-behaved offspring to nice restaurants and don't force them to behave. Of course, these self-absorbed morons think that being a brat is a sign of precocious. Especially if it's their kid.
Finally, a restaurant owner has done something about this. I'm pleased; it's about time. Kudos to Dan McCauley. His cafe's credo appeals to me. McCauley believes that such parents are "former cheerleaders and beauty queens" who "have a very strong sense of entitlement." (In other words, they're self-centered me-centric jerks. Who were brats themselves as kids.) In an open letter to the community, McCauley warned of an "epidemic" of anti-social behavior.
"Part of parenting skills is teaching kids they behave differently in a restaurant than they do on the playground," McCauley said. "If you send out positive energy, positive energy returns to you. If you send out energy that says I'm the only one that matters, it's going to be a pretty chaotic world."
My only regret is that McCauley's establishment is 2,000 miles from here.
After America: Television networks are developing shows about the End of America. Matt Drudge reports that ABC alone has at least two would-be shows set in post-apocalyptic America ('Resistance' and 'Red & Blue') while Gavin Polone and Bruce Wagner are teaming for the comfy-sounding plague drama 'Four Horsemen' at CBS (which also is developing 'Jericho', about life in a small town after America is destroyed).
This is old hat - anyone remember 'Busman'? The Simpson's school bus driver, Otto, proposed it at a comic book convention on an episode ten years ago. The long-haired, palindromic druggie described it thusly, "It's about a guy who's a school bus driver by day, but by night fights vampires in a post-apocalyptic war zone." His illustration showed a bulked-up, muscular Otto holding blazing machine guns.
TV Critic: Andrea Harris writes: "Chris Matthews looks like a toad and his voice sounds like two garbage pail lids being banged together. Also, as you have revealed here, he's dumb as a box of rocks. I'd wonder how he became a television pundit if my estimation of television punditry hadn't gone to the depths ages ago." Now you know why her most excellent, oft-acerbic blog is called Spleenville.
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Benchley: "Dachshunds are ideal dogs for small children, as they are already stretched and pulled to such a length that the child cannot do much harm one way or the other."
Tuesday November 29, 2005
Challenger? Not Even A Contender. DaimlerChrysler will introduce the Dodge Challenger concept car at the North American International Auto Show in January. It is strongly hinted that this car will go into production as a Mustang competitor. The Challenger was the last of the pony cars to be launched, in 1970. And it had a short life - just five model years.
The original Dodge Challenger was a slapped together attempt to cash in on the tail end of the pony car craze of the 1960s. It was a pretty forgettable attempt. As someone who was a target buyer during that era, I can state that pony car brand awareness from top-to-bottom went like this: Mustang, Camaro, Firebird, Barracuda, Cougar, Challenger. The Challenger was, typically, outsold by Mustang four to one.
In my memory - probably faulty - every Dodge Challenger I ever saw was either purple, or bilious green with a white vinyl roof. I'm not particularly impressed with the 2006 showcar spy photos I've seen so far. The car lacks passion in its lines. It will not be a threat to the current Mustang.
PS - To see lots of photos of the real, original Challenger, go here.
"Utterly, Stunningly, Jaw-droppingly Brilliant ..." writes Jeremy Clarkson about the 1000 horsepower, 16 cylinder, $1.6 million Bugatti Veyron. Excerpt: "From behind the wheel of a Veyron, France is the size of a small coconut. I cannot tell you how fast I crossed it the other day. Because you simply wouldn't believe me. I also cannot tell you how good this car is. I just don't have the vocabulary. I just end up stammering and dribbling and talking wide-eyed nonsense."
On braking: "Happily, stopping distances become irrelevant because you won't see the obstacle in the first place. By the time you know it was there, you'll have gone through the windscreen, through the Pearly Gates and be half way across God's breakfast table."
Remnant Sale: From now through January 3, 2006, Chrysler will offer Overstock.com customers exclusive deals of up to $8,900 off MSRP on the 2005 Chrysler Crossfire Coupe and Crossfire Roadster. "The agreement with Chrysler represents Overstock.com's first marketing partnership with an automotive brand," said Patrick Byrne, president of Overstock.com.
According to Edmunds.com, you can already get $8,000 off just by visiting a Chrysler dealer. So, this means that the Overstock deal knocks another $900 off the price. I wonder how Chrysler dealers feel about this? And will an extra $900 be enough to move these albatrosses? (I use 'albatrosses' purely in a sales volume context. Personally, I like the looks of the Crossfire. I've never driven one though.)
Imagine If Your New Pontiac Solstice Locked Up And Crashed ... Responding to complaints from Xbox 360 owners about problems with Microsoft's new game console, Microsoft spokesperson Molly O'Donnell replied, "It's what you would expect with a consumer electronics instrument of this complexity."
We should all be thannkful that Microsoft doesn't make cars. And just imagine how pissed off auto execs must be - their products are held to a far higher standard even though vehicles are far more complex than a game console.
The new cars of today are far more bug-free than they were 15 years ago. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to launch new products full of bugs and glitches - just like it did in 1990.
A New Way To Fire People: Mike Glover writes that Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack said "he removed the warden of a prison where two inmates escaped last week by using a homemade grappling hook."
I've never heard of removing an employee with a grappling hook - homemade or otherwise. I don't think even Montgomery Burns ever resorted to it.
Just the standard "Release the hounds, Smithers."
Focusing On The Positive: Ann Coulter writes: "In the Iraq war so far, the U.S. military has deposed a dictator who had already used weapons of mass destruction and would have used them again. As we now know, Saddam Hussein was working with al-Qaida and was trying to acquire long-range missiles from North Korea and enriched uranium from Niger.
Saddam is on trial. His psychopath sons are dead. We've captured or killed scores of foreign terrorists in Baghdad. ... The Iraqi people have voted in two free, democratic elections this year. In a rash and unconsidered move, they even gave women the right to vote. Iraqis have ratified a constitution and will vote for a National Assembly next month. The long-suffering Kurds are free and no longer require 24x7 protection by U.S. fighter jets.
Libya's Moammar Gadhafi has voluntarily dismantled his weapons of mass destruction, Syria has withdrawn from Lebanon, and the Palestinians are holding elections."
Quote Of The Day is from Mike S. Adams: "I just enjoy watching liberals make asses out of themselves. To me, it is a cheap form of entertainment not unlike the CBS Evening News."
Monday November 28, 2005
Harsh But True: Daniel Howes lays it all out in the Detroit News: "Canadian-style health care isn't the guarantor of jobs that its boosters, including Michigan's governor, tout. And GM is kissing goodbye any hopes of controlling one-third of its home market by acknowledging that it won't run plants to build cars few people want just so it can pay workers it no longer needs. ...
And Toyota Motor Corp., the Japanese auto giant whose U.S. plants the UAW has failed utterly to organize, is preparing to unseat GM as the world's largest automaker. For that, thank the steadily growing support of American consumers who abandoned GM and Ford after they felt GM and Ford abandoned them. ...
GM and Ford, for all their downsizing and restructuring, cannot prosper, and the communities they call home will struggle to thrive again if consumers don't buy their cars and trucks. ... It's an industry cliché, but these companies can't cut their way back to health. The good news is that (GM and Ford) understand that, despite the carping about their alleged cluelessness that fills my e-mail and message boards."
Success Story: If you think that you can't pay decent wages in Detroit and still make a profit, read this article.
Chuck O'Brien at Shannon Precision, a maker of metal fasteners for automotive applications, "has created a business model that makes use of the most modern, efficient machines on the planet. ... By automating to lower the ratio of labor cost to total cost, O'Brien figures an overseas competitor's lower wages won't be enough to overcome the high costs of shipping heavy loads of steel parts."
"We need to retool manufacturing in this country, and in Michigan. I think we can do it. We're creating high-paying jobs here," O'Brien said.
Let me express it another way - if you can increase your productivity (by increasing automation, improving work flow, using an incentive bonus program, etc.), you can pay your workers more money and still remain competitive. I know - because it did it in my own manufacturing business.
Overpaid Workers: Meanwhile, Delphi is paying its workers $76.46 per hour, up from the previously reported wage of $65 an hour. That breaks down to a wage of $26.97 an hour for a first-year employee, $26.86 an hour for benefits such as health care and vacation days and $22.63 in legacy costs, which include retirement health-care costs and costs past the obligation of workers compensation.
Nationwide, employers from all industries pay their hourly workers $24.24 per hour, which includes benefits but not legacy costs, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor study, from mid-2005.
Recommended: I liked the movie of the same name with Robert DiNiro and I liked the article - it's about Detroit's auto industry (not the mob) and is written by Michael Barone. Please read 'Once Upon A Time In America'.
Laugh Of The Day ... is Scrappleface's headline: 'Michael Moore to Hire Terminated GM Workers'. Excerpt: "My company always has a need for employees who are cynical about capitalism and who blame 'the man' for their misfortunes," said Mr. Moore. "Building on those two principles has made me quite wealthy. These 30,000 soon-to-be former autoworkers are a goldmine for my company, especially since they were canned during the Bush administration."
Monorail Memories: I saw a news item on television recently, announcing that the kiddie monorail which runs along the ceiling of the 'Santaland' toy department at Meier & Frank Department Store in downtown Portland will be closing after this Christmas season. The store is being renovated and the 50-plus year-old monorail doesn't meet current safety regs.
This brought back memories of riding the monorail for tots at Wanamaker's ... (more >>>)
An Especially Merry Christmas ... or so it would seem. Visa reports that total spending on its credit cards on the Friday after Thanksgiving grew about 14% from last year to more than $3.9 billion. Overall Visa sales volume from Oct. 31 to Nov. 25 increased 17%.
St. Oprah Of Illinois, Pray For Us: Rick McGinnis believes that Oprah Winfrey might be the Aimee Semple McPherson of our age.
"McPherson preached her ministry from the massive 5,000-seat Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, and over KFSG, her own radio station. Through branch missions and syndicated programs, she had a reach almost as broad as Winfrey, though her interaction with her audience involved faith healing instead of giving away cars. In a pluralistic society, with improved drugs and health care, the gift of mobility - in the shape a new ride - is really like saying "put down your crutches and walk!"
At this point, Oprah has reached a virtual plateau that not even 'Oprah in 2012' could surpass. Starting her own religion is really the only place left."
Or, I would add, miraculously healing the infirm by the laying on of her soft, well-manicured, cafe-mocha hands.
This is not to make fun of Oprah. She does spread the wealth around and is certainly more selfless than many of today's celebrities and television evangelists.
I also believe that Oprah has transcended race. Twenty years ago she was, to most white people, "that black woman with the talk show". Today, she is no longer though of as "black". She's "Oprah." And - with apologies to the felonious Martha Stewart - that's a "good thing". (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Quote Of The Day is from Rita Rudner: "My mother buried three husbands ... and two of them were only napping."
Wednesday November 23, 2005
I've Been Workin' On The Railroad ... I am pleased to report that my O-gauge train layout is up and running - I finished it last Saturday afternoon.
Now my grandson can enjoy it when he visits on Thanksgiving Day. Postings will resume Monday.
In the meantime ...
Tuesday November 22, 2005
Whither GM: Jerry Flint is a seasoned auto writer - he's been covering the auto industry since the '50s - and offers an excellent perspective on the current crisis at General Motors. Excerpts: "Forget bankruptcy at this time." "It is reasonable to assume that the CEO must produce in the crisis or there will be demands for a change in management. But the GM board is made of pet rocks. Nothing will get serious until Kirk Kerkorian gets on the board ..."
Meanwhile, Mark Tapscott writes: "If I was Rick Waggoner, I would leak a draft of a bankruptcy filing, then when the media frenzy is well underway pick up the telephone and tell the UAW leadership they will determine whether the papers are filed or not." I like it.
All of this is well and good but, in my opinion, General Motors has too many vehicles that are the same - wearing different badges. It must offer desirable products - each with a clear brand identity.
Looks Good On Paper: Make your own V-8 engine. From 5,756 pieces of paper.
Smart Spin: I received a confirmation of my Swiss Colony order. Printed on the back of the envelope was the following: "Thank you for your order. We will contact you in advance, in the unlikely event that a problem should arise with any part of your order. Today, it's the law to do so. At The Swiss Colony, we think it's just plain good business."
Dumb Spin: In an interview with the Detroit News, Ford's North American design chief, Peter Horbury says the Lincoln Zephyr's styling points to a fresh interpretation of the brand's heritage. "Lincoln has always been an antidote to Cadillac, with simpler cleaner shapes," Horbury contends, adding that the more memorable Lincolns of the '50s and '60s were distinguished by their discrete forms and lines. The Zephyr follows suit, he says, with a simple but elegant appearance.
What a Load-O-Crap. The Zephyr fails to offer the distinctive styling of the '61-'65 slab side Lincolns of yore. No Lincoln enthusiast I've met likes the bland little Zephyr. Most feel it's an insult to the marque.
In a thinly-veiled jibe at Cadillac's current ... (more >>>)
A Must Read: The Mudville Gazette offers 'A Brief History of a Long War (Iraq, 1990-2003)'. It's a good reminder of why we're still there. Note all the comments about the danger of Saddam's WMDs made by Democrats during the Clinton years.
With 'Friends' Like These ... Former Department of Defense adviser Richard Perle has called on the United States to cease its friendly relations with the Saudi Arabian government. Perle says Saudi Arabia was no ally of the United States and that the Saudi royal family had allowed terrorist ideology to flourish within its borders and beyond.
"It is one of the greatest intelligence failures of the century that the rise of extremist institutions inspired culturally and intellectually by the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia went so unmarked," said Perle. "This seems to me a far larger intelligence failure than the failure to anticipate the details of September 11 because it was a huge and highly visible trend over many years." Money has given the Saudi government much of its strength and Perle implied it is being used to strengthen sectors of the society unfriendly to the United States.
Brand Awareness: I'm glad that everything turned out OK for the crew and passengers on its corporate jet during yesterday's 'incident' but think about all the free publicity Nike missed by not painting it's corporate Gulfstream V to look like a giant athletic shoe.
Thwang-g-g-g-g-g!!!! Link Wray, master of the rock guitar, has died at age 76. He is best known for his 1958 instrumental, 'Rumble'. When recording it, he created the fuzz tone by punching holes in his amplifiers to produce a dark, reverberating, rumbling sound.
'Rumble' became a big hit but it was banned by some deejays in big cities for seeming to suggest teen violence. Proving that many adults in the fifties were idiots. Rest In Peace, Link.
Remembering: John F. Kennedy was assassinated 42 years ago today. I have some thoughts about JFK posted here. Rest In Peace, Jack.
Quote Of The Day is from Kathy Shaidle: "Of course, one reason people hide in plain sight with their iPods and so forth is because they're trying to block out other people's pre-existing rudeness to begin with. If Apple came up with an iNose for smells, they'd really be doing something."
Monday November 21, 2005
Ouch! Robert Farago sums up his review of the newest Jeep in one stunning sentence: "Even if Shell V-Power was free, you wouldn't want to waste it on the new Jeep Commander."
Read the whole thing and be amused by bon mots like: "While a (Lincoln Navigator) is suffused with bling, the Commander's interior makes a Calvinist church look like a Chuck E. Cheese pizzeria."
What Keeps Detroit Up At Night: Toyota market share surged in the first half of November. Here are the numbers: GM market share 18.8 percent, Toyota 17.9 percent, Ford 15.3 percent, DaimlerChrysler 13.6 percent, Honda 12.2 percent. Nightmarish one-year stats: GM down 24 percent, Ford down 30 percent, Toyota up 16 percent.
Meddling Is His Mission: Jesse Jackson, professional corporate blackmailer, is at it again, harassing General Motors about protecting minority dealers. Considering GM's precarious financial position, this is a bit like haranguing the Captain Turner of a freshly-torpedoed Lusitania over the number of black-occupied staterooms on board.
I was amused by some of the posters' comments below the AutoBlog article. They see the Reverend for the phony he is.
Is Monica On The Cover? A group of Florida women have rolled out a cigar magazine.
Spellbound: There are people who have told me, "I don't give a hoot about cars." I understand. Some things are of no interest to certain folks. Take me, for example. I have never read a Harry Potter book. Or seen a Harry Potter movie.
I'm probably the only person in the world who doesn't care about all this sorcerer dreck. Well, me and some blind deaf-mute in Sri Lanka, I suppose. I'm aware there's a new movie that is being über-hyped - 'Harry Potter and the Incredulous Cauldron of Crap' or some such. I won't be seeing it. It's not that I hate Harry Potter. I'm just not interested.
You don't care about horsepower; I don't care about Harry. We can still be friends. Unless you're a vegetarian and a Communist, too.
Thought Police: The PC crowd has come up with more nutty new ideas - such as replacing 'brainstorming' with 'thought shower' so as not to offend people with brain disorders. They also wanted 'deferred success' to replace 'failure' so as not to embarrass those who don't succeed.
Both phrases appear on a tongue-in-cheek list of the year's most politically correct words and phrases issued by Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit group that monitors language use.
The phrase that topped this year's list was 'misguided criminals', one of several terms the BBC used so as not to use the word 'terrorist'.
My take: Q: How do you fix the 'misguided'? A: Guided missles.
Happy Days Are Here Again: Larry Kudlow writes, "The boat-building business is booming, with big backlogs for boats in the $80,000 to $300,000 price range. Why is this important? Prosperity. People buy luxury items when they've got the money to do so. This is a very positive economic-growth indicator."
We are living in good times but the stock market is not yet reflecting it. Despite last week's gains, I believe that the Dow and S&P 500 Index are about 20% undervalued at the moment.
Quote Of The Day is from Don Luskin: "Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together."
Friday November 18, 2005
Jenny Dean Merc? The Detroit Free Press has proclaimed that Mercury is now a chick brand.
Oh, Yeah? Jaguar dealers do the best job of satisfying new customers, according to J.D. Power's new Sales Satisfaction Index Study.
Not mine. That's why I dumped Monte Shelton Motors, the only Jag dealer in the Portland area, in favor of an independent repair shop.
Make Us A Slogan We Can't Refuse: New Jersey wants a new state slogan for brochures, license plates and such. It once used "New Jersey and You: Perfect Together," A push to come up with a new slogan for the Garden State has become an excuse to crack New Jersey jokes.
Among the not-so-serious entries: "New Jersey: You Got a Problem With That?" "NJ: How You Doin'?!" And "Most of Our Elected Officials Have Not Been Indicted."
I suggest: "Joisy - It Ain't So Bad." Or: "Officer! I Swear - It Fell Off Da Truck." Hey! I'm qualified - I lived in NJ for ten years.
All That Glitters: Seventies glam-rock has-been and collector of kiddie porn, Gary Glitter, is wanted by police in Vietnam over his alleged relationship with a 15 year-old Vietnamese girl. In 'Nam, the crime of sexually abusing a child can lead to the death penalty. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Quote Of The Day is from Peter DeLorenzo of AutoExtremist: "It's now crystal clear that Detroit is doomed to offering an endless cycle of rebates and cash incentives to move their vehicles. American consumers have it permanently ingrained in their brains that the only reason to acquire a product from the "Detroit Three" (other than a few notable product "hits"), is to get a "deal." This of course plays right into the fact that Detroit as a whole has too much manufacturing capacity, too many models, too many divisions, too many dealers and a dwindling sale."
Thursday November 17, 2005
Car Sighting: Passed a black Dodge Charger on the Interstate yesterday. It looked three times better than the silver example which I discussed on last week. The Dodge Magnum seems to look good in any color but, for the Charger, color makes all the difference.
Wishful Thinking: A Ford executive muses, "Toyota may end up just like Wal-Mart. Reviled in small-town America because it will become too big and too arrogant."
James Farley, Toyota Division vice-president of marketing responds, "The whole theory says so much to me about Detroit. Their energy should be on how to make a better Ford product."
Jerry Flint has a few choice words for Ford, too. Excerpt: "In six years, the company has had four U.S. product executives. Changing a top manager four times in six years sends a message of deep discontent right from the top. ... dead and bungled product programs are scattered around the Ford landscape. Casualties include the Ford Thunderbird and Taurus, the Mercury Sable, and the Lincoln Blackwood and LS. Rumor has it that the Ford Freestyle is also on the endangered list.
It is no wonder that its archrival, the Chevrolet division at General Motors, could outsell the Ford division this year .... Ford could have fixed many of those troubled vehicle programs, but the company doesn't fix problems - it quits." Ouch.
Nissan In Nashville: AutoExtremist points out that Carlos Ghosn has stated publicly that he expects nearly all employees to make the move to Nashville, Nissan employees are wondering out loud why the Bell South building, which will be its temporary headquarters in Tennessee, only holds around 650 people.
There are now 1,300 employees in Nissan's California headquarters, so there's a growing concern that the unannounced 'Master Plan' counts on massive refusal by employees to go to Tennessee. Hmmmm.
New Word: I just invented a new word - 'Spamlish'. It is the odd, mostly unintelligible English that appears in e-mailed spam. It may result from three or more spin cycles in the Babel Fish translator.
I received this uninvited missive yesterday:
"Sir/Madam Your portfolio has been appraised to the important agencies, and upon wise care, we are able to volunteer to you the ensuing prospect.
Based upon wise care you make the grade to acheive (sic) a considerable return on your primary property investment.
By completing the ensuing attached form in a timely manner we will be able to decide our review, and we feel assured you will acheive (sic) not only a better rate of interest, but also a cash return that will complete all your holiday needs and more! ..."
Hitting Back: Dick Cheney gave a good speech last night at the Frontiers of Freedom banquet. Excerpt: "... the suggestion that's been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this Administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
Hair Club For Perps: A judge has delayed the trial of an accused murderer so the defendant can buy a toupee. The man is charged with 338 felony counts, including aggravated murder and terrorism in connection with a seven-hour shooting spree at Case Western Reserve University in 2003.
Well, It Ain't Anymore: 'This Is Your Life' host Ralph Edwards is dead. He was 92. The old '50s television show died a long time ago. And Ralph looked 92 twenty years ago.
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Bryant of AutoBlog about Detroit's declining car sales and underutilized factories: "'New products' coming next year are said to be the hope for reversing the trend. Now, I don't want to get too snarky, but, uh, haven't we been pinning our hopes on the upcoming 'new product' for about four years now?"
Wednesday November 16, 2005
Car Sighting: I forgot to mention that, on a sunny Monday morning, I spotted a beautiful, shiny black 1952 Cadillac Sixty Series sedan with proper wide whitewalls navigating the streets of Northwest Portland.
It reminded me that Cadillacs used to have a certain dignity about them - something you don't sense in the current models.
Phaeton Plucked: Volkswagen will end sales of its Phaeton luxury sedan in the U.S. market late next summer, when its supplies of 2006 models are depleted.
VW had once hoped to sell about 3,000 Phaetons annually in the United States but has found only about 500 buyers so far this year, making the Phaeton rarer than the Facel Vega, Continental Mark II and Cadillac Allante. The $79,000-$100,000 luxury sedan never quite caught on with its "intended audience of iconolastic aging hippies." If that was indeed VW's target market, I wonder what VW execs were smoking at the time?
Here's my take - when you go to a class reunion, someone always asks: "Whadda ya drivin'?" If you have a car with unmuddled brand identity, you should be able to provide a one-word answer. Ferrari. Porsche. Bentley.
The Volkswagen Phaeton was doomed from the get-go because no one wants to say, "I drive a Volkswagen but it's a $70,000 Phaeton - not one of the cheap-ass smaller ones." If you need to explain something, it's not a viable brand.
Admiral Oldsmobile Update: Last week, Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary, said, "It is regrettable that Senator Kennedy has chosen Veteran's Day to continue leveling baseless and false attacks that send the wrong signal to our troops and our enemy during a time of war. ... It is also regrettable that Senator Kennedy has found more time to say negative things about President Bush then he ever did about Saddam Hussein. ... If America were to follow Senator Kennedy's foreign policy, Saddam Hussein would not only still be in power, he would be oppressing and occupying Kuwait."
Instapundit notes that "the most public faces of the Democratic Party lately have been Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. It's hard for me to see how that can work out well for the Democrats."
Has anyone else seen Teddy's face without makeup? Yeccchh! Too much booze. Or sun exposure. Or both. As they say in dermatology school: "Never leave mayonnaise or the Irish out in the sun."
Meow!! Cat Fight: Suzanne Fields takes Maureen Dowd apart in a review of Dowd's book. Excerpt: "Maureen Dowd, the tart tart of the New York Times op-ed page, reveals herself to be one of the walking wounded in her new book, "Are Men Necessary?" Hers is an Ideology of One. Beneath the wit, the intelligence, the brittle one-liners, the insights, you can hear the voice of a little girl crying in the night."
Plot summary: It's hard to get laid when you're 53 and still single.
PS - I have my own take on Dowd here.
Been There; Done That: The most powerful supercomputer on the planet, the BlueGene/L System, has now reached a peak speed of 280.6 teraflops (1 teraflop is one trillion calculations in 1 second.)
BFD - my Amiga ran that fast (for a couple of nanoseconds, anyway) when it was struck by lightning back in '91.
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson, testing the Renault Clio: "There is traction control but it's the laziest, most ineffectual system in the world, not bothering to get off its fat arse once in a whole week of road rocketry. I got the impression after a while it was just a button on the dash, connected to nothing at all."
Tuesday November 15, 2005
Design Critique: Eyeing the new Mustang, a friend remarked, "It's the only car made today that looks good from every angle." I've been trying to think of another new car that does ... and, so far, I've come up empty. I've seen numerous Mustangs on the road and they all look superb from all angles, even in colors I don't like.
The Mustang is a great design. And it really does look like a Mustang - not an anonymous jellybean.
Technology Purgatory: Jeremy Clarkson reminds us that "improved" technology isn't always improved: "It's the same story with DVDs. In the olden days the picture quality from your videotape wasn't all that great but at least you could fast forward through the government health warning about piracy. Not any more. Now you are electronically banned - banned d'you hear - from skipping the disclaimers."
And the fast-forward function on DVDs sucks compared with videotape.
Malaise This! In his first televised address to the nation since Muslim rioting erupted more than two weeks ago, French president Jacques Chirac said that the violence reflected a "profound malaise" in France.
Didn't Jimmah Carter trademark this term in 1979? I remember coming home from work exhausted after a 10-plus-hour, hot-as-hell, July 1979 day at my then-struggling manufacturing business, arriving just in time for the 6:00 pm Pacific time Oval Office lecture from a stern-faced Carter - the one where he told us that everything was our fault (including the infamous 'Misery Index' - the sum of inflation rate and unemployment rate) because we had a Bad Attitude.
'Malaise' was the word he used, I believe. At that moment, I became a Republican.
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like ... Hans Kubly has suckered me again. I have placed my Christmas artery-blocking order with his happy elves at Swiss Colony. I bought from them last year (very tasty stuff), they have now raised my limit from $1,200 to $1,300. Possibly because they trust me more. Or because they think I've gained weight and am, therefore, a bigger potential customer.
For The Geek Who Has Everything: There's a Christmas edition red Darth Vader figure with green wreath.
Quote Of The Day is from Will Rogers: "The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."
Monday November 14, 2005
Chrome ... is the new black. Who knew?
Well, That Didn't Take Long: GM is offering employee discounts to everyone again.
The Unthinkable Becomes A Possibility: Bank of America said of a GM bankruptcy - in a note to investors, "We think it is inevitable."
Saving General Motors: Jerry Flint offers how-to suggestions. I gave GM some ideas back in April.
Gas Pains: Charles Krauthammer proposes a gas price floor, using taxes. Now, before you go on a don't-tax-my-gas rant (as I almost did), take a moment and read the article. It makes sense.
Excerpt: "... the Senate is attacking the problem by hauling oil executives to hearings on 'price gouging'. Even by Senate standards, the cynicism here is breathtaking. Everyone knows what the problem really is. It's Economics 101: increasing demand and precariously tight supply. Yet for three decades we have done criminally little about it. Conservatives argued for more production, liberals argued for more conservation, and each side blocked the other's remedies - when even a child can see that we need both ..."
The problem is I don't trust the gum-mint. They might say they'll use taxes for new refineries and domestic oil exploration. But what happens if some bozo attaches a rider to the bill and suddenly the tax revenues are used for health care for iguanas? Or racks for recumbent bicycles in Eugene? Or a tie-dyed t-shirt museum in Berkeley? Who's gonna prevent it? That kind of thing has happened before, ya know.
The First Two Words Are Enough. An Associated Press headline reads: "Carter 'Disturbed' by Direction of U.S." To wit: "Former President Jimmy Carter, on a tour to promote his latest book, is sharply questioning the direction the Bush administration has taken the country."
This is from one of the worst presidents of the 20th Century. Maybe he is "disturbed" because some of his favorite dictators (Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, etc.) are upset with our foreign policy. Oh, and is Jimmah still afraid of rabbits? If Carter's really 'disturbed' - just put him in a straight jacket and lock 'im up.
Johnny B. Gold: 79 year-old rock 'n' roll icon Chuck Berry has sued three leading karaoke music distributors, claiming they sold sing-along versions of his hit songs without paying royalties or obtaining licenses. If he prevails in court Berry stands to gain several hundred thousand dollars.
A New York Times article has estimated the collective revenues generated by karaoke record labels at $50 million a year.
The Meaning Of Christmas ... according to a Wal-Mart spokesman: "Wal-Mart is a world wide organization and must remain conscious of this. The majority of the world still has different practices other than 'christmas' which is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism. The colors associated with 'christmas' red and white are actually a representation of the aminita mascera mushroom. Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world."
Mushroom? Visigoth? What the f...?
The spokesman has since been fired. I guess Wal-Mart won't be hiring any more philosophy majors - except as greeters.
Quote Of The Day is from Ernest Hemingway: "That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best - make it all up - but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way."
Friday November 11, 2005
Distilling Design: My good friends at Independent Sources have weighed in on Nissan's planned relocation of its North American headquarters Gardena, Calif. to the Nashville area. IS "predicts significant costs savings and crappy car design/marketing will be the result." I tend to agree. The nearly 1,300 people employed at Nissan's Los Angeles-area headquarters work in management, marketing, advertising, design, sales and distribution and dealership development. Creative managers want to reside in lively, artsy places - like southern California. Tennessee may have it's charms but "lively" and "artsy" are infrequent adjectives.
I traveled to Nashville on a business trip once - almost 30 years ago. Stayed at the Admiral Benbow Inn. After a few drinks, I used to call it the Admiral Bimbo Inn. It didn't have any bimbos though. Just flies. Oh, well. At least there didn't seem to be a mutiny among the staff. Or the flies.
Everything's probably much different now but, back in those days, one of the tallest buildings in town was the mausoleum at Woodlawn of Nashville cemetery. I think it was a nine-story, high-rise crypt.
The cemetery is now the 'permanent residence' of several famous people, including country singers Tammy Wynette, Webb Pierce, Johnny Paycheck and Marty Robbins ('A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)' and 'El Paso'). Otis Blackwell, who wrote 'All Shook Up' and 'Great Balls of Fire', is there as well as J.D. Sumner, Elvis' way-down-low baritone backup singer.
AutoExtremist says of Nissan's move, "We think this is a boondoggle of immense proportions, and it will cause tremendous damage to the people at Nissan in southern California - the ones who did all of the heavy-lifting and who were really responsible for making the turnaround happen - while Carlos Ghosn lapped up all of the credit."
I'm predicting a Jack Daniels edition of the Nissan Xterra.
Tiny Bimmer: John Rutledge shows off his little BMW and tells the story behind it.
What The Heck ... they're already making Lincolns in Mexico. Ford's next small car will be built in a Fiat plant in Poland.
Presenting ... the Insurance Claims Hall of Fame here. I particularly like the last photo. (hat tip - George Pradel)
Yuppification v2.0: "They’re doing it again. And I can’t stand it. If I see One More Commercial aimed at rich baby boomers using Fleetwood Mac songs fawning all over how well they've invested all their millions so they can send their brilliant offspring to college in snazzy new decked-out cars ... " Go here and read the whole thing. I'll simply add, "me too".
Multi-syllablic: In an interview last week, Andy Rooney told Don Imus, "I have a problem with the term African American ... The word negro is a perfectly good word. There is nothing wrong with that."
My first reaction was shock, because I thought both of these old geezers had died several years ago. But there is an nano-element of truth to Rooney's comment.
'African American' is a seven-syllable word. Too long. People need to be described in two syllables or less. Keep it simple and easy to pronounce. Even when drunk. (That's why drunks never describe themselves as 'inebriated' - too difficult to pronounce.) Simple characterizations: Black. Jew. Irish. Smelly. White. Drunk. Moron. Polish. Asshole. Asian. Muslim. Jerk. Bitch.
We only call them 'police officers' when we're under oath in front of a judge. Otherwise, they're 'cops'. And cops don't refer to the person in cuffs as an alleged but yet-to-be indicted criminal. He or she is a 'perp'.
Black people should pick a new word and stick with it. I'd recommend the mono-syllabic 'black'. When the votes are tallied and the matter is settled, we can move on and begin voting on replacements for Hispanic, Presbyterian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Catholic.
Not Only Is He Unfunny ... but, apparently, he's a racist. Read this mini-profile of Al Franken.
Quote Of The Day is from Paul Lienert on the Pontiac Torrent. "Pontiac needs to continue moving away from its sister brands at GM if it wants to survive. Regurgitating another warmed-over Chevy with a Pontiac split grille isn't exactly my idea of great marketing or product planning."
Thursday November 10, 2005
Car Sighting: I spotted a cheerful-looking, yellow and black Smart two-seater sailing down Route 503 in Brush Prairie. I have seen Smart cars before, in London and Paris, and they look very much at home on narrow European city streets amongst other small cars and tiny delivery vans.
This is the first Smart I've spotted on U.S. soil. In the rural Pacific Northwest, where big, full-size pickups and duallies pepper the roads, the Smart appeared miniscule and ... um .... vulnerable.
Material Details: The sun shade featured on the Toyota Avalon's sunroof is formed from Baypreg® F composite - a two-component polyurethane system.
To mold the sun shade, which is roughly 32 inches wide by 21 inches long, the Baypreg F composite is poured over a fiberglass mat and paper honeycomb core. The Baypreg resin impregnates the mat and core, forming the strong, lightweight composite part, which is then assembled with other components to create the complete sunroof unit.
I Don't Usually ... think of Boing Boing as a source for business advice, but this is a damn fine article. Somehow I felt that the writer was talking about Radio Shack ... except RS may be too far gone to save.
Cheese Eating Postponed: Mark Steyn writes: "According to its Office du Tourisme, the big event in Evreux this past weekend was supposed to be the annual fête de la pomme, du cidre et du fromage at the Place de la Mairie. Instead, in this charmingly smoldering cathedral town in Normandy, a shopping mall, a post office, two schools, upwards of 50 vehicles and, oh yes, the police station were destroyed by - what's the word? - "youths"." And: "Some of us believe this is an early skirmish in the Eurabian civil war."
Strong Medicine: New Sisyphus is the blog-name of a conservative former Foreign Service officer whose writings are generally non-polarizing. No more. New Sisyphus proposes a very aggressive seven-point program to deal with the War on Terror, including having the U.S. "declare war, in Congress, against the Islamic Republic, with the goal of handing over a conquered Iran to the U.N. or some other trans-national authority."
NS states that "the cold fact is that a day is not too far off when some President of the United States is going to be presented with the possibility of a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic that has as an official, publicly-stated goal the destruction of the United States of America. ... Should the Islamic world be faced with a confident, stern opponent willing to use force, it would be only a matter of time before the Islamic masses as a whole would give up the struggle and, indeed, do our policing for us."
This is an exceptional and thought-provoking piece and is well worth your time to read.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "I hate having some recorded voice telling me how much my phone call is valued, while they send me through a maze of numbers to push, and keep me waiting forever, before I can reach a human being."
Wednesday November 9, 2005
Car Sightings: Tuesday's unexpected sunshine - following what seemed like a million days of rain - brought out several surprising vehicles. I saw a new black Maserati coupe rumbling down the street in east Vancouver.
Shortly thereafter, I checked out a new Dodge Charger in a parking lot and was disappointed. It looked great in photographs but had cartoonish proportions when viewed in person. Maybe the silver color was the problem. The Magnum wagon looks much better. Later, I was passed by a charcoal Lotus Elise (with optional hardtop in place) on Interstate 205. Boy, is it small - in every direction. Headroom must be scarce inside.
On a N.E. Portland street, a massive Hummer H1 had just parked right behind a tiny Honda Insight. I was tempted to lower my window and yell at the driver, "Hey, bud. Your hood ornament just fell off!"
What's Wrong With FoMoCo's Offerings ... in one sentence: The Detroit News road tested two vehicles last week - the Lincoln it tested is priced $7,000 less than the Ford it tested.
I Wish Detroit ... would sell something like this.
Too Many Years Of Platitudes: Maryann Keller is an astute, respected auto analyst. Robert Farago's article summarizes her feelings about the state of GM and it's worth a read.
Quote: "What I'm hearing is platitudes. What I'd like to hear is a plan. ... In October, GM pulled down a 22% market share. If you remove fleet sales from those numbers, they actually had a 13 to 14% share."
Merger Of Not Much: Paul Lienert reports that there are wild rumors of "a GM-Ford alliance or an outright merger." After musing about it, he concludes that such a marriage might "result in only two brands worth saving."
Don't worry. It will never happen.
Lame Lexus: Robert Farago has tested the new Lexus GS300 and doesn't like it one bit. I haven't experienced the new 2006 model but drove the 2005 GS last year and was underwhelmed.
Sliding Toward Irrelevance: Average weekday circulation at U.S. newspapers fell 2.6 percent in the six month-period ending in September, the latest sign of trouble in the newspaper business, an industry group reported. Sunday circulation fell 3.1 percent. The San Francisco Chronicle is down 16.4 percent. Maybe that's punishment for dropping Robert Farago's auto reviews. (permalink)
"We are Iraqis, and we know strangers from their faces ..." Another untold (by the mainstream media) story about progress in Iraq.
Vacuous Quote Of The Century: Madonna on Bob Geldoff: "I know first hand it's not always considered fashionable to work hard to make the world a better place because I've taken some shit for that myself."
Huh? What the hell has Madonna ever done for the world? Or for anybody?
Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' Sideshow Bob (felon and failed mayoral candidate): "No children have ever meddled with the Republican Party and lived to tell about it."
Tuesday November 8, 2005
Target Acquired: Toyota sold 8,195 Avalons October. It looks like the company will make its target of selling 100,000 Avalons per year. By comparison, Ford sold 7,915 Five Hundreds in October. During the same month, 9,939 Priuses were sold. The times - they are a' changin'.
Speaking of Toyota ... I like this customized Avalon by Troy Trepanier of Rad Rides, shown at SEMA.
Car Guy: Skitch Henderson, who was the first Tonight Show bandleader and founder of the New York Pops, has died. From 1954 to 1956, Henderson was musical director for Tonight host Steve Allen. Starting in 1962, he spent four years with Johnny Carson, sparring with him in comic routines and devising the 'Stump the Band' routine.
Skitch bought one of the first gullwing Mercedes 300SL sports cars imported into the U.S. Unlike many celebrity poseurs, who drove flashy boulevard cruisers (think Dual Ghia), Skitch genuinely loved performance cars and reportedly belonged to several sports car clubs. Rest in peace, maestro.
Don't Buy A Volkswagen. Ever. Why? Let's just say that this story should frighten you sufficiently. It sure scared me.
'Get Out' Award: In the trunk of Ford Focus is an ingenious trunk release pull tab that glows in the dark and has an easy-to-comprehend symbol.
This is a fine example of good design.
What A Wonderful Day! It's election day. It means the end of those annoying robotic automated telephone calls asking me to vote for some bozo who should probably be locked in a trunk without a well-designed release.
Movie Review: Last week, my wife and I saw Wallace & Gromit in 'The Curse of the Were-Rabbit'. It is a charming, clever flick. Wallace and his loyal dog, Gromit, set out to discover the mystery behind the garden sabotage that plagues their village and threatens the annual giant vegetable growing contest. W&G run Anti-Pesto, a humane pest control service, using a gadget-laden Austin van.
The facially-expressive Gromit is a comic genius who never utters a single word. And, inevitably, saves the inept Wallace from disaster. Don't miss the short preceding the main feature - a hilarious penguin action film.
Here's a special tip for readers of this blog: Stay until the very last bit of the credit roll. There's a little surprise at the end.
Oooh, Let Me Know When This Movie's Coming Out: Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders who allegedly were having sex with each other in a bathroom stall at a Florida nightclub were arrested and following a run-in with patrons and police.
Witnesses claimed Angela Ellen Keathley and Renee Thomas were having sex with each other in a stall at Banana Joe's, when other patrons grew angry that the two were taking so long in the bathroom. One woman got into an argument with the two; Renee hit her in the face.
Who Knew? Silly String saves lives.
Quote Of The Day is from poster 'Cornucopia' on AutoBlog: "Nothing made me more proud when Toyota issued a recall for the nearly 100,000 Priuses on the road. That takes about 75% of the Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers off the road, thank God."
Monday November 7, 2005
Car Sightings: Saw two different models of the latest BMW 3-Series last week. One word description: Unattractive. Spotted a Hummer H3 on the road. Hummers are supposed to be large and threatening. This one is a parody of the brand. It's "butch" in a silly way, like a jack-booted lesbian midget with a large trucker's wallet and chain.
Guess the H3 isn't selling very well, either.
Must Be Seen ... to be believed. Presenting the dancing Citroen C4. (hat tip - Ric at Pugs Of War)
Then And Now: Deroy Murdock writes about Rosa Parks - a mid-Twentieth Century Civil Rights icon: "Detroit buried a giant on Wednesday. How sad that Rosa Parks is survived by pygmies."
He's probably referring to those black Democratic leaders in Maryland who say that racially tinged attacks against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in his bid for the U.S. Senate are fair because he is a conservative Republican. Such attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an "Uncle Tom" and depicting him as "Simple Sambo" - a black-faced minstrel - on a liberal blog.
Rosa Parks would have been embarrassed. May she rest in peace.
Learn To Be A Journalist: Sold by K-Mart; endorsed by Maureen Dowd (and others) at the New York Times.
Read another amusing and accurate opinion on Miss Dowd here.
Blogs And Media: Michael Malone predicts that "five years from now, the blogosphere will have developed into a powerful economic engine that has all but driven newspapers into oblivion, has morphed (thanks to cell phone cameras) into a video medium that challenges television news, and has created a whole new group of major companies and media superstars.
Billions of dollars will be made by those prescient enough to either get on board or invest in these companies. At this point, the industry will then undergo its first shakeout, with the loss of perhaps several million blogs - though the overall industry will continue to grow at a steady pace."
Islam = Peace, My Ass. Groups of Islamic youths hit Paris' riot-shaken suburbs with waves of arson attacks, torching thousands of cars. Over 500 were torched in Paris alone. Youths doused a woman on crutches with flammable liquid and set her on fire with a burning rag as she struggled to get off a bus in a Paris suburb.
A fireman was treated for burns to his face received when a Molotov cocktail was thrown at him. Rioters torched an ambulance and stoned medical workers coming to the aid of a sick person.
France's Muslim population, estimated at 5 million, is Western Europe's largest. National police spokesman Patrick Hamon, however, said there was "nothing that allows us to say that Islamists were behind the recent unrest." Yeah, right. Keep wearing those blinders, mon ami.
Michelle Malkin nails it: "'Paris Unrest' = Muslim Immigrant Gang Violence".
The Daily Demarche weighs in with a thoughtful piece titled 'The City of Lights - did they mean burning cars?': "Sadek recently quit his job delivering groceries near Saint-Denis, just north of Paris. He was tired of climbing stairs with heavy bags. Sadek, 31, has a secondary school education and aspires to something better. But he knows his options are limited: "With a name like mine, I can't have a sales job." Okay - he had a job. It was hard. He didn't like it. He quit. Now he is unemployed. No, now he is unemployed- and we should feel sorry for him. I am going to type this next part slowly so that everyone can follow along: He had a job. He quit. Now he is unemployed.
That is not discrimination. It is stupidity, it is laziness, it is weak and shallow. He is playing the race card, period. Lots of people have tough jobs. Work, save, learn and get a better job." Read the whole thing.
My personal observation is that it seems like 70% of the Muslim population of France hang around the steps of the Basilique du Sacré Coeur Montmartre, aggressively peddling bottled water to foreign Christian tourists.
I Guess Good Guys Do Finish Last! All 46 California Good Guys stores close, plus a few in Nevada.
Quote Of The Day is from P. J O'Rourke: "A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat."
Friday November 4, 2005
Lookin' At Cars: I stopped by the local Honda dealer this week and checked out the 2006 Civic. These new models are a knockout. The coupe is stunning - much better than in photos. I also sat in the Civic Hybrid sedan - a very impressive car. Comfortably seats; surprisingly roomy. Good size trunk, too. The interior was well trimmed and had an upscale look about it. I think the new Civic will sell like hotcakes. It rocks! The new model makes the 2005 models look like a ten year-old design. I've praised the Civic before; this one's the best yet.
The Hybrid's window sticker was odd. It claimed that the car was comprised of 70% U.S./Canada content - but the car is assembled in Japan and the engine and tranny come from Japan. What kind of math are they using here? The CVT automatic gets a 49/51 mpg EPA rating.
Later, I sat in a new Lincoln Zephyr. What a disappointment. The interior looked cheesy compared to the Civic's - even though the Lincoln had leather seats and costs about $12,000 more than a Civic. Difficult to explain why - the design seemed disjointed somehow. The door handle surrounds had an easily visible attachment fastener, something I'd expect to see in an entry-level Kia. The back seat was cramped with poor headroom. The trunk was big though. But the car isn't available with Vehicle Stability Control. You'd think a luxury brand would have stuff like that. And air-cooled, perforated leather seats are an extra-cost option.
The Zephyr's front grille is a very odd design. The vertical blades are canted and, from some angles the chrome reflects the black from the radiator. It looks bad. Harley Earl was a master at having chrome shaped and angled to reflect the sky or trees. I'm surprised that no one at FoMoCo design picked up on this basic design element. Overall, I found the Zephyr unimpressive.
Peter DeLorenzo of AutoExtremist seems to agree. He wrote: "So the Lincoln marketing "brain-trust" is aiming at younger, hipper buyers with its new Zephyr - a car that costs over $8,000 more than a Ford Fusion with the only appreciable difference being interior bits and the styling cues? What year is this, 1965? You would think that Smoke and Mirrors marketing would have finally been purged from this town by now ..."
I glanced at at the Subaru B9 Tribeca, too. I didn't sit in it but it looks much better in person than in photos - even with its Edsel grille.
Of Course, You Could Always Drive ... a Toyota Avalon cop car. Dave Thomas of MPH Online took a photo of it at SEMA just for me. The black and white paint job makes it look like a plausible idea. By the way, my wife's Avalon has almost 8,000 miles on it and runs like a champ.
A Woman Who Understands: Jennifer Roback Morse analyzes a man's passion for old machinery.
I've Been Telling You This: "Internet Killing The Newspaper", proclaims a Drudge headline. 2005 will be the newspaper industry's worst year since the last ad industry recession. And things aren't looking much better for next year either.
"Sadly, 2005 is shaping up as the industry's worst year from a revenue growth perspective since the recession impacted 2001-2002 period," says a report from Goldman Sachs, adding a warning that meaningful growth in 2006 is "very unlikely."
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson who declares that the Audi RS 4 is "not very nice to drive, chiefly because all of them are designed and engineered in Germany where any roadwork Johnnie who leaves even the smallest bump in the road is shot. Here in England where potholes abound, they're as comfortable as steamrollers."
Thursday November 3, 2005
Blame Game: Anita Lienert calls Bob Lutz on his whining and complaining: "Wait a minute. The media are not responsible for GM’s sometimes questionable reputation with the buying public. GM is responsible. ... It struck me that you never hear that kind of tirade from Japanese executives."
Energy Alert! More wisdom from Larry Kudlow: "... it's our maligned fuel producers who are essential to economic growth, and who would love to invest in new refineries and nuclear plants if only government regulators would step out of the way. Declaring war on business is a Democratic ploy, and the president should stand up and say so. A hundred million investors and 140 million workers will back him on this."
Too Much To Bear: Prince Charles wants us to be nicer to Islam. But someone else wants him to be nicer to bears: "A man in a black bear costume tracked Prince Charles at every stop on his capital tour Wednesday, urging him to replace the tall bearskin hats worn by England's palace guards with fake fur."
Whenever Camilla does that faint, smug half-smile thing, I think she looks like Peter O'Toole in drag.
Bringing Capitalism To The Third World: Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world.
You choose a firm and lend money online to that enterprise, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive monthly e-mail updates that let you know about the progress being made by the small business you've sponsored.
These updates include reports on loan repayment progress, photos of new capital equipment, narratives on business growth and standard of living improvements, and more. As loans are repaid, you will get your original loan money back. If they default on the loan, your loan becomes a donation though none of the businesses have defaulted yet.
This is a great idea - not a charity giveaway - but help in making the world's poor become self-sufficient. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
Moonbat Album: Michelle Malkin has the mug shots here. Be sure to take a gander at serial tire-slasher Sowande Ajumoke Omokunde, son of Democratic congresswoman Gwen Moore. As well as his running buddy, Michael Pratt, son of former Milwaukee mayor Marvin Pratt.
Feeling Faint? It's probably low blood pressure. This should raise it for ya.
Just Wondering: Is Tanqueray spokesman Tony Sinclair what Terence Trent D'Arby became when he grew up and calmed down? ... Oops, guess not. He's Sananda Maitreya now.
Quote Of The Day is from AutoWeek on the Lincoln Town Car: "Objectively, it comes up short on everything but length."
Wednesday November 2, 2005
Flew The Coop: The "flying" Ford Anglia 105E used in the Harry Potter films has been stolen from a film studio lot. The early 1960s era blue Anglia went missing from South West Film Studios at St. Agnes in the southwestern English county of Cornwall.
"The film prop was being stored under a tarpaulin. It was not in good condition and could not have been driven away under its own steam," police said.
Trouble A' Brewin': The Car Connection reports that there is "growing turmoil in Ford's white-collar ranks." "There are a lot of resumes being sent out," said one Ford insider. That's fueled, in part, by concerns about the automaker's financial health. But many managers also wonder what will happen now that Mark Fields has assumed control of Ford's critical Americas operations. Ford has promised "significant" plant shutdowns and job cuts in January.
These kinds of long-lead announcements are just plain stupid. They give good employees almost three months to jump ship - finding a better, more secure job outside the company. Meanwhile, the all the dead wood - having no place to go - hang on for dear life.
I'm not just picking on Ford here. Lots of big companies do the same dumb thing. Time which could be spent productively is wasted trading rumors and innuendoes. Or padding reports to make the wrong people look good. Or the right people look bad.
That light, dry hum you hear is not a 3-liter DuraTech motor in Ford's engine lab. It's Niccolo Machiavelli spinning in his grave at 6,000 rpm.
Are You Surprised? General Motors and Ford both reported 23% declines in October U.S. sales, as high gasoline prices further undercut demand for big sport utility vehicles. Sales of large SUVs, including the Explorer, Expedition and Navigator, fell more than 50%.
GM's car sales declined 12% and truck sales were off 30%. Toyota and Honda posted monthly sales gains of 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Chrysler's U.S. sales rose by 1 percent. Nissan's sales fell 13%.
John Casesa, an auto analyst for Merrill Lynch, estimates that vehicles sold at an annual rate of 15.2 million units. That is down from last year's 16.9 million and would also be the weakest sales month since August 1998. Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, thinks positively: "Floor traffic has been on a steady rise over the past 10 days. That's a pretty good sign. ... November and December should actually be pretty good."
More Bad News From Ford: Mercury brand sales are down by 30% and Lincoln is down by 31%. It's not just Lincoln trucks, either. Lincoln LS sales are off 51%, the Town Car was off by 47% and only 1,200 new Lincoln Zephyrs were sold. (I'll have more to say about the Zephyr later in the week.)
Jaguar sales are down a whopping 51%. Only 1,758 Jaguars total were sold in the US last month. That's less than half the number of Land Rovers sold last month! L-R sales are soaring - up over 40%.
It Begins With 'O' And It Just Won't Die: Chevy brand sales were off 24%; Saab was down by almost 59%. (Only 15 ... !!! ... 9-2x models - aka Saabaru - were sold in October.) Buick sold less than 5,200 LaCrosses. But there's still hope for the General; it sold 49 Oldsmobile Aleros in October!
Stay Off This Bus: In the midst all the Rosa Parks tributes, the word 'bus' was used more times on television than I can remember. Certainly more than the it's-so-bad-it's-a-cult-film, 1976's 'The Big Bus', has been shown on television. (Stockard Channing and Lynn Redgrave were in it but won't talk about it. It's the movie role that Dare Not Speak Its Name, I suppose.)
Here's a different kind of bus story - about one you'll be glad you didn't board.
By the way, the Rosa Parks bus - a 1948 36-passenger GM Coach - is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. I noticed that a similar bus was parked near the Capitol steps near the hearse as Parks' casket was being carried into the Rotunda in DC. That bus must have been a replica.
Much Ado About Nothing: Thomas Sowell nails it as he summarizes the Scooter Libby indictment. Christopher Hitchens refers to the matter as "the non-findings of the Fitzgerald non-investigation, into the non-commission of non-crimes and the non-outing of a non-covert CIA bureaucrat ..." And, if you're a "secret" agent for the CIA, what the hell are you doing on the cover of Vanity Fair?
Getcher Own Holidays ... writes Andrea Harris: "Frankly, I'm sick of foreigners adopting American customs, practices, and playtimes (whether it be Halloween, blue jeans, or Jerry Lewis), and then bitching and moaning because "American culture is destroying our pristine Way of Life!" You know what, foreign peoples? Keep your foreign fingers off our holidays. You don't see Americans setting bonfires for Guy Fawkes Day, do you?"
Quote Of The Day is from Lenny Bruce: "The liberals can understand everything but people who don't understand them."
Tuesday November 1, 2005
It's Not Just For Mexicans: All about the Day of the Dead.
Is This Related To The Above Story? A motorcyclist with a helmet-wearing corpse strapped to his back crashed in Tijuana, Mexico and fled on foot, setting off a police murder hunt. Police said the corpse, which had head injuries and bore strangulation marks, had died at least six hours earlier.
Why Bother? GM is showing seven Chevy HHR customs at the Las Vegas SEMA show. Of course, none will ever be put into production, so why even bother? In my opinion, the only decent-looking one is the white Nomad-like two-door wagon.
Worth Reading: Delphi CEO Steve Miller gave an thought-provoking talk to reporters in Washington, D.C. last week. While some it is self-serving, the piece is worth reading because it succinctly describes the enormous business culture changes taking place within the U.S. The Womb-to-Tomb programs created by Fortune 500 companies and used as a recruitment tool from roughly the end of World War II until recently are disappearing. Going too, are the similar agreements made by big companies with unions.
Miller said, "Globalization is a fact of life these days. The implications for America are enormous. And it boils down to this: If you want your kids to live well and be in control of their own destiny, get them a great education. At one time in America a high school diploma and a job at the local factory was the ticket to success, but no longer."
I agree. Last week (10/26/05), I wrote that "the era of businesses paying $30 per hour to unskilled, production-line workers is over. The market says you're worth $7-15 per hour. Don't like that? Either learn a skilled trade, start a business, go to tech school or prepare for a life in the poor lane."
And don't forget to fund your own 401K, SEP, IRA or whatever with as much money as you can. Because the Big Company Defined Benefit Pension Plan is going the way of the mastodon.
You Prosper ... when factories prosper. A reminder of the good life from the late 1930s.
Bury My Heart At Wounded Keno: La Center is a small town north of here - a mere dot alongside Interstate 5 about 20 miles north of Portland. It's best known for a few privately-owned cardrooms, which pay $3.3 million per year in taxes and help keep the burg afloat.
La Center has been targeted by the Cowlitz Tribe. This tribe has partnered with the Mohican Tribe, operators of the mega-casino Mohican Sun in Connecticut to build a large casino/hotel complex.
Most La Center residents don't want the non-taxpaying casino, fearing that it will wreck their tax base (since the cardrooms will probably be driven out of business) and strain the town's infrastructure.
These days, Indians actively engage in "reservation shopping", trading in wetlands, dust bowls and other less-than-desirable places for "location, location, location" with the BIA. The best quote on the matter is from Chuck Cushman, executive director of the American Land Rights Association, "They (Indians) have a new definition of Sacred Ground: Does it have an off-ramp close to a population center?"
I'm not a gambler and have no stake in the outcome but every Indian casino I've ever encountered has been a second-rate operation, run by second-rate people with second-rate food and shows. (Steve Wynn has nothing to worry about.) And the surrounding area gets lots of traffic problems but derives little economic benefit.
Pray For Cathy: I always enjoyed Cathy Seipp's appearances on The Dennis Miller Show. She is smart and witty. It saddens me to learn that she has inoperable lung cancer. I wish her well and hope she recovers.
Quote Of The Day is from AutoWeek on the Ford Five Hundred: "The most uninspiring in its class, struggling to keep up."