Thursday December 29, 2005
End Of The Year Car Thoughts: I seriously wonder if General Motors can be saved. It seems to be pinning its hopes on the next-generation big SUVs, at a time when demand for such vehicles is waning.
Except for Corvette, the Chevrolet Division is a disaster.
I personally like the looks of the Pontiac G6 but no one seems to be buying it.
Pontiac discontinued its front-drive V-8 Grand Prix due to poor sales, yet GM expects the front-drive V-8 Buick Lucerne to be a home run.
Buick is in death throes as is Saturn.
That leaves Cadillac as GM's sole successful car brand but Caddy alone can't save GM. It's very strange - at the beginning of the year, car buffs were criticizing GM for having invested in Fiat.
Now Fiat is worth more than GM.
Ford isn't doing much better. Lincoln is a disaster; Mercury seems to be going nowhere (So what else is new?) and the save-the-company Fusion and Five Hundred don't seem to be setting any sales records. The Mustang is the only winner in Ford's stable. Any profits Ford makes seem to sink into that Black Hole known as Jaguar; this year, FoMoCo gave Jaguar Cars a Christmas present of $2.1 billion to cover heavy losses. The brand's flagship XJ model is tanking in the marketplace and no one seems very excited about the forthcoming XK. As much as I like Jaguar, one must wonder how long it can remain as a viable brand.
DaimlerChrysler has some hot models and some promising new ones. But Chrysler's sales have a habit of nose-diving without warning. And Mercedes still hasn't sorted out its quality problems. So, regarding DC, who knows?
BMW is such a strong brand that even Chris Bangle and iDrive haven't killed it. I've always liked BMWs, although I think the 7-Series has always been overrated and overpriced.
Audi is a brand I don't understand. I've never been attracted to its cars. Audis depreciate faster than a gazelle with a pack of lit Chinese firecrackers up its fundament but the vehicles get great reviews from the buff magazines. I don't care for the current styling; that new grille makes the car look like an old Dual-Ghia slicked back with Brylcream. And I've always thought that the TT coupe was Bütt-Ügli in a 'Nightmare on Bauhaus Street' kind-of way.
Twenty years ago, Korean cars were Yugo-like Crapmobiles - the punch line of a thousand jokes. Now they are the respected almost-equals of Japanese brands. One has to wonder what kind of reputation Chinese cars will have in 2025.
All brands have taken a quantum leap in technology and quality compared with the offerings of 5 or 10 years ago. But, with increased and intensified competition, being better-than-before just isn't good enough.
If I had to replace my ten year-old Jaguar sedan right-this-here minute, I'd do one of the following:
1) buy a new Acura TL
2) buy a pre-owned, Jaguar-certified, low-mileage 2003 Vanden Plas
3) buy a two-year old coming-off lease Buick/Pontiac Something-or-other and invest my spare change in the stock market for a couple of years until something special comes along to light the fires of my car-crazy heart. Or ...
4) maybe I'd just go nuts - because Life is Short - and buy a brand new Corvette or a mildly-used Jag XK coupe. Or an Arrest-Me-Red Mustang GT. Or a 2006 Civic Hybrid with that dashboard from The Jetsons.
Final thought: On October 18th, I wrote: "When the history of the automotive industry is chronicled, say, 20 years from now, the bankruptcy of Delphi will be recognized as a crucial turning point for the auto business, an event as profound and industry-changing as the Ford-UAW war of the 1930s or the gas crisis of 1973. Remember, you read it here first."
I still stand by that statement.
Butt Wait. There's More: Carmakers are widening seats for wider derrieres. The front seats in the 2006 Honda Civic are three-quarters of an inch wider than those in the 2005 model. As Americans grow heftier, automakers are making seats wider, adding more space to interiors and using bigger virtual mannequins to help design vehicles.
Domestic automakers say they already had seats for increasingly rotund motorists.
The Only Way Out Is Death: In yet another Boomer article, the Dallas Morning News trumpeted, "At 60, Boomers Re-Define Aging." Yes, Virginia, there are baby-boomers who are not me-centric idiots but they seem to get little press.
As always, the loud-mouthed prevail. If it's any consolation, these self-obsessed bozos will eventually die.
Unfortunately, since I am a pre-Boomer, I'll probably die first. Damn.
A Look Back ... at the year ahead is offered by James Lileks. Funny, chock-full o' irony reading.
Excerpt: "Midterm elections went better than expected for the GOP. The Democrats ran on the platform of "We're not saying what we'd do with a majority, but it rhymes with Imbleach. Other than that, whatever." Republicans ran on the platform of "Warrant? I got your warrant right here." For the first time they swept both New York and New Jersey.'' And: "... the administration begged The (New York) Times to put all its classified leaks in the "Times Select" online subscription-only service, guaranteeing no one will read them."
Only In Eugene, Oregon ... and you'd have to have visited there frequently or lived there to understand: The town is now home to Emerald Earth Seekers, a pagan scouting troop. One craft project: making neck cords out of green, tan and brown strands that will become part of their official SpiralScouts uniforms.
"The three colors represent diversity, and we're going to braid them into unity," co-leader Val Gomes-Pereira proclaimed. Disclosure: I lived about 35 miles from Eugene for 12 years. Eugene's Saturday Market had an odor impossible to describe. They should have bottled the thing and sold it to drive out moles from lawns. (hat tip - Independent Sources)
Quote Of The Day is from Richard Porter, author of 'Crap Cars', who wrote that the DeLorean DMC-12's engine was "so weak it would struggle to pull a hobo off your sister."
Thursday December 22, 2005
Trendsetter: Southern California is the place where the future can be seen - in fashion, housing and cars.
Trends start in Southern California, jump to the Bay Area and NYC and then spread slowly across the remainder of the U.S. Eventually, they reach the Pacific Northwest which became the style repository of last resort for mood rings, leisure suits, disco dance floors, lapel decorations, glass block and the like. (Every rule has an exception and 'gourmet coffee' is such a case. That trend began in Seattle, jumping to Portland and the S.F. Bay areas simultaneously.)
The Orange County Automobile Dealers Association represents the fourth-biggest market for new vehicle sales, with about 200,000 new-car sales a year. So, as goes Orange County - so, too, goes the auto industry. And the O.C. is skewed to foreign cars - the county's hottest-selling car is the Toyota Camry.
The association reported that the Big Three lost 2.9 market share points for the reporting months of January-June 2005 to the imports - Japanese brands took most of that. Toyota - up 6.2%, Honda - up 1.8%, Nissan - up 18.2%, Chevrolet - up 1.5%, GMC - up 0.4%, Dodge - down 7.8%, Ford - down 12.3%. Some luxury brands - Lexus, Mercedes and BMW - were down, too. (hat tip - Autoblog)
Cheap! Cheap! Cheap! Our Prices Can't Be Beat! This week's AutoWeek carries a full page ad for General Motors' Red Tag Event. It quotes prices of $12,937 for a Chevy Cobalt LS coupe, $15,932 for a Pontiac G6 sedan, $14,504 for a Chevy Silverado pickup and $20,576 for a Buick LaCrosse. My reactions:
1) These prices sound too good to be true
2) Can GM make any money at such price levels?
Deserting The Ship: Jerry Flint says that it is a misplaced assumption to think that "GM and Ford will turn around magnificently, gain market share and make profits in the North America market. You're kidding, right? Even the good guys in Detroit are checking out the lifeboats."
Attention, Last Minute Christmas Shoppers: For just $2,500 you can own a large wall hanging that looks like the chromed plastic pieces of a Revell model car kit.
The Giant Store That Small People Love To Hate - Part II: Glenn Reynolds weighs in on Wal-Mart: "I've never understood why Wal-Mart makes some people crazy, but it clearly does. ... I think there's a class issue: Wal-Mart is unavoidable evidence that the American working classes don't think, or live, the way the American thinking classes want to imagine. For this sin, Wal-Mart can never be forgiven."
Some 56 percent of U.S. consumers think that Wal-Mart ... (more >>>)
Can't We All Just Get Along? Mark Steyn writes .. ummm ... not with everyone. In discussing the recent Aussie beach 'riots', he points out that it's not about race or ethnicity; it's cultural. To deny this is self-delusional.
Excerpt: "These days, whenever something goofy turns up on the news, chances are it involves a fellow called Mohammed. A plane flies into the World Trade Centre? Mohammed Atta. A gunman shoots up the El Al counter at Los Angeles airport? Hesham Mohamed Hedayet. A sniper starts killing petrol station customers around Washington, DC? John Allen Muhammed. A guy fatally stabs a Dutch movie director? Mohammed Bouyeri. A terrorist slaughters dozens in Bali? Noordin Mohamed. A gang-rapist in Sydney? Mohammed Skaf."
Another Boomer Fixation: New Sisyphus writes that the "Vietnam/Nixon fixation of the Baby Boomers is yet another reason to hate that self-righteous and smug generation with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, if you needed any more. Iraq is Vietnam and now the spy Bush is the new Nixon. Do these bores have any idea how ridiculous and absurd they are?"
I couldn't agree more. At least in the 1980s, they were less vocal - too preoccupied shopping for yellow Power Ties with small burgundy dots.
Who Says Americans Spend Every Penny They Make? Economist Michael Evans takes issue with the assertion that Americans save little and offers evidence to the contrary.
I've been reading Evans for over 20 years. I like him. He's smarter than me. And fatter, too.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "I have a lot of insurance. If I ever need an appendectomy in Lagos, my Amex will help. Of course, they'll probably use the card to cut me open."
Wednesday December 21, 2005
"Can 2006 Possibly Get Much Worse?" asks Paul Lienert, as he paints a bleak picture for the Detroit auto industry next year.
Excerpt: "I can't fault many of my Detroit colleagues for continuing to look over their shoulders, given all of the traumatic events of the past year. But even more terrifying to the people in the trenches here are the challenges that lie ahead in 2006 and beyond. I can sum them up in a simple metaphor: the Two Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I think you know who I mean. Toyota. And China."
For Last-Minute Shoppers: Ford is having a pre-Christmas blowout in Great Britain, cutting the price of the Jaguar XK convertible by $18,000 or so. Super deals are available on top-of-the-line Volvos and Land Rovers, too.
'Hurricane Toyota': Jerry Flint expects that by the end of 2007 Toyota could pass DaimlerChrysler and even be challenging Ford as the second-largest seller of cars in the U.S. Why? A rash of new models in the pipeline.
In the article, Flint describes each model and provides sales estimates.
Excerpt: "2006 will be the year of Hurricane Toyota. Expect a storm of vehicles with potential to do incredible damage, and not just to General Motors and Ford. Honda and Nissan could be hurt, and the smaller Japanese companies - Subaru, Mazda, Isuzu, Suzuki, Mitsubishi - are particularly vulnerable because they don't have the marketing power to fight back."
The General and The Jennifer: General Motors proposed deletion of Saturn's small car is the equivalent of Jennifer Lopez considering an assectomy.
Bad Timing, Bad Luck, Bad Planning Or Bad Management? Ford Motor Co. now says that replacement parts used in its recall of 3.8 million pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles would not be available until February because of production delays. Back in early September, Ford had told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the replacement parts were expected to be available in mid-October.
Ice, Ice, Baby: The NYC transit strike is getting all the press this week but, on Monday, in the face of a truly-minor ice-storm (slush storm? semi-icy event?), Portland's MAX light rail system died due to icy overhead wires. Again. In early 2004, the entire trolley and light rail system was out-of-service for three days. "We have ice on the wires and there is snow on the tracks," said a spokesman. Well, duh. Apparently, they had no ice or snow removal equipment.
What have they done since? Put yellow extruded plastic strips atop some of the wires to prevent icing. Didn't work. Why? My guess would involve that word "some".
In other cities, most trolleys have ice-breakers which are installed on the forward trolley pole or electrical pickup when a storm is anticipated. Boston deals with cold, icy weather for many months every year and experiences minimal downtime.
I grew up in Philadelphia where there were serious snow and ice storms. But the trolleys and Elevated were almost always kept running because there was dedicated equipment to handle snow and ice chores. In those days, part of National City Lines contract with the city of Philadelphia stipulated that they had to keep all bus and trolley routes open. And they did.
Portland Tri-Met - run by bureaucratic idiots. (I have additional thoughts about mass transit posted here.)
Much Ado About Nothing: The media furor over Bush's no-warrant surveillance obscures the fact that, in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton claimed authority to order no-warrant searches, including break-ins at the homes of U.S. citizens.
Meanwhile, the reprehensible Senator Robert Byrd says that President Bush is spying on innocent American citizens (and, possibly, Byrd's fellow Klansmen).
Beyond Race: Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous."
"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor asks in an interview: "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history." Freeman notes there is no "white history month," and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talking about it."
Merry Moonbat Christmas: Former neighbors, who are very liberal and cause-oriented, just sent us their 2005 Holiday Newsletter. We always look forward to its arrival because it's like getting a missive from another planet. One year, instead of 'Happy Holidays!', the letter closed with 'Boycott Texaco!'
I might add that one of these aging hippies is now retired; the other continues to be employed. I can't be more specific except to say his work may be part of the reason that postage is going up next month. Naturally, they live in the land I call The People's Republik of Portland.
This year, they tell of going canoeing - an enviromentally-correct practice ... why the Native Americans did it! - and becoming upset when they spotted a 40 gallon drum which had been dumped in the shallow river. They tried to lift it into their canoe and overturned. In the process, they lost the remote fob for their car. (There's probably some Oregon trout that now has the ability to unlock a small Toyota.) They apparently didn't realize that a 400 pound drum-O-sludge is not canoeable cargo.
The newsletter closes with the announcement that the retired spouse "spends a lot of time on the computer communicating with legislators and groups on peace issues, environmental concerns and political dilemmas exacerbated by the current administration whose decisions and behavior we find obnoxious and unethical in a thousand ways. Happy Holidays!"
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson: "When you're 75, time is hurtling by at such a rate that driving your small car is like plunging through a tear in the space-time continuum. The throttle pedal is a hyperspace button. This is why old people drive so slowly; because 12 mph to a pensioner is like 2,000 mph to a teenager."
Tuesday December 20, 2005
"Without An Acknowledgment ... of the company's role in its own undoing, GM has very little chance of recovery."
Chuck Saletta of The Motley Fool writes that in the "face of rising global competition, GM's excessive costs simply got the better of it. The company became too bloated and its cost structure too rigid for it to absorb the impact of competition and a downturn in its own business. ... Contrary to (General Motors CEO Rick) Wagoner's claims, massive policy changes are not needed to retain American manufacturing jobs. He needs only look at the success of steel pioneer Nucor for evidence that American ingenuity can still compete on a global scale, and in a business line that's much more commoditized than the automobile industry. All it takes is cost discipline, leading-edge innovation, and a willingness to acknowledge and adapt to the market's reality."
But ... it may just be too late for GM.
Pedestrian Safety: Chris Paukert enlightens us about the new European Union rules governing pedestrian safety in car design. "Europe's new NCAP testing regime rates a car's ability to protect a pedestrian's body upon contact with the front bumper and hood. Eventually, cars that fail the test will not be allowed for sale within the Euro-Zone."
Damn. Does this mean I can't drive my 1950 bullet-nose Studebaker with the custom javelin nose on the streets of Paris?
Weigh Anchor: Jeremy Clarkson declares the Audi A6 Avant Quattro wagon to be "perfect for an aristocratic getaway driver with a naval background and a dog."
Clueless Media: Scott Martelle of the LA Times writes, "Blogging has yet to break out of its relatively small corner of the Internet. Only about 5% of all adults contribute to blogs." Cathy Seipp fires back, "I'd guess that also less than 5% appear on TV or write for magazines, so are these enterprises therefore minor corners of the media world?"
War Stuff - Part 1: James Taranto writes: "President Bush has apparently capitulated on the "torture" issue, agreeing to accept, with only slight modifications, Sen. John McCain's amendment that would ban "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of terrorists in U.S. custody. CNN quotes McCain: "I think that this will help us enormously in winning the war for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world in the war on terror." This is fatuous."
What's The Deal With John? Andrea Harris finally writes what many of us have been thinking: "I know I'm supposed to think John McCain is some great hero and have respect for his suffering and all, but I've got to wonder, does someone in Ho Chi Minh City have McCain's nuts in a jar? What the hell is this torture bill bullshit supposed to prove? ... I've said it before, I will say it now: the only reply to repeated accusations that we "torture" the poor little tewwowists should have been an ominous silence."
I'm beginning to believe that John McCain is an honorable man who is full of interesting ideas and sound bites but would make an awful president - an indecisive people pleaser.
We can't afford such a leader in wartime.
War Stuff - Part 2: The above is especially important since we are - indeed - at war. Don't believe it? Just read the latest from Jihad Watch: "Today we are confronted with a stateless threat that does not have at the strategic level targetable entities: no capitals, no economic base, no military formations or installations," states a new Pentagon briefing paper I've obtained. "Yet political Islam wages an ideological battle against the non-Islamic world at the tactical, operational and strategic level. The West's response is focused at the tactical and operation level, leaving the strategic level - Islam - unaddressed."
More: "... terrorists for the most part are following a war-fighting doctrine articulated through Muhammad in the Quran, elaborated on in the hadiths, codified in Islamic or sharia law, and reinforced by recent interpretations or fatwahs." And: "According to the Quran, jihad is not something a Muslim can opt out of. It demands able-bodied believers join the fight. Those unable - women and the elderly - are not exempt; they must give "asylum and aid" (Surah 8:74) to those who do fight the unbelievers in the cause of Allah."
It is becoming more plausible that the United States may have to severely restrict or flat-out forbid Muslim immigration in order to save our country. Perhaps it is time to ban the Quran at Gitmo, classifying it as 'enemy propaganda'.
One Less Gigante: Mob boss Vincent 'The Chin' Gigante has died in prison at age 77.
But don't panic. 'Sabado Gigante' is still on television - on the Univision network. Starring Don Francisco. On Saturdays, of course.
Quotes Of The Day are from President George W. Bush. During his radio address on Saturday: "This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations.
As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country."
From his press conference yesterday: "My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war."
Let's jail the entire editorial department of the New York Times. Traitors.
Monday December 19, 2005
Listen To Your Elders: The venerable Jerry Flint gets it just right in his sage advice to Ford Motor Co. "In the past, the most profitable Ford car platform was the Panther, and the cars that came off that platform were the rear-drive Lincoln Town Car, the Ford Crown Vic, and the Mercury Marquis. In its best years, the rear-drive Lincoln Town Car earned $1 billion a year. These facts, by the way, aren't my guesses. They were told me by former Presidents of the Ford Motor Co."
Flint speculates that Ford management may say, "We want a new Town Car, but we don't want to spend the money on a new rear-drive platform, so if we take a front-drive platform and stretch it we can make it AWD and get away with it." But how much money do you make by investing in failure? And how much do you lose by spending for success?
Mr. Flint also posted this reminder: "Remember, these Ford managers are crowding the automobile graveyard with their decisions. Taurus and Sable, soon dead. Contour and Mystique, dead. Thunderbird, dead. Old Aviator, soon dead. Lincoln LS, dead. Blackwood, dead."
This is so true. Particularly for the LS, which - at its 2000 introduction - was riddled with niggling little flaws which were never corrected. Now, Lincoln doesn't even bother to mention the model in ads. Too bad. I still feel that a stretched, restyled LS with a formal roof would have made a great Continental.
Jerry Flint also recommends that Ford get Mazda out of the Flat Rock assembly plant and use the facility's capacity to make a Mercury Mustang - a classic Cougar. Another excellent idea.
Fix Or Repair Daily: Ford's 6.0L Power Stroke diesel has been riddled with problems since introduced in 2002. Ford's medium and heavy-duty pickups from model year 2003 and 2004 have been affected by the trouble-ridden engine, and the issue has caused an abnormally high number of warranty repairs, as well as a serious blow to the brand's image.
This is Ford's workhorse motor, used by contractors, subs, landscapers, etc. Ford and/or its dealers have stubbornly refused to honor many warranty claims, ruining its reputation in the trades. A business acquaintance of mine dumped his fleet of Ford trucks over this very issue and has replaced them with Dodge Rams.
He'll never buy another Ford and actively bad-mouths the brand to anyone he encounters.
Time To Go: General Motors Corp. is suspending contributions to its 401(k) savings plan for salaried employees and paring back severance benefits as it prepares for more white-collar job cuts in the coming year. Ford suspended 401(k) matching contributions for employees in June.
I bet that every young, talented employee from these two behemoths is actively looking for a job elsewhere. This will leave both companies staffed with no-talent deadwood. The death spiral is picking up velocity.
Hmmmmm. Ford has no money for 401(k) matches but the company is giving away blue rubber bracelets to inspire its executives. In my opinion, if you need to snap a thick rubber band for inspiration, you're not an employee worth keeping. Why didn't Ford spend the Rubber Bracelet Fund dollars to make the Power Stroke Diesel engine work right in the first place?
Just Wondering: Do you still have to worry about Trans Fat if you drive a Trans Am?
"We Are Winning ... " The President's speech Sunday night was one of the best he's ever given. A home run. Excerpts: "Our forces in Iraq are on the road to victory and that is the road that will take them home."
"Some look at the challenges in Iraq, and conclude that the war is lost, and not worth another dime or another day. I don't believe that. Our military commanders do not believe that. Our troops in the field, who bear the burden and make the sacrifice, do not believe that America has lost. And not even the terrorists believe it. We know from their own communications that they feel a tightening noose and fear the rise of a democratic Iraq."
"Defeatism may have its partisan uses ..."
Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online wrote: "The president went over all the noise and talked honestly and directly to Americans at a time when they're home to be listening and don't have to rely on the snips and quips of the MSM to deliver his message. What he said tonight and how he said it was right-on. And ... his hands. I think he broke all the campaign-school rules. But he meant every word on an issue of national and regional and global importance." Ditto.
In the spirit of Full Disclosure, I must admit that I watched it live, whilst sipping a glass of Saint Laurent Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 from Washington's Columbia Valley - wonderful stuff. And giving thanks that I was indoors and not outside in the snow and ice which began falling this afternoon. Or in Iraq.
God bless our brave soldiers. God bless our President.
I'll have more to say about the war tomorrow.
What If ... Jesus had been born in 2005?
Dan W. provides a hilarious glimpse at the politically-correct chaos such an event would provoke. (hat tip - Kathy Shaidle)
Illegal Immigration Solutions: The good Dr. Demarche has an excellent article on the problem of illegal immigration. He proposes a five-step program to alleviate the problem. I especially like steps 4 and 5 ... (more >>>)
Boycott M&S: With Christmas just around the corner, soldiers from the Britain's Royal Irish Regiment wrote to five leading stores back home and asked for some stocking-fillers to give the troops next weekend.
But not only were they dismayed to get nothing more than a solitary teddy bear from Harrods, they have been told by Marks & Spencer that it cannot give them any gifts in case it is seen as support for the war.
I've purchased clothing from Marks & Sparks in the past. No more. Screw 'em.
Goodbye Garrison: New Sisyphus provides another good reason to despise National Public Radio. Excerpt: "Why the Republicans never de-funded an outmoded leftish clique like NPR is beyond me."
Get rid of NPR? Good idea. Maybe then the prolix and hideously-unfunny Garrison Keillor will dry up and blow away. Or drown in Lake Wobegon.
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson on 'Cops', 'World's Wildest Police Videos' and the like: "I sometimes get the impression these days that the police force is actually a film production company and that pretty soon criminals will be advised that anything they say may be taken down and translated . . . for the Spanish market. People being arrested shouldn't bother with a lawyer. They're better off calling an agent."
Friday December 16, 2005
Thoughts About Funeral Services: I lost one of my childhood friends to brain cancer and, at age 10, was a pallbearer at his service. Since that first time, I've had a lot of exposure to funerals and the death industry.
I've carried my share of caskets, advised a number of people on arrangements and have been responsible for planning several funerals. I even attended an American Funeral Directors Association annual trade show - where the latest model hearses were displayed on spotlighted rotating plinths just like a car show.
I hadn't participated in a service for over 20 years. This week, I arranged for a family member's funeral and found that the business has changed substantially.
Here are six new things I learned about funerals ... (more >>>)
Tuesday December 13, 2005
Nota Bene: There has been a death in our family and I am busy with funeral preparations. Blogging will be light to nonexistent over the next couple of days.
Monday December 12, 2005
The Strong Always Challenge The Weak: I think most people agree that the Lincoln brand image is very tarnished these days. It appears that Chrysler is swooping in to cash in. It's been widely reported that the company plans to offer two new luxury models. The first is a Chrysler 300 with a 5-inch stretch for improved rear-seat legroom.
This is an attempt to take a chunk of the livery car business - all those dark-colored Town Car L-models whisking people from home to airport to hotel to office, etc. in large cities. In the car service business, the Lincoln Town Car represents the past - an aging platform with no replacement in sight. The Cadillac DTS is too expensive for many car services. Chrysler is taking advantage of these weaknesses by offering an alternative to both brands - a fresh design priced lower than a DTS.
It is rumored that there will be a production-ready Imperial concept car at the January Auto Show in Detroit. While the Imperial name has been slapped on some not-so-great products over the years, most of the target market won't remember that fact. The concept of an ultra-Chrysler, slotted somewhere in price between the 300 and the larger Mercedes models is a clever one. Watch out Cadillac.
Forget About It: Contestants on a recent installment of 'Jeopardy!' couldn't name the car brand whose model lineup includes the Aztek and the Grand Prix. "What is Toyota?" guessed one. "What is Mercury?" ventured another.
No wonder GM is in trouble. Especially when one considers that the 'Grand Prix' moniker has been around since the '60s. If the ultimate trivia buffs on 'Jeopardy!' can't recall the Pontiac brand name, how can GM expect the public at-large to be aware of it?
So This Is Why My Car Is Pulling To The Left: Earth's north magnetic pole is drifting away from North America and toward Siberia at such a clip that Alaska might lose its spectacular Northern Lights in the next 50 years.
Sometimes ... you run into people who are not worth arguing with. Larry Elder found one.
Good Questions: Peggy Noonan asks some about illegal immigration, "What does it mean that your first act on entering a country - your first act on that soil - is the breaking of that country's laws? What does it suggest to you when that country does nothing about your lawbreaking because it cannot, or chooses not to? What does that tell you? Will that make you a better future citizen, or worse? More respecting of the rule of law in your new home, or less?"
The Giant Store That Small People Love To Hate: Andrea Harris at Spleenville weighs in on Wal-Mart. "You know, maybe people shop at Wal-Mart because it's convenient, cheap, and they can get something they need there. For instance, I needed a sweater today. I don't happen to own a car (I can't afford one right now), and I needed a new sweater. Alas, the free trade organic wool from Alpacas raised by real live Incan children sweater store is a bit far away for me to go at lunch time, so I went to Wal-Mart. Sue me, I found a sweater for fifteen bucks, and I didn't have to buy a hundred of them in a carton like at Costco."
Mark Tapscott has some interesting things to say ... (more >>>)
Why Not? What Have They Ever Done For You? Visit the Squirrel Defamation League. Motto: "The only good squirrel is a dead squirrel."
Quote Of The Day is from Homer Simpson, quaffing a Duff beer: "Expand my brain, Thinking Juice!"
Friday December 9, 2005
'Speeding Is Not Necessarily Reckless' ... even at 128 mph ruled a Nebraska judge ruled in the case of a motorcyclist who tried to flee from state troopers. "Speed and speed alone is not sufficient to establish reckless driving," said the judge. Maybe I'll move to Nebraska.
Head In The Sand Award: UAW vice president Gerald Bantom, the union official responsible for negotiations with Ford, said Wednesday that the company had not given him any details of its restructuring plan despite reports circulating around Detroit that the company was preparing to eliminate as many as 25,000 jobs.
"I hope they don't do anything," Bantom said.
Merry Christmas From Joisy: I was walking through the Vancouver Mall the other day and spotted Santa. He looked authentic, had a big smile, nice beard and was patiently interacting with a pair of excited preschoolers. It was fun to watch and filled me with some much-needed Christmas spirit.
Surprisingly, this Santaland operation was run by Cherry Hill Photo of Cherry Hill, NJ. Its website states: "We currently serve over 300 of the finest enclosed regional malls, shopping centers and department stores and we've been doing it for over 40 years since our first promotion in 1961. We utilize state-of-the-art photographic equipment and have developed the techniques and systems to insure a smooth-running, professionally operated and profitable photo promotion."
Interesting business - I never knew the company existed, even though I used to drive past its offices at least weekly when I lived in New Joisy. Cherry Hill also supplies Easter Bunnies to malls.
Apt Comparison? "Margaret Cho is an even whinier on-stage Maureen Dowd," writes Mark Gauvreau Judge.
His article begins thusly, "What's the difference between the Paul Wellstone funeral and a performance by Margaret Cho, comedian? In parts, the Wellstone funeral was funny."
For The Person Who Has Everything: How about a set of "rhinestone-encrusted brass knuckles" in gold or silver?
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "One of the many affectations of the political left and the intelligentsia is to disdain crass material things. But it is the increased production of crass material things which has released hundreds of millions of human beings from the curse of grinding poverty and endless toil, and given them longer lives."
Thursday December 8, 2005
Five Hundreds For Rent: A good friend of mine from a small town in Pennsylvania wrote: "Went to the local airport a few days ago and parked next to the Hertz facility.
Of the ten cars in the facility, eight were new Ford 500s. All black. All four-doors. Didn't you once say that the Ford 500s would go directly to the rental business?"
Over a year ago (11/15/2004), I wrote about my first encounter with a Ford Five Hundred: "The interior looked cheesy. And I had trouble finding a comfortable driving position - by the time I got everything adjusted to my liking, the Five Hundred had far less headroom (for me) than the Mustang. Verdict ... the 500 will soon be just another losermobile in rental car stables across the country."
Looks like I might have been right.
The Art Of Running A Car Biz: Here's more car wisdom from Jerry Flint: "Detroit has been downsizing for decades. ... the art of running an auto business is not about killing cars or shutting plants or demanding that partmakers chop prices. Anyone can do that. The art is in designing and producing vehicles that people really want or need - vehicles that consumers "gotta have," and that they are willing to pay a good price to get."
Anti-Gay Extortionists: A group with an innocent-sounding name, American Family Association, has successfully pressured Ford Motor Company to stop advertising its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay-themed publications.
AutoExtremist writes: "Corporate pandering to special interest groups of any kind is a no-win proposition. Once a company starts the practice, it immediately cedes control of its decision-making and "business sense" and becomes a pawn in the "controversy-of-the-month" club." I agree.
Corporations have the right to pursue any legitimate market segment. Gays are a good target group; a large percentage of gay couples are DINKS (dual-income, no kids) and have high disposable incomes. At the risk of stereotyping, I'll opine that many gays are trend-setters and their patronage of a particular brand could actually boost that brand's popularity among all style-conscious folks.
It is not up to public corporations to shun buyer groups, especially one (the gay demographic) comprised mainly of taxpayers and 'solid citizens'. (Targeting drug dealers, NAMBLA, white supremacists or a trade association of pickpockets would be an entirely different story, of course.)
I wish Ford had stood up and made a strong, classy statement about "making cars for everyone to enjoy" and refusing to pander to "any groups that promote an exclusionary agenda". But they didn't, so now they'll be the target of every hate group with a gripe.
Meanwhile, gays can get along very well without Ford products, if they choose to do so. There are lots of other carmakers that seek their patronage. That's a shame for FoMoCo - right now it could use all the business it can get.
PS - The AFA also boycotted Carl's Jr. over a burger commercial touting the chain's variety of offerings, which starred Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and several bunnies. The commercial's slogan, "Because Some Guys Don't Want the Same Thing Day After Day." I don't trust any group that objects to a good burger. Besides, if Hef can do a 'sandwich' with several bunnies at his age, well ... God bless him.
Celebrate The Human Spirit: Given the freedom to do so, we can invent our way out of almost any problem.
Exhibit A: 'Toastabags' - re-usable sandwich bags that you can put your cheese sandwiches into prior to heating them in a toaster oven; they keep the molten cheese from getting all over the place. Each bag is reusable up to 300 times.
Facts I Never Knew: In 1970, New York passed the most permissive abortion law in America, one that defined the state as the country's abortion refuge.
New York now has the highest abortion rate in the U.S. In America, one of every ten abortions occurs in New York, and in New York, seven of every ten abortions are performed in New York City.
"In absolute terms, there are more abortions performed on minors, more repeat abortions, and more late abortions (over 21 weeks) in New York City than anywhere else in the country. In parts of the city, the ratio of abortions to births is one to one."
Another Sign Of The End Times: Fender has released a line of Hello Kitty guitars and amplifiers.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "Realize that no one remembers the perfect Christmases. Everyone remembers the ones where the tree caught fire or the dog drank from the stand and coughed up needles through February."
Or, I would add, the one where next-door neighbor Gus - a little too full of the Christmas spirits (if ya know what I mean) - rang my parent's door bell one Christmas morn and threw up all over our front steps.
Wednesday December 7, 2005
In Ten Years ... we may laugh at its looks but, every time I spot a Dodge Magnum wagon on the road, I applaud its distinctiveness and the raw power its styling conveys.
Stupid People Tricks: I was gassing up the Jaguar at Union 76 Tuesday and a woman in front of me had her 5 year-old child pump fuel in to her Pile-O-Crap Oldsmobile. The clerk from the attached Mini-Mart came out and told her this was unsafe and against the law. The woman became surly and rude. This is another reason why we should bring back public beatings - maybe it would knock some sense into this moron.
Painter Of Dreck: Laura Miller, in an article titled 'The Writer of Dreck', muses, "With his appalling new novel, Thomas Kinkade, "The Painter of Light," makes a strong bid to become the world champion of vapid, money-grubbing kitsch." She continues, "To understand the Village, you must first understand who Thomas Kinkade is. Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light, bills himself as "the nation's most collected living artist." His paintings are typically luminous landscapes of romantic rustic villages, serene rivers, cozy churches, darling stone cottages and flower-strewn cobblestone streets - or, as he categorizes them on his website, "Bridges," "Gazebos," "Seascapes," "Holidays," "Gates," "Inspirational," "Lighthouses" and "Memories."
Thomas Kinkade has sold some 10 million works - "paintings" isn't exactly the right term, since most of the items are merely prints that have been "highlighted" with a few daubs of paint by the "master highlighters" who sit in Kinkade's 350 galleries and do their magic right in front of the customers. ... Kinkade has parlayed his fame into an entire country-cottage industry of Kinkade-licensed products, as seen on QVC - home furnishings, La-Z-Boy chairs and sofas, wallpaper, linens, china, stationery sets, Hallmark greeting cards and so on."
I always thought that Thomas Kinkade was overhyped. My mom painted much better images than Tommy K, even though she never considered herself a professional artist.
She was painting softly-lit cottages at twilight and forest streams reflecting falling light at dusk while still in high school - well before Kinkade was even born.
Tommy's occasional car renderings in his paintings are generic and cartoon-like and I think his perspective seems sometimes 'off.' And painters with real talent don't hustle decals of their work on diecast cars or model trains.
Naturally, it gave me comfort to read in The Spectator (UK) last year: "Sunk into a dark-green sofa in a low-lit alcove in the Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery in New York , I spent five minutes trying to receive the message imparted by 'Gardens Beyond Spring Gate.' ... To call the style chocolate-boxy, would be a serious slight to the world of confectionery illustration. For the first minute my eyes skittered across the surface of the painting, found no purchase and made an attempt to escape to an interesting-looking electric-plug socket near the floor."
'Chocolate-boxy' - a perfect description.
Tommy's company promotes its various offerings as part of "the Thomas Kinkade lifestyle brand". Last week, I was at a funeral parlor; just inside the front entrance was a Plexiglas rack full of brochures with somber titles like: 'Coping With Grief During A Holiday' and 'Twelve Ways To Deal With Your Grief'. The acrylic holder had Tommy K's name screenprinted on the front lip. Sure enough, the cheesy color artwork on the cover of every pamphlet was his.
Even in death you can't escape the guy. (permalink)
Update: Tommy K's dead.
Death To Tookie: I know you can't hear me but, as I'm typing, I'm also singing this in the best Al Jolson voice I can muster: "Took-Took-Tookie, Goooooodbyeeee. Took-Took-Tookie, Don't Cryyyyyyyy ..."
The death penalty rules.
Big Boom: Steve Antler posited: "Close to Teheran, in the middle of the night, a nuclear explosion suddenly annihilates thousands, throws the nation into chaos, and sets back Iran's nuclear program by ten years. ...." Read the rest ... it's a believable and thought-provoking scenario.
H.P. Lovecraft Wore 'Em: Now you can buy plush Cthulhu slippers and wow (or frighten) your intellectual friends.
Quote Of The Day is from John Stossel: "I once interviewed the mayor of the tiny community of Friendship Heights, Md. He got his town to pass the most stringent anti-smoking law in America. It banned cigarette smoke outdoors.
"We're elected to promote the general welfare, and this is part of the general welfare," he told me. After I interviewed him, he was arrested for touching a 14-year-old boy's genitals in a bathroom at Washington National Cathedral. The village council finally repealed his law. Finally, we know what it takes to get an anti-smoking law repealed."
Tuesday December 6, 2005
Ford Memories: Lawrence Henry reminisces about his 1948 Ford in The American Spectator. There is nothing quite like the sound of the starter on a flathead Ford V-8. I still can remember it, even though I've not heard one in years. It sounds like a large tin frog being strangled.
I grew up with that noise - my parents owned a 1936 Ford Tudor and, later, a big, black 1947 Mercury four-door sedan.
Downsizing: Ford plans to close more than eight North American plants in a drive to revive faltering operations on the continent, industry paper Automotive News has reported. The question is - will this be done quickly enough to 'save' FoMoCo?
One of the plants is the Wixom, Michigan facility which was opened, with great fanfare, in 1957 to produce the 1958 Lincoln unibody behemoths. My wife and I toured the facility in 1995. It was an impressive place. At that time it produced all of Lincoln's offerings and assembled no other FoMoCo products.
Since then, Lincoln's market has shrunk, Lincoln sells as many trucks as cars, the trucks are made in Ford truck plants and the entry-level Lincoln model is made in Mexico. How things change in a mere ten years.
Le Jag? The Car Connection states that according to a report in L'Expansion, a leading French business magazine, Renault is looking at the possibility of buying Jaguar. The French company has never seen satisfactory sales for its top-of-the-line models, and new boss Carlos Ghosn is said to be keen to reverse that trend, knowing that luxury cars are more profitable than the small models that are Renault's specialty.
Jaguar is a fabled marque with an enviable heritage but sales have been tanking for several years. Ford has solved the abysmal quality which used to plague Jags (and their owners). But, even after fifteen years of ownership, they've not been able to make it consistently profitable, much less recoup their very large investment.
This reminds me of the problem posed when I took Business Management 101: You're thirsty. You spot a Coke machine. You put your money in, press the button and get nothing. You're still thirsty, so you try again and lose more money. And again. The question is: 'When Do You Stop And Move On?' There's no correct answer but the professor would scold anyone who said, "Well, I've already put so much money into it that it's got to pay off sometime."
Maybe Carlos Ghosn can work his magic with Jaguar. He certainly turned Nissan around and made it pay off.
I've posted aditional thoughts on Jaguar here.
Smart Senator: Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and former VP candidate, believes that U.S. troops must continue to have a presence in Iraq. Mark Steyn writes: "It must be awful lonely being Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party these days. Every time he switches on the news there's John Kerry sonorously droning out his latest pretzel of a position."
I always liked Joe Lieberman. The 2000 debate between Cheney and him was far more interesting, civilized and erudite than the ones between Gore and Bush. At the time, more than a few people asked, "Why can't we have a Lieberman-Cheney ticket?"
The Christmas Season Officially Began Sunday ... because that's when I put the Christmas CD in my car.
'I'm A Lumberjack And I'm OK ...' "Turn this plush lumberjack doll inside out and it becomes a werewolf!"
Goodbye Yellow Sick Toad: Elton John slams Pope Benedict.
Kathy Shaidle responded, "At least our guy's got his own hair." She also points out that the Pope didn't write the line "I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free", never wore purple 6" platforms and eyeglasses with ostrich feather frames and doesn't call photographers "rude, vile pigs".
'Lewd Rubbing Shuts Paris Statue': From the headline, I thought it referred to Ms. Hilton.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Who would have dreamed that 'Merry Christmas' would become a controversial phrase? But increasingly schools and other institutions avoid it like the plague, in order to be politically correct."
Monday December 5, 2005
Party Planning: Peter DeLorenzo of AutoExtremist writes, "The core issues facing GM - global competitiveness, U.S. trade imbalances, health care costs and pension funding - are issues that the nation must deal with - right now. This is not some isolated bad tiding that will only affect the Rust Belt in the forlorn "flyover" states. No, this situation spells trauma for the entire country. America as a whole has been getting its ass handed to it by our poor trade policies for decades - and now that the very manufacturing base of the country is under severe attack, people are finally waking up to the issues at hand."
This strikes me as 'late to the party'. In the 1970s, it was obvious to anyone who traveled to California that Pacific Rim countries were making serious inroads. Freeways were full of little Japanese cars, in quantities not seen elsewhere. West Coast manufacturers were finding themselves competing with low-cost Asian products. Many began doing their own importing to supplement their product lines and remain competitive. Most manufacturers and contractors were being offered imported raw materials and semi-finished goods; these offerings were of high-quality and were sold at bargain-basement prices.
Every California company I visited in the '70s knew that the marketplace was becoming global and was making plans to be a player. Most survived and prospered.
Meanwhile, back in Detroit, the Big Three remained blissfully ignorant, producing poorly-made products people no longer wanted. Their "response" to the Japanese threat was to produce miniaturized versions of the crappy cars already being made - offering the same shoddy quality and lack of features as their larger models. Think Pinto, Chevette, Vega, K-car, GM X-body, etc.
Did I write 'late to the party'? Sorry, the party's over.
Interesting Statistics: In his landmark study of the 2003 Big Five contract, Sean McLinden of the Center for Automotive Research found that "in 1960, the UAW was 16 percent higher than the overall U.S. wage rate. ... By 2003, the UAW average rate (with COLA) was 68-percent higher than the average manufacturing rate of $15.74 an hour."
November Auto Sales Summary: General Motors posted an 11-percent drop, its fourth consecutive monthly decline. Cadillac sales were off almost 25%; Chevy Aveo was down over 44%. Ford fell for the third straight month, down 18 percent.
SUVs were hard hit - the Expedition fell nearly 44 percent; the Explorer plunged 52 percent. Lincoln sales were off 15.3%; Volvo was down almost 26%. In the domestic
Chrysler brands, passenger car sales were up 10 percent, while light trucks were off 11 percent.
Toyota and Honda reported record November sales. Toyota Motor was up a 5.6 percent, while Honda posted a 6.4 percent rise. Civic sales were up over 18%. The Toyota Avalon recorded November sales of 8,225, up 248 percent. The Prius hybrid sedan enjoyed best-ever November sales of 7,889, an increase of 29.1 percent. Jaguar was down 43 percent; Audi was up 10 percent. (Data sources here, here and here, plus automakers' media sites.)
Heal Thyself: Nissan has created a paint that repairs scratches on its own, restoring a car's surface to normal within a week. The paint contains a newly developed resin that can stop scratches from marking the vehicle's outer layer.
The "Scratch Guard Coat" paint, which protects for three years, will soon debut on a sports-utility vehicle. The paint also helps prevent scratches in the first place. Nissan said a vehicle with the paint suffers only one-fifth of the usual abrasions caused by car-washing machines - the main culprit for scratches.
This is pretty cool. I wonder if future versions will last more than three years? Or will there be a process to renew its healing power? What if you have a fender repaired - can the body shop repaint with stuff?
Refreshing Quote From The Middle East: King Abdullah of Jordan says, "At the time of the Beslan school massacre in Russia, all of us were disgusted. But it's just not good enough to sit in the privacy of one's home and say how awful this is and condemn these people who are defaming Islam. This was a crime against humanity, and we have to be much more vocal, in public.
In my view, Islam is going in a direction that's very scary, and as the Hashemite Kingdom, we have a moral obligation to stand up. Yes, there are a lot of other things that are happening inside the Muslim world, but we have to draw the line. If we don't, then these people are going to win."
Tax Bite: One young man articulates very well why he is a conservative. It's about minimizing spending and minimizing government waste.
We Can All Breathe Easier Now: The lawsuit over Koko the Gorilla's 'nipple fetish' has been settled.
Female employes at the nonprofit, where the sign-language-speaking gorilla resides, claimed that the beast wanted them to expose their breasts.
Who would have ever thought that the sexual harassment movement could evolve in this direction?
It's About Dick: Vice President Cheney gets blamed for everything. (Except for the stuff that gets blamed on Karl Rove.) He is considered the Emperor of Evil by many liberals.
So, the Ace of Spades has made a contest of it, requesting 'Cool Facts About Dick Cheney' from his readers. Here are the ten best - non-obscene - submissions (in my opinion):
1. He has refused to keep a defibrillator at home, choosing instead to throw himself on the 3rd rail at a nearby Metro station. And walked away chuckling, of course.
2. He literally ate a Senate Democrat once after the poor fool bad-mouthed him. What he couldn't finish was sent to the executive lunch room at Halliburton.
3. Cheney killed the dinosaurs, because that's how you make oil.
4. Dick Cheney takes candy from babies, then later gives it to diabetic babies.
5. In a bow to conservationists, Dick Cheney converted his SUV. It now runs on orphans. And puppies. And orphan puppies.
6. Dick Cheney flosses with concertina wire.
7. When it snows in Washington, Dick Cheney doesn't put chains on his tires, but instead uses hippies.
8. Dogs are afraid of vacuum cleaners. Vacuum cleaners are afraid of Dick Cheney.
9. Cheney killed Johnny Cash just to watch him die.
10. Every time people sell their souls to Satan for fame, wealth, and worldly gain, Cheney let's Satan keep 10%. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks, referencing an old print ad which describes Seven-Up as 'so pure, so good, so wholesome': "'Wholesome' seems an odd word, since it has moral connotations - but so does 'pure' and 'good', come to think of it. Is this soda pop or the fluid that weeps from a statue of a saint? They make it sound like something Doris Day would use as a douche."
Friday December 2, 2005
After The Red Tag Sale ... is over, what should GM do next? I propose a Grab Bag Sale. Pay $32,000 and be surprised. You might get a new Corvette. Or a waterlogged Impala from New Orleans. Or a new Aveo, a Caddy Escalade demonstrator, the 1958 Firebird III show car or one of Oprah's Pontiac G6s. Or the '70s Wankel-engined Corvette. Or a surly guy from the GM job bank to clean your toilets and cut your grass for a year.
Proposed slogan: 'Life's full of surprises. Get in the game!'
Good Question: Of the Ford Fusion, Robert Farago asks: "Why would anyone buy an automobile that's had any hint of personality professionally removed by a crack squad of cost-conscious engineers?" Hmmm. I've never heard of an automobile compared to an Easy-Bake Oven before. Hasbro has sold over 18 million Easy-Bakes. Ford should wish for such success with the Fusion.
The Art Of The Deal: My good friend Ray just bought a new truck - a Dodge Dakota ST0 pickup.
It has replaced an old Ford F-150 which he hated. He bought the Ford new in 1990, so he did get fifteen years out of it but had many problems with the pickup. Rust, brakes, exhaust, locking hubs.
Plus the Ford has gone through three engines during its life. "Never another Ford-anything," he swore.
He was prepared to buy an import and liked the offerings but, ultimately, was swayed by the latest DaimlerChrysler "deal" - $5,000 cash-back plus other sweeteners.
This is only one guy's story but it illustrates two points:
1. The "we build 'em better now" cuts no ice with buyers. They hold grudges. If Ford, GM and Chrysler start making cars which are superior to Toyota and Honda tomorrow morning, they'll get no immediate bump in sales.
It will take years to rebuild any buyer confidence which has been lost. My buddy will never buy another Ford - and he has owned FoMoCo several cars and trucks.
2. This buyer only went domestic because of The Deal. Consumers are better 'value engineers' than most people think. Compare a $27,000 Buick LaCrosse to a $27,000 Asian Something and the buyer will buy Asian. Compare a $22,000 Buick LaCrosse to a $27,000 Asian Something and Buick has just made a sale. But, in a fairly short time, Buick (Dodge, Ford, etc.) must learn to become profitable at that price level.
Or must create a perception that increases the value of the brand in the eye of the prospective customer so that prices can be raised back toward the $27,000 bogie. (permalink)
The Art Of The Deal (Part II): A reader wrote, relating his recent car shopping experience. "I was on a waiting list for a Pontiac Solstice. Got a call yesterday from the dealer saying two had come in and I was on top of the list. Went down looked and was impressed with the car. The sticker was $25,100 and I would've paid that. Then the salesman tells me they've added a $4,500 addendum to the price. For that I can get a Miata and have change left or for a bit more a Crossfire or some other roadster. I told them thanks but I'll wait until sanity prevails.
This is what Detroit and the dealers think of us and they wonder why they are losing market share. I will not play that game. Didn't need a new vehicle, just wanted it." (underlinings mine)
Didn't the marketing gurus GM realize that the Solstice would be big hit? Why didn't Pontiac commence production at high output rates (the plant in which the Solstice made has lots of capacity) so that shortages would be rare. More cars would then be sold and list prices could be maintained without the dreaded Dealer Gouge.
In November, only 1,211 Solstices were produced and sold, compared with over 3,100 Corvettes. It certainly seems like someone is choking the output of this little sportster. I wonder why?
Like the writer, I hate dealer mark-up games. Every car dealer who tries to gouge me automatically moves to my never-do-business-with-them-again list. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who does this.
Just Wait A Few Million Years: Spotted this classified ad in the local newspaper: "1976 Dodge Station Wagon. On way to becoming a classic." Well, everything eventually becomes a classic. Even dinosaur dung.
Our Tax Dollars At Waste: This week, I sat in a meeting with a federal bureaucrat who was supposed to help a non-profit organization to which I belong. The woman offered absolutely nothing helpful, filled the air with banal platitudes and gave the most me-centric talk I've experienced in a long time.
I was sitting next to another business owner and we both spent much of the time rolling our eyes and muttering under our respective breaths. It is frustrating to be an unpaid volunteer knowing that this fed-drone's salary, benefits and travel expenses were being paid by the tax-paying audience.
Less government - it would be good thing.
Why I Love South Park: Animal rights buffoons. Cartman slapping sting rays. $200 Mexican space rockets. A whale on the moon. All in a single episode Wednesday night.
For The Person Who Has Everything ... a champagne cork parachute.
Just Wondering: At the University of Phoenix, do people major in pop-up ads?
Quote Of The Day is from Jonah Goldberg, regarding a pregnant woman who demands HOV-lane rights for her and her unborn: "I certainly support charging the murderers of pregnant women with two capital offenses and other similar laws. But this strikes me as nonsense. Does this woman pay for two tickets at the movies? Does she pay the 'sharing charge' at eateries?"
Thursday December 1, 2005
What's Wrong With Detroit: Part of the problem with Ford, GM and Chrysler is the insularity of living in a company town. Or, more correctly, an industry town. Most other businesses are spread out across the U.S. People in those businesses are forced to travel to other places, visiting vendors, customers, machinery suppliers, etc. and, in the process, getting a broader view of the business world.
If you make chemicals and want to buy a spray-dryer for polymer manufacturing, you may end up traveling to a potato processing plant to see one in action. You'll probably get a plant tour as well. Some of the tricks you see used to make instant potatoes may help you make plastics more efficiently.
Household washers and dryers are designed and/or made in places like Benton Harbor, Michigan, Newton, Iowa, Louisville, Kentucky, Ripon, Wisconsin and Clyde, Ohio. People in those places get some inspiration from other places in the same geographic area - cabinet shops, stampers of metal highway signs, molders of drinking cups and the like.
Where does Detroit get many of its ideas from? Detroit. Therein lies the problem. There is minimal cross-pollination between auto companies and other businesses - firms which may have new technology that can be applied to cars.
Somewhere in the Motor City tonight, a group will be sitting in a bar discussing how to produce Class A paint finishes more efficiently. Do you think anybody's sitting in a bar in Clyde, Ohio discussing top-loading washer paint specs? Of course not. They get their ideas from lots of places. Not just from other appliance geeks.
Detroit may be starting to get it though. Recently, Ford spokesman Jim Cain said, "We didn’t always pay attention to SEMA. When we stopped trying to treat it like an auto show and more like a learning experience, that’s where it had its greatest impact."
Wow. People from Detroit are going out of town ... to learn something. Not just to play golf or get laid. This could be the start of something big.
No Bail Outs: There should be no federal government help for the UAW, GM or Ford. We already helped. We built the Interstate Highway System. That's enough.
If the state of Michigan wants to help, fine. That's not my money. Let the marketplace rule; the government is not the answer.
Celebrity Cheapskates: Who's a bad tipper? How much to Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand and Jesse Jackson tip? Find out here.
Headline Of The Year: 'Euthanasia Doctor Commits Suicide after Finding Patient He Killed Was Not Terminally Ill'. It happened in Switzerland.
Quote Of The Day is from the proprietress of the Ayn Rand School for Tots (a daycare facility in which preschoolers are trained to fend for themselves, not to depend on others) on The Simpsons: "Do you know what a baby is saying when she reaches for a bottle? She's saying, 'I am a leech'! Our aim here is to develop the 'bottle within'."