The Coolest Car You've Probably Never Heard Of: Hemmings has posted a reprint of its 1981 article on the '55-57 Gaylord.
The Gaylord brothers were car nuts - rich ones (their dad was a bobby pin magnate) - and commissioned a well-engineered, two-seat sports car with a tube frame. Styled by Brooks Stevens, the Gaylord rode on a 100-inch wheelbase and had a retractable hardtop. The prototype was first shown at the 1955 Paris Auto Salon after being constructed by coachbuilder Spohn of Germany. The car was powered by a Caddy V8 with a 4-speed Hydramatic transmission. Top speed was 120 mph and the machine did 0-60 mph in 10 seconds.
As a kid, I was quite enamored with this car. In fact, I still have a Gaylord brochure. While it never made production, the Gaylord was, nevertheless, a very striking design. This automobile looks even better in person. I examined the remaining Gaylord at the Early American Museum in Silver Springs, Florida in 1989. The museum has since closed and the whereabouts of the car and extra rolling chassis are unknown. (permalink)
Trending Down: U.S. auto industry jobs in 2009 - 658,000. U.S. auto industry jobs in 2008 - 809,000. U.S. auto industry jobs in 1999 - 1,320,000.
But wait, there's more: General Motors global work force in 2009 - 235,000. General Motors global work force in 1979 - 853,000.
It's not a good time to be in the car biz.
Close-Up Transit: After scratching my head trying to figure out how to shoot video of the little HO trolley on the mountain area of my model train layout (my arms aren't long enough to get a decent close-up), I finally mounted my iPod nano to the end of a yardstick and made my own camera boom. Here is the result:
Low Expectations: Chicago banking icon Northern Trust Company was founded in 1889 and its conservative policies have served it well over the years. I've had dealings with this bank and have always been impressed by its professionalism.
The bank counts over 20% of the U.S.'s wealthiest families as its clients, so - when it has something to say - it's usually worth listening to. Northern Trust has made some pessimistic predictions for 2010 ... (more >>>)
Bird Cage Liner: It is well-known that the historic newspaper business model - charge for ads, charge subscribers - doesn't work anymore. People under 55 get their news from drive-time radio and the internet. The subscriber base has been shrinking for over 20 years.
Bad economic times have now forced advertisers to carefully examine the effectiveness of their limited ad budgets and they're abandoning traditional newspapers for other, more effective venues.
Two new media company bankruptcy filings - affecting 67 daily papers, including some large ones like the Denver Post, Detroit News and Salt Lake Tribune demonstrate the extent of the crisis ... (more >>>)
Sweet Failure: After more than 20 years in business at the same location, the Vancouver Mall Cinnabon has closed. Southwest Washington residents must now drive to Portland to get their Cinnabon fix.
Or, better yet, bike over there and back - to work off some of those 730 calories each gooey bun contains.
Political Upset? Stumping for U.S. Senate wannabe Democrat Martha Coakley (aka-Damaged Goods) in Boston, Barack Obama got heckled ... by one guy ... and reacted badly. He was visibly thrown off his stride and verbally stumbled around for minutes afterward. And Obama couldn't even fill the joint; the 3,000 capacity hall was only 2/3rds full.
He reacted worse than if he had gone to Haiti and tried to face down looters. Give George Bush credit; the man could duck a shoe and pick up right where he left off.
Meanwhile at Republican rival Scott Brown's rally in much-smaller Worcester, "the police have closed off the streets. It's mind blowing. The hall is already full, and it holds 3,000 people. There may be another 1,000 people outside."
Actor John Ratzenberger (aka- Cliff Claven) was at the Brown rally and told the crowd, "This isn't the Democratic party of our fathers and grandfathers. This is the party of Woodstock hippies. I was at Woodstock - I built the stage. And when everything fell apart, and people were fighting for peanut-butter sandwiches, it was the National Guard who came in and saved the same people who were protesting them. So when Hillary Clinton a few years ago wanted to build a Woodstock memorial, I said it should be a statue of a National Guardsman feeding a crying hippie."
Ratzenberger shared the stage with Doug Flutie, former Boston College star and NFL great, as well as Red Sox legend Curt Schilling, whom Coakley referred to last week as a New York Yankee fan - not just a gaffe but in Soxland, a Mortal Sin.
Meanwhile, even though Martha Coakley's husband is a retired Cambridge police officer, the members of the Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Association voted to endorse State Senator Scott Brown for U.S. Senator. Maybe they're still smarting from Obama saying that they "acted stupidly" last year, when they arrested O's mouthy Harvard professor buddy. Karma never sleeps.
I hope Scott wins Tuesday's election. From everything I've read he's got a pretty good shot for the Senate seat warmed for so long by Teddy Kennedy - something remarkable in the bedrock Blue, state of
If Brown prevails, it will be an acknowledgement of the incredible political clumsiness of Mass. Attorney General Coakley (who seemed to place her foot solidly in her mouth every day of the campaign) and the repudiation of Everything Obama, especially Obamacare.
Mmmmm. Bacon. Researchers have found that eating a plate of bacon and eggs could help pregnant women boost the intelligence of their unborn child. A chemical in pork products and eggs can help the baby's growing brain to develop.
"Scientists at the University of North Carolina have discovered that the micronutrient, called choline, is vital in helping babies in the womb develop parts of their brains linked to memory and recall."
You've Been Warned: One of the characters in the Broadway version of 'Xanadu' described the performance thusly, "This is like children's theater for 40 year-old gay people."
Quote Of The Day is from Mark Steyn: "The notion that the IRS should be able to seize your assets if you don't arrange your health care to the approval of the federal government represents the de facto nationalization of your body, which is about as primal an assault on individual liberty as one could devise."
Friday January 15, 2010
Press Weak: Hey, press week at the Detroit auto show used to be ... ummm ... seven days long. Or, at least five. This year, all the unveilings were done in two days or so. Why? Well, the grand press galas - where the booze flowed like a tsunami accompanied by avalanches of fancy hors d'oeurves - are mostly gone and there's not much new stuff to show.
Oh, those parties! In 2006, Volkswagen shipped an entire kitchen - and 12 white-clad chefs - from Germany. DaimlerChrysler opened a closed fire station across from Cobo Hall and served up free martinis and expensive cigars to hundreds of reporters each night.
Elsewhere in Detroit, invitation-only affairs at swank spots and posh penthouses used to rage well into the night. Those were the days.
This year, to satisfy any culinary needs, you'll be directed to a Popeye's Chicken right around the corner from Cobo.
In the old days, there were acres of chrome to be undraped. And spokesmodels in evening gowns lounging on sparkling vehicles. Consider the auto shows of 1955. Or 1960.
Today, the drapery yardage has greatly diminished and the gown-clad spokesbeauties are fewer in number. Less sparkle, too.
So ... what did happen in Detroit this year?
Lincoln unveiled a refreshed 2011 Lincoln MKX SUV, featuring big wheel arches up front as well as a bigger, toothier grille - if you care for such things.
Cadillac - well, I thoroughly dissected the tail-heavy XTS sedan concept on Wednesday. The division also debuted the 2011 CTS-V coupe, which looks good from some angles. The entire V-Series has never been to my taste. I'd rather buy a Corvette.
Buick resurrected the Grand Sport moniker for a concept sedan: the 'Buick Regal GS Grand Sport' on a rebadged Opel Insignia with a direct-injected 2.0-liter turbocharged Ecotec 255 horsepower four-banger. The basic Regal/Opel 'little Buick' (108-inch wheelbase, 190 inches long) four-door will be sold as a 2011 model with 182 hp standard.
Primary awards included the North American Car and Truck of the Year went to the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Ford Transit Connect - a double bogie for FoMoCo. The all-new 2012 Ford Focus - "coming to the U.S. in early 2011," according to Ford's website - seems good-looking in the photos but I'm still traumatized by our Focus rental car experience last year. It was soooo bad, I wrote a song about it.
Sing along (to the tune of 'The Trolley Song') in a Judy Garlandesque voice:
Meanwhile, the 2011 Mustang restyle looks cool and now can be had with a 305 hp V-6.
Clunk, clunk, clunk went the Focus
Bang, bang, bang went the struts
Moan, moan, moan went the power steering pump
If you buy a new Ford, you're plain nuts.
Honda's CR-Z Hybrid coupe never matched the pre-show hype. It was poorly proportioned and awkward. Is this the same company that offered the nifty little CR-X in the mid-'80s? What has happened to Honda?
Toyota had little to show and Chrysler had absolutely nothin' - except paint and decals. (I wrote about that on Monday.) Chrysler held absolutely no press conferences during this week's press preview. Probably too embarrassed.
Audi reportedly had a nice hospitality lounge and the usual Audi-shaped cars - most of which look nice and get positive reviews in the car-buff mags but not many people buy them because of a still-unresolved brand cachet and reliability gremlins. I must say that the cool and evil-looking Audi e-tron mk II looked stunning in photos.
The car show world is very different this year. While I'm sure some of it is driven by the still-lousy economy, maybe it's because manufacturers now realize that most of these extravaganzas just don't pay off. (permalink)
Haitian Hell: The 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti is just another tragedy in a tragic country. Undoubtedly, hundreds of thousands will be declared dead when the tally is complete.
It is sad to see what has happened to a nation of firsts: the first independent nation in Latin America, the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion. It was born with so much potential.
Since its founding, Haiti has suffered through 32 coups. Corruption has been and still is rampant among its leaders. The awful reign of the Duvaliers birthed the terrorist Tonton Macoute death squads. Ex-priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide - who was both a crook and crazy - ran the country badly on and off over the past 20 years.
Today, Haiti is probably the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has a GDP per capita of less than $800. Most Haitians live on less than $2 per day. It has almost no infrastructure. Most improvements to the island were made by the U.S. when it occupied the country from 1915-34. Sanitation is at best sporadic; a 1990s visitor reported that the whole place smelled like an outhouse. It is a land of rickety, foundationless cinderblock structures erected on sloping hillsides - a recipe for earthquake disaster. (Only the 'upscale' structures are cinderblock; many lesser dwellings are nothing more than corrugated metal and tarp lean-tos.)
Since 1973, the United States has been the world's largest foreign aid donor to Haiti. The U.S. has given over $1 billion over the five years. The money has disappeared down a sinkhole. Otto J. Reich, former head of the Latin America/Caribbean Bureau of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), reported that, in the 1980s, "the U.S. chose to deliver its significant assistance (more than that of any other nation) only through private organizations, because the government of Haiti was deemed either too incompetent or corrupt to deliver it safely."
In 1925, Haiti was lush, with 60% of its original forest covering the lands and mountainous regions. Since then, the population has cut down all but an estimated 2% of its original forest cover and, in the process, has destroyed fertile farmland soils, contributing to severe erosion and desertification.
It seems that most of the Haitians with ambition and/or common sense have left the country. Many have settled in the U.S. and Quebec, Canada; they have done well. They are industrious people with a good work ethic. Those who stayed behind probably share the same traits but are impoverished because of tyranny.
The neighboring Dominican Republic - sharing the same island as Haiti - will never win an award for How to Run a Country but its per capita GDP is about 12 times as great as Haiti. It has functioning cities and a working infrastructure. It exports agricultural goods, is well-known for its cigars and has a healthy banking system. The Dominican Republic has become one of the Caribbean's largest tourist destinations; the country's year-round golf courses are among the top attractions. But tour ships never dock next door in Port-au-Prince.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is sending aid and help. Yesterday, President Obama ordered an immediate investment of $100 million in aid. The U.S. is sending up to 3,500 soldiers and 2,200 marines to Haiti to help rescue efforts. Other countries will pitch in as well. Potable water will be supplied, soup kitchens will be erected, rubble will be cleared, medical tents will be set up to treat the injured and body bags will be supplied for the dead.
Haiti has lost its infrastructure, its wealth, its agriculture and its best people. No one knows how to 'fix' this dysfunctional country and now its chronic illnesses are exacerbated by this latest injury. If Haiti were a person, it would be lying in a hospice awaiting its last breath. Sad.
If you want to help, I'd recommend contributing to Medical Teams International, Jesuit Refugee Service, Catholic Relief Services and/or Doctors Without Borders - all are efficient and honest. (permalink)
In Praise Of American Capitalism: In 'Keeping America's Edge', Jim Manzi has written, "From 1980 through today, America's share of global output has been constant at about 21%. Europe's share, meanwhile, has been collapsing in the face of global competition - going from a little less than 40% of global production in the 1970s to about 25% today. Opting for social democracy instead of innovative capitalism, Europe has ceded this share to China (predominantly), India, and the rest of the developing world."
Manzi is rightly concerned about "the growing bifurcation of American society. Of course, this is not a new dilemma: It has actually undergirded most of the key political-economy debates of the past 30 years. But a dysfunctional political dynamic has prevented the nation from addressing it well, and has instead given us the worst of both worlds: a ballooning welfare state that threatens future growth, along with growing socioeconomic disparities."
"Of the many social and cultural changes that have rocked American society over the past half-century, the most relevant to the state of our political economy today may be the growing bifurcation of America. Increasingly, our country is segregated into high-income groups with a tendency to bourgeois norms, and low-income groups experiencing profound social breakdown.
This breakdown did not happen overnight. Longstanding academic and avant garde attacks on traditional social norms exploded into a political and popular movement identified with the left in the 1960s."
Remember LBJ's Great Society? How'd that work out? Not too good, eh?
Make no mistake, the threat to America's future is happening and is well-funded. Manzi has written, "The past year, spanning the final months of the Bush administration and the opening months of the Obama administration, has produced a stunning transformation of America's political economy. The first major initiative of the new president and Congress was the artfully labeled stimulus bill, which will have the federal government spend nearly $800 billion over the next ten years - less than 15% of it in fiscal year 2009. More than a short-term emergency measure, the stimulus represents a medium-term transformation of the character of federal spending - and government action - in America.
Only about 5% of the money appropriated is intended to fund things like roads and bridges. The legislation is instead dominated by outright social spending: increases in food-stamp benefits and unemployment benefits; various direct and special-purpose spending relabeled as tax credits for renewable-energy programs; increased funding for the Department of Health and Human Services; and increased school-based financial assistance, housing assistance, and other direct benefits. The objective effect of the bill is to shift the balance of U.S. government spending away from defense and public safety, and toward social-welfare programs. Because the amount of spending involved is so enormous, this will be a dramatic material shift - not a merely symbolic gesture."
Why does the name John Galt spring to mind?
Manzi has suggested solutions as well. This important article is definitely worth a read.
Get Yer Hand Outta My Pocket, Obama: The U.S. Department of the Treasury is officially looking at ways to force a portion of every 401k/IRA account - or some other as-yet-nonexistent, government-mandated employee benefit account - into "fixed payment annuities", which in plain English, means that most of the money would be channeled into long-term Treasury bonds.
"Officially this is all about "retirement security" (sounds nice), but it would also constitute a de facto seizure of private assets in order to fund government deficits at negligible interest rates - a stealthier version of what recently happened in Argentina."
The current deficit is on track toward $2 trillion. So, where or where can government find a money pot previously untapped?
Retirement plans, including 401(k) accounts, held $3.6 trillion in assets at the end of the second quarter of 2009.
Connect the dots.
The government already manages Social Security and not particularly well either. I don't want them "managing" my private retirement nest egg. Hands off.
And get the hell off my lawn.
What's In A Name? Canada's second-oldest magazine, 'The Beaver', is changing its name after 90 years because the "title is too often censored by online porn filters, preventing it from reaching new online readers.
"The Winnipeg-based magazine was launched in 1920 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Hudson's Bay Company and the fur trade that led to the early exploration of Canada."
Yeah, it's a problem. That's also why Jerry Mathers has trouble finding work.
Quote Of The Day is from Frank J.: "I like a bacon cheeseburger because it's nice to know at least two separate animals died to satisfy my hunger."
Wednesday January 13, 2009
Maids, Butlers & Bustles: An interesting thing about 1930s movies is that everyone seemed to have servants - a butler, maid and/or a nice Negro fella (as Harry Reid would say) to wash the car, cut the grass and do general chores.
Times have changed. Today's multi-millionaire is a multi-tasker. Instead of a butler, there's voice mail and PDAs. Maids have been replaced by Roombas. And for around the manse tasks, there are Lawn Services, Pest Control Programs, Mobile Auto Detailing and Security Monitoring. Instead of driving a long-nosed, 8-cylinders-or-more Cadillac or Lincoln as in the movies, today's upper middle demographic is likely to be piloting a Mercedes, BMW or Lexus.
These days, Lincolns and Cadillacs are aspirational brands only for the elderly looking to buy their Last Car. Hmmm. Maybe I shoulda written Expirational Brands.
Which brings me to the Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept, which just debuted at the Detroit auto show. Touted as Cadillac's new Flagship, it is scheduled for production in a couple of years or so. (Why so long? I dunno.)
Little more than a glorified Buick LaCrosse with a Cadillac grille and badging, this pug-nosed beastie rides on the Buick's 111.7-inch wheelbase but has been made six inches longer by adding an extended trunk, providing ass-heavy styling and, perhaps, offsetting some front-engine weight bias.
A consequence of this can be the disconcerting Barbell Ride as is often experienced on longish cars with shortish wheelbases.
Meanwhile, looking at that rear overhang, I can't help thinking that Caddy will soon introduce a special XTS Kim Kardashian Edition. Maybe XTS really stands for 'eXtra TuSh'.
The XTS shape is Buick Bulbous with some discordant Caddy knife-edged touches. Ray Wert at Jalopnik has described the gadget-laden concept as "a giant Vertu cell phone encased in a cocoon of blubber hiding in a sleek, stylish spaceship-like metal muumuu." I think Ray meant it in a good way, if such a thing is possible.
This proposed 'flagship' is powered by a V-6. The concept is a front-driver modified to be AWD.
In the old days, Cadillac really lived up to its slogan, 'Standard of the World'.
If you view period newsreel footage, you'd see potentates, dictators, popes, celebrities and gangsters being ferried about in shiny black Caddys - ones with long hoods with V-8s, V-12s and even V-16s nestled beneath.
No more. Just as the top-o-the-line Lincoln MKS is just a glorified Taurus, this proposed Caddy "flagship" is merely a Buick with a bustle. Sad. (permalink)
Character Building: Ford's updated in-car Sync system will allow soon its vehicles to read Twitter messages to the driver and "will eventually allow drivers to reply using voice recognition."
Ford's vehicle warranties have been adjusted to 3 years or 36,000 characters, whichever comes first.
Deere John: Like ballet? Like construction equipment? You'll love this.
Chugging Along: Last month, the Tornado, a Pacific (4-6-2) class steam locomotive, "was the only engine running in southeast England. The remainder, electrics, had been disabled by the cold." I wonder if it's because workers have forgotten how to clean ice from overhead wires.
Sometimes old technology is best. (permalink)
The Truth About Jobs: It remains stubbornly high.
"According to the Bureau of Labor Statisitics, there are a record 6.13 million workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks (and still want a job). This is a record 4.0% of the civilian workforce. (note: records started in 1948)"
An Associated Press headline drives home the magnitude: '20 million-plus collect unemployment in '09'. The slow pace of hiring will force Congress and the Obama administration in 2010 to spend as much as $70 billion to extend jobless aid for the long-term unemployed, or else let benefits which were extended several times in 2009 expire for millions of people.
"Fewer people are getting fired, but nobody is finding a job," said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak.
Last week's jobs report illustrates the two different trends: first-time jobless claims are falling as layoffs ease, but the total number of people collecting unemployment checks is still rising.
Barry O's Trifecta: Barack Obama has scored three firsts:
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "If we each sat down and wrote out all the mistakes we have made in our lives, all the paper needed would require cutting down whole forests."
1. First president in 110 years to miss the annual Army-Navy football game.
2. First president in history who did not attend any Christmas religious observance.
3. First president to remain on vacation after a terrorist attack.
Monday January 11, 2009
Chrysler's Marketing Inspired By Old Trolleys: In 1938, Philadelphia received its first shipment of new, sleek PCC trolley cars, which locals dubbed Streamliners. (I used to ride to high school on the PTC 15 line's PCC cars - see right.) These Streamliners made the transit company's boxy 1920s streetcars look ancient by comparison, so in 1940, the company cleaned up and repainted the old cars in the same color scheme as the PCC Streamliners. These rehabbed trolleys were cynically dubbed 'Paintliners.'
Chrysler - having no new models to offer - is touting a bunch of paint 'n' trim editions of its old iron - automotive Paintliners. The Chrysler 300 S6 and 300 S8 are saddled with new paint jobs, blacked-out grilles and "more heavily bolstered seats with embroidered logos and leather and cloth surfaces."
The 'I thought it was already dead' PT Cruiser is getting a 'Couture Edition' with a tarted-up interior and two-tone paint. The Town & Country 'Walter P. Chrysler Signature Series' will reportedly get an interior which is 38.2% less cheesy than the regular T&C vans. And some kind of 'special' paint.
The yellow with gray hash marks Dodge Nitro Detonator is apparently aimed at the radical Jihadist market.
Jeep is offering two special editions - the "Unlimited Mountain and Islander edition Wranglers." Both can be distinguished from regular Wranglers because they have ... ummmm ... decals. And distinctive coloring.
Jeep is rumored to be offering a third special edition - the Wrangler Cynic. It is painted flat back and comes with a $50 J.C. Whitney gift certificate imprinted with the Pentastar logo and the words: "Buy your own #%$@ cheesy decals." (permalink)
Road Testing A Real Dog: Dan Neil drove the newest 2010 GMC SUV. His report carried the headline: 'GMC Terrain: No bark, no bite, but plenty of fleas'. Ouch.
Excerpts: "If you need to accelerate hard, you can - the Terrain motors to 60 mph in about eight seconds - but the engine moans and roars as you do, like a gout victim who has just stubbed his toe." "Woof." "Honestly, after a week in this thing, I feel like I should be tested for parvo."
Pennsy's Quiet Monster: The amazing Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive was a wonder to experience. The bidirectional streamlined locomotive was mainly used for passenger trains, although several examples were regeared for freight service. GG1s were a common sight when I was growing up in Philadelphia. In the 1940s, '50s and '60s, the Pennsylvania Railroad ran 'clockers' - hourly trains (22 per day, over 150 per week) between Philadelphia and New York - single GG1 electric locomotives carrying eight to ten passenger cars.
These massive 460,000 lb. locomotives shook the ground when they passed at speed along the four-track PRR Northeast Corridor but glided smoothly and almost silently into stations. The big G's reliability kept them in regular service for almost 50 years - until the early 1980s - when age, rust, frame cracks and replacement part difficulties made it more cost-effective to replace them with modern, but duller-looking electric locomotives.
Over the Christmas holidays, I used my iPod nano to shoot video footage of my O-gauge Williams GG1 operating on the model train layout. I have produced a two-minute video:
The Government is Not Your Friend: Writing about the comedic tragedy that is U.S. airport security, the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum has observed that "no one in the TSA has an incentive to fix the problems. The airlines and airports do have such an incentive, but since we nationalized security, we've separated power from responsibility. And, like so many other government programs that grab power without taking responsibility, the result is high costs and tiny benefits."
She added: "The fact is, since the hurried and heavily politicized creation of the Department of Homeland Security and its junior partner, the Transportation Security Administration, neither their priorities nor their spending patterns has been subject to serious scrutiny. They have never been forced to make hard choices. On the contrary, both have been encouraged by their congressional funders to spend money in reaction to every perceived new threat, real or otherwise: Thus full-body scanners, unacceptable as recently as last summer, will now be rushed into use."
Bad Pun of the Day: He wanted to learn how to make ice-cream, so he started attending sundae school.
Friday January 8, 2010
Golden Oldie: The Hyundai Blue-Will, a plug-in hybrid concept car, will make its North American debut at the Detroit auto show. It first appeared last April at the Seoul Motor Show.
This "distinctive" vehicle bears a certain resemblance to one from 53 years ago, possibly its father ... or grandfather.
1939 Was A Very Good Year: Just ask Dita Von Teese and her '39 Chrysler. Or me and my '39 Plymouth. My photo is not as interesting; I'm wearing more clothing than Dita. (hat tip: Tom McMahon)
Take The Bus, Get A Free Haircut: In Portland, police arrested a man caught trying to cut the hair of a woman on a Tri-Met bus, a type of assault that has happened at least three other times in recent weeks.
Who says mass transit offers no benefits?
Air Rage: United Airlines ranked last along with US Air in the 2009 JD Power survey among traditional carriers as it posted poor results for "reservation experience", "check-in experience" and "costs and fees."
"United also ranked last in a recent University of Michigan Ross School of Business consumer satisfaction survey. Research that 24/7 Wall St. examined revealed that employee work satisfaction was very low."
I guess some things never change.
Book Review - 'Going Rogue: An American Life' by Sarah Palin: The author paints an intimate portrait of growing up in the wilds of Alaska, her political endeavors (local, state and national) and the joys and frustrations of trying to balance family life and a high-profile elected office. She explains who she is and defines clearly what she stands for.
Her story is compelling and her words ... (more >>>)
Happy Birthday, Elvis! The King would have been 75 today. More Ancient Presley thoughts are posted here.
D.C. Cocktail Waitresses Rejoice: Embattled Connecticut senator, bank grifter, Countrywide pimp, Pol Pot supporter and serial barmaid groper Chris Dodd (Democrat) has announced he will not seek re-election.
A contrite Dodd said that he would "humbly spend the rest of his life trying to make amends for all ways he screwed over the American people, especially the sweetheart mortgage deals, the health care mess and his role in the ruination of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac."
Nah ... I made that entire last sentence up.
Quote Of The Day is from Shlomo Dror, an Israeli air security expert, on air travel in the U.S.: "The United States does not have a security system; it has a system for bothering people."
Wednesday January 6, 2010
Doomed Kitty: I just got a look at the all-new 2011 Jaguar XJ. Not in person; I no longer receive invitations to Jaguar dealer preview parties, if there even are such things anymore. Maybe these days Tata-owned Jaguar just puts the new models on a raft and floats them down the Ganges, bumping corpses along the way while prospective customers stand on the banks holding their noses and throwing flower petals.
Nevertheless, I've examined numerous still photos and a video of the big XJ. I don't care for it and I don't think most luxury car buyers will either. The grille is too upright. The taillights don't even look British - more like a mixture of Buick and generic Asian. The new XJ is more expensive that the old one - 'tis well up into S-Class territory now, lads.
In 2009, worldwide Jaguar sales were 65,000 - a drop of 30% for the year.
This new flagship Jaguar model looks too much like the lesser XF from the front. It also has a weird black-painted rear C-pillar - perhaps it's another tribute to Black Bess.
I must admit that the photos in the ebrochure are attractively posed and lit and the interior looks sumptuous - the best of any luxury sedan I've seen. Too bad about the rest of it.
About Last Year: Chrysler said 2009 was its worst sales year in 47 years. The company sold just over 931,000 cars and trucks last year - a decline of 36% compared with 2008. And '08 wasn't so hot either. Sales last dropped below one million in 1962.
In December, Ford Motor Company's sales were up 33% while General Motors was down (-10%) as was Chrysler (-4%). GM sales were down 33% in '09.
Ford's full-year sales totaled 1.62 million, down 15% from '08. FoMoCo increased its market share by 1 point to 15% in 2009. This was the first increase in market share for Ford since 1995. Lincoln and Mercury sales were up for the month but declined for the year by 23% each.
At GM, Cadillac sales were down for the year (-40%) as was Buick (-36%).
Toyota Motor Co. sales were up 32% in December versus 12/08 but were down by 20% on an annual basis. The company sold over 195,000 hybrid vehicles last year. In 2009, Toyota sold 26,935 Avalons, a drop of 37% from '08. December sales were 2,574, up 6% from a year ago. This past year, Lexus sold 11,334 LS models, a decline of 44% from '08. For the month, LS sales were up 44% from a year ago to 2,085 units.
American Honda sales were up 24% year-over-year in December but sales were down 19% for the year just ended. Acura sales were off 27% for the year. Only 2,043 of the flagship RL sedan were sold in '09 - a decline of 55%. In '09, the company sold 35,692 hybrid models.
Nissan was up 18% for the month but down 19% for the year.
Subaru reported a 15% sales gain for the year and called 2009 an unqualified success. Hyundai continued its surge with an 8% yearly gain, while its low-cost Kia brand reported 2009 sales gains of 10% and a 44% gain in December.
The Mighty T1: Here's a warning to all model train enthusiasts. You start out with a nice, simple layout. Then you'll start looking at all the train mags and drooling over the latest offerings. You'll buy a couple of cool locomotives and/or train sets and realize that you have more trains than track. So ... you have to build a bigger layout. This is part of a conspiracy by the hobby industry to get you to buy more stuff: track, scenery, buildings, tunnels, etc.
For 10 years, I have resisted the temptation to build a larger layout. Instead, I swap out trains. Just before Christmas, I put my big herkin' Pennsylvania Railroad T1 steam locomotive on the lower level of my layout, replacing the Lionel Hiawatha set.
The T1 was one of the slickest-looking steam locomotives made. Styled by Raymond Loewy (he later did the '53 Studebaker Starlite, the Avanti and re-decorated Air Force One at the behest of Jackie Kennedy), the massive steam locomotive had a graceful and sleek chisel-nosed, art deco look about it.
These powerful engines routinely hauled passenger 'name' trains at high speeds in the flat lands of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. They also saw service into the Harrisburg, Altoona, Pittsburgh and St. Louis areas as well. The unique 4-4-4-4 wheel arrangement afforded numerous engineering advantages over conventional designs, but at a price - complication. The T1 earned a reputation of a true thoroughbred - enormously strong, but, temperamental.
While the big T1 locos were fast and powerful, they were high maintenance and, therefore, had only limited success as a passenger locomotive. By the early 1950's, the Pennsy took the last of the T1s out of service in favor of cheaper-to-operate, more reliable diesels. Sadly, none were saved from the scrap torch.
Over the holidays, I shot a 2.5 minute video of my O-gauge T1 in action:
Used To Be An Exporter; Now An Importer: President Obama has named Amanda Simpson - who changed sexes a few years back - to be a Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department. Simpson said that "as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others."
Don't forget the correct pronunciation: a-Man-da.
What's the big deal about some D.C. guy in chick clothes? J. Edgar Hoover regularly wore strapless taffeta gowns to cocktail parties.
Global Warming Update ... various recent news headlines:
Are ya listenin', Al Gore?
• 'Record snowfall in Vermont'
• '100 dead as cold wave sweeps India'
• 'U.S. faces record cold weather'
• 'New Year freeze, avalanches leave trail of death across Europe'
• 'U.S. experiences coldest winter in 9 years in December as snow storms sweep across the country'
• 'Air Berlin aircraft ditches into snow'
• 'Iowa temps a solid 30 degrees below normal'
• 'Thousands stranded at snow-hit Dublin airport'
• 'Elderly burn books for warmth'
• 'Scotland may slide to halt as snow-fighting salt runs out (longest winter freeze in two decades)'
• 'Historic ice build-up shuts down New Jersey nuclear power plant'
• 'Peruvian Mountain People endangered by global cooling'
• 'Three deaths due to cold in Memphis'
• 'Oklahoma displays extreme winter weather'
• 'Record snowfall brings chaos to Seoul, Bejing'.
Quote Of The Day is from Van Helsing: "No matter how bad things get under Comrade Obama, at least we have PETA for comic relief. The latest word in their campaign to have fish renamed 'sea kittens' so that we'll feel too guilty to eat them ... Maybe liberals would stop killing their own children if we call them 'womb kittens.'"
Monday January 4, 2010
Lap Of Luxury: Edmunds presents some interesting data on automobiles, comparing 2009 sales (through November) versus 1999. While total vehicle sales declined 45% (9,373,349 from 16,893,538), luxury brands saw a drop of only 19% or so. Cadillac and Lincoln took big hits but most foreign luxury brands generally fared pretty decently: