The View Through The Windshield - Car Blog

A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Friday November 29, 2013

Luxury Cars - A History: For some time now, I've been researching the luxury car market and its evolution over time. There are a lot of myths surrounding certain luxury brands particularly the reasons behind their rise and/or demise. I've looked at sales and production data from various sources and have used these data to debunk some of the myths.

car blog

The fact is: everything changes. And evolves. The luxury auto segment is no exception.

It is fair to say, that at the dawn of the automobile age, all cars were a luxury item. Relative to personal income, autos were an expensive indulgence. In those days, trolley cars were the chief mode of public transit in most major cities. By 1895, nearly 11,000 miles of track had been built in the United States. By 1912, there were almost 40,000 miles of trackage for overhead-wire electric trolley operation in the U.S.

When Henry Ford began his assembly line in late 1913 ... (more >>>)

Big Bucks: A well-restored 1953 Hudson Hornet convertible was sold recently by Mecum Auctions for $150,000 - a black beauty with a red interior.

I Didn't Buy It ... only because I couldn't justify paying 48 bucks for it. But maybe someone on your Christmas list is worth the expense.

joe sherlock blog

It's the Titanic Gravy Boat from Archie McPhee. Be sure to keep it away from any iceberg lettuce on the table.

Bad Pun of the Day: Sign at a nudist camp: 'Sorry - Clothed for Winter'.


Wednesday November 27, 2013

car blogYour Money At Waste: By the time the U.S. Treasury sells its remaining GM stock, we taxpayers will lose about $10 billion on the bailout of General Motors. The beleaguered American taxpayer was supposed to be paid back in full but, obviously, that won't be happening.

Treasury plans to dump the final 31 million shares it owns, the vestige of its original 61% ownership of General Motors. In one form or another, taxpayers put a total of just shy of $50 billion into the salvation of the nation's largest car company.

In related news, taxpayers will also be on the hook for the government's $139 million loan to Fisker, the failed, high-end electric carmaker.

Was this money well-spent, as some would say, to preserve American jobs? I think not - especially in the face of the Fisker fiasco.

Capitalism is a game of survival of the financially fittest and the most fleet of market-savvy foot. Corporate America is littered with the skeletons of companies whose offerings didn't change with the times - trolley car manufacturers, railroads, hat blockers, fitters of spats, corset firms, etc. Or businesses that failed to keep up with smart business practices, competition and market trends: Mervyn's, Wilson's Leather, Studebaker, Tower Record stores, Bennigan's, IndyMac Bank, etc.

If GM and Chrysler had gone through a normal bankruptcy, a wise judge might have forced them to shed onerous labor contracts, models, marques, and dealerships in a quest for survival. General Motors and Chrysler might have not only survived but emerged as lean, healthy companies - in much better shape than they are today. And no taxpayer money would have been involved.

Unfortunately, we'll never know the answer.

the view through the windshieldItalian Sub: Auto sales in Italy are underwater these days. Total vehicle sales in Italy have dropped to 1.3 million this year after a peak of 2.5 million units sold back in 2007. Fiat is the largest producer of Italian cars by far, and, since they don't sell many cars in Europe (outside Italy), Fiat is in a world of hurt.

So much so, that they've pulled out of the Milan Auto Show, sniffing that "the shows in Paris, Frankfurt and Geneva are enough for all automakers to show off their latest and greatest to the masses and the press alike, and that current economic conditions may not be able to support another auto show."

In the 1970s, Italian streets once contained three Fiats out of every four vehicles. However, enhanced free trade within the European Union and competition from Korean and Japanese cars have eaten into Fiat's domestic market share, which dropped to only 32% in 2008. Fiat's market share in Western Europe also dropped from 13.8% in 1990 to 8.3% in 2008. Although it is also doing well in Latin America (mainly Brazil), Fiat has little presence in the rest of the world.

Fiat continues to have a bad reputation in Europe. Most people who live in Italy no longer buy them because Fiat quality is so abysmal. On our last visit to Italy, our tour guide mentioned that she had just purchased a new Renault. When I asked her why she didn't buy something Italian, she replied, "The only Italian car I could afford is a Fiat and no one buys them. They are pieces of junk."

Book Review: 'Bull By The Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself' by Sheila Bair

As former Chairman of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), Bair had a somewhat prominent role in the government's response to the financial crisis of 2008, including bolstering public confidence and insuring system stability that resulted in no runs on commercial and thrift bank deposits.

While the book offers a detailed - too detailed and off in the weeds sometimes - story of the meltdown of Wall Street's largest institutions and the bailouts made to them, there was ... (more >>>)

Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard."


Monday November 25, 2013

Advice To Prospective Buyers Of Old Cars: Be patient. Almost no automobiles are 'one-of-a-kind.' If one possibility doesn't work out, another one will always come along; this happened with just about every collector car I've ever owned.

Even reputable old car dealers are notorious for asking top-dollar for their merchandise. If you make them a lower but realistic offer and put a one-week time limit on it, you may be surprised to get a phone call in a week or so with an acceptance. The 1979 Lincoln Town Car (a vehicle known to friends and family as The Barge), which we purchased in 1992, was originally offered to me by a dealer for $6,000. I laughed and turned it down, countering with $3,000. Six weeks later, I got it for $3,200.

the view through the windshield
The Sherlock's 1979 Lincoln Williamsburg Edition Town Car featured every wretched styling cliché from the 70s, including fake Rolls Royce grille, gunsight hood ornament, padded vinyl roof, opera windows, hidden headlights and faux wire wheels. While it looked like an ungainly beast, it was quite comfortable to drive - rode very well on the highway and had no squeaks or rattles even after 150,000 miles. Disco music poured from its many speakers, compliments of the eight-track player mounted in the fake-wood dash.

I kept The Barge for three years, putting little into it except gas and oil, and sold it for $4,000 in late 1995.

Automotive Ennui: I'm sad to say this but, looking at all the vehicular unveilings at the recent auto shows in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Dubai and Guangzhou, I found nothing worth writing about.

Still Waiting For It To Happen: In a speech at the Reagan Library in 2005, then-President George W. Bush said, "Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is doomed to fail."

Another Sign Of End Times: Citing "security concerns," the U.S. State Department is planning to shutter its embassy to the Holy See inside Vatican City. The embassy, which has been in operation since 1984 when Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II signed an accord, will essentially be swallowed up by the larger U.S. embassy to Italy.

This is just one more way that the administration is disrespecting Catholics. Various Muslim regimes want Barry O. to sever any Christian or Jewish ties our nation has.

Pope Francis consecrated Vatican City to St. Michael in July, saying: "In consecrating Vatican City to St. Michael the Archangel, we ask him to defend us from the Evil One and cast him out."

Who's the Evil One? Draw your own conclusion.

Those Wacky Canadians: In Vancouver, BC, doorknobs will soon be a thing of the past.

The round door-opening device's "future has been date-marked, legislated out of existence in all future construction, a tip to society's quest for universal design and the easier-to-use lever handle."

Jay Currie observed, "There are, no doubt, good an valid reasons to prefer levers to knobs – but is it the business of the state to ban one and 'privilege', indeed mandate the other. The whole idea of the state being involved in our choice of door opening options shows just how far we have traveled down the authoritarian road."

Speaking of Canadians ...

Beauty, Eh? Rob Ford, the crack-smoking, Chris Farleyesque mayor of Toronto, has a higher approval rating than Barack Obama.

Pollster John Zogby reported that Barry O's job disapproval rating has reached 57%.

Speaking of Canadians...

Be Sure ... to watch 'Rob Ford - The Movie', starring Chris Farley. Funny.

Bad Pun of the Day: Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocaine during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.


Friday November 22, 2013

Half-Century Remembrance: Over the past couple of weeks, I've watched several television specials on the Kennedy years. The various film clips and stills are like a time capsule. The clothes people wore, the hairstyles, the cars on the road, the store signage - all are fit for a museum but simply remind me of what things were like when I was young.

the view through the windshield

Fifty years ago, America was changed forever. Thinking about it makes me feel so damn old. And sad.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a sunny Fall afternoon in Dallas, Texas. It was a profound event which became a defining moment for people of my age and truly marked the end the 16-year 'decade' known as 'The Fifties'.

Back then, I gave little thought to a half-century into the future. If anyone had asked, I don't think I could have imagined what the world of 2013 would be like, other than some vague Jetsons-inspired flotsam involving flying cars and silver jumpsuits.

I couldn't imagine what my life would be like either. As a 20 year-old college student, it was difficult to picture myself as an old man. I figured I'd die long before then - quickly and in a tragically-cool way, perhaps sliding off a cliff at high speed in a Bocar. That would impress all my car buddies, who would toast me with something alcoholic and expensive at my gravesite.

Some of the friends whom I visualized in that cemetery fantasy are now dead. I have toasted their lives, sent condolences to their families and mourned their passing. I never expected to experience that. O tempora! O mores!

Many of my pals are still alive and I celebrate that fact. When we visit these days, we often speak nostalgically about our pasts, remembering youth, stamina and unlimited mobility. And discuss the aches, medications and limitations of our present. Mortality is more apparent to us now.

As an optimistic kid of 20, I thought I was invincible. I carried much of that feeling into my 40s. I bet 46 year-old Jack Kennedy often felt that way too.

On a sun-drenched Friday afternoon in November 1963, I was ... (more >>>)


Thursday November 21, 2013

Turn Of Phrase: Dan Neil wrote about the styling of the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante, the 565 horsepower, V12 drop-top, $310,000 beauty. "The coup-de-grace is the car's cut waistline, with character lines drawn taut in shallow warp just ahead of the rear-wheel arches, as if the car were laced into its doublet by a disgruntled valet."

Comparing the looks of the Ferrari California and Vanquish Volante "isn't a close call. The California is effeminate ... the Aston looks like it is about to father a nation."

Things You Can Do With A Sponge: Several car dealers in the area are installing a "special micron air filter" in the passenger ventilation system of new cars. This and other "questionable" (I'd write 'completely useless' but I don't want to get sued. Or firebombed.) dealer-installed items (pinstriping, paint treatment, etc.) are placed on a special mini sticker next the normal window sticker info.

The "special filter" costs $75. It's probably an old kitchen sponge shoved into the A/C duct.

50 Shades Of Decay: Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform, an economic website, wrote, "If I were a foreigner visiting for the first time, I'd think Space Available was the hot new retailer in the country."

I see the same thing - not far from here is Battle Ground Village - a retail complex which has remained mostly unoccupied since it opened in 2009. I've started referring to it as Potemkin Village, a showcase for this faux, or at least very anemic, jobless recovery.

Quinn continued, "Thousands of Space Available signs dot the bleak landscape, as office buildings, strip malls, and industrial complexes wither and die. Gas stations are shuttered on a daily basis as the ongoing depression results in less miles being driven by unemployed and underemployed suburbanites.

At least the Chinese 'Space Available' sign manufacturers are doing well. The only buildings doing brisk business are the food banks and homeless shelters."

Aside from a bubble during the real estate boom of a decade ago, shopping-oriented real estate has been in a decline since the mid-1980s. The enclosed shopping mall is on track to join old-time, trolley-filled downtown Main Street in the musty annals of retailing history.

People work more hours for less pay and, therefore, buy less. When they do go shopping, it's often on the internet.

Book Review: 'The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy' by Larry J. Sabato

Released in October, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination, this book - written by Larry J. Sabato, University of Virginia Center for Politics Director and a frequent guest of Fox News - is a thorough look at JFK, including the way his legacy has strongly influenced the policies and decisions of every president since.

A recent poll reported in the book sheds light on John F. Kennedy's importance to Americans 50 years after his death. The survey found JFK to be, by a wide margin, the most esteemed president since 1953. 52% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats in have named Kennedy as one of America's best leaders.

Sabato examined the assassination itself and the many still-unanswered questions which remain. His book doesn't pull any punches and ... (more >>>)

One For The Record Books: The world's oldest living creature was 507-year-old shellfish called Ming the Mollusk, a deep sea clam dredged from the North Atlantic, until scientists killed it by opening it up to check its age.

So this poor clam was having a fine life, minding its own business until Science interfered. It's just another reason to become a Luddite.

Apt Description: Jim Geraghty described curling as "that bizarre Canadian sport that's like a combination of bowling, horseshoes and housework on ice."

Today's Thought is attributed to the late NY gossip columnist, Earl Wilson: "If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments."


Tuesday November 19, 2013

car blog
GM Bison gas turbine concept truck
Correction: Over the weekend, I saw a Hemmings posting about the General Motors Bison - a low-slung gas turbine concept truck introduced at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Hemmings noted that the swoopy truck "seemed designed more to show off GM's ideas of a worldwide system of standardized cargo containers 'which can be automatically loaded, unloaded, sorted and stored by electronically-controlled equipment … at new peaks of efficiency on tomorrow's express highways.'

Not much seems to have been said about the turbine powering the truck, though GM's display at the World's Fair did note a number of interesting features of the Bison, including four-wheel steering, a flip-forward canopy and combination jack-sanders between the wheels."

On my '64 World's Fair page, I had misidentified a photo I shot to be a futuristic Texaco tanker, probably because it was red. Wrong. It turned out to be the Bison.

Rail News: I am pleased to report that my O-gauge train layout is now up and running. I took this photo at night:

the view through the windshield

Lying On The Record: Regarding health care insurance, my senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said, "Again, if you like what you have, you will be able to keep it. Let me say this again: If you like what you have, when our legislation is passed and signed by the President, you will be able to keep it." (The Congressional Record, S.6400, 6/10/09)

joe sherlock blogPhone Tip: If you're calling a company, don't know anybody and the phone screener is giving you grief, ask for "Brad in Sales."

There's a Brad in every Sales Department.

If that doesn't work, ask for "Chris in Tech Support."

You're welcome.

Brief But Powerful: Today marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Delivered at the consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Lincoln's short speech has gone down in history as one of the finest examples of English public oratory.

It is a little known fact that Abe posted the speech on his blog before delivering it.

In related news, President Obama has decided to skip the ceremony at the Gettysburg battlefield and that has justifiably touched off a firestorm in Pennsylvania. It seems to me that those brave man buried on that battlefield gave their lives for people of Obama's race and for him to be absent is disrespectful.

"His dismissal of the request shows a man so detached from the duty of history, from the men who served in the White House before him, that it is unspeakable in its audacity," wrote Salena Zito in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Ask almost any person in this historic town; even his most ardent supporters here are stunned."

Journalist Donald Gilliland called Obama's decision "nothing less than a profile in cowardice."

Twenty-four presidents have visited Gettysburg since the summer of 1863.

Book Review: 'Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland' by Edward McClelland

This book is an attempt to chronicle the decline of America's industrial Rust Belt over the last 35 years - the closing of factories, the decay of society and the decline of entire towns. This is a grim and dismal book - part fact, part opinion and part Studs Terkelesque interviews. Within it are stories of battles between myopic unions and companies willing to shutter profit-threatened factories and move work elsewhere in a quest for maximum shareholder gain. And workers who turn to alcohol or drugs rather than find new work or learn a new skill.

The author offers some interesting content but suffers from two major flaws ... (more >>>)

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 November 15, 2013

car blogWhat Is Elon Musk Smoking? The Tesla CEO said that he wants the company to offer a full-size pickup to compete with Ford's best-selling model, the F150.

Note that Ford sold 560,000 of the F-series pickups in the United States through the first nine months of this year. In that time, Tesla sold a mere 14,000 of the Model S sedan.

Would you buy a brawny work truck designed by a guy with the wimpy name of Elon? The only wimpier name would be Wimpy of Popeye's Thimble Theatre fame.

No More Blue Cross/Blue Swastica: Hitler finds out that his health insurance is cancelled. Video here.

Know People Who Are Hard to Shop For? Who already have everything? No problem. Here's the perfect gift.

sherlock blogAnemic Recovery Blues: Bill McBride of Calculated Risk has posted an updated graph comparing job losses and recovery rates for various post-WWII recessions. The graph "shows the job losses from the start of the employment recession, in percentage terms ... aligned at maximum job losses."

As the graph clearly indicates, this is the worst recession since World War II - by a long shot - in both depth and duration.

This time, the economic recovery graph is not the historical bounce-back V-shape we're used to seeing but rather a lame, check mark-shaped one. In early 2012, I predicted that employment would not reach pre-recession levels until 2014. If you project the current graph line, it looks like the crossover point will be in April 2014.

That would make the job loss-recovery cycle a record-breaking 77 months - almost six and one-half years. The previous record time span was for the 2001 recession, which clocked in at 46 months and was lambasted by Democrats as a 'jobless recovery'. Hmmmm. What will they call this one?

Why is it so different this time? I would posit that we have been subjected to ... (more >>>)

Bad Pun of the Day: Police are searching for a thief who robs his victims by threatening them with a lighted match. They want to catch him before he strikes again.


Wednesday November 13, 2013

car blogHecho En México: Nissan's newest assembly plant has opened in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Nissan has spent $2 billion on the plant in hopes of capitalizing on growing U.S. market demand for fuel-efficient small vehicles.

Full production of 175,000 Sentras annually is expected to be reached by March 2014.

A Lesson For Obama: After consumer complaints over quality issues in its home market of Korea and a string of recalls there, in the U.S. and other countries. Hyundai Motor Group's president for research and development, Kwon Moon-sik and two other executives in charge of engineering and electronics have resigned.

The Hyundai group's chairman, Chung Mong-koo, son of Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung, has a reputation for firing executives and he is also known for stressing quality. Chung is seen as responsible for changing the reputation of Hyundai from being seen as a maker of cheap, poorly made automobiles.

"The latest personnel change shows our firm commitment to quality management and reaffirms our will to continuously improve R&D competitiveness," Hyundai said in a statement. The executives resigned to "take responsibility for a series of quality issues."

And yet ... Sebelius, Bernancke, Holder and others still have their cushy government jobs.

auto blogIt Was Probably Rump Roast: The Italian Supreme Court has ruled that an unexpected slap on a woman's bottom (aka - pacca sul sedere) at work could not be labeled sexual harassment as long as men didn't make a habit of it.

I swear I saw 'Pacca sul Sedere' on the menu at the Olive Garden. On the 'Taste of Tuscany' page, I think. (permalink)

No Place For Vegans: Americans consume 50 billion hamburgers each year.

Book Review: 'A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II' by Maury Klein

This 912 page tome is weighty and dense. The typeface is surprisingly small. The book is too thorough for most readers, including me, containing a plethora of details - significant and trivial - about the events of World War II.

I was stunned to read: "A curious reversal of fortune took place in that more Americans died in industrial and work-related accidents at home than in combat overseas." There was no citation to support this astounding statement and I could find no reference in other related historical works. I cannot prove ... (more >>>)

joe sherlock blogFun Facts About Obamacare ... courtesy of Frank J. Fleming:

Obamacare is made by the combination of "Obama" and "care," two things that don't go together at all.

Obamacare came about when the American people were complaining about jobs and the economy, because Obama's contempt for the concerns of the average man knows no bounds.

Obamacare was expected to be just what the economy and health care needed: Thousands of pages of regulations written by lawyers.

Only one person is said to have actually read all of Obamacare, and legend says it broke his brain and drove him mad. He's still vice president, though.

Forcing people to buy something - the central part of Obamacare - was declared "legal as a tax." The British also tried to use that line on the colonists to poor results.

The actual name of the legislation is not Obamacare, but the Affordable Care Act, named in the same playful manner as how the bald stooge is called 'Curly' - not to imply that Obamacare is as capable or helpful as any of the three stooges.

If you have a preexisting condition, Obamacare will be a big help to you … unless your preexisting condition is "middle class taxpayer."

More here.

Quote Of The Day is from George Carlin: "Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be."


Tuesday November 12, 2013

Go, Speed Racer, Go! When I saw the photos of the Devel Sixteen, a supercar allegedly powered by a 5,000-horsepower V16 and having a claimed top speed of 348 mph, the first thing I thought of was Speed Racer.

"He's a demon, and he's gonna be chasing after someone! He's gaining on you, so you better look alive! He's busy revvin' up the powerful Mach Five!"

joe sherlock blogHappy Birthday, Grandmom: The only grandmother I ever knew (my other one, Delia, died a year before I was born) had her birthday today.

Ellen would have been 135 years old, although she always lied about her age and would probably admit to being 127 or so. Born in County Mayo Ireland, she emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and later married a fellow immigrant from her old village. They worked hard, prospered and raised three children.

My grandmother was very good to me and bought me my first car - a new 1963 red Volkswagen Beetle, so I could drive to college rather than take public transit. It cut two hours off my commuting time. Mass transit is not nearly as good as transportation utopians would have you believe.

My favorite story about my grandmother involves a Seinfeldian dating situation:

As a teenager, I was planning to break-up with a girl I was seeing, when her father suddenly died. As the Still-Designated Boyfriend, I was required - by social norms - to put in an appearance and pay my respects.

As I was leaving the house to go to the viewing, my grandmother saw me all dressed up, called me over and said, "Have a good time at the dance," as she slipped $10 into my hand.

Thanks for everything, grandmom. Fifty-plus years later, I'm still having a good time at the dance. (permalink)

Quote Of The Day: "Apathy and denial are two of the best qualities in lowering stress."


Monday November 11, 2013

automobile blogAward d'Italia: Already named the 'Car Designer of the Century', Giorgetto Giugiaro just collected another accolade - the Premio Feltrinelli, known affectionately as the 'Italian Nobel Prize'.

Giugiaro is responsible for many attractive cars, including the first generation VW Rabbit and Scirocco.

He also did concepts for important models such as the first Volkswagen Passat, Audi 80 and Isuzu Impulse. Formerly with Bertone and Ghia, he was also responsible for the DeTomaso Mangusta, Iso Grifo, Lotus Espirit, BMW M-1 and the DeLorean.

While head of design at Bertone, Giugiaro designed 1963 Corvair-based Chevrolet Testudo show car.

Remember When People Used To Make Fun Of The Ford Pinto? Tesla Motors is confirming that, for the third time in less than two months, a Model S electric car has caught fire and burned.

Reportedly the fire was caused by a "piece of metal in the roadway." What kind? A live, 50,000 volt transformer? A discarded electric chair? A flaming '75 Pinto?

Everything Old Is New Again:

Honoring Veterans: This is the day for all of us to be grateful for their sacrifices which have kept and continue to keep us safe.

Freedom is never free. Thanks to all soldiers who serve or have served.

November 11th used to be called Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I - a war that ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.

In 1954, it was renamed Veterans Day to honor veterans of all American wars. 

Brick & Mortar Store Blues ... would be a great song title for a John Lee Hooker ditty but it is instead a statement on the condition of the retailing business today. Traditional department store sales are down by 5.2% year-to-date, while internet retailers are up 10.8%.

This explains why Sears is in such trouble. J.C. Penny, too. (permalink)

Bad Pun of the Day: What did the papa buffalo say to the baby buffalo before he went to work? "Bison!"


Thursday November 7, 2013

car blogIt Is What It Is: While Dan Neil praised the Toyota Prius, he noted that high-style is not part of the mix. "Though the smoothly arcing roofline is a model of efficiency in the wind tunnel (according to Toyota, a super-efficient 0.25 coefficient of drag), visually the Prius is a lump, a mogul, a neutered nubbin. It couldn't be more of an appliance if it were made by Amana."

More than 3 million Priuses have been sold since its debut. "Meanwhile, Toyota's proprietary hybrid system - Hybrid Synergy Drive - pumps away in the hearts of more than 5 million Toyota and Lexus hybrids sold world-wide."

Detroit scoffed when Toyota introduced the odd-looking, first-generation Prius, warning us that batteries would fail and people would be horribly burned or electrocuted in accidents. Didn't happen. And the Prius just kept getting better.

Dan wrote, "You could have built a bridge to Tokyo with all the wood-head experts who predicted Prius battery failures would cost consumers thousands. Battery failure rates in Prius turned out to be practically nil. In California and New York, the battery pack is warranted for 10 years or 150,000 miles. Hybrid components like the power electronics and motor are covered for 15 years or 150,000 miles."

For some owners, the Prius has become a cult - not unlike Scientology, Amway, Marriage Encounter and Farmville. Nevertheless, the Prius is the clear winner in the hybrid market segment.

Are You Surprised? Shares of Tesla Motors fell almost 15% yesterday.

Using GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices), net income turned out to be negative - a loss of $38 million or 32¢ a share, which was worse than a consensus prediction of 25¢.

Tesla delivered 5,500 of its Model S electric luxury sedans in the most recent quarter, less than some optimistic analysts had predicted. The electric car maker said a battery shortage was limiting vehicle sales.

joe sherlock blogSilence Is Golden: Whenever I see a reference to Harlan Ellison's Hugo Award-winning, post-apocalyptic sci-fi short story, 'I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream', my thoughts turn to Hello Kitty.

Goodbye, Kitty.

Don't Forget To Rewind Those Tapes: Movie rental chain Blockbuster will end its retail and mail order services by January 2014, shuttering 300 stores.

The one in our town closed years ago.

You'll have to get those Hello Kitty videos someplace else.

Sweet Revenge: Twinkies have returned with a vengeance. The new owners can scarcely keep up with demand, having shipped 85 million Twinkies and Hostess CupCakes initially and taken orders for 100 million more of those two snacks alone.

The reasons for the big comeback:

1. Revamped, lower-cost distribution
2. Fewer plants; greater efficiency
3. Non-union labor.

Details here.

Book Review: 'Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?' by Billy Crystal

Having written one memoir, '700 Sundays', comedian/actor/baseball nut Billy Crystal has penned another one, containing humorous and poignant observations on aging as he reaches the age of 65. The book is full of funny and interesting stories about his life and career.

I enjoyed the book, although, reading parts of it, I felt that I was being carpet-bombed ... (more >>>)

Headline Of The Week ... is from The Onion: 'New Documentary Reveals SeaWorld Forced Orca Whales To Perform Nude'.

"These majestic creatures are required, time and again, to swim naked out in front of crowds of thousands, perform humiliating tricks entirely in the buff, and then expose their bare bodies to men, women, and children by repeatedly breaching their tanks," animal rights activist Marissa Abelson told reporters at a screening of the film, adding that "even when the whales are not performing they aren't permitted to cover up and are left in solitary confinement, often forced to spend all night floating nude in undersized tanks."

Quote of the Day is from George Bernard Shaw: "All great truths begin as blasphemies."


Tuesday November 5, 2013

car blogOctober Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 15.2 million SAAR in October - an increase of 5.9% from October 2012 but down slightly from last month.

Ford Motor Co. sales were up 14%, GM reported a year-over-year increase of 16%, while Chrysler Group's vehicle sales rose 11%.

Regarding General Motors and the oft-made charge that it is stuffing its sales figures with fleet orders, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book noted, "In addition to the hefty sales increase GM saw transaction prices hold steady on a year over year basis while fleet penetration dipped slightly, indicating that GM's sales growth is supported by true demand from consumers rather than fleet sales and hefty incentives."

Chevy Volt's sales fell 32% in October, 2,022, down from 2,961 in October 2012. Sales of the Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid decreased 21%. On the other hand, sales of the all-electric Nissan Leaf were up 27% in October to 2,002.

Toyota was up 9%; Avalon sales were up 266% to 5,148 sedans. Honda increased 7%; Civic, Accord and CR-V remain its best-selling models. Nissan jumped 14%, while Subaru sales were up a whopping 32%.

Volkswagen sales dropped 14%. Regarding its disappointing sales in Europe and the U.S., 24/7 Wall St. places some of the blame on VW's abysmal quality. Consumer Reports put the VW Beetle, GI and Touareg on the "least reliable" vehicle list. In addition, many VW enthusiasts perceive the latest Jettas and Passats have become dull and dreary since they've been dumbed down and blanderized for American buyers. The Fahrvergnügen has evaporated.

The Fiat 500 model experienced a sales drop of 36% to 2,378 cars.

Lincoln had a 38% sales increase, while Cadillac sales rose a mere 10%. Caddy's retail sales were up 12% and "more than 60% of buyers did not trade in a Cadillac," according to GM. Lincoln's redesigned entry-level MKZ recorded an 80% increase with 2,909 sedans finding buyers.

Mercedes-Benz recorded a 25% increase, while BMW rose by only 4%. Lexus sales rose 14% in October: 1055 LS sedans found buyers, an increase year-over-year of 27%.

Sales of high-end luxo-brands were impressive: Maserati leaped 150% to 623 units, Jaguar jumped 117% to 1,515 vehicles and Bentley rose 53% to 340 autos. Rolls Royce was up a mere 6%, with 84 posh vehicles finding buyers in October.

At the other end of the scale, Smart sales dropped 49% to 513 cars. How embarrassing - to be outsold by Maserati.

Moving Story: At 3:30 pm Saturday afternoon, we brought the train platform in from the garage. We moved it in under partly sunny but dry skies. Ten minutes after we got it in the living room, the rain began.

Everything went smoothly. No animals were harmed; no humans were killed. No screws were stripped. And, if they had been, I don't care; I have enough left until 2037.

the view through the windshield

There is much work to be done but I hope to have the layout operational before Thanksgiving.

Faceplant: Forrester, the respected market research group, has just published a brutal report on Facebook based on a survey of 395 marketing executives. Forrester's conclusion: "Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity."

Recommendation: "Don't dedicate a paid ad budget for Facebook."

Karl Denninger added that, "among 'young teens', engagement - daily active users - is now falling.

I can tell you anecdotally that among late-age teens (e.g. 16, 17, 18 year-olds) Facebook is no longer cool and while many of them are still on the system many are talking about where they're headed next, some are already heading there, and their "engagement" is dropping with many intending to leave entirely.

Why? Simple - the "in your face" ads and loss of the "cool" factor.

Worse, there is basically a no-growth in user count in the U.S. as well; saturation has been reached as well. There is utterly nothing that Face book can do about this because the more they try to "monetize" (that is, spam you with ads) the worse the problem gets."

I'm not on Facebook. Never have been.

Bad Pun of the Day: A radical segment of the Woodworkers Union broke off and formed a splinter group.


Disclaimer

This blog is about cars, automobiles, vehicles of various sorts and more.

The facts presented in this car blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people, politicians, celebrities or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal), while patiently attempting to prove that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.

copyright 2013 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


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