A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Tuesday September 29, 2015
1994 Cadillac Seville - Trim, Fit & Luxurious:
For most of the 20th Century, Cadillacs carried a certain cachet. In the old days, Cadillac really lived up to its slogan, 'Standard of the World'. If you look at period newsreel footage, you'll see potentates, dictators, popes, celebrities and gangsters being ferried about in shiny black Caddys.
In the movie 'Donnie Brasco', made in 1997 but set in the early 1980s, Al Pacino's mob character, Lefty Ruggerio, compared the brand to lesser cars, remarking, "Fuggedaboutit. A Cadillac's got more acceleration, more power, it's got better handlin', it's got more legroom for your legs."
In the early '90s, Cadillac still had lots of fans. Auto pundits like to reminisce about the "invasion" of the American market by European luxury cars but, the fact is that, in 1993, Mercedes-Benz sold only 61,899 cars in the U.S., compared with 255,869 Cadillacs and 177,208 Lincolns that same year.
Nevertheless, the Cadillac Seville was a top-of-the-line premium offering with the smaller exterior dimensions expected of European automobiles. It was designed with the idea of winning back young, well-heeled import owners. That was the premise when the Seville made its debut as a separate model line in 1975. It had crisp styling, clean lines and enough unique sheet metal and interior and exterior trim to disguise its humble Chevy Nova platform.
The second generation Seville, introduced as a 1980 model, was an acknowledgement that the model had failed to capture those buyers of Euro-luxury machines but instead was being bought by older women who wanted a Cadillac in a smaller, more maneuverable size. The result was a bustle-backed ... (more >>>)
Traveling In Style: Fiat sedan Popemobile cruised the Philadelphia suburbs - September 2015:
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "I'm so ugly I stuck my head out the window and got arrested for mooning."
Friday September 25, 2015
How Dry I Am: So, there I was on the floor dreaming about my '39 Plymouth coupe. It turned out that I had fainted and had done a face plant. I got banged up pretty badly although no bones were broken. The cause was later diagnosed as dehydration due to my cancer treatments.
In the past, I have made humorous references to people being obsessed with drinking bottled water. It turns out that there is some truth to the matter.
Bottled water of sorts has been available for a century or more, but mostly in European countries: France, Greece and Italy come to mind. Bottled water became the norm over there because the tap water in most European cities was awful. Now you know why the French drink so much wine.
The U.S. had been disinfecting its municipal water since the early 1900s, making it eminently drinkable, but there had always been a small American market for bottled water - often 'miracle cure' products from 'health springs'.
Mineral water was drunk for its medicinal value, based on the Law of Cod Liver Oil: "Anything that tastes this bad must be good for something." Or because of its laxative properties.
Before 1977, most Americans drank tap water. Then Perrier launched a $5 million U.S. marketing campaign for its imported bottled water. Perrier's timing was perfect; it took advantage of growing pollution concerns and the emergence of brand-conscious Yuppie consumers who loved expensive, ordinary things with European (or European-sounding) names.
By openly carrying Perrier bottles around, Yuppies could demonstrate their sophistication and elevated status. Saturated advertising by Perrier's various bottled water competitors made consumers aware of and fearful about the dangers of "not being properly hydrated."
They had a right to be concerned. I remember growing up in the early 1950s and seeing the dry husks of people, lying on pavements, waiting for the municipal water truck to rehydrate them. There was nothing more heart-rending than the sight of dried-up midgets blowing down the street like tumbleweed.
In New York City, sanitation workers outside the U.N. Building were getting ready to haul away what they thought was a discarded heap of rags with wax Halloween teeth on top when one of them accidentally spilled water on it. It turned out to be a very dehydrated Eleanor Roosevelt.
In Philadelphia, the city had a fleet of water trucks which plied residential streets during the day, spraying water on the deathly thirsty. (In the evenings, the tanks were filled with DDT and the same neighborhoods were sprayed for mosquito control.)
Which brings me back to my original topic - the medical need to stay hydrated, especially if you are sick.
When you have your discussion with your oncologist, you are give an multi-page list of possible side effects of the treatment. The length of the list is, in itself, scary. One of the seemingly minor effects is 'dehydratrion'. It turns out that lack of water can cause serious problems.
I found out the hard way ... (more >>>)
Telefon: At TTAC, Jack Baruth doesn't just write about cars but so much more. Consider this gem: "I'd be remiss if I did not contrast that to the uneasy relationship most Americans have with their employers in the modern world, where we are expected to sacrifice everything from our health to our relationships with our children to obey the employer's every whim while at the same time passively accepting the employer's right to terminate us the minute we are what 'The Wire's' Avon Barksdale referred to as a little slow, a little late."
"And how," Barksdale asks his cousin, "You ain't gonna never be slow? Never be late? You can't plan through no shit like this, man. It's life."
We live our dingy-collar lives tied to our employers through a 'Bring Your Own Device' policy that charges us with the responsibility of paying for our own 24/7 electronic shackles and expects us to be grateful as a result.
"I'm so happy," a friend of mine said, as she waved around an iPhone that cost her six hundred dollars and which she primarily used to read her work e-mail, "That I don't have to carry two phones around all day." But do any of us remember the day when we carried around no phones at all? Oh, well.
I am soooo glad that I'm out of the workforce. The idea of being tied to devices 24/7 at the beck and call of employers, fellow employees and customers is very unappealing to me. Everyone needs downtime. Time to think.
One of my early jobs was at the Rohm & Haas' Plastics Engineering Laboratory. After working there a couple of years, I installed a secret 'off' switch on my office's Black Bell dial phone. Staff people would call me up about the most inane things, asking questions which they could easily answer themselves if only they would:
It also freed me from office bullshit and rumor mongering. Fellow employees and bosses wondered how I could be so productive compared to other employees. Now they know.
When I moved downtown, I could no longer use a switch, so I changed my tactics and left the office and headed up to the ninth-floor corporate library far from the Madding Crowd. I got lots of work done there.
I traveled frequently and, in those days, airplanes had no phones. So, I'd order a couple of drinks, get slightly buzzed and started writing down business ideas. Some of my best business ideas came from alcohol-fueled brainstorming.
Today, I wouldn't be able to escape the din of those who 'just want to talk'. Or text. It would drive me nuts. For Jack Baruth and others who have to put up with such nonsense, I extend my sympathies. (permalink)
Take A Breather: Yogi Berra, revered American Hall of Fame baseball player (New York Yankees) and manager (New York Mets) and member of 13 World Series championship teams has died at age 90. The baseball legend has passed on to the catchers base in the sky.
He had a lot of fun along the way. Known for his malapropisms as well as confusing, pithy and paradoxical quotes, such as, "It ain't over 'til it's over", while speaking to reporters. Yogi could simultaneously deny and confirm his reputation. Berra once stated, "I really didn't say everything I said."
Rest in Peace, Yogi. You deserve some.
Quote Of The Day is from Milton Friedman: "Nothing is as permanent as a temporary government program."
Wednesday September 23, 2015
Vehicles As Appliances:
Sure, car guys don't feel this way - and get huffy whenever the subject is brought up - but to most owners, a vehicle is a just method of transportation - an appliance.
These days, referring to a car as an 'appliance' is considered an insult. It wasn't always so.
Appliances were new-fangled and wondrous things in the 1920s. My maternal grandparents didn't get an electric refrigerator until the 1930s. As a teenager, I could still see and touch the zinc-lined, mahogany ice box which my grandmother kept in the basement - 'just in case' electricity was repealed.
Although Bendix introduced the first automatic washing machine in 1937, most households didn't have automatic washers until after World War II.
Kelvinator was among some two dozen home refrigerator brands introduced to the U.S. market in 1916. By 1923, Kelvinator had grabbed an astounding 80% of the market for electric refrigerators.
The Depression of the 1930s hit the appliance market hard; sales dropped by almost 35%. George W. Mason assumed control of Kelvinator in 1928. Under his leadership, the company lowered its costs while increasing market share through 1936 - a remarkable feat. Mason then joined the auto field and manufactured Nashes successfully and profitably for many years.
For those Millennials who never heard of Nash, Wall Street Journal writer Dan Neil offered the 2016 Kia Sorento SUV as an example. The as-equipped, priced at $46,000 one - Ouch!
I think I'd look at a Subaru Forester Limited for under $30,000. But that's me. I'm partial to Subies. I'm not alone. Subaru expects to sell over 550,000 vehicles here this year and is increasing the capacity of its Indiana plant by 100,000 vehicles.
But I digress ... (more >>>)
Holy Fahrvergnügen, Batman! Volkswagen's tampering of emission control software is much larger than the 500,000 or so diesel models reported earlier. The true number may be as high as 11 million VWs. A spokesperson for the EPA said that VW could be liable for fines as much as $37,000 per vehicle, or $18 billion.
Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has resigned. His half-sister, Candy, said she'd probably stick around until after Halloween.
In the meantime, a relieved Sergio Marchionne, head of Fiat-Chrysler, took a break from his perpetual spotlight of self-promotion and stealthily drove a Ram-load full of 500 black sweaters to a wash-n-dry just across the border in Windsor. A separate Ram extended bed pickup was needed just to haul the Woolite.
Book Review: 'Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower' by Henry M. Paulson Jr.
Let's start with my preconceived notion that China is not our friend. Our 2015 trade deficit with China is projected to exceed $330 billion dollars. And our chief 'export' to China is used cardboard. As for trying to decipher the ledgers of the China state economy, such inscrutable chaos hasn't been observed since 1951 when two large lorries carrying ink and eradicator crashed horrifically into a naughts and crosses tournament in Milton Keynes. "Oh, the humanity!"
Hank Paulson, former head of Goldman Sachs and Treasury secretary under George W. Bush, had a pivotal role in opening up China to private enterprise. He knows more about China, its politics and the players behind it than most Westerners. In general, Paulson posits that it is better to help the Chinese rather than be antagonistic toward them.
The book has its share of ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Chris Browne, the creator of the Hagar the Horrible cartoon strip: "Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink."
Monday September 21, 2015
Auto Safety - 1958-Version: That was the year that engineer Walter C. Jerome of Massachusetts built a safety car called 'Sir Vival'. The articulated powertrain was said to "absorb collisions from any direction except dead-on" rear. The main body was derived from a '48 Hudson.
The driver sat in a raised central position. Instead of conventional windshield wipers, Jerome positioned built-in felt wipers on the inner and outer edges of the dome's frame. By rotating the dome, it was cleaned continuously. The car featured air-filled rubber bumpers and sliding side doors.
Jerome intended to produce ... (more >>>)
The Last Loyal Man: I met one of my very good friends at my first post-college job. Joe Reuter was a friend, mentor and boss. I left Uniroyal after a year but Joe and I stayed in touch, as he moved from Philadelphia to New York City corporate headquarters, later Connecticut and Ohio.
Uniroyal was a blood-from-a-stone kind of place; its staff was often underpaid, overworked and too-often treated with arbitrary contempt by uncaring bosses.
Joe had a great sense of loyalty to his company, even though they did not always reciprocate. Long after other colleagues left for greener pastures, Joe soldiered on and performed excellent work.
Such loyalty isn't often seen these days. Everybody is out for themselves; business is more cutthroat than ever. Joe wasn't cut from that cloth. He was loyal in every way - to his friends, his church, his family and his wife of 57 years. He lived an admirable life and, after 80 years, is now at rest. Requiescat in pace. (permalink)
Recuperation Gift: In July, I asked my blog readers - if they were so inclined - to direct some prayers and kind thoughts to my good friend and car buddy, Ray Lukas, whom I've known for over 55 years.
In 2002, Ray and I embarked on an eight-day, all-car/all-rail extravaganza, visiting every car, train, trolley and model train attraction in Southern California.
Last month, Ray fell in his garage, landing hard on the concrete floor. He broke his right arm and left leg. (His bad ankle on the left side was supposed to be surgically fused in August but that is now postponed indefinitely.) He had surgery and had screws and plates put in his in arm and leg. Then he was moved to a rehab facility where he fell out of bed, broke his leg in another spot and redamaged his arm.
Then Ray developed a serious infection - requiring three different antibiotics to treat it - and he developed a bed sore. Ray remains in the hospital and is slowly recovering. He is down to one antibiotic and last week, he got out of bed and walked a few steps. This week, his casts were changed for lighter, removable ones.
I thought to myself ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ronald Reagan: "We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."
Thursday September 17, 2015
Plymouth At Speed: There's a great photo of a 1939 Plymouth coupe racing around a curvy uphill bend during Colorado's Hot Rod Hill Climb held last month. Have a look:
The Hot Rod Hill Climb was conceived by promoters Mike 'Nick' Nicholas and Amy 'Sweetheart' Bourcy as a tribute to the original event in 1953 and 1954 where drag racing hot rodders (the Denver Timing Association, Boulder Timing Association, Strippers Car Club and Cam Winders of Colorado Springs) took on the Denver Sports Car Club that was there in 1952, and as a way to honor local heroes with connections to Colorado’s 1950s hot rod scene. (permalink)
Behind The Drawings: At the end of every month, I post a new AutoSketch on 'The View Through The Windshield' blog.
Autosketches consist of a rendering of a particular year, make and model of automobile (either a pen & ink drawing or a full-color drawing), along with the story of the vehicle in question. The article sometimes includes period advertising and photos of scale models.
Then, picking the year in which the car was made, I write about the big news events for that year in a section titled 'Remember When'. About the 'Remember When' photo: The 1939 Plymouth coupe seen in this old photo belongs to Joe Sherlock. It was placed in the photo using Photoshop, replacing a '36 Dodge coupe in original photo, which was taken in Philadelphia, PA in 1940 or '41.
The drawing takes quite a bit of time to clean up, especially if it's an old smudged pen and ink one and the research needed to write the article is time-consuming as well. Sometimes, I add photos of scale model cars, I have to locate them, set them up and shoot them as well. I started drawing cars when I was four.
AutoSketch began in print mode over 25 years ago, when I wrote a column for the Corvallis Historic Auto Club. When I moved to Washington state, I briefly wrote for a now-defunct local car club, offering more auto sketches.
In the early 1990s ... (more >>>)
Gilligan's Island: It was supposed to be a three-hour tour. Last night's CNN Republican candidate debate felt like six seasons of Gilligan on slo-mo. It was soooo boring that I fell asleep, little buddy.
Many pundits said that Carly Fiorina won this debate. I think Christ Christie and Ted Cruz were the best. John Kasich continued to unimpress me as did Marco Rubio. Donald Trump was right when he said that Rand Paul didn't even belong on the stage. Jeb Bush was lukewarm, at best.
Gentle Ben Carson was too gentle this time around and unfortunately scored few points in this debate. But, unlike Democrats, the Republicans are presenting a strong and diverse field of candidates to voters.
Question Of The Day: How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?
Wednesday September 16, 2015
Answering The Question No One Has Asked: Borgward, an old and now-obscure German brand, is making a comeback with a Chinese-based SUV will hit the shores of Europe in 2017. A prototype will debut at the upcomng Frankfort Auto Show.
Borgward was once the second-largest automaker in Germany - the brainchild of Carl Fredrich Wilhelm Borgward. Carl was quite the inventor but, as a manufacturer, he was easily distracted, producing overlapping lines of cars as well as electric buses, helicopters and race cars.
The company found success in the 1920s, making a line of gasoline-powered delivery carts. The Borgward group eventually produced four brands - a pretty full range - of cars: Borgward, Hansa, Goliath and Lloyd. Parts interchangeability between various makes was almost nonexistent, increasing both tooling and production costs for the firm. Parts interchangeability between various makes was almost nonexistent, increasing both tooling and production costs for the firm.
While Borgward pioneered technical innovations, such as air suspension and automatic transmission, it struggled to compete with larger, better-funded rivals such as Opel and Volkswagen. Herr Borgward's confusing management style, described as "pitting one assistant against another," didn't help things.
Borgwards arrived in the U.S. in the 1950s, represented by the typical chaotic independent importer structure of those days. Distribution and service were disorganized. Despite having some interesting offerings, the brand never made a dent in America.
Lloyd, a fairly ugly bare-bones marque, sold for less than a Volkswagen Beetle. It was cheaply-built and did not sell well in the U.S., although it apparently had a loyal fanbase of cheapskates in its Homeland. It has been said that Borgward lost money on every Lloyd it sold.
Best known of the export models was the Isabella, a fairly pleasant-looking sedan, which ... (more >>>)
Branding, Perception & Fish: In July, I wrote a 1,750 word article about the importance of product branding and the role perception plays in market success. I provided numerous automotive and non-automotive examples of how branding works. When possible, I provided data to show what a difference good/bad perception can make including sales data.
Positioning is defined as the way by which the marketers attempt to create a distinct impression or perception in the customer's mind; specifically, "the place a product, brand, or group of products occupies in consumers' minds relative to competing offerings."
Perception is reality - you are whatever other people think you are. Branding is part of the positioning/perception process. The principles outlined in Ries & Trout's various business books are applicable to all types of products and companies in all industries.
Here's another food example from Charles G. Hill: "The highly-prized Chilean sea bass used to be known as the Patagonian toothfish."
"To make it more appealing to Americans, fish wholesaler Lee Lantz coined the name “Chilean Sea Bass." The resulting surge in the fish's popularity made it a staple at chic restaurants, but it also devastated the Antarctic’s wild toothfish stock."
In Chile, it's now referred to as "Bacalao de profundidad" - "cod of the depths." So there. (permalink)
Definition of the Day is from Tom McMahon: "Love Seat - A sofa that isn't long enough for what it's named for."
Tuesday September 15, 2015
South Of The Equator: Argentina has long had difficult and ever-changing export laws as well as an unstable currency, so there is generally a dearth of imported products from the country.
Buby was a well-known and respected maker of diecast model and toy cars. Born in 1931, Haroldo Buby Malher manufactured model cars from the late 1950s until the late '90s. He made scale models of both European and American cars often interpreted for the South American market and were made only in Argentina.
In its heyday ... (more >>>)
I've Gone Vintage On Ya: One of the 'benefits' of losing so much weight, even if it's from cancer, is that my old college jacket now fits me:
Book Review: 'Daddy Stop Talking!: And Other Things My Kids Want But Won't Be Getting' by Adam Carolla
I first became aware of Adam Carolla when he was the cohost of the late, great 'The Man Show'. I really enjoyed Adam's first book, 'In Fifty Years, We'll All Be Chicks', published in 2011.
He was hilarious back then. Now ... (more >>>)
It's Not A Good Time To Be a Jew: Curt Schilling - former American Major League Baseball pitcher, who helped lead the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in 1993 and who is a current ESPN baseball color analyst - recently tweeted, "It's said that only 510% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How’d that go?"
David Cole wrote, "Professor Peter Merkl's landmark study 'Political Violence Under the Swastika: 581 Early Nazis' used contemporaneous biographical studies and personal documents to profile five hundred and eighty-one early, founding members of the Nazi Party (the hardcore Nazis who shaped the party and brought it to power). Merkl provided statistical analysis of the founding Nazis’ political, societal, and religious views: 33.3% of these Nazi Party members showed no interest in anti-Semitism. 14.3% expressed "mild verbal clichés" regarding Jews. 19.1% displayed "moderate" disdain for Jewish cultural influence in Germany. But only 12.9% advocated “violent countermeasures” against Jews.
If you take Merki's findings and measure them against the Pew survey results, you're left with a truly startling conclusion: There are more Muslims in today's world who support violence in the name of defending Islam than there were founding members of the Nazi Party who supported violence against Jews.
The average Rahman-in-the-street is more likely, today, to think you should die for being an infidel than the average veteran Nazi Party member, back in the '30s, was likely to think a Jew should die for being a Jew. That's stunning, and very, very ominous."
A scary thought ... (more >>>)
Quote of the Day is from Jacques Barzun: "Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred."
Friday September 11, 2015
Every time I hear those words from the musical 'On The Town', penned by the legendary songwriting duo Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the 1944 Broadway musical about three sailors on a 24-hour leave in New York City (later transformed into a 1949 MGM movie, starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller and Betty Garrett), the 'hole in the ground' part acts as an aching reminder of that tragic 2001 day in Lower Manhattan when terrorists murdered 3,000 innocent souls and created a ginormous hole.
September 11, 2001 - it was unthinkable and ghastly.
My clock radio went off at 6:00 am (Pacific Time) but there was no top-o-the-hour news report - just continuous jumbled updates about a "small airplane" hitting the North Tower of World Trade Center a few minutes earlier.
I quickly got up, turned on the television and learned that the airplane was a large commercial jet. Then my wife and I watched the second big jet crash into the South Tower. Two airplanes within minutes of each other - it was obvious that this was a terrorist act of some kind. I saw the shocking attacks continue - including the airliner crashing into the Pentagon.
Later, I heard the reports of the big United Airlines jet crashing in a Pennsylvania field - a failed, human-filled terrorist missile intended for the U.S. Capitol. More innocent victims.
I spent the rest of the day witnessing the grim aftermath unfold.
After three solid days of being glued to the television in one of those 'I Cannot Look; I Cannot Look Away' numbing spirals of horror, my wife and I decided to get out and connect with real live people. So we drove to central Washington state. In those pre-blog days, I recorded this journal entry:
Well, it's been fourteen years and there have been no other major attacks on U.S. soil. Divine Providence? Perhaps - but God helps those who help themselves.
I think Kathy Shaidle was right when she wrote, "I told you we should have nuked Afghanistan no later than 2:00 pm Eastern, September 11, 2001. ... We did it with Japan, and it worked great."
Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda. But, in the end, we didn't, really. And, along the way - sadly - many brave soldiers gave their lives trying to fix what's wrong with the Middle East.
World War II was the last war we won. We did so because we engaged the 'real' enemy directly. Every war since then has been a proxy war, with us fighting the puppet state of the real enemy. Whenever we fight proxy wars, we don't win.
North Korea was (and still is) a puppet of China. We didn't win the Korean War because we wouldn't attack China.
Vietnam was also a Communist China puppet. We didn't win the Vietnam War because we wouldn't engage China.
Iraq and Afghanistan are puppets of Iran. I wish we'd get together with Israel and nuke Iran - take out their uranium facilities, neuter their military assets. And do some tactical nuking of North Korea's nuclear enrichment labs - they should be easy to find; they're the only places with lights on at night. And then send a postcard to China with a short message: "You may be next." Send one to Vladimir Putin for good measure.
World War I was called "the war to end all wars." Now, we're not even allowed to call any of the current conflicts a "war." It might upset someone. Like that Islamist-enabler Barack Obama or his butt-boy, John Kerry, who are busy making nice with that Evil Empire, Iran.
Sadly, something about America has changed. The outrage and resultant 'get 'er done' attitude has waned.
We have reclaimed the luxury of becoming a bickering, partisan nation again. But Islamic terrorism has neither disappeared nor lost its focus. There is a global jihad being waged against all "infidels" - Americans, Europeans, Russians, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and others - in order to re-establish the medieval Islamic global empire.
This is not new; for example, the Middle East has been one ongoing slow-motion anti-Christian Kristallnacht that only seems to be escalating. This jihad shape-shifts, moves from place to place and goes by different names. ISIS is its latest incarnation. It's the same Evil Incarnate. Lucifer with a turban.
America must continue to assertively and aggressively protect and defend itself from this violent jihad. On September 11, 2001, America learned that radical Islam is at war with us. It's a war we must win.
Never forget. (permalink)
Thursday September 10, 2015
Slow Movers: Douglas A. McIntyre recently wrote that Edmunds.com measures new car popularity by looking at inventory turns per month - how many days the car stays on the lot.
In July, the industry average by make was 61 days to turn. Two small brands were worst on the list. Mitsubishi, which just announced it will close its U.S. plant, had a number of 96. Smart, the small car division of Daimler, posted a number of 110.
Cadillac and Lincoln also posted very high numbers. For Lincoln, days to turn were 94. For Cadillac, the comparable number was 86. By contrast, the figure for Lexus was 45. For Mercedes it was 53 and for BMW 60. The make with the lowest number was popular bargain brand Subaru at 22.
"The numbers are another sign of how far Cadillac and Lincoln have to get to be even modestly successful against German and Japanese brands. In many brand quality surveys, the two do relatively well. The latest evidence of this is from the automobile research by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Quality, it would appear, is not a drawback for the two."
Among the reasons car industry experts give for the trouble at Lincoln and Cadillac is that they have limited model lines, at least compared to the other large luxury car companies. It will take years of product development to fix this, if it can be fixed. In the meantime, companies like Mercedes and BMW will ride huge marketing and development budgets to more models of their own, bristling with more and more advanced technology.
Get In Line, Oil Sheiks: Bentley is finally taking the wraps off the Bentayga, its first production SUV that it touts as the fastest and most powerful in the world, not to mention one of the most luxurious. The engine puts out 600 horsepower and 663 pound-feet of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The Bentayga is claimed to hit 0-60 mph in four seconds flat and has to a top speed of 187 miles per hour.
Cost? Around a quarter-million bucks to start.
What does it look like? A Bentley SUV, what did you expect?. The beast will debut at the Frankfort Auto Show. Will there be a Bentley Benihana with a cooking grill in the back?
Disturbing Migration Patterns: Regarding the recent invasion of Europe by swarms of Middle East 'refugees', Pamela Geller wrote, "If these were real refugees, where are the women? Where are the elderly people? Where are the weak and the sick? It is increasingly clear that what I have said is true: this is not a refugee crisis. This is a hijrah, a migration to Islamize a new land."
One of Powerline's readers observed, "These migrants have a certain arrogance in insisting on, not rescue merely, but comfortable resettlement in the wealthiest societies in the world with access to an exceedingly generous welfare state to boot. Not for them a decent interval being cared for in Italy or Greece; only Germany or Sweden will do, if not the UK, Canada or (shudder) the USA. It's as though I pity a street bum and offer to buy him vouchers for Burger King or Domino's Pizza and he is aghast, insisting on steak and lobster at The Palm along with the proper attire for admission!"
Patrick Buchanan added, "Africa has a billion people, a number that will double by 2050, and double again to 4 billion by 2100. Are those billions of Africans going to endure lives of poverty under ruthless, incompetent, corrupt and tyrannical regimes, if Europe's door remains wide open?
What is coming is not difficult to predict. Europe is going to run out of altruism long before it runs out of refugees."
Then there's this ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Grandpa Simpson: "The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that's the way I likes it!"
Wednesday September 9, 2015
Milestone: Yesterday was my final treatment in the current chemo/radiation series for my cancer. I'm glad it's over; I'm feeling pretty beat up. My doctors tell me that the side effects will linger for several weeks until everything works its way out of my system. They figure I'll be feeling pretty decent by early October. If so, October can't come soon enough for me.
Paul Harvey used to say, "And now you know ... the rest of the story." Well, not quite. The rest of my story is still being written. There will be more tests, examinations, etc. to see if the golf-ball sized cancer tumor is really gone. At this point, while doctors express cautious optimism, it's too soon to tell.
In the past, I have been reticent to write details about my cancer. But there are apparently a lot of readers in my age group who are experiencing or will experience the rigors of tumor treatment, so I've decided to become more forthcoming in the hope that such information will be helpful to them as they go through the process.
So, here goes ... (more >>>)
A Prayer For Cancer Sufferers: Heavenly Father, I come before you with a solemn heart and in need of your intercession. I pray that the cancer that has come into my life soon fades into a quick remission.
I believe in your capacity for miracles, and ask for this on my behalf. As we grow older, I know we become closer to the day you accept us back into your kingdom. I ask that you delay that holy union if it be your will. Amen.
Tuesday September 8, 2015
Run For Your Lives! It's A Giant Fiat! A few weeks ago, MotorWeek tested a 2016 Fiat 500X. I had no idea what it was. When I saw it, the Fiat looked huge. It was taller than MW's host John Davis. I thought Fiats were small. It turns out that this is a Fiat-shaped SUV created by draping an oversized, cartoonish 500 body over a Jeep Renegade platform.
Like the Renegade, it is powered by a 180 horsepower inline four-cylinder engine mated to Fiat-Chrysler's troubled 9-speed transmission. MW said the shifts were sometimes jerky.
The 101-inch wheelbase SUV has far less ... (more >>>)
Get Your Kicks: Actor Martin Milner, best known for his performances in two popular television series: Route 66 (1960 to 1964), and Adam-12 (1968 to 1975), has died at age 83.
Any guy who drove a Corvette across America for four years is OK in my book. Rest In Peace.
Amusing Definition: Flatulence (noun) - The emergency vehicle that picks you up after you've been run over by a steamroller.
How To Win Friends And Influence People: Attendees at a Hillary Clinton campaign event in Cleveland, OH, were asked to sign a pledge promising to vote for Queen Hillary before they were allowed into the venue.
Book Review: 'Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World' by Ian Bremmer
Ian Bremmer criticized America's directionless foreign policy, noting that such ambivalence has become prohibitively expensive and dangerous. Bremmer wants the U.S. to develop a resolute strategy and offers three different possibilities.
This is a thought-provoking book but ... (more >>>)
Travel Tip: When making reservations for hotel accommodations and they ask, "Two Queens?", just answer, "Actually, we're a heterosexual couple."
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "If it weren't for pickpockets, I'd have no sex life at all."
Monday September 7, 2015
Blog Snob: Jack Baruth's younger brother, Bark M., took to the soapbox on The Truth About Cars recently to complain that there are too many car blogs. And that, when some bloggers attend press events, they dress poorly.
As to his second complaint, don't get me started on proper dress and decorum. And hygiene. That's why I never fly coach anymore. By the way, I've not noticed working car journalists to be shining examples of sartorial splendor, especially in recent years. Except for the ones 'on camera'. End of discussion.
Now, back to the "too many car blogs" issue. My take is that Bark sounds annoyingly querulous. "Whine, whine. Oh, if only the rest of the world were as good/worthy as me." Oh, grow up. It's just an other example of Sherlock's Law: If you're in a random group of 14 or more people, you're going to run into a couple of ninnyhammers. Learn to deal with it.
Face facts: There is not much of the way of "journalism" in writing about cars anymore. At least, not since John R. Bond and L.J.K. Setright left the scene and took their objective Purity of Hearts with them. The New York Times Auto Section is basically entertainment fodder. And ads. I enjoy reading Dan Neil - a natty dresser, by the way - in the Wall Street Journal but there's not a lot of heavy-brain analysis to be found in his work. Lots of clever quips, though. That's how ... (more >>>)
Close Before Striking: James Lileks has an extensive collection of advertising matchbooks. Every week he posts a new few new examples with a brief description of the companies which used matchbooks for promotion.
Recently, he displayed a Unity Fine Foods matchbook. These were from the Frankford Grocers Cooperation Association and its Unity-Frankford Stores.
Lileks wrote, "Two thousand stores - and not a trace today." Actually, the association is gone but a few independent stores stubbornly keep their prized green and white Unity-Frankford signs mounted on the building face of their small stores in Northeast Philadelphia.
Before the supermarket chains came along, mom-and-pop stores ruled the grocery business. The Unity-Frankford Grocers was an association of these stores. They benefited from group buying - it helped them compete in a post WWII world of supermarkets - and established the Unity brand as unique to those little retailers.
Unity-Frankford stores were ubiquitous ... (more >>>)
It's All Due To Computerized Trading By Hedge Fund Jerks: Always the voice of reason, Scott Grannis wrote soothing words about the recent market gyrations. He concluded, "What all this suggests to me is that the volatility of stock prices is almost exclusively a function of the market's intolerance for risk. Fears, not reality, are the driving force behind volatile stock prices, and the mechanism which links fears and stock prices is hedging (e.g., mechanical) activity, not necessarily a deterioration of the economic fundamentals.
This type of hedging activity has the potential to destabilize markets if mechanical selling overwhelms the ability of natural buyers of stock to respond. But at the same time, the higher cost of options provides a huge incentive for speculators to effectively become sellers of options and (via their hedges) buyers of stock. These episodes can be terribly nerve-wracking, but eventually they sort themselves out and the fundamentals reassert themselves. I suspect that's what will happen this time too."
I'm staying put and riding out the volatility. My only stock market withdrawals are the mandatory ones required by the IRS from my non-Roth IRA retirement accounts.
Quote Of The Day is from Jack Baruth: "I don't believe that this country can prosper if we send manufacturing overseas. Nor do I believe that manufacturing jobs are obsolete or unnecessary for America. Not in a country where at least one in six working-age American citizens is effectively unemployed. It’s a nice thought to believe that the American economy can subsist entirely on Starbucks and real-estate sales and working at Subway but it’s not true and it is leading to the inevitable collapse of this country as we have known it." Amen, Jack.
I've written about the need for a solid, stable manufacturing base here.
Thursday September 3, 2015
August Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 17.72 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in August - up 3% from August 2014 and up 1.3% from last month. It appears 2015 will be the best year for light vehicle sales since 2001.
Ford Motor Co. saw a sales increase of almost 6%, Hyundai-Kia rose 5%, Chrysler was up almost 2% while General Motors dropped almost 1% in sales, Toyota Motor was down 8%, American Honda was off 7%, Nissan was down 1% and the Volkswagen Group saw a decrease of just over 1%.
Gas-sipping cars were out: Sales of the little Chevy Sonic were down 63%, the Fiat 500 was off 38% and Ford Focus sales dropped 26%. On the other hand, Mustang sales leaped 70%, the Dodge Challenger saw a 25% rise and sales of the gas-sucking Chevrolet Silverado increased 11%.
Brand losers included Scion (-37%), Dodge (-15%), Chrysler (-14%), Toyota (-10%) and Volkswagen (-8%). Brand winners included the once-left-for-dead Mitsubishi (+22%), Volvo (+18%), Jeep (+18%), Land Rover (+16%) and Infiniti (+16%).
Sales of the ancient Dodge Caravan dropped 18% in August and are down 42% for the year. Is the death knoll tolling for the Dodge brand?
1,457 Bentleys found new homes in August as did 6,261 Maseratis. They must have been bought by hedge fund short sellers.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: "For the third consecutive year, customer satisfaction with new cars has fallen off. The average score for all vehicles has dropped to its lowest level since 2004. The drop has been attributed to the record number of manufacturer recalls, which rose 40% to nearly 64 million vehicles, and to rising prices for new cars." I would also include the increasing use of technology and electronic gizmos in new vehicles
These data were reported in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which covered 27 automobile nameplates in its 2015 report. The overall average dropped from 82 last year to 79 this year, a decline of 3.7% in customer satisfaction.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles took the lowest three spots in the rankings. The company's Fiat brand scored 73 out of 100 possible points to post the lowest ranking, with the Chrysler nameplate scoring a 74 and the Jeep brand scoring 75. A year ago the Jeep brand scored 79 and the Chrysler brand scored 81. Are you surprised?
The highest rated brand was Lexus with a score of 84, followed by the Acura, Lincoln and Mercedes-Benz, which all scored 83. Acura improved its score by 8%, rising from 77 a year ago.
Don't Forget That Mt. Rockmore Still Belongs To The Flintstones: The GMC Denali SUV is a metaphor for everything that's gone wrong with America today, wrote Jack Baruth - brilliantly, I think.
"The Denali, therefore, was acceptable, even desirable, "one-downmanship" from the S-Class or Siebener in your neighbors' garages. It was "professional grade," and it could easily be used for an expedition that your ninety-hour work-week at Goldman Sachs or Intel would never permit. Once the truly wealthy bought in to the Denali ideal, the upper middle class dutifully lined up behind them. What it means when suburban attorneys shoulder a $1,700-per-month car payment they can ill afford, all in the service of pretending to be Boston Brahmin in their slummin' truck, is an exercise I leave up to the reader."
Did the Professional Grade make all the Chevy trucks made off the same platform some kind of Amateur Grade? Or Sucker's Grade?
"That's what Denali is: the territory ahead that we will never reach. Instead, we'll stay at the office for another evening of forcible civilization and Starbucks. It's all the better for being essentially useless and inhospitable, because that helps it remain just an idea and not a place you'd use your NetJets share to visit on a long weekend.
And that's what America has become in 2015. You live in offices and put the names of things you'll never understand on the side of trucks you don't need, can't afford, and can't even change the oil on yourself. Our president is so helpless in the face of the economy and the multinationals and the media that he resorts to apologizing to people he's never harmed in hopes that someone will grant him absolution for crimes he didn't commit."
Every time I see Obama on one of his Grand Excursions, the song 'Let's Hear It For The Rainbow Tour' from 'Evita' runs through my head. This time, he decided to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali. Because ... I dunno .. Eskimos or something. He also looked at a receding glacier and shook his head. Global warming. Hey, it's summer - glaciers recede in summer, dummy.
Jack lamented that ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs' by Michelle Malkin
This is a 'bookend' tome. Author Malkin begins her book with a screed against Barack Obama and his anti-capitalist buddies with a prominent mention of his famous 2012 'you didn't built that' remark - a slap in the face of every entrepreneur and business owner in America. I posted my reaction to his remark here.
Michelle Malkin concludes her book discussing another anti-business move from the Obama administration, "the Orwellian-titled 'America Invents Act' of 2011." The first and last chapters are fact-filled but what was far more interesting to me was the material in between. There you'll find stories of various inventors - their trial, tribulations and successors.
Some of the tales are ... (more >>>)
The Land Of The Rising Dumb: Caroline Kennedy is being criticized by the Office of the Inspector General for her poor performance as Ambassador to Japan.
Is anyone surprised? I wrote a detailed piece about Her Vacuousness earlier. One of her talents is use of the phrase 'you know' 142 times during a ten-minute interview - possibly a Guinness World Record.
Japan is the world's fourth-largest economy, America's second-largest source of foreign investment, a base for 50,000 U.S. troops and one of the State Department's "most important missions in terms of its size and the U.S. interests for which it is responsible."
"This embassy is one of America's most important outposts, representing American interests to a strategically vital democratic ally and economic partner in an increasingly troubled region. Japan faces a militarizing, expansionist, and economically roiled China, an aggressively rearming Russia, and a nuclear-arming North Korea."
We need someone competent to represent our important interests, not a clueless political celebrity.
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "So many of my women friends complain their daughters never open their e-mail that I'm thinking of starting a Home for Unread Mothers."
Wednesday September 2, 2015
The Great Pretender: Everybody knows that Sergio Marchionne, head of Fiat-Chrysler, has an ego the size of a 1978 Dodge Extended Cargo Van, but his recent interview with Automotive News indicated that an even larger container, perhaps a BelAZ 75710 - the world's largest dump truck - may be needed soon.
In the interview, Marchionne indicated that he wanted to merge with or take over another car company - General Motors. Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo, who has long been critical of Mr. Marchionne, classified the interview as "a jaw-dropping display of hubris, arrogance and ego the likes of which this industry has never seen before, and that's saying something given the parade of the egotistical maniacs who came before him."
Paging Malcolm Bricklin to the white courtesy phone.
Peter continued, "The focus of the interview is Sergio's mission to merge with someone - well, anyone at this point - but with the particular focus being on General Motors. For the record, as much as Marchionne says that he can survive just fine without a merger and that he will ride on his investment in Alfa Romeo to dizzying new heights (in case you forgot, Marchionne insists that he will sell 400,000 Alfas globally by 2018. FCA sold 68,000 last year), the fact remains that FCA is a glorified shell game, a car company sitting on $8 billion in debt, while every other auto manufacturer in the world has a net cash cushion. Sergio, of course, dismisses this as a mere bump in the road, but who's kidding whom here? The industry "savior" is sitting on an enterprise that's just one economic downturn away from being right back in the tank again."
Only 75 Alfa Romeos were sold in the U.S. in August.
De Lorenzo concluded, "The grim reality behind all of Marchionne's bluster? He doesn't just reek of espresso and cigarettes, there's now a distinct whiff of terminal desperation surrounding him. And there's no amount of pontificating out loud to the press that is going to change that fact." Amen.
Ave Atque Vale: Edward John Barrington Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, an English Conservative politician well known in Britain for founding the National Motor Museum, has died at age 88.
Lord Montagu gained an interest in motoring from his father - who had commissioned the original 'Spirit of Ecstasy' mascot for his Rolls-Royce - and with his family collection of historic cars this led him to open the National Motor Museum on the grounds of his stately home, Palace House, Beaulieu, Hampshire in 1952. It was a former monastery built in the 13th century.
There are over 250 vehicles on display, including Land Speed Record holders: Malcolm Campbell's 1925 350 hp Sunbeam, Henry Segrave's 1000 hp 1927 Sunbeam & 1929 Golden Arrow and Donald Campbell's Bluebird CN7. Visitors can ride in an authentically poorly-sprung, very-bouncy 1912 open-top London bus and still smile despite having a very sore butt. The museum also has a mile-long monorail, the oldest in England, offering sweeping views of the grounds and gardens before passing through the museum itself.
Located in southern England, the National Motoring Museum is an enthralling place and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. We were there in 1995 and enjoyed it greatly.
My wife and I once met Lord Montagu at Pebble Beach. He was very nice fellow and a genuine auto enthusiast. Rest In Peace. (permalink)
At Least He Didn't Name It Mt. Shaniqua: President Obama has by Royal Fiat changed the name of Alaska's Mt. McKinley to Mt. Denali. To dyslexics, it probably sounds like Mt. Denial, aptly named after Obama himself.
Thought For Today: Eckankar is the only religion that sounds like a multi-level marketed nutritional supplement.
Tuesday September 1, 2015
Snob Appeal: Dan Neil tested the Hyundai Genesis sedan and liked what he drove. "Big, powerful, with an overqualified equipment list, the Genesis sedan makes a strong case for itself. And it is even, actually, handsome, with the masculine, single-frame grille up front and lovely strakes of chrome at the rocker panels."
The problem for many, including me, is paying big bucks for a luxury car with Hyundai badging. I admit it; I'm a bit of a snob. But I'm not alone. "Interestingly, the Genesis and Equus cars both dispense with Hyundai badging in the prestige-obsessed home market of Korea. And this ambivalence has produced something kind of subversive and wonderful: a luxury car virtually without badging, a car in a Schröedinger-esque, indeterminate state of being/not being premium. No one will know until he looks/doesn't look."
But, it's a well-built machine according to Neil. "What’s the new Genesis sedan like to drive? Mighty comfortable, it turns out. Great seats, though the quality of leather is a bit mass-market. Easy in and out. Lots of sightlines. Refined. Isolated. The back seat is huge.
The key driver of the character is an aggressive campaign against noise, vibration and harshness. The Genesis' every nook and cranny is caulked and foam-filled to attenuate unpleasant aural radiations. The door panels are thicker and glass-to-body gaskets revised for less wind noise."
In other words, if you pay more for a lesser car, you're getting screwed. But that's the price of snobbery.
We Bought Our Son Cheap Star Wars Knockoffs But He Sill Loves Us: He posted his set of Starroid Raiders on his blog, noting that back in the late 1970s, "my parents got me for Christmas from a catalog. They came packed in a small, plain cardboard box. No fancy packaging - no names, even!
I loved them more than some toys perhaps because since no one I knew had them, they seemed almost made for me! I made up names for them and they had many grand adventures alongside micronauts, Hammerhead and an assortment of small rubber monsters. It wasn't until about a year ago that I did some searching online and discovered their true identities: (left to right) Wag, Tanco, Aton, Tior, Newt and Yazu."
These cheap, cheesy and cheerful aliens were manufactured by Tomland, a UK company and part of the Marx family of companies. These characters might have qualified to be in Star Wars' infamous cantina scene but were either in the rest room or out back havin' a smoke when the cantina scenes were shot. That's my theory, anyway.
Why I Hate To Go To Portland - Reason No. 421: According to the Texas Transportation Institute's latest urban mobility report, Portland has more congestion today (measured by hours of delay per auto commuter) than Los Angeles did 30 years ago, when LA was considered to be about the worst congested city in the world.
"It's no wonder, since Portland and Oregon have added virtually no new road capacity since the 1970s, when the region's population was about half what it is today. Although officials complained ... that new capacity was too expensive, the region hasn't hesitated to spend roughly $5 billion on light-rail lines that carry an insignificant share of the region's traffic."
Instead, the city spends lots of money on light rail.
Buh-Bye: The Red Lion Inn at the Quay, a landmark on the Vancouver, WA side of the Columbia River waterfront since the 1960s, will close October 31st, leaving 82 employees without jobs.
Several years ago, the City of Vancouver tried to stomp the Quay out of existence by building a competing, city-owned Hilton Hotel a few blocks away. Then the ongoing redevelopment of the adjacent Boise Cascade waterfront site (with cheerleading and support from the city), caused the Quay to lose its biggest banquet hall and part of its parking lot.
The Quay Restaurant & Bar, once owned by Vancouver restaurateur George Gordon Goodrich, opened in 1960. The hotel was added in 1962, and the complex, with its sailing-ship-themed dining room and adjacent Tiki lounge, became the Inn at the Quay. While the decor was a bit dated, the food and service were always good and the river views made it fun.
Can a government kill off a viable business? Sure ... (more >>>)
Make Some Popcorn and Watch 'Network': It's the best way to put some context into the political season.
Chris Christie was on Fox News Sunday yesterday. I enjoyed his interview and believe he's the Real Deal. But his star was ascendant in the 2012 elections and, like Rick Perry's, is now old, tarnished and has fallen to low single digits in the polls. His time in the limelight seems to be over. Too bad, Christie comes across as logical, assertive and properly pugnacious. And he says that Hillary should be indicted - right now.
Nobody seems to like Hillary and, one of the reasons is her attitude, which seems to vacillate between "It's my turn, dammit" and "You owe me." This kind of attitude never works in politics. Bob Dole showed some of that attitude - and lost. Ditto John McCain. Ditto Al Gore. And looks like 'ol Jeb Bush is getting his "It's my turn, dammit" comeuppance as well.
Hillary's tanking in the polls big time and no one seems to be enjoying it more than columnist Howie Carr. He wrote, "Hillary Clinton has become Richard Nixon. Consider the top three words voters used to describe her in a new poll this week: "Liar … dishonest … untrustworthy." Also in the top 12: "crook … untruthful … criminal … deceitful." Crook - as in "I am not a crook," a quintessential Nixon quote." Even the most-hardened liberals are giving up on that lying old bag and are so despondent that they're hanging themselves in the nearest gender-neutral bathroom.
Then there's the so-called Republicans ... (more >>>)
My Advice For The Day: Keep your promises. Do what you say you're going to do. If you have no intention of doing it, don't say it.
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