A Blog About Cars ... And More
Friday March 29, 2019
Autosketch: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - A New Kind Of Drive
The Oldsmobile Toronado, introduced as a 1966 model, was a landmark automobile. It reintroduced front-wheel drive to America (the last production FWD American auto was the 1937 Cord) and is a shining example the bold, sculpted styling which became a hallmark for GM at its best in the 1960s.
To understand the Toronado, you must begin with the Ford Thunderbird. In 1958 ... (more >>>)
Save Energy, Don't Take The Bus: The average car on the road used 2,939 British thermal units (BTUs) per passenger mile in 2016, according to the recently released Transportation Energy Data Book. This is the first time since the Department of Energy began keeping track that BTUs per passenger mile for cars has fallen below 3,000. It compares with 4,102 BTUs per passenger mile for transit buses.
The average light truck (which includes SUVs, vans, and pickups) used 3,556 BTUs per passenger mile. That's 21%more than cars, but still less than transit buses and a 50 percent reduction from 1970.
Best Auto-Related Title Of The Month … tops an article by Jack Baruth, writing about oversize wheels: 'Might as well face it, you're addicted to dubs.' Robert Palmer is spinning in his grave.
MAGA: Toyota announced it will invest $749 million in five U.S. plants and add 586 jobs as it boosts engine production capacity and adds new hybrid models to its lineup. This is a direct outcome of the NAFTA replacement USMCA trade deal; and the new 75% rule of origin within the Auto sector. The Toyota announcement is a total of $13 billion investment and includes expanded component part production in: Alabama ($288 million), Kentucky ($238 million), Missouri ($62 million), Tennessee ($50 million) and West Virginia ($111 million). Additionally, Toyota will open a new assembly plant in Huntsville, Alabama ($1.5 billion) and serious investments in several other areas.
This outcome is exactly how tariff and countervailing duty applications are supposed to work to protect U.S. workers and manufacturing.
Shoulda Used Flex-Seal: The $1.1 billion spent to repair California's Oroville Dam didn't work. The dam is failing as water is seeping through the rebuilt spillway and threatens new mass evacuations over the risk of the dam collapsing. According to national dam expert Scott Cahill of Watershed Services of Ohio, Oroville Dam is on the same failure track as in 2017, with visible water seepage trickling from the foot of the dam and dozens of points along the dam's principal spillway.
Why, you can even saw a boat in half and patch it with Flex Seal and it won't come apart, even with an outboard motor speeding it through the water. It's true - I saw Phil Swift do it on TV.
Quote Of The Day is from Warren Buffett: "Never risk what you have and need for what we don't have and don't need."
Wednesday March 27, 2019
2019 Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue: Consumers Union began as a socialist organization in the 1930s and was once declared a subversive organization by the House Un-American Activities Committee. They still come off as a bunch of anti-capitalist lefties sometimes but Consumer Reports magazine remains the most comprehensive and believable of vehicle reliability surveys. This year's issue seemed to offer fewer data and more opinion than in prior years.
CR's database comes from vehicles owned by subscribers who fill out Consumer Reports' annual survey. Cars which are awarded the coveted Top Picks or Buy Recommendation now only need to score 'average' in reliability.
Here are some interesting tidbits from the magazine ... (more >>>)
Q-Exit: Nissan's premium brand, Infiniti, will exit Western Europe early next year as it restructures its global operations and turns its attention to sales in China and the U.S.
Infiniti said it will discontinue the Q30 and QX30 models and cease their production by the middle of 2019 at Nissan's plant in Sunderland, England. Both vehicles are sold globally but produced only in Sunderland. The move will mean the end of 250 manufacturing jobs.
"Western Europe remains the most challenging and competitive region for premium cars," Infiniti's chief spokesman, Trevor Hale, said. Infiniti's sales in western Europe almost halved last year to 5,800 vehicles. Infiniti will continue selling cars in Russia and eastern Europe, it said.
Infiniti has struggled to effectively meet stringent Euro 6 emissions requirements and other regulatory challenges. At present, there are 55 Infiniti retail stores in western Europe.
Early Spring Fun: At 1:00 pm Tuesday, skies were bright blue and littered with white Johnson & Johnson puffy clouds and the temperature was 57 degrees. The weather forecast predicted a return to Northwest Spring Normal (rain and cooler temperatures) soon, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a back roads drive. Other car people were enjoying the sun as well/ I saw a couple of newish Corvettes and a 1965 Pontiac Tempest hardtop.
Traffic was light and I had a good drive.
Surprising, Since Most Roads Are So Narrow And Parking Spaces Are So Small: European vehicle sales were flat at 15.54 million last year, but volumes of SUVs and crossovers of any size and price increased by 18% to 5.3 million, adding 800,000 annual sales to a sector that in 2017 had already grown by 18% - 700,000 units - to 4.5 million. The additional surge in demand meant that SUVs and crossovers grew to one-third of total European sales, rising to a 34% share.
Sooner Or Later, It Had To Happen: Hitler finds out that the Mueller investigation is over.
Book Review: 'The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture' by Heather MacDonald
This is a short book - 247 pages (plus notes and index) - which is well-organized and thoroughly researched. Nevertheless, I found it to be a difficult read, not because of any shortcomings on the author's part but because to read what is happening in American institutions is dispiriting.
Academia as well as the workplace has been infiltrated by ... (more >>>)
Apocalypse Now: This 1:15 minute video is all-fear, all-Democrats. Suddenly it's 1964 again and the Republicans are going to nuke us all..
There's also this article by George S. Bardmesser in The Federalist: ‘Every Time Democrats Talk, I Want To Vote For Trump.’ Excerpt: "Trump is the only thing that stands between me and these hallucinogenic socialist nut jobs. Trump is what's keeping chaos and left-wing insanity at bay. … All the CNN talking heads agree that Trump is an idiot? Maybe, but at least he isn't planning to ban my car. Trump lies? Maybe, but with Trump, we'll still have airplanes (and my 401(k) plan has been doing great since his election)."
Quip Of The Day: A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
Monday March 25, 2019
Cute Rarity: The Nissan S-Cargo was a subcompact delivery vehicle, based on the very small Nissan Micra. First offered in 1989, the S-Cargo's peculiar shape was an homage to the Citroën 2CV and the overall side profile was somewhat snail like. Hence the pronunciation: escargot.
These RHD mini-trucks were not ... (more >>>)
But Where Will The Customers Come From? Volkswagen AG plans to ramp up its production of electric vehicles over the next 10 years to 22 million and reduce its carbon footprint over vehicle lifecycles by 30%.
Previously, the company had said it would aim for 15 million. That was ambitious in itself, given that it made fewer than 50,000 battery-only vehicles last year.
There's Rich .. and Then There's Really Rich: A spokesman for luxury supercar maker Bugatti reports that according to their data, the average Bugatti owner owns 42 vehicles, including two Bugatti models.
Hmmm. I once owned two Volkswagen Beetles at the same time. I guess that's not quite the same, is it?
As Someone Who Grew Up In Philadelphia, I Can Vouch For This: Ol' Remus wrote recently, "Those in the northeast understand Philly adores New York City in an abused child sort of way." He's right. Philly people have always had a love/hate/envy/awestruck relationship with the Big Apple. Even before it was given that nickname.
In its heyday, New York City had the best theater, the best restaurants, the best neon - as gaudy as Liberace's Christmas decorations - and the best entertainment (at The Latin Quarter, Copacabana and elsewhere). Everybody from Philadelphia used to travel there for fun. My grandfather and his brother ... (more >>>)
Mueller Investigation Summarized … by Mark Penn: "Two-plus years, thirty million dollars (or more), our FBI and DOJ compromised, thousands of fake news stories, millions of people all entranced in a false story of Russia collusion based on oppo research that was always unsubstantiated and preposterous."
In other words, a big nothingburger.
From Attorney General William P. Barr: The Special Counsel was "assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers (phone taps), made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses."
We taxpayers are on the hook for this very costly Witch Hunt. If life were fair, bills for this work would be presented to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and James Comey. Let them figure out how to split the tab amongst themselves.
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On: Michael Totten is predicting doom for the Pacific Northwest. "Roughly 100 miles off the West Coast, running from Mendocino, California, to Canada's Vancouver Island, lurks the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where the Juan de Fuca Plate is sliding beneath the North American Plate, creating the conditions for a megathrust quake 30 times stronger than the worst-case scenario along the notorious San Andreas, and 1,000 times stronger than the earthquake that killed 100,000 Haitians in 2010. Shockwaves will unleash more destructive force against the United States and Canada than anything short of nuclear war, a giant asteroid strike, or a civilization-threatening super-volcano." Oh, great. Something else for me to worry about.
"A 9.0 megathrust quake is too powerful even to be measured on the now-dated Richter scale. Megathrust quakes are measured instead on the Moment scale. Like its predecessor, the scale is logarithmic. Every whole-number increase represents an energy release 32 times greater than the whole number before it. An 8.0 earthquake is therefore 32 times more powerful than a 7.0, and a 9.0 roughly 1,000 times more powerful."
Geologic-hazard coordinator Althea Rizzo at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management said, "Best case is between 2,000 and 6,000 fatalities." If the quake happens during the school year, she adds, fatalities could tally in the tens of thousands. "That's just for Oregon. And that's not factoring in the tsunami, which will kill even more people."
The United States could conceivably lose more people in an hour, in a single part of the country, than we lost over an entire decade in the Vietnam War.
"Local governments can't possibly stockpile enough food to feed millions during a disaster; they aren't, in fact, stockpiling anything. People will have to feed themselves until FEMA arrives, and the agency won't be on the scene in a day, or even a week. Not a single road will be passable. An entire region 100 miles wide and 600 miles long will be ravaged."
Hopefully, I'll be dead by then. On the other hand, we have a well-stocked wine cellar so we can probably drink ourselves to oblivion if necessary. Or ... maybe Global Warming will get us first.
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Believe it or not, there's an island in the Caribbean that uses goose feathers as its currency. But as we've all found out in the last couple of years, it's hard to make money in a down economy."
Thursday March 21, 2019
George Barris Is Dead … but his Golden Sahara has been resurrected.
The Golden Sahara is remembered as one of the most outlandish custom cars of the 1950s and it only came to be because ... (more >>>)
Components On The Cheap: According to James May and Richard Hammond ('Top Gear', 'The Grand Tour'), the Lamborghini Countach had a turn indicator stalk from a Morris Morena, while the Ferrari Testarossa had electric window switches from an Austin Montego.
Mission Creep: Federal agencies never surrender their power, even after their congressional mandates were accomplished. Instead, they invent new problems to solve, thereby justifying their continued existence.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by Congress in 1970 to write and enforce regulations designed to protect the environment and, by extension, human health. The EPA quickly became a victim of its own success. As the environment became cleaner, there were fewer and fewer real environmental problems to address. So, they began inventing them ... (more >>>)
Don't Forget: Saturday is National Puppy Day. I remember my first dog, which I received as a pup 71 years ago this month. His name was Winky and, yes, he did wink at people. Winky died of a heart attack in the summer of 1957. I hope his little dog-soul is romping around happily somewhere.
Winky got good veterinary care at Bree's Animal Hospital opened in 1947. Dr. Bree is long gone but Bree's Animal Hospital is still in operation, located on Frankford Avenue in the Mayfair section of Northeast Philadelphia.
I'll never forget my old buddy Winky. God bless him and all puppies and dogs.
Book Review: 'The Point Of It All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors' by Charles Krauthammer
This is the final book from the author, who died in 2018 at age 68 after a battle with cancer of the small intestine. It is a collection of his writings, many from his Washington Post opinion columns. Most chapters are ... (more >>>)
The 21st Century Is Just Full Of Surprises: NASA has discovered a new STD - Space Herpes.
Crumbling Ghetto: Jim Quinn, a man who drives through West Philadelphia on a regular basis, wrote, "All of the feel-good socialist drivel being spewed by AOC and her oblivious acolytes has been put into action in Philly and other urban ghettos across the land. Tens of trillions have been poured into these shitholes since LBJ rolled out his Great Society plans to enslave blacks in welfare goodies and ensuring their votes for a hundred years. Liberals like Hillary and AOC mouth platitudes about a village raising a child, when West Philly proves how well a village does in raising the bastard children of those who take no responsibility for the children they have produced.
Only a village idiot would believe cretins like Hillary and AOC know how your children should be raised. They're fascists who want to take your money in order to forcefully inflict their warped vision upon the entire country and taking no responsibility for their epic failures."
We don't need a lecture or a moral compass from naive and/or cynical social do-gooders. Or politicians. Jim continued, "I've been making a daily trek through the pigsty of West Philly through three presidential administrations (Bush, Obama, Trump) and the mayoral stints of John Street (only 15 associates went to prison for corruption), Michael Nutter (left office with a city pension plan underfunded by $5.7 billion), and Jim "beak nose" Kenney (Mr. Soda tax and under FBI investigation).
Over the course of the last 12 years (and many years prior) the list of Philadelphia politicians shipped off to Federal prison has been endless, including congressman Chaka Fattah, DA Seth Williams, State senator Vince Fumo, councilman Rick Mariano, and now union boss Johnny Dougherty and councilman Bobby Henon. A slew of lesser lights has also been shipped off to the penitentiary. Corruption is the common theme tying all Philly Democrat politicians together."
Question Of The Day: If only 11 million people have Obama-Care, how will 24 million people die if it is repealed? Will an additional 13 million people be randomly shot or poisoned?
Tuesday March 19, 2019
Almost Spring: At 10:30 am last Friday, it was bright and sunny with temperatures in the upper 40s (By late afternoon, the temperature had risen to 65 degrees.) I fired-up my '39 Plymouth coupe and drove to downtown Battle Ground to fuel up. The gas station which sells alcohol-free gas was inexplicably closed, so I headed to the Chevron station and gassed up with Premium winter-mix. Afterwards, I took a nice drive along the back roads of North Clark County.
Clear skies gave me good views of the snow-capped Cascades to the east and a fully snow-covered Mt. St. Helens to the north. Traffic was quite light and I had a most enjoyable pre-Spring drive.
The weather was so good - sunny and 60 degrees at 11:00 - on Monday, that I took another old car drive. Life is good.
Underwhelming: The recently unveiled Tesla Model Y compact SUV will be available in the Fall of 2020. It looks like a tall, gawky Model 3 and many auto scribes as well as investment firms were not impressed. Prices start at $47,000 stripped. "Tesla will also sell an all-wheel drive dual-motor version for $51,000 and a performance version for $60,000."
Going' Downhill: Last month, I wrote about the troubles at the once-vibrant Ford Motor Company. Recently, Peter De Lorenzo covered the same subject, focusing on the personalities/politics which have helped to diminish Ford.
"The company is in an ominous downward spiral, fueled by a pitiful strategy or lack thereof that focuses on contraction, pulling back from regions, making excuses and generally putting the Ford Motor Company on a path to becoming susceptible to a takeover, despite the family's stock position. The juggernaut F-150 is a phenomenon and responsible for the majority of the company's profitability, but as hugely successful as that product is, it's not enough to power the company forever.
Ford business is down everywhere in the world, in some cases by double digits, and it's not getting better. What about growth, which is the lifeblood of any company? It's nowhere to be found in (CEO Jim) Hackett's strategy, unless you count the drunken-sailor-like spending on Mobility. Talk about vague. Spending on 'mobility' is like betting on the come that's just not there, and even if it should happen to work out for the company, Ford's slice of the mobility pie threatens to be miniscule, at best. Needless to say, a "zero growth" strategy does not bode well for the long-term health of the Ford Motor Company."
Jim Hackett may go down in history as the worst CEO Ford has ever had.
Quick, Before It Melts: A Nebraska family made a 1967 Ford Mustang entirely from snow.
The 'SnowPony' "was built by Chadron, Nebraska resident Jason Blundell and his two teenagers. They based it on a real '67 Mustang GTA the family has parked in the garage and even took measurements to ensure it looked real. Blundell said it took about five hours to sculpt the car using snow from multiple driveways."
Hope You Had A Good One, Too: For St. Patrick's Day, my wife prepared Shepherd's Pie and Irish soda bread. It was delicious.
In somewhat related news, Dave Birge tweeted, "I always feel sorry for March 16 because it's wedged between Pi Day, Ides of March, and St Patrick's. Maybe we should designate it Ringo Starr Day."
Honoring St. Joseph: Today, Catholics around the world celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.
Sadly, St. Joseph doesn't always get the respect he deserves. His feast day is overshadowed by St. Patrick's Day, two days earlier. In recent times ... (more >>>)
The Mainstream Media Never Reports Attacks On Christians: The attack on Muslim mosques, which resulted in 50 deaths and many injuries, was of course a horrific tragedy. It has received worldwide coverage in the media. Naturally, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Richard Blumenthal and other liberals blamed President Trump. In his "manifesto," the murderer described himself as an "eco-fascist," expressed hatred for conservatism and wrote that Communist China is his ideal country.
Interestingly, forty-two were killed at the Dean Ave. mosque, the first one that was targeted, where the murderer had plenty of time and at one point returned to his vehicle to reload. There were only seven killed at the Linwood mosque because one of the worshippers armed himself and chased the gunman away.
The same media is silent when Muslims attack and kill Christians. The recent death toll of Christians in Nigeria has reached 120 with this week's slaughter of 52 souls by Fulani Muslim militants in the Kaduna state of Nigeria. That's 120 deaths in only three weeks.
On March 1, 2019, more than 30 Nigerian Christians were killed in a brutal early morning attack by radical Islamic Fulani herdsmen, who have been systematically targeting believers living on lands the extremists claim to be their territory. Nigeria has been facing growing unrest as radical Islamic terrorist groups, including the Fulani herdsmen, have been ramping up attacks on Christians, who make up about 51% of the population.
Rorate Cali tweeted, "The tragedy of the islamization of Asia Minor, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and North Africa is that so little is left of such a vibrant Christian life. It's as if sandstorms from Arabia have covered almost everything." Because they destroy not only Christian men and women but destroy the churches, too.
You probably haven't learned about these Christian killings on the regular news because, as Dave Burge once wrote, "Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow until they stop moving."
Political Observation Du Jour is from Jim Treacher on presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, an ideal Democrat composite: "Beto gets away with drunken car accidents like a Kennedy, he appropriates other cultures like Elizabeth Warren, and he marries into wealth like John Kerry. He's the total package!"
Because It's Soooo Hard To Make Change: High-end coffee company Blue Bottle (never heard of 'em) will ban cash at 12 locations. "Credit card transactions are smoother for both our guests and the baristas," said Shawna Sharie, vice president of retail for Blue Bottle, which is headquartered in Oakland and majority-owned by Swiss food giant Nestlé.
"The move reflects a growing cashless trend across the restaurant industry, which is eager to make service more efficient. But that trend has also triggered a backlash from those who say banning cash excludes people unable to obtain credit cards or other electronic payment methods." Most of my geezer buddies , who are around my age, are like me - they use cash for transactions under ten bucks. Blue Bottle - a bunch of ageists.
Quote Of The Day is from Vox Day at Vox Populi, "As a general rule, if your plan involves "waking people up with the truth," it's going to fail. If you consider that even Jesus Christ himself could not change a petty regional power structure with the truth, you probably shouldn't count on anything else changing on that basis either."
Friday March 15, 2019
Super Salesman: Famed Michigan car salesman, author and inspirational speaker Joe Girard has died at age 90 from injuries suffered during a fall in his home.
For over four decades, Girard held the Guinness World Record for the most automotive sales in a single year - 1,425 new cars in 1973. I read Girard's 1977 bestseller, 'How To Sell Anything To Anybody' and found helpful tips in the book although some of Joe's techniques were a bit on the hokey side. RIP.
Boom! You've seen those exploded view drawings, which range from functional to technically excellent to artistic. Swiss artist Fabian Oefner spent two years photographing a Lamborghini Miura and shot "more than 1,500 photographs of each part of the Lamborghini. Working methodically, Oefner has created a hyperrealistic art piece that shows off the Lamborghini Miura in a way that's never been seen. The work explores the boundaries between time, space, and reality by creating a moment that looks real, even though it isn't. By working with a real vehicle, rather than a model, Oefner is continuing to push the limits of his art."
No Hurry: Revenues from autonomous driving will not ramp up until 2030 and beyond, said Elmar Degenhart, the chief executive of German auto supplier Continental AG.
"Until 2030, the market will be driven mainly by assistance systems. Significant revenues will only come in 2030 and thereafter," Degenhart said in response to a question about when the market for fully autonomous vehicles will take off.
Bad Deal: New York's iconic art-deco Chrysler skyscraper will be sold for a small fraction of its previous sales price. It fetched a mere $150 million. Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi investment fund, had purchased 90% of the building for $800 million in 2008. That's an 83% loss.
The Chrysler Building was the headquarters of the American automaker until 1953, but it was named for and owned by Chrysler chief Walter P. Chrysler, not the company itself.
Mass Closings: In a 48 hour period, more than 465 store closings were announced. Foot Locker plans to close around 165 stores across the country. Gap announced it would close 230 of its namesake stores over the course of the next two years. JC Penney announced it too will shutter 18 of its department stores this year. Victoria's Secret will close 53 stores this year.
According to a Business Insider report, these announcements will bring the number of planned stores closures this year to well over 4,500.
Presenting … a limerick about this week's college admissions scandal:
Whenever someone told me, "I'm from Yale," I always asked, "Are you a locksmith?"
And furthermore … Stanford is one of the colleges involved in the scandal. Chelsea Clinton received an undergraduate degree at Stanford. Hmmmm. Plus, a former Georgetown University tennis coach who worked with Michelle Obama and the two Obama daughters was among the 50 people charged in the college admissions scheme in which wealthy parents allegedly bribed coaches and others to get their children accepted to some of the top schools in the U.S.
Dave Burge offered a suggestion: "I think the best punishment for these colleges is to make them change their names for 4 years:
Talk Back, Fight Back: Scott Jennings, a long-time Republican advisor, former special assistant to President George W. Bush and CNN political commentator, wrote, "Why do Republicans stick with Donald Trump? It's a question I'm asked again and again by Democrats, 'Never Trumpers', and journalists. But the answer is simple. Attitude and gratitude. For years, Republican voters wanted someone - anyone - to come along and do two things: stick it to the Clintons and punch back against the media-Democratic Party alliance that fires on every Republican brave enough to stick a head out of the foxhole."
He added, "Republicans waited a long time. They became angrier and angrier as a succession of honorable leaders - think George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney - were portrayed by the media as stupid or feeble or criminal while Obama and the Clintons were treated with near-reverence. Republicans waited through the Obama years, simmering with rage as the country lurched dramatically leftward and anti-Christian sentiments flourished. They seethed as traditional Christian values were mocked and barred from public policy decisions. If a baker doesn't want to make a cake for you, leave him the hell alone and find someone else. The natural conclusion of this pent-up anger finally boiled over in 2016."
Jennings concluded, "Trump won in part because huge swaths of the country thought Barack Obama had taken us too far to the left, too fast. Democrats racing toward full-blown socialism in 2020 could give Trump a platform to essentially run the same race again - I'm not perfect but these folks will have us carrying Little Red Books full of AOC's tweets before we know it."
"Buckle up. 2020 promises a close race, and one that Trump is fully capable of winning." I'm not sure the race will be that close.
Headline Of The Week is from The Babylon Bee: 'Democrats Announce All 2020 Candidates Will Forego Armed Security To Protest Gun Violence'.
Climate Change Hysteria Is A Big Fraud: Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, said, "The whole climate crisis is not only Fake News, it's Fake Science. There is no climate crisis, there's weather and climate all around the world, and in fact carbon dioxide is the main building block of all life."
Thought For Today: The shin bone is a device for finding furniture in the dark.
Wednesday March 13, 2019
Ominous Sign: The inventory of unsold new cars on U.S. dealer lots rose 2.1% last month to around four million units, a 21-month high that could foreshadow a downturn in sales. In dollar terms, it's about $140 billion in inventory.
"The rising inventory despite stalling sales trend is of particular concern to us given market expectations of a significant second-half ... recovery in earnings for many of our U.S. names," Morgan Stanley's equity analyst Adam Jonas wrote.
Another Ominous Sign: Automakers hoping that China might bail them out of sluggish sales in the U.S. are going to be disappointed as sales in the world's largest market fell 13.8% in February.
The drop is the eight consecutive month that China, only just two years ago posting double-digit increases, has seen buyers keep their money in their wallets. Sales fell 16% in January and 13% in December.
Poor Bruce Meyers: He invented the dune buggy, prototyping the Myers Manx fiberglass kit for the VW Beetle in 1964. His design was knocked-off over and over by a multitude of fly-by-night manufacturers, eventually killing his original manufacturing company. I met Bruce once; he was a personable fellow. Sadly, he was more of an artist and idea guy rather than businessman.
Now Volkswagen, inspired by Bruce's original, has created an all-electric Volkswagen I.D. Buggy concept, introducing it at the Geneva Motor Show
"The I.D. Buggy swaps out the old air-cooled engines of yore for a 62-kilowatt battery, good for 155 miles of range on the WLTP cycle. The rear wheels are powered by an electric motor good for 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque. Sixty-two miles per hour comes in 7.2 seconds on the way to a blistering top speed of 99 mph. The I.D. Buggy comes as a two-seater without doors and roof, just like the original Meyers Manx."
Happy 100th: My dad was born in 1919 this month.
No More Homeless People, Please: In Seattle, 100 homeless people in the city were responsible for more than 3,500 criminal cases. "These so-called "prolific offenders" all had drug habits and about a third of them also had mental problems. But because they were homeless and their crimes were usually petty burglaries or theft, they were cycled through the justice system and released back onto the streets time and time again."
One is an arsonist who is responsible for a string of fires causing millions in damage. He has been arrested 23 times.
Dori Monson wrote, "We've got a bunch of bleeding hearts telling us ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy' by George Gilder
Early in my business career, I had to give detailed technical presentations. Anytime I sensed that my audience wasn't understanding the subject, I'd stop, take a deep breath and say, "Now look, here's what all this REALLY means to YOU and here's how it's going to help you be more successful in your business." And I'd proceed to provide simplified, relevant context.
George Gilder failed to ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Nikki Haley: "Having been governor, now an ambassador, I'm always amazed at the lengths people will go to to lie for money and for power."
Monday March 11, 2019
Interesting Statistics: BMW is the largest U.S. automotive exporter by value for the fifth consecutive year, with exports totaling over $8.4 billion in 2018. The company said it exported 234,689 units of its X model sport utility vehicles (X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7) from its Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant during 2018.
These exports had an approximate dollar value of more than $8.4 billion, or nearly 16% of the year's total automobile U.S. export value. BMW exported more than 66% of the 356,749 cars and light trucks built at Spartanburg last year. The rest were sold in the United States.
Fast And Expensive: New supercars unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show included:
More affordable electric car concepts were shown by Audi, Skoda and Seat.
If At First You Don't Succeed … National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg and former Weekly Standard editor-in-chief Steve Hayes are joining together to launch a new conservative media company. Goldberg and Hayes - both Never-Trumpers - are currently seeking investors for the company, which plans to start a newsletter and website later this year. The still-unnamed venture will be "Trump-skeptical" and will emphasize reporting-driven content. "We believe there's a great appetite on the center-right for an independent conservative media company that resists partisan boosterism and combines a focus on old-school reporting with interesting and provocative commentary and analysis," said Hayes with a straight face.
Anti-Trump Attitude killed off The Weekly Standard and has severely hurt National Review - its circulation has dropped 40% in two years. What makes Hayes and Goldberg think that things will turn out differently this time around?
Happy Pancake Day! Yes, there is such a holiday. It's tomorrow, so enjoy a big stack.
Brexit Explained ... in a 3:22 minute music video. More succinct and historically correct than 'Hamilton'.
Headline Of The Week … so far, is from parody site The Babylon Bee: 'Ilhan Omar Withdraws Support From Bill To Save The Earth After Learning That's Where Israel Is'.
"Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal hit a snag when it lost the support of another freshman representative, Ilhan Omar. Omar had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Green New Deal and wanted to save the earth, but then she noticed something very disturbing when looking at a map of the earth: Earth is the planet on which Israel resides.
"You've been hypnotized by the Jews!" Omar accused a surprised Ocasio-Cortez. Omar then ripped up a copy of the Green New Deal. "This is just a plot to help Israel keep existing! Did AIPAC pay you off?" Ocasio-Cortez was very apologetic, saying she hadn't considered how her plan would affect Israel. She then vowed to change her plan so it might save the whole planet except where Israel resides."
In related news, one commenter noted that "Ilhan Omar is the real uniter. She has brought David Duke and Louis Farrakhan together in support of her anti-Semitism."
Jeez. Somebody call the Ottoman Empire and tell them it's safe to put their feet back up.
Quote Of The Day: Members of Congress should wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers so we could identify their corporate sponsors.
Thursday March 7, 2019
February Auto Sales: U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 3% in February as severe winter weather, lingering effects of the temporary U.S. government shutdown and anxiety over federal tax refunds curtailed showroom traffic. The seasonally adjusted, annualized sales rate 16.61 million dropped below 17 million for the second straight month and came in slightly below analysts' forecasts of 16.7 million. It's the lowest monthly SAAR since August 2017, when the pace of sales came in at 16.58 million. In February 2018, the SAAR totaled 17.08 million.
Nissan, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and Honda all reported sales declines in February as a combination of wintry weather and rising finance costs under cut the sales of new vehicles.
Trucks and sport-utility vehicles continued to dominate the sales picture, but Nissan and Toyota also reported an uptick in sales of subcompact and compact cars - perhaps a sign that consumers are beginning to look for less expensive transportation alternatives in the face of rising prices and interest rates. FCA reported overall U.S. February sales retreated 2% to 162,036 vehicles. Fiat sales fell 50%, Chrysler sales declined 7% and Dodge sales were down 8%.
American Honda reported a fractional decline in sales. Acura sales climbed 11% but sales of Honda brand vehicles dropped 2%. Sales of the Honda CR-V accounted for more than 26,000 of the roughly 116,000 vehicles American Honda sold during February.
Toyota Motor North America reported February 2019 sales of 172,748 vehicles, a decrease of 5% from February 2018. The Toyota brand posted February sales of 152,626 units, down 8%. Lexus posted February sales increase of 4%.
Analysts said sales of General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., which report sales quarterly also saw sales drops in February despite the continuing strength of the pick-up truck segment. Ford is said to have dropped 5% in sales year-over-year, while Lincoln sales increased 15%.
BMW sales were flat, while Mercedes-Benz sales dropped 12% as did Audi sales. Volvo sales jumped 51% to 6,635 units last month.
Only 58 Smart cars found buyers in February.
Happy Birthday: My wife's Toyota Avalon is now 14 years-old with 71,900 trouble-free miles on the odometer. I gave it an early birthday car wash last week and it still gleams like new. As aging technophobes, we have no intention of trading it for a tech-laden new vehicle that will frighten and confuse us.
Maybe Auto Shows Aren't A Dying Breed After All: Steve Bruyn, CEO of Foresight Research - an industry data-tracking firm, said the number of car-shopping show attendees had recently grown, a gain he attributed to greater interest by millennials. "The 18-34 age cohort has increased dramatically since 2015," Mr. Bruyn said, and is now the largest single demographic among attendees who subsequently buy a vehicle.
"If anything, because of millennials, auto shows have increased in importance in terms of shopping. These folks often don't have prior experience or brand loyalty, so for them attending the show takes on added meaning."
Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the Philadelphia Auto Show, commented, "When I look out and see 70,000 people on our floor on a Saturday afternoon, there's no question in my mind of the continuing importance of car shows."
"Consumers revel in comparison shopping," he added. "We give them a chance to see if that new SUV's third row of seats is really big enough to haul the kids to a soccer game." Despite his optimism, Mr. Mazzucola perceives a growing need for the shows to educate consumers, especially as the industry moves toward self-driving vehicles.
Bad Deal: James Lileks weighed in on the New Green Deal, writing that "everyone knows that we can just give people all these things and retrofit every house and make trains work, if we wanted to, but there are retrograde forces outside the bubble. They don't want it, because they are science deniers who take money from petrochemical companies and want to give money to the rich.
I should make a confession here: I have taken money from a petrochemical company. Or, as I called it, "my parents." The GND would eliminate our family business, providing it produced sustainable replacements for lubricants and fuels, which is to say it will not eliminate our family business, at all. But assume the wand is waved and Glinda the Good Witch makes these things possible.
One of the things we sell is avgas, which fuels small planes. These are used for a variety of tasks. Do you know what purposes they serve every day? No? But you don't think they should do those things? Okay.
Another thing we sell is diesel for trains, and this should buy us a little good will; trains are holy. But trains are thirsty. Every night the long thundering line comes in from the West, bearing goods that have come over the sea. The containers are loaded on to trains and hauled across the mountains and the plains, and the goods within are disbursed for sale. It takes quite a few horsepower to drag them to the point where we refuel them."
Speaking of trains, "diesel-electric locomotives have their own 40% or higher energy efficient diesel engine power station on board (USDOE) instead of hooking up to an external electric distribution system. This is far less cumbersome and expensive than overhead wires or a third rail (James, Smil), and gives diesel-electric locomotives an overall efficiency of 30%."
Back in the 1930s, when the Pennsylvania Railroad electrified the entire New York-Washington four-track line, the cost was over $1,000,000 per mile, in 1935 dollars.
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: 'Bernie Sanders launches presidential campaign, promises to "build a great big beautiful Iron Curtain" around America if elected'.
Book Review: 'The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself' by Sean Carroll
As a high school senior, I took a tour of Villanova University's Engineering Department. I remember asking some smart-ass question about religion and the college senior conducting the tour, replying, "God is everywhere. You can see God in an electron if you want." It was a memorable quote.
In this 433-page ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Alright, I'll serve you ... but don't start anything."
Tuesday March 5, 2019
Get It While You Can: Rain-free skies are a relative rarity in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. After a couple of rain-free days, I couldn't wait any longer. At 1:30 pm last Friday, the sun was out, the skies were blue and the temperature was hovering around 50 degrees, so I fired up my ’39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive - the first one in a month. I had an enjoyable and undramatic old car excursion, listening to '50s oldies through the speakers and the rumble of the V8 under the hood.
Driving along 199th Street, I spotted a white Tesla Model 3 coming the other way. I don't see many Teslas around here but it reminded me of a story. Last week, I spoke with my good friend and fellow car nut, Ray Lukas. He was quite excited as he was given a ride in a friend's Tesla Model X, the SUV with the gull-winged rear doors. He was fascinated with all the features, impressed by the quiet and astounded by the acceleration. But what really stunned him was when he found out the as-delivered price: $165,000!
I've never seen a Model X on the road around here. At that price, no wonder.
Speaking of Tesla, the latest Musk-idea of closing sales showrooms to cut costs and planning to sell only on the internet seems like a move of desperation to me. Tesla is a company that doesn't advertise, doesn't exhibit at car shows and won't provide test cars for the press. Now, the company won't let people sit in, test drive or even examine the car before they buy. This is no way to run a business.
Unaffordable: Peter De Lorenzo wrote that the auto business is "in the midst of a market frenzy that prizes circus wagon-sized pickup trucks and SUVs and the massive profits that they're generating as a manufacturer it's difficult to retain perspective." The fact is that "the average transaction price of a new pickup is around $44,000, and fully loaded luxury pickups regularly go for $70,000+, with full-zoot luxury SUVs pushing well into six figures." Holy cow!
"The automobile business is at its core a fashion business, and there will come a time when parade float-rivaling SUVs and pickups will fall out of favor. And when the pendulum swings back, it may not be because of rising fuel prices. Instead, it will probably be because the cost of these machines is rising faster than the market can keep up with." I am appalled at the prices of new vehicles, not just trucks and SUVs.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said that a record seven million Americans are three months behind or more on their car loan payments, which is even more than after The Great Recession. This is unsustainable. Loans of 84 and even 96 months are not uncommon. That's an eight-year mortgage to pay off a new car.
The surge in delinquencies came along with a $584 billion jump in total auto loan debt (to $1.27 trillion), the highest increase since the New York Fed began keeping track 19 years ago.
Peter continued, "It really comes down to this: if the average consumer can't find transportation that's desirable, safe and affordable, where does that leave our transportation future? It's fine to paint a rosy picture of shiny happy electrics and seamless autonomous vehicles careening across the landscape in a blissful stupor, but real people with real mobility needs are being priced out of the market, and it's happening faster than auto executives even imagined it would."
In the land of $22 trillion of debt, the auto industry may be the next bursting bubble.
Fascism Returns To Europe: Following approval by key members of the European Parliament of regulations proposed by the European Transport Safety Council, speed limiters and data loggers will now be mandatory equipment on all new cars. The European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection voted in favor of mandatory vehicle safety standards that could be in force within three years. Negotiations between the Parliament, Member States and the European Commission will determine how the new regulations are implemented.
The speed limiters, which go by the euphemism Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), use GPS data and possibly traffic sign recognition to determine a road's speed limit and then limit engine power to match that speed. While it's possible to just press harder on the accelerator and go faster, if the car exceeds the speed limit for several seconds, an audible warning signal will sound, along with a visual warning displayed until speed is reduced to the legal limit.
Maybe Brexit is a good idea for the UK after all. Back in 2016, Melissa Francis of Fox Business noted that the much-derided bureaucrats of the EU recently passed new rules - Eco Design Restrictions - mandating that all small appliances, including electric tea kettles and toasters, be far more energy-efficient. She posited that those regulations were the straw that broke the camel's back for Brits: "What is this person from Brussels doing in my kitchen? Who are they to take away my tea kettle?"
Speaking of Fascism, CNN analyst and former Obama advisor, Samantha Vinograd, compared Donald Trump's excellent, stem-winding CPAC speech to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's: "On a personal level, 'preserving our heritage, reclaiming our heritage' sounds a lot like a certain leader that killed members of my family and about 6 million other Jews in the 1940s." Give me a break.
Closing Time: Luepke Flowers and Finds, the downtown Vancouver (WA) florist located in the cool Art Deco building, has closed. The company cited declining revenue as one of the reasons for their decision, due to the widespread availability of flowers at supermarkets, home improvement stores and online at lower prices. Luepke opened for business in 1909.
Rick Luepke, a relative of the floral Luepkes, was my old car mechanic and did a lot of the work on my 1939 Plymouth. He died in 2012 at age 75. Rick was a consummate car-guy and whiz-bang fixer of everything auto-related. He owned Rick's Garage of Vancouver 40 years until he retired in 2004.
Now In Storage: Last Saturday - just before noon, we moved my O-gauge train layout from our living room to its storage spot in the garage. Conditions were very good - bright sun and upper 40s temperatures - and, with help from my wife, our children, their spouses, our grandson and his girlfriend, the move went smoothly - best and easiest one ever. After all these years, we've developed a system. I had spent the earlier part of the week putting away the trains, vehicles, buildings, mountain and tunnel portals.
Don't Forget To Overeat: Today is Fat Tuesday.
Question Of The Day: If you rob a bank in a Sanctuary City, is it illegal or is it just an Undocumented Withdrawal?
Friday March 1, 2019
Unloved, Unwanted And Unsold: The Detroit News compiled a list of the 10 least popular cars in America.
They include the Fiat 124 Spider (461-day supply in inventory}, the Dodge Viper, which was discontinued in 2017 still has a 425-day supply remaining, the Dodge Dart, last produced in 2016 has a 358-day supply, Fiat 500L MPV/wagon (329-day supply), Chevrolet Corvette (232-day supply - Chevrolet dealers are currently sitting on around 9,000 unsold Corvettes nationwide), Jeep Patriot (discontinued in 2016: 217-day supply), the Acura RLX flagship sedan (210-day supply), the tiny, 143-inch long Chevrolet Spark (208-day supply), the Chinese-made Buick Envision (201-day supply), the Buick Regal - available in sedan or station wagon form (182-day supply) and the Fiat 500X crossover (180-day supply).
Final Trolley Ride: In the first two decades of the 20th century, if you died in a city, one of the ways you might travel toward your final resting place was by public transit. Many large cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Buffalo and, of course, Philadelphia provided special trolley cars which carried the casket, as well as the mourners.
Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company's black funeral trolley, the 'Hillside' was named for a cemetery in suburban Abington Township. It was introduced ... (more >>>)
Fish Wrap: Confidence in the media has hit a new low, with many news consumers believing that reporters file their reports before knowing the facts and 60% are under the impression that sources pay for stories, according to a new survey of American journalism. The Columbia Journalism Review poll also confirmed the pending death of print newspapers and magazines and a remarkable shift to social and online media as sources of news.
On February 12th, The Reflector, a free weekly newspaper covering North Clark Country, carried a touching story about the burial of a Woodland, Washington sailor, Francis E. Dick - a World War II casualty killed aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor, after his remains were finally identified using modern DNA techniques. The county's daily "paper of record," got around to briefly reporting the story a week later. So much for fresh news.
Of people surveyed, only 6% get their news from newspapers and magazines. 40% get their news from online and social media sources and 40% get their news from television.
Toss Them Out: Nine alleged-Catholic Senators, including Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell - both Washington State Democrats, voted against giving medical treatment to babies that survive abortion. They not only support abortion but infanticide of abortion survivors.
All nine should be publicly excommunicated for promoting infanticide. (permalink)
All That Glitters: In his recent report to shareholders, Warren Buffet wrote, "Those who regularly preach doom because of government budget deficits (as I regularly did myself for many years) might note that our country's national debt has increased roughly 400 fold the past 77 years. People who panicked might have eschewed stocks and opted instead to buy gold. And they would have netted 1% of what an investment in a Standard & Poor's 500 index fund would have generated."
Quote Of The Day is from Peter Griffin of 'Family Guy', "Remember, most prescriptions result from a hot girl with a rolling suitcase giving your doctor a free pen."
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