A Blog About Cars ... And More
Thursday April 30, 2020
AutoSketch: 1938 Lincoln Zephyr ... With A Grille That Inspired Imitators
For 1938, Lincoln did a facelift of the Zephyr. The front end restyle included a low profile, horizontal twin grille which inspired many imitators and set a new styling trend. Just look at the 1940 Chevrolet or 1939 Buick and you'll spot the Zephyr influence. A convertible sedan and convertible coupe were also added to the Zephyr line.
On the inside, the instrument panel was redesigned and the interior seats were revised with the exposed metal seat frames eliminated for a more modern look. 1938 Zephyrs rode on a three inch longer wheelbase - now 125 inches for better riding comfort and more interior room. Lincoln Zephyrs were now 210 inches long. Ironically, people often think of the Zephyr as a small Lincoln, but its overall length was just a few inches shy of the 1998 Town Car.
Zephyrs weighed in... (more >>>)
The Return Of Jaguar: Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) plans to gradually resume production on May 18th, starting with manufacturing plants in Solihull in the UK as well as in Slovakia and Austria.
Just Wondering: Do you think any of the people who bought '70s cars with opera lights ever actually went to an opera? (permalink)
I Thought She Was Niles' Wife: General Motors has pulled the plug on its Maven car-sharing service, telling its 230,000 subscribers that it will no longer accept reservations.
Oh, wait. On the long-running television series, 'Frasier', radio psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane had a brother Niles. A psychiatrist in private practice, Niles Crane was fastidious, fussy, and far snobbier than Frasier and was once married to an odd woman named Maris … not Maven. Never mind.
Launched in 2016, the Maven project was expected to position GM as a major player in the "sharing" economy. But while ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have found a solid niche, car-sharing never really took off. Share Now, which was originally known as Car2Go, ended its North American operations in February.
"Unlike conventional car rental services, like Avis and Hertz, car-sharing services focus on short-term loans Maven supplying cars like the Chevrolet Cruze for as little as $9 an hour. The original idea was to target customers in urban communities who might not own a vehicle, or commuters who might need a car for a quick errand. Maven also wound up setting up a Gig program for those who might want to work for car-sharing or food delivery programs like Uber or Postmates."
Maybe no one wanted to pay nine bucks an hour for a Cruze.
I think the virus experience will make sharing of anything off-putting to prospective users. The "sharing economy" is as dead as the Pet Rock. We want our own stuff, wide open spaces and less contact with other (germy) people. Niles Crane was given to wiping his hands after human contact and wiping down chairs in public places before sitting on them. Now, we've all become Niles.
Stay Out Of The Subway: Steve Sailer observed, "As of April 8, two of American Airlines' 28,000 flight attendants were said to have died of Covid-19.
Is two a big number? By way of comparison, at least 59 of the 71,000 employees of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs subways, buses, and commuter rails, have died of coronavirus as of April 14."
Book Review: 'Profiles In Corruption: Abuse of Power by America's Progressive Elite' by Peter Schweizer
Five-time New York Times bestselling investigative reporter Peter Schweizer has written another bombshell book. He does a documented, deep-dive into the private finances and secret deals of some of America's top political leaders. His book demonstrates that the political abuse of power does indeed run deep. The author examined eight well-known politicians ... (more >>>)
Shoulda Bought American: A million respirator masks Canada bought from China can't be used because they failed to meet standards for protecting medical staff against coronavirus. China provides as much as 70% of personal protective equipment shipped to Canada.
"The face masks were intended for healthcare workers on the front lines of treating the coronavirus outbreak, however, the equipment failed to meet the filtration standard for personal protective equipment in a medical setting, according to Canada's Public Health Agency … These (N95) masks (or their Chinese equivalent, the KN95) are so named because they are tested to filter at least 95% of tiny particles (including the contagious respiratory droplets that spread the coronavirus)."
Canada isn't the only country dealing with faulty supplies. Last month, Holland recalled about 600,000 face masks (also from China) after hospital staff found they didn't fit properly, potentially exposing doctors and nurses to the virus.
Bad Pun of the Day: The grave of Karl Marx is just another Communist plot.
Tuesday April 28, 2020
Everything Is Becoming An SUV: Volkswagen may soon be offering a Tiguan-based GTI model.
VW "is testing a performance variant of the Tiguan (presumed to be the Europe-exclusive Tiguan R) at the Nürburgring, and the automaker has previously suggested expanding the GTI lineup to include more models. In the United States, that list is currently limited to the Golf, but other markets also have the Up! GTI and Polo GTI."
According to CarBuzz, the Tiguan is probably next, and it should come to North America. The outlet recently interviewed Hein Schafer, Senior VP for Product Marketing and Strategy, to ask if the un-fast crossover would receive the proper GTI treatment and come with a juicier motor. He replied, "I think were always looking at finding ways and means of finding more fuel-efficient engine options and, yes, with more horsepower. So I think the answer is 'yes'."
Name Game: For obvious reasons, Mini has changed the name of its alloy wheels from Corona Spoke to Power Spoke.
In the 1980s, Ayds diet candy, which had been around since 1937, went out of business because it was - unfairly - associated with people wasting away from a new disease called AIDS.
No Customers At The Rental Counter: Rental car giant Hertz is $17 billion in debt and has laid off 10,000 employees.
Critical Case: A tornado that "ripped apart the roof and interior of a BorgWarner factory in Seneca, South Carolina, and killed a security guard stationed outside on April 13 has left Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota and Ford Motor Co., wondering when operations will return to normal."
The plant produces transfer cases used in four-wheel drive vehicles including the Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra and Ford F-150, Super Duty trucks, Expedition, Explorer, Transit van, Lincoln Navigator and Lincoln Aviator.
Michelle Collins, spokeswoman at BorgWarner, said in a statement, "Currently, the time to resume operations, partially or in full, cannot be estimated and we have no further updates to provide at this time."
Where's The Plan, Guv? Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney rightly sounded off about Washington governor Jay Inslee.
"He has no plan. He has no details. This simply is not good enough in times when we have taken such drastic measures as the suspension of constitutional rights. … Are pot shops really essential or did he allow them to stay in business because of the government taxes received from them? That seems like a reasonable question. If pot shops are essential, then why aren't gun shops essential? Our Governor has told us that private building/construction must stop as it is not essential, but government construction is okay to continue. So let me get this right, according to the Governor if you are employed or contracted by the government to build government things you can still make a living for your family in spite of any health risk. If you are a construction worker in the private sector you cannot make a living and support your family because the health risk is too high. This contradiction is not okay and in my opinion is bordering on unethical."
Radio host Dori Monson covered Inslee's press conference last week and didn't think much of it, referring to it as a "temper tantrum."
Serves 'Em Right: As nations around the world struggle to deal with outbreaks of the Wuhan coronavirus, China is now experiencing the first phase of what could be considered social distancing on an international scale.
China has suffered its worst economic contraction since the 1970s, with a serious hit to its factory activity. Its economy shrank 6.8% from a year ago in the three months ending in March after factories, shops and travel were closed to contain the infection.
In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plans to involve Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co. in the nation's next-generation mobile network may fall prey to mounting opposition. Germany has sent China a $150 million itemized bill for "coronavirus damages."
Vietnamese officials say China is intentionally mislabeling its products as 'Made in Vietnam' to avoid American tariffs, and have ordered offices to more aggressively examine products' certificates of origin.
You can expect major corporations to reevaluate their supply chains and develop long-term plans to move away from China. There may soon be a global level of consumer avoidance of Chinese products not seen in the US since the disfavor of Japanese goods in the U.S. just after WWII.
'Made In China' is now the new dog whistle.
Prescient Advice … from one of the Hong Kong demonstrators several months ago: "Don't trust China. China is asshole."
OK For Me But Not For Thee: Ann Coulter wrote, "I notice that the same people telling Americans they must remain at home indefinitely were indignant about closing bathhouses in response to the AIDS epidemic. Back then, the media and all gays except Randy Shilts said: How dare you ask us to shut down the bathhouses! They're part of gay culture. It would be like asking Catholics to stop visiting the Sistine Chapel!
But putting the entire country under stay-at-home orders? No problem.
Another liberal about-face since the AIDS era gives me an idea for how to re-open the country. Liberals are furious with Trump for expressing optimism about the experimental drug hydroxychloroquine. When it came to AIDS, the gay community's successful campaign to compel the FDA to allow "compassionate" use of unapproved drugs was a civil rights milestone on the order of Selma."
Buncha two-faced bitches. No wonder Janus is their symbol.
Happy Birthday ... to my favorite aunt and godmother, Aunt Ceil, who would have turned 104 today.
Quote Of The Day is from Larry the Cable Guy: "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap."
Friday April 24, 2020
P.T. Barnum Said ... "There's a sucker born every minute." 2021 Cadillac Escalade prices start at $76,195.
The prices for rear-wheel-drive versions: "Luxury: $76,195, Premium Luxury: $82,995, Sport: $85,595, Premium Luxury Platinum: $99,995, Sport Luxury Platinum: $99,995. The 2021 Platinum models are $7,700 more than the 2020 Escalade Platinum. The price to add all-wheel drive hasn't changed, at $3,000."
Another Sign Of End Times: Smart plans to offer a crossover uitility vehicle in 2023. If there is a 2023.
Power will come from an electric drivetrain built around a 78-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. "The soft-roader will reportedly make its debut by the end of 2022, meaning it could go on sale in early 2023." It may not be offered in the United States, where the brand threw in the towel in 2019. It may "exclusively be available in markets like Europe and China, where small cars continue to sell relatively well."
Big Deal Closures: Pebble Beach has canceled its 2020 concours due to coronavirus concerns.
Due to "ongoing health concerns" related to the coronavirus pandemic, the organizers of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance have canceled the premier event on the automotive calendar for the first time in 60 years and only the second time in the event's history.
"Gooding and Co., the official auction house of the Pebble Beach concours, has announced that it has canceled its Pebble Beach auction, originally scheduled for August 14-15. Organizers of Legends of the Autobahn, the Monterey car week show focused on German carmakers, have also announced the cancellation of their 2020 show, originally scheduled for August 14. As of this writing, organizers of other shows and auctions that make up Monterey car week have not announced similar cancellations or changes of plan."
The Gathering At The Quail, another big part of Monterey Week, has also been canceled.
Imperfect Presidents: William Katz of Urgent Agenda wrote about the 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's death in April 1945. "For many young Americans, Roosevelt was the only president they'd ever known. Inaugurated March 4, 1933, he was in office for 12 years and a month before dying April 12, 1945, at his summer White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. … On the day of his death, Allied armed forces were on the brink of victory over Germany in Europe and Japan in the Pacific. Within four months, World War II would be over."
"I recall that day, as a little boy, sitting at our kitchen table in Brooklyn, watching my mother cook. The phone rang. It was her brother, telling her of Roosevelt's death. I distinctly recall my mother saying, "Al, I feel as if my fingers just fell off."
My father was on a passenger train. And here we see the other side of the story. He was too old for the military, but was involved in civilian defense work. He saw the door at the end of the car open, and a conductor appeared. The conductor asked for everyone's attention and announced that the president of the United States had died. My father told me that half the car burst into applause."
Fast forward to now: Donald Trump is a president despised by many, especially much of the press. "And you would think, from some of the reporting, that this is a new experience for the United States. It is not. FDR is often ranked as the third best president, behind Lincoln and Washington. But just as he was loved by millions, he was hated by other millions. Many of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy or Iwo Jima probably opposed their command-in-chief, and, if they were over 21, probably had voted against him. But they understood that the needs of their country came before their political preferences."
FDR was despised by Republicans because of his incompetent meddling with the economy, his socialist/collectivist policies and his attempts to pack the Supreme Court. Many believe that his policies greatly prolonged the Great Depression. Even his detractors credit him as a pretty good wartime president. Except for the negotiations at Yalta - and he was clearly a very sick man by then.
Katz concluded, "If you're looking for perfection, you'll never find it in a president. If you're looking for great leadership, it often comes with great defects. A sign of political maturity is realizing those things."
When Food Goes Bad:
2020 Is Not 1984 … It's 1976: "We know things are bad worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone'." ... Howard Beale, 'Network', 1976
Wuhan Virus Update: In Clark County, WA (as of Thursday evening 4/23), the number of positive tests - 321 (62 from long-term care facilities), number of deaths - 17. 185 cases are female; 128 are male. But males are dying at more than seven times the rate of females. More than 60% of deaths were people 80 and older. Of those 321 people who tested positive for coronavirus, 18 are in the hospital. Of those hospitalized, 4 are in intensive care.
Washington state has 12,753 cases and 711 cumulative deaths. This represents 1,748 cases per million population and 97 deaths/million - significantly lower than the U.S. average of 2,659 cases/MM and 141 deaths/MM. Washington is ranked 16th among states on a cases/million basis. More than half the cases are in the NYC metro area.
It should be noted that the CDC announced the first U.S. case of covid-19 in Snohomish County, WA on January 21st. On January 31, President Trump restricted entry into the U.S. from China, barring entry by most foreign nationals who had recently visited China and putting some American travelers under a quarantine as it declared a rare public health emergency. We began canceling social engagements around March 10th. On March 17th or thereabouts, some non-essential businesses were ordered closed; there was some initial confusion because the Washington State website was unclear about what was deemed non-essential. On Monday, March 23, Governor Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order (with exceptions).
Ramadan starts today. I hope Jay Inslee enforces the ban on gatherings at mosques as strongly as he has done with Christian churches in our state.
Fake As A Polyester Afro Wig: Fifty years ago - on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated. Prominent scientists made dire predictions, which turned out to be phony. Here is a selection:
Don't believe any 2020 Earth Day predictions either. And remember, the co-founder of Earth Day, hippie guru Ira Einhorn, murdered his girlfriend and stuffed her body in a trunk.
Wishing You A Soft And Salty Weekend: National Philly Soft Pretzel Day is Sunday April 26th.
Soft pretzels are a Philadelphia institution and pretzel carts were a familiar sight when I was growing up. In Philly, an estimated 300,000 soft pretzels are consumed daily ... (more >>>)
There Is Little Correlation Between Talent And Success. Why isn't MST3K still on the air? How come Frank Sinatra made six thousand times as much money as Jack Jones? Why is Pauly Shore still alive? Or Carrot Top? Or Kathy Griffin?
Why does James Lileks still have to work while Dave Barry can retire and spend his days clipping bond coupons while newspapers across America rerun his old stuff? And continue to send him money for the privilege of doing so. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Over the years I wonder how many people have been injured doing The Safety Dance, and were they injured by the dance itself or the irony?"
Wednesday April 22, 2020
Earth Day: (It's also known by its nickname 'Kwanzaa for White Liberals'.) I was going to celebrate Earth Day by taking a drive in my old '39 Plymouth. It is unrestrained by any pollution-control devices, and I was looking forward to driving along country roads, depleting the ozone layer which - in my opinion - has been getting waaay too thick.
Unfortunately, it was raining on Wednesday, so I went for a drive and celebrated Earth Day on Monday instead. The weather was gorgeous - a temperature of 63 degrees 1:30 pm, sunny blue skies with just a few puffy J&J cotton ball clouds. I had a nice drive and waved at another guy driving an old Ford Model A convertible in the other direction.
Yeah, I had a very good drive. It was great to add some gratuitous carbon footprint and burn some ethanol-free high test on Earth Day. Time to teach the Earth who's boss.
Remember what the late George Carlin said about this Bullshit Made-Up Holiday: "The planet will be here for a long, long, long time after we're gone, and it will heal itself; it will cleanse itself, because that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover; the earth will be renewed and, if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the Earth plus plastic!
The Earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the Earth. The Earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old philosophical question, "Why are we here?" "Plastic!""
On Earth Day, I am always reminded of Gilda Radner's Emily Latella character (on SNL) - who might have said: "What's all this I hear about 'greenhouse gas'? Can't people just hold it in until they go back outside? Oh. Never mind."
Meanwhile it was great to add some gratuitous carbon footprint and suck up some of that ozone layer on Earth Day. Take that, Gaia!
Dismal Vehicle Sales Expected: U.S. new car sales are now running at an even lower rate than were seen during the depths of the Great Recession though there is a small silver lining, as the downturn this month isn't quite as bad as many analysts had been forecasting.
Demand during the first two weeks of April was down about 55% compared to year-ago levels. While that might seem a pretty awful number, JD Power analysts had originally expected to see new vehicles sales this month fall a whopping 80% after the 39% slide in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Most industry analysts expect that automakers will wait to get a sense that the market is beginning to bounce back and then launch even heftier incentives than are now available. On average, givebacks averaged around $4,100 for all vehicles at the beginning of this year but could surge as high as $5,700 by the end of 2020."
Who Buys Car Parts From China? A graph shows purchases by country ... (more >>>)
Car-Centric Nation: Auto sales are now considered an essential service during the Wuhan pandemic, according to updated guidance from the Department of Homeland Security.
The new guidelines include "workers critical to the manufacturing, distribution, sales, rental, leasing, repair, and maintenance of vehicles and other transportation equipment, including electric vehicle charging stations, and the supply chains that enable these operations to facilitate continuity of travel-related operations for essential workers."
I'm Getting About Three Weeks To The Gallon: According to data from navigation service TomTom, recent Friday morning traffic in the City of Los Angeles ran barely half of what it would be in more normal times and, in recent days has been off by as much as 85%. The same is true for other major cities around the U.S., including New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
With lockdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic a major factor, American drivers are expected to not just drive less for all of 2020 but experience the biggest year-over-year decline in a full half-century, according to CCC Information Services.
Mass Transit Death Machines: Randal O'Toole observed, "As of 9:00 pm on April 15, 12,999 coronavirus deaths had been reported in the New York urban area (New York City, Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties NY, and Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Union counties, NJ). That's 45.5% of the nationwide total of 28,568. That's very close to the New York urban area's 44% share of nationwide transit ridership."
And: "Correlation doesn't prove causation, but increasing evidence indicates that, when the seriousness of the pandemic became clear enough to shut down restaurants and other "non-essential" businesses, transit should have been shut down as well. Instead of giving transit agencies a $25 billion bonus for spreading disease, efforts should have been made to find truly safe transportation for any "essential" workers who were dependent on transit."
Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics: Anyone watching the ever-shifting Wuhan coronavirus forecasts over the last couple of months has had a front-row seat to the follies of forecasting. Taking limited bits of data and trying to predict the future is fraught with peril. It gets worse if the data is flawed. Last week, New York City revised its death toll upwards, adding 3,700 people who died but had never tested positive for covid-19. Officials "said they were now including people who had never tested positive for the virus but were presumed to have died of it."
And yet, we are learning that NYC didn't really need the new Javits Center hospital nor the Navy's Comfort hospital ship because the projected bed needs were waaaay too high. It will be interesting to see what the final numbers for this virus turn out to be.
The same kind of flawed data and erroneous, alarmist projections has created the whole faux global warming crisis, too.
Inslee Protest: 2,500 or so people gathered at the Washington state capitol in Olympia last Sunday to protest Governor Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order, holding signs that read 'End The Shutdown' and 'Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Covid 19'.
Tyler Miller, one of the organizers of the event, had said "rural areas should be treated differently than more urban locations with more coronavirus cases." He also said Inslee's decisions on what constitutes essential businesses has been unfair and unconstitutional. Washington state Republican legislative leaders have released their plan for reopening Washington's economy. It specifies some lower-risk industries - such as residential construction, auto dealers and solo landscapers - that could reopen soon.
Restrictions should vary by county in Washington state - and other states, too. Rural areas do not have the problems nor cases that large metro areas such as Seattle have. You'd think the governor would acknowledge that fact.
The Coronavirus Must Be Over: I'm back to getting regular e-mail spam, including ads for tactical flashlights. When is someone going to invent a strategic flashlight to guide you through life's decisions, shining the light on opportunities and identifying pitfalls? That's what's really needed.
Book Review: 'Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created The Parkland Shooter and Endanger America's Students' by Andrew Pollack, Max Eden and Hunter Pollack (with contributions by many others)
In February 2018, Nicholas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, returned to the school entered and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. One of the dead was Meadow Pollack, a pretty and well-liked senior at the school. Meadow was shot four times and had attempted to avoid the shooter while struggling to get into a classroom. Teachers and students were not able to open the classroom door. As the shooter returned, Meadow covered another student in an attempt to protect her. She was then shot five more times, killing her and the freshman student she shielded. Sheriff's Deputy Scott Peterson, the only armed person on school property, cowered by a pillar outside the school while the gunman massacred those inside.
Cruz was ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Jeff Durbin: "If we hate God - and our culture largely does - we love death."
Monday April 20, 2020
Sensible Opinion: Jesse Bowers of Just A Car Guy offered some thoughts about the U.S. auto industry. Here's a paraphrase of what he wrote: Notice that many of the automakers are asking the government for a bailout of some sort - a stimulus package like cash for clunkers.
It must be "interesting to make $17 million a year like Ford's Jim Hackett, and not be able to come up with an intelligent plan to keep your company afloat. Or General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who makes $2 million a year."
Neither of these CEOs has a clue. They simply do not have even a plan for increasing sales when the economy is healthy.
Isn't it simple? Build an inexpensive car to sell for under $15k. Or develop successful desirable cool vehicles - Thunderbird, Mustang, Camaro, Charger, Model T, Model A, 240Z, Mini, MG, Miata, F100 or the air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle.
All were game changers.
Makes sense to me, Jesse. Count me in for any reasonably-priced car, especially if it has some chrome and, perhaps, tailfins as well.
Makin' Cars: Europe has generally been hit harder with the China coronavirus than the U.S. Per capita cases and per capita deaths are significantly higher than in America. Nevertheless, several car manufacturers are beginning to take their plants out of lockdown.
Renault has restarted a portion of operations in Portugal, and plans to resume part of its production in Romania on April 21, a spokeswoman said. Russian operations gradually began restarting today. Some 100 workers at Audi's Gyoer, Hungary site, one of the world's largest engine plants, restarted output on an assembly line in a single-shift system. A second line is set to follow at the end of this week. At Audi, Volkswagen's biggest profit contributor, vehicle production in Hungary could start toward the end of next week. Hyundai relaunched operations at a Czech plant last week, with two shifts instead of the usual three. Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Toyota and Peugeot are working out final details meant to preserve worker safety and restart operations. Some will restart this week.
E-Mail Received From Alaska Airlines Last Week: "On top of all the ongoing cleaning enhancements we've made to insure the ultimate safety of our guests and employees, we've also taken additional precautions to help you create extra space on board.
If you have to travel - now through May 31, 2020 - we are blocking off all middle seats on large aircraft and aisle seats on smaller aircraft."
Taxing Matters: Sixty-five years ago, if you were on the dole, you'd have to travel down to the unemployment office and stand in line to pick up your $26 check. Of course, you didn't really net 26 bucks; you had to pay to get to the office and back - 25¢ each way on the trolley car. So, your net unemployment income was, at best, $25.50.
Whenever I read about all the people who allegedly pay no taxes, I wonder how many are retired like me and have previously paid thousands of dollars for advice on how to navigate the angry seas of ever-shifting, illogical tax codes and minimize their personal taxes. And are now drawing income from Roth IRAs, on which taxes were paid in prior years. And pay every year to have their taxes done because the U.S. tax laws are so complicated.
If there were, say, no taxes or a simple flat tax, you wouldn't have to bear the cost of all this tax help. Paying for tax advice, planning or preparation is, in itself, a form of taxation.
Great Sum-Up/Send-up Of Celeb/Pols ... comes from Ammo Grrrll at Powerline: "One thing I know for absolute sure: the mental midgets and emotional spoiled brats - Nancy Pelosi, Cher, AOC, Rob Reiner, Nadler, Schiff, Acosta, Maddow - will not find a vaccine or produce a single working ventilator or deliver one roll of toilet paper to the grocery shelves or figure out if the anti-malarial drug cocktail will save lives. All they will do is carp, obstruct, snipe, delay and grandstand while the grownups, led by the indefatigable President Trump and his team, carry on. Pray for his success."
Meanwhile Nancy Pelosi sits in her gated mansion, eating $13/pint Jeni’s gourmet ice cream from her $24,000 Sub Zero fridge, while small businesses wait for promised funding, stalled by Ms. Botox and her Democrat cronies.
Dave Burge added, "My favorite part of this pandemic is people who live in population density of 25,000 per square mile scolding people who live in a population density of 25 per square mile." Incidentally, New York has about 28,000 people per square mile; Clark County, WA - where I live - has a population density of 732 per square mile.
Poor You: Brian Stelter, the bald, wussy CNN anchor tweeted like an 8th grade girl, "I crawled in bed and cried for our pre-pandemic lives. Tears that had been waiting a month to escape. I wanted to share because it feels freeing to do so. Now is not a time for faux-invincibility. Journos are living this, hating this, like everyone else."
One person commented, "Funny how all those bible clinging, gun toting deplorables are keeping this country functioning! I guess they decided not to stay in bed crying!"
Incompetent Governance: Governor Jay Inslee - a former ambulance-chaser from Yakima - has repeatedly slammed the federal government for not doing enough for Washington state. He said, "The fact is, we cannot get as much help as we would like from the federal government," even though the United States Army, under orders from the Trump administration, sent hundreds of soldiers to build a 250-bed hospital at the Century Link Field Events Center in South Seattle. That hospital has sat empty ever since. Not one patient.
In mid-March, Jay Inslee ordered all non-essential businesses closed. A week later, he issued a Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. Inslee extended the order through May 4th. So, we're still on lockdown in southwest Washington, even though the vast majority of Chinese flu cases are in the Seattle area. I bet the people in Spokane are pissed-off, too. Dennis Miller refered to the stay-home order as "wasting away In Mitigationville."
Inslee is returning 400 ventilators to the feds that were never needed. Did he thank the president, the task force or the federal government? Of course not. He's a Democrat political hack. And a very poor governor.
On the other hand, he's not as bad as Michigan's Nazi-Governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
Local Virus Update: As of Saturday, Clark County, WA had 277 coronavirus cases (49 from long-term care facilities), 19 are hospitalized, 9 are in the ICU, 16 have died so far. Washington state Wuhan virus cases per million population: 1,681 (USA: 2,309, New York State: 12,286). Washington is ranked 17th among states on a cases/million basis.
Battle Ground still has somewhere between 400-600 cases per million population - significantly lower than the Washington state average and similar to the state averages for Montana, Alaska and West Virginia. It's good to be rural.
Versatile And Talented Guy: Actor Brian Dennehy has died at age 81. He was a prolific actor appearing in every medium. He was often seen in television, most recently in 'The Blacklist' as Dominic Wilkinson. He made appearances on 'Lou Grant, 'MASH', 'Kojak', 'Dallas', 'Dynasty' 'Cagney and Lacey', 'Miami Vice', 'Rizzoli & Isles', 'The Good Wife' and many other shows.
Prior to pursuing acting, Dennehy worked as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch in the firm's Manhattan office in the mid -1970s. One of his co-workers was Martha Stewart. Dennehy won many Primetime Emmy Awards as well as two Tony Awards and a SAG award. RIP.
Two Different Retail Worlds: Highbrow Neiman Marcus and lowbrow JCPenney are reportedly going to declare bankruptcy this week. I've bought from both.
Quote Of The Day is from Jack Kemp: "There is a kind of victory in good work, no matter how humble."
Thursday April 16, 2020
Mass Transit - Petri Dishes On Wheels: Glenn Reynolds wrote, "So … looking at this map of infection density in the NYC metro area, I note that Manhattan looks considerably better than the surrounding area. I'm wondering if there's a correlation between long subway or bus rides and higher rates of infection."
Old Car Excursion: Spring is unpredictable weather-wise and I hadn't driven my 1939 Plymouth business coupe at all this week. Tuesday was gorgeous with a temperature of 63 degrees at 1:30 pm. Skies were bright blue with few clouds. So, I fired up my old coupe and went for a drive. Traffic was very light and, in some spots, I had the whole road to myself. I had the windows down to get some fresh air and listen to the rumble of the Glasspacks as I rolled along.
There were good views of snow-covered Mt. St. Helens and the Cascades. It was relaxing to see the spring blooms of trees and shrubs. All in all, it was a great Spring drive. I'm glad I went out when I did because it rained Tuesday night.
Springtime With Old Cars: At the brick-paved intersection of South 7th and East Monroe Streets in Springfield, Illinois, you'll find lots of old cars in this ...(more >>>)
More Wuhan Virus Side Effects: Ford Motor Co. told investors to expect a pretty unpleasant report at the end of April when it reveals quarterly earnings.
"As plants remain shuttered across North America and customers stay away from dealerships that may or may not be open, Ford says its expects an adjusted pre-tax loss of $600 million in the first quarter of 2020. Not included in that $600 million figure is $300 million in special items. The company also said it expects a 15.7-percent drop in revenue."
Back To Work: The consequences of indefinite lockdown are quite staggering, something like a million jobs lost per day. It's time to get America back to work. Late April or early May sounds about right to me, except in a high virus areas, such as the NYC metro area. Business can start preparing for opening a week or two earlier.
Restrictions should stay in place in high-risk locations (segmented by county or zip code) until local conditions improve. Seventy-somethings with preexisting medical infirmities may want to remain hermits until June, depending on where they reside. But, that should be their call; they know the risks. Besides, if various states are - paraphrasing 70-something Gerard van Der Luen - "letting felons out of prison so that they can spread their prison viruses and criminal behavior among us while at the same time checking the homeless into free and fancy hotels, then I need to bust out of this jail if only to stock up on some torches and pitchforks."
Let's open up in ways that maximize benefits while minimizing danger. Most manufacturers and wholesalers will have no problem with social distancing and more intense cleaning. Retailers may need to provide for people to spread out a bit.
We're not going back exactly to that normal life we remember. Even when restrictions are relaxed, many people will likely be reluctant to do things that seemed normal before - eating in restaurants with close seating, standing in long checkout lines at busy stores or attending mass events.
Opening up golf courses is a no-brainer, except that bar seating at the 19th hole may need to be spread out.
Speaking of seating, it turned out that Stuart Anderson's Black Angus Steakhouse chain had the right idea when, in the 1970s, it separated tables with floor-to-ceiling, bronze-tinted Plexiglas panels.
I think it will be slow going for movie theaters, arena sports and tourism at least for a year. Cruises on those mega-ships? Maybe never again. Most restaurants will probably return to normal within a couple of months. Gyms - I dunno. The crowded ones will have to do some separating, perhaps with clear acrylic divider panels between exercise machines. Airlines may have to stop selling those middle coach seats for a while. And reconfigure airplane ventilation systems to bleed in more fresh air like the good old days.
Speaking of ventilation systems, the idea of introducing larger amounts of fresh make-up air into HVAC systems is a good one, especially in office buildings and transit vehicles. I have a feeling that manufacturers will begin selling such conversion kits.
We need to rethink dense cities and mass transit, the two big building blocks of urban planners and commie dictators. Speaking of commies, we need to begin cutting China out of our supply chain. Let them go back to making cheap, nonessential stuff such as bamboo umbrellas for ladies' fruity cocktails.
As for the economy as a whole, who really knows? I'm guessing that the economy will have a rough second quarter, followed by an improving third quarter and great fourth quarter. Whether we experience a near-term recovery, and whether it's V-shaped or U-shaped or strong or weak, will depend on how soon and how rapidly the economy is allowed to re-open.
Let's start making America great again … real soon.
Faster Decoupling, Please: Bill Maher weighed in on China: "We can't afford the luxury anymore of nonjudginess towards a country with habits that kill millions of people everywhere because this isn't the first time. SARS came from China and the bird flu and the Hong Kong flu, the Asian flu. Viruses come from China just like shortstops come from the Dominican Republic. If they were selling nuclear suitcases at these wet markets, would we be so nonjudgmental?"
We Should Do This Too: Japan has earmarked $2.2 billion of its record economic stimulus package to help its manufacturers shift production out of China as the Wuhan coronavirus disrupts supply chains between the major trading partners.
The extra budget, compiled to try to offset the devastating effects of the pandemic, includes 220 billion yen ($2 billion) for companies shifting production back to Japan and 23.5 billion yen for those seeking to move production to other countries.
Book Review: 'Great Society: A New History' by Amity Shlaes
I have read and enjoyed Ms. Shlaes' previous books, 'The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression' and 'Coolidge'. Shlaes' latest book covers the idealism of 1960s and early 1970s. The Great Society is often thought of as the Lyndon Johnson presidential era, but it began with some of JFK's programs, such as the Peace Corps and continued under Richard M. Nixon as he tried to gain popularity with liberals.
Just as governments Best and Brightest couldn't fix the Vietnam quagmire, governmental efforts in curing poverty and racism were equally ineffective. For example ... (more >>>)
Everything Old Is New Again. Or Vice-Versa: A new study posited that volcanic activity likely changed the Earth's climate 200 million years ago.
I blame prehistoric SUVs, heavy-duty plastic bags for carrying rocks, a lack of recycling bins and, probably, plastic straws.
Joke Of The Day is from Henny Youngman:
Tuesday April 14, 2020
AAA Madness: Remember when the American Automobile Association restricted their external efforts to lobbying for better roads and selling car fire extinguishers? Seems the motoring club has truly lost its way.
Racing Legend: One of the true giants of racing's golden age, Sir Stirling Moss has died at the age of 90. Often referred to as the greatest driver never to win the world championship, Moss contested 66 Grands Prix from 1951 to 1961, driving for the likes of Vanwall, Maserati and Mercedes, where he famously formed a contented and ruthlessly effective partnership with lead driver Juan Manuel Fangio.
Moss was as gifted in sports cars as in Grand Prix cars. To his victories in the Tourist Trophy, the Sebring 12 Hours and the Mille Miglia he added three consecutive wins (19581960) in the 1000 km Nürburgring, the first two in an Aston Martin (in which he did most of the driving), and the third in a Birdcage Maserati, co-driving with the American Dan Gurney. The pair lost time when an oil hose blew off, but despite the wet-weather, they made up the time and took first place.
In 1957, Moss broke five International Class F records in the purpose-built MG EX181 at Bonneville Salt Flats. The streamlined, supercharged car's two-way average speed for the flying kilometer was 245.64 mph. In 1990, Moss was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. In 2006, he was awarded the FIA gold medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to motorsport. He once owned a Facel Vega. Monterey's 2016 Tour d'Elegance found Moss riding in a vintage 300SL roadster. What a guy!
Rest in Peace, Mr. Moss.
Pay No Attention To The Fool On The Hill - Dressed In White: Pope Francis has said the coronavirus pandemic is one of "nature's responses" to humans ignoring the current ecological crisis.
The pontiff said the outbreak offered an opportunity to slow down the rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world.
This statement begs the question: "Is the Pope Catholic?"
The Manchurian Media: "When is the American public going to realize that it's not China that the broadcast news divisions are protecting, but the globalist entertainment companies that own the news divisions, and which need Asian markets for maxxing out entertainment profits?"
NBC-Universal is on the verge of opening a huge theme park - Universal Studios Beijing - in China, so NBC News plays nice with the ChiComs.
The companies that own the major news networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS, do significant business in China. On the print side, top U.S. newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times have been criticized for running paid China Daily inserts. What they were paid for these inserts is still unknown.
It Was Fun To Watch: Monday's coronavirus press briefing was a real Trump de Force. Responding to Sunday's New York Times hit piece, President Trump played a video with clips from CNN and others showing how the media downplayed the coronavirus and how Democrat governors have praised him for working with them. The video essentially destroyed the mainstream media's narrative about Covid-19. CNN and MSNBC immediately cut away from the press conference because they didn't want their viewers to see what was really happening.
CNN in particular went berserk, running several derogatory chyrons beneath the president's on-camera appearance with captions such as 'Angry Trump Turns Briefing Into Propaganda Session', 'Trump Refuses To Acknowledge Mistakes', 'Trump Uses Task Force Briefing To Try And Rewrite History ON Coronavirus Response' and 'Trump- Melts Down In Angry Response To Reports He Ignored Virus Warnings'.
Fox Business' Charles Payne admired Trump's media takedown, remarking, "Well played. Well played, indeed."
The president knows that millions of Americans appreciate this in-your-face message to the media. They got sucker-punched and deserved it.
I continue to be appalled that so few of the reporters in the briefing room understand how to read graphs. This becomes obvious every time Dr. Deborah L. Birx shows one, even though she patiently explains precisely what they indicate - every time. I learned how to read, interpret and develop graphs in high school. And these 'reporters' are college graduates? What a pack of dummies.
Farewell: The Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground, WA is going out of business. A popular, top-rated BG retaurant by Yelp and other rating services, it will be missed. "When your cash flow drops by 85%, very few restaurants are going to survive that," owner Russell Brent said, referring to Mill Creek's drop in revenue after being forced to rely on to-go orders as a result of the quarantine. "When you're in a hole, the best thing to do is put down the shovel. There are so many reasons that this is the right time for us to close." The establishment opened in 2012 and has been a supporter of community activities and charities.
In related news, the July 4th fireworks at Fort Vancouver are canceled as well as the Spring sports season at all area schools. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed all recreational fishing statewide until further notice.
Local Virus Update: The good news is that, in many parts of the U.S., the coronavirus is past peak and is receding.
In Clark County, Washington, there are currently 15 deaths and 239 cases as of yesterday. 29 cases have come from residents and staff at long term care facilities in the county. Places mentioned by the county include Van Mall, Prestige Care and Rehabilitation in Camas, Bonaventure of Vancouver, Highgate Senior Living in Vancouver, ManorCare Health Services in Salmon Creek and Vancouver Specialty and Rehabilitative Care. Based on a posting on the county website, the largest source of cases were nursing homes, with Vancouver Specialty & Rehab of Vancouver, Washington having the largest number of coronavirus cases as of last week.
Battle Ground has somewhere between 400-600 cases per million population - significantly lower than the national average or Washington state average. As of 6:00 pm Pacific time on Monday, Washington state had 10,703 cases and 523 deaths (72/million population - close to the national average of 71) from the China coronavirus.
When discussing the Wuhan flu, it is useful to compare it with the 2009-10 H1N1 flu virus. From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths in the United States due to the (H1N1) flu virus.
An updated model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine has predicted the China coronavirus will kill 60,000 or more people in the United States through the first eight months of 2020, which is somewhat more than the 45,000 or so deaths we would expect from the seasonal flu. As of Monday evening, there have been 586,866 cases and 23,621 deaths in the U.S. from the Wuhan flu.
Meanwhile, quarantine has turned us into dogs. We roam the house all day looking for food. We are told "no" if we get too close to strangers. And we get really excited about car rides.
Blonde Joke: A blonde's dog went missing and she became inconsolable. Her friend suggested, "Why don't you put an advertisement in the paper?"
She did, but two weeks later the dog is still missing.
"What did you write in the ad?" the friend asked.
The blonde replied, "Here boy."
Simpson Wisdom: Lisa: "I'm studying for the math fair. If I win, I'll bring home a brand new protractor."
Homer: "Too bad we don't live on a farm."
Thought For Today: When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
Friday April 10, 2020
A Thought For Good Friday is from the late, great Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in a piece titled: 'The Seven Last Words':
"My favorite is the Second, 'This day you will be with Me in Paradise.' Archbishop Sheen relates a legend surrounding Joseph fleeing with the Holy Family into Egypt. Along the way they stop at an inn and Mary asks for a basin of water to bathe the Baby Jesus. The innkeeper's wife senses the identity of the Holy Infant and asks that her baby afflicted with leprosy could be bathed in the same water. Mary consents and the baby is healed.
He is Dismas, the thief hanging on the right side of Christ. [For an unknown reason], he sees a cross and adores a Throne, he sees a condemned man and invokes a King: 'Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.' In all that delirium of man's revolt against God, no voice was lifted in praise and recognition except the voice of a man condemned. It was a cry of faith in Him whom every one else had forsaken, and it was only the testimony of a thief. Christ turns to him and speaks, 'This day you will be with Me in Paradise.' No one before was ever given such a promise, not Moses or John not even Magdalen or Mary! (That is why Christ's head leans towards His right on crucifixes.)
It was the thief's last prayer, perhaps also his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything and found everything. Christ unlocked the keys of Paradise and won a soul. His escort into Heaven was a thief. May we not say that the thief died a thief, for he stole Paradise?"
Thursday April 9, 2020
Big Butch Grilles: The first American production car that I remember with a big, gaping grille was the 1957 Chrysler 300C. It's yawning, air-sucking proboscis differentiated it from other Chrysler models, such as the Windsor, Saratoga and New Yorker models.
These lesser Chryslers had less-powerful engines and were equipped with smaller conventional grilles. The 300C grille was inspired by stylist Virgil Exner's concept cars such as ... (more >>>)
Fresh Air & Sunshine: On Wednesday at 11:30 am, it was 57 degrees outside, the sun was shining and skies were blue with high clouds. I fired up my old 1939 Plymouth business coupe and went for a drive.
There was some traffic but mostly passenger cars. No school buses, because there's no school. No big dump trucks on narrow roads because Washington's Democrat governor has inexplicably halted all construction due to the Wuhan coronavirus.
I had a nice drive and got my quotient of fresh air by driving with the windows down. Mt. St. Helens is still covered with snow; the Cascades remain snow-capped.
All in all, it was a very pleasant old car back roads tour.
Nice Jag: At $280,500, silver-blue 1961 Jaguar E-Type roadster was among the top 10 sellers in RM Sotheby's recent online-only auction.
The company decided to switch from live to online just 10 days prior to the auction date in the face of rising concerns about coronavirus transmission. A silver 1996 Porsche 911 GT2, a pristine, unmodified example of only 194 road-going examples of the German supercar was the high seller, hitting $891,000.
Nobody's Buying: According to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, 93% of the auto production in the United States is now halted, and 80% across North America.
AutoNation, the largest new car dealer chain in the USA, has laid off 7,000 employees due to the virus pandemic, and other dealers are following suit. J.D. Power forecasts retail sales this month to decline by about 80% compared with April 2019.
Meanwhile, Fiat-Chrysler and Honda have announced tentative plans to resume U.S. production during the first week of May, though these dates will depend upon expectations that the coronavirus pandemic will be largely brought under control by then. Several other automakers, including Toyota and General Motors, said they were not ready to lay out plans to resume production.
Sixty-Five Years Ago: Recently, I rewatched a video titled: 'Philadelphia Trolleys - 1955'. It was 45 minutes worth of footage (transferred from 16 mm color film) shot in the period 1955-57 by a trolley car enthusiast. While I like trolley cars, I didn't really buy this video to watch the trolleys. I wanted to observe the street scenes of Philadelphia to see if the film matched my memories of growing up there in the 1950s.
The most interesting things about the video were the automobiles. First ... (more >>>)
Mass Transit Misery: Metro North, a commuter rail system which permits people to live in Southern Connecticut and commute to New York City on its Harlem, Hudson and New Haven lines, has seen a 94% drop in ridership. Everyone is working from home.
Eighty Years Ago ... the three-hole punch debuted in April, 1940.
Money Misery: The stock market had the most dismal first quarter of its 135 year history. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the quarter at 21,917.16 - a full 23% below its January start and 26% off the record high it set in February. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, was down 20% in the first three months and down 24% from the all-time high it set February 19th.
Health care funds are holding up better than the overall stock index. The Vanguard Health Care Fund declined 11% for the period.
Feeling bad? Well, it could be worse. Remember all those advisers who counseled 'having more international exposure'? Well, the Philippine Stock Exchanged closed on March 17th and hasn't reopened yet. No one knows when it will. And the Direxion Daily Latin America Bull 3X Shares mutual fund did a 20:1 reverse split and is down 90% YTD.
Meanwhile, the Vanguard Managed Payout Fund (VPGDX) has eliminated its monthly payout, effective May 21, 2020. The last scheduled payout is May 15, 2020. Kinda makes you wonder about the significance of the word 'Payout' in the fund's name, doesn't it? Made Vanguard wonder, too. The fund's name will soon change to Managed Allocation.
The Centaur Total Return Fund has now changed its name to DCM/INNOVA High Dividend Income Innovation Fund. The fund is down to $7 million in assets and trails 98% of its Morningstar peers YTD. Last but not least, having lost 63% of its value year-to-date (as of 3/27/20), the RMB Mendon Financial Long/Short Fund (RMBFX) will merge into the RMB Mendon Financial Services Fund in June.
Billy Joel Did This 31 Years Ago: Bob Dylan's success is a mystery to me. He is an ugly, pretentious man with an adenoidal frog's voice, singing trite lyrics unintelligibly. He has now written and sung a new 17-minute, free-associating poem/song/detrius, mixing pop-culture with history and with a particular focus on the Kennedy assassination.
Anyone remember 'We Didn't Start The Fire'?' ("JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say?")
Here's an excerpt from Dylan's …. ummmmm … maudlin performance ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Funny Man: Mel Brooks' by Patrick McGilligan
I really enjoy Mel Brooks - his comedy, his interviews and many of his movies. My buddy, Marty Hayes, had a reel-to-reel tape recorder. In high school and college, several of us used to gather in his parents' pine-paneled basement rec room and record our own skits, often based on Brooks' 'The 2000 Year-Old Man' (the record album came out in 1960) or Steve Allen's 'Man on the Street' television interviews. Occasional friends and dates were written into these skits as murmuring crowds or angry mobs. Great fun was had by all and our performances would have been much different without the inspiration of Mr. Brooks.
All of us watched early-1950s television shows including Sid Caesar's very funny 'Your Show Of Shows'. Mel Brooks was part of the show's writing team. In the mid-1960s, Brooks created ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day: Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?
Tuesday April 7, 2020
First Quarter Vehicle Sales: January and February were OK months for auto sales but sales fell off a cliff in March. "The BEA released their estimate of March vehicle sales this morning. The BEA estimated light vehicle sales of 11.37 million SAAR in March 2020 (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), down 32.1% from the revised February sales rate, and down 34.1% from March 2019."
As the situation remains quite fluid, some dealers remain open while others have shuttered their doors for now. Many have taken extraordinary steps, ranging from enhanced sanitizing protocols for their showrooms to the offer of home delivery and other concierge services to keep consumers safe. To stimulate sales during the virus outbreak, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will offer zero-percent, 84-month loans, and 90-day deferred payments on 2019 and 2020 vehicles.
For the quarter, Fiat Chrysler sales are down 10%, with Fiat plummeting 49%. Ford Motor Company quarterly sales declined 13%. The Ford brand dropped 13%, while Lincoln sales slipped 2%. General Motors sales fell 7% during the quarter. Chevrolet dropped 4%, GMC fell 6%, Cadillac declined by 16% and Buick sales plummeted by 35%.
Toyota sales declined 9% while Honda sales fell 19% during the quarter. VW sales dropped by 13%. Subaru sales fell 17%. Nissan sales decreased by 30%. Mini sales plummeted 35% in the first quarter. Kia sales actually increased by 1%. Sales of Hyundais fell 11%.
BMW sales declined 15%, Acura sales fell by 22%, Infiniti sales slipped 26% Tesla sales dropped by 5%, while Lexus sales fell 16%. Audi sales decreased 14% and Porsche sales plummeted 20%.
Rolls-Royce sales declined 14% to 276 Rollers in the first quarter. McLaren Cars slipped 5% to 630 supercars. Lamborghini sales plummeted 38% to 529 vehicles.
The second quarter will surely be worse. J.D. Power forecasts that April sales are now expected to be off by 80%.
At this point, even if the shelter-in-place orders start to be lifted in May, the impact on the automotive market is likely to stretch on, said Power's chief data officer, Thomas King. During a Wednesday afternoon briefing, King said, "We anticipate demand for vehicles in the second half of the year will be depressed by 10 to 30% so demand will not be restored to pre-virus levels until at least next year."
Would You Go? Not me. The Beijing International Automotive Exhibition has been rescheduled for late September 2020. The Chinese have already done enough damage this year. I'm doing my best to avoid anything with Made In China on it.
Rising From The
An article in Hemmings tracks the progress to date.
Young And Poor: According to stats published in Hagerty magazine, back in the 1960s, buyers between 18 and 30 accounted for more than 25% of new-car purchases.
Now they represent fewer than 10%. Young adults aren't buying new cars. They can't afford them, as few are under $20,000.
In the past 55 years, the average wage has increased seven-fold, while the cost of a new, entry-level automobile has increased ten-fold. A new Corvette costs about 15 times what it did in 1965.
These days, the average age of new car buyers is 50. No wonder.
Mass Germ-Spreaders: Randall O'Toole wrote, "Transit agencies are now demanding that Congress give them at least $25 billion so they can continue infecting people with COVID-19. Restaurants, bars, shopping malls, amusement parks, and barber shops are all supposed to shut down, but let's keep transit running even though one study has found that "mass transportation systems offer an effective way of accelerating the spread of infectious diseases within communities.""
"New York has about 28,000 people per square mile while Los Angeles is still pretty dense at 8,000 per square mile (most of the nation's 50 largest cities are under 4,000). But New York is also unique in having the highest amount of transit usage - 224 annual trips per capita compared with just 44 in Los Angeles and 36 among the nation's urbanites as a whole. Density plus transit - the smart-growth prescription - is also the prescription for high infections in a pandemic."
Clark County, WA - where I live - has a population density of 732 per square mile.
Last month, I wrote about the benefits of fresh air. My theory - an it's no crazier than any of the many jumbo-laced mumbo floating around cyberspace - is that fresh air is the key to avoiding the coronavirus. I have yet to read anything about people dying in the many homeless encampments around the country.
Based on what we've been told, there should be: these urban flotsam live in dreadful squalor, have questionable personal cleanliness habits and many have immune system-compromising, untreated medical conditions. Yet there seems to be no epidemic in the various quotidian Trampvilles throughout the land. My theory is that the homeless spend a lot of time outside and get plenty of fresh air. They're not exposed to sophisticated HVAC systems which recirculate old air - and germs - in the name of energy efficiency. So … I'm doing what I can to get some fresh outside air every day.
My mom was a believer in the health benefits of fresh air. I remember her throwing open windows with alacrity in January to get fresh, freezing air into various rooms of our house. Sixty years later, I'm following her advice.
Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Last Friday, I took my wife shopping because her car's battery was dead. Traffic was light, Fred Meyer store was less busy than on Fridays BC (Before Coronavirus). About half of the shoppers were wearing masks. We were as well, because Battle Ground has been declared a "hot spot" for coronavirus (16+ cases in a town of 20,500 - when we moved to BG in 1989, there were less than 3,000 people here), compared with the rest of Clark County, WA.
The numbers may be high because there are four fairly large nursing homes in Battle Ground, WA.
Remember back in the 1960s, when Hot Spots were trendy night clubs? In New York, places like the Copacabana, Peppermint Lounge (home of the 'Peppermint Twist') or the Latin Quarter were popular hot spots. In the Philadelphia area, the Latin Casino, Palumbo's, The Bird Cage, Hawaiian Cottage were places in which to be seen. In Chicago, there was the famous Pump Room in the Ambassador Hotel as well as other Second City hot spots.
Back to shopping - there were lots of Plexiglas partitions at various stores (checkout, returns, banking, etc.); it would be a good time to be in the acrylic fabrication business.
I stopped at the local Ace Hardware store which also had acrylic partitions at the checkout counters. They also wiped down the credit card reader after each customer transaction. The car wash where I usually take our cars was closed - non-essential business. If I were a car wash owner, I think I'd put in a farm stand so my business could be declared an essential grocery store: "Free bushel of corn with each purchase of The Boss Superwash ticket book."
Later, I telephoned AAA to get a jump start and was told to maintain a six-foot distance between us and the battery guy when he arrived. After getting the jump, we drove to Les Schwab to replace the seven year-old Les Schwab battery. (It came with a seven-year guarantee which expired in January.) This usually busy-Friday tire store had only one other customer in the large waiting room. We didn't wait; I drove us home and came back later to pick up our rebatteried Toyota Avalon.
We were behind an industrial blue Nissan Cube part of the way. These are odd little cars; they were imported to America from 2009 to 2014. The Cube's styling has not aged well. It is a bit unnerving to realize that, in 2050 or so, these will probably be sought-after collector cars, much like Nash Metropolitans are today.
Throughout our travels, traffic was light; people are staying in. One-third to one-half of shoppers were wearing masks. We were masked while in stores. We are living in strange times but it was good to get out and about.
Do You Remember? I remember a man who said:
Now I know all the reasons why President Trump said those things. And, at election time, I'll never forget those who got in his way. Will you? (hat tip: Dan Cirucci)
China Calling: The People's Republic of Zhongguo says "We are completely cured of coronavirus. Everything is fine here. No, you cannot come in to check." Then there's the report that Wuhan has ordered a ton of cremation urns, far more than the number of reported deaths.
And Chinese don't believe the China BS either: "Skepticism of China remains healthy. Yesterday there was an 8-plus hour escalating protest by Hubei citizens and Hubei police against neighboring Jinxiang province police. Why? Because officially the Wuhan quarantine is over, but the Jinxiang police don't believe it should be and still won't allow Hubei citizens to cross the bridge to their province."
Quote Of The Day is from Don Surber: "Morally Bankrupt people are the first to cry 'Morally Bankrupt'. And if Hitler came back, he would call his opponents 'Hitler'."
Friday April 3, 2020
When Oldsmobiles Were Rocketing: John Crisconi's Oldsmobile dealership was located at 1155 S. Broad Street in Philadelphia when ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Cranswick On Porsche: A Modern Interpretation of the Porsche Story' by Marc Cranswick
Car enthusiasts generally have universally positive impressions of iconic vehicles such as old Jeeps, Corvettes that are 50+ years old, vintage Jaguars, pagoda-roofed Benz SLs and the like. Most will agree that Porsche is an iconic brand but reactions to the marque vary from adoration, to indifference, to outright dislike.
Most books written about Porsche are fawning billet doux. Marc Cranswick has penned a Porsche history that doesn't hide the flaws, while still giving the brand its proper due. He acknowledges that early Porsches - up to and including the early 356 models - had a lot of Volkswagen DNA in them yet they cost 2-3 times as much as a Beetle. I still think of the early models as glorified, squashed VWs.
On the other hand, the 911 was a beautiful ... (more >>>)
RIP, Playboy: The pseudo-intellectual nudie magazine, founded by Hugh Hefner in 1953, will "no longer publish a printed edition, citing coronavirus supply chain woes that have only served to exacerbate its already sagging newsstand sales." I've never seen 'Playboy' and 'sagging' in the same sentence before.
"The iconic magazine was already on the decline prior to the coronavirus pandemic as porn has proliferated online. It was still being published monthly as recently as 2017, but was scaled back to a quarterly mag without ads in early 2019. The spring 2020 now hitting newsstands will be its last."
"A nude Marilyn Monroe was featured in the very first issue of Playboy, which Hefner famously did not date when it debuted in 1953 because he said he was unsure he'd have the money to produce a second issue. At its height, it sold over 7 million copies a month on newsstands."
My introduction to Playboy was ... (more >>>)
Tweet Of The Week is from Chiz: "Donald Trump donated his salary to fight the virus, Nancy Pelosi asked for a raise. This is all you really need to know."
Thought For Today is from Tom McMahon: "Atheists believe that when the cassette is wrecked, the song itself dies."
Thursday April 2, 2020
New Toyotas Coming: There's a new Sienna minivan scheduled to arrive this fall as well as "an 'All-New Crossover'. According to some sources, this may bring back the Venza badge that hasn't been on the market since 2015." Also scheduled for summer 2021, is a new version of the little 86 sports car.
"It will be followed in Q3 2021 by yet another "All-New CUV." We're expecting that model will come out of the new Alabama assembly plant Toyota is erecting as part of a partnership with Mazda. And it would seem likely that the smaller Japanese automaker will get a version of that crossover, as well. According to sources, the new CUV will be Corolla-based."
The fourth quarter will bring a remake of the Toyota Tundra pickup truck.
Collateral Virus Speed Record Damage: After failing to reach a fundraising target of $10.25 million, Bloodhound LSR owner Ian Warhurst has once again shelved the land speed record program for 2021.
Ian wrote, "Discussions with a number of global brands were looking promising when covid-19 struck and the sponsorship industry literally shutdown. This means our ability to raise the necessary funds in time and consequently the window to conduct the LSR campaign safely in 2021 is now very likely to be missed."
Dismal Vehicle Sales Projections: Wards Intelligence Senior Industry Analyst Haig Stoddard predicted the nosedive in March only will worsen in April and May.
"Wards Intelligence is pegging March light-vehicle sales to total an 11.9 million-unit seasonally adjusted annual rate, lowest for any month since 11.6 million in June 2011," Stoddard wrote. "A pre-virus outlook for March would have been at or near the combined January-February SAAR of 16.9 million units … The betting is that virus-impacted job losses, social distancing and general loss of confidence will knock down sales in April and May to, in industry vernacular, single-digit SAARs below 10.0 million units."
"The last time SAAR plunged into single digits was the 9.3 million recorded in September 2009, the dark days of a recession that plunged General Motors and Chrysler Group into bankruptcy."
Wards Intelligence partner LMC Automotive has ratcheted down its U.S. vehicle sales forecast for 2020 from a pre-virus 16.6 million units to 14.2 million.
Coronavirus Auto Roundup: Ford Motor Co. has again indefinitely delayed the start-up of its North American manufacturing network due to the worsening pandemic.
The one exception will be for production of the ventilators needed to assist some of the most seriously ill victims of the coronavirus. Ford plans to launch production of the devices at the Rawsonville component plant in suburban Detroit starting April 20.
The 2020 Paris Motor Show, usually held in early October has been canceled.
The Dangers Of Extrapolation: The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation produced data indicating that the U.S. death rate for covid-19 will peak on or about April 13th, at 2,341 deaths/day. They project that total deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. to be only 81,114, with not many additional deaths after around mid-May.
I hope IHME is right. At the moment, the death rate is still headed on a straight line upward even when plotted on a semi-log scale. On the other hand, it has to peak and decline, otherwise we're all dead - an unlikely scenario.
Scott Grannis recently wrote that there is a "growing realization that the covid-19 virus is not nearly as deadly as the early projections suggested. That, and the rapidly growing list of therapeutics - led by chloroquine - and the accelerated development of vaccines and the fact that covid-19 test kits are on the verge of being distributed by the millions. The private sector really is coming to the rescue, and the media hype is being eroded by the reality on the ground."
These are the most up-to-date stats I have:
Saintly Advice: During these difficult times, here are some words from St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622):
The Masque Of The Red Death: After the 2009 H1N1 epidemic, the Obama administration - despite warnings - never bothered to replenish stockpiles of N95 masks.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "People! It takes all kinds to make a world. I just wish sometimes they'd go off and make one of their own."
Wednesday April 1, 2020
The Sad Tale Of The Chuffley-Waite: I first wrote this fictitious story as a contribution to a car club's April newsletter in 1989. It begins thusly:
Quote Of The Day is from Groucho Marx: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies."
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