A Blog About Cars ... And More
Thursday December 8, 2016
Chinese Junk: Dan Neil reviewed the 2017 Buick LaCrosse and reported that the GM "still makes a Buick vaguely like the one you remember, and they call it the LaCrosse: a full-size, front-wheel-drive sedan with a rear bench seat (sorry, no front bench) and four large doors surrounding 103 cubic feet of living space. Daddy's home.
I'd only provide that this dead-quiet, soft-riding Buick - so redolent of vintage flavors as to be an heirloom tomato - is radically different from past efforts in the critical area of mass (3,598 pounds FWD and 3,840 pounds AWD). The new LaCrosse is one of Cleopatra's new lightweight barges." Unlike Cleo's conveyance, the Buick has some odd accent lines on rear flanks and elsewhere making it look like an older Bangleized BMW - and not in a good way.
He also noted this: "The stop/start function can't be switched off, or defeated, which older drivers enjoy about as much as increased bladder urges." He's right. Man, I hate driving those stop/start vehicles. But, this sedan isn't designed for me ... or you. "In 2015, the Buick Division sold 1.28 million vehicles world-wide. Eighty percent of those sales were in China - 80%! - while U.S. and Canada took 19%." Each LaCrosse comes equipped with "small tragedies of hard plastic in the cabin and a driving experience as memorable as a nightcap of Propofol, the LaCrosse hits every Buick cliché like a countersunk nail in a coffin lid." And there's "hard grained plastic below the cabin waterline, or the cringe-y simulated wood trim, and the rubber cover over the steering-wheel air bag."
The photo of the La Crosse's interior certainly doesn't look impressive in a near-luxury sense. All this drowsy dreck can be yours for a price tag north of $48,000. Ouch! And that doesn't include options such as all-wheel-drive, 20-inch painted aluminum wheels or adaptive front suspension.
No, thanks. And, if the Chinese are buying such cars, maybe they aren't as smart as we thought.
Slow Going: Scott Grannis has posted a graph showing the growth of the Gross Domestic Product over the past 50 years.
He wrote, "The chart above illustrates just how miserable economic growth has been in the current recovery. Instead of averaging just over 3% growth per year, as it did from 1965 though 2007, the economy has only managed a 2.1% annualized pace for the past seven and a quarter years. The gap between where we are and where we might have been had this been a normal recovery is a bit more than $3 trillion, by my calculations. That's huge, and that's the measure of our discontent."
The last time that the GDP fell behind was at the end of the Jimmy Carter years. I remember that era well. Business conditions were ... (more >>>)
Ghetto Grape Soda: Soft drinks were the top commodity bought by food stamp recipients shopping at outlets run by one major U.S. grocery retailer, according to a new study released by the Food and Nutrition Service. That's the federal agency responsible for running the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the food stamp program.
By contrast, milk was the top commodity bought from the same retailer by customers not on food stamps.
"In calendar year 2011, according to the study, food stamp recipients spent approximately $357,700,000 buying soft drinks from an enterprise the study reveals only as 'a leading U.S. grocery retailer'."
That was more than they spent on any other "food" commodity - including .... (more >>>)
Over-Expansion: Starbucks announced plans to build 12,000 new locations yesterday. I am reminded of the old headline from The Onion: 'New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks'.
A Holy Day Celebrating A Blessed Event: Today, Catholics throughout the world celebrate The Immaculate Conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived free from original sin by virtue of the foreseen merits of her son, Jesus.
Although the belief ... (more >>>)
Quote of the Day is from Victor Borge: "Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year."
Tuesday December 6, 2016
November Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 17.75 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in November, down about 2% from November 2015, and down 1% from the 17.9 million annual sales rate last month. Air is beginning to leak from the balloon.
The weakest portion always deflates first and year-over-year sales plunged 14% at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to 160,827 units. The stalwart Jeep brand posted a sales drop of 12% as the Jeep Cherokee showed a sales decline of 37%, the Compass fell 24%, Grand Cherokee sales fell 2% and Patriot sales tumbled 14%.
Sales of the company's Chrysler brand plummeted 47% as sales of the now-discontinued Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan fell 72%. Sales of the full-sized Chrysler 300 tumbled 45% to 2,566 units. The all-new Pacifica minivan posted November sales of 8,753. Fiat sales fell 15% to 2,415 units, while Alfa Romeo sold only 23 cars in November. Dodge sales were down 21%. Ram pickup sales increased 12% to 42,511 trucks.
General Motors Co. posted U.S. sales of 252,644 vehicles, an increase of 10% compared with November 2015. Cadillac sales totaled 15,326 units, up 15%. Buick sales increased 16% to 18,530 vehicles, including the made-in-China Enclave. Total Chevrolet deliveries in November increased by 8% to 169,675 units. The GMC brand was up by 15%. It should be noted that The General dove deeply into incentives to move metal in November. GM's fleet sales were up 19% - another troubling indicator. And yet inventory levels are still at an unhealthy 90 days.
Ford Motor Co. sales rose 5% year over year, pushing year-to-date unit sales to 2.37 million. Numbers were helped SUVs (up 19%), F-Series pickup trucks (up 11% to 72,089 trucks), and the Lincoln brand (up 19% to 9,429 vehicles). The sedan segment of Lincoln skyrocketed 42% on sales of the all-new Lincoln Continental.
Toyota posted big gains with the Highlander, Corolla, Tacoma and Tundra. Prius sales were down 17%. Nissan reported more than 100,000 Nissan brand sales for the tenth consecutive month; total Nissan/Infiniti sales were up 7.5%. Subaru sales increased 11%, while Mazda sales were off 3% to 22,041 vehicles. Kia sales increased 15%; Hyundai sales rose 2%.
American Honda was up 7% in sales. The Honda brand increased 8%, while Acura sales fell 5% to 11,616 vehicles.
In the luxury/near-luxury field, Audi sales increased 3% to 17,118 units. Lexus sales were off 1% to 29,050 vehicles; only 440 LS sedans were sold in November - a drop of 18% from last year. Mercedes-Benz sold 32,927 vehicles, almost unchanged from a year ago. BMW sales fell 18% to 26,189 units. Infiniti sales increased 4% to 12,112 units. Maserati sold 1,380 vehicles, a jump of 27%. 387 Bentleys found buyers in November, up a whopping 106%. And Jaguar's growth was almost off the charts - up an incredible 217% to 3,381 vehicles.
Commie Car Woes: The Russian-made jeep carrying the ashes of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro broke down in the middle of his funeral procession, forcing soldiers to push the vehicle until it could be repaired. This is certainly sa metaphor for the broken society Castro created.
Speaking from the White House, President Obama blamed FoxNews for the incident.
"A Date Which Will Live In Infamy ..." 75 years ago tomorrow - on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. This event galvanized our nation and made us officially part of the Second World War, even though we had already been involved in assisting England - and other nations - against the Nazis.
On this somber anniversary, let us give thanks to all who serve or have served.
Family legend has it that my dad and a couple of his brothers hitchhiked down to a recruiting office the following day and put their names on the enlistment roll. My dad chose the Navy but wasn't called to active duty until 1944. Probable reasons were not enough ships available plus his critical worker status as an experienced freight railroader.
His supply ship ... (more >>>)
Who Knew? James Lileks has noted that Studebaker Weasels helped win World War II.
Book Review: 'Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness' by Craig Nelson
This 500-plus page book spends much time dealing with the horror and gruesome aspects of the Pearl Harbor attack. The personal accounts of horror, suffering and bravery bring the book to life. Sometimes too much life - I eventually began skipping over some of the stories because they were repetitious and painful to read.
Much of the book is dedicated to the attack itself ... (more >>>)
A Death In The Family: My daughter's dog, Lucy, who was a regular visitor to our home, died on December 2nd at age 15. We toasted Lucy the Dog during Saturday's dinner with a bottle of 2011 Chateaneuf-du-Pape. We dined on pasta and meatballs, one of Lucy's favorite People Foods. And had chocolate cake with whipped cream topping. The dog's ears used to go up whenever she heard the can being shaken; Lucy loved the taste of whipped cream. My daughter, her husband, my wife and I traded various dog stories over dinner; it was a canine version of an Irish wake, although Irish wakes don't usually feature Italian food. Godspeed, Lucy.
Lucy was always interested in watching the trains operate on my O-gauge layout. Here she is with me on Thanksgiving Day:
Business Closure: Van Duyn Chocolates, a Portland tradition since 1927, has closed its doors for good, due to the untimely death of its owner and president.
In the 1980s, my plastics company manufactured custom acrylic candy displays for Van Duyn.
I Hereby Declare ... that the Christmas Season has begun. I installed a Christmas CD in my car on Sunday morning. On Monday, it snowed. Coincidence ... or what?
Bad Pun of the Day: Sign at a nudist camp: 'Sorry - Clothed for Winter'.
Friday December 2, 2016
Closeout Sale? FCA is cutting Fiat sticker prices for 2017 by 20% and even more (some models will be cut by a whopping $5,000). Peter De Lorenzo quipped, "If you've ever wondered what the white flag of futility looks like in this business, well, this is it." Sales of the Fiat 500X, a Fiat-shaped SUV created by draping an oversized, cartoonish 500 body over a Jeep Renegade platform, are especially dismal:
The resurrection of the Fiat brand in the U.S. never took hold. Alfa Romeo may ultimately share the same fate.
No fan of Sergio Marchionne, De Lorenzo wrote, "As for Fiat dealers, they are being forced pretty much at gunpoint to move 2016 Fiat models out of their showrooms to make way for the newly priced 2017 models. Good luck with that, and by the way, just how much more condescension and humiliation can these dealers endure? We are talking about a group of businesspeople who have been bamboozled by Sergio Marchionne from the moment he first bombarded them with visions of endless riches and glory, with none of it turning out to be true."
De Lorenzo concluded, "I am certain of one thing: We are watching an automotive disaster of significant proportion unfolding right before our eyes, in real time. You can stick a fork in Fiat, it is finished in the U.S. market."
In Italy, Fiat's primary market, one sees lots of 'foreign' cars, including Asian vehicles but few Fiats. Maybe the white flag of surrender is a worldwide one for Fiat.
In related Fiat disaster news, Lapo Elkann, 39, the bad-boy grandson of Fiat founder Gianni Agnelli, was busted for allegedly faking his own kidnapping following a two-day bender with a transgender escort at a Manhattan housing project last week. He ran up a hefty tab while partying on cocaine, pot and alcohol supplied by the escort - and tried to pay it off by calling a family rep and claiming he'd been kidnapped.
"Elkann - who barely survived a 2005 cocaine-and-heroin overdose that involved a transsexual prostitute in Italy - allegedly said he needed $10,000 in cash to secure his freedom from the housing project across from Bellevue Hospital."
No Longer 'Standard': Manual transmissions are fitted to less than 3% of cars in the U.S.
"Edmunds says that 47% of all new models sold in the U.S were offered with both automatic and manual transmissions in 2006. That number dropped to 37% in 2011 and is only 27% today."
We sold our last manual transmission car - a '67 Volkswagen Beetle - in 1995. Nevertheless, in case of an emergency, both of my children know how to drive a stick-shift. My grandson doesn't.
Ray Update: In mid-July 2015, my good friend and car buddy, Ray Lukas, whom I've known for over 57 years, fell while in his garage, breaking his right arm and left leg. He suffered numerous complications from multiple surgeries and has had limited mobility until recently.
I'm pleased to report that, Ray now is getting around with a single cane and hopes to be driving his freshly-restored, yellow 1988 Corvette when the North Central Pennsylvania weather improves next Spring. Each of Ray's five cars and trucks have automatic transmissions, so the fact that he has a stiff left foot will not inhibit his driving ability.
In early 2002, Ray and I embarked on an eight-day, all-car/all-rail extravaganza, visiting every car, train, trolley and model train attraction in Southern California. Here's a photo of Ray I took in June 2011:
You're Fired: In response to the Fight For Fifteen crowd, who demonstrated for a $15 minimum wage, "McDonald's has announced plans to roll out automated kiosks and mobile pay options at all of its U.S. locations, raising questions about the future of its 1.5 million employees in the country and around the globe."
The locations that are seeing the first automated kiosks closely correlate with the fight for a $15 minimum wage (Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.).
Back in the mid-1980s, my plastics manufacturing business purchased a Tennant self-propelled floor sweeper to replace daily manual clean-up by all employees at the end of each shift. Based on labor savings alone, the machine paid for itself in two months. At the time, our firm was growing rapidly so no one was laid off. But the idea that machines can reduce the need for more employees was imprinted in my mind.
Business owners aren't stupid. If something begins to cost too much, they'll seek out alternatives. For McDonald's, it's automation. Bye-bye, jobs. Once again, the law of unintended progressive consequences kicks in.
This is what happens when you let liberal politicians who have never run a business or made a profit call the shots. It's is how socialism begins ... and eventually fails.
Commies For Christ? In a recent interview, Pope Francis equated Christianity with Communism when asked about his views on Marxist ideology. "It is the communists, in all cases, that think like Christians. Christ has spoken of a society where the poor, the weak and the excluded are those who make the decisions. Not the demagogues, or the barbarians, but rather the people and the poor that have faith in God or not that we have to help obtain equality and liberty."
Jeeez. This guy is wearing out his welcome. We need a MCCA leader: Make Catholicism Catholic Again. Embroidered red caps, anyone?
Holiday Fact: The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
| last month |