A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Thursday September 3, 2015
August Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 17.72 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in August - up 3% from August 2014 and up 1.3% from last month. It appears 2015 will be the best year for light vehicle sales since 2001.
Ford Motor Co. saw a sales increase of almost 6%, Hyundai-Kia rose 5%, Chrysler was up almost 2% while General Motors dropped almost 1% in sales, Toyota Motor was down 8%, American Honda was off 7%, Nissan was down 1% and the Volkswagen Group saw a decrease of just over 1%.
Gas-sipping cars were out: Sales of the little Chevy Sonic were down 63%, the Fiat 500 was off 38% and Ford Focus sales dropped 26%. On the other hand, Mustang sales leaped 70%, the Dodge Challenger saw a 25% rise and sales of the gas-sucking Chevrolet Silverado increased 11%.
Brand losers included Scion (-37%), Dodge (-15%), Chrysler (-14%), Toyota (-10%) and Volkswagen (-8%). Brand winners included the once-left-for-dead Mitsubishi (+22%), Volvo (+18%), Jeep (+18%), Land Rover (+16%) and Infiniti (+16%).
Sales of the ancient Dodge Caravan dropped 18% in August and are down 42% for the year. Is the death knoll tolling for the Dodge brand?
1,457 Bentleys found new homes in August as did 6,261 Maseratis. The must have been bought by hedge fund short sellers.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: "For the third consecutive year, customer satisfaction with new cars has fallen off. The average score for all vehicles has dropped to its lowest level since 2004. The drop has been attributed to the record number of manufacturer recalls, which rose 40% to nearly 64 million vehicles, and to rising prices for new cars." I would also include the increasing use of technology and electronic gizmos in new vehicles
These data were reported in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which covered 27 automobile nameplates in its 2015 report. The overall average dropped from 82 last year to 79 this year, a decline of 3.7% in customer satisfaction.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles took the lowest three spots in the rankings. The company's Fiat brand scored 73 out of 100 possible points to post the lowest ranking, with the Chrysler nameplate scoring a 74 and the Jeep brand scoring 75. A year ago the Jeep brand scored 79 and the Chrysler brand scored 81. Are you surprised?
The highest rated brand was Lexus with a score of 84, followed by the Acura, Lincoln and Mercedes-Benz, which all scored 83. Acura improved its score by 8%, rising from 77 a year ago.
Don't Forget That Mt. Rockmore Still Belongs To The Flintstones: The GMC Denali SUV is a metaphor for everything that's gone wrong with America today, wrote Jack Baruth - brilliantly, I think.
"The Denali, therefore, was acceptable, even desirable, "one-downmanship" from the S-Class or Siebener in your neighbors' garages. It was "professional grade," and it could easily be used for an expedition that your ninety-hour work-week at Goldman Sachs or Intel would never permit. Once the truly wealthy bought in to the Denali ideal, the upper middle class dutifully lined up behind them. What it means when suburban attorneys shoulder a $1,700-per-month car payment they can ill afford, all in the service of pretending to be Boston Brahmin in their slummin' truck, is an exercise I leave up to the reader."
Did the Professional Grade make all the Chevy trucks made off the same platform some kind of Amateur Grade? Or Sucker's Grade?
"That's what Denali is: the territory ahead that we will never reach. Instead, we'll stay at the office for another evening of forcible civilization and Starbucks. It's all the better for being essentially useless and inhospitable, because that helps it remain just an idea and not a place you'd use your NetJets share to visit on a long weekend.
And that's what America has become in 2015. You live in offices and put the names of things you'll never understand on the side of trucks you don't need, can't afford, and can't even change the oil on yourself. Our president is so helpless in the face of the economy and the multinationals and the media that he resorts to apologizing to people he's never harmed in hopes that someone will grant him absolution for crimes he didn't commit."
Every time I see Obama on one of his Grand Excursions, the song 'Let's Hear It For The Rainbow Tour' from 'Evita' runs through my head. This time, he decided to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali. Because ... I dunno .. Eskimos or something. He also looked at a receding glacier and shook his head. Global warming. Hey, it's summer - glaciers recede in summer, dummy.
Jack lamented that ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs' by Michelle Malkin
This is a 'bookend' tome. Author Malkin begins her book with a screed against Barack Obama and his anti-capitalist buddies with a prominent mention of his famous 2012 'you didn't built that' remark - a slap in the face of every entrepreneur and business owner in America. I posted my reaction to his remark here.
Michelle Malkin concludes her book discussing another anti-business move from the Obama administration, "the Orwellian-titled 'America Invents Act' of 2011." The first and last chapters are fact-filled but what was far more interesting to me was the material in between. There you'll find stories of various inventors - their trial, tribulations and successors.
Some of the tales are ... (more >>>)
The Land Of The Rising Dumb: Caroline Kennedy is being criticized by the Office of the Inspector General for her poor performance as Ambassador to Japan.
Is anyone surprised? I wrote a detailed piece about Her Vacuousness earlier. One of her talents is use of the phrase 'you know' 142 times during a ten-minute interview - possibly a Guinness World Record.
Japan is the world's fourth-largest economy, America's second-largest source of foreign investment, a base for 50,000 U.S. troops and one of the State Department's "most important missions in terms of its size and the U.S. interests for which it is responsible."
"This embassy is one of America's most important outposts, representing American interests to a strategically vital democratic ally and economic partner in an increasingly troubled region. Japan faces a militarizing, expansionist, and economically roiled China, an aggressively rearming Russia, and a nuclear-arming North Korea."
We need someone competent to represent our important interests, not a clueless political celebrity.
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "So many of my women friends complain their daughters never open their e-mail that I'm thinking of starting a Home for Unread Mothers."
Wednesday September 2, 2015
The Great Pretender: Everybody knows that Sergio Marchionne, head of Fiat-Chrysler, has an ego the size of a 1978 Dodge Extended Cargo Van, but his recent interview with Automotive News, indicated that an even larger container, perhaps a BelAZ 75710 - the world's largest dump truck - may be needed soon.
In the interview, Marchionne indicated that he wanted to merge with or take over another car company - General Motors. Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo, who has long been critical of Mr. Marchionne, classified the interview as "a jaw-dropping display of hubris, arrogance and ego the likes of which this industry has never seen before, and that's saying something given the parade of the egotistical maniacs who came before him."
Paging Malcolm Bricklin to the white courtesy phone.
Peter continued, "The focus of the interview is Sergio's mission to merge with someone - well, anyone at this point - but with the particular focus being on General Motors. For the record, as much as Marchionne says that he can survive just fine without a merger and that he will ride on his investment in Alfa Romeo to dizzying new heights (in case you forgot, Marchionne insists that he will sell 400,000 Alfas globally by 2018. FCA sold 68,000 last year), the fact remains that FCA is a glorified shell game, a car company sitting on $8 billion in debt, while every other auto manufacturer in the world has a net cash cushion. Sergio, of course, dismisses this as a mere bump in the road, but who's kidding whom here? The industry "savior" is sitting on an enterprise that's just one economic downturn away from being right back in the tank again."
Only 75 Alfa Romeos were sold in the U.S. in August.
De Lorenzo concluded, "The grim reality behind all of Marchionne's bluster? He doesn't just reek of espresso and cigarettes, there's now a distinct whiff of terminal desperation surrounding him. And there's no amount of pontificating out loud to the press that is going to change that fact." Amen.
Ave Atque Vale: Edward John Barrington Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, an English Conservative politician well known in Britain for founding the National Motor Museum, has died at age 88.
Lord Montagu gained an interest in motoring from his father - who had commissioned the original 'Spirit of Ecstasy' mascot for his Rolls-Royce - and with his family collection of historic cars this led him to open the National Motor Museum on the grounds of his stately home, Palace House, Beaulieu, Hampshire in 1952. It was a former monastery built in the 13th century.
There are over 250 vehicles on display, including Land Speed Record holders: Malcolm Campbell's 1925 350HP Sunbeam, Henry Segrave's 1927 Sunbeam 1000 hp and 1929 Golden Arrow and Donald Campbell's Bluebird CN7. Visitors can ride in an authentically poorly-sprung, bouncy 1912 open-top London bus and still smile despite having a very sore ass. The museum also has a mile-long monorail, the oldest in England, offering sweeping views of the Grounds and Gardens before passing through the museum itself.
Located in southern England, the National Motoring Museum is an enthralling place and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. We were there in 1995.
My wife and I once met Lord Montagu once at Pebble Beach. He was very nice fellow and a genuine auto enthusiast. Rest In Peace.
At Least He Didn't Name It Mt. Shaniqua: President Obama has by Royal Fiat changed the name of Alaska's Mt. McKinley to Mt. Denali. To dyslexics, it probably sounds like Mt. Denial, aptly named after Obama himself.
Thought For Today: Eckankar is the only religion that sounds like a multi-level marketed nutritional supplement.
Tuesday September 1, 2015
Snob Appeal: Dan Neil tested the Hyundai Genesis sedan and liked what he drove. "Big, powerful, with an overqualified equipment list, the Genesis sedan makes a strong case for itself. And it is even, actually, handsome, with the masculine, single-frame grille up front and lovely strakes of chrome at the rocker panels."
The problem for many, including me, is paying big bucks for a luxury car with Hyundai badging. I admit it; I'm a bit of a snob. But I'm not alone. "Interestingly, the Genesis and Equus cars both dispense with Hyundai badging in the prestige-obsessed home market of Korea. And this ambivalence has produced something kind of subversive and wonderful: a luxury car virtually without badging, a car in a Schröedinger-esque, indeterminate state of being/not being premium. No one will know until he looks/doesn't look."
But, it's a well-built machine according to Neil. "What’s the new Genesis sedan like to drive? Mighty comfortable, it turns out. Great seats, though the quality of leather is a bit mass-market. Easy in and out. Lots of sightlines. Refined. Isolated. The back seat is huge.
The key driver of the character is an aggressive campaign against noise, vibration and harshness. The Genesis' every nook and cranny is caulked and foam-filled to attenuate unpleasant aural radiations. The door panels are thicker and glass-to-body gaskets revised for less wind noise."
In other words, if you pay more for a lesser car, you're getting screwed. But that's the price of snobbery.
We Bought Our Son Cheap Star Wars Knockoffs But He Sill Loves Us: He posted his set of Starroid Raiders on his blog, noting that back in the late 1970s, "my parents got me for Christmas from a catalog. They came packed in a small, plain cardboard box. No fancy packaging - no names, even!
I loved them more than some toys perhaps because since no one I knew had them, they seemed almost made for me! I made up names for them and they had many grand adventures alongside micronauts, Hammerhead and an assortment of small rubber monsters. It wasn't until about a year ago that I did some searching online and discovered their true identities: (left to right) Wag, Tanco, Aton, Tior, Newt and Yazu."
These cheap, cheesy and cheerful aliens were manufactured by Tomland, a UK company and part of the Marx family of companies. These characters might have qualified to be in Star Wars' infamous cantina scene but were either in the rest room or out back havin' a smoke when the cantina scenes were shot. That's my theory, anyway.
Why I Hate To Go To Portland - Reason No. 421: According to the Texas Transportation Institute's latest urban mobility report, Portland has more congestion today (measured by hours of delay per auto commuter) than Los Angeles did 30 years ago, when LA was considered to be about the worst congested city in the world.
"It's no wonder, since Portland and Oregon have added virtually no new road capacity since the 1970s, when the region's population was about half what it is today. Although officials complained ... that new capacity was too expensive, the region hasn't hesitated to spend roughly $5 billion on light-rail lines that carry an insignificant share of the region's traffic."
Instead, the city spends lots of money on light rail.
Buh-Bye: The Red Lion Inn at the Quay, a landmark on the Vancouver, WA side of the Columbia River waterfront since the 1960s, will close October 31st, leaving 82 employees without jobs.
Several years ago, the City of Vancouver tried to stomp the Quay out of existence by building a competing, city-owned Hilton Hotel a few blocks away. Then the ongoing redevelopment of the adjacent Boise Cascade waterfront site (with cheerleading and support from the city), caused the Quay to lose its biggest banquet hall and part of its parking lot.
The Quay Restaurant & Bar, once owned by Vancouver restaurateur George Gordon Goodrich, opened in 1960. The hotel was added in 1962, and the complex, with its sailing-ship-themed dining room and adjacent Tiki lounge, became the Inn at the Quay. While the decor was a bit dated, the food and service were always good and the river views made it fun.
Can a government kill off a viable business? Sure. This is proof.
On a side note, Goodrich once opened a Vancouver restaurant, The Crossing, which featured dining in four vintage railroad dining cars, a boxcar and caboose in the colors and markings of various Northwest railroads. It was a nice place in its day (it opened in 1975) but closed in 1995. (permalink)
Make Some Popcorn and Watch 'Network': It's the best way to put some context into the political season.
Chris Christie was on Fox News Sunday yesterday. I enjoyed his interview and believe he's the Real Deal. But his star was ascendant in the 2012 elections and, like Rick Perry's, is now old, tarnished and has fallen to low single digits in the polls. His time in the limelight seems to be over. Too bad, Christie comes across as logical, assertive and properly pugnacious. And he says that Hillary should be indicted - right now.
Nobody seems to like Hillary and, one of the reasons is her attitude, which seems to vacillate between "It's my turn, dammit" and "You owe me." This kind of attitude never works in politics. Bob Dole showed some of that attitude - and lost. Ditto John McCain. Ditto Al Gore. And looks like 'ol Jeb Bush is getting his "It's my turn, dammit" comeuppance as well.
Hillary's tanking in the polls big time and no one seems to be enjoying it more than columnist Howie Carr. He wrote, "Hillary Clinton has become Richard Nixon. Consider the top three words voters used to describe her in a new poll this week: "Liar … dishonest … untrustworthy." Also in the top 12: "crook … untruthful … criminal … deceitful." Crook - as in "I am not a crook," a quintessential Nixon quote." Even the most-hardened liberals are giving up on that lying old bag and are so despondent that they're hanging themselves in the nearest gender-neutral bathroom.
Then there's the so-called Republicans ... (more >>>)
My Advice For The Day: Keep your promises. Do what you say you're going to do. If you have no intention of doing it, don't say it.
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