A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Friday December 13, 2013
Making Fumes: Volkswagen holds a 72% share of light-duty diesel sales in the U.S. market; 22% of VW's sales as of October 2013 have been with diesel power.
Diesel is the Esperanto of fuels. U.S. consumers may get seriously interested in diesel vehicles when fuel prices hit the $7-8 per gallon range. Until then, diesel-powered passenger vehicles will probably be niche players in the U.S.
In countries where fuel is much more expensive than it is in the U.S., diesel has made inroads. Austria and France already have diesel penetration rates of around 50%. Diesel pump prices in Europe are - on average - 16% cheaper than gasoline. And did you ever ... ummm ... smell Europe? The B.O. masks that diesel aroma pretty well.
Ayn Rand Was Right: As you read this passage from the 1957 novel, 'Atlas Shrugged', you can't help but think of Detroit 2013: "A few houses still stood within the skeleton of what had once been an industrial town. Everything that could move, had moved away; but some human beings had remained. The empty structures were vertical rubble; they had been eaten, not by time, but by men: boards torn out at random, missing patches of roofs, holes left in gutted cellars."
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a Nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin."
There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.
Wednesday December 11, 2013
Looks Good On Paper: Make your own V-8 engine. From 5,756 pieces of paper.
Iron Giants: Ol' Remus recently wrote about long-gone huffing, puffing steam locomotives. "A baleful headlamp glowered out from tons of hunkered-down malevolence, a cyclops with a steady stare that suggested retreat as the prudent option. They came in black with numbers on their flanks announcing there are more where it came from. No fancy paint jobs with swoopy logos proclaiming 'Quality' or 'Safety'. Black, like the livery of a Victorian hearse. Moriarty would drive one."
They were inefficient, cantankerous and high maintenance. That's why they were replaced with modern, efficient diesels or electrics. But, when I run steam locomotives on my model railroad layout, little boys' eyes come alive. They enjoy seeing the drivers go around on the wheels and they want to hear the whistle. And see the smoke. It's amazing to me that all children love dinosaurs and steam engines. Both are long extinct, so kids can't relate to the real thing. But ... (more >>>)
Answering The Age-Old Question: Is Santa Claus a liberal or a conservative?
On the other hand, he is probably a fan of NSA; after all: "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good." Scary.
Book Review: 'The Brotherhood: America's Next Great Enemy' by Eric Stakelbeck
This is a powerful and frightening indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood and their jihadist allies and offshoot groups. Who knew there was an enclave of anti-American Muslims planning the ultimate caliphate in the scenic Poconos of Pennsylvania?
Author Stakelbeck presents a well-documented read on one of the world's greatest threats to our God-given freedoms. Hiding behind a cloak of respectability and expensive Western suits, the Muslim Brotherhood keeps busy ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: One of Santa's helpers was sent to a therapist because he seemed depressed. Diagnosis: Low Elf Esteem.
Monday December 9, 2013
Remember When Quality Used To Be Job One? Ford Motor Co. seems to be beset with quality problems. "Ford recently placed poorly in three quality surveys. In the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, the brand rated well below average. In the 2013 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, it rated below average. And in the new Consumer Reports reliability study, Ford ranked 26th on a list of 28 brands."
Douglas McIntyre commented, "Ford cannot expect to keep the sales momentum it had as it emerged from the car industry downturn, which was particularly strong during the recession, if its reputation continues to erode rapidly. And the mounting evidence of this erosion is surprisingly powerful. Ford's quality control process has broken down, and it will pay for that in the next several model years, even if it can reverse the problem swiftly. American consumers have long memories."
True dat. People make vehicle purchases based on past experiences. Much has been written about the quality improvements of Detroit's recent offerings. But Detroit is still plagued by the sins of its past.
Target buyers - in the 25-45 age group - may be the children of former dissatisfied customers and may well have memories of a Ford, Dodge or Buick - which was always in the shop - and later memories of a family Honda or Toyota - which was a reliable workhorse. Therefore, these target buyers have an ingrained reluctance to visit a showroom full of Detroit iron; they tend to take their business elsewhere.
Decades of pissing-off customers has finally come home to roost. In the 1980s, disgruntled buyers of GM, Ford or Chrysler products could only broadcast their displeasure at work or in bars. Today, the web has changed all that. Angry buyers put up websites. Or vent their spleens online in various forums. Bad news now spreads like wildfire.
In today's world, information technology provides potential buyers with a cornucopia of information about the vehicles they're considering. People buy cars based on facts and impressions. And we live in an age where a plethora of both is just a few mouse clicks away.
Detroit's business model of the past is no longer working. Hype and bullshit cannot compete with competence, product quality, manufacturing flexibility and the forward march of technology.
Just Wondering: Do you still have to worry about Trans Fat if you drive a Trans Am?
The Trouble With AARP: Karl Denninger is on AARP's case and rightly so.
"Now, the disaster tsunami is engulfing Medicare-covered individuals as Obamacare's latest scam - long concealed - begins to reveal itself as evidenced by a shocking announcement from health giant UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth, AARP's pet private health insurance carrier, has been busy cutting thousands of doctors from certain of its networks according to a Wall Street Journal report published on November 15."
"Note that AARP was one of the charge-leading groups behind Obamacare's passage and Obama's election, playing the shopworn "scare the senior" card over and over again."
I, for one, am sick and tired of ... (more >>>)
New Word: Treeware (noun) The new derogatory term for a printed book, used mostly by ebook enthusiasts. Derived from the phrase "a dead-tree book."
Starting To Feel A Little Queer Around Here: Gay weddings made up 17% of marriages in Washington this past year, the first year gay marriages were legal in the state.
So far, most of Washington state's same-sex marriages - 62% - were between two women. From the news photos I've seen, mostly ugly ones. Maybe this is a good thing; the pretty girls become breeders and the future human race gets better-looking.
In Clark County, where I live, there were 785 same-sex weddings accounted for 30%of all weddings performed here. There were 1,828 opposite-sex weddings, for a county total of 2,613. These data are a bit misleading since ... (more >>>)
An Inspiration To All: Bill Porter has died at age 81.
Bill suffered from cerebral palsy; he spoke and walked with great difficulty. When he was a young man, the state considered him unemployable and suggested he collect disability payments. He refused.
For more than 45 years he earned a living selling Watkins products door-to-door in Portland, Oregon. At night, he would hunch over an old typewriter and with a twisted hand, he slowly banged out orders for everything he'd sold that day.
In 1995, reporter Tom Hallman Jr. wrote, "Bill reminds us of what we were when we set out in life. He fights the war we call life every day, without complaining. Whatever the internal truth of Bill Porter, we perceive him, in his perseverance, as pure, untouched by the ills of society. He isn't greedy. He doesn't take handouts. He - of all of us - could produce a hundred excuses. But he never makes excuses."
Bill Porter inspired everyone who has ever sold for a living. And everyone else who knew his story. Rest in peace.
Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Due to rising energy costs, Santa will no longer leave a lump of coal in your stocking if you're naughty and instead just punch you while you sleep."
Friday December 6, 2013
Fiftieth Anniversary Ponycar: I am impressed the looks of the just-revealed 2015 Mustang. It finally gets independent rear suspension.
There was a segment on Fox Business' 'The Closing Bell' where Liz Claman interviewed Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company, on the street outside the network's Manhattan studio - next to a new red 2015 Mustang coupe parked at the curb. There were a lot of close-up camera shots showing details of the exterior and interior. I liked what I saw very much.
Another One Bites The Dust: Anti-apartheid 'hero' Nelson Mandela has died at 95. Regular network programming was interrupted so that pundits across the airwaves could sing his praises. Count me out.
Until 2008, Mandela was on the U.S. terrorism watch list. Britain’s late 'Iron Lady' Margaret Thatcher described his African National Congress as a "typical terrorist organization." Mandela wasn't merely a terrorist; he was a terrorist leader.
He and his ANC's close associations with Yasir Arafat and the PLO have been well documented. Mandela has also consistently voiced his support for regimes like Libya, Iran and Cuba. Mandela traveled to Libya and personally presented Muammar Gaddafi with South Africa's highest military medal.
Yes, yes, apartheid was awful but so were the later black-on-white atrocities. Before Mandela, South Africa was a safe, sane economic powerhouse. Now it's a crime-ridden basket case - worse than Detroit, another geographic spot which has crumbled under black rule.
Don't bother to mourn ol' Nelson. He's just a slimmer version of Idi Amin - with better PR.
Death Penalty For Hijackers: A truck in Mexico, carrying highly-radioactive material used for cancer treatment, was hijacked earlier this week. The empty container of cobalt-60 was discovered the following day. A day later, the cobalt-60 itself was recovered about 25 miles away from where the truck was stolen.
Experts say that the thieves gave themselves a lethal dose of radiation when they released the radiation from its container and "do not expect them to live very long." So, they'll soon be taking a dirt siesta.
What did you expect - it's Mexico. The robbers should have stuck to stealing colorful pottery and/or velvet paintings.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I didn't get a toy train for Christmas like the other kids, I got a toy subway instead; you couldn't see anything but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by."
Thursday December 5, 2013
November Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.7 million SAAR in October - an increase of 7.6% from November 2012 and the highest level since February 2007. Sales were up 8.3% from last month. Analysts said the industry's overall numbers were helped by five weekends in the sales period along with early holiday promotions, attractive financing and pent-up demand. Sales went up at the end of the month as automakers and dealers held Black Friday sales events.
Ford Motor Co. sales were up 7%, GM reported a year-over-year increase of 14%, while Chrysler Group's vehicle sales rose 16% - the best November in six years.
GM's sales increase was lead by GMC which saw an increase of 20%. Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet sales were all up in the low double digits. General Motors non-fleet sales rose by 19%.
Ford brand sales increased by 7%, while Lincoln experienced a 15% sales rise to 6,727 units. Ford had its best November since 2004; F-Series topped 60,000 sales for the seventh straight month. Ford Fusion sales leaped 50% to 22,839 cars. Lincoln MKZ sales increased 114% to 2,854 sedans. Sales of the MKS flagship fell to 734 vehicles sold - a drop of 31%.
Chrysler sales gains were led by the Jeep and Ram truck brands; Fiat sales were down by 15%. Sales of the Fiat 500 fell 41% to 2,138 two-door sedans. Over 11,000 Chrysler Town and Country vans were sold in November - an increase of 70%.
Subaru sales soared 30% to 36,621 vehicles. Mitsubishi sales jumped 45% to 6,071 units. Audi sales increased 13% while Volkswagen sales declined 16%. Volvo sales dropped 31% to 4,233 units in November. Toyota experienced a 19% increase, while Honda sales dropped 2%. Hyundai sales increased 5%; Kia went up 11%.Hyundai, Kia and the Volkswagen Group also raised discounts sharply last month compared with November 2012.
Lexus sales were up 13%, while Mercedes-Benz rose 14%. BMW sales were up a mere 2%. Acura sales rose 19%. Jaguar sales leaped 103% to 1,446 units. 84 Rolls Royces were sold in December as well as 887 Maseratis.
A Mind Of Its Own: 7,300 gas-electric Lincoln MKZ Hybrids are being recalled by Ford. There is a problem with the powertrain control module that could cause the vehicles to roll even after being put into park, because the software can sometimes allow the shift to happen even if the brake pedal isn't pushed down.
Print Woes: Model Auto Review, a British model and toy car magazine, has ceased print publication. Starting soon, it will become an online-only publication.
Founder Rod Ward provided details: "Back in 1982, when MAR started "10% of our sales went to subscribers, the other 90% to stockists (retailers/newsstands). Now, although the number of MAR subscribers has fallen by about half in three decades, the quantity of magazines bought by stockists has dropped by more than 99%. ... You won't be surprised to learn that it is not now commercially viable to print less than 6% of the quantity of copies we used to sell."
A 94% drop in print sales, most of it in the last decade, is alarmingly large. But this is one example of the revolution going on in the magazine world. Newsweek ended its print edition in 2012 and is now strictly found online. In 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition. Bloomberg bought BusinessWeek at a fire-sale price in 2009. Forbes magazine is now up for sale. Road & Track is rumored to be on the ropes.
The Model Auto Review story represents a microcosm of the ... (more >>>)
Global Warming Alert: The BBC warned in 2007 that by summer 2013, the Arctic would be ice-free. Not so. The Arctic ice cap has grown by 29% this year. A chilly Arctic summer has left 533,000 more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year. The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year.
Nevertheless, the global warming morons continue to promote policies and regulations designed to "save the planet," whilst killing the economy.
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube. 'Obama to Iran: "If you like your nuclear program, you can keep your nuclear program."'
Runner-up: 'The President's latest talking point on Obamacare: "I didn't build that"'.
Book Review: 'Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics' by Charles Krauthammer
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and considered one of the most influential - and brilliant - commentators in America, Charles Krauthammer has produced an insightful and educational book. Composed mostly of opinion columns written over the past 30 years, chapters are mercifully short - a good thing, because readers will often want to put the book aside and ruminate on the ideas conveyed in Charles' deep, thought-provoking musings.
His views on feminism, embryonic research, evolution and the death penalty defy ideological slotting. Yes, there are opinions about political matters but it was wonderful to also find essays ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day: Politicians are like Christmas lights. They all hang together, half of the suckers don't work and the ones that do aren't that bright.
Tuesday December 3, 2013
Just Spear 'Em: I'm sick of hearing about 'pedestrian safety'. I think I'll buy an old bullet-nosed Studebaker and mount a big chrome-plated javelin on the front end. (permalink)
Mad About MADD: They may have begun with the best of intentions but I'm no longer tying ribbons on my side mirror to support these bullies.
Radley Balko wrote, "MADD's biggest victory on this front was a nationwide blood-alcohol threshold of .08, down from .10. But when two-thirds of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve blood-alcohol levels of .14 and above, and the average fatal accident occurs at .17, this move doesn't make much sense. It's like lowering the speed limit from 65 to 60 to catch people who drive 100 miles per hour.
In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed all the statistical data and concluded "the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol.""
Grim Reality: HO model railroad runs through realistic 1:87 scale slums.
Must Have Been Export-Bier: An unopened bottle of beer recovered from the wreckage of the Hindenburg is up for auction. The 1937 bottle of Lowenbrau sold for over $18,000 in 2009. The bottle does have some heat damage and, perhaps, a fiery taste. Prost!
Holy Perv: Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Paul Crouch has died at age 79.
With his silver hair, mustache and bifocals, Paul Crouch looked grandfatherly. But he was a decidedly odd grandfather - he allegedly paid a former employee $425,000 to keep quiet about an alleged homosexual tryst.
Paul and his wife Jan were usually seen perched on gaudy, gold and white faux-Louis XVI furniture, begging for more money to "help with God's work." Wearing a big platinum wig with cascading-ringlets, Jan Crouch could pass as Dyann Cannon's mother. But she wears so much black eye-shadow, she often looks like a badger. Or the Hamburgler.
Last year, the New York Times article noted the lavish personal spending of Paul and Janice Crouch, including "his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community" in Newport Beach, California.
OMG - I Think Obama's A Feline: George Carlin described cats thusly, "When a cat makes a mistake, he doesn't accept responsibility or show embarrassment. If he does something really stupid, like jumping onto a table and landing in four separate coffee cups, somehow he passes the whole thing off as a routine. ... When a cat breaks something, he simply moves along to the next activity."
The Christmas Season Officially Began Sunday ... because that's when I put the Christmas CD in my car. That afternoon, we attended 'Holiday Pops', performed by the Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. It was outstanding. The first half was instrumental only; the second half was the full orchestra plus the Pacific Youth Choir of 60 or so. Also far-above par, and properly Christmas-y, too.
Afterwards, we had dinner at Pastini Pastaria, which serves exceptionally good Italian food.
Quote of the Day is from Victor Borge: "Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year."
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