Tuesday, November 14, 2006


According to AP, Bush will meet with leaders of the US auto industry today. But, straight from the "Fat Cat Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks" Files, those same leaders insist they're seeking no bailout! For horror, who could imagine such things? They just wanna chat. Don't believe me? Well, take a look at what they said:
"We're not going into this meeting seeking specific relief for our industry," GM spokesman Greg Martin told reporters, right before enumerating the specific relief he wants for his industry. "We understand that we have to win in the marketplace but there are issues of national importance like health care and trade that affect the competitive balance."

Explaining that he wanted no governmental help, Ford chief Alan Mulally explained to the Detroit Free Press last week the precise form of governmental help his struggling company needed: "It's just so important that the governments around the world ensure that the market sets exchange rates."
And proving that there'll never be an end to those who think of the federal government as little more than a repository for local concerns bolstered by federal money, Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow said that the big three "built the middle class of this country, and it's critically important that the president understands that how the U.S. government acts in a global economy to create a level playing field is critical to whether or not we are going to have a middle-class way of life."

Democratic Representatice Sander Levin added, "The Big Three are making good cars. We haven't been making good policies." And there the real bullshit is left in the open where its smell can sift through every nook and cranny of our country. It's not the cars, Congressman Levin tells us, it's the selfish, short-sighted policies of everyone outside of Michigan.

No, Sander, the problem is the crap cars they make. Too big, too inefficient, not as good as they can be. Make better cars that the American consumer wants to buy, maybe you can come to DC begging for handouts. But until they so much as try to make a good product, no way. As Bush, of all people, told Detroit's automakers last winter, they need to "make a product that's relevant."

For goodness sake, when Bush calls BS on you, that's a sign to look inside and see what the hell you've been doing. These guys need to wake up.


Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Uh oh, I'm agreeing with Bush. Is this one of the signs of the apocolypse?
I will be looking for a new car next year. Since we have two children, the wife likes an SUV. None, I mean, NONE of the US based automakers make one that we like. They are either too big, or just not nice looking, and the mileage stinks. I have a Nissan Pathfinder and an Acura TSX right now. Odds are, the new SUV will be foreign, possibly the Lexus Hybrid, or the Toyota Highlander hybrid. Or (shudder) a Volvo wagon. (there's an idea for the US, outside the Dodge Magnum, which the wife hates, where is a wagon from a US car company?)
The US makers need to make a nicer looking car. Chrysler did OK with the 300, but not much else. The others, meh, not much there to look at.
Meanwhile, the Japanese roll out another hybrid that people will actually buy, while the US rolls out another behemoth.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

What's wrong with a Volvo wagon? Too staid for your tastes?

Are Volvos actually any safer than other cars at this point?

11:19 AM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Too many volvo's in scarsdale. I want to be different.

I like the Acura MDX, but they changed it for 2007, and the wife is not sure if she likes it. The good part is that as a new model, there will be fewer around.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Too many volvo's in scarsdale. I want to be different.

My suggestions:

1. Dodge Ram pickup. The 4-door version, for maximum redneckness.

2. 1977 TransAm. Make sure it's got the "Firebird" picture in gold detailing on the spoiler.

3. Lambourghini. Violates the "no conspicuous consumption" rule in towns like Scarsdale. You know, the I drive a Volvo because it tells you I could afford the Lamborghini if I wanted to message.

Be a rebel, Ed.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous waitingforthealiens said...

What ever happened to using a sedan as a family car? I will give an unsolicited testimonial for Toyota. Two years ago I got the wife’s hand-me-down 2000 Avalon and we bought for her—guess what—a new Avalon. All the bells and whistles, a great ride, air conditioned seats, 30 m.p.g. on the highway at 70-80 m.p.h. And the best thing—if you have a mishap, you might be smothered by all the air bags.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

What ever happened to using a sedan as a family car?

I often wonder the same. I think people are obsessed not so much with safety, but by the appearence of safety. The thinking being, "Well, if I'm in an SUV, then I can't get hurt."

But aren't SUV's actually much more likely to flip in an accident? Not to mention, aren't they somewhat harder to handle, causing more accidents?

Whcih says nothing of gas mileage, harm to the environment, how ugly they are . . .

2:09 PM  
Anonymous waitingforthealiens said...

The SUV is not too nimble a beast. A couple of years ago I read a review of a book on the SUV phenomenon. There was a quote from former big three marketing executive: "They'd sell better if we could put a machine gun on the roof." I laughed, but I don't really doubt it.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

I think it is the "appearance" of safety as far as the wife is concerned. I have tried, to no avail, to convince her that it is a fallacy. Like any other argument, I lose (she being a lawyer and all, I don't win often).
As for flipping, well, if you are driving like an idiot, sure it will flip. Taking a turn at 70 is not going to end well no matter what you drive though.
We have the TSX, a sedan about the size of the Accord. Very nice handling. Good mileage. Looks nice, but not a lot of space with 2 in car seats.
Heck, I'd get, dare I say it, a minivan, but the wife will have no part of it, even though a good friend of ours extolls the virtues.
I long for a nice wagon. Detriot, there is a market there, build it and we will come.

Funny, my uncle has a TA in his driveway, wonder what I could pay for it :)
By the by, I live on the ass end of Scarsdale. I don't have the coin to live in the nice part. My poor kids are screwed.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Ok, now we're getting somewhere. Ed's wife feels safer in an SUV, of course, because it is in actuality a tank. Add the machine-gun turret (manned by Ed, I assume), and voila, instant defense.

On a more serious note (while recognizing the profound unseriousness of asking for an explanation of a spouse's quirks, either gender in play), why is she pro-SUV, yet anti-MiniVan?

Finally, I didn't know Scarsdale had an ass end. I thought it was one of those towns with no ass at all.

4:54 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Ed: Ford Escape and Saturn VUE hybrids are available.

SUV's vs family sedans: Apparent safety, better road traction, more room. But some of that is a misperception. You can get All Wheel Drive in some sedans. Room? How much do you need? The wife takes the 97 Civic because of better gas mileage. I don't have any problems with getting the kids in it. Our SUV is the 2000 Subaru Outback. I tend not to get more than 21 mpg because it's all city mileage, but since I don't go far, a tank lasts 3-4 weeks.

Volvo's are yuppy-mobiles.

But in defense of the auto industry, costs are a big problem. How do you compete with nationally subsidized healthcare like their competitors enjoy? I forget what the percentage of an American car's price goes towards paying off healthcare costs. Does it excuse them for not keeping up with consumer trends or running multi-million dollar ad campaigns? No. But you can't dismiss the healthcare aspect either. I hear all the time from my wife, who works in HR, about the rising costs of healthcare that companies face. Hell, my stupid town is using rising healthcare costs to justify annual tax increases!

While some of the big companies can suck it up and take a bite out of their CEO's multimillion dollar contracts, small businesses can't and they're the ones who are hurt the most, besides their employees that is.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...


No doubt about the healthcare issue. No doubt.

But, short of packing up the entire company and moving to Mexico or Indonesia -- which many seem to be in the process of doing -- they need to face the situation as it is, and get their shit together.

Health care or no, it's the same problem of hubris and shortsightedness that nearly doomed them in the 70's.

5:23 PM  
Blogger DED said...

True that. Hell, both our cars over here are Japanese!

But rather than move all their operations to Mexico, Ford is closing plants and laying off thousands of workers and they're the first one of the Big 3 to go hybrid, though it falls far short of Toyota or Honda.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

It's tough all around. I feel for those workers and their families.

And if Ford ran a tight ship the past few years, I'd be much quicker to say, "Hey, life's rouggh, what can you do?"

But since their obstinacy and lack of smart R&D (to say nothing of the outrageous CEO compensation) has helped lead them to this spot, it's hard to "side" with anyone other than the workers who got the shaft.

No golden parachutes for them.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous waitingforthealiens said...

No question. The social contract as subsidy for the off shore production of a lot of manufactured goods is significant. But engineering a quality machine and prudent negotiation of labor contracts are as well.

But as far as Ed's wife and the SUV are concerned, GET REAL. You never know when you'll need to pull over the curb at soccer practice.

5:44 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Just some factoids I dug up for readers to chew on. I'm not trying to defend Ford and the other automakers per se, I just wanted to share.

While Bill Ford was CEO, "all" he got for compensation was stock. Granted he still made millions, but when the stock tanked, so did his paycheck.

But yes, the company suffered from management "fat".

From July 20, 2004:

Allan Gilmour, Ford's vice chairman, said his company spent $3.2 billion on health care last year for its 560,000 employees, retirees and their dependents,
the Detroit News reported Tuesday.

The costs added $1,000 to the price of every Ford car and truck built in
the United States -- up from $700 three years ago, Gilmour said.

U.S. health care expenditures have grown 7 percent annually for five
years -- more than double the inflation rate -- to $1.67 trillion in 2003.


DETROIT, May 31, 2006 (UPI via COMTEX) -- Ford Motor Co. is seeking U.S. court permission to trim retiree healthcare benefits, an expense that last year reached $3.5 billion.

The Detroit carmaker's healthcare costs have skyrocketed 67% since 2000 and the company now spends $1,100 per vehicle on healthcare. Further, its accumulated obligation to retirees has reached $37 billion -- three times Ford's market capitalization, the Detroit News reported.

While Toyota and Honda were still developing hybrids in the garage, the big 3 were making E85 flex vehicles. The problems are: they didn't market that fact to the public, they did it to appease the gov't on mpg quotas, and there's only 400 E85 stations in the entire country. Yes, very stupid.

As for R&D money:

But the short version is this:

Oct 05, 2006 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- The top 10 companies worldwide
investing in research and development last year:

1. Ford Motor Co. (U.S.), euro6.78 billion (US$8.6 billion)

2. Pfizer Inc. (U.S.), euro6.3 billion (US$8 billion)

3. General Motors Corp. (U.S.), euro5.67 billion (US$7.2 billion)

4. DaimlerChrysler AG (Germany), euro5.64 billion (US$7.15 billion)

5. Microsoft Corp. (U.S.), euro5.58 billion (US$7.08 billion)

6. Toyota Motor Corp. (Japan), euro5.42 billion (US$6.87 billion)

7. Johnson & Johnson (U.S.), euro5.35 billion (US$6.79 billion)

8. Siemens AG (Germany), euro5.15 billion (US$6.53 billion)

9. Samsung Electronics Co. (South Korea), euro4.61 billion (US$5.85

10. GlaxoSmithKline PLC (Britain), euro4.56 billion (US$5.78 billion)

Source: European Commission

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Wow. Those R&D figures are surprising. I wonder how they rank as percentages of total expeditures. But at any rate, that doesn't seem to be the problem.

The marketing of the cars seems to be a big problem, which is amazing when you consider how much they spend on advertising.

As for healthcare, it just fits in with the problem we face from top-to-bottom in the US. And I'm the first to admit, I have no idea what to do to fix it.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

minivan has the negative grown up connotation is my guess. That and she thinks they are ugly.

The boundry between Scarsdale and Eastchester runs through my postage stamp sized manse. Hence, the ass-end comment. And there are plenty of asses in Scarsdale. Man, I thought you were going to get me on that one :)

Volvo = yuppie mobile is correct DED.
My wife had a bad experience with a Ford years ago, and is unwilling to go back. Perception is hard to change.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Scarsdale, Eastchester . . . hell, they both sound pretty fancy, if not downright schmancy, to this former Yorktown boy's ears.

Just kidding. Sort of.

That's right, Ed, fellow Westchesterer here, at least til he was 22. Not sure how it is now, but back then Yorktown had an ass-end on all 4 sides.

And we were a GM family, for whatever reason families decide to go down their chosen road. Pretty much Olds, Pontiac & Chevy for us.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

I was raised in Mastic, on eastern LI. All ass.

For my clan, Fords for the most part, with some Dodge's thrown in. Always used. My dad's dad was a Chrysler mechanic. To this day, dad still prefers Chrysler cars, mom a Caravan, dad a Liberty now.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Just looked up Mastic. Seems like a Suffolk analog to Yorktown: about an hour outside midtown.

Close enough to fall in the NYC orbit, but far enough that Nassau/Southern Westchester/North Jersey kids thought you're from "The Country."

As an adult, I can only wish! But as a kid/teenager, man I hated that.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

The best is when I say Mastic, and people think Mystic CT.
Kills me.
I read a story today that references a story where the Times called Mastic Beach an "Long Island's Best Kept Secret."
Man, the Times is really heavy on dope smoking morons these days.
The area is a toilet. That must be the secret, its Long Island's Toilet.

3:27 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Ed, you talking about near Shirley?

11:41 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

ded - yes. "Shirley and the Mastics".
The best was a few years back, Shirley wanted to change the name to "Floyd Harbor" the gateway to the Hamptons or somesuch shit. TO change the perception of the area.
I am a grad of William Floyd High School, class of 1987. It was an OK area then. It went downhill after I graduated (and no, I'm not just saying that). It had started a few years before, but it really quickened shortly thereafter.
They want to build it up, and I hope they can, but it will be hard.

10:53 AM  
Blogger DED said...

"Shirley and the Mastics" - sounds like a band. :)

I guess we'll continue this in Mike's Friday Movie post.

2:50 PM  

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