Tuesday, June 30, 2009

GiMpy12 - Minivan Highway

"I'm not worthy"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rumors that Toyota will License the Prius to GM

There are rumors (and denials) that GM and Toyota are working out a deal for GM to sell a version of the Toyota Prius. Keep in mind, as of yet there is no DEAL, much less a product. Though the 2010 Prius is on the road, it could be a couple years before a GM-sourced version would hit the road even if the two companies came to terms this summer. If they come to terms, I wouldn't be too surprised if a substantial government order sealed the deal.

It may be a long time (if ever) before we find out the inside deal with the Toyota/GM discussions. It would be sad if Toyota offered to let GM build a Prius but GM turned down the offer to concentrate on the Volt. The Volt has some potential, but it will cost twice what the Prius does. The Prius sells enough units to be a solid fixture in the top-10 list of all car models. The Volt will be a niche product at best.
No New NUMMI for GM
California Joint Venture goes to "Old GM"

Per Autoblog
, GM's NUMMI Joint venture with Toyota will be assigned to the "old GM", that is, the group of operations that won't survive the bankruptcy. Apparently GM couldn't find a product to build in the plant in Fremont, California. (You know, "the city by the bay", "the city that never sleeps.") The plant built the Pontiac Vibe, that was just reworked for 2009. Being a Pontiac, the Vibe was destined to be cast upon the dung heap of history even though Chevrolet has nothing comparable to sell.

IF we can't have new NUMMI, we'll have to settle for new Numma. Sorry.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Keyboard Cat - You Just Got PONED

Meet Keyboard Otter.

(Youtube via Matrixsynth)

Friday, June 19, 2009

If You Think the World is Blowing Up Around You
Just Remember . . .

Cool guys don't look at explosions.
$1.92 Million Verdict for Sharing 24 Songs

From the Associated Press - A jury in Minnesota ruled that a Brainard woman, Jammie Thomas-Russert must pay $1.92 million for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa. That's $80,000 per song. Get this, it was her second trial. An earlier federal jury said she only had to pay $224,000 - a bargain, really.

The RIAA, realizing that this kind of case can cut both ways from a public relations standpoint, mentioned that she had the opportunity to settle for $3,000 to $5,000. Isn't that nice? (We have had people call in who have been sued or have been targeted for suit in similar download cases. They generally get similar offers. They freak out when the realization hits that they might actually have to pay that much.)

What cracks me up is that you can listen to just about any song you want on Youtube, and the record companies don't do squat about Youtube. Why? Because Google owns Youtube, and Google has more money than you-know-who. Secondly, Youtube-Google hides behind the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which says that a forum provider can hide behind ignorance as long as they take things down when asked by the copyright owner. Youtube is worth more than the entire US auto industry right now, and it exists now on the model of charging nothing for content that it doesn't pay for. A technical Businessweek article on the economics of Youtube is linked here.

Anyway, I'm sure this video of the opening theme to the movie Fargo was posted with the owner's permission. After all, Youtube requires it. Go buy or rent the movie or soundtrack, so they don't get mad at me for embedding the link.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Details on Prospective ChrysFiatsco Models
US Plants will See no C-Evo Platform until 2012

IHS Global Insight has laid out a product/production timeline for post-Fiat aquisition Chysler models. If this information is accurate, prospects for robust US-based auto production don't look good through 2012 and counting. The first thing to point out is that it looks like Chrysler Group dealers will have no new sheet metal until Early 2011 at best. (The only possible exception that I see is the Jeep Grand Cherokee, a model that isn't mentioned at all in this report.)

The first new Fiat-based models will be Fiat Panda (to be branded a Jeep) and the Fiat 500 (to be branded a Fiat), and these models will be built in Toluca, Mexico beginning July, 2011. Chrysler expects these models to account for more than 50,000 units per year between them. A picture of the Fiat Panda is above right. I'm not sure Jeep loyalists will go for this.

Roughly the same time, production is to begin, also in Toluca, for the replacement for the current-generation Dodge Journey. More controversial, the current Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring are currently built in the United States. The replacement for these cars will be built in Toluca starting July 2011.

If you are looking for new Chrysler product built in the United States, according to this plan, you'll be waiting at least three years. Global Insight lists three current Chrysler plants that will be retooled to build vehicles off of Fiat's new C-EVO platform. The C-EVO platform is currently being used for the stylish Alfa Romeo 149. See picture

Specifically, Belvidiere Illinois, Jefferson Avenue, and Toledo (North?). From this product plan, I could not see any potentially high-volume vehicles slated for assembly in the United States.

(Panda photo via fiat.com, alpha romeo 149 photo via Eurocarblog.com)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cash For Clunkers - New Math

Jalopnik.com has great chart on the Cash for Clunkers bill. This bill makes no sense to me. If you can explain it, please feel free.
Koenigsegg to Buy Saab

GM announced today that it will be selling Saab to Koenigsegg Automotive AB. For Saab workerws, it's an ABBAriffic outcome because Koenigsegg is a Swedish cmoany. If you've played a roadracing video game within the last 5 years, you've heard of Koenigsegg, a maker of thousand horsepower supercars taht compete with the Bugatti Veryon. If you don't play videogames and you don't live in L.A., Palm Beach or an Arab Emirate, you probably have never seen a Koenigsegg vehicle.

It doesn't look like Koenigsegg is putting up much if any of its own money. GM (meaning you and me) is financing part of the transaction.

Today's announcement comes in the wake of last week's news story when GM announced that it had more than 16 bidders for Saab. Apparently Koenigsegg was teh only one that didn't use a Hotmail account.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fiat and Chrysler Get Hitched

The Supreme Court vacated the stay of proceedings that Judge Ginsburg issued on Monday, and Chrysler and Fiat immediately took advantage of the opportunity and merged. The new "good" Chrysler will be called the Chrysler Group (as opposed to the Chrysler Corporation and Chrysler LLC in previous incarnations), and Fiat will initially own 20% of the new company. Fiat will be allowed to go up to a 35% share, but the US and Canadian governments will have to be paid back first. Although the CNN article here says the UAW will own a 55% share, it is likely that the UAW will select trustees for a trust that will actually own the stock.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tesla Model S Video

I'll take two.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Montauk Monster, The Watermelon and the Viking Funeral

One of last year's most popular blogger subjects last year was the saga of the Montauk Monster.   My post is here.  

It seems obvious now, but the apparent solution of the mystery of the Montauk Monster involves a dead raccoon, a watermelon, a rubber duck and a Viking funeral.   

 Of course, why didn't I think of it.   

Speaking of watermelons.  Here's my PSA for any college student who might be reading this.  Never fill a watermelon with vodka.  You will drop it, and you will not get the smell out of dorm room carpeting for the rest of the year.   Don't ask me how I know that.  

Is "Stevie the Rat" Raiding GM's Pension Funds?

Hey, I don't know, but every now and then I like to read something that doesn't even pretend to be civil or neutral.   Here's a link to an article by Greg Palast on Alternet.org.  
Ginsburg Stops Chrysler-Fiat Merger in its Tracks

Right at the 4:00 pm EST deadline today, Justice Ginsburg issued a stay order preventing the Chrysler-Fiat merger going forward. It looks like the appealing Indiana pension creditors are making two arguments.  The first is that TARP doesn't allow the government to invest the funds in a car company.   That one doesn't seem to hold much water, and the Supreme Court isn't going to spend much time on it.  On the other hand, I think at least a plurality of the court would like to examine the second argument, whether the Chrysler deal improperly puts unsecured creditors ahead of secured creditors.  This is a big picture case of a type that could become more common and that could easily avoid review unless the court reaches out and grabs a case.  In other words, I think it's more probable than not that the Supreme Court will keep this case stayed until after the June 15 deadline for the Fiat merger

Friday, June 05, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Teach Your Kids to Use a Video Camera #1

No, this isn't me.  Not that I'd do any better.   

Penske Group Rumored to be buying Saturn

A group linked with Roger Penske will be buying Saturn according to Detnews.com.  Does that mean that anybody who drives a Saturn doesn't have to pay taxes?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Legislation Stuck in Neutral

There appears to be pretty strong opposition in the Senate to "cash for clunkers" legislation, multiple bills crashed into roadblocks. The most recent failure involved a bill tied to tobacco regulation. Cash for clunkers has given the auto industry a boost in Germany, but the German market is very different from the US market, high taxes on gas give consumers incentive to buy very efficient cars. Our fuel prices are much lower, and Americans are less likely to buy the highly efficient cars that will satisfy the environmental policy objective of the bill. The bottom line is that any cash for clunkers legislation that has a shot at passing will have a difficult time serving the two competing policy rationales for the bill. Any bill that would substantially stimulate the US auto industry would be so watered down environmentally that the environmental results would be insignificant. Any bill that would significantly help help the environment will likely not give a significant boost to the auto industry.

In the meantime, in theory, continued talk of a $3,500 to $4,500 cash for clunkers incentive on the horizon seems tailor-made to kill current auto sales. Congress needs to either pass a cash for clunkers bill or take it off the table completely. As long as it is a possibility, people will have an incentive to wait rather than buy. Failing that, all of the cash for clunkers supporters should commit now to only supporting legislation that is retroactive to the beginning of June this year.
Fake Debt Collectors May be Calling YOU

Last week I received a call from a little old lady who kept trying to describe an outrageous debt collection call she received. Everytime she described it, the story was a little different, but I had never heard of a call like that before.

As it turns out, the debt collector may have never been collecting a debt, because there might not have been a debt in the first place. According to ABCNews.com there have been a rash of debt collection calls that involve completely false allegations of defaulted accounts. It's just a scam, probably by overseas con artists. If you receive a call from a client describing a collector who makes threats with a lot of legalese mumbo-jumbo, this may be the type of operator that you're dealing with. The scam operators use stolen identification and sometimes account data to sound official. Probably the biggest tipoff is the demand to wire money right away. Because the collectors are very good at hiding their identity, it doesn't seem like there's much you can do about this type of case other than client education.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Something to Cheer You Up

(Warning, there's more Gore in this video than in 8 years of the Clinton administration.)