Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Breaking News - Saturn Deal Hits Brick Wall
Penske Walks Away From Deal to Buy Saturn - Brand To Wind Down

Within the last 12 hours, the wind has shifted 180 degrees regarding the future of the Saturn car brand. This morning, the reports, including this one in the Detroit Free Press, were stating that the final deal for Penske to take over Saturn was complete except for signatures. Late this afternoon, according to CNN site "Assignment Detroit", the Penske deal to buy Saturn is dead. GM will wind down the dealerships, putting 13,000 dealer employees out of work. Assignment Detroit attributes the change in plans by Penske Automotive Group to the refusal of another automaker to provide cars to fill out the Saturn Brand.

There was no word on how long it would take to wind down the brand, but based upon the experience with Pontiac, there may be very little product to sell by December of this year.

The closing of Saturn will not immediately result in mass layoffs of assembly workers. Saturns remaining vehicles, the Aura, View and Outlook, are all built in plants that build other GM cars. Unless prospective Saturn buyers are sold on other GM products on a 1 to 1 basis, some volume losses are inevitable.

To close out the post, how about some classic pre-Eagles Joe Walsh walking away music. Hit it James Gang.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Tell You Have a Slow Pit Crew

They look like this.

Image via
Nerdy Video of the Day:
Carl Sagan on Autotune

Extra Points for using Stephen Hawking as guest vocalist.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Nerdy Video of the Day
Monty Python Meets Star Trek

Did you ever see a Youtube video and think 'I wish I did that one'? Then you remembered that you have a life. This is one of those.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wall Street Journal - The Sad Story of a House in Detroit

In many ways, Detroit has been hit as hard by the deindustrialization of the United States as New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina. In July of this year, the median selling price for a home in Detroit was $7,100. That's not a misprint.

Writer Michael M. Phillips explains the sad state of Detroit's housing market in a first-class article in today's Wall Street Journal. Phillips' article is titled In One Home, the Story of Detroit's Rise and Fall. (Available to WSJ online subscribers here.) In the article, Phillips traces the 92 year history of a single house, located at 1626 W. Boston Boulevard, in the once-exclusive Boston-Edison neighborhood of Detroit. Boston-Edison is a neighborhood of mansions and minimansions. Past residents of the neighborhood include Henry Ford, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy, Jr. The house at 1626 West Boston Boulevard was big for its time, with four bedrooms, a maid's quarters and a butler pantry.

Mr. Phillips chronicles the complete ownership history of this house, with background information on each of the owners. The original owner of this house was an engineer named Thomas Avery. Mr. Avery gained a degree of fame in engineering circles by working with Henry Ford to perfect the moving assembly line for automobile production. In 1999, an urban pioneering police officer bought the somewhat frayed home for $79,900. In 2005, the property was sold for $250,000. The article doesn't come right out and say it, but this sure looks like a straw-buyer, property-flipping scheme. Since that time, the house was vacant, deteriorating and vandalized until this past April, when a community development organization bought the house for $10,000.

The story of this home demonstrates how inadequate current government programs are to address the problems of home-price declines and hollowing neighborhoods. When the market value of your house is less than what it would cost to put a roof on it, it's easy to see why many homeowners end up abandoning their homes and/or let them fall into disrepair. Detroit has an unemployment rate of almost 29%. For many Detroit residents, the prudent thing to do would be to pick up stakes and move somewhere else. Unfortunately, when your home is worth much less than what you owe on it, it makes picking up stakes that much harder. Moving is hard enough under the best of circumstances, but when you owe a huge deficiency after a mortgage foreclosure, or if you end up filing bankruptcy because of the foreclosure, moving is even harder. A chapter 13 bankruptcy cramdown to the actual value of the home would allow many of the upside down homeowners to get a fresh start. Unfortunately, that's the exact kind of mortgage relief that we're not getting.
From the Something's Rotten in Alabama File:
New Chinese-Owned Plant to Build 300,000 Supercars Annually

Lynyrd Skynyrd is associated with the state of Alabama (even though the band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida), but when I read this post on, the first thing that popped into my mind was a line from a the tune Uneasy Rider by North Carolinian, Charlie Daniels.

"And I laid it on thicker and heavier as I went."

Here's the story: Chinese industrialist, Yung Yeung, billed as a former head of Chinese auto manufacturer Brilliance Automotive, recently announced plans to build a $6.5 billion car manufacturing plant in Baldwin County, Alabama. The company building the cars is called Hybrid Kinetic Motors. HK Motors says it is planning on building 300,000 super efficient cars per year in the Alabama facility by 2013, and the facility will employ about 5,500 Alabamians. Even though the company doesn't really exist yet, and the car hasn't been designed yet, that didn't stop Governor Bob Riley and key legislators from participating in the press conference to announce the new plant.

The FOS meter gets pegged to the firewall with the specifications of the new HK automobile. The car is supposed to run on a mixture of gasoline, compressed natural gas and electricity. It's supposed to get 45 MPG even though it will have a 1.5 liter (think Honda Fit sized) engine making 400 horsepower. Yeah, and monkeys will fly out my tailpipe.

Who's going to pay for this new megafactory? Well, the good news appears to be that the first-level money-losers will be Chinese. The company plans to take advantage of the US government's EB-5 visa program. This program grants permanent residence visas to entrepreneurs who invest $500,000 to $1,000,000 in a business in the United States. Even so, there are a lot of things that can go wrong when state and local governments give assistance to a manufacturing plant with no visible means of support. Just ask the folks in Tipton, Indiana.

Just a month ago, from Missisippi there was a similar announcement involving a former Brilliance Chairman, Yang Rong. According to one source, Yang Rong achieved remarkable growth during his tenure as Chairman of Brilliance, nevertheless, Rong left the country after being accused of “economic crimes of embezzlement of state assets” in 2002. Rong's Mississippi plan promised a $6.5 billion facility to hire 25,000 local workers and produce one million cars per year. There's a lawsuit pending in federal court in then Northern District of Mississippi featuring Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Corp. as a defendant. I don't have access to Pacer right now, so I can't check it out, but it appears to involve allegations of fraud.

What do I take from all this? Apparently it's more lucrative to be a former Brilliance Automotive Chairman than a former Nigerian Oil Minister.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bill Maher Sums Things Up Nicely

Here's the first paragraph in Bill Maher's essay in today's Huffington Post.

New Rule: If America can't get its act together, it must lose the bald eagle as our symbol and replace it with the YouTube video of the puppy that can't get up. As long as we're pathetic, we might as well act like it's cute. I don't care about the president's birth certificate, I do want to know what happened to "Yes we can." Can we get out of Iraq? No. Afghanistan? No. Fix health care? No. Close Gitmo? No. Cap-and-trade carbon emissions? No. The Obamas have been in Washington for ten months and it seems like the only thing they've gotten is a dog.

Read more at:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

From the cars you can't drive to work file:
Art Arfons' Green Monster - Yours for $51,100.

found this former land speed record car on Ebay. For less than a fully loaded Chevy Suburban, you could get this handmade car. With a top speed of around 650 miles per hour, you could make your 10 mile commute to work in less than one minute. Of course, stopping for red lights would be a bitch.

Why is this car so cheap? Well, it's a rebuilt wreck, and you know what salvage titles do to your trade-in value. Actually, the problem with the Green Monster is that it's obsolete. According to a feature article in this month's Popular Science magazine, there are a couple teams gunning to take the land speed record up to 1000 miles per hour. Imagine you're tooling down the Bonneville salt flats in your $51,000 Green Monster, when some f'ing jerk comes up behind you going 1,000, closing at 350 mph. It's probably Kanye, that jackass.
I'm Vertical

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the planet. I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted. Summer ended early when the kids went back to school the second week of August, and everything has been a sprint since then. Anyway I hope to catch up on some posts of things that I've stored notes on. We'll see how much I get done.