Posts By: Samir Syed

By on November 15, 2008

When the leaders of the G20 meet this weekend, they’ll look to Canada’s conservative but durable banking model as a template for the rest of the world. Since the Liberal reign of Paul Martin as Canada’s Finance Minister, Canada’s been the “Wealthy Barber” of the developed world, deploying bland but solid fiscal policy to great effect. And now, more sense from the current Canadian Finance Minister, Conservative Jim Flaherty. CTVNews reports that Jim isn’t too keen on giving the ailing Canadian auto industry the US-style bailout that’s currently being debated in Washington. Why not? Well sometimes, the story just tells itself: “Nobody wants to see taxpayers’ money taken — and then in effect wasted — where a company is not going to survive … we want to see the plan for survivability,” he said. In order words, before the FinMin spends one cent of taxpayer dollars propping up Canadian production, he wants to see a turnaround plan. You know – the same kind of plan GM has failed to publish ever since it first bled red under its current CEO Rick Wagoner. Don’t hold your breath, Jim.

By on November 13, 2008

Last year, Premier Jean Charest’s fellow Québécois faced the worst winter the Province had seen in over five decades. So he directed his government to make winter radial tires mandatory. From December 15 until March 15, snow shoes for you, eh? Two weeks ago, I spoke to a mechanic in Nashua, New Hampshire who lamented a shortage of winter tires. New Hampshire being almost Canada, I should have twigged. Then, two days ago, a Montreal tire shop was burned to the ground in what the Montreal Gazette called a “supicious tire fire.” Still didn’t click. Finally, the Canadian press put two and two together for me, declaring that Quebec’s winter tire law is causing a shortage and, c’est vrai, a tire war in the province. This being the first year such a law has been in place for any Canadian province, the demand for tires in Quebec has inevitably led to shortages in neighboring provinces and bordering U.S. states. In case anyone in the Northeast needs winter tires for a Ford Mustang, I happen to have a pair that I’d part with for, say, $20b dollars. U.S.

By on October 29, 2008
CTV News reports that Ontario’s ailing automobile sector is becoming another casualty of the U.S. credit crisis. Despite a Canadian dollar that’s free-fallen to $0.77, U.S. carmakers’ cash flow problems are taking their toll. Thanks to the tightening credit noose, these corporate customers can no longer finance the cost of buying Canadian parts at the volume to which the suppliers have grown accustomed. Jayson Myers, the head of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, says several Canadian companies dependent on exports to the U.S. automakers are in danger of going Tango Uniform. Canadian Minister of Industry Jim Prentice agrees, noting in typical political non-committal language that “What we have heard from the auto parts folks over the last several days relates to liquidity issues.” Myers, along with Ontario’s government, are now calling for the federal government to step in. They want federal loans guarantees for American/Canadian automakers. Like any good working girl, Myers doesn’t waste time naming his price. An immediate, short-term loan of $1b for Canadian parts makers. As a patriotic Canadian, I look forward to the day when my tax money is used to prop-up poor Frank Stronach’s crumbling empire.
By on October 25, 2008
There are few certainties in life: Death, Taxes. That’s it. Well, I’m proposing we expand this iconic couplet. As a frequent visitor to Autoblog (when all their scripting doesn’t cause my browser to crash), I’ve come to expect daily content on the Ford Mustang. Forgive me if I get all “meta” on you, but if Death Watches are TTAC’s signature blogs, Autoblog’s Mustang-mania best exemplifies the AOL-owned website’s gestalt. All things Mustang must be reported: Updates. Special editions. 2010 Teaser shots. More special editions. And so on. It’s gotten so ludicrous that even Autoblog’s commentators occasionally pause the food fights to laugh at Autoblog. But on a day where Autoblog already blogged about a special edition Mustang, the AB’s Drew Philips posted the epitome of self-parody. Philips’ latest work, “Ode to the 2005-2009 Ford Mustang,” contains about 80 links to other autoblog posts about… well… Mustangs, listing every special edition Autoblog has reported on since the S197’s inception. Which makes it a blog entry about other blog entries. And, yes, this post is a blog entry about a blog entry about other blog entries. But rest assured, no metaphysical vortex opens above your head for reading it. At least until Car News Article scrapes our content. For them, a black hole isn’t good enough.
By on October 24, 2008

On June 23, 2008, GM announced it was hiring Citigroup to help it in a strategic review of the HUMMER brand. After being inflicted with a base H3 for a week, I’d suggest the venerable the General skip to the denouement and sell off the brand to anyone who wants it. By offering vehicles like the base H3, GM demonstrates it is/was unwilling and/or unable to nurture what is/was the most focused brand in its bloated portfolio.

By on October 23, 2008

One day, we’ll look back fondly on the rivalry between Xbox and Playstation. Inevitably, we’ll discuss the competing pairs of game that these consoles offered, genre by genre, sequel by sequel. We’ll debate Final Fantasy vs. Oblivion, Halo vs. Resistance, and ,of course, Gran Turismo (“GT”) vs. Forza Motorsport. And everyone will pick the Playstation(s)’s GT series. That said, Xbox owners need not lament as the Xbox’s own flagship racer is a solid game indeed and one of the most intuitive, purest racing games available today.

By on September 3, 2008
An old buddy of mine, who became an organizer for Liberal Party of Canada, once told me “nothings smells like elections more than asphalt.” The pre-election release of the purse strings is a tradition as old as democracy itself. Machiavellian and cynical? Damn straight. It now appears that Canada’s federal government is ready to take the cynicism to a whole ‘nother level by promising old money before an election. It’s not new money, it’s only a reiteration of something that’s been known for months. The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian PM Stephen Harper will travel to the heart of Canada’s rust belt to announce $200 million in pork for Ontario’s ailing automotive sector. That Ontario hold over 100 of the parliament’s 308 seats has absolutely nothing – nothing, I swear – to do with the announcement. Neither does the fact that Harper is expected to dissolve the government by Friday in preparation for the third federal election since 2003. Or that Harper`s government has been repeatedly taken to task by Ontario’s provincial government over its constant refusals to “invest” (i.e., give money) to Ontario’s automotive sector. The fact is, the announcement of this money dates back to Finance Minister’s last budget. It’s such old news that I asked Buzz Hargrove about it back on July 29th. What did Buzz say? “It’s peanuts”.
By on September 3, 2008

Evaluating the Canadian-designed, built and sold Acura CSX without mentioning the Honda Civic is no easy task. (See?) Comparisons are so tempting, namely because the latter is an excellent car in its own right. The feeling’s mutual. Honda of Japan loved the Acura CSX so much that it served as a template for the JDM Civic. And why not? The CSX delivers an excellent compact luxury package without the reliability issues bedeviling certain (cough German cough) imports. Said otherwise, the CSX is the penny-pinching—I mean, thinking man’s luxury compact.

By on August 20, 2008

Baz and former friend. (courtesy auto123.com)As Reuters notes, 90 percent of the vehicles Ford builds in Canada end-up in the U.S. So, despite the fact that the Ford F-series is still the best-selling vehicle north of the border, Ford Canada is suffering. All of which leads to the suprise (really?) resignation of Barry Engle, Ford of Canada's president. Though Engle has served for several years for Ford and Chrysler, working in several capacities around the globe, he decided to exit the auto industry just six months after assuming FoMoCo Canada's top job. Engle's new job will be in his native Pennsylvania, working for an agricultural equipment company; IMHO he's using "family time" as a smokescreen. Time for a Lilly Pulitzer: did he fall or was he pushed? And why?

By on August 20, 2008
All pensions must go! (courtesy gm.ca)When CAW Prez Buzz Hargrove told me a GM C11 is inevitable, I wondered if Canadians might have a more realistic idea of The General's financial health, or lack thereof. The Toronto Star provides confirmation. The paper reports that GM's Ontario workers have noticed that the automaker has taken full advantage of a company- specific exemption allowing them NOT to fully fund the workers' defined-benefit Canadian pension plan. Which GM hasn't done since 1992, to the tune of $5b. [A defined-benefit plan obliges GM to pay out a fixed, agreed upon amount to its beneficiaries– no matter what's in the fund.] "My concern is that, if GM goes into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. or they go bankrupt altogether and out of Canada," a retiree worried. "My pension is going to be cut nearly in half." It seems GM's legislative loophole was worth every penny the company spent acquiring it. For GM, anyway.
By on August 15, 2008

How does a Mustang fare in a harsh, North-eastern winter? More specifically, Canada. I only ask because last year, Montreal, where I live, was covered with over 200 inches of snow. I've already done the rear wheel-drive-in-winter thing in my first car. I was behind the wheel of a Chevette with about four hp and two ft.-lbs of torque (slight exaggeration). In other words, it came standard with engine-limited traction control. A buddy of mine tried to negotiate last winter in his Twin Turbo Supra. Fancy snow tires and 200 lbs. of gravel in the trunk still made it the worst winter car in the universe. He ended up buying a Hyundai Accent to get through the season (ouch). True fact: in my entire life, I think I can count on one hand the amount of winterized Mustangs I've seen, complete with ugly black wheels and skinny winter tires. So, do the other Mustang owners who leave theirs in the garage all winter know something I should know?


Porsche GT3 on snow

By on July 31, 2008

The man and his legacyBuzz Hargrove doesn't mince his words. As demonstrated in Part 1 of this interview, the outgoing Canadian Auto Workers leader is fully aware of the Detroit domestics' dire financial peril. What's more, Buzz understands the balance between his members' welfare and the health of the automotive industry. Or lack thereof. "My first responsibility is to look after the interests of my members," Buzz admits. "But I tell my boys to look after the industry too. At every meeting." So, how's that going?

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