Posts By: SXL

By on June 9, 2009

You’re a ZipCar customer.
You have an iPhone in your pocket, and would like to know where the nearest available car is.
You open the ZipCar application.
The map shows you a wide selection of cars. You specify the type, the selection shows those.
You touch the screen and reserve a car.
As you get to where it’s parked, you press a button, which makes the car honk, helping you find it.
And then you open the car, enter and drive off.
Owning cars just changed—a lot.

By on June 1, 2009

GM was a politburo building cars. GM died for the same reasons that the Soviet Union died: because it killed initiative and proved unable to manage its resources at a pace that matched competing economies. Just as the Soviet politburo promoted the party faithful, demanding adherence to the party line, GM management brooked no discontent, and would get rid of any dissenting voices, banishing them to the corporate equivalent of Siberia: away from RenCen. The Soviet Union destroyed itself because of its unwillingness to accept reality. Spending untold billions on a show military force, it starved all other facets of its economic life. The Soviet leadership also accepted incredible inefficiencies in its production apparatus, and failed to exploit its vast reservoir of natural resources. Ditto GM.

By on June 1, 2009

Here’s a no-no: Michael Moore’s open letter, on this day of GM’s bankrupty, in its entirety, via the Daily Kos.

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM’s birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

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By on April 7, 2009

The KitchenAid Espresso Pro Line – delivering 15 bars of pressure, with a separate steam unit pump. Just holding it in my hands at the store convinced me. Solid weight, no rattle. Cast iron and proper machining, no plastic cheats anywhere. I was tempted to take the lid off and peak inside, but didn’t. Given what would follow I should have pulled out an Umbraco-set and given it a go.

By on March 14, 2009

Robert Hefner, the author of The GET: The Grand Energy Transition, believes we should use LPG as a bridge to an EV future. He points out there are eight million vehicles in the world that operate on natural gas—though only 150,000 those are in the USA. Americans have invested nearly four trillion dollars in large cars, SUVs and trucks. Hefner asks whether we seriously intend to throw them away? Of course not, he says, and then he suggests that they should be converted to running on LPG. How difficult is that, you ask? Not much; a day’s work. (I know, my 1998 Jeep Cherokee is now a hybrid, running on gasoline or LPG at the press of a button.) Hefner says we should “retrofit all those vehicles that are now running on gas.”

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By on February 20, 2009

It was my last meeting with Saab. The new marketing director had decided that we were just too difficult to work with, and wanted a new team. When his predecessor introduced us to the new guy, he had no idea that we’d be working together again soon, for Lexus Europe. Meanwhile, he’d be moving on inside GM to work on the launch of the new Cadillac platform, and the later Lexus work would bring us into contact with the man who is presently heading Bentley’s sales and marketing. The car world is a small world. Back to the meeting. New guy is drawing a very sketchy car on the whiteboard.

By on December 3, 2008

The lead outside director at GM, George M.C. Fisher, informs the NYTimes that “Rick is the right guy to lead this management team through this crisis.” Acting on the assumption that GM has any reputation left to lose, all thirteen outside directors are in agreement with the Master Accountant that “bankruptcy would ruin the company’s reputation.” Fisher and his co-directors are “pretty convinced as to the serious damage to the brand from bankruptcy.” He’s right on that score, but doesn’t touch upon whether the fact that GM has been insolvent for close to a decade has given him any pause during that period. Fisher blames the company’s troubles on the dire financial conditions that have blindsided this fine collection of managers extraordinaire – noting that the sales rate in November was the lowest since 1982.

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By on November 16, 2008

I’m in tears. Back in 1972, Stewart Udall, interior secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, proposed that the auto companies branch out into “exciting new variants of ground transportation” to produce minibuses, “people movers,” urban mass transit and high-speed intercity trains. Instead of expanding the Interstate highway system, he suggested that the road construction industry take on “huge new programs to construct mass transit systems.” And he called for building “more compact, sensitively planned communities” rather than continuing urban sprawl.” We all know what happened. Detroit, today desperately seeking a miracle, worked hard to ensure that this would never happen. Even today, while screaming and begging for tax dollars, Detroit is lobbying against California’s stricter emissions laws that dictate smaller cars. Here’s the thing: people don’t want cars, we want mobility. And the reason I’m in tears is that lots of people saw this, almost FIFTY years ago.

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By on July 25, 2008

Someone call 911!At one time, the nations of Europe took great pride in their cavalry divisions, horses and men numbering tens of thousands. Then the Gatling gun made its debut, and all those horses and all that equipment became sausages and bric-a-brac. And so it is with the SUV. The Gatling gun of rising gas prices has laid waste to The Big 2.8's armies, throwing their plans into complete chaos. To its credit, Ford is attempting to regroup, rearm and re-engage. So how's it going?

By on July 19, 2008

Dark times for SUVsAs TTAC's Best and Brightest know, Smart's proud parents, the German geniuses who adopted, abused and then disowned Chrysler, long resisted the calls to bring the Smart stateside. And then, eventually, did. In the first six months, 11,400 Smart fortwo have found new closets homes. If you're an aspiring American smarty pants, you'll have to wait a year; some 30k prospective buyers are holding their [70] horses. And while used full-sized SUVs are worth less than a plate of cocoa and lefse, you can sell your Smart fortwo with a nice profit. Elizabeth Szewczyk tells the Washington Post she gave up her Jeep Wrangler for a Smart car and never (couldn't?) look back. Szewczky (pronounced “Schwwwing”) remembers “watching the fuel gauge drop as she drove down the highway and realizing it was time to trade in her childhood dream." [ED: Safe driving or what?] And anyway the Smart gets her a lot more attention than the Wrangler did. Is that point? We report, you deride.

By on May 9, 2008

6a00e54ef6fd3b883400e54f8b41758834-800wi.jpgWho do you think is doing the greatest damage to the US dollar? The Chinese? The European Union? OPEC? Brace yourself – it's you, every time you press the gas pedal on your gas-guzzler. With today's oil prices, US oil imports represent $1.5b per day leaving the country — make that $548bn per year. "This represents the single largest contribution to America's balance-of-payments deficit, and is a leading cause for the dollar's ongoing drop in value," writes Michael T Klare, author of "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet," over at Tomdispatch.com. Hindsight is 20/20, but things would have been a lot different if the automakers had realized where things were headed, when things were headed that way. Meanwhile, motorists unlucky enough to be stuck with land barges are seeing second-hand values take a torpedo in the bow. Yes – gripe, gripe, gripe. But this is serious. If T. Boone Pickens is right, the price of oil is going Polar North, which means the dollar is headed for the antipodes. Klare thinks the yearly US tab for gas could easily reach three quarters of a trillion dollars soon. Do the patriotic thing. Go easy on the pedal, will you?

By on May 6, 2008

g711526.jpgA while ago, James Fallows at the Atlantic Monthly asked readers to submit suggestions for "the stupidest policy ever." He rigged the deck by taking The Gulf of Tonkin resolution off the table, but the winner, by a landslide, is the blind support our "independent" politicians gave to the bio-ethanol scam. (And you're the victim.) The mag gave two of the winner's proponents, Justin Cohen and his father Reuben, special mention for their comprehensive summation of all that's wrong with bio-ethanol. "I think bi-partisan support for ethanol is more stupid [than the McCain-Clinton 'gas tax holiday' plan], because it's actually harmful and because it not only panders to the public… worse it panders to a special interest group (Midwest farmers and their regional politicians). It's harmful because: 1) it helped to catalyze higher levels of food inflation, 2) it consumes as much energy to make and distribute as it provides, 3) it deflects attention from developing/trying sound policies to enhance our energy security, 4) it didn't allow for removal of taxes on the import of truly energy efficient ethanol produced in Brazil from sugar, and 5) it's a such an extreme example of government dysfunctionality it causes people like me to become truly disillusioned with the political process."

By on February 20, 2008

smart-car.jpgPorsche reckons their UK sales are threatened by London's congestion charge hike, which will add £4k to the annual cost of Cap City Porker ownership. The Times Online reports that the Sultans of Stuttgart are giving the Mayor of London 14 days to respond to their protest before applying for a judicial review. Porsche argues that the extra congestion charge for cars in their emissions bracket is patently unfair, and not just to rich Yuppies. "Thousands of car owners driving a huge range of cars will be hit by a disproportionate tax," argues Andy Goss, managing director of Porsche Cars GB. "[It's]is clear will have a very limited effect on CO2 emissions." While not specifically playing the class warfare card, Mayor Livingston's office responded with predictable populist pap, weighing-in against the "tiny minority" driving high CO2 emitting automobiles in London. "No-one is allowed to throw their rubbish in the street and Porsche should not be allowed to impose gas-guzzling, polluting cars on Londoners who do not want them." So, off to the Old Bailey then…

By on February 13, 2008

pumpphoto.jpgPoliticians around the world were up against the wall. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was slowly picking away at all their fancy ways of sidetracking public funds into hopelessly anachronistic and inefficient agricultural subsidies. And the agribusiness beats the mil/industrial complex when it comes to lobbying skills. Even French politicians, famous for ignoring the plight of their people, tremble at the thought of another tractor phalanx of mad farmers pulling up in front of the National Assembly and launching putrid brie at their doorstep. Enter Peak Oil.

By on December 6, 2007

toyota_robot_1.jpgWhile The Big 2.8 keep playing "Crisis? What Crisis? Oh THAT crisis," Toyota's taking some time off (as if) to muck about with robots. Toyota's just announced that two of its new Toyota Partner Robots will hit the market in 2010. As The International Herald Tribune reports, one 'bot plays Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" on a violin (when it can play "A Lark Ascending," give us a call). The other 'bot is Segway's worst nightmare. Weighing in at 150kgs., Mobility Robot (MR) can negotiate stairs, surmount 10 degree gradients and travel 20km at a rate of 6km/h. It's (he's?) also capable of avoiding obstacles and transporting its owner autonomously. (That's Toyota-speak for "getting you back from the pub while you're too drunk to know what you're doing.") And when you feel like using the legs that God gave you, Mr. MR will be your personal porter, following you like a dog. (Which is God spelled backwards.) Next week, Honda's takes the wraps of the latest version of Asimo. While both automakers claim 'bot-making is a logical outgrowth of their car-building 'bots, we reckon they need to make them mightier still. Meanwhile, GM's still building the first ever G6.

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