Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway holding group, is the world’s second-richest human. Buffett’s no stranger to the transportation sector, having mopped up profits with Geico, Forest River (RV’s), McLane Company (foodstuff distribution) and the XTRA Corporation (semi-trailer renting and leasing). Berkshire Hathaway recently took a ten percent stake in the railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. Warren Buffett’s seen the future.
Posts By: SXL
Word, Excel, Acrobat Reader, Photoshop, Powerpoint… The computer programs you depend on are filled with bloat: unused features that hog your hard disk, crowd the CPU and drain your laptop’s battery– without adding to the action on the screen. Ditto SUVs. They are extraordinarily capable vehicles whose unused features guzzle gas, add weight and drain oil from the ground. In both cases, slimming down has few downsides– save the psychological. And therein lies the tale.
Our first car was a navy blue Opel Kadett. My father was off to sea; my mother took us on an inaugural daytrip. When my father returned to the Norwegian mainland, he dismissed the car as too small and upgraded to an Opel Kapitän. This was followed at short intervals by an Opel Rekord and an Opel Admiral. (The hierarchical naming scheme of Opel marketing in the 60s-70s was pretty obvious.) I’m sure my father would have moved to a Senator with time– but he was ready for a Mercedes. Once he’d switched allegiances, he never looked back.
In the late 70s, Dutch traffic planner Hans Monderman experienced the kind of insight that gets people sent to an asylum. ”Let’s eliminate all traffic signals and signs and remove the divisions between the road and sidewalk where cars and people interact. There will be fewer accidents and traffic flow will improve.” Monderman’s approach seemed completely radical: roads that seem dangerous are safer than roads that seem safe. The concept was a smack in the face of convention.
When the new[ish] Chevrolet Tahoe SUV was released, reporters asked GM Car Czar Bob Lutz whether rising gas prices would discourage SUV buyers from jumping into The General’s gas-guzzling truck. ”Rich people don’t care about gas prices,” Lutz remarked. Yes well, it’s time for Maximum Bob to take a class in Remedial Marketing. It’s a five minute course that starts with the Bell Curve.
"Arguably in every parameter that you can look at, the Toyota Production System is the finest product system in the world for designing and manufacturing products. They make products that people want and they do it with less resources and less time than anybody in the world. They're a magical machine." Not my words, but those of Alan Mulally, now charged with pulling a carmaker out of the swamp marshes of Fordor. Like Alan, I admire Toyota’s manufacturing processes, quality control and after-sales. But I also know their weakness…
On our way through the dark, the Toyota people prepared me for my room’s view. ”It’s Close to Mount Fuji,” they said. ”And your room is facing the mountain.” I got up at the first hint of light, walked to the window and realized I was at the very foot of Mount Fuji. The rising sun turned the snow at the summit a sparkling pink. A pair of huge Bonzai styled trees outside the window had clearly been posed with thought against the background. It was December 2003 and I was set to drive the Lexus prototype hybrid SUV.