By on May 6, 2016

Fuzzbuster II Radar Detector, Image: dave_7/Flickr

by Richard A. Ratay

In 1974, Congress passed legislation establishing the national highway speed limit of 55 mph. The original goal of the law was to conserve gas during the first OPEC Oil Crisis. Later, proponents of the lower limit argued it reduced highway fatalities. (Remember “55 Saves Lives”?) In time, studies showed the lower limit accomplished neither objective. It did, however, irk just about every driver across America.

Truckers were already equipped with their own means of skirting the new limit. Using their CB radios, long haul truck drivers kept each other informed about the whereabouts of “bear traps” and “Smokeys” lurking along the highways.

But drivers of automobiles sought their own weapon for combatting enforcement of the new lower speed limit. They found it in a device called “The Fuzzbuster.” Released a year before passage of the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit, the Fuzzbuster was the creation of Dale Smith, an Ohio driver who had earlier found himself seething at the side of the road after being nabbed in a police speed trap.

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By on April 22, 2016

Volkswagen Passats being crushed after testing, Image Source: BentParrot/YouTube

Update: I made a decimal flub. The math is corrected. Thanks to commenter ChemEng for pointing it out. We’ll post a new piece on Monday.

There’s no denying it: Volkswagen cheated. It confessed to the crime of emitting up to 40 times over the legal limit allowed for NOx. We learned yesterday (and the day before, to some degree), that Volkswagen will fix the vehicles that can be fixed, if owners so choose.

But what happens to all those diesel cars, which are perfectly good aside from emitting more NOx than they should, if owners decide to cut and run? And what happens to all those vehicles that can’t be fixed? Volkswagen has vowed to buy them back from customers — to which I ask, what then?

There are few options Volkswagen can employ to unload the massive windfall of cars coming its way, and none of them are particularly environmentally friendly.

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By on January 12, 2016

Matthias Müller

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller apologized again to dealers and customers for the ongoing diesel scandal in a statement to CNBC’s Phil LeBeau. When pressed, he also admitted that buybacks are possible.

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By on November 26, 2015

Editor’s notes: One of the best reads of the year, there’s nothing like some Fargo-style forgery on a massive scale to liven up your afternoon. This piece originally ran September 3rd, 2015.

In the opening moments of the above scene from the flick “Fargo,” Oldsmobile dealership sales manager Jerry Lundegaard is working up some bogus paperwork to cover his tracks with General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). We can infer that he sold some floor-planned cars and did not pay back GMAC, which was the impetus for the movie’s storyline of his bumbling attempt to extort money from his father-in-law.

Jerry’s store may have been “out of trust” with GMAC on a few dozen 1987 Cutlasses, but that pales in comparison to the scheme concocted by New York car dealer John McNamara.

Between 1980 and 1991, McNamara convinced GMAC to advance him $6.2 billion to pay for 248,000 conversion vans that did not exist. It was one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history and ended up costing GMAC $436 million, equal to $725 million in today’s dollars.

We would like to show you a photo of McNamara but none are to be found. That may be because it is believed he went into the Witness Protection Program a few years after his conviction for fraud in 1992. Just picture Lundegaard with a really big brain.

McNamara’s brilliant swindle was deliciously simple. It was based on one undeniable truth he learned from his years of owning a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealership on Long Island: General Motors and GMAC were too incompetent and too bureaucratic to figure out that they were being scammed.

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By on September 3, 2015

In the opening moments of the above scene from the flick “Fargo,” Oldsmobile dealership sales manager Jerry Lundegaard is working up some bogus paperwork to cover his tracks with General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). We can infer that he sold some floor-planned cars and did not pay back GMAC, which was the impetus for the movie’s storyline of his bumbling attempt to extort money from his father-in-law.

Jerry’s store may have been “out of trust” with GMAC on a few dozen 1987 Cutlasses, but that pales in comparison to the scheme concocted by New York car dealer John McNamara.

Between 1980 and 1991, McNamara convinced GMAC to advance him $6.2 billion to pay for 248,000 conversion vans that did not exist. It was one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history and ended up costing GMAC $436 million, equal to $725 million in today’s dollars.

We would like to show you a photo of McNamara but none are to be found. That may be because it is believed he went into the Witness Protection Program a few years after his conviction for fraud in 1992. Just picture Lundegaard with a really big brain.

McNamara’s brilliant swindle was deliciously simple. It was based on one undeniable truth he learned from his years of owning a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealership on Long Island: General Motors and GMAC were too incompetent and too bureaucratic to figure out that they were being scammed.

Read More >

By on July 8, 2015

starlimo

When Maggie Dajani realized that the tire-pressure warning light was on in the van she’d rented to take six teenagers and their parents to a One Direction concert in El Paso, she took the van back to the rental company. A representative of the company, Star Limo, told her not to worry. She then continued to the concert. Shortly afterwards, the van blew two tires and rolled over. Several motorists helped drag the ten passengers out of the van, which was filling with smoke. The children went to the hospital with various injuries, and one of them reportedly received one hundred and fifty stitches as a result.

Now, the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission has delivered a very, ahem, business-friendly verdict on the whole ordeal. Turns out that Star Limo is the beneficiary of a unique combination of regulatory conditions.

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By on July 7, 2015

The Gulf Of Mexico Dead Zone... absolutely caused by ethanol corn production (courtesy: Wired)

Last week’s news of BP’s $18.7 billion settlement with federal and state governments brought to close the second act of one of the worst environmental tragedies of all time. There’s no promise that the third act won’t drag out for decades and ultimately end in heartbreak either.

BP’s structured settlement means the oil producer will pay roughly $1 billion each year over the next two decades to state and local governments impacted by the 3.9 million barrels of oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Of course, there’s no amount of money that could assuage the grief from families of the 11 workers killed in the spill.

But the settlement doesn’t address the hundreds of individual or class action lawsuits, or many of the claims made against BP by local business owners and people since the 2010 spill. Some of those civil cases are still in court, some on appeal, and many are years away from a meaningful conclusion.

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By on July 3, 2015

Julie Hamp Not In BlackResigned Toyota PR chief Julie Hamp was named to PR Week’s “Power List” two weeks after being busted for allegedly importing illegal prescription painkillers into Japan last month. Hamp allegedly received 57 pills of Oxycodone in a box labeled “necklaces” at Narita Airport in Tokyo.

The list, which ranks her No. 10, was released the same day Hamp resigned her position and included an editor’s note at the top explaining the awkward timing.

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By on July 2, 2014

“So you honked at me because you believed I was speeding…”

“Because you were driving recklessly and speeding now, it’s got wet roads and you were on your cell phone.”
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By on May 19, 2014

Seattle’s TV stations are reporting that a wealthy businessman who led police on a high speed chase through the city of Olympia in his Ferrari F360 has been sentenced to just one year of work release. According to the reports, Shaun Goodman pleaded guilty to felony police evasion and DUI for the December 29 incident that saw his terrified passenger leap from the moving car when he slowed at an intersection and ended only after he crashed into a parked car and then careened into the side of a house. Read More >

By on May 14, 2014

Two weeks ago we had a horrific accident here in Buffalo. It was the end result of a street race that saw a 47 year old man trapped in the wreckage of his car and burned alive.

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By on April 28, 2014

2014 Volvo S60, Interior, Gauges and steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Teknikens Värld

Yesterday, someone had the audacity to honk at me. It wasn’t one of those cheerful little toots that a person might use to get someone’s attention when waving them into traffic, but a full-on ten second blast – the kind that you should only use when you are behind the controls of a freight train that is bearing down upon someone in the tracks. The offender? Some octogenarian in a Buick. My crime? A not so near-miss that occurred while I was making a left turn across traffic from a side street into a center turn lane. Read More >

By on February 26, 2014

The Japan Times is reporting that a car driven by Japanese tourists had to be stopped with a spike strip after its driver failed to stop despite the fact she was being pursued by at least three patrol cars. Read More >

By on February 24, 2014
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

The New York Times reported Sunday on how strict enforcement of parking violations in Manhattan is causing problems for government agencies as they are forced to reclaim official vehicles that have been towed. In most cities, official vehicles are kept immune from the effects of parking enforcement by dashboard placards that allow government officials to park in red zones or without feeding the meter while they are on the job.

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By on February 13, 2014

2013 Taurus Police Interceptor -02- Picture courtesy David Hester

Yesterday, while folks in the Southeast were getting hammered with their second severe winter storm in two weeks, the skies over Buffalo were wonderfully bright and sunny. Of course, when you count the wind chill factor, the temperature barely climbed into the double digits but as a result of the sun and a whole lot of road salt, the highways here were mostly bare and dry. That means my evening commute was a breeze. I hit Route 33 and ran my little CUV up to just over the 55 mph limit and sailed right out of town. Things were going great, but then, unexpectedly, traffic began to slow.

I shifted left into a place I really don’t run that much these days and wicked the speed up to a smidge over 60 in order to keep up the pace. I found myself fourth or fifth back in a line of cars that was whizzing up the fast lane overtaking car after car and, as a student of the road, I began to wonder just what the hell was holding all these people up. I found the reason at the head of the line, a Buffalo City Police cruiser running right at the limit and, like all the good people of the Earth who don’t want a senseless speeding ticket, I found myself easing off the gas. But as I noted his lack of response to all of the cars ahead of me that were simply accelerating away into the wide open space the officer had created, I decided that for whatever reason he simply wasn’t interested in writing tickets and so I continued on, barely adjusting my pace. Read More >

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