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By on March 29, 2011

The initiative effort to give voters a say in whether red light cameras and speed cameras are used has spread to a fifth city in Washington state. The group BanCams.com began circulating petitions in Redmond, kicking off an effort on Saturday to gather the 3845 signatures required to put the measure on the ballot. The referendum petition follows the language used in Bellingham, Longview, Monroe and Wenatchee where signatures have been gathered since January.

“The city of Redmond and for-profit companies contracted by the city of Redmond may not install or use automatic ticketing cameras to impose fines from camera surveillance unless such a system is approved by a majority vote of the city council and a majority vote of the people at an election,” Redmond Initiative Number One states.

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By on March 29, 2011

In the face of hysteria about radiation that drowns out the true death and destruction in Japan, Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn toured the earthquake-damaged Nissan engine plant in Iwaki. Iwaki is some 35 miles from the stricken Fukushima power plant. Right away, Carlos Ghosn had to deny rumors that Nissan would abandon their engine plant. Instead, Ghosn “vowed to use every possible means to rebuild it,” says The Nikkei [sub].

It will be slow going. Read More >

By on March 29, 2011

After the March 11 quake, when the office buildings stopped shaking, Toyota told its 500 staffers in Purchasing to contact suppliers. Each damaged supplier received a red pin on a large map of northeastern Japan. Soon, the map was swamped by a tsunami of red pins. Some suppliers “suffered the complete destruction of their factories,” writes The Nikkei [sub], “and were unable to determine how many of their employees were still alive.”

With more than 10,000 dead, more than 16,000 missing, and whole towns razed in the Tohoku area, many shops are now believed to be at the bottom of the furious sea.

“The word ‘ordeal’ does not even convey the gravity of the situation,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda says. Read More >

By on March 28, 2011

Honda is thinking about delaying its earnings announcement while the company has all hands full dealing with the fall-out of earthquake, tsunami and radiating power plants. A Honda spokesman told Reuters: “We’re considering it, but nothing has been decided.” Read More >

By on March 28, 2011

Somebody took me up on my offer. My old #187 Performance Touring “E” Neon is off to another home, where, it is fervently to hope, it will become a first-rate LeMons racer.

I don’t want the history of this car to disappear. No, it’s not a Parnelli Jones Mustang or Sunoco Camaro, but it was a factory(ish) race car for much of its life and it deserves to be remembered. So, if you have some time, and you want to read about a car which spent sixteen years in rough-and-tumble competition, read on…
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By on March 28, 2011

“Production at a Nissan Motor plant in China dwindled dramatically two weeks after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami disrupted the supply of key auto parts,” reports China’s People’s Daily, citing “sources with the company.”

In a land where alleged spokespeople of a company get a heart attack and hang up when a reporter calls, those sources turned out to be workers at the Dongfeng Nissan joint venture in central China’s Hubei Province. “We used to assemble 304 cars a day, but today our plan is set at 82,” said a worker. Read More >

By on March 28, 2011

There are two words guaranteed to cause heavy Maalox and Valium intake in the world of my (former) fellow Mad Men, and to increase billable hours at their shrinks: “Agency review.”

The client calls in the competition to present ideas. A lot of time and huge amounts of money are wasted spent in the beauty contest. Now all ad agencies of BMW U.S.A. are pummeled by anxiety attacks: BMW has called for the dreaded agency review. Read More >

By on March 28, 2011

Who will be the world’s largest car company this year? There appears to be at least one car company that is (so far) totally unaffected by any parts malaises, supposed bursting bubbles in China and any other possible impediments to vehicular growth: Volkswagen. Veedub’s sales jefe Christian Klinger remarked at the sidelines of a press conference today that Volkswagen’s sales will hit record levels in March.

The Wall Street Journal could not believe its ears and sought confirmation. A Volkswagen spokesman said they heard right. Klingler didn’t give any further details, says the WSJ, but record levels can’t mean anything else than the best March ever in VW’s storied history. Read More >

By on March 28, 2011

A shortage of engine-related micro control units (MCUs) resulting from damage to Japan’s Renesas Electronics plant in Naka will curtail global auto production, says the market intelligence service ICSIS, citing a report by Germany’s Deutsche Bank. Renesas Electronics is the world’s biggest maker of automotive microcontrollers. It more and more emerges as a “key bottleneck in Japan’s parts shortage,” says Automotive News [sub]. One of its two auto-related factories damaged by this month’s earthquake won’t be operational until July.

Renesas supplies 18-20 percent of the world’s automotive MCU market. About 70 percent of the production is sold to Japanese automakers, the remaining 30 percent goes to US and European car companies. “The supply of these MCUs is not easily replaceable,” says ICSIS, “as boosting production at other sites could take as long as six to nine months.” Read More >

By on March 28, 2011

When I graduated as an engineer, little did I know that I would be going to end up working inside a car (or truck) assembly site, even less so in one controlled by a rogue government that has a big bull’s-eye painted on it on a map in Langley, Virginia.

But life is what it is, and usually it tends to bring people to interesting situations and places. Still not convinced? Go and read one chapter of Niedermeyer Sr biography, Herr Schmitt’s autobiography, or any of Baruth’s racey adventures.

So in one of the hair needle turns of my life, I ended up spending some time around Iran’s national car. It wasn’t in Iran, but under Hugo Chavez. Read More >

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  • Jack Baruth, United States
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