By on August 26, 2008

The good ol\' daysMontagues vs. Capulets. Crips vs. Bloods. ‘Vette vs. Porsche. How do I plead? Nolo contendere. Technically, I qualify as an "auto journalist." But I'm a lot more interested in the companies that build the cars than in the cars themselves. I just don't have quite the same level of fire as some of my fellow writers; so it's impossible for me to be much of a "car snob." Beer is a different matter.

One of the most important lessons I took to heart back in college: "life is too short to drink cheap beer." While I've tried not to be an arrogant bastard about it, I've made it my policy to spend the extra money to upgrade my suds. If no alternative is available, I'll stick to regular draft (life is also too short to drink light beer, ditto cans) or longnecks (as a last resort). I've held to this vow fairly tightly, except for one "guys game night." Sad but true: I drank Schlitz.

Right now, you're reacting in one of three ways: "Ewww!" "Huh?" or "Hey wait a minute!" You see, back in the day, Schlitz was the second-best selling brew in America, the "beer that made Milwaukee famous." Now it's an only-occasionally-made regional discount brew. And therein lies the tale, and the warning for the other guys on the Great Lakes.

Back around the mid 1970s, the president of Schlitz faced a choice. While his brew had national reach, he'd run up against stalling sales volume. Winning more market share would require a massive investment in advertising– that might not pay off. Instead, he chose to increase profits without growing his market share, with disastrous results.

Given the usual jokes made about American beer, you might be surprised that there are still corners that can be cut. These shortcuts mostly involve shortening the brewing process. In so doing, a brewery can produce more beer with the same equipment, thus reducing their costs and raising their profits.

The shortcuts done, and redone, Schlitz was riding high. According to their marketing, their customers couldn't tell the difference. Then things went to pieces.

It's hard to nail down exactly what started the slide. Philip Van Munching's excellent "Beer Blast" offers two reasonable guesses.  First, while you can't taste the difference between process A and B or D and E, you can tell the difference between A and E. Second, there were preservation issues (what he calls "snot-ridden" beer). 

Whatever the cause, the "retribution" was swift. Schlitz sales fell, forcing discounting. This led to further sales drops, which resulted in a drop from number two all the way to regional discount brew. At the same time, Schlitz' reputation fell all the way from "bad" to "bad joke."

The important lesson to be taken from this incident: once you drop into discount territory– selling on price and to the die-hards– there's virtually no going back. Oh, there's precious little money to be made in discount Hell.

How does this relate to the auto industry? Well, you could stick Budweiser in a list with Chevrolet, or Ford for that matter. These are powerful extremely mainstream brands with strong ties to grass-roots America. Historically, Chevy and Ford have been carefully priced to be affordable by practically anyone gainfully employed in the USA.

But the automakers now face the same choices as Schlitz: stick to your guns and watch market share erode, or cut prices in search of volume?

Lately, these car brands have been selling almost exclusively on price. They're falling into the bargain basement. Getting out of it can take years. Ask Hyundai, who aren't quite out of it yet. Or Cadillac, who fell in, climbed out, and are threatening to fall back in again.

Losing the last bit of brand cachet not only hurts the main brands, it threatens their "premium" brands because, well, halos shine both ways. Bud can "support" Michelob, Iron City can't. If you think Lincoln and Buick are hurting now, it could get much worse. 

With years of inflated sales and fleet dumps racked-up, can The Big 2.8 stay out of the "discount" trap? Chrysler looks to already be in it.  Plymouth can't take the blame anymore and even in their best years their sweet spot was set very low (K-car, Neon). Worse, Chrysler the "premium" brand has virtual no cachet left. 

Ford seems the safest, partially because of better products but mostly, forgive the pun, because their focus. GM's vehicles aren't much worse than Ford's; what's driving them down is the division structure.  Instead of missing one sales target, they are missing three or four. Every discounted Pontiac or Saturn pushes Chevy lower and lower to keep up their volume, which forces more cutting, which forces more incentives.

GM desperately needs to hold the line with Chevy and the only realistic way is killing off the "middle" brands. They are holding the price points Chevy needs, and they are pushing it into a hole it will never climb out of. It's one thing to be affordable, quite another to be cheap.

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37 Comments on “Going Down...”

  • avatar

    That Schlitz story seems to be more about the folly of constantly pursuing greater market share and increased margins instead of focusing on making a great product that people enjoy, and making that product at a profit.

    That’s why publicly-traded stocks screw up our entire economy, to a degree. Companies keep digging around for more and more profits, often beyond the point where they can be successfully realized without compromising the product. When shareholders clamor for ever-increasing profits even after a company has achieved both market saturation and optimum efficiency, we get outsourcing and cost-cutting, neither of which benefits the consumer (or the shareholders in the long run).

    Short-sighted executives only care about quarterly results, and that is why many of the auto makers are in the mess they’re in. Once it’s about profits and not about product, once you’re more beholden to your shareholders than your customers, your company is bound to fail because you’ve stopped operating in a real production/sales economy and are rather more in the business of fudging numbers than anything else.

    This is one reason why Chrysler just might be able to make a comeback – they don’t have to worry about making a bunch of nervous stockholders happy and are rather focused on enriching the oligarchs at Cerberus, which if done right and with a real love of a great product will be successful. Also that’s like a funny joke because those greedy pigs will likely just strip all the good out of their cars to find pennies, strip-mine the brands, ruin their suppliers and in then quickly sell off the rotting pieces of their dying brand.

  • avatar

    Interesting article…although I would argue that the Big 2.8 have already fallen into the “discount trap,” just in varying degrees.

    As for Chevrolet – look at GM Europe. Chevrolet is the low-cost, Kia-like brand, making heavy use of Korean-sourced components to keep prices low. The vehicles are cheap in every sense of the word. (I remember watching a Top Gear episode while in Great Britain, and Jeremy Clarkson was able to get laughter out of the audience at the mere mention of “Chevrolet Lacetti.”)

    The homegrown brands – Opel on the continent, Vauxhall in Great Britain – are the “mainstream” brands (or what Chevrolet was during the 1960s in the U.S.).

    Here in America, the smaller Chevrolets, including the new Cruze, are relying on Korean-developed components. The Aveo is Korean. Meanwhile, Saturn is getting the European-sourced automobiles. Problem is that the Euro-Saturns are landing with a thud in the U.S. market, so while Chevrolet is being turned into the American Kia (or 21st century Rambler), the effort to have Saturn appeal to more “upscale” customers is not working.

    I truly believe, however, that current GM management is TRYING to move Chevrolet downscale.

    What’s interesting is that Ford of North America appears to be relying on European designs that must compete in the European market with VW, Vauxhall, etc. These cars are definitely a cut above the Chevrolets sold in Europe. Whether Ford will succeed remains unclear, but I have the sneaking suspicion that, if both of these companies are still around within 5-10 years and continue on their present path, a North American Ford will be more desirable than a North American Chevrolet.

  • avatar

    One of my college buddies loved Schlitz Ice more than anything else back in the day.

  • avatar

    I like the Schlitz analogy but I see it differently. The 2.8 for years and years owned the market, much like the big brewers. Your only options were Bud, Miller & Coors. They all were crappy, but imports were expensive and difficult to find. Then internationalism took hold and new flavors began to become more available at better prices. The people tried them and they were different, they tasted better, so they kept coming back. Companies noticed this demand for quality and taste so more entered the market and their growth all came at the expense of the big 3 brewers. Today we have Miller & Coors combined and foreign owned and Budweiser just having been aquired. I don’t think the 2.8 will fare much better fate.

  • avatar

    How is selling a Daewoo as a Chevy AND a Pontiac not in discount territory?

    Or importing Australian products as your halo Pontiac?

    Or selling pick-ups at 40% off?

    Or selling your most intact brand to the, er, only bidder?

    GM is toast.

  • avatar

    Schlitz is bringing back it’s “60’s Formula” in limited markets like Minneapolis and Milwaukee.{E6E9E860-46FC-4C71-9B9B-195F83CA5859}

  • avatar

    It all comes down to the last man standing. I see Cerberus selling off what they can of Chrysler. Right now the only thing I see surviving is the Jeep brand. I think Chrysler and Dodge become extinct and the factories/tools go to the highest bidder.

    I also think GM will go tits up though they have so many brands it’s hard to tell what might happen. I see Ch 11 in GM’s future, I can’t see total collapse. But what brands survive? They can’t rescue them all. Chevy and Cadillac have to, maybe Buick or Pontiac, but not both.

    I think Ford will narrowly avoid bankruptcy simply by the fact they are last to do so, but they will kill off Mercury. I know a lot of Chevy and Dodge people that would never consider buying Ford, but if they are the only domestic left, they won’t think twice about buying a Ford.

    As it sits, I can’t see all 3 companies surviving. There isn’t enough of a market anymore for all 3. Ford survives, GM is Ch11, but survives (though a little leaner), and Chrysler gets auctioned off. We’ll see what happens though.

  • avatar

    The beer analogy is interesting, although imperfect. It does illustrate the importance of maintaining strong brands, and shows that it’s often a money loser to try to make up for constant discount pricing with more volume.

    Where it falls short is that it appears to support the argument that good branding can compensate for deficient or mediocre product. While that is true with some products, that is not the case with cars, which can be measured by standards of reliability and quality that are largely objective.

    Beer can’t break down on the side of the road, leave you stranded, or cost you substantial amounts of money in unnecessary depreciation. The hangover caused by a bad car is more expensive, lasts much longer and creates a lot more bitterness. If GM could get away with being Anheuser Busch, there would be no need for a Death Watch.

  • avatar

    It certainly doesn’t help matters that GM resorts to “Red Tag Sales”, “0% for 72 months”, or “Employee Pricing for All” gimmicks to move product. Every time they do this, they are reinforcing the thought that they are cheap and should only be purchased when on sale for deep discounts/outrageous APR, whether or not they really are. Sure these deals move product, but it hurts your reputation, especially if you have them throughout the year.

  • avatar

    Loved the title. I have such a dirty mind…

    But I think the beer analogy holds water. Uhhh, okay. But really!

    When quality (hence, conscious or subconscious perceived value) falls due to corner-cutting, the customer eventually finds another choice. Good article!

  • avatar
    Dr. D

    The Schlitz analogy holds up just fine as a ‘picture’ of Detroit 3.
    The dilemma of the corporate/industrial world is that one must stay on track for a good amount of time, ergo-(John Deere, Michelin, Caterpillar, etc.). Solid, stable, quality-continuing, yet improving. Then there is the issue of leadership-how does one get that to hold up-the Detroit 3 have totally failed on this one.
    Then we have the change in the world of finance/corporate/industry area. As the world moves toward a one world controlling government, the smalls, the independents will be absorbed/morphed, no mistake there. Only large conglomerates or entities of some sort will own all the corporate/industry/financial base. The storm is always a brewing, but is consistently growing to be the ‘perfect global storm’.

  • avatar

    Interesting piece.

    The fall of big beer and the rise of the micro breweries is an interesting story.

    But I think there’s a deeper societal trend toward more varied and different tastes (in all products). There’s more choices in beer, wine, & cars than there’s ever been. And the bottom of the market looks that much more bleak.

  • avatar

    Wow! The analogy is PERFECT! Brilliant!
    Endless cost cutting ALWAYS leads to loss of market share.
    Back in the 60’s, I would wonder why the exhaust pipes on full-size Chevys always ended just behind the rear wheel opening, rather than back to the rear bumper. We are talking about 20 inches of rolled mild steel pipe. Then it hit me. When you make over a million per year (!) that’s a lot of pipe. In and of itself, no big deal. But when managers’ bonuses are based largely on this kind of continuous cost cutting (as opposed to the Toyota Production System continuous improvement) the end result becomes clear.

  • avatar

    To say to GM “You need to sort your pricing out in order to establish your brands better” is pretty much like saying to Mr Farago “Listen, keep telling the truth about the car industry. It’s instrinsic to your website”.

    Pricing is was GM’s raison d’etre. “A car for every purse and purpose” (or whatever Sloany said). If GM wanted to maintain this silly structure of a brand for every level, then pricing was the foundation, without it, the brands become meaningless. I mean, what’s the point in spec’ing out a Chevrolet Mailbu with all the gismos and gadgets possible only to find out that Cadillac do a similar version for a few hundred dollars more?

    Since GM tried to make all the marques the same, all customers got were cars with the choice of a Buick badge, a Cadillac badge, a Chevrolet badge, etc.

    Ford’s situation is slightly different. Yes, I know they couldn’t manage brands well (Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Aston Martin, treading on each others’ toes), but the real rot is with the Ford brand.

    Basically, they rested on their laurels for too long before their cars were considered to be boring/redundant/crud (delete as applicable). All the R and D went to SUV’s.

    But to be honest, Detroits woes are more than pricing. I won’t list them, but you know what they are.

    N.B: My old boss used to say that “American beer is like canoeing…….frigging close to water…..”

  • avatar

    Something that is missing in the beer analogy that is very relevant to the car biz in the near-future is the impending arrival of China in the car biz.

    If Schlitz, while going downmarket, had to compete with Super Happy Fun Beer Company of China selling roughly equivilant brown water for a third the price, there would be no more Schlitz. The bottom end of the car market in the near future will be a place where the developed industrial countries will not be able to compete on cost.

    The Chinese (and maybe the Indians) are going to blow the Koreans out of the water in the cheap-car business. I think it explains why Hyundai/Kia are trying to move out of the perception basement…its akin to a guy trying to scramble on a lifeboat as he watches big, hungry sharks approach what used to be his patch of the drink.

    GM doesn’t even have a life-preserver, much less a boat. It will be interesting to observe GM get consumed in a way by the spawn it sired in China.

  • avatar

    I have to confess to being a beer snob myself, although I try not to be too imperious about it.

    Maybe it’s because I don’t live in America but I honestly didn’t think Schlitz was a real brand. I tthought it was to beer what 555 was to tv phone numbers…something they threw out there when they couldn’t use a real name.

    Hard to know what to do as a manufacturer. Looking at other consumer products, the middle ground seems to be disappearing. The vast majority of products are competing on price, getting cheaper to acquire and seldom if ever worth repairing. Then there are a minority of products that are high end and individually profitable. In the consumer products market, the answer is to sell cheap crap at low prices. Hard to do with cars, it seems.

    I was really hoping for a cheerleader picture to go with this headline. I am sorry.

  • avatar

    In all fairness, there remains a need – albeit limited – for cheap domestic beer.

    For steamed shrimp, one can per pound + plenty of Old Bay.

    Also to fill slug traps.

  • avatar

    NickR :

    I have to confess to being a beer snob myself, although I try not to be too imperious about it.

    Maybe it’s because I don’t live in America but I honestly didn’t think Schlitz was a real brand. I tthought it was to beer what 555 was to tv phone numbers…something they threw out there when they couldn’t use a real name.

    You may not have seen the old “Schlitz Bull” commercials. No pun! They actually had a bull bursting through the wall; very cool.

    I was really hoping for a cheerleader picture to go with this headline. I am sorry.

    I think a photoshopped cheerleader riding the Schlitz bull would have been a laugh. Cue the St. Pauli Girl puns…

  • avatar

    Also to fill slug traps.

    Come to Canada and pick up some Labatt’s 50 for your traps. Kills instantly.

  • avatar

    Is there nothing else going on in the entire automotive world than GM’s business dealings?

    No new Engineering feats or introductions to announce?

    Why is GM so important?

  • avatar

    Some elements of the beer analogy are interesting. At the risk of off-topicness here is some more background on the fall of Schlitz.
    Jos. Schlitz was the largest brewer in the US until 1957 when Anheiser Busch overtook them. Schlitz was by far the hoppiest of the mass market lagers — and its bitterness was a target of rival advertising campaigns (Bud in particular.) Schlitz was proud of the more authentic (much closer to classic Chek pilsners) lager flavor and its advertising theme was built around the idea of boldness and ‘gusto’.

    The other mass market beers were cheaper to brew — Bud, for example, uses rice as an cheap adjunct to replace barley at the expense of less flavor — and preversely exploited the authenticity and distinctiveness of Schlitz. Dumbing down the beer consumer by advertising something other than the real product was the best way to create the mass markets that amplified their profits. One might see some of the same mass market advertising legacy in Detroit’s brand strategy to dictate American tastes in cars.

    In the early ’70s Schlitz needed to increase volume on the cheap to compete. They changed their brewing process to shorten the cycle (producing less CO2 naturally from yeast and injecting CO2 like their rivals). People noticed a difference in the taste — but that wasn’t the killer. Another consequence of the change in the brewing process was less long-lasting foam in the poured glass. And here Schlitz committed the cardinal sin — they introduced a chemical to stabilize the foam. The chemical was food safe and did not affect the taste — but when word got out sales plummeted and that was the end. For consumers, the brand _was_ the product of the traditional process and ingredients. The brand had not just betrayed the loyal drinkers — proud of the distinctiveness of their brand in contrast to the bland competition (remember no microbrews in the those days) — it had committed suicide.

    I like Subarus and Megan Benoit’s misgivings, to put it mildly, about Toyotafication of the new Subaru Forrester come to mind. Subaru’s many fans ignore, even celebrate, the ‘quirky’ designs because of the distinctive ingredients. Some reflection on Schlitz may be in order in Ota and Toyota City.

  • avatar

    Short version: In 1958, the Milwaukee Braves (now Atlanta) had a relief pitcher named Mel Famy who was superb, but he had the idiosyncracy of drinking a six pack of Schlitz before he pitched. The Yanks had come back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the series and sned it to NY for the deciding 7th game. In the 7th inning, Braves’ manager Fred Haney knows he’s going to need to bail the starter. He calls the bullpen and tells Mel to start loosening up. Mel sends one of the other guys to get him some Schlitz. The idiot comes back with a six pack of Schmidt’s (of Philadelphia). No time to get the right stuff, so Mel downs the beer, tossing the empties on the bullpen floor. Enters the game in the 9th, tied 3-3, runner on 2nd base. He walks 3 straight to lose the game and the series. After the game the stadium staff is cleaning up. One guy sees the Schmidt’s bottles in the bullpen and asks another guy who was drinking the bullpen. The other guy says, that’s the beer that made Mel Famy walk us. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

    Truly a 3 beer joke.

  • avatar

    Zoom Zoom: “Loved the title. I have such a dirty mind…”
    “I think a photoshopped cheerleader riding the Schlitz bull would have been a laugh.”

    Gosh, if reading about Schlitz produces those mental associations for you, thank goodness Dederer didn’t write about an old St. Louis brand, Griesedieck Brothers Beer.

    There’s an old joke about who likes Schlitz and Griesedieck, but it’s not fit for a high-class website like this.

  • avatar

    What’s not happening is micro-automakers aren’t arising to give us something better. Yeah, ok, for six figures I can get on a waiting list for an electric car.

    I keep pointing out to people that a Honda Civic costs quite a bit more than a Cobalt or a Focus. People are surprised by that, but the fact is people will pay for quality, if they can.

    I’d rather buy a six pack of Bell’s Oberon for the price of a case of Bud. I’d also rather pay more for a Honda than an “equivalent” Chevy. I’m not a rich man. My taste in beer means I have to have fewer beers, but get more enjoyment from each one. Buying a Honda is actually cheaper, because it will give me 150K miles w/o trouble.

    Bud just came out with an Ale. It took them about 2 decades to figure out that people really do like Ale, and that they aren’t getting any of that market. The D3 still -seemingly- have not learned that there really is a market for quality small cars, and they aren’t getting any of it.

    Bell’s, Founders, Arcadia – Michigan may not make the best cars anymore, but we make some of the best microbrews.

  • avatar

    To 50merc:

    HAHAHA, thanks for the laugh! But honestly, I never drank Schlitz. Or Goebel. But I may be guilty of an indiscretionary night or two with some Rolling Rock…

    No, I’m razzing you, NEVER Rolling Rock!

    What ever happened to “Stroh Signature”? Maybe it never made it out of Detroit?

  • avatar

    Dynamic88 :

    I keep pointing out to people that a Honda Civic costs quite a bit more than a Cobalt or a Focus.

    I disagree with you there. At least with the Chevrolet, the risk level for sacrificing an undue amount of time and money (yes, vacation time spent waiting in the service department ARE MONEY, even if it is covered under warranty) is greater than with the Honda. At least in my experience, waiting for the car to be finished usually produces better results. Which is cheaper in the long run.

    So your Chevy or maybe even your Ford may be cheaper on an “out the door” basis, yes. But not necessarily so after you’ve accounted for the intangible costs.

    …the fact is people will pay for quality, if they can.

    Yes they will! But I am one of those who will pay for it because that “quality” can be translated into value, and for even the moderately mathematically capable, it can be translated into MONEY SAVED.

  • avatar

    this is a great editorial . . . clear, concise, focused, to the point. yet not too simplistic or mundane. like a good beer. incidently, while reading this i was enjoying an ice cold BlueMoon in a frosty pint glass. excellent.

  • avatar

    So GM is Budweiser and BMW is Spaten but where is the automotive equivalent of Fat Tire? Tesla?

  • avatar
    Chris Inns

    All I got is some XXXX, bland but serviceable, sort of like Holden and Ford Australia. I hope those two companies don’t got down with their American parents.

    Wall Street is obsessed with perpetual exponential
    sales growth. But this can’t be maintained forever. Sometimes a company’s got to accept its reached its maturity. Still growing sales is probably at the bottom of the big 2.8’s to-do-list at the moment. Just hanging on will be a big enough achievement.

  • avatar

    I drank Schlitz back in the late 1960’s. It was a hot seller. Before that I used to steal my father’s Ballantine, (in the late ‘70’s they made an IPA that was to die for). I think the beer analogy is apt. To increase profits the owners cheapened the product to rake in more cash which went into their pockets instead of back into the product. The 1970’s started that trend at GM. To this day their products suffer, and the executive salaries are at an all time high. Imports didn’t cause GMs decline. GM caused GMs decline. Now they chase niche products that generate lots of hype but little profit or put out press releases for vaporware, the Volt, to boast their stock price so executives can squeeze out another bonus. So imports rule the market and thank god for microbreweries.

  • avatar

    The successful beer makers, such as Anheuser Busch, also used cost cutting tactics, such as large breweries and fast brewing processes, and used these tactics with great success. You can’t explain the demise of certain beer brands based upon cost cutting, when the winners did the very same thing.

    Anheuser Busch became the leader because it added brands, marketed them heavily and grew in size enough that it could dominate shelf space in supermarkets, which helps to keep the competition out. Shelf space dominance is important for consumer products like these, and A-B is effective at this.

    Consumers liked these beers — God knows why, but they did — and responded well nto the branding, which gave A-B increasing market share and allowed it to control the supply chain more effectively.

    The analogy to cars is most effective with respect to the marketing side. A-B became the GM of beers, adding multiple brands to serve multiple customer niches.

    But this structure ultimately makes more sense for consumer disposals than for cars, because there is no badge engineering comparison for beer — you can simply change the taste of the beer, rebrand it, and be done with it. You can support eight beer brands if the marketing budget is sufficient, but eight car brands is a disaster in the making.

  • avatar

    While I’ve tried not to be an arrogant bastard about it, I’ve made it my policy to spend the extra money to upgrade my suds.

    Nice allusion that is probably lost on everyone else here. Kudos!

    (Anchor Porter currently is my favorite brew, BTW, but Arrogant Bastard ain’t bad.)

  • avatar

    There is one major disanology (or maybe not) between the beer example and cars.

    Market research has shown that for American mass-market beers, most people cannot tell the difference between them in blind taste-testing.

    So, the quality of the product is, in a sense, irrelevant. Instead, it is the brand, and all of the consumers’ associations with that brand, that are important.

    In contrast, most people can tell substantial differences between cars in terms of styling, appointments, performance, handling, NVH, etc.

    This makes the automaker’s job doubly tough. Not only do they have to maintain the brand, they have to produce a solid and differentiated product.

    That’s what companies like BMW, Porsche, Honda and Toyota/Lexus have done, and what the Big 3 have failed to do (except in narrow niches like Corvette, Viper, Cadillac, Ford F-150, etc.)

    BTW, I got the arrogant bastard (a product of Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA) reference.

    It came to me in a (green) flash…:-D…

  • avatar

    Dynamic88: What’s not happening is micro-automakers aren’t arising to give us something better. Yeah, ok, for six figures I can get on a waiting list for an electric car.

    Coca-Cola cheaped out I recently found out. They did this years ago when they replaced cane sugar with corn syrup. I found out last month. VBG! No wonder the current version doesn’t taste as good as the ones we drank as a kid.

    Frankly I’d be happy to drink less Coke and get the real stuff. Of course their accountants don’t want to hear that.

    I keep watching the EV car companies. Several of them are bringing import vehicles to America and then adding the EV systems to it. A few must get around crash testing their vehicles by restricting them to neighborhood vehicle speeds (less than 30 mph). A few are going all out (Phoenix and Miles for example).

    The Phoenix Motor Cars SUT is really a Korean SsangYong Actyon (how do you say that?). Think Ford Ranger in size.

    I think the difference between microbreweries and micro-automakers are the hurdles an automaker has to clear with the government to sell and the number of units they have to sell to make a profit.

    I thought when gas was up near $4 a gallons that Americans would jump all over any alternative to gasoline, now I think we are “getting used to it”. Gas is $3.50 a gallon here right now and somehow it doesn’t seem like as much of a shock as when gas climbed immediately after Katrina.

    Whether this is intentional by the commodities brokers or by chance I don’t know. Would like to though.

    Read an article recently that predicted oil will rise again by the end of the year to $150 a barrel. Dunno if I believe that but I do expect we’ll be another 75 cents more expensive next summer than this summer.

    I’d jump for a SsangYong – well whatever you call it as an EV if I could afford one. GM/Ford/Chrysler ought to take notice of the appliance drivers who don’t care what their car is powered with as long as it is easy and cheap to own. I can see the FUD campaigns now playing on folks’ fears of not having a gasoline engine to carry them home on a dark, rainy night through bad neighborhoods.

    Detroit could release a few existing designs as EVs if they wanted to.

    If Detroit goes broke or if they stick with their SUV/Musclecar/Pickup truck model lines that could give the little guys a chance. Or it could be that Honda/Nissan/Toyota will instantly crush any small car companies that arrive on the market. I hope there is plenty of competition. I really hate only having Wal-Mart to shop at after they’ve run everybody else out of town.

    I’d take a really sporty looking Aveo GTi EV or an Astra EV. The Volt holds very little appeal to me b/c existing EV tech can provide me with a vehicle that exceeds my second car needs. Only problem is that my budget can’t deal with the price tag even if in the long run the savings on fuel for 200K miles would make the EV pay for itself.

    Not sure my credit union would finance one of a $40K EV… VBG!

  • avatar


    I agree with you Dynamic88, about the Honda Civic anology. I praise the word of Da Honda and love driving their cars… (if only they’d release a hatch for 5dr Civic hatch in the US..)

    As I always say.. ya dont buy a good car cheap, just a cheap car.



    I agree with you wholeheartedly michaelC about the Toyotafication of Subaru.

    The Impreza used to be a good looking yet fast as hell vehicle.. coated in nice shiny blue, lightweight and fast. Even though their interiors.. have still much to be desired.

    They’ve turned the Forester.. from a lesbian driven squared off vehicle with some idea of shape and design.. to a muted dumbed down piece of molten garbage that even the rat bastards wouldnt drive.

    Nort to mention…
    I heard they want to cann the awd unit used in the cars and start using 4cycls (need to start cutting weight for that to happen properly) for better economy. Apparently, their fuel economy isnt great. DUH!

    I coulda told ya that.. a awd unit is weight.. jack it up higher and lift the roof.. and you got one porky bastard.

    And the Tribeca.. what a waste of space. Their PR line.. people want more room

    When in fact they just want to compete with Honda and Toyota.

    Another one bites the dust.

    I just have to say.. what the hell happened to their nice front clips.. and intetresting grills? They were nice to look at and melded right with the body.. now they got some plastic injected snot, that wouldn’t feel right.. on any imposter of a vehicle.

  • avatar

    Hey, I like cheap beer. As stated above, the taste of most macrobrewed beers are all pretty similar, and the only time I drink beer is when I want to feel the affect of alcohol (often before I start scraping knuckles working on my cars), so I’m not going to shell out big money on an infrequent hobby.

    Most of the guys I work with are imported beer snobs – the pressure of mindless conformity in Corporate America almost requires it. If I go out with people from the office, I get the Miller High Life, and ask for the bottle, and dreaming of earning a free Miller High Life Beer Truck Delivery Driver shirt.

    Short term vs. long term is always the struggle in Corporate America. Ditto for Washington D.C.

  • avatar


    Sounds like you’ve got good taste. I love Spaten Optimator and Franziskaner Dunkel. I used to think they were the best beer until I had some Mendicino Brewing Company Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout on tap at Flying Pie Pizza in Boise, Idaho. The creaminess mmmmm. It makes me lick my lips just thinking about it. If you ever get a chance, it’s pretty good even from a bottle. I’d really like to have the opportunity to have some really fresh Spaten in Murchen some time. I’m sure it has the same marked improvement when fresh and on tap that I tasted in the Rasputin.

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