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Glenn Swanson

Glenn is a baby-boomer, born in 1954. Along with his wife, he makes his home in Connecticut. Employed in the public sector as an Information Tedchnology Specialist, Glenn has long been a car fan. Past rides have included heavy iron such as a 1967 GTO, to a V8 T-Bird. In between those high-horsepower cars, he's owned a pair of BMW 320i's. Now, with a daily commute of 40 miles, his concession to MPG dictates the ownership of a 2006 Honda Civic coupe which, while fun to drive, is a modest car for a pistonhead. As an avid reader, Glenn enjoys TTAC, along with many other auto-realated sites, and the occasional good book. As an avid electronic junkie, Glenn holds an Advanced Class amateur ("ham") radio license, and is into many things electronic. From a satellite radio and portable GPS unit in the cars, to a modest home theater system and radio-intercom in his home, if it's run by the movement of electrons, he's interested. :-)

By on April 22, 2008

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"Automakers wage war for market share," reads the headline over at China Daily. The current battlefront of that war can be viewed at the 2008 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, which runs through April 28th. With 890 vehicles on display in the 1.9m square foot arena, the nine-day event is expected to attract more than 600k visitors. The spoils of war can be lucrative, too, with Chinese vehicle sales up 21.4 percent year-over-year, which translates to 2.58m cars sold in the first quarter. Total sales are predicted to surpass the 8.79m units sold in '07 and reach 10m vehicles in 2008. While the suspected recession in the U.S. has tempered car sales here, the prospects in China offer a respite: Ford's Chinese sales have "rocketed" by 47 percent in the first quarter. GM's Rick Wagoner figures China will account for more than 40 percent of global auto sales growth in the coming decade. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz launched its C-Class sedans in China last month and Ulrich Walker, the chairman and CEO of Daimler Northeast Asia Ltd., is amazed at China's transformation. In a single generation, a population simply striving to own a "Flying Pigeon" bicycle now strives to own a "big Benz." "In the history of the world, no country has changed as much as China in the past 30 years," says MB's Walker.

By on April 21, 2008

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New car sales in the U.S. are depressed (recessed?), but sales of hybrids are up. While accounting for only 2.2 percent of the total U.S. market share, CNN says "Hybrid cars [are] flying out of showrooms." Indeed. Industry sales of some 350k hybrids translated into a 38 percent jump in '07. Toyota's Prius captured 51 percent of the hybrid market. Although most analysts see rising gas prices as the main sales driver, CNN trots out a tree hugger to convince you that many if not most consumers are [still] buying Priora to make a statement: "My decision is a very political decision," asserts Kim Fenske. "I want to get people in this country off their dependency on foreign oil." Anyway, R.L. Polk industry analyst Lonnie Miller figures hybrid sales increased because buyers have more non-goofy-looking options. "It's a good call on automakers' parts to not make their hybrids so funky and out of body style than what's already out there." Yes, well, Miller says 2008 hybrid sales should increase by 30 percent or more. "I can't see the hybrid category totally chilling out." Dude.

By on April 14, 2008

stripper.jpgAccording to Fox News, police in Houston, TX, are looking for a stripper who stole the identity of an autistic woman from Wisconsin. According to police, the stripper used the WI woman’s identity to buy a pair of sports cars, including a 2006 BMW and a 2005 Maserati. The total value of the two cars comes to more than $113k. The Maserati has been recovered in Fort Bend County, but the BMW is still missing. A warrant for the arrest of one Stacy Marie Oberley, 28, who has “danced” at Houston area men's clubs, was on probation for narcotics trafficking. Oberley is charged with providing a false statement to obtain credit, which is a second-degree felony. Detectives say Oberley may still be in the Houston area, but they're notifying authorities in WI, in case she shows up there. If you see Ms. Oberley, do not lend her your car, credit card or cash register. But do ask which Maser she purchased, and why any criminal would buy such an unreliable getaway car.

By on April 11, 2008

bio-fuel_6648.jpgThe President of the World Bank [via NPR] says demand for ethanol and other biofuels is a "significant contributor" to soaring food prices around the world. Robert Zoellick says droughts, financial speculators and increased demand for food have created "a perfect storm" of climbing food prices. In the U.S., the price of corn has more than doubled due, in part, to the demand for alt fuels such as ethanol. The World Bank figures food prices will stay high, or go higher, over the next couple of years. "Biofuels is no doubt a significant contributor," says Zoellick. "It is clearly the case that programs in Europe and the U.S. that have increased biofuel production have contributed to the added demand for food." As we reported last week, some 20 percent of last year's U.S. corn crop went to ethanol production; it's likely to reach 30 percent next year. Boondoggles can be lethal.

By on April 10, 2008

zap-ups-number-2.jpgLast month, Jonny Lieberman asked if anyone had been hit with a fuel surcharge. And no wonder. News10 says high fuel prices "are being felt particularly hard by small business owners." San Diego's delivery business has been particularly hard hit. With gas at an average of $3.73/gal., "some small delivery businesses [are] wondering what to do." (Deliver packages?) CMF Incorporated's fuel bill has gone up by $4k in the past year– that's not including the cost of diesel fuel for their larger delivery trucks. Even Jonny's dreaded fuel surcharge doesn't guarantee the main man a profit. What's a small business to do? Raise rates too high, and they risk losing customers. Keep them static and they lose money. It's a bummer– for all concerned. "I'm walking into companies where the phone is not ringing and everyone's in this type of slump or depression emotionally," owner/driver Ed Bidwell reports with a distinctly California-esque metaphorical shrug. "And that's what gets to me."

By on April 10, 2008

ah64_v_truvelo.jpgAccording to The Scotsman, speed cameras fines fell by as much twenty percent in some areas of Scotland. In most parts of the country, the number of drivers being caught by cameras has dropped for the third year in a row. The director of the Scottish Safety Camera Program says he knows why: "There has been a fall in speeding fines detected by cameras because of better adherence to the speed limits by drivers." Math-savvy anti-camera groups claim crash rates diminish naturally over time "due a phenomenon known as regression to mean." Bruce Young of the Association of British Drivers says it's simpler than that. "Drivers are increasingly aware of both fixed and mobile camera locations." Neil Greig, the of the Institute of Advanced Motorists' Motoring Trust, says who cares? Speed cameras rock! "In our view the best safety cameras slow 100 percent of the traffic down and catch zero per cent of drivers." In any case, over the past two years, Scottish police [automatically] issued 114k fines, generating some £6.8m ($13.4m) for the Treasury.

By on April 9, 2008

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According to Nihon Car, the Scion tC "is one of those boring 2 door coupé made for the U.S. market and powered… with only 161hp, pretty lame both in and out." Now that we have that less than flattering (if accurate) assessment out of the way, Nihon Car reveals that Scion has "succeeded at stunning us this morning" by unveiling "its gorgeous Formula Drift version" of the tC. Exhaust and suspension manufacturer RS-R created this monster, which shares its platform with Toyota's Japanese-market Avensis and Caldina cars (i.e. it's been converted to rear-wheel drive). Blessed with a turbo and intercooler, the engine now offers more than 400hp. Twenty-one-year-old Ken Gushi will helm the modded Scion in U.S. Grand Prix Professional Drift events. Could an RWD tC be coming to a Scion dealer near you? "At this time we do not have confirmed plans to produce a tC rear wheel drive, but a lot of people will want to take one home," says company VP Jack Hollis. Ya think?

By on April 9, 2008

0732731-lg.jpgAccording to China Daily, sales of passenger cars in China rose 23.6 percent in March, compared with the same period last year. That's the largest monthly rise in seven months, attributed (in part) to the arrival of milder springtime weather. The market recovered after "freak winter weather" slowed sales, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. First-quarter sales rose 20.4 percent to 1.85m vehicles, including 1.37m sedans, 55.3k minivans and 101.8k SUVs. Taking both first and second place in sales for the first three months of the year: Volkswagen AG's two Chinese joint ventures, FAW Volkswagen and Shanghai Volkswagen. Coming in third in the sales race: Shanghai GM, the Detroit-based car maker's JV with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. China is the world's second largest car market, with sales of 6.3m vehicles last year.

By on April 7, 2008

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"It's one of those rare businesses: when the economy struggles, Henry McCarty's work thrives," reports KHOU (via CNN). Henry McCarty's "work" is repossessing cars from those who've fallen behind on the payments. Just how good is the repo business in the Houston, TX area these days? "We're running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just to keep up," say McCarty, who runs Citywide Lien Enforcements. McCarty says "There's a lot of people out there that fall on tough times," and default on car and truck loans. "They're bankers, they're police officers, they're… you know, even doctors." KHOU reporter Kevin Peters says that nationwide, about 1.5m vehicles were repossessed last year, up 15 percent from 2006. He adds that "experts" predict another "10-percent jump" in the number of repos this year. As for repo man McCarty, he says most folks don't try to stop him when he shows up to tow a vehicle away, in fact, most people expect it. "People are just givin' up these bigger cars because of gas prices, you know, they're going to the more economicals." English skills aside, McCarty's knows the good times for his business come at the expense of those less fortunate: "We're not out there to try and be the bad guys." In other words, don't take it personally- it's just business.

By on April 4, 2008

surveillance.jpgAccording to Police Chief Magazine, the Los Angeles County (CA) Sheriff’s office is launching the Advanced Surveillance and Protection (ASAP) program, ASAP. It’s a combination of technologies: high-resolution night vision video surveillance, acoustic gunshot detection (for that grassy knoll moment), automated license plate recognition (ALPR), “and other advanced components.” If a suspect vehicle drives through an intersection equipped with surveillance cameras (ALPR cameras are also mounted on the roofs of patrol cars), the system will alert the sheriff’s command center. Live images of the fleeing vehicle are transmitted to patrol cars, which can then go into pursuit. Finally, the command center can take control of the local traffic signals to reduce the potential for collisions involving innocent drivers. So here’s the question: is all this electronic policing a good investment, or should we just put more boots on the ground (cops in cars)? And should there be additional limits to police electronic surveillance?

By on April 3, 2008

santro-xing.jpg"It's raining cars in the Indian automobile market," says The Economic Times. Credit the increase in Indian auto sales to a four percent cut in the excise duty. Hyundai Motor India Ltd. has experienced a record 52.3 percent sales boost, and managing director and CEO H. M. Lheem says "The high sales have come on the back of good demand for our small cars." Meanwhile in Thailand, the theme at the 29th annual Bangkok International Motor Show is "The Environmental Auto Globalization" (i.e. surprise: green is in!). Organizers point out that the major cause of global warming "includes vehicle and fuel energy," and automakers have rolled out plenty of hybrid and electric cars. Anyway, the show is dominated by Japanese carmakers. "[T]hey sort of dominate eyespace," says reporter Meenakshi Verma, adding that it's "hardly surprising Bangkok's roads already seem dominated by pickups from that country." He points out that Thailand is "the second largest market for pickups after U.S." And after leaving the show, the Times reporter says he ended up "right in the middle of one of Bangkok's infamous traffic jams," where his informal "straw poll of the cars stuck on the road," confirmed that "pickups are the favorite mode of transport in Bangkok.

By on April 2, 2008

license_details.JPGFor illegal immigrants looking to obtain "documentation" here in the U.S., getting a driver's license in Maine is a good place to start, according to WMTW. Back in March, Brazilian Guilherme Malaquias, whose tourist visa expired almost two years ago, drove another Brazilian illegal immigrant from Massachusetts up to Biddeford, Maine, where they were arrested after attempting to obtain a drivers license. But wait, there's more: According to the Bangor Daily News, a federal immigration agent claims Malaquias has allegedly transported other illegal immigrants on day trips from Massachusetts to Maine to get licenses. The Biddeford case is similar to one that transpired last month, when Anderson Dos Santos, a Brazilian from New Jersey, was arrested at the motor vehicle bureau in Augusta after he allegedly brought two women to Maine to get driver's licenses. Dos Santos told court officials that "Maine is known among Brazilians for having lax rules for issuing drivers licenses." Maine requires neither proof of citizenship nor proof of residency from applicants, but the state legislature is "considering" the idea of changing the rules to require proof of residency. Little wonder that the Feds are "pushing" Maine to conform to the Real ID Act of 2005, which establishes new national standards for state-issued driver licenses.

By on March 31, 2008

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Higher corn prices could soon be passed on to those filling their cars up with ethanol, says CNNMoney. The increasing cost of growing corn, along with favorable prices for other crops such as soybeans could fuel a decrease in corn production. Even though ethanol is heavily subsidized, it has contributed to the rise in corn prices, which has hurt poultry, beef and pork companies who use corn to feed their animals. But a decrease in corn production would also be bad news for the corn-juice industry. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the number of ethanol plants has increased from 50 in 1999, to 134 today, with more plants on the drawing board. Given that, on average, a 100m gallon-per-year ethanol plant consumes about 33 million bushels of corn, more ethanol plants and less corn could spell trouble ahead. The decreased supply could drive corn prices even higher, which would offset any possible "advantages" corn-based ethanol was supposed to offer.

By on March 28, 2008

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The Los Angeles Times is calling it "a significant blow for environmentalists and transportation activists." On Thursday, California's Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to "slash" the number of emission-free vehicles automakers must sell in the state by 70 percent. The panel adopted new rules that would require the largest companies selling cars in the state to produce 7.5k electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles from 2012 to 2014. (Down from the 25k under rules set in ‘03.) In addition, carmakers will be called upon to make about 58k plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the same period. CARB also decided overhaul its entire Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, to align it with tougher greenhouse-gas emission standards. CARB board member Daniel Sperling says "it's my view that both plug-in hybrids and [emission-free vehicles] are tremendous stretches for the industry." But Chelsea Sexton, the executive director of Plug In America says "It's a huge blow, they sent the message to the carmakers that they can always get what they want from the board." And here's the kicker: GM asked for "special consideration" for the Chevy Volt. GM's executive director for environment, energy and safety argued that the Volt will have a longer range than rival plug-in hybrids so, you know, cut us some slack. The board granted that request, valuing extended-range plug-in hybrids more highly than shorter-range models. GM has yet to sell a single Volt, but hey, why let the facts get in the way? 

By on March 27, 2008

20060814-tn_dsc01491.JPGSales of portable GPS units for use in cars "have skyrocketed," and according to a CNN video, so have the number of thefts. Portable navigation units bring "about $100 on the black market," and in 2007, about 800 of them were stolen from cars in Nassau County near New York City- and while it's still early in 2008, about 450 have already been stolen. Removing the device from your windshield and locking it up in the car may seem an easy way to prevent theft, but Detective Sergeant Anthony Repalone says leaving the mount in place indicates a GPS unit is likely stashed in the center console, glove compartment, or under the seat. He advises that you remove the mount and wipe off the telltale ring its suction cup can leave on your windshield. If your car does get broken into by a thief looking for your GPS unit, Detective Repalone ticks off the potential costs: "The damage to the windshield, couple hundred dollars, stolen device, several hundred dollars, so the person who owns it is now out maybe seven- eight hundred dollars." While you might question his math skills, it's difficult to argue with his logic.

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