Samir Syed

Please visit my homepage for all things me.

By on October 25, 2008
There are few certainties in life: Death, Taxes. That’s it. Well, I’m proposing we expand this iconic couplet. As a frequent visitor to Autoblog (when all their scripting doesn’t cause my browser to crash), I’ve come to expect daily content on the Ford Mustang. Forgive me if I get all “meta” on you, but if Death Watches are TTAC’s signature blogs, Autoblog’s Mustang-mania best exemplifies the AOL-owned website’s gestalt. All things Mustang must be reported: Updates. Special editions. 2010 Teaser shots. More special editions. And so on. It’s gotten so ludicrous that even Autoblog’s commentators occasionally pause the food fights to laugh at Autoblog. But on a day where Autoblog already blogged about a special edition Mustang, the AB’s Drew Philips posted the epitome of self-parody. Philips’ latest work, “Ode to the 2005-2009 Ford Mustang,” contains about 80 links to other autoblog posts about… well… Mustangs, listing every special edition Autoblog has reported on since the S197’s inception. Which makes it a blog entry about other blog entries. And, yes, this post is a blog entry about a blog entry about other blog entries. But rest assured, no metaphysical vortex opens above your head for reading it. At least until Car News Article scrapes our content. For them, a black hole isn’t good enough.
By on October 24, 2008

On June 23, 2008, GM announced it was hiring Citigroup to help it in a strategic review of the HUMMER brand. After being inflicted with a base H3 for a week, I’d suggest the venerable the General skip to the denouement and sell off the brand to anyone who wants it. By offering vehicles like the base H3, GM demonstrates it is/was unwilling and/or unable to nurture what is/was the most focused brand in its bloated portfolio.

By on October 23, 2008

One day, we’ll look back fondly on the rivalry between Xbox and Playstation. Inevitably, we’ll discuss the competing pairs of game that these consoles offered, genre by genre, sequel by sequel. We’ll debate Final Fantasy vs. Oblivion, Halo vs. Resistance, and ,of course, Gran Turismo (“GT”) vs. Forza Motorsport. And everyone will pick the Playstation(s)’s GT series. That said, Xbox owners need not lament as the Xbox’s own flagship racer is a solid game indeed and one of the most intuitive, purest racing games available today.

By on September 3, 2008
An old buddy of mine, who became an organizer for Liberal Party of Canada, once told me “nothings smells like elections more than asphalt.” The pre-election release of the purse strings is a tradition as old as democracy itself. Machiavellian and cynical? Damn straight. It now appears that Canada’s federal government is ready to take the cynicism to a whole ‘nother level by promising old money before an election. It’s not new money, it’s only a reiteration of something that’s been known for months. The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian PM Stephen Harper will travel to the heart of Canada’s rust belt to announce $200 million in pork for Ontario’s ailing automotive sector. That Ontario hold over 100 of the parliament’s 308 seats has absolutely nothing – nothing, I swear – to do with the announcement. Neither does the fact that Harper is expected to dissolve the government by Friday in preparation for the third federal election since 2003. Or that Harper`s government has been repeatedly taken to task by Ontario’s provincial government over its constant refusals to “invest” (i.e., give money) to Ontario’s automotive sector. The fact is, the announcement of this money dates back to Finance Minister’s last budget. It’s such old news that I asked Buzz Hargrove about it back on July 29th. What did Buzz say? “It’s peanuts”.
By on September 3, 2008

Don't everybody thank me at once.

Evaluating the Canadian-designed, built and sold Acura CSX without mentioning the Honda Civic is no easy task. (See?) Comparisons are so tempting, namely because the latter is an excellent car in its own right. The feeling’s mutual. Honda of Japan loved the Acura CSX so much that it served as a template for the JDM Civic. And why not? The CSX delivers an excellent compact luxury package without the reliability issues bedeviling certain (cough German cough) imports. Said otherwise, the CSX is the penny-pinching—I mean, thinking man’s luxury compact.

By on August 20, 2008

Baz and former friend. (courtesy auto123.com)As Reuters notes, 90 percent of the vehicles Ford builds in Canada end-up in the U.S. So, despite the fact that the Ford F-series is still the best-selling vehicle north of the border, Ford Canada is suffering. All of which leads to the suprise (really?) resignation of Barry Engle, Ford of Canada's president. Though Engle has served for several years for Ford and Chrysler, working in several capacities around the globe, he decided to exit the auto industry just six months after assuming FoMoCo Canada's top job. Engle's new job will be in his native Pennsylvania, working for an agricultural equipment company; IMHO he's using "family time" as a smokescreen. Time for a Lilly Pulitzer: did he fall or was he pushed? And why?

By on August 20, 2008
All pensions must go! (courtesy gm.ca)When CAW Prez Buzz Hargrove told me a GM C11 is inevitable, I wondered if Canadians might have a more realistic idea of The General's financial health, or lack thereof. The Toronto Star provides confirmation. The paper reports that GM's Ontario workers have noticed that the automaker has taken full advantage of a company- specific exemption allowing them NOT to fully fund the workers' defined-benefit Canadian pension plan. Which GM hasn't done since 1992, to the tune of $5b. [A defined-benefit plan obliges GM to pay out a fixed, agreed upon amount to its beneficiaries– no matter what's in the fund.] "My concern is that, if GM goes into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. or they go bankrupt altogether and out of Canada," a retiree worried. "My pension is going to be cut nearly in half." It seems GM's legislative loophole was worth every penny the company spent acquiring it. For GM, anyway.
By on August 15, 2008

How does a Mustang fare in a harsh, North-eastern winter? More specifically, Canada. I only ask because last year, Montreal, where I live, was covered with over 200 inches of snow. I've already done the rear wheel-drive-in-winter thing in my first car. I was behind the wheel of a Chevette with about four hp and two ft.-lbs of torque (slight exaggeration). In other words, it came standard with engine-limited traction control. A buddy of mine tried to negotiate last winter in his Twin Turbo Supra. Fancy snow tires and 200 lbs. of gravel in the trunk still made it the worst winter car in the universe. He ended up buying a Hyundai Accent to get through the season (ouch). True fact: in my entire life, I think I can count on one hand the amount of winterized Mustangs I've seen, complete with ugly black wheels and skinny winter tires. So, do the other Mustang owners who leave theirs in the garage all winter know something I should know?

Porsche GT3 on snow

By on July 31, 2008

The man and his legacyBuzz Hargrove doesn't mince his words. As demonstrated in Part 1 of this interview, the outgoing Canadian Auto Workers leader is fully aware of the Detroit domestics' dire financial peril. What's more, Buzz understands the balance between his members' welfare and the health of the automotive industry. Or lack thereof. "My first responsibility is to look after the interests of my members," Buzz admits. "But I tell my boys to look after the industry too. At every meeting." So, how's that going?

By on July 30, 2008

“I still love it. If I were 55, not 65, I’d be doing this for another 10 years.” Buzz Hargrove describes himself as "full of piss and vinegar." Well exactly. The combative Canadian has been instrumental in his country's union movement since 1964, when he represented a couple of thousand employees in Chrysler's Windsor plant. Now, having announced his 2009 departure from the Canadian Auto Workers' (CAW) presidency, Hargrove's enthusiasm for the labour movement remains undimmed. "I still love it," he says. "If I were 55, not 65, I'd be doing this for another 10 years." That said, Hargrove doesn't think Ford, GM or Chrysler will last that long.

By on July 28, 2008
What\'s the Buzz? (courtesy media.canada.com)Basil "Buzz" Hargrove has been active in the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) since its inception in 1984, including sixteen years as President. To put that in perspective: during Buzz' tenure at the top, he's seen five Canadian Prime Ministers, five Ford CEOs, four Chrysler CEOs, four GM CEOs and countless union actions. As I sift through the archived newsbites that capture his soon-to-be legacy, I'm left a little overwhelmed. For better or worse, Hargrove's fingerprints are all over the Canadian automotive lanscape. And tomorrow, at 11 AM in Toronto, I'm sitting across the table from the man himself on your behalf. So I turn to you, our Best and Brightest, for a little help. What should I ask Buzz Hargrove? Obviously, I can't promise I'll forward every question posed here. But if the deal goes down (i.e. Buzz doesn't read this blog post before tomorrow), you know I won't shy away from the tough questions. And neither will Hargrove.
By on July 8, 2008

 Scott Held draws a line in the sand. “I firmly believe we will be selling Chrysler for quite a long time.” Held is the president and managing partner of Sherwood Partners. In the same year that Chrysler’s U.S. sales have shrunk by 35.9 percent, his group has just spent CA$18m on a new, super-sized Chrysler dealership in Edmonton, Alberta. What if Held’s wrong and Chrysler goes belly up? “I know I am taking a risk,” Held admits. "But I have faith."

By on July 3, 2008
2a708f6b4538abdfa2146d28f85a.jpegAmidst all the buzz surrounding controversial abortion activist Dr. Henry Morgantaler's elevation to the Order of Canada, you may have missed the fact that the same honour has been bestowed on long-time Canadian labour leader Basil Hargrove, or 'Buzz' as we know him 'round here. The Order of Canada is Canada's highest civilian honour. The National Post reports that Buzz was given the award for "his contributions as a labour leader who is respected on both sides of the bargaining table, and for his advocacy for equality and human rights in Canada and abroad." Though many will argue Buzz was intensely active in keeping Canadian labour costs artificially high, and thus, shares some responsibility for the current decline of Ontario's automotive sector, Buzz's long and illustrious careers remains one of great renown. From his humble beginnings as a Chrysler line worker, to his soldiering for the then-CAW leader Bob White in the 80s, to obtaining his own mandates as leader since 1992, Buzz was instrumental in every major CAW negotiation for the last twenty years. History will judge Hargrove harshly, though, for the closure of GM-Oshawa and the decline in the CAW's bargaining power during his reign. 
By on July 3, 2008

cheechandchong-upinsmoke-carwithfringe.jpgJuly 1st was truly a landmark day for Canadian motorists. In addition to the start of a cell phone ban in Quebec and a carbon tax in British Columbia, drivers across Canada now face huge penalties for driving while stoned. No longer can Canadians re-create the infamous Cheech & Chong hotboxed car sketch. The CNews reports that police can now require drivers to submit to roadside drug tests. In addition, police can force suspected stoned motorists to go to a hospital or a police station for further testing. The whopping penalty for driving under the influence of drugs: CA$1,000 (minimum) for Strike 1 and jail time for Strike 2. Refuse the tests and you've committed a criminal offense. Though it goes without saying in The Sun, all of this is in addition to any other charges for possession and trafficking of classified substances that may be brought. Bummer.

By on July 3, 2008

polywheels.jpgOntario's struggling manufacturing sector took another blow yesterday. CNews reports that Oakville, Ont-based automotive supplier Polywheels has shut down indefinitely. Workers arrived for their 7am shift on July 2 only to find the plant closed and shut down notices posted at the entrances. The workers, represented by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), were surprised that the company shut its doors without warning. "I'm upset because this is a good factory, they had good, good benefits," emotes a local worker in a moment of unionist entitlement. The Toronto Sun reports that American Axle's own strike, which halted production of Polywheels' bread and butter models (e.g. Sierra/Silverado) was a body blow for Polywheels. The subsequent rise in gas prices was the coup de grace, according to another worker: "We figure out how to bring the price of oil down and we'll all be fine." Easier said than done, I suppose. [Thanks for Michael Kirouac for the tip]

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