B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘automotive’ tag

Electric-car maker Tesla versus auto dealership networks

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Tesla Showroom
Tesla Showroom Chicago

I am on Tesla’s side on this: why should auto dealerships be in a position to decide whether to push sales of electric cars or not? Seems similar to me as in the old days when Apple Computer1 was relegated to back of the electronic stores like CompUSA and Sears, and consumers were often told by sales reps that it was foolish to purchase Apple computers as Apple was about to go out of business. Car dealers have a vested interest in selling gasoline cars – there are a lot more of those, and commission is commission.

I hope Tesla fights this to the bitter end, and to victory.

When electric-car company Tesla Motors Inc. started selling its flagship Model S luxury hatchback earlier this year, it eschewed the traditional dealership network to open its own stores.

But that’s not sitting well with U.S. auto dealers, who have controlled new-vehicle sales for nearly a century.

The nation’s roughly 18,000 new-car dealers got a cut of every one of the 12.8 million new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. last year, from the biggest domestic sport-utility vehicle to the tiniest Japanese import. It’s an exclusive arrangement that has made many of them very rich — and one that they’re not about to cede to some tiny Palo Alto automaker.

Some individual auto dealers and regional associations have already filed lawsuits attempting to block Tesla, which now operates 16 stores in 12 states. …

The upstart automaker’s battle with dealers is shedding light on a little-known practice that it contends amounts to legalized restriction on trade. The franchised new-car dealership system dates back to the start of the U.S. auto industry, when hundreds of manufacturers were fighting for market share. Setting up showrooms was expensive and time-consuming. So automakers sold other entrepreneurs the right to market their cars in specific cities.

Over time, car dealerships became crucial sources of employment and tax revenue for local communities. To prevent manufacturers from opening their own stores and undercutting neighborhood dealers, states developed laws governing the franchise relationship. Bottom line: Carmakers had to leave their retail sales to someone else.

Tesla isn’t buying it. The company wants to sell directly to consumers. That way it gets to keep the profit that dealers make on new-car sales. It’s also the only way an electric car will get a fair shake, co-founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk said.

“Existing franchise dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between selling gasoline cars,” Musk said. “It is impossible for them to explain the advantages of going electric without simultaneously undermining their traditional business.”

A South African-born serial entrepreneur, who co-founded an Internet payment company that eventually become PayPal, Musk thrives on disrupting established industries.

(click here to continue reading Electric-car maker Tesla bucks traditional dealership network – chicagotribune.com.)

Tesla Logo

and this also sounds like Mr. Musk is taking a page from the Steve Jobs blueprint:

It’s hard to get thousands of individual dealers to adhere to consistent sales and customer service standards. That has hurt the industry’s image. Moreover, studies by market research firm J.D. Power and Associates and other organizations have repeatedly found that most car buyers dislike haggling with high-pressure salespeople.

Tesla sells its cars for a set price and Musk said his sales staff does not work on commission. The company is also steering clear of traditional auto rows and opening stores in upscale shopping areas.

Tesla Garage on Grand Ave
Tesla Garage on Grand Ave

Odds are I’ll never become filthy rich enough to purchase a Tesla – though one never knows – but I’ll be rooting for them to succeed.

Footnotes:
  1. before they changed their name and became a manufacturer of iPhones and iPads []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 9th, 2012 at 9:07 am

Posted in Apple,Business

Tagged with , ,

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt – By Mitt Romney

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Let Detroit Go Bankrupt – by Mitt Romney. Read it yourself and see if Smirky McSmirkenson actually can claim credit for GM, Ford, et al not being bankrupt. (Answer, he cannot, at least with a straight face).

Paul Krugman noted at the same time:

If the economy as a whole were in reasonably good shape and the credit markets were functioning, Chapter 11 would be the way to go. Under current circumstances, however, a default by GM would probably mean loss of ability to pay suppliers, which would mean liquidation — and that, in turn, would mean wiping out probably well over a million jobs at the worst possible moment.

and yet, Obama is having a hard-sell convincing folks in states impacted by the bailout to vote for him.

Ohio and Missouri are traditionally important swing states. But in St. Charles County, where Wentzville is, it’s not Mr. Obama but his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, who is predicted to win by a large margin. In heavily Democratic Lordstown, Mr. Obama is expected to prevail, but Mr. Romney is likely to carry two neighboring counties that also benefit from G.M.’s success.

“That’s surprising,” John Weaver, a political consultant and former John McCain adviser, told me this week. “I think especially with swing voters, they look at the auto industry and they see that government did work for them. It’s not just Wall Street that got help. It worked in a practical way in an industry that’s important to their state.” (Mr. Weaver isn’t working on the Romney campaign.)

I spoke this week with residents of both towns, and no one disputed that, from their perspective, the G.M. rescue has been a success.

“G.M. has been the catalyst for everything,” Wentzville’s mayor, Nick Guccione, told me. “They’ve already hired about 700 people, and they’re talking about bringing in over a thousand new jobs. And these are real jobs, with real wages. G.M. has brought in 1,300 construction workers for the new plant. We’re told that for every job they bring in, that creates five more jobs. It’s made Wentzville a more vibrant community. People can work, play, spend, shop.”

(click here to continue reading In Towns Helped by Obama’s GM Bail, Support for Romney)

Written by Seth Anderson

September 15th, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Fiat dealer Moving To West Loop

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Artificial Notions of Causality
Artificial Notions of Causality

The retail space in R+D 659 has never been leased in the history of the building – it has sat vacant since 2006. Especially since there will not be a garage here, I’m happy to have Fiat as a neighbor.

Fiat of Chicago hopes to open its 12,900-square-foot dealership at 647 W. Randolph St. by July, says Carmelo Scalzo, who will co-own the dealership with his father Antonio Scalzo. They chose the location, on the ground floor of the 15-story R+D 659 condo tower, largely because of its location next to the highway, Carmelo Scalzo says.

After 28 years away from the U.S., Milan-based based Fiat SpA, which also owns Chrysler, began selling its Fiat 500 model here last year and has already opened dealerships in the suburbs. Since its American return, the company has rolled out a publicity blitz including television advertisements featuring Jennifer Lopez and Charlie Sheen. Fiat of Chicago aims to generate its own attention with visibility and easy accessibility to hundreds of thousands of drivers a day.

Fiat 750Fiat 750

“With the right signage, that’s about the heaviest traffic there is in Chicago,” says Greg Kirsch, principal at New York-based Newmark Knight Frank, who represents retail tenants in Chicago but was not involved in this deal. “It kind of follows what Mercedes did on North Avenue. That was a good example of taking advantage of the expressway traffic. The rental income from billboards alone can be tens of thousands of dollars a month, so why not use the high visibility and make it convenient for the customer at the same time?”

The Scalzos already own and operate Volvo of Oak Park. They sought out the Fiat brand because Antonio Scalzo worked as a Fiat technician in his native Calabria, Italy, before coming to the U.S. and eventually owning his own Fiat and Alfa Romeo dealership in Berwyn and later Maywood. “It was an opportunity for my father to get back to his roots with Fiat and Alfa Romeo,” Carmelo Scalzo says. “We’ve been pursuing it for a couple of years, and with our history and heritage they thought we’d be a good fit.”

The younger Mr. Scalzo says he plans to sell 600 Fiats a year out of the dealership, which would give it one of the highest volumes in the country. When the higher-end Alfa Romeo brand returns to the U.S. in 2013 or ’14, those sports cars will become available in the Chicago showroom, he says. That will create price ranges from about $16,000 for the Fiat 500 to more than $60,000 for some Alfa Romeos, Mr. Scalzo says. Fiat of Chicago will have a bright, red-and-white showroom — or “studio,” as the company calls it — with high ceilings. It will not have a service garage.

 

(click here to continue reading Fiat dealer, parking on Randolph, aims to turn heads on Kennedy – News – Crain’s Chicago Business.)

 

Maybe the Scalzos want to purchase some Chicago-esque photographs to hang in their showroom?

Gradient Power
Gradient Power

Stairway to a Two Bedroom Daguerreotype
Stairway to a Two Bedroom Daguerreotype

West Loop Dreaming
West Loop Dreaming

Written by Seth Anderson

March 30th, 2012 at 7:51 am

Posted in Business,Chicago-esque

Tagged with ,

Daffy Green

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Daffy
Daffy, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

part of some parade or contest I unfortunately missed. Dozens of models and makes of small cars were all just parked on the street.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DAF_Trucks

I’m assuming one of these models, as it was quite tiny.

The first passenger car, assigned the model number 600, created a sensation when a prototype was presented in 1958. The car featured a unitary steel construction, with a front mounted, aircooled two cylinder boxer engine driving the rear wheels through a centrifugal clutch and the Variomatic CVT transmission. The way this was constructed eliminated the need for a differential, with the drivebelts taking up the difference of speed in the corners. This acted as a limited slip differential. The car had independent suspension all round, with McPherson struts and a transverse leaf spring at the front, and a coil sprung semi trailing arm design at the rear. The first 600s rolled off the production line in the following year. The next model was the 750, featuring a larger 749 cc twin.

Later, DAF produced a more luxurious type called the Daffodil, divided into three models assigned the numbers DAF 30, DAF 31 and DAF 32. The designation 32 was changed to 33 upon the 1966 release of the 44, a larger middle-class vehicle designed by Michelotti. The 44 featured a completely new design aesthetically as well as mechanically, but was of the same layout as the “A-type’s” (the 600,750,30,31,32 and 33), with the main difference being its 850 cc two cylinder engine, and its full swingaxle rear axle design as opposed to the A-type semi-trailing arms.

The 1968 DAF 55 carried a bigger watercooled 1108cc OHV four cylinder engine derived from the Renault 8 Cleon engine. Its body design was altered from the 44 by a new front which accommodated the longer engine and radiator, bigger taillights, and a more plush interior. The front suspension was changed from a transverse leaf spring to McPherson struts with torsion springs and an antiroll bar.

The DAF 66 was introduced as a successor to the 55. It featured new, boxy styling of the front, and a new rear axle design. The two drive belts now powered a differential, and the axle was changed from a swingaxle design to a leaf sprung de Dion-axle. It was a major improvement over the (tricky) handling of the swing axles of the earlier 33,44 and 55 models.

Written by swanksalot

July 28th, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Tax Cuts For the RIch Means Asphalt Roads Return to Gravel

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If the knuckle-draggers in Washington1 hadn’t pissed away gazillions of dollars fighting three2 concurrent wars – Iraq, Afghanistan, and the so-called War on Terror – while simultaneously reducing the taxes for the wealthy individuals and corporations, perhaps places like North Dakota and Michigan would be able to keep their highways and roads paved.

Trail

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Al

abama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as “poor man’s pavement.” Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

The moves have angered some residents because of the choking dust and windshield-cracking stones that gravel roads can kick up, not to mention the jarring “washboard” effect of driving on rutted gravel.

But higher taxes for road maintenance are equally unpopular. In June, Stutsman County residents rejected a measure that would have generated more money for roads by increasing property and sales taxes.

(click to continue reading Economic Crisis Forces Local Governments to Let Asphalt Roads Return to Gravel – WSJ.com.)

Exiled and Wandering
[South Dakota]

On the other hand, presumedly, gravel roads reflect less sun, and thus have some sort of effect upon the temperature of the planet. Maybe it’s a good thing to move away from the American love of automobiles.

Footnotes:
  1. of both “parties” []
  2. or four, if you include the Drug War []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 17th, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with ,

Reading Around on July 8th through July 15th

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A few interesting links collected July 8th through July 15th:

  • CAFE MPG Standards and Driving – How CAFE rules will change the way we drive – Popular Mechanics – (Photo by swanksalot) The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations were recently stiffened by the largest degree in over two decades. Also, fuel-economy targets will be based on the car’s footprint—the area defined by multiplying the vehicle’s wheelbase by the track width—and every model must improve. It’s estimated that these changes will increase new-car fuel economy by about 24 percent by 2016. Here’s what automakers will do to get there.
  • Yellow Smart Car

  • LeBron James Is A Cocksucker – It doesn’t matter where he opts to go. If he goes to Chicago, he’s a cocksucker. If he goes to Miami, he’s a cocksucker. Even if he goes back to Cleveland, he’s a goddamn cocksucker. He’s a self-aggrandizing sack of shit, and ESPN is a bunch of pussy-whipped enablers for giving him a free hour of airtime
  • Kagan got “Nasty” – Elana Kagan filed an amicus brief arguing that 2 Live Crew’s album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, which had been banned by a federal judge because of its sexual content, wasn’t obscene in part because no one could possibly be aroused by it. “Nasty does not physically excite anyone who hears it,” Kagan wrote, “much less arouse a shameful and morbid sexual response.” A higher court ultimately overturned the ban.

Written by swanksalot

July 15th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Driver Error in Toyota Accidents

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Not quite as sexy a headline, right? Probably won’t hear as much coverage of this part of the long-running story, much easier to blame Toyota for faulty construction.

Rain slicked streets 1

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren’t engaged at the time of the crash, people familiar with the findings said.

The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.

But the findings—part of a broad, ongoing federal investigation into Toyota’s recalls—don’t exonerate the car maker from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: “sticky” accelerator pedals that don’t return to idle and floor mats that can trap accelerators to the floor.

(click to continue reading Crash Data Suggest Driver Error in Toyota Accidents – WSJ.com.)

Of course, this contrary evidence is a limited data set, examining dozens of data recorders out of the more than 3,000 involved in a crash is not enough to draw conclusions.

Some Toyota officials say they are informally aware of the NHTSA data-recorder results. Toyota officials haven’t been briefed on the findings, but they corroborate its own tests, said Mike Michels, the chief spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales.

Toyota says its own downloads of data recorders have found evidence of sticky pedals and pedal entrapment as well as driver error, which is characterized by no evidence of the brakes being depressed during impact.

Still, since the start of Toyota’s troubles late last summer, the Japanese company hasn’t blamed drivers for any of the sudden-acceleration incidents, though in many cases the company couldn’t find another cause. Toyota President Akio Toyoda has said the company won’t pin the blame on customers for its problems as part of its public-relations response.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2010 at 7:01 am

Removing Prime Time Parking Restrictions

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Personally, think the parking restrictions are a good idea. I have enough trouble getting into my building during rush hour, if cars are blocking the impromptu extra lane, the congestion will only magnify.

Evening float home

Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration is planning to remove rush-hour parking restrictions on some of Chicago’s busiest streets.

City officials say the move will help businesses and make those streets safer, but it also appears likely to slow traffic and generate more money for the private company that runs the city’s parking meters.

Transportation Department officials sent letters to aldermen last month informing them of the change. In a letter to Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), the city said rush-hour restrictions would end on stretches of North Clybourn and Lincoln Avenues that have meters and “pay and display” parking fee boxes. The restrictions had prevented motorists from parking at the metered spaces from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Mr. Waguespack remained unconvinced after meeting this week with Transportation Department staff members. “Is this about safety or about increasing revenue for the parking company?” he said.

[Click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – The Pulse – Prime Parking Space Is Opening Up – NYTimes.com]

Somehow this decision sounds more like a solution proposed by the private parking company.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 9th, 2010 at 6:55 am

Posted in Photography

Tagged with , , ,

Reading Around on October 21st through October 28th

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A few interesting links collected October 21st through October 28th:

  • Eat More Black Pepper to Increase Your Food’s Nutritional Value [Health] – Black pepper is often thought of as a last minute ditch to save a flavorless dish, but it really plays a powerful role in your bodies ability to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat—even the healthy ones.The amount of nutrients your body consumes from a food is called bioavailability, which is always less than what your food truly contains.
  • They Eat Horses, Don’t They? : Horsemeat is a delicacy in many countries, but not America – CHOW – Eating horsemeat in America is perfectly legal, according to Steven Cohen of the USDA’s food safety and inspection service. If it seems wrong, that’s not the law—that’s, well, you. But bear in mind that the Japanese and many Europeans eat all kinds of horse: horse sashimi in Japan; horse tartare or steak in Belgium; pastissada, or horsemeat stew, in Italy’s Veneto. Fears of mad cow disease in recent years prompted a spike in horsemeat prices in Germany and Italy.If it seems wrong, that’s not the law—that’s, well, you.
  • Auto bailout: Steven Rattner on how the Obama team did it – Oct. 21, 2009 – We were shocked, even beyond our low expectations, by the poor state of both GM and Chrysler. Looking just at the condition of GM’s finances and Chrysler’s new-car pipeline, the case for a bailout was weak.…Everyone knew Detroit’s reputation for insular, slow-moving cultures. Even by that low standard, I was shocked by the stunningly poor management that we found, particularly at GM, where we encountered, among other things, perhaps the weakest finance operation any of us had ever seen in a major company.

Written by swanksalot

October 28th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Links

Tagged with , , , , ,

Right-to-repair bill

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I don’t know shite about repairing cars; the last automobile I worked on myself was a 1969 VW Bug many many eons ago1, but I totally understand this Right-To-Repair bill from the point of view of the small repair shops. Car owners should not be forced to use dealerships to repair their own property.

Fifty One Chevy

despite the investment of thousands of dollars in diagnostic equipment, computers and training by independent service garages, car manufacturers continue to hold back on some of the information that your mechanic needs in order to properly repair your car and reset your codes and warning lights.

It is a long-running battle that most consumers are unaware of as their local mechanics quietly struggle to locate those codes against a determined auto industry unwilling to part with them.

Massachusetts is now poised to solve this problem and car-driving consumers should pay attention this fall when the Massachusetts Legislature takes up landmark legislation that would force manufacturers to respect the right of consumers to access their own repair information.

The legislation, known as Right to Repair, is seen by car manufacturers as a threat to the lucrative service business in their dealerships and they are massing their lobbyists on Beacon Hill in an effort to defeat it.

[Click to continue reading COMMENTARY: Right-to-repair bill shifts control from dealer to owner – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger]

I found the Senate version here, and links to PDFs of the House bills here

I may not be getting my hands dirty pulling out transmissions these days, but I’d be perturbed if my computer was suddenly deemed off limits for a disk upgrade, if I could no longer open my printer to add more RAM, or if my routers required to be taken into a DLink shop for service every 20,000 megabits of data2

Footnotes:
  1. ok, I give in, here’s the car:

    Seth and Josh 1986

    click to embiggen []

  2. uhh, well, you know what I mean []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 15th, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Reading Around on May 28th through May 30th

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A few interesting links collected May 28th through May 30th:

  • Transportation: Dark and moody ways we get around. | Today's Photos: Today's best Chicago photos, handpicked by our editors. in Chicago – Traffic

    by: swanksalot

    two versions of I-90/94, southbound.

  • Photo Essay: 20 of the Freakiest Custom Bikes on the Road – "“No idea about who this is riding the chopper, just happened to snap it on Wells Street. I think he is part of the Chicago Critical Mass group.”
    Photographer: swanksalot"
  • Bill Simmons: Blowing the whistle on the NBA's flaws – ESPN – "Danny Biasone, who owned the Syracuse Nationals at the time. An Italian immigrant who arrived on Ellis Island and made his money by owning a bowling alley — no, really, a single bowling alley — Biasone wore long, double-breasted coats, smoked filtered cigarettes and wore Borsalino hats. (Note: I don't know what Borsalino hats are, but they sound fantastic.) For three full years preceding the catastrophic 1954 playoffs, Biasone had been unsuccessfully trying to sell the other owners on a 24-second shot clock that would speed up games.

    How did he arrive at 24? Biasone studied games he remembered enjoying and realized that, in each of those games, both teams took around 60 shots. Well, 60+60=120. He settled on 120 shots as the minimum combined total that would be acceptable from a "I'd rather kill myself than watch another NBA game like this" standpoint. And if you shoot every 24 seconds over the course of a 48-minute game, that comes out to .. wait for it … 120 shots! "

Written by swanksalot

May 30th, 2009 at 2:00 am