Electric-car maker Tesla versus auto dealership networks

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.

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

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt – By Mitt Romney

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)

Daffy Green

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.


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.

Right-to-repair bill

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

  1. ok, I give in, here’s the car:

    Seth and Josh 1986

    click to embiggen []

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

Tesla Dealership on Grand west of Morgan

I’d test drive a Tesla: sounds like a fun car. However, way (way way) beyond my budget: $120,000 is steep for any item, much less an automobile.


[closest photo of mine I could find-this is 800 W Grand Ave, or nearby.]

Car companies have tinkered with all-electric cars for years — but have run into problems, particularly high price and limited range. The 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” told of the 1990s Saturn EV1 electric car — which General Motors recalled and destroyed.

The California-based Tesla claims to sell the only highway- capable all-electric car in North America or Europe, but it won’t be alone for long. Americans will be seeing more alternative-engine cars — all-electric, plug-in electric hybrid (like the planned Chevy Volt), conventional hybrid, and hydrogen-fuel cell — as car makers compete to offer more fuel-efficient models. Revving up the contest is last-week’s federal mandate that all new cars and trucks average 35.5 mpg by 2016.

Wisniewski’s Tesla isn’t exactly middle-market — it’s a two-seat sports car that cost him $120,000. The California company is working on a family sedan, which it hopes to start producing in late 2011, at a base cost of $49,900 after government rebate.

Tesla expects to open its first Chicago dealership next month at 1053 W. Grand.

“It’s definitely a conversation piece,” said Kevin Daly, Tesla’s Midwest regional sales manager, of his own Roadster. “It really has changed the script on what people’s thoughts are for electric cars.”

The car charges overnight, like a cell phone, using either a 110-volt or 220-volt charger. It claims to run 220 miles on a charge. Daly says the car runs well in extreme cold or heat (though he admits a sports car isn’t great in heavy snow).

The cost for the electricity is about 1 or 2 cents per mile. To get ready for guests with electric cars, Hyatt Hotels and Lake Point Tower in Chicago are offering charging stations, according to Daly.

[From Testing out the Tesla :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Transportation]

View Larger Map

Live to Ride
[Ogden and Grand – slightly west of 1053 Grand.]

Profiles in Cowardice

Ray LaHood named as Obama’s Transportation Secretary. Really? Really?

Most of Gilchrest’s colleagues didn’t want any debate in the first place. “When the country is war-weary, when the violence is still playing on TV, I don’t know why we want to highlight all that,” said Ray LaHood of Illinois.

When there’s a festering problem, why provide a solution?

No, gay marriage, the estate tax, indecency fines and flag-burning take precedence. Congress today is a profile in cowardice, offering no hope for our troops, no answers for the American people and no future for Iraqis.

via Profiles in Cowardice.

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) last night accepted an offer to become President-elect Barack Obama’s transportation secretary and the nomination will be made official in coming days, two senior Democratic officials said.

LaHood, 63, who is retiring after representing a rural downstate district in Congress since 1995, becomes the second Republican tapped for Obama’s Cabinet. In recent years, LaHood developed a close relationship with Obama and the man who will become his White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, becoming a key player on the House Appropriations Committee on behalf of the Illinois delegation. …

From his perch atop the Department of Transportation, LaHood will be a key player in the new administration’s public works projects designed to stimulate the struggling economy.

[From LaHood Accepts Transportation Secretary Job | 44 | washingtonpost.com]

Bailing Out 100 Rich Investors in Chrysler

Now that I think about it, why should taxpayers foot the bill for an investment gone bad? Cerberus Capital Management has plenty of profits in their other investments. Why should we support Dan Quayle and John Snow’s extravagant lifestyle? Digging a little deeper, Cerberus also owns 51% of GMAC – the financing arm of General Motors.

From Hoovers Online:

Named after the mythical three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell, Cerberus Capital Management has become a driving force among private equity firms. One of its more recent moves is the purchase of 80% of Chrysler from Daimler in 2007. Cerberus was also the lead investor of a group that acquired 51% of GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors. The company also owns bus manufacturer Blue Bird and car parts maker TA Delaware (formerly Tower Automotive). Other holdings include a 45%-stake in Japanese bank Aozora, real estate services firm LNR Property, and a 52%-stake in ACE Aviation Holdings, the parent company of Air Canada.

Cerberus has become heavily involved in the automobile industry because it believes that the sector has long been undervalued. In addition to its GMAC, Chrysler, and Tower Automotive holdings, the company now has an interest in CTA Acoustics (automobile insulation), Guilford Mills (automotive seating products), and Peguform Group (plastic auto interior and exterior parts).

A key to early success for the Cerberus-Chrysler deal may well be found in its new labor agreement with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. While Chrysler has already announced plans to reduce its workforce by some 20,000 and to shutter at least one manufacturing facility, its biggest battle could still be to reduce labor and associated health-care costs.

Red Night of the Soul

Louise Story wrote:

Last year, Cerberus and about 100 co-investors bought 80.1 percent of Chrysler for $7.4 billion from the German carmaker Daimler. It also bought a controlling stake in GMAC, the finance arm of General Motors. Since then Chrysler has eliminated more than 30,000 jobs and struggled to keep itself afloat while its sales have plummeted. Cerberus is pressing to have Chrysler merge with G.M., but G.M. has said a tie-up is off the table. Chrysler is asking the government for $7 billion to get through the next few months.

Cerberus, named after the mythical three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades, has a fierce reputation on Wall Street. Many bankers and investors are reluctant to talk openly about the company, which is renowned, even feared, for its hard-nosed deal-making.

But Cerberus is also pursuing its interests aggressively in Washington, where some lawmakers have questioned why the government should assist the privately owned Chrysler. In addition to Mr. Snow, the firm’s chairman, Cerberus’s Washington hands include Dan Quayle, the former vice president, and Billy J. Cooper, who has worked as partner at the lobbying firm Patton Boggs.

The firm has also hired Arnold I. Havens, a former general counsel of the Treasury Department; John B. Breaux, a former senator from Louisiana; David Hobbs, former assistant to President Bush for legislative affairs; and Christopher A. Smith, former chief of staff in the Treasury. So far this year, Cerberus has spent nearly $2 million on lobbying, while Chrysler has spent $5 million, according to Senate records. Ford has spent more than $5 million and G.M. $10 million.

[From Chrysler’s Friends in High Places – NYTimes.com]

and I’m with Representatives Maxine Waters and Elijah E Cummings:

But some lawmakers have begun voicing concern that bailing out Chrysler would amount to bailing out Cerberus. On Friday, Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, pointed to Cerberus’s riches. “It seems to me that Cerberus is doing pretty well,” she said.

In an interview, Representative Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, said he thought Cerberus should put more of its own money into Chrysler before asking for taxpayers’ help.

“I’m not saying they have to get all the money from Cerberus, but at least show a good faith effort,” Mr. Cummings said. “Chrysler should come back to Congress and say, ‘This is what we’ve asked Cerberus for, and this was their response.’ I think the public is due that.”

and especially because Cerberus opposed raising fuel efficiency standards:

“They are very, very well-connected,” said Harry Cendrowski, a consultant and co-author of the book “Private Equity: History, Governance and Operations.” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee can attest to that. Last year, he was on vacation when his phone began ringing. It was Mr. Snow, and then Mr. Quayle, both calling on behalf of Cerberus. They wanted the senator to know that Cerberus opposed new fuel efficiency standards, Mr. Corker recalled. Days later, Mr. Feinberg visited Mr. Corker’s Washington office. Mr. Corker told Cerberus he was unmoved.

“I really did feel badly for these guys,” Mr. Corker, a Republican, said. But others point out that Chrysler landed on Cerberus’s lap practically free. The price it and its co-investors paid for their stake was roughly equal to the book value of Chrysler Financial. The car operation was just icing.

Mr. Snow and Mr. Feinberg declined to comment for this article. Cerberus does not have much of its own money riding on Chrysler and GMAC. The two investments amount to about 7 percent of its assets under management, and this past July Cerberus and its co-investors lent $2 billion to Chrysler. But its reputation is at stake, and it is eager to keep Chrysler and GMAC out of bankruptcy.

Talk about socialism! Republican style socialism, also known as public costs and private profit.

Northwest Side gas-price mystery a head-scratcher

Strangely enough, we drove by this gas station the other day on our way from the North Park Village Nature Center, looking for gasoline.

Marathon 14 gallons

Since the middle of the summer, those who’ve driven through the intersection of Irving Park and Pulaski Roads regularly, as I do, have probably been struck by the staggeringly high gas prices at the Shell mini-mart on the northwest corner.

How high? Sometimes a dollar per gallon higher than the price at the Mobil mini-mart just across Pulaski and higher than any other price in the city or suburbs. So high it was rare to see a customer at the pumps.

“I’ve been scratching my head about it just like everyone else,” said the local alderman, Margaret Laurino (39th). “If I ever see a car there, I wonder what the driver’s thinking.”

The average price for a gallon of regular in the Chicago area Monday was $1.83, according to AAA. The Mobil station at Irving and Pulaski was selling it for $2. The Shell at North Avenue and LaSalle Street, traditionally one of the priciest gas stations in the continental U.S., was charging $2.36.

The Irving/Pulaski Shell? $2.80.

I live nearby, and the most popular theory among the neighbors is that the same man owns both stations and is using asymmetrical pricing to drive customer traffic to the Mobil, which was remodeled this year to include a sandwich counter and a doughnut franchise.

[From Northwest Side gas-price mystery a head-scratcher | Change of Subject]

We bypassed this place and purchased gas elsewhere. The comments to Eric Zorn’s post are interesting: seems to be a common theme that Shell is possibly trying to shut down stations so that they can increase demand while reducing supply. And we aren’t the only citizens to notice that gasoline prices have dropped by half in a couple of months, leading to speculation that the whole thing was rigged.

On that topic, I actually think the high gasoline prices helped America in the long run: forcing some changes to policy, encouraging the sales of fuel efficient cars, encouraging discussion of public transit and national rail systems, yadda yadda. Short term pain for many, but long term benefits for us all.

Waxman Should Head Energy Panel

Henry Waxman should succeed John Dingell – even though the Congress usually rewards longevity over competence. Dingell has been a member of Congress since 1955, but things have changed since then, and Dingell hasn’t. Dingell is part of the reason you can rent a Ford in Europe that gets 45 mpg, and cannot rent a comparably fuel-efficient Ford in the US.

Formal and solemn revocation

California Rep. Henry Waxman won backing from a key group of Democrats in his bid to unseat Michigan Rep. John Dingell as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

At stake is the direction of crucial legislation during a period of solid Democratic control of Congress. The committee’s mandate is broad, with oversight of everything from climate change to health care to telecommunications.

The Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee, which helps allocate committee memberships and chairmanships, voted 25-22 Wednesday to nominate Mr. Waxman for the post. The full House Democratic membership will decide Thursday whether to heed the panel’s recommendation.

The starkest difference between the men may concern so-called greenhouse gases, which trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Mr. Waxman favors stricter and faster regulation of such emissions than Mr. Dingell, who has been one of the auto industry’s staunchest allies in Congress. His ouster from the chairmanship would be a major setback for Detroit’s auto makers at a time when they are seeking assistance from Washington.

[From Key Group Backs Waxman to Head Energy Panel – WSJ.com]

Of course, the chairman hasn’t yet been rewarded; I am sure Dingell has plenty of favors to call in among the Congress members who are about to vote. Let us hope that Waxman presents a better case to those same members. From my perspective, Waxman is better fit with President-elect Obama. Danny Davis, are you listening?

Friedman vs Detroit revisted

Tom Friedman still is not going to be on Bob Lutz’s Christmas card list. He’s criticized Detroit’s stupidity before, and with good cause.

Danger Look out for cars

How could these companies be so bad for so long? Clearly the combination of a very un-innovative business culture, visionless management and overly generous labor contracts explains a lot of it. It led to a situation whereby General Motors could make money only by selling big, gas-guzzling S.U.V.’s and trucks. Therefore, instead of focusing on making money by innovating around fuel efficiency, productivity and design, G.M. threw way too much energy into lobbying and maneuvering to protect its gas guzzlers.

This included striking special deals with Congress that allowed the Detroit automakers to count the mileage of gas guzzlers as being more than they really were — provided they made some cars flex-fuel capable for ethanol. It included special offers of $1.99-a-gallon gasoline for a year to any customer who purchased a gas guzzler. And it included endless lobbying to block Congress from raising the miles-per-gallon requirements. The result was an industry that became brain dead.

Nothing typified this more than statements like those of Bob Lutz, G.M.’s vice chairman. He has been quoted as saying that hybrids like the Toyota Prius “make no economic sense.” And, in February, D Magazine of Dallas quoted him as saying that global warming “is a total crock of [expletive].”

These are the guys taxpayers are being asked to bail out.

And please, spare me the alligator tears about G.M.’s health care costs. Sure, they are outrageous. “But then why did G.M. refuse to lift a finger to support a national health care program when Hillary Clinton was pushing for it?” asks Dan Becker, a top environmental lobbyist.

Not every automaker is at death’s door. Look at this article that ran two weeks ago on autochannel.com: “ALLISTON, Ontario, Canada — Honda of Canada Mfg. officially opened its newest investment in Canada — a state-of-the art $154 million engine plant. The new facility will produce 200,000 fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines annually for Civic production in response to growing North American demand for vehicles that provide excellent fuel economy.”

The blame for this travesty not only belongs to the auto executives, but must be shared equally with the entire Michigan delegation in the House and Senate, virtually all of whom, year after year, voted however the Detroit automakers and unions instructed them to vote. That shielded General Motors, Ford and Chrysler from environmental concerns, mileage concerns and the full impact of global competition that could have forced Detroit to adapt long ago.

Indeed, if and when they do have to bury Detroit, I hope that all the current and past representatives and senators from Michigan have to serve as pallbearers. And no one has earned the “honor” of chief pallbearer more than the Michigan Representative John Dingell, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who is more responsible for protecting Detroit to death than any single legislator.

[From Thomas Friedman – How to Fix a Flat – NYTimes.com]

Smart Car 2005

The Smart Car has been on the market in many other countries, but was delayed in the US as automotive lobbyists fought to keep the Smart Car off of the roads. Not to mention to electric car that GM (and Ford) stifled. [DVD; Netflix rental]


and of course, everyone always throws in a reference to Steve Jobs using his design mojo to fix whatever industry needs some innovation:

Lastly, somebody ought to call Steve Jobs, who doesn’t need to be bribed to do innovation, and ask him if he’d like to do national service and run a car company for a year. I’d bet it wouldn’t take him much longer than that to come up with the G.M. iCar.

Lutz is a Putz

General Motors has long been a reactionary company; Bob Lutz just proved nothing has changed.


General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz, on the 100th anniversary of GM’s founding, appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show last night, and embarassed his company. Lutz, unfortunately for this aging industrial giant, is a Luddite, supporting the most extreme crackpot denials of the science of climate change and attacking the Volt — GM’s next-generation hybrid automobile that can run entirely on electricity for trips of 40 miles or less — as a weak, unattractive car. His extremism was barely matched by Colbert’s parodic statements:

Colbert: Why not just call this the Chevy Gore? You don’t believe global warming is real, you’ve said so.

Lutz: I accept that the planet is heated, but I, like many noted scientists, I don’t believe in the CO2 theory.

Colbert: Exactly! I just think that people are leaving their toaster ovens open. [Or] it’s just sun-spot activity.

Lutz: In the opinion of about 32,000 of the world’s leading scientists, yes.

Watch it:

[Click to watch the video and finish the article Wonk Room » Revolting: GM Executive Bob Lutz Denies Global Warming, Trashes His Company’s Car ]

And yet GM and other Detroit dinosaurs want a taxpayer bailout. If I had a vote on the matter, I’d say, “Hell no!” Companies that refuse to live in the present, that actively cling to the out-dated past, are not companies that deserve taxpayer-funded largesse.

Lutz’s “32,000 of the world’s leading scientists” nonsense is taken from press releases by the right-wing industry-funded Heartland Institute, amplified by right-wing blogs and radio shows. This is a zombie lie, which was begun in 1998 by theright-wing industry-funded Oregon Institute. The National Academy of Sciences, whose name was misleadingly used, issued this warning on April 20, 1998:

The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science.

One might think Lutz was merely joking along, but this February, Lutz called global warming “a total crock of shit.”

Sidewalks are Symbols

dying embers of the sun
[full version on black is here]

Personally, I only feel at home when I’m living in a neighborhood that has sidewalks. Other than when I lived out in the boonies of Ontario, most of my life I’ve been lucky enough to live in urban environments, and I’m happy with that choice. The suburbs are wastelands. Enrique Peñalosa agrees with me:

Deborah Solomon – Q: As a former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who won wide praise for making the city a model of enlightened planning, you have lately been hired by officials intent on building world-class cities, especially in Asia and the developing world. What is the first thing you tell them?

ENRIQUE PEÑALOSA: In developing-world cities, the majority of people don’t have cars, so I will say, when you construct a good sidewalk, you are constructing democracy. A sidewalk is a symbol of equality.

Q: I wouldn’t think that sidewalks are a top priority in developing countries.

The last priority. Because the priority is to make highways and roads. We are designing cities for cars, cars, cars, cars, cars. Not for people. Cars are a very recent invention. The 20th century was a horrible detour in the evolution of the human habitat. We were building much more for cars’ mobility than children’s happiness.

Q: Even in countries where most people can’t afford to own cars?/

The upper-income people in developing countries never walk. They see the city as a threatening space, and they can go for months without walking one block.

Q: Isn’t that true here in the United States as well?

Not in Manhattan, but there are many suburbs where there are no sidewalks, which is a very bad sign of a lack of respect for human dignity. People don’t even question it. It’s the same as it was in pre-revolutionary France. People thought society was normal, just as today people think it is normal that the Long Island Sound waterfront should be private.

[From Questions for Enrique Peñalosa – Man With a Plan – Questions for Enrique Peñalosa – Mayors – Bogotá, Colombia – NYTimes.com]

Alleys and sidewalks, the yin and yang of urban life. [More alleyways]

Norway’s Think to Sell Electric Cars in U.S.

Wonder if these plans have been altered1

DETROIT – Norway’s Think Global AS, with backing from U.S. venture capital investors, plans to produce and sell a small all-electric car in the U.S. that could go as far as 110 miles when fully charged – fresh evidence that the race to woo American consumers with electric cars is heating up and drawing interest from the same investors that helped build Silicon Valley.

Norway’s Think Global plans to launch an electric car, called the Think City, in the U.S. in 2009.
The Oslo-based electric carmaker, which recently set up a U.S. office in Menlo Park, Calif., is trying to determine what geographical areas to focus its sales activities on, with an aim to launch the car – the Think City – in 2009. Think, a Ford Motor Co. unit until the U.S. auto maker sold it to a Norwegian company in 2003, is also searching for a site in the U.S. and Mexico to assemble the car.

Jan-Olaf Willums, Think Global chief executive officer, said Think plans to sell the City, to be priced less than $25,000, in densely populated cities because of the car’s limited range. The car is just hitting the market in Norway, Sweden and Denmark where a typical user drives the vehicle for a relatively short commuting distance and plugs it into an electric outlet in his garage to charge it overnight.

[From Norway’s Think to Produce, Sell Small Electric Cars in U.S. – WSJ.com]

Something to look out for in any case

  1. since the original article was posted June, 2008 []