31st March 2008

Auto Otaku FAQ

Recently I have been getting a lot of questions from readers about various things related to this site so I figured I will do a short “FAQ” of sorts to clarify some things. Hopefully this will answer some of the questions people have and correct some misconceptions.

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31st March 2008

Mercury: The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name

Man, we are so going to the National Automobile Dealers Association convention next year; you know, if they let us in. Where else would you hear Ford Prez Mark “Tool Time” Fields say “Mercury has a place in our brand portfolio” and then refuse to assure the brand’s dealers that Ford won’t kill it? In fact, the AP [via MLive] reports that “Ford executives” told “a group of dealers that “new Mercury products are coming.” Such as…? A Mariner hybrid? A Mercury version of the Edge? [crickets chirping] Let’s try that again. “When asked what he would tell dealers who fear the brand could be discontinued, Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president for marketing, said they should look at the new products.” Such as…? [cue: tumbleweeds] “They wouldn’t give us any definite answers,” revealed Steve Downing, owner of a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Yuba City, Calif. “Obviously the future’s with Lincoln.” Too true Steve, but don’t worry. As Fields says, it’s all part of a “process.” “”Any good business on a continuous basis looks at their portfolio. Any good business does that, not just automotive, and that’s part of our process.”

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31st March 2008

Daily Podcast Pt. 2: Lieberman Wants a Faster Aston

Well, who doesn’t? But Jonny’s willingness to accept a Mercedes-engined Aston Martin highlights an important trend in upmarket automotive marketing: the end of mechanical snobbery. Yes, there are still brand purists who believe that the greasy bits’ provenance is more important than a well-turned fender, a respected badge or comparative performance. That the connection between track and road is a holy one, whose realization establishes the brand’s all-important bloodlines. But these engineering-savvy enthusiasts– who were always a minority of any luxury or high-performance marque’s buyers– are a dying breed. Today’s 30 or 40-something sports car buyer is likely to desire Nissan’s GT-R because of its status as a Playstation plaything, rather than any racing glory. (Ferrari is the exception that proves the rule.) They’re willing to judge expensive automobiles on their own merits, regardless of what lies beneath, who made it or how it got there. This open-mindedness (a.k.a. ignorance) is no bad thing. It gives a deluxe car company greater freedom to be itself, if you know what I mean.

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31st March 2008

Red Light Cameras. It’s Not The Money. Really.

According to King5, cameras set up to catch “red-light runners” in Puyallup, WA, are working quite well. “Perhaps a little too well,” says city manager Gary McLean. Even though each camera-equipped intersection has warning signs, McLean says the number of drivers caught by the cameras has been a revelation. “I think everyone’s been surprised at the number of people getting the warning notices.” After the cameras went into operation on March 1st, more than 2.5k “red light runners” were caught; an average of more than 100 per day. However, no drivers have received the $124 ticket slated to go along with the offense. City leaders are extending the ticket-free “warning period” through the end of April so drivers “can get used to where the cameras are.” And it’s not about the money: “It’s about correcting behavior and public safety,” says McLean. “It’s not about revenue. Because, trust me, plenty of people are still going to violate the law and those fines will be imposed, but for the public listening to us now, we hope they hear this and correct it.” Meanwhile, the city of Bellevue, WA will soon be adding cameras at six intersections, along with three new speed cameras, The expected annual take? $827k.

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30th March 2008

VW-Sponsored Olympic Torch Run Begins

In one of life’s little ironies, Volkswagen is this year’s “Official Vehicle” of Adolf Hitler’s forgotten brainchild, the Olympic Torch Relay. With riots on the streets in Lhasa and reports of terrorism threats in China already marring the feel-good “One World, One Dream” vibes, the torch run was supposed to be a major  PR effort for the Chinese government and major sponsors. But things are not quite going to plan. The Guardian reports that pro-Tibet protesters broke a “tight security cordon” at Thursday’s torch lighting ceremony, and are now planning multiple protests along the relay route. The convoy has already been held up several times due to protesters lying in front of the Vee-Dubs, and the Greek government is upping security in response to specific threats over the weekend. And the caravan of love hasn’t even come close to the Nepal area yet where soldiers are already deploying to deal with protests. Maybe someone just needs to let everyone know that it’s all good, man… these are green Volkswagens.

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30th March 2008

CAW Prez Buzz Hargrove Says No to Two-Tier Wages. Again. Still.

Stop me when this sounds familiar. Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) boss Buzz Hargrove says his brotherhood is “committed to get at the costs” that Canada one of the the world’s most expensive places to build cars. Yes, well weakening Canada’s currency is quite an ambitious undertaking. And “getting at” costs is one thing; reducing them another. The Globe and Mail reaffirms that Hargrove’s legendary intransigence tough stance continues. Buzz’ boyz won’t agree to the North American template, that sees significant wage and benefits reductions for car assembling newbies. Buzz figures “It’s my last set of negotiations and my legacy is not going to be that the sons and daughters of current workers that were hired over 20 years ago are going to come in at the same rate in 2008 as their parents did in ’86 or ’87.” To that end AOL Money Canada reports Buzz’ boyz are strike-ready if the two-tiered wage thang becomes a sticking point. Did I say “if?”

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