31st December 2008

Volkswagen scoop special

Take a whistlestop tour around all our scoops of the new Volkswagens of 2009, 2010 and beyond. Click on the individual VW stories below and scroll through our dozens of Volkswagen spy photos, artist’s impressions and official photos. Wolfsburg is going to be busy…

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31st December 2008

Bill Davis sells NASCAR race team

Just a month removed from his first NASCAR championship, but hampered by the current economic crisis, owner Bill Davis has sold his race team and engine company. Mike Held, a California businessman, and Marty Gaunt, vice president at Bill Davis Racing, bought out the veteran owner. The duo said Monday they’ve also taken control of profitable Triad Racing Development, which supplies engines, chassis and bodies to customers from all three of NASCAR’s top series. Davis, who has been in NASCAR for more than 20 years, won his first championship this season with Johnny Benson in the Truck Series. He also won the Daytona 500 with Ward Burton in 2002. But Davis lost his Sprint Cup Series sponsor and has been unable to secure funding for 2009. Benson also announced before last month’s title-clinching finale that he would not return to BDR next season. Read more here.

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31st December 2008

News & Rants: Can a Dirty Diaper Fuel Your Car?

With two children in diapers, I have a lot of landfill guilt. I’m too busy and grossed out — or perhaps just not feeling guilty enough — to use cloth diapers. Please don’t look down your nose at me for this. I know they’ve improved since the olden days, etc., etc., I just don’t use them, OK?

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31st December 2008

AutoNation Reports $1.4b Q3 Loss

AutoNation’s third quarter 2008 financial release is more grim news. The US’ largest automotive retailer reported “a 2008 third quarter net loss from continuing operations of $1.40 billion or $7.95 per share.”  Total sales revenue was down 22%, driven by a new vehicle unit sales decline of 24%. Overall industry unit sales for the period were down 31%, a set of numbers consistent with the observation that smaller dealerships are going belly up.  As one of the big boys, AutoNation is doing a little better than the averages.  We know that the small, and some not so small (Bill Heard, groan) dealerships are dropping like proverbial flies. AutoNation’s press release provides commendable detail on the domestic brand, import brand and premium luxury business segments. No real surprises there. Domestic brands got whacked with a 57% revenue decline while import brands and “premium luxury” both dropped 23%. The usual suspects of tight credit markets, high fuel costs and scarred silly non-buyers are duly noted. Operations wise, AutoNation squeezed out a $159 million profit for the quarter compared to $226 million in 2007’s equivalent period, a 29% drop off largely inline with the revenue hit. Why then the huge reported loss?: Value of the company’s domestic branded franchises. These dealerships were bought from small groups and owner-operators over the years. When purchased, the amount of the purchase price in excess of the real estate, inventory and any other hard assets of the business was booked as “goodwill and/or franchise” value. Today market value for a domestic branded car dealership is zero, so AutoNation had to write off $1.46 billion in recognition of the new reality. If and when those values ever go back up, AutoNation will be able to book an upside … but let’s not hold our breath.

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30th December 2008

How Did We Miss This? Ford Trademarking “Fun”

And there we were saying Ford doesn’t have branding. Anyway, fun is a serious business, apparently. Bloomberg reports that Ford has been trying to trademark the word “FUN” (all caps?) in connection with “some” of its European automobiles since 2005. In 2007, the EU courts said, in effect, geddowdahere. And while we’re dealing with the surreal, how about this: the original case was brought in German. Spaß; Freude; Scherz; Lachen; Gelächter? Bloomberg seems to think that today’s ruling clears the way for Ford to resume its claim on FUN, but I think they got it exactly backwards. The adjudication itself is, remarkably, a hoot. Seriously, the jump is well worth your time, as it includes some language Bloomberg neglected to mention. Where’s their sense of fun?

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30th December 2008

Québec & Nova Scotia Drivers: BEWARE

On April 1st, 2008 significant modifications to road safety regulations in the Canadian provinces of Québec and Nova Scotia went into effect. CTV.ca reports that handheld cellular phones are now verboten while at the wheel, though hands free devices are still tolerated. Nova Scotia will begin ticketing the offense immediately, while Québec has allowed for a three-month grace periods in which offenders will only receive stern warnings and moralizing sermons. The first offense in Nova Scotia will cost $165, while costing $80-$110 and three demerit points in Québec. Still not satisfied, road safety advocate Jean-Marie de Koeninck argues that “[h]ands-free is just as dangerous. (But) by forbidding the hand-held it does send a signal that there is a problem with the cellphone, there’s a problem with concentration”. Meanwhile, the same traffic safety bill in Québec also doubled all speeding fines , with new suspension of license provisions for those caught traveling at 40 km/h over the limit in under-60 zones, 50 km/h in 60-90 over zones, and 60 km/h over in 100+ zones. All in the name of safety, presumably.

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