29th June 2011

Report: Supreme Court to hear automotive GPS tracking case


Supreme Court to hear automotive GPS tracking case

The Supreme Court is set to rule on whether or not law enforcement officers need a warrant in order to track a suspect’s vehicle with a GPS device. The case centers around Antoine Jones, whose vehicle was bugged for a month without his consent or a go-ahead from the justice department. The police have argued that such tracking shouldn’t require a warrant because the location of Jones’ vehicle on public streets is public knowledge. Advocates arguing against that stance say that the comprehensive surveillance constitutes an unjust invasion of privacy.

No one is disputing the fact that Jones was, in fact, selling cocaine when his vehicle was monitored.

Lower courts have sided with Jones’ attorneys on the privacy issue in the past, though there is a precedent for allowing evidence obtained through warrantless GPS tracking to be upheld. The issue seems to be exactly how long law enforcement continues the tracking. Either way, law enforcement, prosecution and defense attorneys will all have a close eye on the outcome of the Jones case.

[Source: International Business Times | Images: Win McNamee/Getty]

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29th June 2011

Why GM Shouldn’t Sell Opel

Remember when GM tried to sell Opel, then backed off because its finances were quickly improving after its bankruptcy, and it needed to maintain a major presence in Western Europe? The issue of selling Opel has bubbled to the surface again, thanks to rumor mongering from two German magazines, Autobild and Der Spiegel.

Nothing new here. Opel isn’t contributing to the black ink on GM’s bottom line. Der Spiegel doesn’t like GM, and if it pushes rumors via speculation, it might actually get the company to consider bids for the European unit. The one variable here, GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, may have already bitten. We can’t tell, because GM’s response when Der Spiegel’s and Autobild’s report came out last week was that it does not, and cannot comment on speculation.

The speculation is getting sillier, with news reports saying Akerson & Co. are speaking with potential Chinese buyers and Volkswagen AG. Why would VW want another mainstream brand? To become even more like ‘50s-era GM?

One thing’s certain: if GM sells Opel/Vauxhall, it will become more like pre-Fiat Chrysler, a regional automaker strong only, in GM’s case, in North America, China and perhaps parts of South America. Yes, the U.S. is the second-largest market in the world, but the European market, added together, is still slightly larger.

By Saturday, Reuters reported that Opel union representative Rainel Einenkel was demanding that company management deny reports it’s considering an Opel sale. Akerson has been silent.

Opel does have a problem with profits. The United Auto Workers must be highly envious of IG Metall’s strength and wage-increasing power. To turn red ink into black, Opel has two options. It can raise the transaction prices of its products in Western Europe and make a bigger profit per vehicle, or it can cut costs.

The first option is not as outlandish as it seems. Opel was successful as an Audi competitor in the 1960s and ‘70s, when Audi was a step up from Volkswagen, but wasn’t as upscale as it is now. There’s room in the European market for a kind of German Buick. GM ran Opel well until the disastrous Roger Smith era, when Inaki Lopez cut costs on the German brand to the detriment of its reputation. Like Buick, which is on the upswing in part because of the Opel Insignia-based Regal, Opel can recover.

The second option means that Opel would have to move a good portion of its production outside of Germany and the U.K. (Vauxhall), which is what VW has done since the Berlin Wall fell. Moving more of GM of Europe’s production east of the old Iron Curtain is a viable solution, though clearly that’s not what the union representative has in mind.

The first option is predicated on GM’s current effort at making Chevrolet a global brand. Does Akerson figure Chevrolet and Cadillac are the only brands GM needs there? Chevy has had a modicum of success with cars like the Cruze and the Spark, but most of its success comes from the volatile Eastern European market. It’s pretty clear that Akerson, coming from a telecommunications and venture capital background, still doesn’t understand how long the auto business takes. Not just the time needed to design, engineer and develop a new model, but how long it takes to make a brand successful in a new market.

Short answer is that it takes two generations of good product. The Chevrolet/Daewoo Lacetti doesn’t count, so figure on six to eight more years of the Chevy Cruze along with another eight to 10 years for the Chevy Spark and upcoming Sonic. Akerson will need more than those three models to make non-Opel GM successful in Western Europe.

Cadillac, which has struggled and failed to make it in Western Europe for at least a decade, doesn’t have the right product, yet, and hasn’t had the acumen or patience to make anything out of what it has for that market. The current CTS is a good start and the next model should be even better, and the ATS (3 Series competitor) is key to a Western European assault. With the ATS scheduled to launch in the U.S. as a 2014 model, two cycles means Akerson will have to wait until 2024 to see much Cadillac success.

If Akerson doesn’t have that kind of patience, his Cadillac division will be no more “global” than Ford’s Lincoln, which he recklessly disparaged last week.

I understand the pressure GM’s CEO feels. Wall Street was the first to lose patience, and the GM common stock that rose briefly to $39 per share shortly after its $33 initial public offering last November is now worth just $28.59 at close Monday. Akerson wants to raise its value so that the U.S. Treasury can sell its 26-percent interest in GM, which coincidentally, lifts executive salary limits.

Selling Opel may give GM stock a swift, short-term boost, but in the long run, repairing it is the only solution. Better design and engineering will help, and Opel/Vauxhall already has a head start. Opel/Vauxhall should cede its lower-priced models to the Chevrolet line, but then, so should Buick. I’m not convinced GM has the will to strengthen the price delineation between Chevy and its step-up brands.

Moving some GM of Europe production eastward is the more viable solution, even when it intensifies the anger from the German press, government and labor union. Has Akerson failed to learn that this business is not easy? Perhaps he should ask his friends at Lincoln.

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29th June 2011

Sen. Levin wants answers on White House 56.2 mpg proposal

Washington — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday he is optimistic regulators and automakers can reach agreement on new fuel efficiency standards for 2017-25. But automakers and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, are looking for more details.

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29th June 2011

Iowa’s husband-wife sales team

Mike and Denise Kulla met about 20 years ago at a sports bar across the street from Chicago’s O’Hare airport. He was an outgoing young car salesman; she was a college student and a little shy.

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28th June 2011

Allen Montgomery King of the Hill winner at Kennedale Speedway Park

Allen Montgomery was the King of the Hill race winner.

By Don Cook
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Kennedale Speedway Park (Kennedale)
June 25 (Saturday)

Allen Montgomery, #38, defeated Jeremy Montgomery, #11, in the King of the Hill race Saturday night at Kennedale Speedway Park for the $500 win. Ten cars completed in the event. Race favorite Jeff Kinnaird, #07, who was defeated in an earlier round, was allowed to reenter the race. He was a strong competitor, but was defeated by Allen Montgomery, which setup the final race with Allen’s cousin Jeremy Montgomery. 

To view a video of the King of the Hill racing highlights, click on the video below:

Keith White was the IMCA Modifieds feature winner.

For 16-laps it looked like Danny Rodgers, #702, was going to pickup his second IMCA Modifieds feature win in-a-row. But with 4-laps to go, there was a caution that allowed Keith White, #1, and Matt Martin, #11, to tighten up the field. Both Keith and Matt managed to get around Danny for first and second place. Danny had to settle for third.

To view a video of the IMCA Modifieds and SportMods features, click on the Racing Highlights video below:

Jeff Kinnaird was the winner of the IMCA SportMods feature.

Jeff Kinnaird, #07, was the winner of the IMCA SportsMods  feature. Dean Abbey, #26, was second and Jeff Reynolds, #40, was third.

To view a video of the IMCA Sportmods feature, click on the Racing Highlights video above:

Jay Bransom was the IMCA Stock Cars feature winner.

Local Jay Bransom, #29, was the IMCA Stocks Cars feature winner. Daniel Parker, #3p, was second and Travis Bailey, #5x, was third.

Jeff Kinnaird was the IMCA Hobby Stocks feature winner.

An enthusiastic Jeff Kinnaird, #07, won the IMCA Hobby Stocks feature. John Villars was second and Jeremy Montgomery, #11, was third.

Demetrius Carter was the Street Stocks feature winner.

Demetrius Carter, #44, was the Street Stocks feature winner. Ryan Powers, #12r, was a close second and Justin Lamar was third.

Dustin Woods was the RaceSaver Sprints feature winner.

Dustin Woods, #05, from Forney, was the RaceSaver Sprints feature winner. Josh Hawkins was second and Jeff Emerson, #35, was third.

To view a video of the RaceSaver Sprints feature, click on the Racing Highlights video below:

Brent Mayfield was involved in a wreck during the heat race. He was not injured.

To view a video of the Brent Mayfield wreck, click below:

Don’t miss the www.racinwithneal.com Pre Race Show that starts at 6:15. A great way to meet the drivers and get an autographed picture.

A future race car driver? Danny Rodgers, last weeks IMCA Modifieds feature winner, greeting the fans.

The kids really enjoyed meeting the drivers, getting pictures and autographs at the Pre Race Show.

To purchase photos, go to: www.debbiesracinpics.com

For more information on Kennedale Speedway Park, go to: www.raceksp.com

To view a video of the  IMCA Stocks Cars, IMCA Hobby Stocks, RaceSaver Sprints, Street Stocks features, click on the video below:

To view some photos from KSP, click below:



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28th June 2011

News & Rants: Feature of the Week: Massaging Seats

But I wonder if this luxurious feature will trickle down to other more affordable models. Luxury brands innovate, and some features do land in more everyday cars — think heated seats, power windows, navigation systems and the like. Will we all someday drive around with our cars massaging our stress away? Seems like a viable solution to road rage if you ask me.

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