ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 24, 2009

The End Of Saab?

Bad news for Saab fans today. Koenigsegg, like Penske with Saturn, backed out of the deal, leaving GM with another brand it doesn't want.

Perhaps Geely will look at it, since it is rumored that they are leading the bidders for Volvo.

A great place to go for Saab discussion is Saabs United, the home of Steve Wade, the definitive Saab Blogger, who formerly blogged at Trollhattan Saab. Swade thinks GM will probably try to sell to another buyer, because they have a lot invested in Saab, and can use the cash.

The dismantling of GM sure is ugly.

ಶನಿವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 21, 2009

How To Convert .WTV Files (For Free)

Windows 7 Media Center records TV shows into a file format called ".WTV".

I found that you can convert these to .WMV format using the free Windows Movie Maker Live from Microsoft. Then, it can be played on many other devices.

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 20, 2009

Google Chrome's Secret Plan

Google is making news this week unveiling a prototype of its new OS, which is basically a stripped down Linux based wrapper for their Chrome browser.   As part of the Q&A, Google stated that other browsers (such as Opera or Firefox) won't run on Chrome OS.

One of the reasons the Google is developing Chrome and the Chrome OS isn't widely discussed, but I think it is fairly obvious.

Google makes it's money from advertising.  You can't get an ad blocker for Chrome.  And you won't be able to run Firefox on Chrome OS.  What Google is doing is ensuring that people will have to see advertising, by luring us in with slick, lean, and fast applications.

Buick Manual? NFW!

Amazing news.  Buick may start selling a Regal in the U.S. with a manual transmission.  I'm blown away.

This is definitive proof that GM is serious about shifting Buick's image, which it badly needs to do.  Currently, Buick="old". 

Nothing says "young" like 3 pedals on the floor.

ಗುರುವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 19, 2009

Aptera Death Watch?

Should we start an Aptera Death Watch, TTAC style?

Not yet, but maybe soon.

Aptera's difficulties in getting financing, which is very much like Tesla and Fisker's struggles to stay alive, underscores the point that making vehicles is a very tricky business.  It is capital intensive, requires high efforts, and demands a very high quality product.  The car buying public will not accept a vehicle that is not reliable, day in and day out, for over 100,000 miles.  If you design and build something that is just a little off, you get hammered.

The venture capitalists of the world know this.  They look at the financial history books and see numerous companies which tried to start up to build a better car, and then faded out.  Tucker, Bricklin, DeLorean, and so on.

Building a car isn't like building an iPod (not to minimize the excellent engineering behind the iPod).  You can't just jump in with fresh ideas and be successful.

ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 17, 2009

Republicans Hate GM, Democrats Heart Toyota

Jalopnik asks, "Why Do Republicans Hate American Automakers?", and talks about how some Republican pols are badmouthing GM and Chrysler, including recent presidential election loser John McCain.

Anecdotally, however, I can tell you that many Republicans are solidly "buy American" types, from a variety of different backgrounds.  There are rural farmers and hunters who love their full size American trucks.  There are patriotic war veterans who won't drive any "Jap" cars.  And, believe it or not, there are even Republicans who are pro-UAW (though a minority, for sure). 

I have personally noticed that there are lots of liberals who drive non-UAW assembled vehicles with pride.  Many times I have noticed a car (in metro Detroit, no less!) sporting stickers such as "Obama", "End This War", etc., and as often as not, this car is a Toyota or Honda.  It seems the liberals don't necessarily love the American auto makers either, at least not when it comes down to choosing a car to own.

When was the last time you saw an NRA sticker on a Prius?

ಸೋಮವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 16, 2009


Google Ads are now gone. They were cluttering up my blog, and though they were paying a little, it wasn't a significant amount. Enjoy.

GM's Repayment Plan

In today's news, GM is going to begin repaying its government loan.

Sort of.

Most of GM's government debt, which came from the TARP, was converted to ownership in the New GM. So the government loans that GM is going to start repaying are only $6.7 Billion out of about $50 Billion it received in total.

GM is sitting on a cash pile of $42.6 Billion, according to the news story. That cash is essentially all bailout money, as GM is not yet generating net profit. So GM is going to use bailout money to pay off a bailout loan. Then, when the New GM sells stock, we the taxpayers will hopefully gain back some of the rest.

Hope. The watchword of the Obama administration.

ಭಾನುವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 15, 2009

Don't Boycott GM

I have talked to a few people, and read many more on web forums, who will not buy any GM or Chrysler products because they took a government bailout. Some of these folks also want to stick it to the UAW, who they see as the reason for GM and Chrysler's destruction.

This attitude is self defeating.

The taxpayer money has been spent, and the best (and only) way to recover it is for GM and Chrysler to be successful. A profitable GM will be able to service its outstanding TARP loans, and provide a stock value which will repay the government. Refusing to buy GM cars, while emotionally satisfying, only works against GM's success, and the repayment of the taxpayer loans.

As for the UAW, it is true they fought hard and were successful in the past at winning extremely generous benefits for their employees. But it was the automaker's management which was a negotiating partner, and didn't have the fortitude to keep things more reasonable, even if it meant strikes and nasty public relations. The UAW was doing it's job, fighting for its members. Expecting otherwise is like expecting the wolf to go easy on the sheep.

But with the collapse of the domestic business, and bankruptcy of 2 of the 3 UAW automakers, the UAW woke up in a hurry. The UAW leadership, under Ron Gettlefinger, pushed hard on the rank and file to agree to multiple rounds of contract renegotiations.

If the Detroit 3 can't survive going forward, it is not because the UAW workers are being overpaid. From here on out, "it's the product, stupid".

ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 10, 2009

Mini Review: Dell Vostro 1520 Laptop

I ordered a Dell Vostro 1520 from Dell Small Business. It was a screaming deal, $499 after a $50 coupon, stackable with their promotion.

Unfortunately, I hated the laptop, and returned it after two days.

The screen was nice. The processor fast. Windows 7 was great. The problem was, the keyboard was just awful. It had a lot of flex, and my fingers seemed to bounce off of it when I typed. On top of that, the keys rattled when you typed, with a high pitched sound, it drove me nuts.

Now I need to figure out if I want to try a Latitude (more money) or a Studio. Anybody have any advice for me? Who makes a laptop which is reasonably priced and has a solid keyboard?

ಗುರುವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 5, 2009

Ford's New Inflatable Seat Belt

Update: Wes Sherwood of Ford Safety PR has left answers to my questions in the first comment. Thanks Wes!

Ford unveiled a new inflatable rear seatbelt design today. (There's a neat video here.)

This looks like a pretty good idea, but I do have some questions. If any Ford safety or PR people are reading, please chime in.
  • What happens if you use one of these belts to anchor an infant seat, using the belt instead of LATCH anchors? Will the expanding baloon damage the infant seat?
  • Why not use these on the front, too? Seems like front passengers could benefit as well.
  • Will they trigger in a minor accident? Can they be repaired, or will they be expensive to replace, like airbags?
  • Will accessories such as seatbelt positioners, or fuzzy seat belt covers defeat or interfere with the balloon?

Open Question To Chrysler/Fiat

A question for Chrysler:  why are you going to keep building the Jeep "Pavement" Compass?  How does this product advance your brand?  You can barely sell any of them (8,498 YTD).  The only Jeep model which sells fewer is the bloated Pavement Commander.  

Don't replace it with a Fiat in 2012.  Kill it now.  Nuke it from orbit.  It's not a Jeep.  It's not even close.