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Posts Tagged ‘cars’

Screening out animatronic car buyers

Posted by Richard on June 2, 2018

There’s a Fiat dealership in Florida that includes an unusual item in the stack of paperwork that car buyers have to sign: a printout of a reCAPTCHA such as you encounter on many online forms. Nothing else on the page, just the reCAPTCHA. Marci Robin took a picture:

I wonder, if you laughed at them and refused to check the box, would they decline to sell you the car? Has it occurred to them that a robot capable of walking into a dealership, negotiating a purchase, and signing its name is certainly capable of checking the box? So they really need a better in-person Turing test. SMDH.

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War on cars meets war on terror

Posted by Richard on May 30, 2017

Last month, a rejected Uzbeki asylum seeker with ties to ISIS hijacked a truck in Stockholm and drove it into a crowd along a major street in the city, killing five and injuring many others.

What should be done to stop such terrorist attacks? An editorial in the major Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has an idea: ban cars from the city. Yes, really.

It’s not just terrorism that such a ban would thwart. It would also promote “gender equality” and help save the planet. No, I’m not making this up.

The idea of reducing the number of cars in Swedish cities was backed last month by Sweden’s environment minister, who argued that driving is a gender equality issue as well as a matter of shrinking the nation’s carbon emissions.

“Cars are driven largely by men so by giving a lot of space to cars; we’re giving a lot of space to men — at the expense of women,” Karolina Skog explained.

Sweden already had strict gun control laws. (It also has a number of “no-go zones,” enclaves where the large number of Muslim immigrants it’s admitted enforce Sharia law, and those who don’t abide by that, including police, had better not enter.) Yet terrorist attacks continue, some using vehicles. To those who thought gun control would stop mass shootings (it hasn’t), the obvious answer to car/truck attacks is to ban motor vehicles.

Those of us living in the real world just shake our heads in disbelief.

But don’t forget, to American leftists, Sweden is the shining example of what we should strive to be. And the war against cars (via zoning, reallocation of gas taxes to mass transit, promotion of high-density dwellings, conversion of car lanes to bike lanes, “traffic calming,” etc.) is certainly proceeding apace in Denver and cities across the country. So don’t be surprised if “fight terrorism, ban cars” campaigns crop up here about 15 minutes after the next lone wolf truck attack. And if proponents couple that with the claim that cars are symbols of patriarchy, hoo boy, that’ll bring out lots of protesters.

They can have my 2014 Subaru Forester when they pry the 6-speed stick out of my cold dead hand.

[Actually they can have it in exchange for a pristine 1992 Range Rover. Or (dreaming) a new Mazda Miata. Or (really dreaming) an immaculate 1964 Jag XKE roadster. Or (really, really dreaming) a factory-restored Ferrari Daytona. Or …]

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Sentence first, verdict afterwards

Posted by Richard on July 16, 2010

Earlier in the week, anonymous sources in the Dept. of Transportation leaked the data recorder findings from "sudden acceleration" Toyotas. Just as many of us predicted, and just as in the 1989 Audi 5000 "sudden acceleration" brouhaha, it turns out that the cause of the acceleration was … stepping on the accelerator!

In all of the dozens of cases, the throttle was wide open and the brakes were never applied. No surprise there — Car & Driver demonstrated last December that if you mash both the accelerator and the brakes, the brakes win. Every time. Even in a 540-hp Roush Stage 3 Mustang.

Thursday evening, Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government raised the question of the government's motives in punishing Toyota before the evidence was in: 

Just six months ago, the Obama Administration’s public relations machine was in full gear deriding Toyota for putting consumers at risk, fining them more than $16 million, and declaring Toyota guilty for everyone in the world to hear. Lawsuits were filed, Congressional hearings were held, and most importantly Toyotas went unsold, while GM sales increased.

Now, it looks like this sudden acceleration problem was caused by, get this, drivers hitting the accelerator pedal rather than the brake, and Toyota owners not being smart enough to keep their floor mats from underneath the accelerator, causing it to stick in the fully-engaged position.

I guess that the government’s next step will be to require a safety yellow sticker on every dashboard that says, “Warning: Pressing down on the accelerator will result on sudden acceleration.”

The real issue here is that the very motives of the government are in question in publicly convicting Toyota before any real evidence had been collected.

Was the rush to judgment based upon the Obama Administration’s general dislike for every business, or was it based upon the need to jumpstart the sales of General Motors vehicles?

We will never actually know the truth.

The government is supposed to be the impartial referee, and it's betting on the outcome of the game. How can there not be at least the appearance of impropriety?  

Now that their products have been exonerated, I wonder if the folks at Toyota will get their $16 million back. In any case, they have a right to echo Reagan's Labor Secretary, Ray Donovan. After being acquitted of the charges against him, Donovan famously asked "How do I get my reputation back?"

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Why Detroit can’t compete

Posted by Richard on January 6, 2009

Mark J. Perry posted pictures of Ford's 1941 and 2007 UAW union contracts. A picture is worth a thousand words, so go check them out. But here are the key stats:

1941: 24 pages (3.5 x 5 inches).

2007: 2,215 pages (8.5 x 11 inches), weighing 22 pounds.

But that's not the only problem. The other day, Perry linked to this Stop the ACLU post. It described a Detroit TV station's exposé of how union officials abuse what are laughably called the "work rules" in that 22-pound contract: 

One of the bosses, Ron Seroka, a union job security officer, takes off half a day nearly everyday to go home to lounge around the house while he is on the clock. Seroka punches in at the plant at 6AM every single day and is home by 11:30 AM for some nice leisure time at home. Yet he gets a steady 10 hours pay every single day despite the fact that he is rarely at work.

Seroka’s union boss is even worse. Union chairman Jim Modzelewski buys beer on a daily basis while on the clock and clocks himself in for overtime pay hours before he even wakes up to go into the plant. TV 4 found that after he punches in, he typically leaves for a beer run mere hours later. Again, all this is on a daily basis. He is also paid overtime pay on a daily basis as he sits home drinking his daily beer. With over 2,500 hours of overtime, Modzelewski made a six-figure salary last year.

The problem isn't just a few corrupt union officials (emphasis added):

The TV news also briefly interviewed an auto business expert that says in the last ten years one in three American union auto workers would not show up to work on any given day while foreign auto plants would see 98 out of 100 of their workers dutifully show up for work. Makes it a bit hard to plan on a work force in the US with unions in control, doesn’t it?

Thanks to the Democratic Congress and the "compassionate conservative" in the White House, it's now your tax dollars (and your children's, and grandchildren's…) that are paying these louts. Think about that as you're dutifully showing up for work in the morning. 

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The Corker plan

Posted by Richard on December 6, 2008

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee proposed a plan for how to bail out the "Little Three" (GM, Chrysler, and Ford) that doesn't suck nearly as much as what the Congressional Democrats and the Bush administration are talking about. Larry Kudlow had a good summary:

Mr. Corker wants a deal where, first, carmakers must restructure all their debt at some price, perhaps 30 cents on the dollar. But the bond owners must be satisfied so the government doesn’t have to pick up the tab. Second, Mr. Corker wants carmakers to get their worker-compensation levels exactly equal to those of the Japanese transplants in Detroit south. That means about $48 total hourly labor costs. GM’s labor costs were $73 in 2006, an estimated $69 in 2008, and are projected to be $62 in 2010. This, of course, includes pension and health benefits. If these two conditions are satisfied, Mr. Corker then believes some kind of government loan might be granted. We’ll have to wait and see where this thing goes.

I suspect it will go nowhere. The UAW, although they've recently offered both meaningful concessions (regarding the "jobs bank") and meaningless gestures ("delays" in retiree benefits funding), aren't about to OK significant permanent labor cost reductions, and that means all their congressional lackeys will completely ignore the Corker proposal.

But good for Sen. Corker for throwing it out there anyway. It would be nice to get an on-the-record up or down vote on this, but I'm not holding my breath.

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Another greenhouse threat

Posted by Richard on November 30, 2007

Recently, Honda began running a TV commercial for their new hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, the FCX Clarity. The ad touts the fact that the fuel-cell car is completely pollution-free, emitting "only water vapor." That got me thinking.

See, I remember when CO2 wasn't considered a pollutant. In school, I was taught that our atmosphere is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and traces of other stuff. I was taught that carbon dioxide is essential to plant life. Nowadays, we're told that carbon dioxide is a horrible pollutant because it's a "greenhouse gas" fueling dangerous global warming, and that we have to reduce CO2 levels to save the planet.

But CO2 isn't the only, or even the most important, greenhouse gas — that's water vapor. And some atmospheric scientists have been warning us that water vapor levels have risen in recent decades. Their computer models (which are so much sexier than boring old empirical data) blame humans for at least some of the increase.

So I wonder how long it will be before NASA, the IPCC, and Algore demand "serious action" to control water vapor emissions and point accusing fingers at the millions of fuel cell vehicles that will soon be eagerly embraced by the environmentally conscious.

Apparently, I'm not the only one to wonder. Some have raised the question seriously. Others took a different approach:

(Washington, DC) The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to classify water vapor as a pollutant, due to its central role in global warming. Because water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, accounting for at least 90% of the Earth's natural greenhouse effect, its emission during many human activities, such as the burning of fuels, is coming under increasing scrutiny by federal regulators.

You'll have to read the whole thing before it all becomes clear. 🙂 Check out some of the "MOST POPULAR STORIES" in the left sidebar, too.

Anyway, you might as well just give up — it seems that everything is caused by global warming.

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Driving to save the planet

Posted by Richard on August 7, 2007

Do you walk or ride your bike to work or to the store? According to a leading British environmentalist and Green Party candidate for parliament, you're destroying the planet! If you really care about the environment, you ought to get in your car and drive:

Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

The sums were done by Chris Goodall, campaigning author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, based on the greenhouse gases created by intensive beef production. "Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg [2lb] of CO2 to the atmosphere," he said, a calculation based on the Government's official fuel emission figures. "If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You'd need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving.

"The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better."

Don't go feeling smug if you're a vegetarian. Beef cattle are especially bad for the planet, according the Gaia-worshippers (although they'd change their tune if everyone gave up meat eating and cattle became an endangered species). But if you eat beans instead of beef, you're just shifting the methane production, right?

According to Goodall and other environmentalists, meat is only a small part of the "problem." There's all the shipping of produce, food processing, packaging, refrigeration, etc. Together, they mean that the food industry is responsible for a sixth of your "carbon footprint." Naturally, Goodall has a solution — we just need to go back to a pre-industrial lifestyle based on subsistence farming:

"Don't buy anything from the supermarket," Mr Goodall said, "or anything that's travelled too far."

And for crying out loud, get off that treadmill and go watch some TV! Oh, screw it. When you're growing all your own food and weaving all your own clothing (can't fly it in from China!), you'll be working sunup to sundown and won't have time for TV anyway.



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But did the engine purr?

Posted by Richard on July 31, 2007

Bumper, the kitten in the carA Missouri man complained to mechanics that his car was meowing. Amazingly, they took him seriously. And he was right: 

Robert Clark didn’t own a cat.

So where were those “meows” coming from?

At one time, the Grandview man pleaded with a crew of Firestone mechanics, “Guys, I’m not crazy. I’m telling you … there’s a cat in this car somewhere. I hear it. I don’t care how long it takes… you have to find it.”

Finally, after nearly giving up, they did. Or, when they took off the front bumper, maybe the cat just jumped out on its own. A little black kitten, just a few weeks old. Skinny, dirty, hungry, dehydrated and ready to fight.

Bumper — as he since has been named — had spent four hot days in the underbelly and engine compartment of a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica.

There's video of Bumper at CBS4Denver and a slideshow at KCTV5. He's a cutie. But mostly, I posted this because I couldn't resist the opportunity to refer to an engine purring.

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AP: not just anti-American

Posted by Richard on June 11, 2006

Media bias doesn’t just manifest itself in politics. Reporters and editors are continually making decisions about the relative importance of different facts, what to include or exclude, what to emphasize, etc., and those decisions are inevitably affected by their beliefs, preconceptions, interests, and prejudices. I’m one of those who thinks reporters should stop pretending to be entirely objective. In politics especially, I think we’re better served by honesty and transparency than by a pretend objectivity.

Nonetheless, reporters and editors should try to be fair and balanced, and they should ask themselves, "Does this story leave out something or misrepresent the situation because of my own blinders?" Case in point: the June 8 Rocky Mountain News carried an Associated Press story by Sara Karush headlined Toyota, Lexus tops in quality rankings. It began thus (emphasis added):

Toyota Motor Corp. held onto its dominant position in annual vehicle quality rankings, which were revamped to highlight design and layout problems that can irritate consumers as much as defects.

Toyota and Lexus, the automaker’s luxury brand, took the top spot in 11 out of 19 vehicle categories in the survey released Wednesday by J.D. Power and Associates. Porsche AG came in first in the overall ranking of brands, averaging 91 problems per 100 vehicles. That compared with an industry average of 124 problems per 100 vehicles.

Lexus came in second in the overall nameplate rankings, with 93 problems per 100 vehicles, while the Toyota brand was fourth with 106. The two brands scored particularly well on the defect side of the equation. 

The story contained 20 paragraphs in both its print and on-line versions (curiously, the print version added an important graphic not available on line). In addition to Toyota, Lexus, and Porsche, the story focused on BMW, which had the distinction of relatively few manufacturing defects, but very poor marks for ergonomics (design defects). Other brands mentioned in the story included GM, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Chrysler, and Ford.

From the quote above, you know that Porsche took the top spot, Lexus was 2nd, and Toyota was 4th. What you won’t find anywhere in the 20 paragraphs is the name of the number 3 brand, the one that finished ahead of Toyota: Hyundai.

The graphic included with the print version showed you the scores of all vehicle brands, but the on-line story didn’t include that. And the AP’s Sarah Karush apparently didn’t think it worth mentioning (at least, in the first 20 paragraphs) that the upstart Korean manufacturer known primarily for cheap econoboxes has surpassed Toyota in initial quality. Could there be an anti-Korean bias at the Associated Press? 😉

For a remarkable example of how two reporters can present the same data from the same study in strikingly different ways, compare the RMN/AP story with Sarah Webster’s Detroit Free Press story, J.D. POWER SURVEY: Hyundai leapfrogs Toyota in quality. It began thus (emphasis added):

Maybe Hyundai Motor Co. drivers don’t need that 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty after all.

The South Korean automaker known for its value pricing — all its vehicles sell for less than $29,000 — delivered a jaw-dropping performance in J.D. Power and Associates’ annual survey on new-vehicle quality, which was released Wednesday.

Hyundai was the No. 1 non-premium brand in the United States, edging past Toyota, the Japanese brand whose rock-solid quality reputation has been shaking Detroit’s dominance in the nation’s auto market for years.

Overall, Hyundai was No. 3 in this year’s report, behind No. 1 Porsche and No. 2 Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, and right ahead of Toyota. Last year, Hyundai was No. 11, so the leap made Hyundai the third-most improved nameplate this year.

Now, you defenders of the media explain to me again how virtually all mainstream journalists are objective, how I can count on what I see in the mainstream media to be a complete, accurate, and unbiased presentation of the facts, and how I should stop worrying about slanted, incomplete, inaccurate information. 🙂

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