Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Beauty of A Blog...

... is that I can talk about whatever I want.

General Motors' stock is at 53-year low and dropping. 53 years. That's more than two decades older than yours truly. 53 years ago Doc Brown whacked his head on his sink and came up with the flux capacitor... bet GM didn't see that coming either.

Other things of note in 1955:

- The US decided putting nukes on missiles was a good idea.
- The panamian president was assassinated
- The USSR and Germany ended their war that started in WWII
- Blackboard Jungle opened in theatres - best known as the movie with Rock Around the Clock in it - Rock 'n Roll hit the big time.
- Churchill resigned
- The polio vaccine is introduced - "And now ladies and gentlemen..."
- Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald's (the 9th McD's in existence)
- West Germany goes sovereign
- Warsaw pact
- Lady and the Tramp premiered
- Disneyland opened
- First commercially-available atomic power
- First copy of the Guinness World Records is printed
- Lolita is published
- James Dean died
- Mickey Mouse club premiered
- Elvis got on film
- Bo Diddley debuts on TV courtesy of Ed Sullivan... but not the Ed Sullivan show
- Everybody favourite wacky factory - The Westboro Baptist Church is established
- Someone named Rosa Parks gets tired feet and decides she'd like to sit on the bus, thankyouverymuch.
- There were 2.75 billion people in the world
- Rowan Atkinson, Steve Earle, Kevin Costner, Eddie Van Halen, John Roberts, Nicolas Sarkzoy, John Grisham, Greg Norman, Arsenio Hall, Jeff Daniels, Kelsey Grammer, Steve Jobs, Penn Jillette, Don Ashby, Dee Snider, Nina Hagen, Gary Sinise, Bruce Willis, Reba McEntire, Paul Reiser, Angus Young, Micahel Rooker, Dodi Al-Fayed, Kate Mulgrew, Tom Bergeron, Mark David Chapman, Chris Berman, Olga Korbut, Jack Morris, Debra Winger, Bill Paxton, Chow Yun-Fat, Roseanne Cash, Masaharu Morimoto, John Hinckley Jr., Topper Headon, Dana Carvey, Sandra Bernhard, Tim Berners-Lee, Laurie Metcalf, Glenn Danzig, Mick Jones, Isabelle Adjani, David Alan Grier, Jimmy Smits, Howie Epstein, Billy Bob Thornton, Peter Gallagher, Mike Huckabee, Steve Jones, John Kricfalusi, Peter Scolari, Robin Yount, Stephane Dion, Yo-Yo Ma, Bill Gates, Phil Simms, Matti Vanhanen, Maria Shriver, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Nye, Howie Mandel, Billy Idol, Steven Culp, Jane Kaczmarek, and Ray Liotta were all born.
- Sir Alexander Fleming, Charlie Parker, Theda Bara, Albert Einstein, Tommy Burns, James Agee, Vito Corleone, Carmen Miranda, Thomas Mann, Cy Young, Shemp Howard, and Honus Wagner died.

So that was 53 years ago. I've got to be honest, I was surprised by how many of those people are the same age.

And now, GM stock is in the shitter. Ford's is crap too. Chrysler? Please. Once again, US automakers are under seige. Japanese, German, Korean, and other countries' automakers are taking bigger chunks of the market. Why? Because US cars suck ass.

Whoops... I meant gas. Suck gas. Yah, that's what I meant.

Gas over $4/gallon in the US, and over $1.30/litre in Canada (around $5/gal) is making consumers FINALLY pay attention to how much their car uses. Suddenly, that SUV just so mom can go grocery shopping and "feel safe" isn't such a brilliant purchase. Dad doesn't need the Escalade to go golfing. Why did we NEED that Hummer again?

A buddy of mine is a car nut and told me that you couldn't find a better HP:Gas ratio than GM has. He may be right, but people might just be waking up to the fact that horsepower and torque mean squat when you're in bumper-to-bumper traffic 85% of the time.

Toss in the reliability of Japanese and German cars, the bargain-basement prices of Korean models, the safety and fuel-efficiency of Toyota, Honda, or Hyundai, and options start looking appealing.

Not to mention that EVERY CAR LOOKS THE SAME. If it's isn't a unique brand for an automaker (Mustang, Corvette, etc.), then you can't really tell one mid-sized car apart from another. Even the big ones are shared chassis. A Sierra is a Denali with a pickup bed... it's also an Escalade. The complete lack of creativity in the market is pathetic. Why would I buy a new car when it looks the same as the one I bought 6 years ago?

With luck, we're hitting a turning point in the auto industry. A point where hybrid and electric cars need to become the norm. A point where design comes into play again over mass-production. A point where bigger isn't better and people buy the size they need, not the size their neighbour has. A point where US automakers take their heads out of their asses and realize they're dinosaurs who are trying to dodge an asteroid.

Oh, and a point where I can pick up a Jaguar XKR or Aston Martin DBS for cheap.


on_thg said...

And then you have the beauty of the comment section ...

"A point where hybrid and electric cars need to become the norm."

A big problem with this that nobody seems to be talking about is how our overburdened electrical grid is going to handle 1, 10 or 100 million cars being plugged in. It's not like it's easy to just throw up another power plant or 50 (unless you're China).

Getting slightly more but still not enough attention is the issue of how lithium ion batteries (and NiMh for that matter) are going to be safely recycled or otherwise disposed of.

Both big obstacles imo to truly widespread plug in / hybrid adoption.

"A point where design comes into play again over mass-production"

Style is nice, but it is a luxury, and one which not everyone can afford. I don't think people are going to willingly go back to the early days of the automobile when it was a plaything for the wealthy.

It would be nice if the new deals the big 3 have worked out with the UAW/CAW do allow them to sink extra money into design. They've had to cut a lot of corners in that area over the years in order to stay price-competitive. Time will tell.

Astin said...

Lithium Ion is recyclable, but then there's the option of ultracaps. Take a look at the ZENN, using EEStor's UltraCap... assuming EEStor isn't selling snake oil.

That said, the grid would still have to upgraded. This isn't an overnight solution, but one that has dozens of subsidiary ripples. Then again, the existing grid needs to be upgraded anyway.

As for style - it's a reason the industry is suffering. It's standard short-sightedness - uniformity is cheaper, but less desirable. The hope that people will buy up for style isn't realistic when money is tight. It's a shame they're so afraid that would take away from the high-margin luxury.