Fast and Loud Review

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Likely neither fast nor loud – picture courtesy of Ribbie on assignment in Montevideo

I don’t watch a lot of TV, and when I do, I typically watch something political like the Rachel Maddow Show – she’s good – reruns of M*A*S*H or The Twilight Zone AND car  shows.  Yes, car shows, even the auctions.  I don’t quite know the attraction really.  I like cars, but am not a collector or anything and drive an underpowered, economical Honda Fit, but I once owned a muscle car, or I should say my parents did – a 1976 Camaro that they bought off the showroom floor at the Cliff Peck dealership in Little Rock, Arkansas.  It was their car until it became mine.  It’s life ended tragically in Denton, Texas in the year of 1986 when a pickup rear ended it at a stop sign, reducing the Camaro to an accordion.  Fortunately, neither me, nor my passenger were seriously injured.  The driver of the pickup was unharmed too and in fact, his pickup suffered barely a scratch.  Actually, what I like more than muscle cars are roadsters.  I don’t have one now, nor have I ever owned one, but my dad once had a 1973 MG Midget and it was with this car that I learned to drive a stick, a skill that I fear is as  foreign to most U.S. Millenials as a self-driving car would have been to me in 1976.  What does any of this have to do with the show Fast and Loud?  The MG nothing – but the Camaro, ah, the Camaro – the crew of Fast and Loud operating out of Gas Monkey Garage (GMG) has featured several and “equivalent” Pontiac Firebirds which I think made me long for the days when I myself drove a muscle car.

I started watching Fast and Loud from the beginning, back when the Gas Monkey Garage worked out of a small workshop, as the Brits from Wheeler Dealers would say.  I remember some of the original “monkeys” like Jordan and Tom, both of whom were later fired during the famous Firebird build.  But of course the stars and founders of GMG make the show watchable and popular. Richard Rawlings, the tall and skinny slicked back hair, goatee wearing owner of GMG, a car aficionado, racer, and businessman who built and expanded the GMG brand, snd who finds cars, and flips them. And then there’s Aaron Kaufman, chief Gas Monkey mechanic, nicknamed the bearded wonder, who repairs and tricks the cars out, often with a newer more powerful engine, a lowered stance and a stunning paint job by former paint master Kasey, who sadly also left the show several seasons ago.  Too bad because he was a funny character and perhaps the chief burnout king.  And then there’s Sue, GMG’s go-to upholsterer on their “junk” cars, as she calls them.  She is notoriously cranky and combative with a sharp tongue to put the “ass monkeys” in their places.  They bicker with her and the banter is always entertaining, which comes off as authentic reality show stuff, but may be a little bit scripted, as most reality shows are.  The other two characters of note are Dennis Collins, who owns a Jeep dealership, or something along those lines, and is Richard’s business partner with much deeper pockets.  They are always finding  valuable cars in a someone’s garage or barn and flipping them for big money – cars like rare Mustangs, a ’63 split window Corvette and the first two Firebirds ever produced.  And occasionally, golden opportunities drop into their laps like that wrecked Ferrari that Aaron restored and Dennis bought in the end.

I like the premise of the show which is a formula for success. Find car.  Flip it right away  or fix/modify (with drama during the build between the “monkeys”) to sell or auction off, often at no reserve.  Sometimes GMG makes money, and sometimes they don’t.  You never know.  The show has been successful with the core cast of Richard, Dennis, Sue, Aaron, and office assistant Christie.  The “lesser” monkeys work in the background and are not that interesting as personalities, but obviously do good work on the cars.  Now with Aaron leaving the show, I’m not sure it will ever be as good.  A self-taught mechanic with wild ideas, Aaron comes off as a brilliant wizard.  He and Richard often clash over the builds – for example over a design element or the budget for a project, but in the end, despite Richard’s doubts and anxieties, Aaron always gets the job done. However, it seems that ever since Richard hired a project manager, Jason Acker, for the Firebird build, Aaron may have been feeling less appreciated.  And whether this is true or not, I think Aaron is simply a car guy and not attracted to the marketing side of the business. He has never seemed too enthusiastic about GMG Bar N’ Grill or Gas Monkey Tequila.  He doesn’t even drink.  So the question becomes, will people still watch the show without Aaron?  Will the missing bearded wizard mechanic, the hipster, self-taught professor of mechanical engineering spell the end of the GMG reality show?

As much as I like Aaron, I do think the show will not only survive, but continue to be popular without the bearded wonder.  Here’s the thing, “King” Richard has star quality.  He’s cocky, but personable, a risk-taker, and a saavy businessman who knows the automobile AND entertainment industry.  Of all the car shows on Velocity, he probably has the most star quality, or star presence of any of the other leading personalities on the network, which includes guys like Mike and Edd of Wheeler Dealers, Wayne of  Chasing Classic Cars, Chip Foose of Overhaulin’, David Grainger of Restoration Garage, Joe Martin of Iron Restoration, and Bruno of Garage Squad.  The only other guys who come close would be Jay Leno, but his show, Jay Leno’s Garage, is an Internet show and not part of the Velocity lineup, and Danny of Counting Cars on the History Channel.

I wish Fast and Loud the best of luck in the future. It is a show that I like to watch to just chill out and wind down. It doesn’t require me to think or anything – and I can just put my brain on autopilot and strap in for the fast and loud ride.

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Enjoy cheap gas while it lasts

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because it won’t be around for long.  Yes, gasoline prices are nearing historical lows.  Interestingly, going back to 1972, 1998 was the year that gas prices hit rock bottom.  You’d have paid approximately $1.06 for regular unleaded, in today’s dollars, that would be about $1.50 per gallon.  I know you may be thinking of a time in the 70’s when you paid less than a dollar at the pump, but if you adjust for inflation, it’d be more like $2.60 per gallon today.  And I would guess your paycheck wasn’t as much in the 70’s as it is now, unless you’ve retired or live off the grid, or both.

When I got my first job in 1979 (not counting my paper route) I made $3.10 an hour.  I’d have been driving the family Chevrolet Impala then with a 21 gallon fuel tank. Gas at the pump at the local DX in Arkansas where I grew up would have been about .675 a gallon, and have cost me a little over $14.00 to fill up the gas loving Impala. $14.00 was about a half day’s work in 1978.  In 2015, the minimum wage or minimal wage if you like, in Arkansas is $7.50, and $9.00 in Massachusetts where I now live, so it would have taken me less than two hours to earn a tank full today.  Of course as a cash starved teenager, I no doubt skimped on the petrol and probably only put in a quarter of a tank.  Adjusted for inflation, that .675 would have cost about $2.44 at the pump today, quite a bit more than the $2.11 per gallon I paid yesterday to fill up my Honda Fit which has a considerably smaller fuel tank than the Impala, and is considerably more fuel efficient.

According to statistics from the website InflationData.com, historical gas prices adjusted for inflation from 1913-2013, have averaged $2.60/gallon.  They argue that when prices are above $2.60, gas is expensive, when below $2.60, cheap. Gas was cheap back in 1979 and is cheap today (as long as you make substantially more than the minimum wage) after about 6 consecutive years of brutally expensive gasoline prices. Thankfully, the forecast is for continued cheap gasoline through 2015, but beyond, don’t bank on it.  This is good news for airlines, bus companies and consumers and perhaps not so great news for big oil, aircraft manufactures (who have been promoting more expensive fuel efficient aircraft) and companies that have invested in clean energy technologies.

The current cheapness factor notwithstanding, now is not the time to buy a gas guzzling SUV or the largest, longest or most powerful car or pickup on the lot. Remember the cars of the 60’s and 70’s that took up like 2 city blocks to park? The 1967 Chrysler New Yorker got 9 mpg and weighed 4,442 pounds. The 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood, a monster of a car and one of the longest passenger cars ever built was 250 inches long, easily took up 3 regular parking spaces and weighed in excess of 5,000. By contrast, my Honda Fit is 161 inches long, gets 36 mpg and weighs a mere 2,496 pounds.

One way to keep oil prices low is to use less, so that demand remains lower than supply.  If you must drive a car, buy a fuel efficient one. Do you really need a Nissan Armada SUV that gets 12 mpg? The thing really is like an armed ship with wheels. Another way to reduce your dependence on fossil fuels is to build a tiny house in the woods, with a windmill and a still (optional) and get yourself off the grid completely because sooner or later, fuel’ll be expensive again. At least in the woods, you can hunt and gather your own food, raise some chickens, and barter with other people, if you happen to run across any.  Be sure to carry a quart of moonshine, some ginseng and a handful of pecans, useful and valuable alternatives to fuels and cash.

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New Musical Car Names

DSC_0154I’ve written about this subject before and come back to it today after being on the road this morning and finding myself bored.  While in heavy traffic, I began processing the names of car models.  I saw a Honda Odyssey, a Honda Fit (more on the Fit in a future post), a Dodge Dart, darting in and out of lanes only to be stopped like the rest of us at a traffic light.  Let’s see, there was a Toyota Venza whose name perplexes me – Venza?  Is this short for Venezuela? Or is the meaning a bit deeper?  In Spanish there is a phrase – sin verguenza which essentially means without shame and indeed the driver seemed to have no remorse for tailing me closely and then sharply passing me on a winding road.  I should add that the Venza was nearly impaled by an oncoming Impala.

One of my favorite car names on the road is the Hyundai Sonata, although I don’t particularly like the car.  I think automakers should turn more to classical music forms to name new models or rename tired and boring old ones.  Here are just a few I would recommend: The Mitsubishi Mazurka, and it’s mid-size companion the Mitsubishi Rhapsody; the venerable Hyundai Scherzo; the Ford Fugue and a hybrid version, the Ford Fantasie; the Chevrolet Concerto, (Chevy should bring back the Caprice Classic); the full-sized Pontiac Polonaise and the sporty Pontiac Poco Adagio (Do they even still make the Pontiac?) Dodge flopped with the Neon so why not repackage it as the Nocturne? I could go on for days with Italian names, but let’s just go with the Fiat Finale and the Fiat Tutti micro car, to replace the monotonous Fiat 500.  I never much liked the Lincoln model names, so let me suggest The Lincoln Largo (to replace the Navigator) and a new compact and fuel efficient Lincoln Lento; I could have fun with the German makes, but let’s keep it simple – the VW Waltz, and the concept car, the VW Variation on a Theme.  BMW just numbers their cars, so they need a refined BMW Bagatelle.  Here’s one make I forgot about and so have most Americans – Buick.  They are definitely on the right track with the Buick Encore, but they steered off course with the Buick Enclave so how about renaming it the Buick Berceuse, which in musical terms means lullaby and would be the perfect auto for a family with a crying baby suffering from colic and insomnia.  And I know the theme here is classical music, but I am going to deviate a bit and rename the Buick LaCrosse the Buick Jai-Alai.  And last on the list, Volvo, the old Swedish make needs a makeover for its infamous station wagon box.  I’d suggest the Volvo Vocalise.

Coda: For good measure, I’d rename the Nissan Leaf, the Nissan Conductor and the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Impromptus.  By the way, cudos to Nissan for the Versa Note, and the Nissan March, but whatever happened to the Stanza? And Honda, what did you do with the Prelude?

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Don’t Drive in Rio

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Driving in Brazil is ill advised for a number of reasons. First, the streets are a tangle of twists and turns that only local motorists, bikers, taxi and bus drivers can competently navigate. Second, while it might be possible to drive on the long boulevards, tourists, bicyclists and vendors make the proposition tricky. Pedestrians and tourists going to and from the beaches put themselves at risk as they cross the bike paths and the major boulevards particularly Avenue Atlantica from Copacabana, Avenue Vieira Souto from Ipanema or Avenue Delfim Moreira from Leblon. There are speed limits posted but they seem to be rather more like suggestions than law. From what I have seen, buses and taxis will not slow down if you are in their path, even if you are in a walkway, so it’s better to turn back than to try to assert your pedestrian rights. Drivers may view you as more of a nuisance like a pigeon than as a human being with inalienable rights. Third, if you are still not convinced that driving is a bad idea in Rio, consider this: gasoline costs 3.99 a liter. That to American ears may not sound so bad. 3.99 is just a little bit more expensive than in the States, right? Wrong. We are talking 3.99 Brazilian reals a liter, not dollars a gallon. Let’s do a little math here: 1 Brazilian real = .45 U.S. dollars, so that’s $1.80 U.S. a liter. The average size fuel tank for a small car, like the Volkswagen Gol in the picture above (Golf in the U.S.) is about 50 liters so 50 x 1.8 = $90 U.S. to fill up vs. about $50 to fill up in the States. Quite a difference.

Gasolinera RioIf I’ve convinced you not to drive, what are the alternatives? Why not reduce your carbon footprint and walk or ride a bicycle? The amazingly beautiful beach areas including some of the hills and many parks are easily accessible by foot from where you would likely be staying. If you want to venture away from the beaches as we did when we went to Sao Cristovao, try a city bus. But fair warning: the buses are not like they are in the States and in other major Latin American cities I have visited. They look similar. The fares are reasonable – a buck or so a ride. But the ride is another thing. Hold on to something, because the bus drivers don’t mess around. They drive those Mercedes and Marcopolo buses like sport cars, taking turns at top speed and braking for nothing except to stop at the stop light or bus stop. Time is money apparently. The roads in Rio are rough in places and the suspension, at least on the bus we took, was not tuned for a smooth ride. I felt like I was on a roller coaster on a track full of speed bumps or humps as they are also sometimes called. I kept telling myself that the driver was a professional and knew what he was doing, but there were moments when I was not so sure.

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Cruise Control Warning

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If you’re between the ages of 18-30, you probably shouldn’t drive with cruise control for three days straight in France, according to a study recently published.  Researchers put subjects in a driving simulator equipped with cruise control or some sort of “speed limiter” for three days and found that the youngest had the hardest time staying alert.  Frankly, I’m surprised that subjects didn’t become delusional after 3 days on the road.  Maybe there’s something monotone about French roads that produces some sort of hypnotic state among the young, or maybe it’s that wonderful air ride of the Citroen that has something to do with it.  Older drivers I guess are more experienced with sleep deprivation and really long road trips.  The study concludes that cruise control can be good to have on the open road to reduce speeding – like on a long straight road in Texas in the middle of nowhere with no other traffic or cars for thousands of miles – but for youngsters, best keep your foot on the gas or break as the situation dictates in traffic…well, at least in France while driving or gliding a Citroen with that smoooooooth suspension.

Key Free Living

English: Sundry key fobs.

With all of today’s technology, why is it that we have some many keys?  I think I speak  for others on this issue – I can’t believe I am the only person with 15 keys on my main key chain.  Yes, main key chain – that is to say that I have more than one key chain as I suspect is true for you too. I have one for the house, and two for work – totaling something like 25 keys.  Some I have no idea where they came from or what they open.  And they are of all shapes, and sizes.  Some with teeth, some without. Gold, silver, thick and thin – one goes to a suitcase, I think, the other to a cheap filing cabinet on wheels, both thin and pliant like a paper clip for locks that could just as easily be opened by a paper clip or a toothpick.

How long have keys been around anyway? A long time, to be sure.   The first ones were thought to have been used by ancient Egyptians some 4,000 years ago.  The principle of a lock and key hasn’t changed that much since and yet technology is so advanced these days that we could really go keyless, just as we’ve gone wireless and paperless for the most part.  I know some cars have keyless entry and do not require ignition keys; just hit the start button and off you go.  I don’t happen to own one of those cars, maybe you do.  Actually, I want my car to read my mind or operate totally on voice commands – my voice and the voices of whoever I might authorize to drive it.  Furthermore, I’d like for it to just drive itself.  I’d get in, tell it where to go and then have my morning coffee and maybe blog or read a book or newspaper until the thing announced it’d reached my destination.

The thing with keys is that they are heavy and bulky on a chain and they clank around and get stuck in my pocket or fall to the bottom of my briefcase where I have to fish them out – I don’t really have a briefcase.  What I have is a student style canvas bookbag which doubles as my lunch bag.  Actually I put my lunch bag inside my bookbag, which I used to call a backpack, but it’s really not – I never carry it on my back or go camping with it – it’s more like a shoulder bag.  Anyway, I’d rather not have to dig for my keys to open my house door.  I’d like for it to open like the automatic doors in supermarkets or like the doors on the Star Trek Enterprise along with those swishing sound effects.

What about this? There should be a key free holiday – something like leave you keys at home day.  Maybe that’s not such a good idea because you’d have to leave your door unlocked and take the bus to work or call a locksmith.  If we went totally keyless, say by executive order or something, this would put locksmiths out of business but maybe they could “retool” and become metallurgical engineers or alchemists with a little job training.  Congress, are you listening?  Call it the key free living jobs bill for the 21st century.  The Government needs a Department of Alchemy to convert all our melted keys to gold.  This would help balance the budget and keep us from going off the fiscal curb.

Top Gear UK reviewed

English: The BBC Top Gear presenting team of ,...

English: The BBC Top Gear presenting team of , and . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had never heard of the show before, not even the American version on the History channel, which incidentally, is now in its third year.  Top Gear UK, the original series has been on the air for some 17 years in the UK and other parts of Europe presumably, and it wasn’t until I stumbled across the show one day clicking around on the cable box that I saw a bit of an episode for the first time.  It was on the BBC channel which I didn’t even know I had, which might explain why I had never seen the show.  I might have just passed it by, but there was something about the scene that caught my attention.  There was some British bloke talking about a Chevy that many stars had driven that he could not sell.  He was driving it to some industrial site where it was to be given a proper Viking burial.  He parked it between two smokestacks and proceeded to blow it up with explosives.  The smokestacks collapsed onto the car simply flattening it, but not completely covering it as its nose stuck out.  This Brit was not impressed by the demolition and thought it a travesty that the car had not received a proper burial.  I thought the whole bit was pretty interesting, so I stuck around to watch the next part of the show, something about a celebrity barbecue to christen a new “reasonably priced car”, which turned out to be a KIA Cee’d, “the only car in the world with an apostrophe in its name”, said co-host, Jeremy Clarkson.  This too sounded intriguing.  Well, no stars appeared, not even Angelina Jolie or Johnny Dep who had been invited twice.  Only random people from the BBC showed up to do laps around a race track in a cheap Korean car with an apostrophe in its name, whilst Hammond, the short co-host who had blown up the Chevy earlier and who looks like Davy Jones of the Monkees horsed around and burned the barbecue sausages and the cauliflower Clarkson had brought for vegetarians.  I don’t think I watched any more of the show after that, tiring of the theatrics, but it was a good laugh.

Fast forward to several weeks later and I found myself on Netflix and once again I randomly stumbled across the show, this time the first 17 series of Top Gear UK.  Curious, and remembering that the first episode I had seen, which was Series 15, episode 1, I started watching random episodes and found myself quite addicted to the show.   If you like cars, super cars, British humor, and the British way with words, you’ll love the show.

Here’s a typical show:

  • 3 presenters (co-hosts) Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May
  • A live audience
  • Lots of silly banter
  • New cars, mostly European ones, in the news with reviews of select cars
  • Lots of witty banter
  • Clips from test drives of select cars including super cars
  • Live interview with a celebrity
  • Clip of celebrity going around a track in a “reasonably price car”
  • A road trip with a wacky challenge
  • Lots of witty banter and pranks
  • Wrap-Up

And it works, it really does.  First of all, the chemistry between the presenters is spot-on, as the Brits would say.  They are genuinely funny and even funnier together.  Jeremy is probably the sharpest wit of the lot, and arguably the bully of the bunch.  Hammond, whom they call the hamster because of his size, seems always amazed, or astounded at one thing or another.  He’s rather more prone to hyperbole and is the only one of the three who I think you could genuinely call fearless – the guy to fire out of a cannon or drop from a 30 story building onto a stack of foam cushions.  James May is aptly called the slow one – not slow or dim witted, but slow in a car.  He’s the pessimistic one with a bit of a monotone and dreary disposition whose second nickname is Eeyore.

They describe cars dramatically as “fantastic”, “brilliant”, “magnificent”, “horrific”, “rubbish” or that it’s a “bloody hybrid”. They endlessly insult one another.  James May called Jeremy Clarkson an “apocalyptic dingleberry”, and they often call the other “stuuuupid”,  a “moron” or a “blithering idiot”.    They often “roast” the guest celebrities.  Clarkson introduced Lionel Ritchie as a man who lives in a Hollywood mansion with 17 bathrooms.

On road trips, they are prone to frat boy pranks.  Once Clarkson and Hammond rigged the horn on May’s car to go off every time he hit the brakes.   Another time, Hammond’s 70’s Land Cruiser with suspect brakes rammed into May’s Suzuki 3 wheel drive vehicle every time he needed to stop.  Clarkson “accidentally” set fire to the rag top on Hammond’s Land Cruiser which they had to put out with beer.

Their road trips are journeys that are like no other.  They’ve traveled to India to promote British products, like a self-propelled lawn mower, a travel ironing board kit and English biscuits.  They went to Albania to demolish a building with big trucks rather unsuccessfully.  They traveled through Vietnam on second hand motorbikes – Clarkson on a Vespa.  They  trekked from Florida to New Orleans in cars they bought for 1,000 U.S.  and were nearly killed by the locals they insulted when they spray painted provocative slogans on their cars like “NASCAR sucks”.

They aren’t fond of American cars and don’t seem too fond of America either.  They endlessly insult the country and the culture, but it all seems tongue in check.  They are, well Clarkson at least, Anglo centric and promote the superiority of all things British – which sometimes also sounds tongue in check.  They are each fond of super cars, none of which come from the U.S. Clarkson favors Mercedes AMG cars, Hammond the Porsche 911 and May, any Ferrari or Peugeot.   They typically review cars from Britain, Germany, France and Italy and race them around the track  somewhat non-professionally.  They leave the professional driving to the mysteriously helmeted staff race car driver they simply call the Stig.

Top Gear UK is one of the more entertaining car shows I’ve ever seen.  I’ll have to check out Top Gear USA to see how it stacks up against the original.

Chevy Sonic as American as Tater Tots and…

Photo by Morven

Can you guess which automaker has sold more cars each year in the U.S. for the past 51 years?   If you said Ford, you’d be wrong.  GM is the answer.   This is probably not a shocking revelation except that in the Northeast, the big three automakers seem to be Toyota, Honda and Nissan.  And yet their market share is tiny compared to Ford, GM and Chrysler.  Take June 2012.  Toyota sold 177,795, Honda, 124,808 and Nissan, 81,801.  By comparison, GM sold 248,250 vehicles, Ford 207,759 and Chrysler, 144,811.  Chrysler which includes the brands Fiat, Jeep and Dodge hasn’t really taken root in Boston.  The only Dodge Darts I’ve seen were the ones showcased on 60 Minutes in their piece on Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler/Fiat’s new CEO.  And the only person I’ve even seen driving a Fiat 500 is Jennifer Lopez.  Can you even name one Chrysler car?  Be honest.  The only models I can think of are the LeBaron and the New Yorker which haven’t been produced since the mid 90’s.  What has Chrysler been doing for the last 20 years?  Certainly not building a keeper.  They ought to bring back the Cirrus.  Remember that one? I don’t either.

Corolla, Camry, Prius, Rav4, Highlander, Civic, Accord, Fit, Altima, Rogue, Maxima, and Pathfinder are the brands I see most often rolling along on the roads of Boston.  Don’t see any Darts, or many Fiestas, and Impalas on the streets of Beantowne. And the Volt, America’s “revolutionary” gas-electric plug in vehicle, hasn’t sold well in the birthplace of American liberty.  I’m not exactly sure why, but reports of fiery batteries haven’t helped.  I also haven’t seen a Chevy Sonic yet, but I finally found a Sonic in Massachusetts.  Love me some tater tots.   How about a new Chevy Sonic ad, “it’s as American as tater tots, chilly cheese fries and a Supersonic Double Cheeseburger with Mayo and 1290 calories and 87 grams of fat”.

Auto Sales Up Despite “Uncertainty”, but…

The Auto Industry in the U.S. is alive and thriving, thanks in part to President Obama’s auto bailout, an improved economy and, let’s see, meals on wheels, no…cash for clunkers? no, not that either…I’m going out on a limb here but I think car shows have whetted our appetite for cars, or as the Brit Mike from Wheeler Dealers would say, motas.  Americans are crazy about their motors again thanks to the many TV car shows on the airwaves including Chasing Classic Cars, Mecum Auto Auctions, What’s my Car Worth (mine, not much), Desert Kings, All Girls Garage, Overhaulin’ , and West Coast Customs.  These shows glorify the car and plant the seed in our brains that we need to buy one or another.  The car products sponsors on the shows create other needs in our tiny brains for synthetic motor oils, all-weather floor mats, brighter halogen headlamps so that we can see people standing in the middle of the highway who would otherwise be invisible until it was too late, and bullet proof all-weather tires built to grip the road during a tornado.  Ok, I just made that one up.

U.S. Car Sales are up for all makes.  But one dealer says that sales would be even better if there weren’t so much uncertainty, uncertainty of who will be President in 2013.  I’m sorry, but I beg to differ with the dealer who is no doubt a Republican.  Consumers are not saying behind close doors: “because of the uncertainty honey, let’s delay the purchase of a new car until after the Presidential election.”

What difference would it make, really, who is President, except that if Mitt Romney were elected, he’d probably “roll” back all the safety and environmental regulations in place so that automakers would be once again free to pollute with impunity, and design cheap gas guzzling cars that are Unsafe At Any Speed, and really light trucks made of vinyl siding or balsa wood.

Facebook Loses GM but who is the Loser?

Photo by Vegavairbob at en.wikipedia

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t rush out and buy any shares of Facebook.  I consider just having an account and sharing every now and then, shares enough.  I don’t buy stocks at all as a rule except indirectly through mutual funds in my retirement portfolio.  And I imagine, sooner or later one of my funds will invest in Facebook.  But one big American company is apparently done with Facebook.  GM announced it will not be buying any more ads on Facebook because as far as GM could tell, the ads were not effective in selling cars and trucks.

GM may be onto something.  I know from my own experience, I don’t pay any attention to ads on the internet and was not even aware that GM had a Facebook presence.  And if I had noticed an ad, you best believe I would not have clicked on it.  I don’t go to Facebook, or any social media site for that matter to shop, or to be distracted by annoying ads.  Of course on some sites, to play a video, you have no choice but to listen to a 30 second spot.  And on sites like Spotify, you have to tolerate ads to use the site for free, unless you buy a premium monthly subscription.  If more companies like GM stop buying ads on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg might have to change his business model and start charging account holders.  If this day ever comes, I’ll stop using Facebook, though I don’t begrudge the company for making money.

Is Facebook or GM to blame for sluggish sales?  GM reportedly spent 10 million on Facebook ads, which is a small percentage of its overall advertising budget.  Did Facebook users not click on the GM banner because they couldn’t be bothered, like me?  Or did they refuse to do so because they don’t have any interest in buying a GM car or truck.  Could it be that GM has a damaged image from the days of the Chevy Nova and the Chevy Vega?  In my opinion, GM has rolled out a consistently bad lineup of cars since the 70’s and hasn’t regained its reputation of the 50’s and 60’s.  And I say this as a past GM consumer who grew up in a family who owned Impalas, Monte Carlos and yes, even a 4 speed Chevy Vega that you had to stand up in to depress the clutch.  I do like the Camaro, and the Corvette, always have and always will.  But could it be that “Ford has a better idea”?  Well, that remains to be seen, but Ford does plan to continue with Facebook unlike GM and even step up its presence in the future. And I won’t notice.