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Car Loans: 7 Years Later

|Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

This column, which first ran in June of 2007, has been shortened for length.

The End of Everything

|Friday, Oct. 17, 2014

There it was: Adam Jonas, head of global auto research for Morgan Stanley, predicting the end of his own and other auto analysts’ careers. The age of driverless cars is at hand, he prophesied at Business Insider, and the end of car ownership is equally close. Jonas sees this as the coming great disruption to the auto industry, and he says it’s headed our way faster than anyone could imagine.

People on the Move, Part 2

Friday, Oct. 10, 2014

To the average person in our major cities, who had traveled mainly by horse-drawn carriage or trolley, the new electric rail cars and interurban lines must have seemed like the most exciting way in which modern technology would change the nation. The other modern technological improvement in personal transportation, however, had been the automobile; and its introduction and advancement happened concurrently with that of electric rail.

People on the Move

|Friday, Oct. 03, 2014

When Americans discuss financial depressions, we almost always focus on the 1930s. That’s because few understand just how bad some of the others before what we call The Great Depression had been or what they did to the national economy. One of the worst was the Panic of 1893. While we aren’t completely sure what the true unemployment rate was in that period, most historians agree that the United States had 4 percent unemployment in 1890; but, in the first full year of the Panic of 1893, some have estimated that close to 20 percent of all Americans were unemployed.

It’s Not Just GM

|Friday, Sep. 26, 2014

In its September 18 issue, Fortune magazine published a Geoff Colvin column under the title, “Mary Barra’s (unexpected) Opportunity.” In it Colvin laid out the GM faulty ignition case, then suggested that this was likely a big enough disaster that Barra could use it to accomplish what no GM CEO before her ever had — rehabilitate the corporate culture of America’s largest car company.

The Dog Days of Autumn

Friday, Sep. 19, 2014

Sometimes the news out of the automobile industry seems slow, if not downright nonexistent. Failing that, sometimes it’s just not very dramatic. True, Sergio Marchionne, head of Fiat Chrysler, canned the head of Ferrari recently and took over the top spot himself at the Italian sports car manufacturer; but for the most part that move caused barely a ripple in the industry.

What “Bad Habits?”

Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014

Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley started the latest round of auto-doom-and-gloom a few weeks ago. His analysis of the automobile industry contained a prediction about where car sales were headed that was extremely optimistic — with a very pessimistic line at the end. For Jonas predicted that new car sales would rise to 18 million in 2017, an all-time-record high, but would suddenly collapse back to 14 million sales the following year. Not surprisingly, other media outlets would quote that prediction; the Associated Press did on Sept.3.

The Catalyst

|Friday, Sep. 05, 2014

For half of the great American experiment’s history, we were not known for moving around. In our first 100-plus years it wasn’t uncommon for someone to be born, live and die all without leaving the same 8-mile radius. True, settlers moved west constantly, but always in small numbers as compared to the entire population.

“Disruptive” Technologies

|Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Before they ever visited a new car dealer’s showroom, many people shopping for new cars 20 years ago often read reviews in Car & Driver of new products that might interest them. Some potential buyers would stop by their local convenience store and purchase an invoice book, showing what new car dealers paid for any given vehicle. And then many called their local banker or credit union to find out what the NADA Used Car Guide showed as their current vehicle’s wholesale trade-in value.

The 1990s vs. Now

|Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Nine years ago I was having a problem with the constant reporting that the world had hit Peak Oil, or was on the verge of it. Reporters were blaming many factors for oil’s soaring price; the large oil reserve discoveries were ending, and third-world countries’ new demand was growing for the quickly shrinking production of crude. Then too, there was the 500-pound gorilla that had entered the room, China. Oil that had gone begging for buyers just six years earlier at $10 a barrel was now selling for nearly five times that amount.