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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.

The Great American Road Trip

|Friday, Aug. 15, 2014

Not long ago CNN/Money online featured a story detailing Six Great American Road Trips. The first was a 900-mile journey from Grand Forks, N. Dakota, to Kalispell, Montana, on U.S. Route 2. Others included the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Great Smoky Mountains, the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, and, of course, the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to San Francisco.

The Great War

|Friday, Aug. 08, 2014

One hundred years ago this week, an unprecedented world war began. The Great War, nobly named “The War to End All Wars,” in many ways altered the world completely. More remarkably, its unintended consequences still ravage the world today. They can be seen in the war now destroying Syria, in the battles in Ukraine, in the Islamist uprisings in Iraq and Egypt – even in the enmity between Iraqis in the country’s south and in the independence that the Kurds in its north demand. Russia’s continued semi-isolation from Western powers, the ongoing conflict between Iran and the U.S., and the war now being fought between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza – all are long-lived political and territorial byproducts of the Great War 100 years ago.

‘Potential’ without Perspective

|Friday, Aug. 01, 2014

Last week brought a slew of positive news for the automobile industry. Most of it sprang from analysts’ predictions that by this year’s end Americans would once again have purchased more than 16 million new vehicles. Everyone sees this as another sign that our economy is finally about to break loose and truly catch fire.

Left out of the Equation: The Driver

|Friday, Jul. 25, 2014

Has the EPA found religion? Suddenly the agency seems concerned that the methods it uses for testing fuel efficiency on new cars and trucks sold in America may not reflect real-world driving conditions. It has come to this conclusion before and, in 2008, rewrote the rules on how manufacturers need to test vehicles for mileage. After that the federal agency recalculated the fuel efficiency of vehicles from long ago, in order to show that in previous decades vehicles were even less fuel efficient than we were once told.