No. 972
November 14, 2018

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Bad Moon Rising.

It appears to me that “fitness” guru Jim Hackett sees that the Automobile Age has reached the cul-de-sac of obsolescence. Not to be outdone by GM's e-Bike, no siree, Ford, who is in the midst of an $11b restructuring, plunked down $100 million for Spin- an electric scooter-sharing company, according to Axio. Reuters reports that total investment will be $200 million. Both the Silver Silos and the Glass House have announced buyouts and layoffs, Toyota also sees a bad moon rising. The major players are boarding up the industry in anticipation of a rainbow-encrusted Motbilitopia; where everybody shares everybody’s everything and it’s all powered with moonbeams and unicorn farts. The preparations being made for the next recession are a self fulfilling prophesy, and the result will be very limited individual transportation choices from that point on.

Chris Blanchard
Prescott, Wisconsin

 Flights of fancy, indeed.

As a boomer born in the early 1950's, I was raised to look forward to the new car models each September. In fact, the whole family visited all the local dealers to see the latest versions and newest designs. In those halcyon days, automobiles – in particular, American brands – represented the epitome of the nation's economic might. Those days are gone, and automobile enthusiasts today can no longer claim to be the vanguard of American culture. The person who gets a thrill from driving and paying attention to cars in general is a declining segment; post-Boomer generations are more inclined to see the car as a mere background appliance. They are part of the digital age that is more interested in the quick replacement of last years digital gizmo with this year's. They may own and drive a car, but not with the passion of prior generations. Nothing about this is news.

What I think may be news to those immersed in all things auto is that the ramp-down of the automobile as harbinger of what's new or next is only one example of the impact of the digital age on our industrial/economic/cultural life. Look at other industries that have been transformed or eliminated by the work of those denizens of Silicon Valley. Mostly gone: Travel agents, bookstores, secretaries. Massively transformed: Television, radio, music recording, newspapers, retailing in general. This is obviously a short list.

Auto companies may be throwing everything at the wall to see what might stick, but that's happening – or has happened – in every industry. Don't blame GM, Ford, FCA, Mercedes, Toyota and the rest for trying. Frankly, the fact that they have the money to throw at all these long-shot bets while still turning out some of the most advanced vehicles in history tells me that Peter's concerns are overblown. As long as, say, a Chevy Equinox has the performance, technology and, dare I say it, style to compete with similar products from the competition, what do I care that GM also funds flights of fancy?

Palm Springs, California


Repeating History.

In the 1960’s, Japanese cars were viewed as second rate products with few redeeming qualities in the eyes of American consumers. They lacked power, technology, comfort and status. Korean cars were considered a myth. Yet, today’s winners from those countries were not the first to arrive with many features or premium models but yet they won in this market because the companies were patient and had a plan. Meanwhile, the domestics invested in the wrong things, and let talent go because they listened to Wall Street types and look at them today.

The geniuses on Wall Street are now illuminating ‘The Way’ for auto companies to follow to greatness. Personally, I’d stay away and follow a Silicon Valley company that ignored Wall Street in favor of their own plan and today is the most valuable company in the world. Apple was late to the digital music and cell phone markets and in time owned both. When Wall Street said they were late with a must have feature or on a must have network Apple ignored them and did their thing and introducing a better version of the feature when they were ready and being on the other networks when they had a supply chain that could manufacture to scale. No cutting their way to profits or buying unnecessary companies – simply solid planning and execution.

So, the domestics can win the quarter and continue to lose their companies if that’s what they want. I sincerely hope that those taking their packages find a way to crowd source a new car company and disrupt the industry by NOT listening to Wall Street.

Holly Springs, North Carolina

Bright Side.
Let's look on the bright side. While I am a baby boomer and former GM dealer, I think that the automated driverless little pod vehicles will offer new opportunities. I would like to offer you a partnership in a new OEM supplier company that I have in the works, SFYP: Picture it. Detroit 2023. 2:20 am. The bars are closed. You and your date summon a driverless cube on your phone app. As it pulls up you touch the SFYP app on your phone and it becomes an ultra violet flash light. You shine it on the interior of your cube as it pulls up and you can immediately see, shall we say, traces of any unwanted body fluids left by the previous occupants. Touch your phone again and see the sanitizing mist fill your cube. And just like that, in less than 30 seconds, Sanitized for Your Protection (SFYP) has made your transportation spring fresh and 99.9% sanitized. Every car company will want my halo device installed in their fleet. Just like the paper strips on the hotel toilet seats back in day. Let me know quickly if you want to invest as I have already contacted Shark Tank. I should hear back shortly.

Ray VanDerZee
South Haven, Michigan


From the "Unicorn Farts" File.

I think Chris Blanchard has unilaterally solved all the problems with current race series... let them all be powered by unicorn farts! Except for Moto GP of course, the bikes are too small for that.

Ted R. 
Raleigh, North Carolina

The Silver Fox.

The Silver Fox is dead and I ain't feeling too good myself. RIP David Pearson. The man among men.

Bo Darville
Hickory, North Carolina


Sooths that need saying.

Those of us who recognized the Autoextremist's knack for sooth-saying in the automotive world might appreciate a reminder of the long-ago predicted flatulence-powered clown car. This ultimate form of recycling is far superior – environmentally speaking – than the coal-powered e-scooters featured in today's Rant.

That said, I really don't get it; when there's about a zillion companies making cheap electric scooters already, why would GM (or Ford for that matter) waste their time and energy on such nonsense, other than virtue signalling that they're just as cool as that Chinese company that uses slave labor to crank out cheap electric scooters.

Motown – and Beyond…


Getting his Elon on.

If the traditional carmakers think that they can ever see into the future well enough to compete with Tesla on stock prices they’re kidding themselves. No one else has Elon’s crystal ball. Perfect example: Here I thought I was all bleeding edge having traded in my Porsche for an ebike. Not only was I getting a (slightly) better workout pedaling up the steep hill to my typically Californian urban wilderness aerie compared to wrestling my old 911’s shifter and wheel, I was saving the world pumping up my lithium ions with homegrown solar ejuice. But what I didn’t foresee was that we have apparently added a new season to the calendar between Fall and Winter: Smoke. So my techy green ride sits in the garage while I stare out the window waiting for the air to clear enough for there to be something to stare out the window at. Meanwhile Tesla drivers are breathing easy with their Bioweapon Defense Mode H14 HEPA filtered air. And ebikes are starting to seem so 2016.

I didn’t see it. GM didn’t see it. Elon saw it. Time to buy some more TSLA.

San Francisco, California 



I too think MotoGP is the most compelling racing on the planet. By far. However, much like your vision for Formula 1, I wish there were far fewer electronics on the bikes. Ditch the traction control and anti-wheelie stuff and let's further showcase the immense talent of the riders wrangling these 2 wheeled beasts around a racetrack.

RA Durocher
Windsor, Ontario, CANADA