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Random Thoughts

Who do the Japanese car makers fear? The Koreans. Ten years down the road at the present rate of improvement, the Koreans will be banging on their doors. American OEMs think they can ignore this threat. After all, with a couple of "world class" small cars the domestic OEMs will drive the Koreans back to the shores, just like they did the Japanese and Volkswagen's silly Hitler-era Beetle before that.

Who do the Japanese car makers fear? The Koreans. Ten years down the road at the present rate of improvement, the Koreans will be banging on their doors. American OEMs think they can ignore this threat. After all, with a couple of "world class" small cars the domestic OEMs will drive the Koreans back to the shores, just like they did the Japanese and Volkswagen's silly Hitler-era Beetle before that.

For the sake of GM stockholders, I sure hope Bob Lutz lives a long and productive life, and wants to spend all of his remaining days with the company. With the constant drumbeat touting the man's unparalleled ability to divine exactly what the market wants, when it wants it, and how much buyers will be willing to pay, his departure would cause women to faint, children to cry, stocks to crash, and auto writers to predict the imminent demise of GM. I don't doubt the man has more talent than I'll ever possess–just as I'm sure he's re-reading that statement and savoring each word–but he can't walk on water. Nor can he change GM's moribund culture overnight. Beyond the General's pension costs, there are a number of problems facing the folks in that office complex overlooking the Detroit River. Like Buick's lack of exciting new product–stuff that doesn't take large rebates or an AARP discount to move. Or Chevrolet's need to replace the Cavalier and Malibu with competitive modern cars today, and revise the rest of the lineup by the day after. Or what role to assign to Saturn. And so on. Live a long life, Bob.

Dieter Zetsche and company say they're going to make a million more Chryslers a year and sell each one with few or no incentives by 2010. Part of this plan is to reach the Honda/Toyota quality level–thus taking the worry out of owning the car or truck–but giving the customer cars that are more expressive and stylish. The latter won't be hard to do, but Zetsche also will have to keep costs in line without affecting quality, greatly improve DaimlerChrysler's relationship with its suppliers, and get Americans out of Japanese cars and into Chryslers. Good luck. Call Tom Stallkamp if you need help with the suppliers.

It's funny how no one mentions the oil moving upward from extreme-depth reservoirs within the earth, or how this may radically alter assumptions about where oil comes from; decaying plants and animals, or methane left over from the dawn of time? Or that 60% of known oil reserves aren't included in the proven reserves estimate because they can't be recovered economically at today's per-barrel prices? But then, it doesn't fit the prevailing crisis mentality, or sound-bite journalism.

Do you think the California Air Resources Board cares that, of the 12 main variables in the study of climate change, scientists only claim to understand two of them? Or that full compliance with the Kyoto Treaty only adds six years to doomsayers' estimates of climactic Armageddon? Of course not. This isn't about clean air. It's all about power and politics.

Three things happened after my girlfriend bought her new car: First, the payment book didn't arrive. Second, the dealer told her to be patient, it would get there. Third, she received a dunning notice from the lender–the finance arm of a famous German volume manufacturer–telling her that, if she got the payment to them within 10 days, her mistake wouldn't show up on her credit record! Does this behavior make sense, or entice buyers to stay? Hardly, but then this is the auto industry. In case you were wondering, there are a few well-deserved burst eardrums at said finance arm. 

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