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Newman Offered a Quiet Example
Sep28

Newman Offered a Quiet Example

By Brendan Moore

09.28.2008

Paul Newman’s death last week at 83 caused me to reflect on just how many things Newman could do well, including, of course, driving a racecar.

Many people that knew about Paul Newman’s film accomplishments and his charity work knew very little (or nothing) about his racing career. But the guy could flat-out drive. The reason that many of his fans knew so little about his driving exploits is that he didn’t brag about his racing prowess; in fact, he really didn’t talk about racing except with other racers. As in the rest of his life, he was very self-effacing and genuinely modest.

Newman mostly raced modified sports cars in endurance events, and he won a lot of them. He won the IMSA Class at LeMans in 1979 driving a Porsche 935 with Rolf Stommelen and Dick Barbour. They came in second overall in a close finish. He raced in the Baja 1000, he raced at Sebring, and he raced at Daytona. He raced in the Trans-Am Series. He won four SCCA national titles in three different classes.

In 1983 Newman teamed up with Carl Haas to form Newman-Haas Racing, which won seven championships as their drivers racked up 97 total wins as a professional racing team.

Oh yeah, he also made more than 65 movies, some of which will forever be considered cinematic classics, was married to the same woman for 50 years, made millions of dollars for charity by founding and running a food products empire and opened summer camps for sick children.

He accomplished all of this with grace and style and with a minimum of fuss and personal drama. The personal construct of admirable results and genuine personal humility that Paul Newman lived in is a rare combination is this world and worth consideration by all of us.

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Federal Loans to Auto Companies Now Look Certain, But DOE Says It May Take 18 Months to Disburse the Funds
Sep26

Federal Loans to Auto Companies Now Look Certain, But DOE Says It May Take 18 Months to Disburse the Funds

By Brendan Moore

09.26.2008

The USD $25 billion loan package to the U.S. automakers and parts suppliers passed the House Wednesday and will arrive in the Senate within the next few days, where easy passage is forecasted. The White House has already indicated that it will sign the bill when it hits the President’s desk.

The auto industry loan proposal is merely a sidebar to the massive $700 billion federal bailout package for Wall Street currently being wrangled over in Congress, and thus has not garnered a lot of attention from the public in the last few days. The automakers and Washington would like to keep it that way and get it passed without a lot of contentious debate.

The auto industry loan is, at least ostensibly, to help the car companies retool their plants in order to make more fuel-efficient cars like hybrids and EVs and meet the new fuel economy rules recently put into play. The current language of the loan program requires that the money be used to retool or retrofit only plants that are at least 20 years old and that the refurbished plant will be used to manufacture vehicles (cars or trucks) that produce an approximate 25% improvement in fuel economy over similar models in their class at the time of the loan.

The auto industry did a great job of pushing the loan package through, but they have not been able to get the terms of the loans modified to make those terms less restrictive. The Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler LLC) are all facing a tremendous cash crunch and would like more leeway in how they spend the money loaned to them. Even if the terms remained the same, industry analysts believe the cash infusion would mitigate a lot of Detroit’s immediate cash flow issues, but the auto companies don’t want to be tied down to a particular part of their business getting the money, and other areas that are just as needy getting nothing.

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2008 Infiniti G35 x AWD Sedan Review
Sep24

2008 Infiniti G35 x AWD Sedan Review

By Brendan Moore

09.24.2008

Maybe I should have reviewed this G-Series sedan before I drove the G37 coupe around on roads for a week and then on a track for half a day. Because the sojourn I had with the somewhat frumpy sedan with the older 3.5 liter engine seems like a letdown compared to the torrid affair I had with the redesigned coupe.

Oh, the Infiniti G35 is a nice enough car, of course. But again, to exercise the relationship analogy a little more, that statement is akin to the assessment delivered after a so-so date: “So, what did you think of Barney?” To which the woman replies, “Barney? Oh, yeah, he seems nice.” Not exactly a ringing testimonial, right? This is what is commonly referred to as “damning with faint praise”.

Let’s start with the looks first.

Whereas the G37 coupe is one of those cars that actually looks better in the metal than in photographs, the G35 sedan is in the opposite situation. The car isn’t ugly, it’s just not pretty like the coupe.

Inside, the G35 sedan does not measure up to the coupe’s redesign. You’re not slumming it by any means, but it suffers in comparison.

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Chrysler Says It Will Produce EV and Hybrid Vehicles in 2010
Sep23

Chrysler Says It Will Produce EV and Hybrid Vehicles in 2010

It appears Chrysler was sandbagging…

By Brendan Moore

09.23.2008

Chrysler surprised the rest of the auto industry today by announcing that it intends to produce both an electric vehicle and gas-electric hybrids starting in 2010.

Chrysler showed off an all-electric sports car, and hybrid versions of the Chrysler Town and Country minivan and the Jeep Wrangler, at a press event at Chrysler headquarters. Chrysler officials claimed a 150-200 mile range from the lithium-ion batteries in the vehicles, and said the battery packs could be recharged from either a 110-volt or a 220-volt power source, with different recharging times applicable to each.

Chrysler also stated that it tried to do a partnership deal with Tesla late last year that ultimately proved to be unsuccessful, and is currently involved in a partnership with General Electric and U.S. Department of Energy to develop smaller, more powerful batteries for electric vehicles.

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Check Your Mirrors
Sep22

Check Your Mirrors

Check Your Mirrors

Odds and ends about cars and the car business

By Brendan Moore

09.22.2008

WALL STREET woes are probably going to affect Main Street in regard to auto sales. Both consumer and commercial credit is tightening considerably. Consumers are having a tougher time getting approved for auto loans and auto leases are getting scarce. The buyers that do get approved are not getting the same sort of terms that they were getting a year ago from the banks and the captive finance companies because their cost of funds is much higher. Furthermore, the costs associated with inventory financing at the dealerships have risen substantially, which translates into the dealer needing more profit on each vehicle in order to cover his operating costs. This makes the average purchase price higher. What all this means is that fewer prospective buyers are getting approved, and a smaller percentage of those that do get approved can actually afford the payments. Take this one more step further, and you can see why some auto analysts are saying that 2009 will be an even worse year for auto sales than 2008 is shaping up to be.

FORD says that even in a slowing European economy, it expects to sell more of the new Ford Fiesta than the outgoing model. Ford is forecasting sales in excess of 400,000 units in Europe for the new car, the sixth-generation of the Fiesta. Ford sold 378,200 units of the outgoing model last year in a much healthier economy. “The last Fiesta was a great success but we will improve annual sales with this model,” Ingvar Sviggum, head of sales for Ford of Europe, stated. Sviggum noted that the Fiesta buyer population is very loyal to the model, and further, that there are a lot of them. Over 12 million people have bought a Ford Fiesta since the model was launched in 1976. The new model is very attractive and Ford expects to get quite a few conquest buyers from other cars in the segment as well. The new Fiesta launches in Europe over the next few months and is slated for North American sales in 2010, with production for the North American market sourced from Ford plants in Mexico. The launch of the 2010 Ford Fiesta is eagerly anticipated by some consumers and by Ford of North America itself.

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