“There will be less than 30, on our way to 20 to 25,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in response to questions on the future lineup of nameplates after addressing the Confederation of British Industry in London. “Fewer brands means you can put more focus into improving the quality of engineering.”
All the while before this reversal, these creeps were spending scores of millions to propagandize you about “Quality is Job 1.”
[source: Bloomberg via Automotive News]
The Natural Resources Defense Council, the woefully mis-named Big Green group, thinks cars-first transportation is compatible with a decent human future. While noting the preciousness of petroleum, NRDC Executive Director Peter Lehner peddles the notion that getting to work and fetching groceries using 1.5-ton steel, plastic, and lithium boxes is somehow something that doesn’t scream NATURAL RESOURCES WASTE.
Hat tip to James Lamont.
According to Automotive News, the latest overclass constituency to confirm that its conventional flows of surplus wealth have been brought back online is the nation’s largest used-car sales overlord, CarMax:
CarMax Inc., the nation’s largest used-vehicle dealer group, said today it posted solid revenue and profit growth in its most recent quarter amid continued strong demand for used cars. Net income grew to $107.9 million for the quarter ended Aug. 31, up 5 percent from the same quarter last year. Revenue jumped 13 percent to $2.34 billion.
CarMax shares jumped nearly 7 percent in morning trading, to $25.75, near its 52-week high of $26.50.
And, of course, a government bailout program provided the catalyst:
Even though the cash-for-clunkers program didn’t apply to used vehicles, Carmax said it increased traffic at its stores.
The average selling price for used vehicles was $18,084 for the quarter, up 5 percent from $17,185 during the same quarter last year.
Its finance arm, CarMax Auto Finance, reported income of $52.6 million compared with a $72.1 million profit in the same period last year. The year-ago period’s income was boosted by $36.2 million in one-time items.
Never let it be said that this country doesn’t take care of its used car corporations!
Ralph Nader is not, and never has been, a serious critic of cars-first transportation.
For a few paragraphs, he came close. In Unsafe at Any Speed, Nader opened by calling “the automobile tragedy” “one of the most serious of [all] man-made assaults on the human body” and suggesting that its proper solution involved “the great problem” of “how to control the power of economic interests which ignore the harmful effects of their applied science and technology.”
What readers of Unsafe quickly learned, however, is that by “the automobile tragedy,” Nader meant not the dominance of the automobile as a mode of travel, but merely its lax regulation. The evil, in Nader’s telling, lies not in the machine itself, but merely in its sloppy, unsupervised implementation.
As to the “economic interests” behind the scenes, Nader has never explained them in any detail, preferring instead to suggest that the existence of a toughened-up National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency Nader helped cajole into existence, could, despite the telling inclusion of the word “Highway” in the organization’s very moniker, someday be enough to dispose of the problems they create.
Alas, things have just taken a major turn for the even-worse with Ralph (for whom I thrice voted, btw) on this crucial topic.
In an essay titled “Safer at Most Speeds,” Nader calls on us to “celebrate some goods news.” The good news at hand, in Ralph’s view? Only 33,808 people died in automotive collisions last year in the United States!
33,808 deaths? Good news? WTF?
But wait. Not only does Ralph ask us to “celebrate” that our technologically optional, ecologically insane, but capitalistically bountiful transportation order is still killing a 9/11′s worth of people every month in its crashes alone, but he adds insult to injury by inexcusably exaggerating the contribution made by safer cars.
In reporting the basic numbers in question, Nader says this:
Since 1966 when the motor vehicle and highway safety laws were passed by Congress—led by Democrats but with significant Republican support—the fatality rate dropped from 5.49 percent (50,894 lives lost) to 1.13 percent in 2009 (33,808 lives lost.) This large live-saving reduction occurred while absolute vehicle miles traveled increased more than threefold in those intervening decades.
Now, of course, any skilled reader ought to see this and immediately ask: “Percent of what, Ralph?”
It turns out that the baseline for the percentages Nader reports is the official NHTSA tactic of reporting automotive fatalities as a number of deaths per 100 million miles driven in the United States.
As Nader certainly knows, this is seriously deceptive. What matters in judging the comparative danger of driving is not properly described by dividing total deaths over all the miles driven by everybody. Such a statistic says nothing about the source of the total number of miles being driven. Is the population growing while everybody drives the same amount as always? Or are people also driving more and more miles per year? Without incorporating those facts into the comparison, it remains impossible to assess what really matters, which is the changing risk of death for the average driver driving the average number of miles.
And, as Nader surely knows, the plain fact of the matter is that the average number of miles driven annually per U.S. driver has risen by about 50 percent since the early days of the NHTSA.
What that means is that the relative fatality decline Nader and the NHTSA (and the automotive-industrial complex) would have you celebrate is not nearly as big as he and they would have you believe.
Think about it: If your chances of getting killed by any activity drop fivefold, but you spend fifty percent more time doing the potentially lethal activity in question, you are not five times safer than you once were. More like three.
Shame on Ralph for helping obscure this elementary reality.
And that, alas, is hardly all.
Another problem with trumpeting the official “safety” stats is that these are not only intentionally bogus, but deal only with killings and only with crashes.
In reality, as the great Ralph Nader again knows full well, for every person killed in a car crash, there is at least one other who is severely injured, suffering life-shattering disabilities. As the authors of one study explain, “Persons injured in these crashes often suffer physical pain and emotional anguish that is beyond any economic recompense. The permanent disability of spinal cord damage, loss of mobility, loss of eyesight, and serious brain injury can profoundly limit a person’s life, and can result in dependence on others for routine physical care.”
And what about things like air pollution and obesity?
As “absolute vehicle miles traveled increased more than threefold,” automobiles had to become three times less polluting than before merely to keep air quality the same for a burgeoning population. That has arguably happened. But so what? Aren’t we still willfully sacrificing many more thousands of lives a year to this other inherent aspect of “the automobile tragedy?”
And, finally, isn’t there a pretty serious connection between the exorbitant amount of time Americans spend sitting in cars and the growing epidemic of weight-gain in the society? Recent studies suggest that as many as 400,000 Americans die each year from the worsening imbalance between caloric intake and burn-off. Even if cars-first travel accounts for only ten percent of that problem, that would mean another 40,000 annual deaths are caused by the phenomenon Nader wants us to celebrate.
The fact of the matter, of course, is that not only do automobiles remain a supreme danger to life and limb in the United States, but, in the age of peak resources, they are simply an outdated pipe dream. This planet cannot for much longer sustain the daily use of hundreds of millions of 2-ton metal-and-plastic grocery fetchers, profitable monstrosities that spend 95 percent of their lives parked.
It is certainly true that individual cars have become somewhat safer to operate and breathe near. How much of that is due to the NHTSA and how much due to the simple globalization of the auto industry, which presses car makers to comply with more standards and offers buyers more choices, remains highly debatable. The answer is probably “some of each.”
But to call for any kind of celebration of matters automotive at this point in human history is simply unconscionable. Save the party for the day when we finally begin a serious public analysis of our dire and rapidly worsening transportation conundrum and the economic power structure driving us toward Carmageddon.
Saturday, I linked to Nissan’s stunningly dishonest attempt to make buying a $33,000 coal-burning 2.75-ton metal, plastic, and lithium contraption for fetching groceries look like an act of concern for the planet and its endangered species.
That particular trick exploits the well-meaning but lazy and woefully under-informed.
Meanwhile, while watching a football game this weekend, I encountered this other car-pushing tactic. If this society survives cars-first transportation, our grandchildren will one day guffaw in disbelief at the militant interlocking stupidities in this stinking propaganda turd:
This ad targets the completely and proudly uninformed.
…perhaps the most offensively misleading TV ad in recent memory:
P.S. F.Y., Robert Downey, Jr.
Switzerland-based researchers Hannes Kunz and Stephen Balogh provide an important analysis of the inherent mismatch between renewable energy sources and the energy appetite of existing societies. Among their findings:
For an aggregate of stock driven generation tech nologies (like all natural gas, coal and nuclear in any given country), unplanned variability is close to zero (fluctuations come from unexpected outages of single plants), while for solar and wind, all outputs between 0% and 100% of nameplate capacity are possible and realistic. Additionally, these sources have a very low average output relative to their maximum capacity, probably between 11-16% for solar in aggregate for a country, and about 15-26% for wind (in aggregate, not for individual turbines). This is one of the biggest challenges with renewable technologies, that they only produce a low average of their maximum capacity. This means two things: a lot of generating capacity is required to get the same average output when compared to other sources, and inversely, when production is good, a lot of power becomes available at once.
We find it very difficult to ignore the fact that all promoted renewable sources currently face and pose significant challenges to the stability of future electricity. So far, many of the planned additions seem almost irrelevant as they add high cost for very little benefit….for a very large investment, we ultimately get very little in return.
Not exactly the message we’re hearing from the powers-that-be, is it?
Part of that arrangement is a drive to restrict price competition by “consolidating” the number of car dealerships in the country.
Ford, for instance, is taking advantage of the recent crisis in the automotive industrial complex to slash the number of Ford sales outlets by 50 percent.
As reported by Automotive News, the motive is clear and classic:
With industry sales volumes forecast to rebound slowly, Ford and other automakers want to rationalize and improve the profitability of their sales networks by consolidating dealerships.
In plain language, this means Joe and Jane Sixpack will be facing higher prices in the future than they otherwise would have, sans “consolidation.”
Nobody hates competition like a capitalist.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!