Death by Car

capitalism's drive to carmageddon: news & comments

Sound Symposer

rube_tube Cars are marketing platforms, ever-expanding rolling heaps of profit-yielding geegaws. Hence, they are mandatory in market-totalitarian America.

The latest “innovation”? Devices that actually increase the noise inside a car:

Sound Symposer: Amplifies engine sounds to provide enhanced soundtrack for drivers tackling the open road. Unique for Fiesta ST in that it is the first time the sound is directly fed into the passenger cabin.

The target audience of this engineering marvel? “Performance enthusiasts.”

Yet again, Orwell could not make up this stuff.

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hypocrisy Jim Motavalli peddles the notion, in part for The New York Times no less, that there is such a thing as “green cars.”  He is, he says, “passionate about hybrid, hydrogen, biofuel and electric cars.” He is also pals with none other than Bill McKibben, the Don Quixote of our epoch.

McKibben, as we know, is on a tour of the nation’s colleges, trying to encourage the kids to strike a pointless pose about Big Oil, which he describes as a mere “rogue industry,” rather than part and parcel of our cars-first transportation order.

In this context, Jim Motavalli reported a highly interesting fact this week:

McKibben is on a 21-city campus tour in a biodiesel bus, speaking and raising hell. He called me from the road, shortly before taking delivery of his new Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid.

Without commenting on the harebrained joke known as biodiesel, let us ponder this very telling “delivery.” Not only is this a hugely over-rated non-revolutionary product, but accepting (and thereby endorsing) it is analogous to C. Everett Koop ordering up a case of Camel Lights after testify against cigarette corporations.

DbC now wonders whether Mr. McKibben is more than a sad enigma and an example of the limitations of endowed activism. Is he, in fact, a positive danger to the world, a beloved misleader and miseducator, a huge hypocrite?

DbC also asks: Was McKibben’s C-Max a gift from Ford?

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Laugh of the Week

If you look around — I’m not going to do them the dignity of linking anything, you’ll see that Ford is now trying to rescue its long-moribund Lincoln nameplate for supposed “luxury” cars.  Take a look.  It’s damned funny stuff.

My favorite howler from among great long strings of them:  Here’s what Ford’s James D. Farley, Jr., the pitiable head marketer for this new junk-push, told The New York Times yesterday:

The name Lincoln has very strong meaning for this country. What he stood for as president was independence, fortitude and elegant thinking.

Yes, the president who pushed railroads, preserved the nation-state, and said, if he could, he would do so without abolishing slavery was all about cars, “independence,” and guts.

The “elegant thinking” part?  Well, that’s just pure comedy gold…

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Anatomy of a Recovery

Based on Fortune 500 statistics, comparing 2004 to 2011 results:

GM
Change in Sales Revenue: -22%
Change in Number of Employees: -36%
Change in Reported Profits: +328%

Ford
Change in Sales Revenue: -21%
Change in Number of Employees: -50%
Change in Reported Profits: +580%

Anybody see a pattern?

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ratcig This past week, Ford Motor Company scion Bill Ford hosted a dinner “for a small group of journalists at the Detroit auto show.”  The purpose?  To burnish Ford’s green claims, of course.

Highlights [via Automotive News]:

Ford has been thinking about “how we’re going to have mobility in a world of urbanization and 75 percent of the world’s population living in cities. We’re going to have 4 billion cars and 9 billion people by midcentury.

There are currently just over 1 billion automobiles, counting cars, trucks, and buses, on the planet, btw.

So, ROFL on that one.

Meanwhile, Bill Ford also told the assembled reporters that cars-first transportation isn’t like selling nicotine:

“I never wanted us to be like the tobacco [companies], where our employees would have to apologize to their family and friends for working there. If that happens, we are not going to get the best and brightest.”

It’s an interesting contrast, isn’t it? If Ford’s products are freedom vehicles and wonder machines, why this apparent slip into cigarette talk?

Perhaps it’s because Ford knows the numbers are rather comparably large and the deaths equally stupid. In the USA, lung cancer now kills about 160,000 people a year. If one assumes that tailpipe exhaust accounts for 25% percent of air pollution deaths and auto use accounts for 10% of deconditioning deaths, cars snuff out about half that amount every year.

And, of course, the era of war over access to tobacco-friendly climes has passed. Now, if there is to be a World War III, does anybody doubt it will instead have rather more to do with what goes into gas tanks?

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rail_tear Politics in this plummeting empire would have to improve substantially to become merely surreal.  As it stands, they are wildly anti-real.

Consider the fact that Zerobama is in mildly warm water for leaning on the Ford Motor Company to yank a television ad bragging about Ford not taking government bailout money.  Zerobama, bailer-out of not just the automotive corporations but the whole array of for-profit medical operators, and self-conscious (and highly effective) pitchfork deflector, might or might not have sent a letter to Ford asking it to suppress its ad.

In response, the far-rightists are now trying to turn that possible act into political hay.

The issue at the heart of the matter, meanwhile, is how much validity resides in the pulled ad, which apparently ran as follows:

The Ford commercial was the first time an automaker had made the message part of a national ad campaign.

The ad is part of Ford’s “Drive One” campaign to win over consumers from other brands. In it, a Ford owner, identified only as Chris, says, “I wasn’t going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government. I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw.”

The proposition here (and its amplification by the R wing of the ruling duopoly) is a moderately clever and completely typical move:  No mainstream politician, Ford and and the Rs know, is either permitted or inclined to mention the fact that cars-first transportation would not exist, were it not for huge annual flows of public preference and subsidy.  The annual cost of road-building alone is larger than the entire automotive bailout program was, and also far larger than the portion of the bailout loans that will not be recouped.

We won’t go into details about the portion of the nation’s police, court, and hospital costs caused by cars-first transportation.

Suffice it to say that the notion that any car-related capitalist is “standing on its own” is simply Orwellianly and petulantly deluded and dishonest.  Only in America, as they say!

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$20,000 for a Ford Focus

cash_toilet Acccording to Automotive News, Ford will be asking $19,655 for its 2012 Focus SE model. No doubt, the deadly Sync system will be counted on to justify much of that amazingly elevated price for the modern version of the Model T.

The big question, of course, is how Joe and Jane Sixpack are ever going to come up with those 20 Gs, plus interest.

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Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

fatal crashIn yesterday’s edition of The New York Times, Maureen Dowd reported on her visit to the Ford Motor Company. Dowd, it seems, had previously questioned the car capitalists’ plans to further heighten the inherent danger of operating their Earth-destroying waste machines by building more personal electronic gadgetry into dashboards. Invited to come to Detroit for a dose of propaganda, Dowd went and collected this amazing excuse:

Over lunch at Ford, Sue Cischke, a dynamic company executive, argued that even before cellphones and iPods, drivers were in danger of distraction from reaching for a briefcase or shooing away a bee.

“Telling younger people not to use a cellphone is almost like saying, ‘Don’t breathe,’ ” she said.

Given that Americans are addicted to Web access and tech toys, she said, it will never work to simply ban them. “So we’ve got to figure out how we make people safer,” she said, “and the more people can just talk to their car like they’re talking to a passenger, the more useful it would be.”

Yes, and making cellphoning while driving easier and cooler and more mechanically suggested is also a great way of ensuring that thousands upon thousands of young people will indeed stop breathing, for good.

All for a profit, of course, so onward they roll. They’ve got to, after all.

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Old Wine, New Bottle

electric fire So, the diversionary pipedream of the electric car continues to roll out, as the tyranny of capitalist decision-making prevents all admission of its inherent idiocy.

Meanwhile, dig this new wrinkle:

The Chicago Tribune…reported that by the time Chicago’s 73 direct-current fast-charging stations are installed next January, they could be mostly obsolete. That’s because the Chicago system is using a Japanese-developed charging protocol and there’s a big effort in the U.S. to adopt a difference standard for rapid charging.

The charging stations are priced at $65,000 each, and the cost of a retrofit on top of that is unclear.

SAE is considering the Japanese protocol, but the group is under pressure from General Motors and other automakers to not use the outlet that is compatible with the Leaf and the i-MiEV in part to create a problem for their makers.

Ah, false difference and phony obsolescence. Same as it ever was.

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Ford Knows

heedless-horsepower Here at DbC, our view is that strategic top executives know full well that world petroleum supplies have peaked, and are simply planning to keep riding the cars-first arrangement until it dies of its own internal contradictions. There is, you see, still a huge amount of profit to be reaped in the downward spiral, and one can always shift one’s money back into CDOs and LBOs and etc. as the game tightens over time.

Some powerful evidence in this direction emerged recently, from none other than Henry Ford’s great-grandson:

“We do believe at Ford that the price of gasoline is going to march upward over time,” Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show. “And we’ve built our whole entire strategy around that.”

The alternative, the course anybody who actually gave a genuine damn about either the public or the so-called country would obviously take? Stopping the production lines and issuing a call for the radical reconstruction of our towns and cities toward sustainable living.

Instead, Ford Motor Company, like its peers and the overclass it serves, will plow ahead, business as usual.

As Fredrick Douglass and Dr. King always said, power concedes nothing without a demand, and ending the capitalists’ cars-first cliff-drive is one hell of a demand.  If we are to save ourselves, we will have to pull our heads out, fully and soon.

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