Death by Car

capitalism's drive to carmageddon: news & comments

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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cash_hoard Like the rest of their class, the automobile manufacturers are hoarding cash. Automotive News for October 10 cites a new study by IHS Automotive:

Car companies are holding a quarter-trillion dollars in cash and equivalents, says Charles Chesbrough, senior principal economist at the industry consultancy. And the overall cash-to-revenue ratio is a healthy 19.3 percent, insulating from them a financial crisis.

Leading the pack is Toyota Motor Corp., which is sitting on $42.2 billion, according to Chesbrough’s calculations. Volkswagen AG is a close second with $35.9 billion on the books.

And what of the bail-out recipients, the businesses that won’t be repaying the full amount of the free loans and purchases of radioactive stock they received from Bush and Zerobama?

GM, which went through a quick-rinse bankruptcy during the global financial meltdown, has $32.8 billion.

Chrysler’s cash holdings were rolled into Fiat’s for a total of $27 billion. And in a sign of their strength, Fiat leads the industry with the highest cash-to-revenue ratio, at 36.2 percent.

“Free enterprise.”

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GM and Tim Dick’s Latest Macho-Smarmy Lie

57 percent of pickup trucks are used once a month or less to haul anything.  83 percent are used for towing once a month or less, 37 percent never.  Offroad use?  62 percent are never used for that.  17 percent of pickup buyers make no pretense of wanting anything but the image. Car capitalists know all this better than anybody.

Meanwhile, militantly sexist and counter-factual flattery remains the pitch, despite the times:

Disgusting.

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Suicide by Overkill

pickups In a story that provides more evidence that, as the late Marvin Harris argued and virtually all modern “culture” theorists and most would-be car critics ignore, ideas tend to follow rather than lead infrastructural circumstances, it seems that Peak Oil has begun to kill the Old West/redneck marketing appeal of the pickup truck in the United States. Seems that GM has so over-produced pickups that its dealers are now in possession of enough stock to last them through year’s end.

The reason for this overstock, of course, was GM’s hope that reality would continue on as always. “We thought that this year would bring back the kind of economic activity that would translate into us selling more trucks,” a GM dealer tells Automotive News.

Why that particular hope? Because, vis-a-vis the question of transportation efficiency, pickup trucks and SUVs are double-overkill, and hence much more profitable to capitalists than small, more rational automobiles. Because they pile on even more unnecessary equipment and material than do passenger cars, “Pickups generate more profit per vehicle than passenger cars, analysts say.”

Of course, this is hardly a landslide yet. As Automotive News reports, “Full-size pickups are still the two top-selling vehicles in the U.S. Ford sold 264,079 F-Series in the year’s first half, a 9.9 percent increase, while customers bought 182,785 of GM’s Silverado, a gain of 9.6 percent. The volumes are much lower than before the recession and the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler Group LLC.”

And why do I say pickup equipment is unnecessary?

Percent of pickup owners who never haul items in the truck bed: 27
Additional percent who do so less than monthly: 30

[Note: The above statistics are from the 2005 "Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey" done by R.L. Polk for the Environmental Defense Fund.  For some reason, this piece of research seems to have been disappeared from the whole internet, including the EDF's website.]

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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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The $41,000 Phone Charger

Having admitted that the all-electric Chevy Volt was vaporware as well as haloware, GM is now preparing to peddle the actual hybrid version of the thing as a personal electronics charging station…

If it weren’t so dire, it might be funny to watch our overclass continue to prove its decrepitude in ever more obvious ways.

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buick city

Today, we get news of the latest Obama bailout of corporate capitalists. Today, it comes in this form:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has reached a deal on a $773 million environmental trust, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, to clean up dozens of former General Motors sites spread over 14 states, officials said Wednesday.

The funds will target automotive sites containing hazardous waste that were left shuttered by the auto giant’s bankruptcy last year. About half of the 89 sites covered by the trust are in Michigan and others are in Indiana, New York and Ohio.

At GM’s abandoned Massena, New York complex, the pool of PCBs is so deep it has not yet been (and possible could never be) even measured, despite decades of controversy.

One effect of this toxic lake? “[New York] State-conducted studies have found PCBs in the breast milk of nursing Mohawk mothers and in their infants.”

All this and more (dig the name of the bankrupt corporate shell of the “old GM” — Motors Liquidation Company (MLC) — where’d the “General” and the “GM” go, boys?) is interesting in its own sordid Obamian right.

But permit me to enlarge: The more general point is that manufacturing automobiles is inherently energy-, materials-, and toxics-intensive. “Green car” is an oxymoron, whatever motor ones stick in.

Car Materials

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lemon battery Remember when the Chevy Volt was going to have only an electric engine?

Turns out, the Volt is merely GM’s version of a hybrid, though the state-capitalist organization protests that entirely accurate label.  Accepting it would speak volumes both to the epic failures of General Motors and to the host of problems with the effort to preserve cars-first transportation by eventually converting vehicles to all-electric fueling.

The Volt will go “up to” 40 miles before its gas engine takes over, “though aggressive driving, along with extensive use of air conditioning, heat or headlights will lower that number.” Price?  $40,000.

ROFLMFAO.

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bubble economy The state-capitalist firm General Motors has been running a marketing campaign with the tagline “Everyone Deserves Excellence.” A standard piece of product differentiation, the campaign is designed to promote the false notion that GM is doing something new in making and pushing wildly expensive petroleum-guzzling death machines.  It is not, of course.

But now the other shoe is dropping.  Turns out the new tagline is also a set-up for this:

NEW YORK (Reuters) — General Motors Co. is in talks with JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo on deals aimed at providing improved access to consumers for auto loans at its U.S. dealerships.

The negotiations with JPMorgan and Wells Fargo are intended to broaden the availability of auto financing — particularly to subprime borrowers and for leases. Such a move would remove a potential investor concern around GM ahead of a planned initial public offering, according to the sources.

So, the “excellence” that even the “subprime” deserve turns out to be yet another high-interest loan on a lemon product.

And the atrocious Obama Administration is performing its unwavering role.  Saying it knows it “can’t win every fight,”* it will accede to exempting car dealerships from the purview of the Potemkin Village it is now setting up to provide the illusion of “consumer protection.”

This overclass has nothing left but bubbles.

*Translation:  “We don’t actually fight any fights.”

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From Automotive News:

Chevy aimed to stick with its Americana theme through playing off the last line of the Pledge of Allegiance: “With liberty and justice for all,” one of the sources said.

US car crash deaths, 2009: 33,963

US annual expenditures on automobiles, gas, repair, parking, insurance, and roads: >$1 trillion (my calculations from government and insurance industry data, see Courting Carmageddon, my forthcoming book)

Total outstanding U.S. automotive loan debt: $1 trillion (sources: here minus here)

“I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”  Charles E. Wilson, GM President

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