Baggy Paragraphs

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Preview of the 2012 North American International Auto Show

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My preview of the 2012 North American International Auto Show (Detroit Auto Show) is online with the Detroit News.

 

Written by baggyparagraphs

January 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

My GM Board Seat

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Reports out of New York and Washington, D.C., indicate that an executive recruiting firm is searching for at least six new General Motors board members who will aggressively push the company’s management. I want to be considered among the candidates.

My extensive car-guy credentials include knowing how to change tires on various passenger vehicles and even on a Baja 1000 racing buggy. And I once replaced an Austin-Healey Sprite sports car’s fuel pump.

In addition to those impressive accomplishments, I gained policy and administrative savvy while serving 10 years on a public library’s board of trustees. (Deciding whether to cut the budget for mystery novels in favor of adding DVD titles will wring a guy inside out.) And here’s something most candidates won’t be able to boast: I’m well enough acquainted with GM’s history to explain how the early Buick sales manager Carload Collins and the one-time GM president Engine Charlie Wilson got their nicknames. (Long stories.)

I’m campaigning on the Quattrovalvole Party ticket with my car-guy pal Andy, who’s a doctor. During his days as an assistant professor at a teaching hospital, Andy became adept in management when he supervised union nurses. He says their average weight was pretty high, so he’s also used to manipulating overinflated assets. 

As for cars, Andy owns a Ferrari 308GTSi and can sort out the electrical gremlins. Even more useful, he points out that he can maintain the outward appearance of his cars even while the mechanics are subpar, which would prove very useful in raising stock prices.

Andy’s mom, Claire, also fancies herself a potential GM board member because she once sat opposite Jimmy Hoffa in a Toledo restaurant. The whims of union bosses are nothing new to her.

However, I suspect the profiles of successful candidates will look more or less like this sampling:

  1. Corporate architect who specializes in building from the roof down to the foundation, conforming to the practice of bees or spiders—a useful method as the company will have only a few remaining assembly plants, stamping operations, and foundries.
  2. Inventor of the plug-in hybrid gas-electric toaster, which accepts not only the usual bread slices, bagels, waffles, or English muffins but also takes a whole live turkey, feathers and all, and after just three minutes on the high setting yields 200 pages of CO2 emissions regulations.
  3. Anthropology professor who has studied mobility patterns among central African pygmies and proposes that Western peoples drive the Ebola BSE, a neighborhood electric vehicle that suddenly and thoroughly emulsifies after 10 years or 100,000 miles, leaving no trace of its existence, even in the minds of its owners. (Drawback: every three months it must go to an authorized dealership for a time-consuming delousing procedure.)
  4. Labor philosopher who asserts that the only aspects of reality that are imaginable are nouns, and therefore future union contracts should avoid the use of verbs, adjectives, or other parts of speech except inevitable prepositions. Example: “Overtime in factory with shift on layoff from body-in-white of benefits before exclusion until paintshop.”

The first result of this new board’s pushback against the staid corporate managers could be the Purity thru Justice Cruiser, a 140-inch-long people’s car with a hydrogen fuel cell powering an electric generator to rotate the shaft of a variable-pitch propeller that serves either to launch the vehicle into the air or to bore through the ground, as directed by a Department of Treasury-provided navigation system working in concert with forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This brainchild of the bureaucracy will be priced at $49,995. Buyers will take delivery at the factory after working a week of midnight shifts. Color availability will be restricted to red, symbolizing the industry’s persistent financial losses.

Knowing my competitive instincts, losing the board seat to some egghead is really going to sting. Then again, I don’t want to be lolling around the proving grounds when a “chipped” version of the PtJ Cruiser that’s designed to surpass 100 mpg goes haywire and mows down the visiting dignitaries. It’s hard to believe enough funds remain in the Troubled Asset Relief Program kitty to recompense my widow.

Written by baggyparagraphs

May 18, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Ferrari Kid

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The first-annual Jackson Road Cruise was held yesterday. Jackson Road is the boulevard in my neighborhood just west of Ann Arbor.

Car events are great for making everybody loosen up. This ardent enthusiast had checked out a Ferrari 308GTSi and decided he felt right at home in it.

Ferrarikid

Written by baggyparagraphs

May 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Honda Ownership Experience

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For her monthly column, an editor of mine is collecting a list of Honda products owned by her magazine’s staff and contributors. Anecdotes are also welcome. She owns a Honda power washer, an ATV, an outboard engine, a vintage Honda 90 motorbike, a moped, and a vintage three-wheel ATV.

Here’s what I sent in:

Rather than a minivan, it's a Bentley and I

Rather than a minivan, which would be prosaic, it's a Bentley and I.

When Susan and I came to Michigan in October 1985, we drove the Civic wagon that we had purchased new just a couple of months earlier. We owned that car for 11.5 years and 142K miles, selling it when rust started to cause some problems (oil pan, fuel filler neck). And I wanted something bigger. I bought a brand-new 1997 Voyager minivan but wasn’t happy with it. Automobile ran a Four Seasons wrap-up on the Honda Odyssey (Feb. 2000 issue: “Twelve months: A home run in drivability and utility, but the power doors strike out,” by Joe Lorio). I went out the next week and bought an Odyssey LX, without the power doors. That purchase was transacted January 31, 2000, for $25,304 including sales tax. We still have the Odyssey, now with 114,226 miles. It’s the only four-wheel vehicle that we own. (I have a Suzuki motorcycle.)

I put the Odyssey in the shop last month for some brake work, and the service writer said it’s in “outstanding shape.” It still has the original starter and alternator, which amazes me. And the original exhaust system, minus the catalytic converter, which became clogged at 68,105 miles in January 2006. Honda graciously replaced it at no charge even though our warranty had expired three years earlier! Otherwise, keeping the thing on the road has just been a matter of replacing brakes, bulbs, and the battery. Last winter, both of the rear brake drums warped, and replacement came to $285. Aside from oil changes and a CHMSL bulb, that was the only expense for repairs in a year’s time—incredible for a nine-year-old vehicle. There’s no rust to speak of and the Odyssey still drives great although it does rattle on our bumpy Ann Arbor streets. I’ve used it for everything from busing around the members of our reading group to hauling drywall and insulation. We’ve moved twice since 2002, and the number of boxes that will go into the cargo area is astonishing. The last couple of years I’ve bought split firewood from a farmer in Bridgewater and just filled up the whole cargo area from the front seats back. It’s a tremendous workhorse but gets 26 mpg at 75 mph on the road to and from Traverse City. Barring an unforeseen disaster, I’ll still have it five years from now.

I also have the four-year-old Honda HRX mower that I bought from Honda when Automobile did a Honda special issue. It’s my second Honda mower; I let the first one go as we downsized into a condo from 2002 till 2005.

From a Honda press event, I picked up a Honda cap, and it stays clipped to my motorcycle’s helmet hook, so I have something to cover my bald head when the bike is parked during an outing. I also have a Dodge cap, but Michigan International Speedway is the only place I’d consider wearing that.

Written by baggyparagraphs

May 14, 2009 at 6:37 pm

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