Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dog Daze

It's another day of 100 or near 100 degree heat here in Austin. While the days are hot the mornings and nights are very comfortable. It's just about four in the afternoon when it hits the high for the day.

Usually those two are out playing in the yard, but it's just to hot during the day. They don't want to play even in the AC of the house. They usually camp out in my office but apparently it's a bit cooler in the bedroom. I caught them out cold in their beds this afternoon. It's funny how animals know how much to eat for the exercise they are going to do. It's so hot they only eat once a day now.

As for me, well I painted more of the living room and part of the upstairs hallway. Summer in Texas is like Winter in Buffalo, you just find things to do inside.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hey Good Lookin

In the rebirth of the Pony car wars, GM is last to the game this time. Their original answer to the wildly successful 1964 1/2 Mustang took a little over 25 months to bring to market. Ford launched the current Mustang in September 2004 and it was an immediate hit. GM's response will go on sale in the spring of 2009, a little over five years later. It's the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.

Camaro and Mustang started out very similar vehicles then diverged in 1970. Ford kept the concept of a four seater sports coupe that was a comfortable for every day driving and was a little more upright. Chevrolet sent the Camaro in the direction of the Corvette and made it low to the ground with a low roofline as well. It made for a much sportier and aggressive appearance at the sake of passenger comfort and outward visibility.

Sporty is wonderful but practical one out. The Camaro was laid to rest in 2002 while the Mustang lived on. Ford had consistently stayed with the it's original formula of a practical sporty car that everyone could enjoy. I grew up with one as my mother would drive nothing else. (Mini-van? Huh!) In her 60's, she still has a red Mustang coupe as her daily driver. And of course there is one my my garage too.

The Camaro is back and the world will be a much better place for it returning. As you can see, it's gone back to the original 1967 design theme patterned after the original Mustang. It's a beautiful car with great lines and proportions. The interior is a modern interpretation of the original and I love to see the ancillary gauges on the console as in the original model. A wonderful "surprise and delight" that sets the car apart from the pact. The Camaro has always made the Mustang a better car, and vice-versa. GM will pack some potent engines into everyone from the base models to the SS.

And the Mustang? Well just you wait until 2010.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eviction Notice

I think you could call it one of nature's miracles. A little 10 lb, 10 year old, dog can keep two seventy pound dogs off of the couch. Poor Baxter and Logan ended up laying down clear across the living room. Ripley is very cute and cuddly, but Baxter and Logan might disagree. Funny how she can visit and take over so easily.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Maybe We'll Take The Car

A good friend of mine works for an airline, fortunately it's Southwest. His job is secure and he's been there a long time. Southwest also hedged it's oil prices somewhere near $50.00 a barrel for another year or so. Don't quote me on that though. The point of the conversation we were having is that air travel may once again be not for the masses as it was pre-1980's when it was a luxury or a business purpose.

I didn't give it much thought. Then I went to price a ticket home to see my parents for a long weekend. The normal $400 fare was now $800. Plus fees for my bags, etc. I spoke to my sister today and she's flying to San Fransisco at the end of the month with her family. She's using frequent flier miles, and if she hadn't, $1400 for two seats round trip. Ouch.

Americans do not use all the vacation time there allocated each year. As a collective, we roll it over or cash it out. In the worst case, we just loose it entirely. It was fairly cheap to pack the kids up on a plane and shoot them off to some destination that took about half a day to get there via air. Maybe that's about to change.

There was a time when "Dad" took two consecutive weeks off of work and the family hit the highway to Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, etc. Factories in fact counted on this and shut down for two weeks so everyone could go. Ford/GM/Chrysler still do this in July. Vacation was actually forced on you to take. Where or if you went anywhere was your call.

So $3200 in family airfare that was once $1200 may be a game changer. Those vacation days we didn't take could be days spent on the open road getting to our destination. These days though, cars have DVD players for the kiddies to pass the time. I myself love the Ford Flex as a road trip car. I can't resist a car with a fridge in the backseat. My BMW has one and it is handy in this Texas heat.

In about a year, we'll figure how this all plays out. For now, plans have been made and are set. Tickets were bought months ago for plane trips for the summer season. We'll end up not using all our vacation time again this year.

Next year, don't be surprised if the cubicle next to you is empty for two weeks.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Big Show

I can't take credit for this photo, but I really like it. This was taken by my friend Bud who was also the captain last night for a late evening trip on Lake Travis. One of the popular dock up bars, Carlos and Charlies, sponsors a huge fireworks display on July 3rd every year. (well except last year when it poured everyday). We left the marina where Bud's boat is docked and headed out to a cove to settle for the show.

For about fifteen to twenty minutes we were treated to a fantastic display of fireworks over the water. There was a barge in the lake that the fireworks were launched from. It was quite a show and the sound from the explosions echoed through the hills around the cove we were anchored in.

It was a great night. Good friends, good beer and a big show in the sky.

Happy Fourth of July everyone.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Or They Can File Bankruptcy

It's been another dour week in the domestic auto industry. Back on June 25, I suggested that GM and Ford abandon the North American market where their business model no longer works. My method was to issue stock for GM's and Ford's non-North American business where they are competitive. Bankruptcy could do something similar.

GM traded today at less then $10.00 per share. It has not traded like that since 1954. It's a big story but the year has nothing to do with it. Remember basic business and accounting, the company's stock price is taking the number of shares and dividing it up by the value. There were fewer shares in 1954 then there are today. So the company is not worth the same price as it was in 1954. But it makes for good headlines.

However GM's North American operations are essentially worthless. Same with Ford. Chrysler was worthless last year when it was sold off by Daimler to Cerberus. They actually had to pay money out to have them take 80% of the company off their hands. Cerberus is far more aggressive in slashing models and finding business partners to divide up the company's assets. Again, Chrysler will be sold as a distribution channel along with mini-vans and Jeep to a Chinese maker to get them into the US market. Chrysler/Dodge have no product that anyone is interested in anymore in any great volume.

If GM files for bankruptcy, Ford will have to follow suit. Why? GM's cost structure would change radically with canceled and re-negotiated contracts. Bankruptcy makes it much easier to shed factories, union contracts, excess dealers, retirees, etc. There is no way for Ford to overcome that cost advantage without having parity with General Motors. Bankruptcy by GM would be a nightmare for Cerberus.

Simpletons say, "They weren't building fuel-efficient cars, it's their fault!" Well, you weren't buying fuel efficient cars, were you, American public? GM and Ford build fantastic and stunning fuel efficient vehicles throughout the globe. Products you would say "huh!?" Ford makes that? Yes they do, and they are best selling, award winning, etc.

And they are coming here, if Ford and GM survive. It takes less then a minute to change the price at the gas pump. Re-tooling an assembly plant and setting up a supplier base, well...

BTW, Ford of Europe has announced it will be unveiling the 2009 Ford Fiesta Diesel with a 1.6 liter engine at the British Motor Show next month.

It gets 62.5 MPG on the highway.