Thursday, December 28, 2006

Off topic rant

Politics is taking the rest of the year off, and thus so have I been (from blogging, anyway). But that does not mean that I find nothing to bitch about.

Mrs. Bluememe and I took a few days to head off to another (slightly) warmer place. We flew, then rented a car. I always ask for the cheapest car when traveling. But as often happens, we were "upgraded" -- to a Chevy HHR.

Living in California, the only time I am generally exposed to the domestic auto industry is through rentals. I drive imports; so do all my friends. Thus I get irregular snapshots of the viability of what's left of the Big Three when I travel.

GM is in serious trouble.

I am a Car Guy, and have been since I was a toddler collecting Matchboxes. There is, shall we say, a certain tension between my automotive aspirations and my political views. But unless and until I have the means to buy a McLaren F1, it will be largely academic.

So I have at least as much expertise in criticizing stupid cars as I do stupid pols. And the HHR is the dumbest car I have driven in years.

It has all the traditional GM virtues of course -- numb steering, a transmission seemingly uninterested in connecting the engine to the drive wheels, hopeless ergonomics, cheap, hard plastics, sloppy fit and finish, and so on. But the new stuff is shocking: outward visibility borders on the criminal. The A-pillar (the roof support between windshield and front doors), when combined with the blocked-off portion of the door frame, is literally a foot wide, creating a dangerous blind spot. The windshield itself is such a narrow slit that I have to lean a foot forward to see stoplights. There is no trip odometer. The poorly marked power window buttons are at the bottom center of the dash. The headlights are dim.

The last car I had that this 2006 vehicle would have a chance of beating heads up was a 1982 Accord.

Next year Toyota expects to take over from GM as the #1 auto manufacturer. I see no reason to expect that GM is going to halt its slide into oblivion.

7 Comments:

Anonymous RandyH said...

You and Mrs. Bluememe went on a trip, eh? I always just assumed you were gay. (Not that there's anything wrong with you not being gay, of course.)

Anyhoo, you are all too right about GM cars... and Ford and Chrysler, for that matter. There probably is a trip odometer though - just not a separate digital dispay for it. I've noticed that many of these newer American cars have the odometer and trip odometer toggle in the same display. Gotta cut costs wherever possible, you know?

The only way I can see the American car companies get by is to dramatically increase production of their Flexible Fuel Vehicles and push to get E85 fuel in every gas station in the country, like we have here in many midwestern states.

I have been strongly considering getting an E85 vehicle (specifically I need a pickup truck for utility purposes) and the only companies that offer them are Ford and GM. They cost the same as the gasoline-only models, even though they have a much more advanced engine that can run on any combination of ethanol and/or gasoline. But they just aren't making enough of them yet. Only specific models & trim levels come with the Flexible Fuel Engine - and you could be looking at a special order and delays. Local & state government and utility companies have been buying these things like hotcakes so they can show how "green" they are.

The Flexible Fuel Engine is the only advantage I can see to buying anything American though. What I'd really like is a mid-sized Toyota truck with an engine that can burn E85, but they just don't make one - yet.

E85 is a great idea and it sure would be nice to see it get popular on the coasts. Once it does, we'll see alot more vehicle options that use it. Flexible Fuel Vehicles, in their current state of evolution, get slightly fewer MPG when burning Ethanol rather than gasoline, but E85 is generally 20 to 50 cents less per gallon than standard unleaded and not nearly as sensitive to price spikes attributable to the price of crude oil. Here in Minnesota/Iowa/Wisconsin, Ethanol is readily available (made mostly from corn) but not enough for the whole country yet. Soon more will come available made from things other than just corn and use will likely spread to the more populated states where it will make the biggest difference.

Sorry for rambling, folks. I thought some might be interested. I knew nothing about this E85 thing before moving here last year and found it very interesting. I thought others might be interested as well.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... and just when do you reckon that car making got SEPARATED from politics??? That's REAL news -- alert the press. Oh yeah, I forgot, you are it now.

TA

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason American car makers do so poorly is that their business model is to screw the consumers, thinking consumers are stupid chumps who will fall for the lie that you are anti-American traitor if you buy a foreign car.

Had a coworker who was rabidly anti-Japanese, thought they were demons. Claimed they murdered 8,000 good Americans at Pearl Harbor. Swore he would never, never buy a Japanese car. He bought a Cadilac. Well, that car had 5 of the eight bolts for the manifold missing, 3 holes were drilled but not tapped. Many other problems, fitted for wrong oil filter too small for that engine, etc. Next car he bought about 6 months later was a Lexus.

7:00 AM  
Blogger bluememe said...

1. E85 will not save Detroit, unless Washington prohibits the imports from using it. Toyota and Honda will do it better and cheaper if there is any demand for it.

2.Of course the auto biz is tied up with politics. But I have rarely blogged about it, in part because my appreciation of fast cars is a guilty pleasure, in part because it was a small thing in my personal view while the Repugs controlled the whole show.

3. I don't think Detroit is significantly more evil than other car makers. I think Detroit is significantly less competent than other car makers.

4. Now that I am out of the closet, I am fascinated by your assumption, RandyH -- I hope you will explain.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Randy H may not say it (by the way, what does he mean by Randy?)but it's clear that if you are an intelligent and not totally desensitized American male, you MUST be gay. I am sure you had a lot of people fooled.

TA

10:03 AM  
Anonymous RandyH said...

Mr. BlueMeme-

I have been under the assumption that you were gay because I knew so much about your views from your writing over these years, but this is the first time I noticed you mention anything about your personal life... that I could recall. You speak of gay and straight equality issues from time to time, but never relate it to your personal experience. To gay folks who were closeted for many years, whether they are closeted now or not, it's an old hard-to-kick habit to carefully edit details of personal experiences and are careful of their pronouns, etc so as not to reveal their "private lives."

For example, I don't know many straight guys who don't, without even thinking about it, mention their wives or girlfriends - or comment on their experience as a heterosexual male in conversation or writing. You often keep those kinds of personal details under wraps, except when you go into an "off topic rant" I suppose, like in this post.

I am not either pleased or disapointed that you are a heterosexual. I know little about you, except your political views. I have gathered that you are most likely jewish. I know that you have a brilliant mind and excellent command of the english language. I don't know for sure what you do as a day job, but I suspect you are a lawyer. I don't know for sure how old you are, but my guess is in your 40's, though for a long while I thought you were in your mid-30's.

Even though I know your real name, it's more fun to call you by your alias. You're a mystery, Mr. BlueMeme. You know how it is to imagine what a radio anouncer looks like? And then one day you see them and are shocked? Like that. You project an image in your mind based on the little that you know and fill in the blanks.

Oh, and to Anonymous- My name is actually Randall, but I prefer Randy. And it's fun to introduce myself by saying "Hi, I'm Randy" just to see if it gets a smirk. Most Americans have no clue of the other meaning.

8:58 PM  
Blogger bluememe said...

Thanks, Randy.

Figuring out the appropriate personal boundaries in the blogosphere is challenging. There have been times when I regretted having started out using my real name. In the beginning the way I tried to deal with that here was to be coy about whether mister bluememe was in fact also the Raw Story guy, but that felt silly. So I no longer make much effort to hide my name -- the cat is long since out of the bag.

Because I am not really anonymous or even effectively pseudononymous, I have been very reluctant to talk about personal stuff here. And if that allowed readers to project their own images onto me, I guess that is not so bad. (My hero in that regard (as in others) is Digby. I realized with a start about a year back that I had been assuming Digby is a he, but that the blog carefully avoids even revealing that about its author. It was pure projection on my part.)

I think it is true that, as many activists say, we are all racists, homo/heterophobes, etc. -- if you use a broad enough definition. But I think that view, taken alone, is simplistic to the point of uselessness. The terms lose value if you use the same ones for me as for the David Dukes and James Dobsons of the world. Differences of degree matter.

If my sexuality is either opaque or, perhaps better still, if folks can comfortably project their own onto me based on my political writings, I take that as affirmation that I rate pretty low on the prejudice scale.

Oh, and Randy -- you were right -- there is a trip odometer on the rentacar -- it just took 3 days to find it.

9:08 AM  

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