Archive for November 12th, 2008

bmw_meetupI’m not talking about exploring your driving passions on a meandering S-curve road with a new BMW motorcycle, rather I’m talking about a come-clean Eliot Spitzer “moment” from Germany’s wealthiest woman. 

It’s a script right out of a movie — a tale of how lovers filmed their hotel trysts and one of the parties demanded millions of $$ to not reveal them.  Sort of a “One-Night in Paris” do-over, but ultimately it’s called blackmail?  Hey, you can’t make up drama this good! 

The woman is Susanne Klatten, a member of the Quandt family, who owns a 12.5% stake in BMW and is on the supervisory board.  She also owns just over half of the chemical company Altana AG.  The press reported that Klatten, a 46-year-old married mother-of-three, first met Helg Sgarbi a 43-year-old Swiss man at a hotel bar. In a weak moment Mr. Sgarbi embellished his bio by describing himself as a multilingual special envoy for war zones, although in reality he sold chicken at a fast food stand.  Not what you’d call on a career “fast-track”, but at least he wasn’t on drugs, broke and homeless like Ashley Dupre the call girl who brought down the Governor of NY (Spitzer).

klattenThe meetings, including hotel-room rendezvous, were secretly filmed by an accomplice and used in an attempt to extort millions from the family.  Ms Klatten paid the blackmailers $15 million to prevent the release of the tape and photos before additional requests for greater amounts ($51M) followed.   She then decided to file a legal complaint with the state prosecutors in Munich.

And if this news wasn’t sleazy enough, it turns out the Quandt family had ties to the Nazi party and built its fortune supplying German army and railway worker uniforms. Klatten’s grandfather’s first wife went on to marry Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.  After a television program revealed that forced labor had been used in their factories as part of the Nazi war effort the family pledged a full investigation into the matter. 

I’m sure she will have the best attorney’s money can buy.  And she can buy a lot because her wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine at almost $10 billion, making her the 68th richest person in the world.  Oh the petty sex troubles of the rich and famous…

Postscript: not letting any of this slow down her business savvy, Klatten announced over the weekend she will pay $1.2B to buy the other half of the chemical company Altana AG that she did not already own.  BMW reported a year-over-year decline of 10.5% in retail sales.

UPDATE: March 9, 2009 – Swiss playboy gets 6 years prison sentence HERE for blackmail and more info HERE.

Klatten photo courtesy Uwe Lein (AP) and BMW Motorcycle web site.

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xr1200This motorcycle has a fuel-injected 1202cc motor, one of the best tach’s, 43mm Showa inverted or “upside-down” cartridge front forks, Nissin 4-opposed-piston caliper brakes, and Harley-Davidsons first cast-alloy swing arm for rear-wheel movement. 

But it weighs more than most Euro cruisers and “shakes so badly at idle that you can’t read street signs!”

That was the opinion of the reporter.  What is it, you ask?  The Harley-Davidson XR1200.  The author viewed the bike as neither a cruiser or sports bike.  Unavailable in the U.S. market I’ve been trying to find more background information on the motorcycle and ran across this good review from Motoring in South Africa.  The road test was in the same area of Africa’s biggest Harley rally and where the 2009 HOG Route 62 Rally will be hosted.

hd_tachI’m thinking this motorcycle will come to the U.S. market next year as Harley tries to extend the brand and if a Buell, Aprillia 750 or Ducati GT 1000 are too radical then this might be the ride for you.

What do you think about the motorcycle coming to the U.S.?  Send any suggestions or comments to Harley-Davidson HERE.

Photos courtesy of Dave Abrahams and Motoring web site.

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ford_logoFord Motor reported last week a $3 billion quarterly loss while burning through $6.3 billion in cash and cutting another 2,600 hourly workers.

Ford’s press release said something about…blah, blah, blah…cut salaries…blah, blah, blah…reducing bonuses…who believes any of this now days?  At the same time executive management was meeting with Congress to push their double-down request on the $25B (yes that’s BILLION) low-interest loan program approved previously – BEFORE – they got any money from the first loan!  Automakers must think the car buying public is stupid?  They want us to believe it’s all about energy legislation and the help they need to convert over to more fuel-efficient vehicles while meeting the demands of buyers and new federal mileage rules.   So, that would explain Ford’s new 2009 Harley-Davidson F-450 Truck called “Big Hog DaddyHERE, right?! So, I wrote Ford a letter… 

Dear Mr. Alan Mulally (Ford CEO),

The taxpayers don’t want to reward Auto companies or their management for lack of vision and insight.  We don’t want to carry your cash hemorrhaging burden.  This is not a one off event that will be contained by a blank check from the tax payer.  This downward spiral has been brewing for decades while you profited from high margin SUVs. And now that the public no longer wants or values bigger SUV’s you want the tax payer to come up with the “mother of all bailouts!”  You’ve got nerve Alan.  After all, your organization doesn’t stand out as an ethical oasis in today’s corporate desert!  Isn’t this just another example of big corporations exploiting the little guy, and keeping all the money for themselves?

Signed – The Little Guy

Intermittent Windshield Wiper

Intermittent Windshield Wiper

But, let’s go back to the future…it was 1962 and Bob Kearns was driving his Ford Galaxie through a Detroit rain storm.  He had the inspiration to ask “Why can’t a wiper work more like an eyelid?”  He knew the human eye blinks at different speeds when needed – so why can’t a windshield wiper do the same thing – move quickly in heavy rain and slowly in light mist. WHAM!  The idea for an intermittent windshield wiper was born.

Kearns is one of the more famous independent inventors in the U.S., but it hasn’t been an easy road.  After showing his invention to Ford, and believing he had a contract to manufacture the item for the auto company, Kearns watched Ford cancel their deal and bring out their own intermittent wiper, which incredibly looked like the one he had provided them.  Thirty years of legal action followed.  I’m sure Ford thought they had the time, money and ability to pay high-profile attorneys to wait out or steam-roll Kearns.

Kearns won every “lawyered-up” automobile legal battle and obtained millions in settlements.  They even released a movie last month about it called Flash Of Genius starring Greg Kinnear (“As Good as it Gets”, “Little Miss Sunshine”) which was based in large part on the New Yorker profile.  But, Kearns wasn’t interested in the money…he wanted justice.

Isn’t it ironic that Ford’s arrogance or attitudes of the past likely helped them get into trouble today.  And a movie about a big auto company exploiting the little guy while keeping all the money/credit for themselves clearly doesn’t bode well for any bailout cause now does it?!  Clearly Ford is in it to make money.  Any allusion to the contrary is disingenuous.  Their actions are no different than any other company defending their turf and using all available means to get or keep their disproportionate share of the pie

But, still… shame on Ford.

Ford logo and drawing courtesy of company web sites.

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