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Posts Tagged ‘Chrysler’

FL-TesttrackI’m talking about Florida and the Big Cypress Swamp.

To be more specific the address is: Harley-Davidson, 5301 34th Ave. S.E., Naples, FL., a 531-acre private test track north of Interstate 75/Alligator Alley.  The facility has a 2.1-mile straight away and a 1.1-mile ride-and-handling loop.

FL-Track-HeloPrior to 2002, the test track was owned and used by Ford Motor Company.  In October 2009, Harley-Davidson announced plans to consolidate its test operations in Florida and Talladega, AL. sites to the Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ.  There were approximately 8 employees and as many contract employees at the Florida facility at the time.

Earlier this month, the automaker Chrysler Group LLC announced they purchased the property for $7 million with plans to use the more than six miles of tracks to test a wide range of pre-production vehicles.

FL-Track-BldsHarley-Davidson Motor Co., agreed to lease back a portion of the track to test motorcycles and other specialty vehicles along with 10,200 square feet within two buildings on the property. That lease will last through at least June 30, 2019.

Construction of the track and its associated buildings began in 1985 and ended in 1992.  In 1998 the test track was the subject of a lot of scrutiny when nearby property owners and environmentalist became concerned about expansion that would harm the neighborhood.

Photos courtesy of Google and Collier International.

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Ethanol Boosted Gasoline and Harley-Davidson

That’s horseshit!

No, I’m not afraid to put that in the title.  It’s just if I do, this finely crafted missive is unlikely to pass the blog filters.  In fact, those of you working at companies probably won’t see it pass through your company filter now that I’ve spelled out the word.  Because that’s how afraid of plain English this country is.  And if you’re protected from reality, how can you know the truth.

And speaking of truth…

What kind of crazy world do we live when environmental and industry groups who frequently oppose each other,  AGREE to jointly ask Congress for thorough and objective scientific testing before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline?  The ethanol industry, primarily lead by the Growth Energy trade group has been pushing hard to allow the amount of ethanol in gasoline to increase by 50%.  It’s called E15 and some 36 groups have signed a letter that went to the majority and minority leaders of the U.S. Senate urging opposition to any amendment to the coming energy bill that would authorize the sale of gasoline with more than 10% ethanol.

But, today the contrite attitude of the Obama administration granted the request of ethanol producers and will permit higher concentrations of the corn-based fuel additive in gasoline for vehicles made in 2007 and later.  The EPA announced its “rubber stamp” decision just minutes later on how they will allow refiners to blend as much as 15%.  The fact is that the Obama administration doesn’t have the power to order use of E15, however, the decision will have profound impact to motorcyclists.

Automotive manufacturers (GM, Ford, Chrysler) have all expressed major concerns and believe ethanol concentrations of higher blends can damage exhaust systems, engines, fuel pumps and destroy catalytic convertors.  By-the-way, this decision excludes ALL MOTORCYCLES, marine engines and non-road engines such as snowmobiles.

Who wins with this “boosted” blend ratio?  Well let’s follow the money…  Corn-ethanol lobby groups like Growth Energy (headed up by Wesley Clark) will benefit.  The U.S. pays a $0.45-cent tax credit to gasoline refiners that make a blend of as much as 10% ethanol.  They win.  Farm exports will increase and they win.  Poet LLC, based in Sioux Falls, SD is the largest U.S. ethanol producer followed by Archer Daniels Midland Co.  They win.  In fact, the annual market value for ethanol in the U.S. has risen to $27.1 Billion since federal support began under the Jimmy Carter administration.

Who loses?  Consumers.  Corn prices, cost of food, cost of fuel and cost of maintenance or repairs.  And then there is the ever present mis-fueling issue. Lastly, how long until measures are put in place for motorcycles?

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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Arial View of H-D Arizona Proving Grounds (Yucca)

The motor company delivers on its promise.

Not a new innovative motorcycle model, but to consolidate testing operations into one single location in Arizona – called the Arizona Proving Ground (AZPG).

Reports out of Kingman, AZ indicate that a local contractor (T.R. Orr, Inc.), received two building permits from the county Development Services Department, one for commercial renovation at the proving grounds and another for the construction of a brand new industrial plant.

You may recall that H-D moved into the Chrysler Proving Grounds at Yucca less than a year ago after it was booted from the General Motors proving grounds in Mesa, which had been closed and sold off the previous year.  The motorcycle company is shuttering testing operations in Talladega, Ala., as well as Naples, Fla., as they are in the process of moving those operations to AZPG through 2011.  I’ve previously reported as far back as 2008 on H-D plans of AZPG HERE and HERE.

According to H-D spokeswoman Pat Sweeney, the changes being made to the existing facilities and the new industrial plant will not only provide H-D the space and equipment it needs to make the most use of the proving grounds it will also – and are you ready for the “E” word – improve its efficiency.  Details on the cost of the new industrial plant or the need for any new employees from the local workforce were – incomplete – as Ms. Sweeney cited an obvious benefit to the community just because we’re consolidating there, but “we’re just still not really sure at his point in time” when referring to hiring plans.  I anticipate they offered folks in the shuttered operations an opportunity to move to AZ and are waiting on the final acceptance ratio before opening job req’s.

And speaking of jobs… the nearby and sprawling Arizona State Prison, Cerbat Facility (20 buildings on 45 acres) was a 2,000-bed minimum custody facility that just completed a major renovation and expansion into 3,400 beds.  I see an inmate labor force expansion in the near future and it couldn’t come at a better time according to local reports.

Photo courtesy of Chrysler

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Talladega“Shake ‘n Bake”…  as the Harley-Davidson financial wizards turn off the Speedway lights and come on cost savings ideas like a spider monkey. 

I blogged in October 2008 that H-D reached an agreement with Chrysler to use part of the Arizona Proving Grounds facility. The facility is located about 25 miles south of Kingman, AZ on the old Yucca Army Airfield.

Given the dismal Q3’09 financial results and closure of Buell, they have now decided to further reduce operational expenses by closing the test facility in Talladega, Alabama, eliminating about 100 jobs. The testing facility was opened in January 1981 and had performed several kinds of vehicle tests including high-speed performance tests on Talladega SuperSpeedway.

The companies operational plans had previously committed to cease testing in Mesa, AZ (the GM Proving Grounds) by July 2009 because the testing ground had been sold for a variety of planned developments.  Consolidating test operations from Talladega; and Naples FL., to the Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ., is new information.

Clearly the company is aggressively cutting costs where it can and must be necessary to align cost with the new economic reality of reduced sales. I’m truly starting to wonder if H-D has lost its way and offer up the movie opening title card as a reminder to H-D management: “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed. – Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936.”

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

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Yucca Desert Proving Grounds

Yucca Desert Proving Grounds

During WWII the U.S. Army established numerous airfields in Arizona for training pilots and aircrews of the USAAF fighters and bombers.  Just east of I-40 and about 25 miles south of Kingman, AZ is the Yucca Army Airfield.  In 1946 the property was declared surplus and in 1954 the Ford Motor Company acquired the facility and began using the runways for automobile testing.  Ford eventually built an extensive automotive proving ground and used the airfield known as the Arizona Proving Ground Airport.

In November 2007, Chrysler bought the facility (3,840-acre test site, which has 50 miles of test roads) for $34.9M from Ford Motor Company. Chrysler also made another $10M in upgrades, including a new 70-foot-high test grade along with other new test surfaces. The facility is open 24/7 and the Yucca site is the primary hot weather testing grounds. Chrysler tests about 2,000 vehicles a year at the site.  As a side bar, Toyota’s desert proving grounds is 128 miles away in Wickenburg, AZ and runway information is HERE.

Harley-Davidson recently closed an agreement with Chrysler to use the facility effective July 2009 as their desert proving grounds.  Harley will occupy several buildings and use the banked, high speed, five-mile, three-lane oval track as well as many of the twisted asphalt and checkerboard tile concrete roads.

I don’t know about you, but I can see a day in the future where the Laughlin River Run in coordination with the Route 66 Motor Sports and “Mother Road” Harley dealer in Kingman might include facility tours and/or sport track demo rides.  Let’s hope so!

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