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Posts Tagged ‘Ford’

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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If you’re a numbers person there is plenty to analyze about the 2010 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Even more so if you’re somehow impacted by the largest death tally in over 10 years.  These tragedies will reverberate throughout the tri-state area for months, and will undoubtedly affect future events.  My sympathies go out to the friends and families.   Even the Cowboy State (WY) has lawmakers reviewing the lack of a helmet law and are considering revisions based on this year’s tally which reversed a downward trend in that state.

Unknown Wedding Couple at Broken Spoke Saloon

Whether you have interest in the amount of tax revenue, the number of weddings, the number of drug arrests, the number of Regional Health System emergency department visits or the amount of trash the rally produced, there are stat’s for everyone.

First off is the tax revenue; the South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulation stated that revenues at the 2010 Rally increased ($127,804) from last year. Sales and tourism taxes collected so far from temporary vendors totaled $989,911 in the northern Black Hills, which includes Sturgis and communities in Meade and Lawrence counties.  There were 1,207 vendors at the 2010 rally and the gross vendor sales totaled $13.6 MILLION in the Northern Hills, $1.7M more than last year. In the Southern Hills, which includes Pennington County and Rapid City, Custer, Hill City and Keystone, sales were $2.8 MILLION, up from last year’s $2.5M.  Another indicator of attendance came from the city of Sturgis public works director, Randy Nohava, who stated that the rally generated nearly 9-tons of trash per day!

But, there is one stat we won’t get and that is the exact number of law enforcement agents who worked the rally or the costs.  It’s double-top secret.  However, law enforcement is quick to point to the: 1,442 citations issued, including 209 arrests for driving under the influence; 46 felony drug arrests and 183 misdemeanor drug arrests as a result of their extensive presence.

And while I’m on the law enforcement topic, there is one statistic which was very odd. The arrival of a Blackhawk helicopter, courtesy of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with their extensive support team. Supposedly the Blackhawk was there to provide additional surveillance of criminals and better mobility for ICE agents.  There has been NO word yet on how many illegal immigrants were apprehended at the 2010 rally.  It turns out that the Blackhawk support was never requested according to local law enforcement and in fact their arrival created almost as much controversy as the May 2010 incident where 3-Blackhawks from the Colorado National Guard descended over Wounded Knee and touch off a flurry of protests.

In terms of attendance, the methodology suggests that estimates are always inflated.  In fact, an article in the Rapid City Journal stated that 2009 numbers were rounded down to 477,000 and that the early estimate number for 2010 is 450,000.  The exact number doesn’t really matter as the bean counters really focus on the tax revenue data as a key indicator.

There were some other interesting capitalism mass-marketing stats.  Ford used the Rally to launch its new 2011 H-D “bling” filled F-150 truck and the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the “American Motorcycles” commemorative set of four stamps featuring classic motorcycles and a 1970’s era chopper.  And there are statistics for a good cause too; the 50-mile Legends Ride which raised $52,000, and was split by the Sky Ranch for Boys and the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Museum. And finally were the Hamsters MC, who helped raise more than $257,000 for therapies and services at the Rapid City Children’s Care Hospital for children who couldn’t otherwise afford treatment there.

Yep, the rally has lots of protestations and an industry trumpeting its success…

Statistics courtesy of Rapid City Journal.  Photos courtesy of Army/web.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition

2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition


I’m not talking digital cameras.  It’s about motorcycle enthusiasts who like riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles and are likely to have an affinity toward other like-minded products that carry the lifestyle brand.

There are various elements that effect consumer choice and purchasing behavior which range from culture and social class to budgets.  There has been a lot written on the subject of purchasing behaviors and the work in trying to develop simple models which attempt to explain complex decision processes.  It is the task of marketing to create awareness and then guide a consumer through the subsequent stages of a purchasing decision that if successful ends when you purchase their product.

At least that is the thinking at Harley-Davidson and the Ford Motor Company who have combined marketing forces on the new 2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition.  It may have taken the leather jackets of 13 Harley riders to make one F-150 interior, but it’s quite the stylish co-branded truck and one they hope you’ll favor and purchase.  Emphasizing the co-brand badges and setting new standards in truck luxury they are clearly targeting the “image-conscious” buyer.  The last co-brand (F-350) attempt is HERE.

Over the last 10 years only 74,000 people have plunked down the $$ for a bike-badged truck.  A small manufacturing run by anyone’s measure in the automobile industry yet these “appearance packages” keep coming.  In this competitive world many buyers dismiss all the stats and simply ask the questions; “Is this a truck I want to drive, be seen in and does it reflect my personality?”

If you answer YES, then you’ll be the first to have one of these custom cool hand-made cloisonné badges.

Photo courtesy of Ford.

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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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2009 Ford F-450

2009 Ford F-450

Released just in time to haul your new Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Classic to motorcycle events, Ford teamed up with Harley to produce the first ever F-450. 

Let’s call it the “Big Hog Daddy” trike hauler of the road!

We’ve seen the Ford Harley-Davidson editions in F-250 and F-350 versions, but never before has the colossal F-450 come in Harley style and trim. As with the other Harley versions, it’s all about looking good sitting still. Given the fuel mileage that might be all you can afford!  The new F-450 is downright intimidating with its massive grille. Its gigantic size would impress even long-haul truck drivers!  The Harley model has even more presence thanks to its blue flames leaping out of the side vents and dual rear wheels and fender flares.

There are many new “smart” features embedded in the truck.  Most notable is the “Tool Link”, a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) asset tracking system developed with DEWALT, the power tool dudes, and ThingMagic, experts on embedded RFID technology.  This enables truck owners to maintain a detailed real-time inventory of the tools or equipment stored in the vehicle.  I suppose you can rest assured that as you ready to haul your Tri-Glide to the next motorcycle event you’ll have all the appropriate tools to wrench on the chrome accessories?!

It seems strange to me to create this sort of marketing mix to promote both brands.  Especially for a truck that has a MSRP of $59,560 and optioned up it quickly gets into the $80,000+ range.   Clearly not everyone can afford!  This class of vehicle and the fuel guzzling attributes seem very out of touch in today’s mortgage meltdown climate.  But then again if I think more about it, it makes perfect sense. In the U.S. 40% of Harley owners drive a full-size pickup truck – many of those are likely Ford F-Series.  So, what do two companies having sales and financial issues do?  Target joint customers with this massive truck and turn what used to be just a workhorse into a fashion statement for the rich and famous who are motorcycle enthusiasts.

All dressed up there’s just no way to mistake this “Big Hog Daddy” for anything else other than a Tri-Glide hauler.

Photo courtesy of Ford.

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