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Posts Tagged ‘NYT’

chapelA good riding buddy of mine lost his father recently.

Coping is difficult for family and for friends it’s can be challenging to know what to say or not say that might remind the person about something they don’t want to remember.  But close friends know how not to say a word and yet provide comfort.

Frank served in the U.S. Army and was a Korean War veteran which meant he always had a sense of purpose to what ever it was he was doing.  I first met him back in the early ‘80s when he ran his own company selling electronic components.  I worked at a medical instrumentation company which purchased his parts and I’ll never forget his deep vocabulary of “one-liners.” A salesman of high integrity to the very core and one that would make Glengarry Glen Ross “ABCs” proud.   I remember on more than one occasion “chasing” him out of the manufacturing assembly area for chatting up the “common people” not because he had a talent of figuring out what his clients were always up to, but was the kind of guy who made people laugh and truly enjoyed learning more about the folks he worked with.  Chatting/laughing and killing time in manufacturing = fewer widgets thus the need for chasing him off.

I was a privilage to know Frank and I was thinking about his — “Trust No One” — saying while I wrote this post.  How prophetic that the biggest story of the week is the insane profits at Goldman Sachs.  If you’d rather get your news from “Rolling Stone”, Matt Taibbi weighs in HERE.  Clearly Wall Street’s bad habits — above all, the system of compensation that helped cause the financial crisis — have not gone away.  In addition, it spotlights that by rescuing the financial system without reforming it, Washington has done nothing to protect us from a new crisis.

Frank passed away peacefully surrounded by the love of his family and friends.  Small as it may be, I wanted to provide a shout out of remembrance and re-commit to memory his one-liner as I sit in front of the TV screen, anesthetized by “talking heads” hoping our future doesn’t go down the drain as banking insiders believe it’s business as usual.

Photo taken at Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Az.

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GTOI’m fascinated by the rapid decline of the American car industry. 

And given Harley-Davidson’s consideration of closing its main assembly facility in Pennsylvania and moving production elsewhere is it déjà vu all over again?  GM and Chrysler went through the same China and Mexico facility debate to lower cost and cope with sales downturns now H-D wants the same experience?!  Huh?

A couple weeks ago there was an interesting article in “New York Times” on the GTO.  I recall hearing the Ronny & The Daytona’s song, but didn’t truly appreciate the “goats” until several years later when the Pontiac was a sleek ride on the boulevard.  At the time I had no idea that Jaguars were an exclusive make.  I’d see an XKE now and again, but if you wanted a real car, a hot rod, one that sparkled in the sunlight and impressed the girls, you got an American car.

In our family we had an string of American cars.  Trained as an engineer, my dad started off with GM/Chevy.  He purchased a sporty rear-engine Corvair Monza that caught fire on the way home from the dealership, but that’s what the brand stood for, great engineering.  There were several models purchased after, but not before the in-line six cylinder C-10 Chevrolet pickup that we must have drove 89,000 miles.  No matter how hard it was driven it got 9 MPG’s!  I remember a partially dismantled block in the driveway at one point theorizing how to boost the gas mileage with a timing belt change. At the end of the sixties and armed with a premonition of gas station lines my dad purchased a new 1970 Toyota Corona.  A Canary Yellow practical four door for a family of four with a dog.  A 1900cc (1.9L) 4 cylinder (3R-C) engine with a 2-speed Toyoglide automatic transmission.  After that Corona purchase I don’t remember much in the way of American car’s in our family.

My love affair with the automobile was not that much different from what I suspect was many of yours.  I studied “Car and Driver.”  I debated buddies what machines we were going to own.  Had friends with Cuda’s and “Stangs.”  But with the early-70’s oil embargo, Yom Kippur War and then later on with Jimmy Carter inflation and national energy policies… I went foreign and never looked back.   People made fun of that Fire Engine Red Corolla that looked like a thirty year old vehicle, even though it was brand new.  But then almost overnight the Datsun 510, 240Z and Celica converted the masses.  Who knew driving could be so much fun?

The usual suspects at GM have run that outfit into the ground.  And it’s hard not to compare analogies to the current state of the Harley motorcycle business.

Detroit said it was just giving the public what it wanted.  So let’s slap the backs of all those Detroit execs for ignoring the coming rise in the price of oil, the environmental concerns and just sell more SUVs.  It’s taken years.  But the Harley-Davidson world seems to be in a similar place as Detroit.  After years of coasting, it’s collapsing, and it’s not sure what the path out is.   Could it be that the blame lies on the pros who drove the business to the cliff, milking millions all the way, believing they’re entitled to their riches?  Is it union busting or “negotiation tactics?”  Where is the next act that H-D can rally around and declare great?  Not marketing noise.  Or accountant speak….like saying Britney might book revenue, but you’ll have a hard time finding any believer in her music.  Her music is not seen as necessary to most people’s lives.  It’s too discordant, or made for the cash register, not humans.  

Be it GM, H-D or Britney…until they change the product, we’ll remain in the doldrums.  It can be done, but only if the execs stop worrying about their lifestyle and get honest.

Photo courtesy of NYT.

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