Wednesday Snippets – Autoblog made me sick!

Autoblog almost made me physically ill with this image.
I know this isn’t going to happen, but it is symptomatic of how important brand management can be.
I don’t have anything against the 300C, per se, but as a former Alfa owner and lover of the brand, I must say that I do fear for my favourite little Italians.
The case for Cash For Clunkers, from Jim Cramer, via Autoblog:

  1. If the total price tag of C4C is $4 to $5 billion dollars, big deal – we spent more than that on Corn Flakes in Iraq.
  2. General Motors and Chrysler are already welfare queens, at least C4C lets them move some metal.
  3. C4C gives Ford, which Cramer calls “the most important auto company with the best lineup of fuel-efficient cars” a chance to stop burning cash, offer refinancing and perhaps equity offers (i.e. offer some common stock).
  4. The environment will be cleaner – “We are doing something good against global warming.”

The case against Cash for Clunkers, from Pete De Lorenzo, the AutoExtremist:

When GM jump-started the auto business – and the nation’s economy – after 9/11 with its “Keep America Rolling” campaign, it was a boon to the industry and to the economic mood of the nation. And it worked well. Too well when it came right down to it. Invigorated by the awe-inspiring sales numbers, GM marketers adopted a strategy that would use the artificially compelling aura of “the deal” to crush its competition in the market, move the metal and grab points of share.
But what was a noble gesture after 9/11 turned into a nightmare in short order. After that, when consumers thought of American cars, their thoughts turned only to the size and scope of the deal.

I can see both sides.
The industry needed stimulation, for sure, but having heard about the Keep America Rolling campaign and having witnessed the “Employee Pricing for Everyone” for myself, experience tells me that De Lorenzo’s right.
This is going to reinforce ‘the deal’ instead of push what car companies need to push for the long term health of the sector – i.e. the product.
I have a feeling that like the Employee Pricing incentives, this one is going to bring a lot of sales forward and create some pain again later in the year.
Jalopnik have an excellent post today:
The 25 most useful car technologies.
Essential reading.
And finally, from Flickr, an old postcard photo of a Saab dealer in St Louis, circa 1970-something (I’d guess 1973).
Is that a black vinyl roof on that Saab 99????

CARS program in US to be glassed* by midnight?!

UPDATE below
News out of the US states that the CARS program (known as “Cash for clunkers) might be suspended by midnight tonight.
Dealers are having a hard time tracking all the trade-ins and the lack of surety means that they may – or may not – have gone through the 220,000+ transactions needed to exhaust the billion dollar fund already.
Within 4 days of it starting.
* The headline refers to the process dealers have to go through with the ‘clunker’ after it’s traded.
The engines are topped up with liquid glass!

The official process for killing the condemned engine sounds as simple to perform as it is deadly. A deadly cocktail of Sodium silicate, or liquid glass, is used to render the engine inoperable. Dealers are instructed to replace the car’s oil with the solution, then run the engine at 2,000 rpm until the engine stops working. The process supposedly takes three to seven minutes, after which, the dealer is supposed to start up the vehicle again. If the clunker starts up, the process must be repeated until it’s confirmed dead.

Once the engine takes a dirt nap, the dealer must add a sticker that reads: “This engine is from a vehicle that is part of the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS). It has significant internal damage caused by operating the engine with a sodium silicate solution (liquid glass) instead of oil.” The vehicle is then sent to a disposal facility that crushes or shreds the vehicle.

I hope that few, if any, Saabs had to go through this process. They should at least be recycled.
The Auto Prophet has some videos of ‘clunkers’ getting their glass treatment.
Among them is a Volvo S80, which really looks like it should have had years and years left to go. As AP says in his post, maybe it had some mechanical issue that made it uneconomical to keep.
Whatever the problem was, it sure wasn’t the engine. That motor kept going long after it started complaining.
Poor thing. I feel like I’ve just watched a pet get put to sleep.

EPA tweaks mileage ratings, preserves Saabs from Cash for Clunkers

The CARS program (aka Cash for Clunkers) is up and running in the US, with the final rules and regs published in the last 24 hours or so.
In order to qualify for Cash for Clunkers, your old car needs to get 18mpg or worse. There are stories filtering through the web today of people who’s clunkers got 18mpg last week, but are suddenly getting 19mpg now that they’re looking to scrap them.
It seems that in the lead up to C-day, the EPA decided to do a review of mileage ratings for vehicles and make a few adjustments – and these adjustments have a few people up in arms.
One of those people wrote into Edmunds about not being into scrap his Saab 900.

Same thing just happened to me – 1992 SAAB 900S 2.1 Liter, Automatic – was 18 mpg on two days ago – went to the dealer this morning, filled out the paperwork to buy my new Honda and the dealer tells me my car doesn’t qualify – now shows 19mpg.

Now, I know it’s a non-turbo and I know it’s an automatic, but it’s still a classic Saab 900 and therefore, should never be put in a clunker position, regardless of whether people think it’s clunking or not.
OK, I guess it’s free choice, but I’m almost happy some of these cars will stay on the road.
Getting old smoke-belching, rusty tanks off the road is one thing, but to remove automotive character is another thing all together. I think there’s been similar sentiments expressed in other countries where scrappage schemes have been successful (esp France).
If you’re thinking about clunking your Saab, please think again. Once it’s traded it has to be permanently disabled and can’t be enjoyed by another.
If that appeal hasn’t moved you, at least make sure you double-check your EPA mileage rating to make sure it qualifies.

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