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8/9/2005

DaimlerChrysler Woes – Investigated in UN Oil for Food Scandal

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 2:11 pm

Business as usual in Germany? I think not.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY - In a nation where a handshake can launch a deal and business is considered a noble calling, scandals at some of Germany’s largest companies have brought embarrassment to a corporate culture proud of its honor system.

Allegations and admissions of bribery, corruption and misdeeds have surfaced at the highest levels of business at five of Germany’s blue-chip companies: BMW, Volkswagen, DaimlerChrysler, Infineon and Commerzbank. Several executives have resigned or been fired.

Some face criminal investigations.

If anyone noticed, it was announced over a week ago that the Chairman of DaimlerChrysler and head of the Mercedes Benz division of the company, Juergen Schrempp, was being replaced by Dieter Zetsche, who is currently running the Chrysler division here in the U.S. Forbes Europe also announced that former Zetsche-Chrysler-colleague, Wolfgang Bernhard, may be making his return to DaimlerChrysler. He was denied the job of head of the Mercedes car division last fall after tangling with Mr. Schrempp over funding of the failing Mitsubishi division of the company. Mitsubishi was subsequently left to dangle in the wind on its own, despite Schrempp’s failed attempts to funnel more cash into it.

DaimlerChrysler’s numbers have been terrible for several quarters, with the U.S. Chrysler division being the only bright light, mainly due to strong product such as the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum & new Charger, and the Hemi engine mystique promulgated across both car and truck lines. Zetsche is credited with keeping Chrysler U.S. focused despite the turmoil that ensued after the so-called “merger-of-equals” that resulted in control of the combined company going to Germany.

In the Aug. 15 issue of Business Week University of Chicago Graduate Business School Professor James Schrager discusses the future of DaimlerChrysler and answers the question: What about Mercedes?

Dieter [Zetsche] may be the one guy who can keep Chrysler and Mercedes together because he knows what it took to fix Chrysler, direct it, and what it’s going to take to keep it in good health. But he has bigger fish to fry – Mercedes.

He’s got to fix a series of unfortunate moves that Schrempp made: making small cars at small prices, diluting Mercedes’ image of exclusivity, performance, and prestige for the sake of volume. That’s a big problem.

Second on the agenda is making Mercedes cars the true world standard again. They need fewer electronics as well as better quality in Germany and to fix the U.S. plant in Alabama, where the M-Class is produced.

Zetsche needs more midsize and large cars. [Mercedes] is being attacked on all sides. Audi and Jaguar have fabulous all-alloy cars. They’ve been getting ahead while Schrempp was worried about boardroom fights over Mitsubishi and Smart.

When asked if the professor thought that the company should keep Chrysler or float it off as a separate company, his advise was:

I would get rid of Chrysler. The job of fixing Mercedes-Benz is so big and the boat anchor of Chrysler is so heavy that I’d try to float Chrysler on its own.

Know any car companies that desperately need some rear-wheel-drive hits like the Magnum and the 300? Yeah, me too, but that won’t happen. But as they say in the Ginsu knife commercials, “But wait! There’s More!”

LGF posts that the U.S. government is investigating DaimlerChrysler’s possible involvement in the U.N. Oil for Food Scandal.

FRANKFURT, Germany - DaimlerChrysler AG said Friday it is cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department, which is investigating claims that the company’s Mercedes Car Group may have paid bribes to foreign officials and that senior executives were aware of it.

When asked for a written statement regarding any participation in Saddam’s little side deals the company responded like this:

The German-American automaker said in a filing that the SEC had asked it for details on any role it may have had in the scandal-tainted program, set up to govern the sale of Iraqi oil under Saddam Hussein, and to see if the company had violated any provisions.

DaimlerChrysler spokesman Toni Melfi declined to comment Tuesday.

Makes you wonder if the changing of the guard at DaimlerChrysler is a result of these ongoing investigations. Makes me kinda glad that we bought a GMC instead of a Magnum!

4/8/2005

Virginia Kills Red Light Cameras

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 3:05 pm

Finally, a state with some brains and the stones to stand up to the hysteria of the “safety extremists"! Good going, Virginia. From TheNewsPaper.com:

On Wednesday, the Virginia legislature adjourned for the year without taking action to reauthorize the state’s red light camera program.
(…)
Virginia’s decision was prompted in large measure by a state Department of Transportation study showing an overall increase in injury accidents where red light cameras were used. Similar findings have appeared in studies from North Carolina; Ontario, Canada and Australia.

Go and check out this post as there are lots of links to similar actions in New Hampshire and Indiana.

2/15/2005

Tax by the Mile - States are Saying, “You Feel Me?”

Filed under: — GM Guy @ 8:52 am

Let’s say you have a pang of conscience, or are just tired of huge gasoline bills, and go out and spend the extra dough on one of these new hybrid cars or SUVs. Now you are getting significantly better gas mileage, aren’t spending your kid’s college money at the pump, and generally feel better about yourself because you are doing something good for the environment, too. But noooooooooooooo! What you are really doing, according to the EPA and states like California and Oregon, is hurting the state’s economies by lowering the revenue they get from gasoline taxes. Less fuel bought = less taxes collected = “We’re really gonna git you now, sucka’!”

So, facing declining tax revenues, what’s a future-thinking state legislature gonna do? Well, cars are “smart” now, they have computers in them and everything! They keep track of how fast you drive, how much time the vehicle spends at any given speed, like driving in stop-&-go traffic, etc. Most are even equipped with a GPS (global positioning satellite) device — think “On Star” from GM — that lets the car know exactly where it is on the planet to within a foot or so. Here’s where it gets real fun. CBSNews reports today that some states, facing projected reductions in fuel tax revenue due to increased use of more fuel efficient vehicles will have to start taxing motorist “by the mile".

Officials in car-clogged California are so worried they may be considering a replacement for the gas tax altogether, replacing it with something called “tax by the mile.”

Seeing tax dollars dwindling, neighboring Oregon has already started road testing the idea.

“Drivers will get charged for how many miles they use the roads, and it’s as simple as that,” says engineer David Kim.

As outlined above, they can track you via your GPS system to monitor “where” you drive, in the city or in rural areas, and via the car’s computer to track “when” you drive, during rush hour, middle of the night, etc. CBS goes on:

The new tax would be charged each time you fill up. A computer inside the gas pump would communicate with your car’s odometer to calculate how much you owe.

The system could also track how often you drive during rush hour and charge higher fees to discourage peak use. That’s an idea that could break the bottleneck on California’s freeways.

So go ahead and buy that Honda Insight, Toyota Prius or Ford Escape hybrid, pay the extra three grand over a regular vehicle, and sleep better at night, all while knowing that you are hastening the days of Big Brother that Mr. Orwell predicted way back in 1848.

BTG Motoring, for all your car, truck or SUV parts and accessories

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