The Geneva Motor Show Facilitates Uninhabited Innovation at This Year’s Show

genevaOriginally held in 1905, the Geneva Motor Show is the premier international auto show. Much of this has to do with the beautiful setting of the show. If you’ve never seen pictures or been there in person, it’s worth checking out. Geneva is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous cities in the entire world, laden with beautiful architecture and paradisiacal weather. Also adding to the locale’s appeal is the fact that Geneva ranks as one of the top ten richest cities in the world with a social scene that is rich with high end culture.

However, there is something else about the city that has led writer Paul Eisenstein to declare it as the perfect place for an auto show. He says, “In a word ‘neutrality’…Other major shows, however hard they try, typically lean a little bit backwards for their local manufacturers, or at least those who dominate the local market, whether Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Detroit, or LA. Not in Geneva, where space and position are not influenced by national identity.”

This national nepotism has certainly played a role in this year’s award season. Back in January, there was a ton of criticism and backlash when the Detroit Auto Show ended up naming two GM vehicles as the car and truck of the year. Of course, it didn’t help that the awards led to a major media whirlwind and public statements of praise from high government officials (people that are criticism magnets).

Refreshingly, these problems have fallen by the wayside at this week’s Geneva Motor Show. Nobody is talking politics and bailouts. Nobody is questioning motives for positive reviews and winning vehicles. Instead, everybody is enjoying the show and focusing on the innovation. Some of this year’s most talked about vehicles include:

porsche911

1. The Porsche 911 RSR- this car has already gained a huge following, reaching near mythic proportions when it finished in both 1st and 2nd place at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

 

 

 

rollsroyce2. The 2015 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II- this larger than life luxury car is equipped with twin turbocharged V-12 engines, which soup up an amazing 565 horsepower. This engine allows it to go from 0-60 in just 4.8 seconds: pretty impressive for a luxury car. Adding to its appeal are the classic stage coach doors.

 

 

 

 

ferrari3. The Ferrari California T- making its official debut at this week’s show, the new stylish Ferrari is already turning heads. This car comes equipped with a canvas roof and carbon fiber rollover bars and clocks in at an astonishing 155 mph.

 

 

 

 

erminiseittosei4. The Ermini Seittosei- this extremely lightweight (only 1500 pounds!) 2 seater is turning heads with its amazing power to weight ratio of 4.7 lb/hp. But don’t expect to see too many of these out on the streets. Reportedly, production will be limited to just 30 cars per year.

 

 

 

 

Lambo5. Lamborghini Huracan- Replacing last year’s all-time high selling Gallardo, the Huracan already has rich folks lining up to order the vehicle (700 have been requested so far). This year’s Lambo has new aluminum and carbon fiber components and can reach 202 mph! It is being priced at $233,000.

 

 

 

vwsubaru6. The Volkswagen Giugiaro Clipper and the Subaru Viziv 2- I am grouping these two cars together because they represent a new alternative door agenda in Geneva. With their vehicle, the Volkswagen has broken form tradition and has a door that opens upward. The Subaru, on the other hand, has a completely wild sliding door design. Very nice and very futuristic!

Obama Rolls Out New Fuel Efficiency Plan

obamaA few weeks ago, during his State of the Union address, President Obama promised that he would soon lay out more of the details on his plan to help facilitate higher fuel efficiency for big trucks. On Tuesday, he delivered. In a speech that was given in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Obama said, “The goal we are setting is ambitious. But these are areas where ambition has worked out really well for us so far. [We want to] keep driving down oil and imports and what we pay at the pump.”

Of course, all of this goes with the recent push to go green here in the United States. It was just back in 2011 that the Obama administration released their first set of fuel efficiency standards. Based on studies done by the White House, it has been projected that the 2011 fuel efficiency plan will save about 530 million barrels of oil (which is more than we annually import from Saudi Arabia) and cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 270 million metric tons.

obamatruckObviously, the current plan to improve fuel efficiency standards in big trucks is a worthwhile goal. Currently, semi-trucks make up just 4% of the vehicles on the road. However, they also use up an astounding 25% of all road-fuel use and greenhouse gas coming from transportation!

To help promote this change, the administration is offering tax credits to all companies that are developing heavy duty alternative fuel vehicles, as well as companies that are working to provide these vehicles with resources to fill up their tanks on alternative fuels. So, don’t be surprised if you see more gas stations- especially near interstates- with special accommodations in the near future.

Further adding to the wave of change, Obama has asked Congress to end subsidies for oil and gas companies and help build an Energy Security Trust Fund to fund research and development for advanced vehicle technologies. Many skeptics don’t believe that Obama will ever get Congress to agree with all of this. As we all know, over the course of Obama’s presidency, his lack of leadership and/or inability to communicate with his peers has been the subject of much criticism.

obamaoilAlready, there is dissent amongst conservative minds, concerning Obama’s fuel efficiency plans. Author Erika Johnsen writes, “If pushing automakers, as President Obama promises, will really create jobs and wealth and other miraculous benefits, then why aren’t they already getting to work on these more fuel-efficient trucks themselves?”

The only thing left now is for Obama to turn the country and his peers into believers of this new plan (or as many Conservatives claim, a waste of time). In what has been called his “year of action,” Obama is still confident saying, “Every time someone says you can’t grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it turns out they’ve been wrong. Anybody who says we can’t compete when it comes to clean energy technologies- like solar and wind- they’ve had to eat those words.”

A Psychedelic Trip with the World’s Most Iconic Bus

kesey

Author Ken Kesey

In 1964, just a few years before the widespread eruption of the hippie culture, Ken Kesey purchased a yellow 1939 International Harvester school bus. At 29 years old, Kesey was fresh off the success of his debut novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and he decided this bus would be the perfect tool for his newest adventure. Little did he know that the bus would go down as the most iconic vehicle of the 60s, inspiring a handful of novels and films, as well as helping to build the hippie culture.

Reverse 1 Year

In 1963, Kesey was living in La Honda, California, and he had a deep seeded urge to take an enlightening road trip to go see the New York’s World Fair. However, he didn’t want to make the trip alone. So, he recruited 13 other members- which would later be referred to as the “Merry Brand of Pranksters”- to go with him. However, going to see the World Fair was not the only reason for the trip.

Writer Tom Wolfe says, “The trip had a dual purpose. One was to turn America on to this particular form of enlightenment, the other was to publicize [Kesey’s] new book, Sometimes A Great Notion. Kesey was a great writer. It was too bad he abandoned writing but I think he meant it when he said, ‘I’m tired of waiting for an echo, I want to be a lightning rod.’” Kesey wanted an adventure; he wanted to get people talking; and he wanted to stir up the American consciousness through his actions, not his words. This trip was the perfect solution.

electrickoolOriginally, Kesey and the Pranksters planned on cramming into a station wagon to make the trip happen. Something didn’t sit right with that plan, though. The car would be too small, and it wasn’t the appropriate symbol. So, Kesey went out hunting, and that’s when he came across the ’39 Harvester.

As soon as Kesey saw the bus, he knew it was perfect because the previous owner had gutted it and turned it into a camper. Inside of the bus, there were amenities such as a stove, refrigerator, and bunks. All Kesey had to do was make a couple of simple, electric alterations. First, he added a sound system to the inside of the bus that also blared out externally into the streets. The next thing that he needed to do was make the bus magnetic, capable of burning a memory into onlookers’ minds. The best way to do this was with the paint job.

In his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe describes the bus, “[It was] glowing orange, green, magenta, lavender, chlorine blue, every fluorescent pastel imaginable in thousands of designs, large and small, like a cross between Fernand Leger and Dr. Strange, roaring together and vibrating off each other as if somebody had given Hieronymous Bosch 50 buckets of Day-Glo paint and a 1939 International Harvester school bus and told him to go to it.”

koolAfter all the renovations were done, the group hit the road with one of their main accessories: a jar of orange juice laced with LSD. This trip was about turning on and seeing the world from a new perspective, and there was no better tool than the acid. “Being psychedelic characters, we were taking LSD, and LSD opens your mind to other things,” said road member Ken Babbs. “LSD goes into areas where you’ve never been before, and you’re using all that newfound consciousness with all those psychedelic colors.”

This was going to be the ultimate hippie experience. Adding to the hippie legacy was the group of iconic figures taking the trip, one of which was driver, Neal Cassidy. Just a decade earlier, Cassidy had served as the inspiration for the Jack Kerouac’s On the Road character, Dean Moriarty. Now, he was reliving wild times and cementing the hippy’s place in culture inside of a bus that also featured Grateful Dead band members and leader Ken Kesey. It was pure madness.

In each town that the bus entered, people stood and watched to see what was happening; nobody had ever seen anything like it. Prankster George Walker said, “For the little kids, it was like the circus was coming to town. When we hit New York, we drove around the city, and the traffic was slow. We looked like the pied piper, with maybe 100 kids running along behind us. Adults were perplexed by it. Kids got it.”

koolaidAlong the trip, there were run-ins with presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, guru Timothy Leary, and writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to name a few. The bus was chronicled by newspapers and local news stations, growing a mythic quality along the way, inspiring kids to turn on, tune in, and drop out. The bus and the trip also inspired Tom Wolfe’s legendary best seller, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. To many, it was more than a book; it was a manifesto of an entire culture. New York Times writer, Eliot Fremont-Smith, said, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the book . . . the pushing, ballooning heart of the matter . . . Vibrating dazzle!”

The trip also inspired this film:

Today, 50 years after its initial run and a decade after Kesey’s passing, the bus still stands firm in history. Not only does it have a legacy as one of the most iconic automobiles of all-time, it also serves as one of the main catalysts for an entire movement and culture.

Tenn. Lawmakers Will Cut Tax Incentives if Volkswagen Unionizes

chat3Tomorrow at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1,570 Volkswagen employees will gather to vote on whether or not to unionize and join the United Auto Workers. However, Tennessee’s Republican representatives are already getting their guns ready, stating that the move will be detrimental to Tennessee’s economy. Senator Bo Watson, along with a slew of other Republican figure heads, believe that if a union is established than other companies may be hesitant to set up shop inside of the state.

Republican senators have been so opposed to the move that there have even been threats of cutting off future tax incentives to Volkswagen. In a released statement sent to the Free Press, Senator Bo Watson said, “Should the workers choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe additional incentives for expansion will have a very rough time passing the Tennessee Senate.”

However, there is another twist in this story: Volkswagen has no problem with their employees unionizing. This, of course, is quite unusual.

Detroit Free Press writer, Brent Snavely, says, “After an organizing campaign that began about two years ago, this week’s vote is the UAW’s best opportunity to win support at a foreign-owned assembly plant since Honda began building cars in Ohio more than 30 years ago. More than a half dozen organizing efforts at Japanese factories in the U.S. have failed.” Unlike other foreign automakers, Volkswagen actually has a positive outlook towards unions. Volkswagen would be more than happy to oblige the Tennessee workers so they would be able to establish a “works council,” which is currently outlawed by U.S. labor laws unless a union is present.

chatPresently, all of the Volkswagen factories in Europe use a “works council” to iron out all management-employee affairs. These works councils consist of elected white collar and blue collar workers that work in collaboration with the company’s management to create a harmonious labor environment. These elected officials are also granted access to the Global Volkswagen Works Council, which would help to facilitate business into the state while also keeping workers happy.

Chattanooga Volkswagen CEO Frank Fischer says, “Our works councils are key to our success and productivity. It is a business model that helped to make Volkswagen the second-largest car company in the world.”

Overall, works councils have been proven to be extremely successful, too. Harvard labor law expert Paul C. Weiler explains, “There are three major advantages of councils. You’re forced to consider in your decision making process the effect on the employees in advance…this avoids costly mistakes. Second, works councils will in the final run support the company. They will take into account the pressing needs of the company more than a trade union can, on the outside. And third, works councils explain and defend certain decisions of the company towards the employees. Once decisions are made, they are easier to implement.”

Representative Bo Watson

Representative Bo Watson

However, Republican Senator Bo Watson thinks differently of the situation; he says, “It has been widely reported that Volkswagen has promoted a campaign that has been unfair, unbalanced and, quite frankly, un-American in the traditions of American labor campaigns.” Of course, Republican representatives have always been fearful of unions because the potential for workers to stand up for their rights could be detrimental to business and the economy. Allowing Volkswagen to unionize would only add to this potential problem because more people would expect similar representation.

Ironically, their decision falls right in line with what they hate most about Democratic policies: a big government putting their hands into the business world.

Why People Need to Hate Kyle Busch

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400At 16 years old, most people are working entry level positions, trying to learn the ins-and-outs of their business. Kyle Busch was no exception. He just worked in a little more dangerous, publicized, and exciting field: racing. Oh, and on top of that, he was incredibly talented, too. When asked about being sponsored at such an early age, Busch says, “My family, we couldn’t afford Late Models. Jerry Spilsbury spent all his own money to let me race. I had to work on the cars and I didn’t get paid a dime, but he let me drive them, which was great.”

Amazingly, at 16 years old, Busch competed in 6 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series until NASCAR cracked down and set a minimum age of 18 years old. But it didn’t matter. Busch had showed an unbelievable amount of promise and dexterity and would immediately get another chance to get back out on the track right when he turned 18 years old.

Over the next year, Kyle Busch became a teenage phenom, winning 5 NASCAR events before he even cracked the big 2-0 mark. After that, he became the youngest driver to ever win a Nationwide Series race at 20 years and 145 days (his record was recently broken by Joey Lagone).  As the wins piled up and his resumé grew, onlookers began comparing him to the all-time greats.

One of Busch’s biggest supporters has always been legendary driver Darrell Waltrip. In an article for Fox Sports News, Waltrip writes, “[Kyle Busch] is evolving as a driver, and the fans are smart enough to realize they are witnessing a really spectacular driver who only comes around in our sport every so often.”

However, now at 28, Busch’s reputation has moved away from being a great driver, and instead, gravitated towards being a villain out on the track. Many fans and other drivers have found him to be cocky and arrogant, attributes that usually strike people with early success (just ask teen sensations like Justin Bieber).  It has gotten so bad that articles like 18 Reasons to Hate Kyle Busch appear across the internet condemning him.

Of course, Busch’s reputation and growth is not unfamiliar to the sport’s world. Just take a look at LeBron James. Before James ever won an NBA championship, he was viewed as a cocky, overhyped teenage prodigy, as well. Every day, people spent hours chopping him down and rooting against his team. It was the cool thing to do.

buschBut that doesn’t mean that people really wanted James or Busch to be expelled from the sport. ESPN’s NASCAR analyst, Ed Hinton, has smartly noted, “Nowadays, NASCAR needs Kyle Busch. You need Kyle Busch. I mean, what would you do with yourself if you didn’t have Kyle Busch to hate? Keep waiting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win a championship? Keep complaining that Jimmie Johnson is vanilla?”

In every sport, there is a need for somebody to play that villain role. As much as people like to root for a team or player, they have an equal- if not greater- need to hate somebody else. That is why the Miami Heat are great for basketball, and why the New England Patriots help football. You can always count on them to be there in the end, and you can always count on hating them. Busch is the man to filling this role in the NASCAR world. It’s just the price for early success and being great, the price for being Kyle Busch.

The Pick-up Trucks Late Evolution in Fuel Efficiency

2014 Ram 1500Yesterday, the 2014 diesel-powered Ram 1500 pickup was given the top rating in fuel efficiency for any pickup in the United States. It registered an astonishing 28 miles per gallon! The Ram 1500 was just one of the many stories that have come out in the past month concerning the improving fuel efficiency of pick-up trucks. In fact, it was just a few weeks ago that the new Ford truck was reportedly shedding an unbelievable 700 pounds, which would increase speed, power, and efficiency. It’s fair to say that this year has been monumental in the history of fuel efficient trucks. But, I wish it had come a little earlier.

Growing up, my father was a carpenter that ran his own crew that ranged anywhere from four to five men. In the sweltering Florida sun, my Dad and his crew worked from 7 AM to 4 PM, losing five to ten pounds in sweat per day. Working in those conditions, their skin became leathery and their hands were calloused half an inch high. Their joints ached, and their elbows popped with pain from swinging a hammer all day. But he never complained, and he never missed a day of work. Most importantly to my Dad, there was always dinner on the table at home.

In order for my father to make his small business work, he needed a company on wheels. That’s just how the construction game worked. So, he went out and bought himself a trailer, and he packed it with all of his work tools: saws, nail guns, generators…everything a carpenter could imagine. Of course, he also needed a big, powerful Ford truck to haul this trailer around. Establishing all of the essential elements to a small business, my father thrived, and times were good.

My Dad owned a 1998 Ford F-150

My Dad owned a 1998 Ford F-150

In the late 90s and early 2000s, there wasn’t a complaint that could be heard. The housing industry was strong. And on a day-to-day basis, he didn’t have to spend exorbitant amounts of money on gas (Man, I miss those 99 cent per gallon days!). My Dad was paying the typical dues, while making money and plowing forward.

But as the years went on, the housing market crashed, and adding insult to injury, the gas prices spiked to $4 per gallon. Soon, my Dad realized that this lifestyle, this job, was now a dead end. Our family would struggle to make ends meet for the next five years. We moved into a smaller 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house. My brother and I would rotate between using the living room as a bedroom and the couch as a bed.

gasFor a while, 3 or 4 years I think, my Dad continued on as a carpenter, picking up side jobs here and there. He’d place a slider for a little old lady, or he’d build an entertainment center. It didn’t matter; he would take any work. But the money wasn’t enough to keep his “business on wheels” going. Gas prices were costing too much to drive 30 miles away, and his truck was too big and swallowed up too much gas. He was losing a couple of hours’ worth of pay each day. Eventually, he decided that it wasn’t worth it. He sold his truck and put his business, twenty-five years of his life, to the side.

Fortunately, my Dad had the guts to go back to school, get a degree, and start a new career. He now teaches a high school history class. But part of me wonders what it would have been like if things were a little easier, if the housing industry didn’t plummet, and if it didn’t cost so much to have a “business on wheels.”

Will the Transition Into Autonomous Cars Be Too Fast?

Courtesy of carlsagan.com

Courtesy of carlsagan.com

American author and astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, once said, “You have to know the past to understand the present.” So, as we thrust forward into a science fiction like world of autonomous cars and emission free vehicles, it’s time to take a look back at one of the earliest and most influential vehicle types: the Model T Ford. Historically, the Model T will be remembered in both positive and negative lights, but its impact on the world and today’s automotive scene can never be doubted.

From 1908 to 1927, the Model T dominated the American streets, comprising as much as 40 percent of the cars on the road at one point. Popularly referred to at the time as “Tin Lizzie” and “flivver”, the Model T was made affordable to the common man with an asking price of just $300 in 1925. Of course, most people realize that this was made possible by Henry Ford’s development of the cheap assembly line work style, which went down as Ford’s most recognized innovation. However, it wasn’t the only innovation brought about by the Model T Ford. Some others include:

  • Being the first company to use left hand drive, which is still popular here in America. Across the pond, however, they do like their steering wheel to be on the right side of the vehicle.
  • Being the first to have a separate head and block. In a recent article from Popular Mechanics, author Lindsay Brooke says, “The Model T’s engine pioneered the use of a removable cylinder head, and cylinders that were cast integrally with the engine block. Both are mainstays of modern auto engines.”
Courtesy of Time magazine

Courtesy of Time magazine

But with the innovation and progress brought about by the Model T, many historians and critics like to point out the often forgotten negatives. In a recent Time magazine article entitled “The 50 Worst Cars of All-Time,” the 1909 Ford Model T actually came in as the 2nd worst car ever! Some of this had to do with a poorly put together product, but the main complaint with this Model T is that it was given to too many people too soon.

According to the article, “The Model T- whose mass production technique was the work of engineer William C. Klann, who had visited a slaughterhouse’s ‘disassembly line’- conferred to Americans the notion of automobility as something akin to natural law, a right endowed by our Creator. A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers’ boots.”

For current automakers, there is a lot to learn from the successes and failures of the Model T. Over the next few decades, automakers will be attempting to transform the roads into one that is dominated with autonomous cars. According to a recent IHS report, “In all, there should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in global use by 2035.” By 2050, it is expected that nearly all cars will have some sort of self-driving component. Fortunately, it seems that many environmental issues have been shored up and that there are a lot of positives going on. But will automakers lead us into potential, unforeseen dangers (as seen with the Model T) by forcing change at too fast a rate? Hopefully, the answer is no because we have already learned from the past and are moving forward in a progressive way. Only time will tell.