Archive for the ‘Rants…’ Category

Tesla passes on the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

December 4, 2015 Leave a comment

TeslaI really admire the Tesla car company and concept. Build an electric, high performance car with real world usability and normal (to me) design. No weird/comical, bulbous/door-wedge shaped eggs, but strong cutting edge design that looks great, and with a range that someone who doesn’t live within walking distance of everything can use.

Elon Musk also seems to be an incredibly smart, driven guy with a strong sense of the way things should be and stands up to those who think otherwise. Which brings me to the tie in with the title…

From today’s Detroit Free Press: “Tesla currently sees little need to drum up business in Michigan, a state that forbids direct vehicle sales under franchise laws that require sales to go through a dealership. Tesla officials continue to lobby for the right to sell and deliver vehicles directly to customers.”

For the record, I fully support the fight that Tesla is going through to be able to sell cars directly to consumers and love that they’re standing up to states that have these indefensible ‘dealer only’ laws on the books.  I can’t think of any other commodity that a consumer isn’t allowed to buy directly from the manufacturer than motor vehicles.

From the state’s (IE. the auto dealer association lobby’s) perspective, having to use a dealer supposedly helps the consumer protect their purchase through having an advocate who can fight for them with the manufacturer in case anything goes wrong, and is specially trained to repair their brand of vehicle. But what I think it really does is unfairly protect a slow to adapt, outdated business model at the expense of consumers. What other product can you not buy on the internet? Sure, there are more progressive auto dealers out there using the latest technologies, but even they are hand-cuffed by the franchise laws that are there to ‘protect’ them.

State and Federal laws, and the laws of economics, protect consumers from bad manufacturers: If a company sells you something and it fails to deliver on its quality or warranty, they get in legal trouble and word gets out about how awful they or their products are. Bad performance has a way of weeding out bad companies.

In my opinion, dealer franchise laws simply exist to protect dealers from having to truly compete for their sales. Their territories are protected from other dealers selling the same brand, so they don’t have to worry about competitors popping up next door with better service, pricing, whatever, and even internet leads are given to them due to location of their dealership in relation to the customer, not the customers preference or dealer pricing or reputation.

If auto manufacturers were really interested in protecting consumers and improving the businesses in the state, they would make them have to compete for our business.

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Detroit shoots itself in the foot. Again.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of the city and love spending time in the ‘D’. I try to get my fellow suburbanites down to the city whenever I can, whether for sports, concerts, or dinner, I’m always pushing for Detroit. I want the city to succeed as much as anyone, but it seems like the city can’t stop shooting itself in the foot…

BMW in town for the North American International Auto Show stolen

Among all of the great news coming out of this year’s Auto Show, the one that seemed to get the most traction on Twitter was that one of the BMW’s used by executives in town for the show was stolen. My employer asked me to keep an eye on what was being said about this since, um, we had a vested interest in the theft and recovery. It seems like every single auto blogger and news outlet in the world carried the news. How many other non-celebrity owned car thefts in Detroit are reported in the Huffington Post? Or the Vancouver Sun?!? It’s not like this was the only BMW ever stolen, but it sure sounded like it. And our own local media was more than happy to keep throwing gas on the fire.

The national, and apparently international news media is more than happy to continue showing what a terrible, violent, and unsafe place Detroit is. But that’s not the reality. In the 12 years since I started working downtown, the city has made huge improvements with more on the way. There are more great bars and restaurants downtown than I can name and according to several reports, crime in downtown Detroit is lower than the national and Michigan average.

Ultimately, we’re responsible for the impression people from around the world have of our city.  Along with the work of many Detroit bloggers and the ever increasing number of groups engaged in making the city better, is for our own local news outlets to highlight the good happening in the city, not con

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A recent visit to the doctor’s office…

April 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the office of my daughter’s doctor for her annual sports physical.  The office opened at 9:00, and we were scheduled for 9:20.  We arrived about 9:15 and were greeted with the usual ‘Have there been any changes in your insurance?’ question.  I then began filling out the obligatory paperwork, which I seem to fill out every time we visit.  Every time.  We sat patiently in the waiting room and were called back at about 9:45 for the standard triage, weight, blood pressure, height, etc.  The doctor came in promptly at 10:10, and after looking at my daughters ears, throat, listening to her heart, and a few general questions about how she feels, and after paying a copay we were on our way by. 10:45.  Another great visit…

Except that it wasn’t great.  It was yet another customer service nightmare by most other industry standards.  Why is it that we weren’t greeted with a friendly hello, how can I help you?  Why did I have to fill out the same reams of  paperwork I’ve filled out several times before?  Why weren’t we called in when scheduled?  Why weren’t we told they were running behind?  How can they be 25 minutes behind 20 minutes after opening?  Not to mention the fact that they close for an hour during lunch, which fortunately we didn’t run up against today.

Not to get into politics, but there is obviously a lot of debate on the passed National Health Care plan, or as I’ve heard it referred to ‘Obamacare’.  I think it’s supposed to make health care more efficient and accessible to more people.  I have to admit, I don’t know enough about it to really speak out for or against it, but I generally don’t like the government mandating what I have to do.  With that said, given my experience every time I visit a doctor, I think mandating a government solution to our nations health care woes is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too premature.

This ‘industry’ is so amazingly inefficient and completely out of touch with reality that I believe it’s un-fixable in its current form.  What other customer service industry doesn’t greet its customers when they come in?  What other business generates needless paperwork for their customers to fill out, when they already have the information?  What other business expects their customers to wait as a normal course of business, despite appointment times?  What other business closes for lunch?!?  Can you imagine going to Target, or the bank, or anywhere, only to find a sign saying they’ll be back in 45 minutes?  And what other business doesn’t provide you with an itemized bill when you’ve had a service done?  (Aside from the government, of course.  But that’s a different topic entirely…)

In my opinion, the medical industry needs to bring itself out of its arrogant, self-serving haze and enter the modern business era.  Treat customers, insurance carrying or not, like, well, customers.  We’re choosing to spend our insurance money in their office instead of someone else’s, show some appreciation and respect for that!  Make realistic schedules and stick to them.  If you’re running late, apologize and tell your customers when you’ll be able to help them.  Be available for your customers when it’s convenient for them, not you.  And give them a bill detailing the charges for everything that was performed, regardless of what they  ‘paid’!

No solution to fix health care, government mandated or not, will work without the medical industry fixing itself first.

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Metro Detroit Traffic and Lack of Public Transportation

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night, as I spent a typical 80 minutes traveling 39 miles on an ‘Expressway’ around Metro Detroit,  I was again reminded of the blatant, obvious, enraging fact that there is no real public transportation option in the Detroit area.  I know, I’ve heard the theories (some real and some conspiracy), about the local auto manufacturers doing everything in their evil power to keep public transportation out of the area so car sales weren’t lost, but those are anecdotes from a time long past and something needs to be done.

Those of us in Metro Detroit love our cars.  I can’t imagine ever not having one, regardless of public transportation options.  The automobile is too ingrained in our local culture to ever be replaced, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have alternatives for getting around the area.  We shouldn’t have to average 30 miles per hour for 80 minutes on roads with 70 mile per hour speed limits.  We shouldn’t have to wait 5 minutes to make it through a stop light on a 6 lane road at 4pm on a Sunday.   We shouldn’t have to be faced with deciding between a $50 cab fare, jail time, or worse when leaving an establishment early in the morning, perhaps not in the best frame of mind to make that decision.  We should have real, viable alternatives for getting around our highly sprawled Metro area.

Among the many steps Detroit has to take to become a major American city again, one of the most important is to create a great public transportation system.  With all of the no-strings attached cash that’s fallen off the federal government money tree the past couple of years, and the fact that everyone in the United States apparently wants to cut our dependency on foreign oil, I find it hard to believe that no one here asked for money to create a world class public transportation system.  Virtually every other major city in the world has one; it’s one of the main reasons they’re considered  ‘major’ cities.

Having had the opportunity to live and work in a few other large cities in the United States, I’ve been able to experience the relatively low cost, high value alternative of using a good public transportation system.  The model I would advocate for Detroit is similar to the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, or BART system in the San Francisco Bay area.  On BART trains, you can get from San Francisco to Oakland to Richmond to Pleasanton; all of the major urban and suburban cities in the area.  It’s a combination of subway and elevated trains, depending on existing obstructions  geography.  The trains run under the bay and over the freeways, through and around the cities.

Imagine being able to take a train from Clarkston to the airport, Detroit to shopping in Troy, Flint to Warren, Royal Oak to Ann Arbor; The possibilities are endless!  By running the trains down the center of our existing freeways, with stations at the freeway hubs (75/696, 275/96, 23/94, etc.), and at 2, 3, 4 miles intervals in-between, there wouldn’t much disruption to existing buildings, homes, etc., and the state owns the freeways so the cost would be much lower to acquire needed land.  Need to get to the airport?  Get on a train in Brighton, transfer at the 23/94 station, and be at the airport station in plenty of time for your flight.  Flying in for business?  Get on the train at the airport, transfer at the 94/75 station and be at your meeting in Auburn Hills in record time. No traffic delays! No airport parking fees! No rental car fees!  Woohoo!

The economic impact would be felt almost immediately through employing people to construct and run the system, and long term through increased business presence in the area. I’m not an engineer or a politician, so maybe I’m over simplifying the whole thing. But in order for Detroit and Michigan to dramatically improve our economy long term, draw businesses back to the state, and to overcome the true and false perceptions of the area, we NEED a world class transportation system.  Soon.

This isn't a new problem... Detroit Traffic Jam, 1965 (from

Toyota’s ‘negotiated equipment recall’ with the NHTSA

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Maybe I’m missing something, but all of the press on this issue seems to be on Toyota’s recall avoidance negotiations to save $100m, and none on the government agency that it negotiated with.  Not that Toyota should be held blameless of course, but the US government had a lot more to do with this than anyone seems to be giving them credit, er, blame for. 

The linked article below from the Detroit News discusses an internal presentation Toyota officials gave last year, where they boasted of savings they got by avoiding a recall on accelerator problems by negotiating a ‘equipment recall’ on floor mats instead.  So you can negotiate your way out of safety recalls with the government?!?   Isn’t this agency’s very existence based on the premise that they are protecting us from this sort of stuff?!?  The article also points to evidence that State Farm Insurance notified the government of a spike in unintended Toyota acceleration complaints back in 2004, but nothing was done then either.  In my opinion, officials from NHTSA should be sitting right next to the Toyota executives during the upcoming congressional grilling…

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Toyota’s ‘cover-up’ and related issues…

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

A lot of press has been given to recent revelations that Mighty, Infallible, Toyota may have covered-up, or in their words, ‘responded too slowly’ to reports of unintended acceleration and possible deaths attributed to their cars, to improve their profits (Gasp!!).  In my opinion, this inevitability has been a long time coming.

I don’t deny that Toyota has a well deserved reputation for quality, forged when US cars were pieces of junk, comparatively speaking.  Most of the stories I’ve heard about why Japanese cars are better sound like this: My dad had a 1982 Chevy and it was always in the shop; My friend had a 78 Ford in college and it never ran; My first car was a 3 owner 87 Dodge and it used oil.  I rarely hear anyone say they had a late-model domestic car that they’ve had many problems with.  In short, Toyota and the others have been given a pass on quality for years based on an outdated truth.

For years, American cars have been just as good and sometimes better than Japanese cars, but they are held to a completely different and more stringent standard.  When I was with GM, I had the opportunity to work with many dealers who owned both GM and Japanese franchises.  I was told several stories of recent GM purchasers returning to the dealership with ‘quality’ issues like body panel gaps being a millimeter different from the front of the hood to the back, or 1/2″ threads on the seats not being trimmed at the plant, headlights that come on all the time (daytime running lights), and windows that go down all the way by themselves (express down function).  Japanese car owners on the other hand, would bring their cars in for oil changes and express utter shock when they were told there were severe issues with suspension, brakes, and motors.  These owners assumed that since their Japanese car was of such high quality, the clunks and creaks they heard were personality quirks of their fine automobiles, not problems.  (I would also argue that Consumer Reports, with it’s perpetual claim of being non-biased, and the NHTSA have a lot of explaining to do, but I digress…)

Toyota’s issues point out in glaring detail that perception is not in fact reality.  It’s time that Americans, and the world, judge all automakers on the same scale.  I think most would be surprised to know the truth.,2933,587221,00.html

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It’s been a long time…

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Well after a well deserved, and perhaps too long a break during the holidays, I have a few things I’ve been thinking about…

The first will be categorized as a random ‘rant’: Why is it that pretty much right after Halloween we start seeing Christmas items in stores, decorations on homes and businesses, and music on the radio, but a week after Christmas all of this stuff is gone, like the holiday never existed?  Like a holiday destroying bomb has gone off, removing every clue that anything ever happened.  Or maybe more like teenagers cleaning up after a party before their parents get home.  OK, I admit I do get a little sick of the 24/7 bombardment leading up to Christmas, but I do like the lights and decorations everywhere and honestly, some of the music isn’t ‘Christmas music’, it’s winter music.  Like Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, Baby it’s Cold Outside, etc.  These and many other songs have nothing to do with Christmas.  Why does everyone feel the need to quit winter cold turkey (no pun intended) as soon as New Years Day hits?

Living in Michigan where the winter days are cold and colorless, I like the way the festive lights and decorations brighten up the scenery.  I like the way neighborhoods come together to decorate common areas and show pride in their homes and communities.  I like the way people have more get together’s with family and friends scheduled than they can possibly attend.  Why does this have to go away so fast?  Are people just simply sick of it by then, or is it that the sense of ‘community’ is just a show?  I admit, I take my lights down when everyone else does and I stop playing the music, but I think this is probably more peer pressure than anything.  And I don’t put as much effort into seeing family as I do in December (which is a different story, but I digress…).  But wouldn’t it be great to continue this sense of pride, community and family all year?  ‘Cause after all baby, it’s still cold outside…

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