The roofline looks clean and formal. It seems to take after the stylish new Kia Optima. The Kia still looks better.
Monthly Archives: July 2011
Recent news stories from the last few weeks have observed a rise in corporate profits and a corresponding (or non-corresponding) lack of improvement in reported unemployment rates.
Naturally, some have expressed concern that large corporations are hoarding profits instead of spending, expanding, and hiring new workers, accusing business leaders of greed and cash hoarding. Unfortunately, this topic comes with unnecessary political baggage and finger-pointing, with so-called liberals and conservatives blaming each other for our current state of affairs.
I tend to avoid direct political references on this blog because major party- and popular ideology-oriented discussions cause otherwise rational people to retreat to shallow talking points and noisemaking. It’s like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. The result is paranoia, panic, and screaming.
A recession’s purpose is to eliminate inefficiencies created during times of prosperity, which unfortunately means that not all jobs lost since 2008 will return as not all them were necessary (thus, inefficiencies), thus the need for personal flexibility, mobility, and retraining in a market economy.
The reality of the situation is much simpler, less emotional, and far less political.
Economic recoveries happen in stages:
1. A recession causes lower revenues and greater losses, so non-essential workers are laid off as non-essential business units are closed or sold. Layoffs are followed by profits due to greater efficiencies and a stronger focus on core products and services.
2. Profits are paralleled by growth and increased productivity which leads to…
3. …reexpansion and hiring.
This quarter (Summer 2011), we are on the tail end of step 2. Until owners of capital resources feel confident in the economy’s ability to sustain a predictable level of growth, step 3 will be delayed.
The brief gap between step 2 and step 3 is often interpreted by the layperson as corporate greed: “Why aren’t you hiring if you’re so profitable?”
I empathize with the millions of unemployed eagerly waiting to rejoin the workforce, but the accusation is a bit misguided. This is not to suggest that “greed” [for this discussion, lets accept the popular negative connotation of the word] is entirely absent from decision-making processes, however, it is not the core motivator behind top-level managerial decisions.
Before making the choice to expand and grow, a large organization’s shareholders and managers must feel confident that taking a risk will result in sustainable growth. This means that the macroeconomic outlook must be reasonably stable and predictable otherwise the business will be needlessly vulnerable. The consequences are costly — revenue losses immediately followed by additional layoffs.
In other words, forward-thinking corporations are generally motivated to hire and expand. Capital resources, especially labor, are necessary to increase market share and develop new products and services. Unfortunately, until the waves caused by this recent recession settle, expansion is on hold. Our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has created an unstable geopolitical environment which has cast a cloud of uncertainty over a significant portion of the global economy. Additionally, massive government spending, rising fixed and variable costs, high energy costs, and aggressive global competition have contributed to slower levels of expansion.
Despite these uncertainties, industries that often serve as indicators of economic health, especially the auto industry, have demonstrated recent growth. Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors as well as the North American arms of Honda, Toyota, Daimler AG, BMW, Hyundai/Kia, and Nissan have been on a hiring spree, recruiting new graduates as well as longtime professionals who were laid off by the now-smaller Detroit Big Three.
Reduced employment capacity in Michigan has shifted labor demand to the Southeastern United States. Foreign automakers have opened new plants and corporate offices in that region to avoid high labor costs and expand US market share.
Although part of the industry’s explosive sales growth is due to pent-up demand caused by 2009’s “Autopocalypse” [aptly coined by Jalopnik], the automotive sector should be sustained by stronger competition, new technologies, and the public’s desire to transition to more efficient vehicles.
The recession officially ended in the summer of 2009, but after two years the global economy has failed to return to pre-recession levels of growth. Frustration is expected, but we should avoid using our emotions to draw irrational conclusions about the macroeconomic environment.
There are indeed real villains who have contributed heavily to this recession. Unethical greed backed by government-supported growth bubbles have had a severely negative impact on economic stability. But the recovery, while slow, is indeed progressing. Focus on yourself professionally to be better-prepared for an economic upturn.
Good times are ahead. Have a chocolate milk.
On Facebook and Twitter, I made an offer to send a crappy prize to a reader that sent an interesting travel and/or car photo. Kathleen from Chicago submitted this picture of her 2000 Beetle GLS parked at Sequoia National Park in California.
Here’s the story behind the picture in her own words:
Here’s my travel photo submission:
I bought my first brand new car in November 1999… a 2000 Beetle GLS. A month later I was offered a short term assignment to work in Prague. After that I went to NYC for 18 months, and then London for 2 years. I returned to Chicago in April 2004, where my Beetle had been lovingly stored and cared for by my father for 4 years. She had less than 10,000 miles on the odometer.
After I was laid off a month later, I took off on a 2 month road trip where I visited numerous national parks and saw a baseball game in every major league ballpark west of the Mississippi River.
I drove 9,775.2 miles, used 358.889 gallons of gas, got 27.24 MPG, and paid an average $2.02 per gallon (I have a spreadsheet detailing every fill-up). This is a picture of Beetle in Sequoia National Park in CA. I held up traffic to take it, but one guy called out “that’s gonna be a cool picture”.
I am attaching details of the infamous summer of 2004 baseball trip in the Beetle. I have not looked at this file since late 2004, and it is really scary how meticulous I was with tracking this trip. I guess when you are an unemployed accountant, you must have some outlet.
My Audi (2009 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0 T quattro Tiptronic) became my everyday vehicle upon its purchase in November 2008. I kept the Beetle (yes, I was a 2 car single woman) until June 2010. I figured it was a second car for anyone who needed it (my nephew JD drove it once in a while). I kept it at my parents’ and the insurance was only $215/6 months. I sold the car to my brother John for my niece Julie to drive in June 2010. She still drives it.
I asked Kathleen’s niece Julie, who recently adopted the Beetle, how the car was doing:
Current mileage is 71,607 (and about to get a lot more!). I like the car. It’s worked very well getting me place to place (as cars should do), but it can be a pain to maintain. There always seems to be something wrong, and sometimes fixing it myself can be a hassle. Take for instance the air filter, I needed to change it, but everything is so crammed together under the hood that it took a half hour just to get the cover off. But my favorite thing about the Beetle is making middle school kids punch each other when I drive by.
Indeed, many Volkswagens of that vintage can be maintenance-intensive with design quirks that sometimes complicate basic repairs. For example, headlight bulb replacement is unusually challenging, requiring extra steps involving the removal of brackets and covers. Some Beetle owners leave this job to their Volkswagen dealer.
Some of the difficulty is due to the New Beetle’s classic round shape draped over the mechanicals of the fourth-generation Volkswagen Golf. While the box-shaped Golf was a natural fit for a front-drive, front-engined architecture, the hemispherically-inspired New Beetle took after the appearance of the rear-engined 1938 Type 1, making the fitment of components a bit unusual.
Its a bit like wearing your pants backwards. Works fine once you put them on, but getting in and out is a challenge.
That aside, the New Beetle looks sharp and drove well, racking up nearly 900,000 worldwide sales by the end of 2005, an impressive feat for a car with limited interior volume for its class. Fortunately, the rear seats fold flat to expand cargo space, making it possible for two people to load up their luggage and go on a trip.
The car’s iconic shape appealed mostly to single young women and empty nesters — a rolling tribute to youth and independence.
And although fuel costs were quite low in the late 1990s, Volkswagen offered a diesel TDI version capable of 48 MPG, and turbo gasoline models were capable running from zero to sixty in less than 7.5 seconds.
Owners frequently praise the New Beetle’s long-distance seating comfort, which brings us back to Kathleen’s road trip.
An accountant by profession, Kathleen submitted an exceptionally detailed travel log documenting every mile, every day, every location, every baseball game, every gallon of gas, and every dollar spent.
Download the Travel Log (Excel Spreadsheet)
9,770 miles were covered in two months
Fuel costs totaled $724.60
Average fuel price was $2.02 (2004)
Hotel costs totaled $3619.88 for 39 nights (see spreadsheet)
The level of accuracy and the quantity of data is impressive.
In return for submitting this exceptionally well-documented story and photo, Kathleen will be receiving a brand new Audi R8:
Audi R8 Features and Specifications:
Five-spoke plastichrome wheels
Red metallic paint
Manufactured in Thailand
Curb Weight: Around 40 grams
In addition, she will receive a copy of Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too on DVD, because Michael J. Fox is awesome and Jason Bateman is pretty darn good.
Watch the episode here:
Not bad! [And far from great.]
The dialogue was a bit dry but by the end of the episode, the foursome developed some chemistry and character distinction.
Dan Neil is the snob with brains.
Matt Farah is the gearhead critic.
Adam Carolla brings comic relief and mechanical know-how.
John Salley, a Corolla owner who thinks leather seats should be banned, represents the average American motorist.
Matt Farah’s commentary on the Porsche 911 GT3 was summed up by a single, moronic declaration: “It feels like driving a RACE CAR!”
Come on, really? What else did we think it was going to feel like? A Buick Lesabre?
The foursome participated in the 24 hours of Lemons with a 1994 Nissan 300ZX 2+2, fizzling out early when the car caught fire. They demonstrated a grasp of physical comedy but the scene was ruined by bland, lifeless background music that apparently came from a collection of royalty-free, computer-generated hard rock. It may as well have been porno music.
They quizzed Dan Neil and two audience members using a game show format. The trivia questions were interesting but the segment was a bust.
The interview with Nascar driver Jimmy Johnson was unexpectedly well-paced and engaging.
Dan Neil has grown on me — his pompous attitude reminds me of Automobile Magazine writer Jamie Kitman, known for his quality writing and obnoxious liberal views. I cringe when Kitman opines, but I admire his writing. Likewise, Dan comes across as smug, but he presents well on television.
Adam Carolla’s inappropriate comments work well with Dan Neil’s suit-and-tie professionalism, as demonstrated by the drive along Pebble Beach with Neil piloting a Rolls Royce Ghost and Carolla in the back eating fast food. The dialogue needed some work, but the sentiment of comedy was there.
The segment at the end about meter maids was too short to be interesting and too long to be funny.
I see more potential for growth and improvement on this show than I do for Top Gear USA. The hosts (well, perhaps just Neil and Carolla) are confident about their roles and the perspectives they represent, and both of them are walking tomes of automotive knowledge. The background music, however, is unfortunate, and the cinematography needs refinement.
I will continue watching.
Fast Tube by Casper
Disappointed with Top Gear USA? There’s hope.
With four hosts, The Car Show is approaching the size of a boy band:
Adam Carolla, with a reputation for dry delivery and sharp wit
The Wall Street Journal’s car columnist Dan Neil
Detroit Pistons star John Salley
Matt Farah of TheSmokingTire.com.
We know Carolla from his podcasts, his love for classic Datsuns, The Man Show, and years as co-host of Loveline.
Dan Neil has a reputation for being a bit edgy (as far as newspaper writers go), once describing a back seat sexual encounter in a review of the 1996 Ford Expedition and the children who later boarded the vehicle and noticed of the foot prints on the glass. This resulted in his termination from News and Observer.
The preview looks edgy, witty, and sharp, like Top Gear UK with American bravado. The first episode airs on Speed TV at 10pm tonight (13 July 2011). Check your cable listings.
Fast Tube by Casper
She’s owned two G500s, one white and the latest one black. The G-class or “Gelandewagen” has been in production since 1979 with its current generation dating all the way back to 1990.
Step into a modern day G-class and you’ll find a classic Mercedes-Benz interior with a handful of modernizations like LCD displays, a revised steering wheel, silver-ringed gauges, and softer climate control knobs.
The dashboard is short with little distance between the steering wheel and the firewall, offering a commanding view of the road and both corners of the hood.
Exports of the G-class to the United States were going to end until the US Marine Corps ordered 157 units to be used as “Interim Fast Attack Vehicles.”
As for Megan Fox, it is unlikely that she will have the 30-year staying power of the world-class G-wagen. By then, Fox will be fifty five years old, and her recent fallout with director Michael Bay resulted in her absence from Transformers 3. Her film career may be fading before she even has a chance to outgrow it.
The G-class, on the other hand, has endured three decades of reliable international service. With automobiles and especially trucks, a good long-lasting design becomes iconic. A badly executed, lingering design, on the other hand, becomes the butt of jokes. The G-class is clearly among the former.
5.5L DOHC 382hp V8 (500hp for AMG version)
Curb weight: 5622 lbs
Fuel economy: 11/15 mpg
You came here for pictures of Megan Fox, so here they are:
Nissan’s homely Murano CrossCabriolet was such a joke among enthusiasts that Car and Driver wrote its review as a Greek tragedy. Becky from NICO Club gives it a more down to earth overview, taking it for a thorough test drive.
“Most of the time, I’m pretty excited to be one of the first members to get to drive one; this time, not so much. When the first pictures of the Cabriolet surfaced, I honestly thought it was a joke. I thought someone was just playing around on Photoshop with a picture of a Murano. When I found out it was real, I immediately went on the defensive. “Do I really have to drive that thing? Can I wear a disguise?” Yeah, OK, that is a bit dramatic but I honestly didn’t want to drive it at all. It is not my style and probably not the style of most of the members on NICO. However, I knew that it was not up to me to decide what other people like and don’t like.”
Book Review: The Wal-Mart Effect
My interest in Wal-Mart is primarily as a traveler, and as someone with a degree in business and an interest in economics, I’m fascinated by the company’s discipline, determination, and strict unwavering adherence to its operating principles.
Our family did quite a bit of cross-country touring in the 80s and 90s, and as a kid I had the privilege of seeing Florida, California, the Carolinas, Texas, Utah, Arizona, Branson, the Pacific Northwest, New York City, Washington DC, the Dakotas, and one visit to Thailand. We weren’t wealthy and for most of my youth I remember living below middle class standards, but we functioned well within our means and had enough set aside for sightseeing. Much of that travel was, unfortunately, in a crude and gutless Nissan Sentra (which years later became my first car).
If we were on the road in a remote part of the country or traveling late at night, fresh food and basic services were difficult to come by. Road trippers were relegated to a selection of soda, chips, and snack cakes at gas stations (assuming they were open late). And in some regions, like the Rockies and Great Plains, gas stations were sparse with unnervingly long distances between fill-ups.
By 2000, at the age of eighteen, I noticed a change in America’s landscape as I began taking long-distance journeys on my own. The remoteness and sparseness that defined interstate travel west of the Mississippi River was quietly replaced by standardized familiarity.
Wal-Mart spread itself wide, extending its reach far beyond the midwest to Mexico and Canada in the 1990s and Germany, China, Great Britain, and Japan in the 2000s. It was possible to tour the continent (and some of the world) and encounter a Wal-Mart Supercenter with “always low” prices in almost every city. If you needed something, anything at all, Wal-Mart was there.
Large blue and white fluorescent Wal-Mart signs visible from the highway drew the hungry and weary to an oasis of consumer decadence. Rather than navigating through a town’s main square where stores typically closed at 6pm and products came with a premium price, a traveler could stay close to the interstate and stop in for motor oil, extra clothing, a decent sandwich, fresh fruit, power connectors, computer parts, CDs, tires, tire plugs, gas caps, oil caps, gasoline, and anything else a traveler could ever need, all within 100,000 square feet.
If you needed automotive basics, you no longer had to stay in town overnight and wait for ‘Joe’s Parts Depot’ to open at 7am to replace your dead headlight bulbs or the gas cap you left behind several miles ago, and you weren’t stuck with the frozen hot pockets at the gas station for your evening meal. Whatever you needed, unless it was particularly exotic, Wal-Mart probably had it. There was no need to settle for limited selection, unpredictable quality, unknown brands, or high prices. With Wal-Mart Supercenters on the road, I had direct access to the same array of goods as I did at home.
So, what’s a Supercenter?
Wal-Mart Supercenters are defined by their massive floor space, usually 80,000 to 120,000 square feet, generous operating hours, usually 24/7, and combination of full-line groceries and consumer goods. Almost everything you could find on the shelf in Chicago or St Louis was readily available in Denver, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Tampa, Miami, or Seattle. Like the McDonald’s Big Mac, Wal-Mart had standardized and nationalized shopping. Differences are found in international regions like China, where Wal-Mart sells locally-desired fresh meats like turtle. [I like turtles.]
For me, its retail heaven. To skeptics, its a corporate monster unaware of its brutal impact, sending manufacturing jobs overseas, reducing consumer expectations for quality, killing capitalism, and homogenizing American culture.
Charles Fishman, a business writer for Fast Company magazine, began working on The Wal-Mart Effect in 2004 and published his findings in 2006, just as Wal-Mart ramped up its openings of massive 24-hour supercenters across the globe. Sam Walton had been dead since 1992.
“The Wal-Mart Effect,” abbreviated as TWME from here onward, begins with the good news first, documenting the way Wal-Mart turned Makin’ Bacon, a plastic microwaveable tray developed by one man and his eight year old daughter, into a major success story for an American entrepreneur. Makin’ Bacon was previously sold through mail-in labels on Armour bacon packages but Mr. Fleck, the designer and patent holder, convinced Wal-Mart in 1996 to carry the product in all of its stores.
Fleck, a one-man basement operation, has the same direct access to Wal-Mart’s computerized ordering system as Proctor and Gamble, and has the ability to fulfill orders at a moment’s notice. Fleck investigated Chinese manufacturing but found the quality to be inconsistent with long lead times for slow container shipments. Producing his product in Wisconsin, he says, allows him to respond quickly to changes in demand and keep the quality consistent.
To this day, the price of the Makin Bacon at $6.97 has not changed. Wal-Mart typically asks its suppliers for price concessions every year, but Fleck has been inexplicably immune. The book does hint at Wal-Mart’s tendency to prefer American-made goods, but if offshore manufacturing produce it for less with similar (though often inferior) quality, Wal-Mart may encourage suppliers to move their operations overseas to reduce costs.
Not all supplier relationships with Wal-Mart were as easygoing.
Fishman investigates Snapper, a company that builds premium lawn mowers and outdoor equipment, and their decision to pull out of Wal-Mart to protect its brand identity and create value for its customers. Wal-Mart sells mowers from $99 to $200 and asked Snapper to create a line of lower-end mowers for the store. Snapper, which prices its mowers at $299 and up (way up), decided to remove its products from Wal-Mart completely, bolstering its independent dealers (which still made up 80% of Snapper’s business) and maintaining production in the United States.
Snapper’s CEO drove directly to Bentonville, met personally with Wal-Mart, and explained why his company was removing its products.
The book touches briefly on Sam Walton’s philosophy, with his emphasis on humility and efficiency for the good of the customer, and his encouragement for and inspiration of Wal-Mart’s thousands of employees, traveling to every store and remembering as many faces as he could by name. There was no disconnect between the CEO and the front line in Walton’s Wal-Mart.
As a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Sam Walton was an icon of entrepreneurial America, an example of how freedom and determination enabled a man from Missouri to become the wealthiest man in the world. Fishman notes a change in Wal-Mart’s character after Walton’s death in 1992, from one of American pride and openness to one of secretive, close-doored intensity.
Fishman goes on to explain how Wal-Mart plays a major role in controlling the rate of inflation (CPI) and in keeping living costs down for American families despite rapidly rising costs of energy, food, and housing.
Wal-Mart is, as described by Fishman, an advocate of the consumer, pushing for lower prices no matter what. It begins with Wal-Mart’s streamlined shipping and warehousing, all done in-house with the largest privately-owned truck fleet in America.
It follows with Wal-Mart’s intimate relationships with its suppliers, asking over and over where price concessions, efficiencies, and cost reductions could be found, sometimes reaching deep into the production process, asking firms to use cheaper overseas manufacturing.
It is easy to portray Wal-Mart has a hungry, faceless beast, devouring America’s manufacturing sector as it feeds its greed and addictive growth. However, unlike oil barons and railroad barons from a century ago, Wal-Mart continues to run a remarkably lean operation.
Shareholders, many of whom are Wal-Mart employees, referred to as “associates,” have done quite well. If you owned a hundred or so shares of WMT in the 80s, you would be a millionaire by the mid 1990s. Employees who believed and invested in Wal-Mart in its early years enjoyed rewarding and highly profitable careers.
But Wal-Mart, unlike oil barons of the distant past, doesn’t use its profits to fund lavish lifestyles, build offices with marble tile, shuttle its people around in limos, or feed its executives with Russian caviar. Instead, its Bentonville headquarters are shockingly spartan.
The company’s home office looks, as Fishman described it, like a call center for a credit card company, lined with small, plain-looking cubicles, walls and ceilings similar to a warehouse or storage unit, and carpeting out of the cheapest, thinnest grade available.
Compare Wal-Mart’s global headquarters above to the building owned and occupied by The New York Times in Manhattan:
I took a macroeconomics class a few years ago where my professor shared a documentary on Wal-Mart’s damaging impact on America. There was video footage of Wal-Mart’s supplier negotiation rooms in Bentonville that looked much like suspect interview rooms on Law and Order, sparsely appointed with uncomfortable furniture. The documentary then suggested that these spartan looking rooms with cheap folding tables and plastic chairs were intentionally designed to “sweat” suppliers into lower prices.
Maybe they have that effect, but that isn’t the intent.
The truth is, most of the cheap furniture used by Wal-Mart’s corporate offices was free, sent as samples from manufacturers and deployed into daily use. Wal-Mart’s adherence to humility and cost-cutting is so strict that it doesn’t even buy its own chairs. The head office hardly has any windows.
And Wal-Mart could have built a sprawling museum dedicated to Sam Walton’s legacy and the company’s history, but it instead uses the original Walton’s Five and Dime store in downtown Bentonville as a diminutive visitor’s center, staffed by two or three people with small exhibits and a tiny gift shop.
Unlike some of America’s large corporations, Wal-Mart doesn’t toot its own horn or use its power to intimidate the commoners. There is, after all, no Wal-Mart Tower stretching into the sky in the center of a large metropolis. There is, however, a Sears Tower, and Sears had to sell it and move to a suburban office park after only twenty years. Sears Roebuck and Co, once a retail powerhouse, was recently forced to merge with K-Mart.
With America’s history of saving and investing, Ben Franklin’s “penny saved is a penny earned” mantra, and the legacy of The Great Depression, spending less has become a virtue. Wal-Mart’s skeleton operations are indeed, by that standard, virtuous and distinctly American.
Sam Walton and his family became tremendously wealthy and combined, the Waltons are among the wealthiest people in the world. Despite becoming the richest man in the world, Sam continued living a quiet life in Arkansas, building a large, comfortable, secluded home for himself and his wife and dogs.
He continued driving this orange 1979 Ford pickup until his death in 1992.
Walton famously said in his autobiography, “Why do I drive a pickup truck? What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls Royce?”
Even Sam Walton’s Arkansas grave, buried in a cemetery on the same block as the company’s headquarters, is plain and undecorated, with a small stone that reads “SAMUEL MOORE.” The epitaph doesn’t say he changed the world, was a great man, was a great leader, or even the founder of Wal-Mart. He was in death as he was in life — humble and dignified.
The company was built on discipline, consistency, and seriously hard work. Even critics are compelled to acknowledge Wal-Mart’s virtues. And TWME’s author, Charles Fishman, concedes that point, and later in his book explains that Wal-Mart isn’t the faceless monster that some make it out to be. Its instead a corporation run by people with a clear mission, attempting to serve its customers above all else, trying to spread Wal-Mart’s low prices around the globe.
It isn’t that Wal-Mart intends any ill will to the public or to factory workers. Its that Wal-Mart is so unaware of itself and its impact that it causes damage without even realizing it, like a tank driving through a crowded city street, knocking over fire hydrants unintentionally.
Fishman asks that in pursuit of always low prices, perhaps Wal-Mart should acknowledge its now massive size and use its tremendous influence on markets and suppliers to save energy, improve working conditions, clean up the environment, and become a better corporate citizen.
In response to criticism, Wal-Mart now has a wide array of organic products from yogurt to baby clothes made with organic cotton, and the company has a hotline operated by a third party that allows workers all over the globe to call in and report violations (the phone number is posted on the wall at any facility that produces goods for Wal-Mart). They currently receive one call per week.
Third party firms, rather than Wal-Mart internal, are now used to check on workplace conditions and environmental standards at its suppliers, similar to the evaluation process used by Whole Foods.
Somewhere between 1992 and 2011, after the passing of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart lost some of its soul, but thanks to vocal critics (some rational and open-minded, some incurably deranged) and shareholders concerned with the company’s image, Wal-Mart is using its power to improve the lives of people around the world.
Unfortunately, toward the end of Fishman’s book, he goes into a bit of a tirade about the need for more laws, more government, and more regulations, despite acknowledging the power of information to create awareness and influence consumer and corporate behavior. Fortunately, the complaining and calls for regulation are brief while the bulk of the book focuses on Wal-Mart’s scale, its impact, and its successes and failures. An additional chapter documents Fishman’s visit to Wal-Mart HQ after the book was published and his meeting with several people including CEO Lee Scott.
Other reviews of TWME seem to suggest that the book is nothing but cheerleading for critics of Wal-Mart. It wasn’t until I flipped through it at Barnes and Noble that I discovered the depth of research and exclusive inside information, valuable to everyone from consumers to WMT shareholders to environmentalists.
A mayor in New Mexico fervently opposed the entry of Wal-Mart into his town after reading a review of “The Wal-Mart Effect,” neglecting to read the book himself. A frustrated woman at Wal-Mart HQ even asked TWME’s author, Charles Fishman, “How do I get [the mayor] to read your book?”
Based on the mayor’s reaction, I assume the review he read described the book as a scathing expose of Wal-Mart’s evildoings, and this leads me to believe that most professional book reviewers do not always read the books they review.
Whether you are a proponent or a critic, you will find something of value in this well-researched and revealing expose.
Paul Horrell of Top Gear Magazine heads to New York to drive the Saab Phoenix concept car and learns that aside from minor changes, this will be the shape of the new 9-3 coupe.
–> “Something real? Huh? A concept with scissor doors and wings like the handles of a shopping bag? “Look, even couture clothes have to fit a real human body. And this car fits a real platform. The crash structure is real, and the drivetrain, and the cooling. The packaging is real. Real people can fit inside.” Indeed they can – it’s quite accommodating in there, and you can even see out. It really does feel driveable.”
–> “Suddenly, as if remembering the rules of some PR script, he back-pedals a little. “It’s not the next 9-3 and I didn’t want this to be Photoshopped onto magazine covers as that.” OK, but a few minutes later, I’m with Saab’s chairman Victor Muller who can’t resist getting out his smartphone and showing me an image of a 9-3 coupe he’s had Castriota design. It’s basically the PhoeniX without the wings and the lower-body layering, and it really does look like a car to give the TT and RCZ pause.”
–> “Anyway, Castriota says the whole nose section of the 9-3 replacement will look just like what’son the PhoeniX. The swept-back wheel-arch modelling too. And since the PhoeniX uses Saab’s new platform, the relationship of wheels to bumper is right, including the shortened but more effective front crash structure, so Saabs won’t look as nose-heavy. “
You can expect the production steering wheel to be round.
–> “Even if you don’t take your car advice from to a load of intoxicated barflies, take it from TopGear. On the strength of this car, new Saabs do deserve to see the light of day.”
Is there hope for the trolls in Trollhattan? Read on for details (its one of those annoying slide show articles):
The Missouri Department of Transportation has lengthened yellow lights at some intersections, resulting in a dramatic reduction in red light camera violations. By allowing more time for intersections to clear, opportunities for collisions are reduced.
In Arnold, Missouri, violations dropped from 709 to 17 by adding 1.5 seconds to the duration of yellow lights. Assuming fines of $100 per violation, ticket revenues decreased from $70,900 to $1,700.