Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Who should bailout the US automakers?

I'll answer that question later...but, first, you can't have it both ways. America is in dire financial straits, something has to be done. One side of the fence wants corporate welfare, the other wants wants everyday worker, consumer welfare. I personally believe we need a little bit of one and a lot of the other. How does a country with a "free market" business environment justify bailing out large, failing corporations? Maybe the failing corporation had a bad business model, or poor executive management. So, does it really make sense to take money from well run, tax paying companies and give it companies on the verge of bankruptcy? Most proponents of this are against social welfare.
Back to the GM/Chrysler financial fiasco....here is what's wrong, keep in mind their bad business model has been bad for long time, it's just been extremely "intensified" with the current state of the economy. I will focus on GM here but most of these facts apply to Chrysler and Ford....

1) GM has way too many dealerships - over 6,300; Toyota, for example, only has about 1,400. In most metropolitan areas dealers are competing against each other. The number of American auto dealers must reduced. GM has their hands tied here as every dealership is protected by every state's franchise law. Basically, unless GM declares bankruptcy (Chapter 11) they cannot terminate a dealership. Some states have recently passed legislation to provide franchisees even more protection. Their other salvation could be that GM's finance division, GMAC, which provides the floor plan for many dealerships, could take over a dealership if they don't pay their bills. You ask, what is a floor plan? It is simply a short term loan for a dealership's inventory. Most dealers don't outright own the vehicles on their lots.....just like most Americans don't outright own their car.

2) Too many product lines - GM has 8 while Toyota has 3....think about the overlap in their corporate structure, ie marketing, R&D, manufacturing.....etc.

3) Bad products - Many Americans have turned to foreign brands that are made better with higher safety ratings and better gas mileage. Toyota and Honda have multiple plants on US soil. Some reports even indicate the source material/parts for these foreign lines sometimes exceed those of the US automakers, in other words, that Chevrolet truck may have more foreign parts than that Toyota Camry you see. For many years consumers tolerated poor quality control on the US branded fleet. This is just an example of setting the "bar" too low. You have to wonder if unions have caused some of this. Although, the premise (and origins) of a labor union was a great idea, they are now part of the problem. Unions must share some of the blame in driving US manufacturing overseas (that's another topic unto itself). It is sad we have gone from being a country heavily involved in manufacturing to one of the world's largest importers of manufactured goods. It feels like our primary product manufactured now is the financial transaction; and, thanks partially to the unregulated collateralized debt obligation (CDO) product our (and the world) economy is in the crapper. Back on topic....

So, who do I think should bailout the US automakers? How about someone with a vested interested; someone who needs/wants to keep large, gas guzzling vehicles on the road...Exxon. These guys made about $40 billion 2006, about $40 billion in 2007 and $45 billion in 2008. Doesn't it just make so much more sense? If the Big 3 are going to given money for their failed business model shouldn't it come from Exxon (or Chevron & Conoco) instead of me and you ? Well, if that doesn't happen the Chapter 11 deal will have to do...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A family Valentine's outing

Dianna and I decided to just get each other cards for Valentine's day and, to visit our favorite Tex-mex restaurant...Mia's Tex-Mex. I blogged about this place before - click here for the review. We got there right at 5pm and beat the holiday dinner rush. The girls sampled the awesome tortilla soup; they ate half of it before the meal arrived and, neither of them particularly enjoy soup, at least "regular" soup. Our brisket taco dinner was outstanding, as usual, the margaritas were fantastic. These frozen concoctions are still the best ever....they were a little light on the tequila.

On the way home I hit the trifecta....let me explain. Earlier on Saturday I mentioned to Dianna that I wanted to stop by REI while we were in Dallas. As we pull into the parking lot I noticed a Guitar Center right next door, how convenient. They had an incredible selection of keyboards. After about 15 minutes of playing around on the keyboards I remembered to get some better drumsticks for our Rock Band game which did absolutely nothing for my drumming skills. Now, on to REI....this store was somewhat of a disappointment. Their website has every outdoor accessory imaginable. At the top of my list was to checkout their winter apparel clearance. They had terrible selection...Dick's Sporting Goods had better and, REI didn't have any skis or snowboards. The girls were very, very bored here...in fact, toward the end of the visit they decided to try some of their MMA moves.....on each other. So, traveling back to the house I knew Fry's was just a quick exit off the freeway on the way back. I mentioned this to Dianna and, in the same sentence gave her the option to wait about 10 minutes in the car while I looked around. Jokingly, I asked the girls if they wanted to go into the store with me. A., who must have felt somewhat guilty about her kickboxing moves on M. earlier, said "I'll go with you, Daddy." I let her off the hook...no need for her to have to punish herself from that guilt. Ten minutes later I arrived back to car empty handy. Anyways....till next time.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

UPDATE - Home Invasion

Well, we left the live trap, baited and ready to go, in our garage for 5 days. The little guy was definitely not in the garage. We even baited the trap with canned cat food the last 3 days; according to this website that is a opossum favorite.
Our garage still doesn't smell so good. I guess it's time to do some spring cleaning and scrub the floor. First, I need to get a storage shed built in our backyard, if I can get our homeowner's association to approve. I think I might try to run for a board position....that way I can try to dissolve to whole thing.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Our "Home Invasion"

Saturday night I was putting trash into the garbage bins in the garage. I actually took the long way around by going out the front door...as I finished entering the code into the key pad to open the garage door I saw a opossum scurry into the garage. For about the last 5 weeks we have noticed the cat food bowls in the garage were just about empty every morning. Everyone originally thought there was a stray cat eating the food. Dianna's brother said he saw what looked like a cat when he was house sitting for us on our trip to New Mexico. Here's a picture of the real culprit:

This is a opossum, not to be confused with a possum.

So, Sunday morning I went to a friends house to get a live trap and some opossum catching advice (stangely, he just had a opossum problem, too). I waited until the SuperBowl was over (Arizona should have won!) because we had friends over for the game and I didn't want to deal with the marsupial during the game. After the game ended I went out into the garage only to find this:

The "home invader" stealing my beer

Beer is expensive these days and I really enjoy my Bud Light so, I attempted to take back my beer. Here's what happened as I approached the furry creature:

The "home invader" growling and showing me his incisors

So, I just decided to share my wonderful bottled brew with the nasty furball. When I finished I picked up the basket he was lounging in and tried to "stuff" him into the live trap. Dumb move....he quickly darted back into our garage. I gave it a tap on the head with a paint roller extension handle. I guess he didn't like that because left walking toward the street. He went straight to a curb gutter where he peered over the edge and decided not to go in. I approached him with the live trap which I had quickly baited with some apples slices topped with caramel sauce. It suddenly decided to jump into the gutter.....I don't really know if this was smart or dumb. There is no way for him to climb back up to street level.

One more thing.......the "home invader" had a small offspring tagging along. So, here is the little one's destiny:

The live trap is baited and set....

More story and pictures to follow......