For most of my early driving years I was a Chevy man. I liked big-block Chevelles both for their engines and their back seats, I thought the 454 was a technological breakthrough, and I wanted a 1963 Corvette convertible, powder blue, with a fuel-injected 327 with a near religious fervor.
But in the mid-1980s I bought a four-on-the-floor, V-8 Chevy pickup from what I thought was a reputable dealership. Truth was, it was a piece of junk. Among other issues it had a problem in the rear end gearing and every time I shifted it made a thump no matter how gently I engaged the clutch.
I must have made a half-dozen trips to the original dealer in upstate New York, and it turned out the guy talked a lot, telling me at various times that I was hearing things, which really endeared me to him and his company, and even padding the vehicle's tailgate once, which did nothing but further infuriate me. Ultimately I found another dealer who took my business more seriously and after only two trips to the service department they discovered a defective gear, replaced it, and the thump ended.
That also ended my love affair with Chevy. The next vehicle I bought was a 1988 Lincoln Town Car, Cartier model with all the bells and whistles that I drove for 15 years and 230,000 miles. We also purchased a 1997 Ford Ranger pickup that my wife drove for something well in excess of 100,000 miles with no major problems.
I traded that in for a Ford Explorer, V-6 SUV that I drive to this day, again with no major problems. It is roomy, gets relatively decent mileage - about 24 mpg on the highway - and is the most comfortable vehicle I have ever owned.
The moral of this story is that if a car manufacturer makes a vehicle that I need, can rely on, that doesn't give me non-stop headaches or thumps in the rear end, then I will probably buy from that manufacturer. I will continue to be a good customer as long as I believe my concerns are paramount all the way from the plant to the dealership service department.
But even though I have been very happy with Ford Motor products and will look to Ford before I go to any other domestic or foreign models when I am car shopping again, I do not support the so-called "bailout" of the auto industry using taxpayer dollars.
I believe this is a form of corporate welfare that constitutes a gross fraud on the taxpayers. I think Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank and his coterie of Congressional inquisitors should be investigated, and the Big Three should be told to get back to Detroit and work this out with a pencil, not by taking a free ride on my dime.
During the day Friday the headlines were saying that chances for a bailout of the US auto industry looked pretty slim. For a few hours I was hopeful that we taxpayers would be dodging another bailout bullet.
The Big Three - Chevy, Ford and Chrysler - had sent their top execs to DC again, this time holding their hats in their hands, driving instead of flying in private jets - only the president-elect and his family are allowed to do that - and taking unwarranted abuse from Barney Frank, to beg like street urchins for a few billion taxpayer dollars to get them through Christmas.
After all there is jewelry to buy, new airplane orders to place, luxury vacations to be taken, expensive clothes just waiting to be handmade to order, and of course top shelf booze and imported cigars that need temporary residence in Michigan mansions.
But overnight the headlines changed to a much more positive view - for certain Congressmen and auto industry executives - who are now saying a deal is in the works. Which means there probably will be a bailout and Congress will give the taxpayers a good screwing for Christmas, but the taxpayers won't enjoy it.
The latest proposal won't be for the $25 billion everyone was talking about two weeks ago, nor the $34 billion the auto industry was claiming it needed just last week. Oh No, it will only be for $15 to $17 billion.
I have a proposal for Barney Frank. How about you front me one percent of the difference between 15 billion and 17 billion? I can use that money to start up a couple of businesses in my community that will put good people to work in productive occupations and generate business and sales revenues that will help ease the property tax burden on homeowners.
What do you say, Barney? To sweeten the pot, I'll even write another column about you that won't be anywhere near as harsh as this one. I probably could be convinced to say a couple of good things about how you have had a change of heart and are actually helping America get out of this recession instead of just feathering your own boa, er, nest.
Think about it. This offer is only good through midnight.
Maybe I'm being overly harsh here, but Frankly, I was sick and tired of the US Congress back when it was just the occasional Republican using the Congressional Page system as a recruiting ground for homosexual dates with underage teens. That was a few years back and things have just gotten worse with the Democrats in charge.
Every time someone brings up Term Limits, some buffoon in Congress does something that proves the point. Then you get Barney Frank hiking up his skirts, screwing up his face and telling us all to go to hell, but not before he skims a few more billions out of the federal treasury to keep the United Auto Workers happy and sending him plenty of campaign contributions every two years.
I am against the bailout because I think the combination of union excesses and corporate greed have driven the price and the quality of the average American automobile right out of the market. Foreign manufacturers have come in to fill the void, and while I am strongly leaning toward another Ford next year, you can bet I'll take a look at some of the foreign models before I make a final decision.
I saw a video the other day about a new Ford plant in Brazil that uses cutting edge technology to meld assembly line robotics with appropriately applied human input, and also incorporates the primary manufacturing process - the chassis, engine, and transmission assembly - under the same roof as secondary parts such as exhaust, dashboards and interiors.
So the people who make the seats are making those seats in the same building where the rest of the vehicle is manufactured, cutting transportation and assembly costs dramatically. The plant also is ecologically sound - except that it was built where a rain forest used to be - and is seen as a model of cooperation between management and labor, without union threats and pressures.
So why don't we have a Ford plant like that in the US? Excessive built-in labor costs, and excessive government regulations. Our country has forced our original car manufacturer, the one named for the guy who invented the assembly line, to head south to do business because it is too expensive here.
The result is the circus we saw in Congress last week with Barney Frank holding hearings and treating the auto execs like recalcitrant children. Of course that was just another example of the Congress losing sight of its pronouns - meaning Congressmen think they are Lords over the people, instead of representatives working for the people.
Then in the middle of all this sound and fury, Chevrolet comes out with a new model electric car that should be no more than a prototype, but we are told it will save the industry, the nation, and end pollution - even though it can only go 40 miles before it needs to be recharged.
Excuse me. What happened to the electric cars that were all the rage in California a couple of years ago that could go a couple hundred miles on one charge? Oh, right, they were recalled and shredded. Hmmmmm.
I have a question. If Chevy can build an electric car that goes 40 miles, and then can do it again when the battery is recharged at some basic electrical outlet like the one in most people's garages, why can't it be recharged as it is moving?
Gasoline powered cars do that all the time and they have been doing it as long as there have been batteries and moving parts. This technological breakthrough, called the generator, or alternatively the alternator - pun intended, occurred a century ago.
It works like this. The battery provides the initial electricity to engage the starter with the flywheel, which turns over the engine, and simultaneously provides the spark to the spark plugs in the proper order as determined by the distributor - which distributes electricity to the plugs.
The engine catches, and as long as the electricity keeps flowing to the spark plugs, and as long as there is fuel, the engine continues to run. The crankshaft spins, and from that motion we power the water pump to keep the engine cool, the air conditioner to keep the driver and passengers cool, and the generator/alternator which keeps the battery charged so there will continue to be electricity for the spark plugs, and around it goes.
So why does the new Chevy Volt not have an alternator that will continue to recharge the battery as long as the electric motor is powering the vehicle, thus extending its range? There still are moving parts, so why not?
Need a bigger alternator to recharge a bigger battery? Come on, we have the ingenuity to solve that little issue.
It appears that Chevy is well aware of the recharging issue. Just check out the advertising from Chevy's website:
The Extended-Range Electric Vehicle that is redefining the automotive world is no longer just a rumor. In fact, its propulsion system is so revolutionary, it's unlike any other vehicle or electric car that's ever been introduced.
Chevy Volt is designed to move more than 75 percent of America's daily commuters without a single drop of gas. That means for someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.
Unlike traditional electric cars, Chevy Volt has a revolutionary propulsion system that takes you beyond the power of the battery. It will use a lithium-ion battery with a gasoline-powered, range-extending engine that drives a generator to provide electric power when you drive beyond the 40-mile battery range.
Are these guys serious? The Volt has a hybrid engine that uses a generator the same way generators have been used for a century - but only after the battery is too low to power the electric motor? So you get 40 miles gasoline free, but after that you revert to the same old, same old?
Why can't the lithium-ion battery be recharged by this generator as the car is being propelled by the electric motor? If you can do it at home every night you should be able to do it on the road. And they want 15 billion taxpayer dollars to push this on the public?
I'm not buying a Volt. There is superior technology available and we should be using it instead of trying to fool the motoring public yet again. I bet the guy who sold me that defective truck will have a lot full of these, if he is still in business.
I guess today's auto execs are too young to remember the Edsel. Look it up guys, you may learn something.
I want hydrogen. I want to use the technology now available on US Navy submarines that employs electrolysis to separate hydrogen from oxygen in sea water, allowing them to stay submerged for extended periods. But instead of using the oxygen and venting the hydrogen, I want to use the hydrogen - which creates water as a byproduct of burning - to power the internal combustion engine, and vent the oxygen to the atmosphere.
We don't need a hydrogen infrastructure to do this either. The "fuel tank" can be filled with water, which can provide hydrogen on demand. And yes, it would have a generator that would provide power for the electrolysis.
That is what I want and I absolutely believe it is doable because in a slightly altered form it already is being done. And I don't want to hear another word about junk science posing as a new breakthrough in automobile technology.
While we're on the subject, give me my money back! Christmas is just around the corner and I have to save the economy.
Saturday, December 06, 2008