The US Auto Industry

My love affair with Saabs began when I was a little kid. When I was in 5th grade, a Vietnamese friend of mine got driven to our magnet school from across town in this hideously ugly grasshopper looking burgundy car. From the outside it was ugly. Inside, it was leathery, cushy, soft, and it went FAST. The ignition was between the seats–how cool! This was an old school Saab 900.

When I was in high school my first serious girlfriend’s dad was an air force pilot who flew F-4s. While stationed in Europe, he had bought himself a true pilot’s car, the Saab 9000. It had a real cockpit feel and jet like acceleration, true to Saab’s (which stands for Swedish Aeroplane Corporation) aviation heritage.

A buddy of mine in college (wink) had parents who were Saab people. That exposure to the newer models sold me. When I went to law school, I promised myself I would buy one when I could. For graduation, my wife bought me a 2000 9-3 with low mileage on it and no features–just the stock model.

That car was cursed with some bad luck, but it wasn’t the car’s fault. It was an excellent ride. I got my first personalized plates for it–HONU ELE, Hawaiian for “black turtle” (close enough), which is what I thought it looked like. I loved it.

Then I started earning some money and I replaced it with a shiny new 2005 Saab 9-3 with almost all of the features.

It sucked.

You see, between 2000 and 2005 Saabs stopped being made mostly in Trollhattan, Sweden. GM bought Saab and consolidated some operations with their Opel factory in Germany.

Now, I’m not anti-GM. I’ve had GM cars since I started driving. I put 270,000 miles on my 1994 Saturn, drove it all over the country and made it through Chicago winters, Colorado snow storms and Hawaiian corrossion with it. I had a GMC Sonoma pickup that was super. Then I got this Saab. Gone was the hatchback. Gone was almost every Saabish feature except for the ignition between the seats.

It was an OK car, but I sure felt like I was getting a generic one.

So yesterday, I traded it in after only 10 months for a VW Passat. (I could write a whole post on how VW needs to retrain their dealerships if they want to compete with luxury brands–too many ‘no’s and too many things were my problem for a car that expensive…) VW still has the Saab spirit of impressive gizmos and “why didn’ they think of that before” features.

I haven’t seen a post-Ford Volvo or Jaguar, but I can only imagine. Ford is running the most unauthentic marketing campaign I’ve ever seen: Ford. Bold. Right. Fords are for generic people who live in generic suburbs who have generic jobs. Henry Ford even wanted it thus. They are a middle-American car, not an adrenaline/testosterone fix. Even the Mustang is something out of a John Mellancamp song, not a thumping techno or thrash metal tune.

Chrystler has also turned Mercedes generic according to many. Their Dodge brand which sells straight to the no-brain all balls NASCAR crowd is doing nothing but chruning out gas guzzling art deco plastic mobiles. . .

All of this goes against the times. Modern business focuses on niche. There are 10 kinds of Coke. There are hundreds of TV channels. You can stump a supercomputer calculating all of the permutations of a Starbucks order.

For better or worse (worse methinks) America expresses itself through its cars. I am a left coast doctorate-having liberal latte drinking macintosh user. The car for me used to be a Saab. If I was a red state construction working coors light swilling trailer park dweller, I would want a Dodge ram. I’m not. People want choices here.

So, what gives? I don’t know. They used to say what’s good for GM is good for America. If this is GM, America is fucked.

From Hotties to Horses

Goes the gaze of America’s obsession with charismatic but meaningless stories. From comely kidnapped teens we traverse to the breathless prayers and gallons of spilled ink awaiting the surgery given to a race horse. I wish no ill on any beast of burden, but it’s just a fucking horse!

Perhaps if some of the innocent human eggs we have broken to make the oily omelette of faux-democracy in Iraq we’re forced to gallop in circles by being straddled by bulimic munchkins that lash them in the ass then we would give a shit about them too.

NHL Conference Finals Predictions

Better late than never.

East: Buffalo vs. Carolina
This one is almost a coin flip. The Canes can turn it on almost at will like few teams I have ever seen and can flat out dominate 8 to 20 minute stretches of games. When under pressure though, their seven-headed defensive monster and goalie can be had. The Canes will have lots of moments, but the Sabres have the offense to match them. Buffalo in 7.

West: Anahiem vs. Edmonton
Edmonton has impressed, Pronger and Peca are finally turning out to be the players everyone thought they would be. But the magic will run out. Anahiem in Six.

Update: Well, I seem to have gotten the west all wrong. The east is unfolding much like I anticipated, but Buffalo could be in trouble if their d-men keep on dropping liek flies.

Duck Post Mortem; NHL Notes

What do you say about the Ducks? Here’s a team that traded away almost all of its bona fide stars, benched another one, and kept the one that was apparently over the hill (Selanne). This team was falling apart at the middle of the season. It went on a run, then dumped even more players at the trade deadline.

The only thing that’s sad about this season is the way it ended. If the Ducks had lost in 7 to Calgary, the refrain would have been–this team is a year ahead. If the Ducks had lost to Colorado, the refrain would have been–wow, they won a round and lost to a very experienced team. But to lose in a humiliating fashion to the 8 seed Oilers after it seemed like every piece had fallen into place is heartwrenching. Especially when a return to the Cup Finals was in sight.

But the future is bright indeed for this team. Bobby Ryan will probably be on board next year to add even more firepower to the front end. If the Ducks can get a player in return for Giguere, and use their expected $15M or so of cap room wisely, there’s no reason why this team can’t do better next year.

The Canadian press says that Joe Sakic might have an interest in signing with the Ducks. I’m not sure I understand why. Rob Blake, on the other hand, if he doesn’t return to LA, still has a house in LA and might be a decent addition.

Here’s my formula for next year:
Resign: Selanne, Salei, Konopka, Friesen, all Group II.
Trade: Giguere, ideally for a player
Acquire: Veteran backup (CuJo?) , Top 2 defenseman.

Not a big change–and all of that can easily be done with the cap room available.

Good Article on NHL Ratings; Fuck Politics

Here. It makes the point that the ratings have never been that great, that Messier, Gretzky and the Rangers never made the ratings that great, and that hockey should focus on where it lives. Yup.

It’s really all I can care about right now. I still follow the news, sort of. But I’m burnt out to the point of being done. I don’t think the Democrats are growing balls enough to win back Congress this fall, and I think 2008 will be a lot like 1968 in that the party is about to rip itself apart, leaving it vulnerable. Meanwhile, people are going to continue to not care about what’s happening, the media will continue to suck Bush’s dick, and even things like Iraq, Katrina, and the possible indictment of Karl Rove only seem to be causing–if you can believe it–further reactionary tendencies in the public, this time with Mexicans as the scapegoat. That’s worth considering… will a serious incident that all us lefties are predicting cause nothing more than a further right-wing backlash? It’s possible, and it appears to be even likely given what’s going on right now.

Even if they do win the next two elections, they’ll be playing constant defense against the smear machine. I figure they have about 6 months to govern, assuming both of those wins. Some kind of real realignment needs to occur, or else fughedaboudid.

Quacked Up.

That’s it.

The Ducks are getting a dose of their own medicine from the Oilers. Roloson is playing like Giguere did in 2003–and will win the Conn Smythe if the Oil bring the Cup back to Northern Alberta. The Oilers are being dominated by the Ducks, but not giving up goals, then skating down the other end of the ice and getting scored on. They just don’t play well as favorites, I guess.

Does Giguere start in game 3?

Round 3

Buffalo versus Carolina:

I’d love to be able to guarantee this isn’t a spite pick. I agree with Stan Fischler that Cam Ward hasn’t been as good as advertised, especially when more than one line pressures him. Ryan Miller has. For that reason, I think Buffalo has the advantage. What’s odd is that Carolina reminds me of the kind of veteran, mercinary trade-deadline stocked team that has won the Cup in the last 15 years. They don’t fit the mold anymore. I’m taking Buffalo in 7.

Anaheim versus Edmonton:

Anaheim has three scoring lines. Selanne/McDonald, Perry/Getzlaf, and Penner/Lupul. They also have an excellent shut down line with Niedermeyer and Pahlsson. Niedermayer is the best defenseman in the NHL, and the rest of Anaheim’s blue line has been playing solidly. This series also features a matchup of the playoff’s two best goalies in Roloson and Bryzgalov. Edmonton can’t match the Ducks’ depth, but they can make up a lot of the difference with the heart they’ve played with. The problem is, the Ducks aren’t short in that department, either. The clock is about to strike midnight and Rexall will turn into a pumpkin. The Ducks have had a week to rest and get healthy, and they won’t be caught flat-footed after witnessing what that did to Colorado. Ducks in 6.

We’re both 7-5 after going 2-2 in Round 2.