February 28th, 2011
Easy Money! More Cars! Dealers Get All Jazzed Up!
Whether or not the recent economic stabilization is an indicator of a return to economic health will take a little more time to prove truthful. But irrefutable proof of higher car sales is in, helped along by an easing of financing access for borrowers. The New York Times reports that auto lending is recovering at a quicker pace than other credit markets, due to profits that both dealers and banks receive because of their respective near-zero percent borrowing terms. Auto lending was also largely untouched by regulatory efforts and the Dodd-Frank Act, and many banks are beginning to extend credit to the (gasp!) subprime market again. Thirty eight percent of all subprime borrowers were approved for loans in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to eighteen percent from 2009.
Risk, like most everything else in life, is good in moderation. While it’s good to see that people are able to borrow again, I find it hard to believe thirty eight percent of “subprime” borrowers can actually qualify for financing.
March 1st, 2011
Hippie Bus This AIN’T
Volkswagen is debuting the concept version of its old microbus this week at the Geneva Auto Show. It’s called the “Bulli” (which it looks like anything but). The new version has endearingly retained the three-person bench seat up front for joint riding. Although it’s doubtful this edition will be used for that. Compare and contrast the old and new:
The “Bulli” is more appropriate for soccer moms and yuppies than hippies or hipsters. Chances are you will find a speed-fueled PTO debate and goat cheese instead of the Grateful Dead, LSD, and a discussion about Ken Kesey.
Something insidiously sad is reflecting off the Bulli’s exterior. Seems to me it is good old fashioned nostalgia. Again.
March 2nd, 2011
Presidential Auction Yields $2.5 Million
That zany Iranian President is at it again. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sold his 1977 Peugot sedan for a cooooool $2.5 million at a charity auction to an “Iranian who took part in the bidding”, according to the ISNA news agency.
(Yep. This guy drove a Peugot around Tehran. While he was mayor!)
The buyer has renamed anonymous, but his lawyer (Mamoud Isari) assures everyone that a museum will be built to exhibit the car. It’s within everyone’s rights to question the validity of this transaction. If Ahmadinejad’s car is fetching $2.5 million, just think what Charlie Sheen’s would get.
That’s called bi-winning, folks. (Though I’d guess both are bi-polar.)
March 3rd, 2011
Personal Anecdote Time; Light on News
I was only 16 and had my license for barely a month. Throw in 10 p.m., a windy road and a cigarette, and you get a car tumbling into a cow pasture in Woodbury, CT. I was on my way home from a friend’s house when I noticed a pack of Marlboro Reds in the driver’s side door. So what’s a high-school junior in his mom’s new Saturn to do? Smoke his fifth cigarette. Ever. Once I lit up, I was careful not to allow embers from the cigarette into the backseat. I accomplished this by focusing on the cigarette, and only the cigarette, while going around a bend.
The car jolted when I hit the first of five wooden guardrails, I yelled, then the car flipped one and a quarter times into an open field. I’m still convinced that me idiotically not wearing my seatbelt saved my life, because the roof was caved in (according to my mother; I never saw the car). I don’t know how I exited the car because it all happened so fast, and before I knew it, I was flagging down the next car driving by. The driver stopped and was gracious, bringing me back to his house. I sat in the kitchen waiting for my parents and the ambulance to take me to the hospital, where they told me I’d strained every muscle in my neck.
Outside of the obvious takeaways here (pay attention to the road, don’t smoke at 16 or let your kids drive new cars), something else has stuck with me. The extreme helplessness while flipping, combined with the deafening, rapid crumbling of steel, always gives me pause when I’m in a car.
I think pausing is a good thing.