Monday, April 14, 2014

Blame Games

As General Motors recalls millions of cars over unsafe ignition barrels, stories are coming out again dragging "olde GM" out of its grave (which is yet to be filled). 

An article in Detroit News Auto Insider from Bryce G Hoffman reports Bad Blood Cited Between General Motors and Ignition Switch Supplier Delphi from when they separated in 2002. 


The article goes on to explain the toxic relationship between GM and it's suppliers, particularly in regard to applying cost pressures, so much so that Delphi began shipping sub standard parts. 

Sorry Delphi, but if you can't produce a component of the appropriate level of quality for the price you agreed, then don't deliver it. As much as this article appears to be pointing to big bully General Motors exercising it's position over Delphi (which is nothing new, Supermarkets do it to farmers ALL THE TIME), at the end of the day, if you can't be competitive (whether that be through diversification or unique capability), you're out of business. That is exactly what the "free market" does.

In the case of Delphi Automotive, who have over 160,000 employees, if they can't compete in a global market, then they need to state their case to the appropriate authority whom can assist in their future security if it is so deemed to be in the best interests of that authority.

In case you have problems with reading between the lines, I'm talking about government assistance to ensure that particular industry and infrastructure are supported, such that the effect applies a positive outcome for the nations productivity (or employment). 

In Australia we have had similar issues which resulted in the announced closure of Ford Australia, Toyota Australia and Holden. Personally, as a tax payer, I was more than happy to lay out what added up to less than $20/ year of my income tax, to support tens of thousands of jobs. 

Now that I have rattled the "protectionism" tree, I'm sure plenty of communist hating tea baggers would be shaking their proverbial fists and burning hammer and sickle tea towels left, right and centre, because that's how stupid the system is. 

EVERYTHING in this world is about balance. The current trend of all encompassing free trade agreements and economic co-operation is ONLY good for the people running companies that import/export to the rest of the world. It's not good for the regular citizen, because everything has a cost.

One of the reasons Australia can't compete with other labour markets is because many other labour markets do not meet the same working standards as Australia. For example, though auto workers in Thailand have the right to form unions, union members have to work in the same company, so if you're fired, you are no longer a union member. The Thailand government is yet to implement International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 87 on freedom of association and Convention 98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively.

So basically they've got "Work Choices".

That's not to say that protectionism is an ideal scenario either. Where companies take advantage, protectionism can lead to "milking of the teat", but that is simply circumvented through appropriate performance requirements. 

We as a society need to think about our decisions, and, ensure that we do not prioritise the opportunity to get a cheaper TV over the opportunity for the bulk of our society to obtain gainful rewarding employment.

Delphi Automotive is a significant employer and the value of that work force enabling a tax base for it's regional or national economies should have justified activity, by government, to ensure that agreed levels of workers rights and quality of materials could be provided at a competitive cost for supply to General Motors.

Tariffs not only aid local manufacture, they protect rights for workers that most of the world cannot afford, or are not willing to pay. Maybe Delphi would not have sacrificed quality on their components. 

If they were competing against domestic competition, then that's just business.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ford Kuga: A Qualified Opinion

How disappointing. I received an email from Quantum Market Research:

Hello,
Recently you showed some interest in buying an SUV called the Ford Kuga. Ford is very interested in asking you some questions regarding what you thought of the Ford Kuga and what you look for when purchasing an SUV.

Oh goody, someone cares about what I think! some one is "very interested" in what I think and what I look for!
Unfortunately, after 5 qualifying questions, I was booted out! Apparently that first statement in the email was a total lie, and now I, as a potential customer feel like I am not interesting and my thoughts are not important. 
Of course that's not entirely true, in that I didn't feel that way, but some potential customers may have, and of course my opinion is important. 
Way to distance the customer from the product Quantum Market Research.

Here's the 5 Qs:
Are you male or female?
How old are you?
What state are you from?
Have you bought a new car?
Do you work in the automotive industry/nooz?
Unfortunately, I didn't qualify (and it wasn't the last question because I said no. The Automotive industry is not my profession). Whether that was because I wasn't the correct configuration or Quantum Market Research are Blues fans (Go Maroons!) is irrelevant. I have an opinion on the Kuga and I'm going to share it dammit!
It's heavier than a Commodore Evoke wagon and only marginally more efficient, however the cost of the required premium fuel would certainly mean greater running costs. 
That's before even talking about servicing costs or the possibility of using the greener LPG option for the local product. 
Statistically the Kuga appears markedly under powered with the 1.6 ecoboost. I am fairly confident that fuel consumption would be pretty ordinary under load, particularly in hilly areas. Why on earth would you use a 1.6 in the Kuga but a 2.0 in the Falcon (which weighs less!)? #weird
Of course there is good news to be had though, in the frugal and grunty 2.0 Diesel coupled with the direct shift 6 speed transmission, but it's going to cost you 40k at least for the privilege (which isn't too bad really).
Image:Carsguide.com.au
You get points for how it looks too. The design is reasonably good for the upper end of the segment, however, it has just stopped being contemporary. It's now out of date. If you sit a new X-Trail next to it, it's Star Trek (the one with the young hot Kirk) vs. Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek IV the Journey Home. Have a guess which is the Vulcan.
Interior wise, the Spanish built Kuga is mid pack, mainly due to the centre stack which looks like something Sony designed in the late 90's. I do have "a problem" with Sony in that I still think they're cool, but I'm partying like it's 1999. No one else is.
Now here's the rest of the good news: I don't REALLY care about any of that stuff (except the 1.6 Ecoboost). 
What I'm looking for is; how well I can fit the kids seats? 
How easy it is to get the pram/portacot/lilo/esky/8 changes of baby clothes/300 nappies/tent etc. (dependent on requirements at the time) loaded into the back...... and then access the clothes bag to retrieve the only Octonauts DVD that is required (the other 4 are the wrong ones).  
Can I easily pass a frozen coke fruit popper to the seat behind me? 
Does the cover of the centre console bin become wobbly after kids constantly use it as a thoroughfare to escape when you are trying to buckle them in? 
How easy is it to get the McDonalds fries out from next to the front seat rail?
Is there somewhere to store a spare change of clothes and emergency wipes for the juniorest burger (we're potty training)?
If, for some strange reason I actually drive on some wet grass, will my pretend 4X4 have the guts to pull itself up that seemingly innocuous knoll without awkward slipping and revving whilst the other dads at the camp ground point and laugh nervously hoping they don't have to do the same with their flimsy french poodle Peugeot?

According to your survey, you already know I'm not your target market. I mean sure I'm a mid level white collar professional under 40 (just) with three kids and a 3 year old car I bought new, but who's interested in what I think? 
Maybe next time around, we will buy an SUV because as I try out more of them, I can see their practical value, but they are still slow as shite. 
Right now, many SUVs are still badly done cars or weak sauce off road vehicles, with almost minivan practicality. They are rapidly moving toward becoming more car like, and that's a good thing (handling wise) but they need more power! 
Think about it. SUVs are supposed to be for holidays as much as the everyday. But when you are on holiday, that is when you have the least rearward visibility, the highest load and usually the longest travel time. They are all risks. The last thing you need is to find out that 240nm really isn't a lot when you are trying to overtake a caravan on unfamiliar roads.
Chances are, I'm just going to buy another Commodore wagon anyway, because  my wagons already do what I want (except for retrieving fries from next to the seat rails) and I can safely rely on the little bit of extra power to safely overtake, irrespective of if I have my whole family on board with all our camping gear or not. 
So there you go Quantum Market Research. That's what I thought of the Ford Kuga and that is what I look for when buying an SUV. Not that you care. I don't qualify. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

What is a Furphy?

[This was originally posted on one of my other blogs dated 7 December 2013]
Furphy and sons is an engineering firm still running in Shepparton, in Victoria. Their water carts were used to deliver water to regional settlers in the late 19th century and they used to bring more than just clean drinking water. They would also deliver rumours carried from one settlement to the next. Those rumours (or Furphys) would also permeate through the settlements from one little whisper or overheard conversation to the next.

I heard my own Furphy yesterday as my gas guy turned up to swap out my empty gas bottles.

“Holden’s shut it’s doors!” Mr Gas mentioned with some concern.

“That’s not actually accurate, “I replied, “nothing has been confirmed. No one has even put their name to it”.

“No I just heard it on the radio. It would be a real shame to see them go”.
“That’s just a rumour”, I told him. I then gave him too much information to possibly pass on at his next stop, so here’s what’s what as far as I’m aware. You can pass it on, but none of it is rumour.

This is not a Furphy.   

Just a few days ago, ABC News citing “Senior Government Ministers” reported that the decision to close Holden has already been made in Detroit.

Holden has denied this.

None of these senior ministers have put their name to the claim.

Minister for Industry and Liberal Member for Groom, The Honourable Ian Macfarlane MP said he has talked to Holden and the speculation has been denied.

Some of you whom may not be familiar with the current circumstances surrounding, not just Holden, but all automotive manufacturing in Australia, may need a little context, so here it is:
Losing car manufacturing and associated industry amounts to an estimated 7.3 billion dollars per year (estimated based on a study by Monash University’s Centre of Policy Studies and the Allen Consulting Group).

Currently it costs Australia per capita, $19.8/year. In return for that investment we get back an estimated $289 per capita.

The Liberal Government went to the 2013 election with a promise to cut $500 million from automotive manufacturing transformation scheme.

They also announced that they would undertake a productivity commission to understand what type of assistance would be needed for a sustainable industry.

Post election the Coalition then reiterated their position that they will not remove any monies that have already been allocated.

Since this recent Furphy from “senior government ministers” who seemingly don’t have names, Prime Minister Abbott has said the government would not be making any additional money available.

Then called on Holden to “make their position clear”.

Keep in mind, of course, that the industry is under said productivity commission review which determines the level of investment Australia is willing to make.

Holden Managing Director Mike Devereux was previously earmarked to leave Holden at the end of this year and move to the General Motors International Operations, however he will now remain until first quarter 2014 to maintain continuity for the Productivity Commission process.

So the Coalition have said they would remove $500 million dollars,
 then said they would have a productivity commission before taking any action,
 then publicly stated they would n’t add any more money.
Then told Holden to make up their mind based on one of these three possible scenarios.

The estimated number of jobs in danger if Australian Automotive manufacturing was lost, range from 55,000 to over 200,000 when considering associated parts manufacturers.
Right now the industry makes Australia money and provides thousands of jobs.

Those are the facts as I currently understand them. 

If you want further information, disagree or want to test any Furphys you may have heard, leave a comment below, tweet or email me and I'll help as best I can.

@BELTEDRADIAL
@LOFLYTKULTURE
@LOFLTYTTECH
LOFLYT@GMAIL.COM

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The Democratic Perspective

[shifted from one of my other blogs]
Toyota Australia doesn't build a drivers car. This is not a revelation or a new point of view. Depending on which side of the circumstance you are on, that was a wise choice. From a car enthusiasts point of view we tell ourselves that if they built something amazing and exciting, they could have saved their operation. If only they built the X130 platform and sold the Mark X instead of the Camry. If only they released a high performance version, if only, if only, ad infinitum. Nonetheless, they have decided to stop building cars in Australia. Now we can all get along.





Regular folks survive on the single premise that if you find other people whom believe the same things you believe, you must all be right. At some point, with enough weighted debate and affirmation, those other people will agree. They'll come on to your team and we can all be right together. 

Unfortunately, many enthusiasts (whether they be car enthusiasts, astronomy enthusiasts or stamp enthusiasts) still believe this premise rings true for them, despite being aware that they inhabit a niche corner of society. 

You can apply this assumption to the previous Mark X hypothesis. We assume that everyone would appreciate the option to steer with your right foot. We assume that Uncle bob will appreciate the potential to turn his family conveyance into well balanced corner crushing grand tourer with just the addition of better locally tuned suspension and some wider rubber. 

We assume wrong. 

Because although cars are our domain of knowledge, and some of us trawl through endless blogs forums press releases and reviews, just to find that little bit of information which could lead to automotive nirvana (or in some cases just bragging rights in a verbal punch up), most would not have a clue about what every day people WANT to drive. 

Maybe everyday Joe and Judy Citizen HAVE been coerced by corporate marketing to want to drive a particular segment type. This is often paranoia, but, it's nice to believe because then we can go back to that premise that if they weren't coerced, they'd be one of us. hooray!

I'm afraid the inverse is true. 

Of course people are influenced by marketing, but that doesn't change the fact that many probably WOULDN'T appreciate the act of balancing between mild over-steer and all out drifting action. 

Most would determine that feeling of still going straight ahead when turning the wheel, as a sign that they are going too fast. You're not, it's just that your car under-steers and you have n't set up for the corner properly... or you bought the cheapest replacement tyres you could find... or it's front wheel drive so you've already started handicapped by driving your car backwards.

The key point here is that understanding your operating environment is ESSENTIAL to making the right decisions in managing outcomes. 

Toyota closing their Australian manufacturing facility, is likely the death knell for an automotive focus in Australian manufacturing. If you heard a single car enthusiast bemoan the loss, it's most likely because of the loss of industry. It's highly unlikely you will hear them complain that they wont be able to buy a 2018 Camry. (you will, it just wont be built here)
  
Now, we are hearing all the complaints from people about another industry being lost/outsourced.

Now, we are hearing all the "industry experts" coming out telling everyone why the industry failed. 

Now we are hearing politicians all talking with authority on what should have been done.

I overheard a local market stall owner saying "you know what they did? they just priced themselves out of the market". 

I even heard a commentator talking on Q and A (which I usually avoid because it's just a big political pissing contest that most people only watch in some vague hope their snippy tweets will get posted live) talk about how [this is a paraphrase as I was only jumping back from curling in Sochi] 'the German Automotive Industry is so great and they pay their workers very high wages' and then in the next chance to blab, go on about 'if you can't compete with EU wages you can't be viable'. 

Of course Australian auto manufacturers wages are lower as are our tariffs.

P.S. Snippy Tweeter on QandA #1 "Australia's car industry is the most subsidised in the world" is the polar opposite to the truth.

All these people are influences on our society. Despite one guy being a honey vendor and the other being a law professor, the things they say effect how anyone who listens to them. If the listener is not particularly conversant in that subject, they will swallow the line whole.

Thus propagates the Democratic Perspective. Most people just want to belong, and, in pursuit of such will believe what ever they're told, even if the purveyor of the truth is just a stamp enthusiast. 

That's why democracy is so shit. To be successful in a democracy, you have to be the most popular, which means you have to be the most broadly appealing. 

To actually know what you are talking about, you need to be, at best a specialist, at worst an enthusiast.
  
                         

Monday, January 20, 2014

Google Plus TLDR

I've tried to endure the transition period, deal with the messy association of pages vs. accounts and the interaction of youtube comments and how frustratingly difficult it is to manage all these amazing options that make up the Google account but I still haven't got it right. 

I'm not a professional social media guru. I don't really have the time to sit down and organise every little privacy setting for every follicle of my social media being. The result is a bit of a mishmash of giving too much away, and, things that I want to share hiding in open browser windows, only to be discovered as I shut down for the night. 

Too many dykes, not enough fingers. 

So Google is learning more about me than I really want them to know (get out of my brain!) and so are all those other SM monitoring firms that I have no distinct knowledge of. Algorithms are building the perfect list of things for me to read, based on this leaked information. Links are made and interwebz neurons are fired in the marketed goal of getting me what I supposedly really want.

For someone whom likes to be surprised, I fail to see how that can work. 

I don't hold any great secrets, nor am I overtly protective about my identity, but I do have a massive dislike for homogeny and pop. Since all these companies are tracking my interweb movements, page views, click throughs and whatever, and, companies are paying big dollars for analysis of this information, I can only imagine that the companies that can afford such intelligence are going to have a fair amount of coin. 

Usually, those with said dolleros are peddlers of aforementioned homogeny and pop. Thus, they work out how to target me more effectively. Unfortunately for them, those dollars they spend trying to entice me, are dollars wasted because:

1) I know that clicking on a certain link is measured and contributes to my SEO (or whatever) profile, so I'll deliberately avoid links that I may only have a passing interest in, so as not to create a habit which will see more of the same related ads/products appear.

2) There is ALOT of stuff on the internet. I try to herd said stuff into appropriate corrals via tweetdeck columns and circles on G+ (facebook is just endless shit that I bare just so I can see if my family are still alive) I have so much shit on G+ it's like one massive tweetdeck column with way too much for me to keep up with. It's already TLDR. What chance do suggested pages and "what's pops today" posts have?

Zero and buckleys. It's not ADHD, I'm just too busy to not skip their ads.

If they could really read my mind, they wouldn't spend another cent.



Saturday, January 4, 2014

BeltedRadialGRAM 8 Coffee and Comfort Zones

I'll be kicking off an Icon Series via my LOFLYT Blog soon. There, I'll be looking at those that get it right AND the false prophets. In the lead up, here's some preliminary opining about one of my favourite icons, expectations, and, the unique levels of management that will need to be considered in the future.






Friday, December 13, 2013

Thanks Mike

I've got plenty to say about the end of Holden Manufacturing and there's a good chance you'll never hear it, because I wrote down some of it, videoed some of it, read it, listened to it and watched it a few times over and then deleted it. Most of it was too loud and unjustifiable. 

Some of it was new, but, most of it had been said before. All of it was honest but my words and thoughts just seemed unimportant. Nothing I could say would change the outcome. Everything I uttered was redundant.

I hope some of you read my opinions and reviews, and, as a result maybe alter your stance on something, or at the least consider an alternative point of view. Best case scenario (from my perspective) is you had to make a choice and maybe in some way, I helped you decide on the right one. In reality though, I wont know if I had any impact on any life, good or bad. Nonetheless, here I am blabbing away because the consequences are limited. 

Now consider for a second, that you knew that what you said, really had an impact on peoples lives. I mean their livelihood literally depended on the next words coming out of your mouth, and knowing that news wasn't good.

Even though you can justify those words, the proposition of standing up in front of thousands of people who have been hanging on your every word, and telling them, this is the end, must be an incredibly difficult task. 

Every word thereafter, I'm sure to the ears of the workers, became redundant.

Could you stand on that flat bed? Could you stand your ground and deliver the news you know people don't want to hear? 

Mike Devereux, during this whole process, has been measured, assured and resolute without being combative.

I saw the tiniest sliver of impatience when reporters continued to ask the same questions over and over at the productivity commission, but he just continued on to get the job done. 

He also became an incidental proxy for the voice of Australian Automotive Manufacturing. When there was a story, either on TV or digital media (and the fish and chip wrappers if people still read them) Mike Devereux was there front and centre.

Maybe the media just reported it that way, maybe I just paid more attention to him, but I had to Google Bob Graziano to see what he looked like. 

And I don't recall anyone badgering Max Yasuda in "this place" or "the other place" to come clean about his intentions.

There's a concept in Australia called the tall poppy syndrome. Depending on who you ask, it mostly relates to those whom stand tall often being the first to get the heads cut off. 

Some people will remember Mike Devereux as the guy that closed Holden. Of course that is so far from the truth it's not even funny, but such is the price of standing tall in front of a general public that possess the attention span of a three year old.

I'll remember Mike Devereux as the guy that stood up for Australians and stood up for Australian Car Manufacturing.

And he's from bloody Canadia!

Thanks Mike, for standing up. 

P.S. I was kidding about never hearing from me about the end of Holden. Of course I have a video, I just have to edit all the potty mouth out of it.