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. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Not another list of Types of Twitter Users!

My older brother got an undercut way before it was acceptably cool and even wore a bandana around the leg of his jeans Guns'n'roses style. It was all way too "right now" for me. I'm not an early adapter. In fact only in the last few months did I buy my first pair of slightly too tight pants. When it comes to social media though, once aware of it's existence, I've been part of it wherever possible, including joining #Motorama, #Bimmerchat before it was #Germancarchat, and, #GMCHAT on twitter whilst in the middle of the Papua New Guinea jungle (though I'm not as frequent as I once was).

One of my first Instagram pics is of my third child less than an hour after his birth, and, baby pictures of all my rugrats, much like plenty of others, are plastered all over Facebook and possibly Photobucket and MySpace but I've haven't looked for so long.

More recently, I've been using twitter to retweet a new video channel (PLUG!) which has it's own FB page (PLUG!), Twitter account (PLUG!) and G+ page (don't worry about that one. I don't know how/have time to use it. :D). My videos are slowly getting better but as with blogging, you've just got to stick with it and still share them in all their glory no matter the level. I also use the twitter account socially to talk about industry.

My olde Beltedradial  account is my default account and can range from social politicking antagonist, to weird music RTer and general smart assery. I also have other accounts too which I use for different purposes and that is for a very specific reason: I don't get drunk at work (even though when I'm in my home office I probably could) and I don't dance at funerals. 

Equally, some of my friends just don't give a shit about cars or the industry, so I did the same partitioning of my instagram accounts, one holding just food, things that scare Alex and what my 2 year old does to my furniture (PLUG), and the other, cars of all shapes and assortments (PLUG). Both benefit from pictures of my awesome wagon though (LUCKY!)

In other words, It's still somewhat necessary to behave in accordance with your surroundings. That doesn't mean you can't be naughty, but be thoughtful about whom exactly WANTS to see your nipple.

Most importantly though, is that all of these avenues, all these different accounts provide ME with entertainment, education, instruction, inspiration, horror, frustration and encouragement. All these things, though experienced at arms length (if your arm was as long as a sinewave), make up part of my view and participation in society.  

So what of these types of SM users I promised? Social Media has this amazing power to connect people not just of like minds, but also those with diverse opinions and provide them with a conduit to share all but the touch, taste and smell.

The first type doesn't know what the hell is going on
The second uses twitter like a tickertape news feed
The third is a sharer
The fourth is a good SM managed commercial account which interacts with followers
These are all self explanatory 

The last are badly managed commercial accounts that are purely there for exposure, in some cases just an account that does little more than serve as a landing spot for the Google search "South Nambour Widget Maker on twitter". In slightly worse cases, there are corporate accounts which use a form of forced social interaction that is an affront to the evolution of communication: "Like our page and tell us why you love unicorns"
The worst case is an account where almost every tweet is little more than a post about their last blog entry/whitepaper. Zero interaction.

I do LOVE Social Media and HATE when people try to quantify what is on it (such as by using stupid lists) and telling people how to use it. However, if you're going to use social media, at least be sociable. 

This all came from a DM I received the other day thanking me for the follow. Here's the bot generated baloney and my response:
Thanks for following. When your favorite brands communicate to you, how often is the message highly relevant?
Thx for following. Was that a real question or just bot generated rhetoric? <-That's a real question. ;-)

So any hoo it's been a few days with nary a response even after I sent ANOTHER follow up message. The key takeaway here is, if you aren't participating, you're not being sociable. You're just yelling from your office window. That's not social media and I emplore you, dear reader, to unfollow this unsociable scourge. 

I mean, would you really talk to this person whom ignores you and instead turns up once a day to yell at you: read my book!

It's the only way they'll listen.

Some dude called mikmakgmi and his nipple

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Victory for Homogeny

"You can't tell me it's selling less than the Camry? We have a market full of people with bad taste". From the mouths of babes. Well, A babe; my wife in fact.

This was my wife's response to the news that Ford Australia are ending local manufacturing operations in Australia. Not only is this an end to the Falcon and Territory, but it is the end of an iconic Name plate AND an iconic engine from the 250 cross flow to the BarraTurbo (or seagull as it was known internally because it shat on everything else).

The Ford Falcon, which began Australian assembly in 1960 (essentially in the same place where manufacturing will end in October 2016) has been an Australian stalwart of toughness, comfort, firepower, laughs and silver screen infamy.

What is really lost today, is a piece of Australia uniqueness: a part of our identity. Non-car people don't understand what the Falcon represents to car people. It's a statement of Australians being able to do things better than the rest of the world and do it for less.

Both the Holdens and Fords from the 60's up until now, were developed for our unique environment and on a fraction of the budgets spent by US, Japanese and European counterparts. Were they better? Well, they were tougher. Just ask Opel engineers whom couldn't understand why their cars kept disintegrating on Australian roads in the late 70's, having to be redesigned and toughened by Holden engineers for the then new model Holden Commodore.    

As the vehicles evolved from the 60's, Holden and Ford traded places as Australia's number one sellers. Eventually, both manufacturers became too complacent behind trade barriers. They still had rugged monocoque construction needed to survive in the harsh outback, but, were falling behind in modern technology.

In the 80's, the Australian government moved to lower trade barriers and forced local manufacturers into bed together producing Toyota Commodores (Lexcen), Nissan Utes (Falcon) and Holden Corolla's (Nova) amongst other monstrosities. They fortunately came out the other side (somehow) and had improved economy and safety credentials.

Decade after decade, Holden and Ford followed the ups and down of the Australian economy, evolving their products to ensure that Australians had access to a car they could say was Australian, and, met what was becoming some of the highest safety standards in the world..

The modern result is two world class families of vehicles that are the envy of car people the world over.

Much will be said about new models and greater variety, but we all know it will be more of the same. The same mini van dressed as a Sport Utility Vehicle, the same smart compact cars that you can get from any manufacturer, the same Thailand built utility you can get from many other car lots. All that Ford will have left is brand loyalty..... but I don't think they can bank on that from car people anymore. Come 2017, their lineup will be the envy of no-one.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Enlightening is the New Embiggening

Bigger, faster, stronger. These were the hallmarks of the new car model; model after model after model. Is it climate change that has now seemingly put a stop to the old school mantra of progress, or, just the shrinking of wallets? Either way, Australia's supposed dinosaurs are still leading the way in efficiency. Yes, you read that right. 

In possibly the most redundant statement of all time, the release of a new version of whatever, is always heralded with the proclamation of "BEST EVER". 'They' have been saying it for years and it was easy to do so because progress was always measured in the same way. Shampoo usually has 50% more essential shinnervesance, and beauty cream reduces lines in 12% more self assessed participants. With respect to cars, it has always been the aforementioned size, speed and strength. 

With the impending arrival of the New VF Commodore, you can expect more of the same, with regard to proclamations of succession and progress, but the reworked car will be no larger than it's predecessor. In fact, through the use of aluminium and other modern engineering wizadry, it will shed the combined weight of my wife, a carton of Crown Lager and a decent family roast. (Call it 70kgs if you must).

So how does this relate to real life? Well if the Commodore were on The Biggest Loser, 70kgs would present  a total weight loss of 4%.... keeping the Commodore above the yellow line and excluding it from elimination..... . Okay, not the best example. Let's have a look at how it looks against some of the competition.

Currently the Holden Omega Sedan has an ADR rated fuel consumption of 8.9L/100kms. That puts it ahead of the Toyota Aurion and Honda Accord V6, but on par with the 2.0T Jaguar XJ ($68,990). 

"How can that be?" I hear you ask. The base model Commodore is as efficient as a Base model Jaguar? Surely not. It is because the Jaguar is getting a little on the porky side. At 1745kgs, it will soon be around 200kgs heavier than the VF Commodore, which is me, my wife and the aforementioned sundries, but exchanging the roast for a side of lamb.

Even BMW with their smaller previous generation 530i would be bested by Holden's soon to be be replaced base model when it comes to economy. Mercedes Benz E350 was also less efficient up until mid 2011 with the arrival of their Blue Efficiency variant which retailed for over $130,000. And of course the Euros all require either 95 or 98 RON. 

So what options are there, besides smelly diesels, that will cost you less than 6 figures? An option from the blue corner, of course. 

Right now, Ford have the Ecoboost Falcon that has a combined ADR figure of 8.1 L/100kms. That's better than the current E350 Blue Efficiency  model from Mercedes Benz, and, it can be had for less than $38kAUD. In fact it is even cheaper than it's Euro stable mate Taurus... er Mondeo, which incidentally also costs more to service and is smaller, and is poxy front wheel drive. 

The new VF Commodore is already being built and will be released in June. Key improvements will be in interior design and technology, efficiency through weight reduction, and, very competitive pricing. Hopefully people will forget their prejudices and see for themselves if Holden have honed in on the decreed preferences of the market. It will no doubt be, the best ever.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

If Ghost Busters Taught Us Anything.....

There are a whole raft of ways you can succeed at a business, but the universal essential key is to identify a need. That need isn't necessarily in demand right now (in fact perceived revolutionary products often hit the market right on the leading edge of demand) but that doesn't mean you need to wait for an ancient diety to open a multidimensional portal to create that demand either.

Take, for example, those poor souls who build anything related to iPhone. Okay so perhaps they're not exactly POOR souls, since they had a few good years already, following Apples products around as the key influence on their own offerings. However, how would you feel when the iPhone 5 comes out and all that new stock you had built in advance of the release, is instantly made redundant by a change in plug configuration?

Likely you'd roam through your warehouse flailing your arms like the staypuft marshmallow man wondering what you're going to do with what is now olde stock! You can't sell it to the kids; they've moved on!

Though there isn't much that could have been done in that case,  there are still examples of companies beating a dead horse for too long. These examples can be found anywhere you find heavy discounts. The product hasn't necessarily gotten any worse,  but the ads have stopped, it's no longer trending and your dad has one.

The speed of fad burnout these days is astronomical and proportionate to the increase in connectivity (which I'll discuss in an entry all it's own) which demonstrates the need for 2 essential ingredients relating to your product

1. Tie the longevity of your product to longevity of the source you used to identify the demand.

Memes for example, are only useful for nimble advertising agencies to produce reactive campaigns. You would not, however, go making ermagerd themed sheet sets.

2. Make/build/generate your stock in accordance with the forecast demand.

Monitor the strength of demand ruthlessly and most importantly, let that information drive the speed of your supply line. If you identify that your supply pipeline is too slow to get product to market in time to meet demand, the risk of being caught with dead stock should justify your investment in improving supply agility.

Remember, if you can't create or react to changes in demand, one day your customers are not going to call any more. They'll want He-Man......

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just For Clicks

Way way back in the day, I remember a participant to #blogchat specifically warning against changing your blogging style in the pursuit of more traffic. "There are millions of internet users online. Be true to your values and they will gravitate towards you" 

I often wonder if that particular seer of interwebz stuck to his or her guns. If they did indeed let their motivations guide their content, did they achieve a readership significant enough for their goals?

Once again, another autoshow has produced a quote from an American auto exec, which has been used as justification to speculate on the future of the Australian automotive manufacturing industry. Once again, I'm sure the internerdz have thrown a gasket trying to disprove or confirm the false prophets, but not me.

I had one look at one article which contained everything I needed to know: just the quotes.

There is no real new information, just speculation, as usual seeking the eager pointers and finger tips of Joe and Jane Public.

  This is a hazard which exists when entities decide they are a news site rathe
r than a point of information AND entertainment.

The same scrap of information is regurgitated between competitors creating an environment of false importance.

I hope to change that soon. Please PLEASE tell me if I become one of those  "professionals" in it just for clicks.

In the mean time, stop feeding the professional trolls. ;-)