Meet a Teen Who Commutes to School Every Day — in a Driverless Car

Kyla Jackson and her mom, Samantha Jackson…and a WAYMO autonomous ride

❝ For the past year, Kyla Jackson has been one of the only teenagers in the world who gets a ride to high school from a robot.

When she’s ready to start her day, Kyla summons a self-driving car using the Waymo app on her phone. Five minutes later a Chrysler Pacifica run by the autonomous vehicle arm of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., stops at her home in Chandler, Arizona. She slides open the door, fastens her seat belt, and hits a blue button above her head to set the car in motion. It’s a minivan covered in goofy-looking sensors, but it’s the coolest ride at her school.

RTFA. Interesting – and very cool.

Unreported economy story: CNG could solve US foreign oil dependence within 2-3 years

Filling up a CNG-powered RAM pickup truck

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said during the weekend before last at an industry convention in China that it is “most shocking” that the United States auto industry is not throwing its might behind natural gas, which has been found in abundance in its home country.

“A rapid adoption of CNG as a fuel source for automotive applications would almost instantly kill the reliance on foreign oil, and it would bring about a substantial reduction in emissions,” said Marchionne. “Those are opportunities that need to be grabbed and they need to be industrialized. Especially with large vehicles like pickups and large SUVs, we could probably accommodate the installation of CNG tanks within the next 24 to 36 months…”

But though Marchionne’s newsworthy views were offered on the sidelines of the convention in Shanghai, his talk about the paradigm-shifting potential of CNG was not reported. Instead reporters chased down answers to politicized questions as to whether Jeep production would be outsourced to China.

Concerns by reporters focused on whether production priorities would cost jobs in the U.S., or Italy. Both of which Marchionne answered for the umpteenth time with a “no.”

Poor reporting by unscrupulous bloggers has been partially blamed for the rumor that Jeep production would be outsourced from Toledo, Ohio, to China. Actually an original story on Oct. 22 by Bloomberg had the facts straight, but others overstated the purported sell-out to the Chinese story to the point that even Mitt Romney got it wrong…

Romney knew better. He’s just a liar.

But while reporters were chasing the seeds of that false Jeep-to-China report with Marchionne in Shanghai, they missed a true story on his considered views on how to cure U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to curb global warming.

And while he is at it, Marchionne says he doesn’t think ethanol has much future in the U.S. He said alcohol works as a fuel for Brazil where, “from a global standpoint, producing ethanol probably is the most efficient use of their sugarcane.” It was tried in Africa, and it failed. And, said Marchionne, he is “making no comments on the U.S. side of ethanol production which relies on grains.” We take it, Sergio doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

With little local infrastructure or broadcast access to CNG here in Santa Fe, the folks I know with cars running on natural gas have been paying the equivalent of $1.61 per gallon. Nationwide, still less than $2/gallon. That’s enough to get me thinking seriously about our next family vehicle being a factory conversion to natural gas – or something we might do after market.

The reasons are the same for our perpetual consideration of an electric car – or plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt or Ford’s C-Max. 99.9% of our driving is my wife’s work commute and our weekly grocery run plus the usual errands about town. An EV is still too high for us to consider the initial purchase – even though we’re the kind of family that keeps a motor vehicle 12-20 years. The payback is reasonable. The upfront cost is intimidating.

Northern New Mexico is an ideal location for CNG to be added to filling stations. Cripes. We’re a natural gas exporting state. The only handicaps are the usual: politicians stuck in the past, small business owners who can’t or won’t risk the investment. Both of which would be resolved by Feds willing to risk the sort of loans they make to the most undeserving segment of our economy – Big Oil and Big Coal.

CEO sends letter to Chrysler employees denying Romney’s lies

Jeep plant in Belvidere, Illinois

Chrysler Group LLC Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne reiterated that Jeep sport-utility vehicle production will stay in the U.S. after presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested output may move to China.

“Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Marchionne wrote today in a letter to Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler’s employees. “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand. It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

Romney told a crowd a crowd in Defiance, Ohio, on Oct. 25 that he saw an unidentified story that said Jeep was “thinking of moving all production to China.” The Republican nominee has since aired an ad in Ohio highlighting Chrysler’s desire to make Jeeps in China without mentioning investments and added jobs at U.S. Jeep plants. President Barack Obama is scheduled to air a response ad in the closely contested state today.

Bloomberg News reported Oct. 22 that Chrysler’s majority owner Fiat SpA (F) planned to resume Jeep output in China and may eventually make all of the brand’s models there. The report stated that potential production in China would be in addition to output at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.

Chrysler hasn’t built Jeeps in China, the world’s largest auto market, since before Turin, Italy-based Fiat took control of the U.S. automaker in 2009 after a U.S.-backed bankruptcy. Production in China would allow Fiat and Chrysler to sell Jeeps that avoid Chinese government tariffs on imported vehicles…

Since its bankruptcy in 2009, Chrysler has announced about $4.2 billion in investments for Jeep models and plants that produce them in Detroit; Belvidere, Illinois; and Toledo, Ohio. The three investments will add about 5,700 jobs combined by next year, Marchionne wrote today in his message to employees.

Republicans have often lied about economics, racism, bigotry of every stripe – when their tactics embrace the worst of hypocrisy. Never can I recall the CEO of a corporation having to distribute a letter to employees about the lies of a presidential candidate.

If you vote for Romney, you’re really going to get what you deserve – untruth in advertising.

Fiat 500L crossover gets espresso machine option

Leave it to the Italians to create the first in-vehicle espresso maker. With the new Fiat 500L, drivers can make their coffee and drink it, too. When the tiny 500’s larger sibling, the 500L, goes on sale in Europe early next year, it will list an espresso machine as one of its options.

Designed with Italian coffee company Lavazza, the system boils coffee grounds from a pod that clips into a console cupholder. The Coffee Experience kit will include a set of car coffee cups and a spoon holder…

According to Fiat, “it’s the first production car in the world available with a fully integrated espresso coffee machine as an accessory”….Although the 500L is set to come to the U.S. next year, a Fiat representative said…the feature is not likely to make it here.

There will also be a version of the 500L that’s likely to appear as a 2014 Jeep. Some of those 2014’s may start appearing in American showrooms as early as the 1st Quarter of 2013.

Fiat is in a hurry to get as many of their upwardly-revised Chrysler models on the streets ASAP. This will include the Grand Cherokee with a V6 diesel and the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. Woo-hoo.

So, if they do the 500L as a Jeep, what might they use as an alternative to an espresso machine option?

It’s halftime in America — and Chrysler says it, again!

There are beaucoup conservative politicians in this nation who – if they had their way at the start of the recession – would have kept anything like this commercial from ever being produced. Because Chrysler and General Motors and tens of thousands of American workers would have been shoved off the economic scoreboard.

But, our government came up with loans and aid, folks in the MidWest and around the country pulled together. The loans are being repaid. Cars are rolling out onto the highways, again. The American car industry and the people who work there weren’t allowed to die.

We get the same old 1930’s ideology every night on the news, in trite debates – from people who still don’t give a damn about American workers or American products. I wouldn’t vote for those losers even if they paid their taxes.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.

Chrysler repays Uncle Sam $7.5 billion – early

Shhhhh! Do you hear that? Neither do I. I’m talking about reaction from critics of the auto bailout to news that Chrysler will pay back the $7.5 billion that it borrowed from taxpayers of the United States and Canada. Chrysler is raising the cash to pay back its government loans through a combination of bond sales, a commercial loan and a cash infusion from its partner Italian automaker Fiat…

Granted, all this constitutes a refinancing of Chrysler’s debt and the company is far from being out of woods – it still owes the $7.5 billion. But the fact that an automaker that had been given up for dead a few years ago is now healthy enough to convince private investors to pony up billions is a positive sign. And the chief issue among bailout critics wasn’t the long-term survival of Chrysler (they were willing to let the automaker die after all) but whether the company could ever pay back the money it borrowed from the government. Well, it just did.

So Chrysler lives to fight another day, thousands of Americans keep their jobs and the company continues to expand and post profits. Which is good news, unless you are a Toyota state Senator, are paid by a think tank to opine that government can never do anything right, or are an ideologue who’s genetically incapable of uttering the word “government” without immediately blurting out the word “boondoggle.”

Ideologue being the operative word in my humble experience. Usually, the sloganeer is someone who could care less about the lot of someone who spent decades in an auto plant – overpaid for all the fun he had schlepping fenders onto a Chrysler chassis.

Nope. I have a lot more sympathy for the folks who spent a significant portion of their lives in the not-so-healthy atmosphere of an American factory instead of the ivory tower that makes some people “superior” to those getting a paycheck for manual labor.

Big 3 benefit from availability of vehicles with better fuel economy

GM, Ford and Chrysler showed much faster sales growth rates in April than Toyota and most other Japanese brands, in a sign that supply disruptions as a result of Japan’s March 11 earthquake are hitting Japanese manufacturers hardest.

Detroit automakers were also helped by the spike in gasoline prices to near $4 a gallon which fed consumer hunger for more fuel-efficient cars… And trucks.

GM sales were driven by its fuel-efficient Chevrolet compact cars and compact crossovers: the Cruze, Equinox and Terrain.

In March, for only the second time since 1998, Ford Motor Co outsold the larger General Motors Co. But in April GM sold 18 percent more vehicles than Ford. Ford came in No. 2 after it showed a U.S. 16 percent sales gain compared with GM’s 26 percent rise…

It was the third straight month that U.S. auto sales topped 13 million on an annualized basis — which had not happened since mid-2008…

Gary Bradshaw, portfolio manager with Hodges Capital Management in Dallas, said that a general U.S. economic recovery will allow consumers to continue buying cars at a rate that will also mean a gradual recovery in the auto industry…

Another beneficiary of the desire for cars that can go far on a gallon of gas was Hyundai Motor Co, which posted a 40 percent sales gain for its best showing ever for April. The cars it sold in April carried an average fuel efficiency of 36.2 miles per gallon, the company said.

In another sign of strength of the Detroit manufacturers, Chrysler Group LLC, managed by Italy’s Fiat SpA, increased April sales 22 percent, its 13th straight month of year-on-year U.S. sales growth…

Sales in Canada reported on Tuesday also showed gains linked to sales of fuel-efficient vehicles.

In my neck of the prairie, significant to the process of good sense overcoming habit, Ford’s best-selling F-150 pickup matched national numbers in that half of the sales were with the smaller Turbo V6 rather than the less efficient V8. Good news all-round, though I’d still prefer the small turbo-diesel they offer outside the US. RTFA for details on each manufacturer.

Long range, we’re still waiting and hoping for the Ford Focus EV to get its electric butt to New Mexico before my wife’s ancient Volvo gives up the ghost.

DISCLAIMER: I own enough shares in Ford to buy a breakfast burrito for each of us.

CEO of Fiat freaks out Italian Biz by suggesting Detroit move

Marchionne at 2011 Chrysler product launch in Brampton, Ontario
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat and Chrysler, has been forced on the defensive after causing a political firestorm in Italy by suggesting he could move the Italian company’s headquarters from Turin to the US…

His comments come just a month after he won tough labour concessions at Fiat’s flagship Turin plant on a pledge that he would not move production to cheaper sites in North America or eastern Europe.

Fiat is a symbol of Italy’s industrial might, and business leaders say any decision by Mr Marchionne to reduce its presence there would have a disastrous effect on the country’s already weak image as a place for foreign investment. Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the opposition Democratic party, demanding an explanation from Mr Marchionne said it was unacceptable for “Turin and the country to become a suburb of Detroit”.

On Sunday, John Elkann, Fiat chairman, sought to calm tension, telling Turin’s mayor that the city would remain a European headquarters of Fiat in any merger with Chrysler…

Fiat said only that Mr Marchionne spoke in his capacity as Chrysler chief executive. Even so, top bankers familiar with Fiat expect Mr Marchionne, who has made no secret of his frustration with Italian bureaucracy and labour relations, to seek to slim down operations in Italy and lead the group from the US…

How does it feel knowing that our economic worth – and guidance from Wall Street and Washington, DC in recent years – has made us as “desirable” as any other 3rd World country?

Best commercial Super Bowl XLV – as far as I’m concerned

I’m not taking the time or space to explain class or history to y’all. I’m not explaining the times I appreciate willingness on the part of Eminem to stand up against imperial war and a scumbag like George W. Bush. Or the times he screws up, too. But, at root and heart this particular cranky old geek never stops being a kid from the East End of Bridgeport. Born and brought up downhill and downwind of coal-fired factories. The same factories where I went to work at seventeen.

Fix it, brother. You rock.