From Pontiac to Dodge

Automotive News has an interesting observation:

General Motors CEO Mary Barra, at the recent Automotive News World Congress, said the company doesn’t miss any of the brands that were discontinued during the company’s 2008-09 bankruptcy and restructuring — Saturn, Saab, Hummer and Pontiac.

You can take that to mean that none will ever be revived by GM, at least while Barra is in power.

But that doesn’t mean displaced customers of two of the brands — Hummer and Pontiac — have nowhere to go.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is building a lineup that would be a natural home for displaced Hummer and Pontiac customers.

Looking at Jeep’s staggering global growth and the worldwide explosion in popularity of SUVs and crossovers, you have to think a Hummer customer’s first choice would be a Jeep. (Don’t forget the two brands shared the same basic seven-slot grille.) GM no longer has a dedicated brand of rugged off-road vehicles.

But I see the biggest migration of GM customers to coming from Pontiac — and going to Dodge.

“Dodge is the American performance brand,” Tim Kuniskis boasted during a presentation of Fiat Chrysler’s new five-year plan in May.

Kuniskis, CEO of Dodge, is trimming and recasting the brand’s lineup to focus on performance — putting its tires squarely on the turf that transformed Pontiac into a performance powerhouse in the 1960s.

Pontiac’s performance image, spawned by such cars as the GTO, Firebird, Super Duty Trans Am and others, lasted well into the 1980s. It was in the midst of being reborn when GM killed the brand in 2009.

Dodge’s Grand Caravan minivan is about to join the midsize Avenger sedan in automotive history books. And by 2018, Kuniskis says, Dodge will have seven performance-oriented nameplates. That plan is already in motion with the outrageous new 707-hp Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcat muscle cars, and the V-10 Viper sports car.

I asked Kuniskis if Dodge will actively pursue Pontiac fans with direct mail appeals, discounts and other tactics, since GM no longer has a brand dedicated to performance vehicles.

“The Dodge brand is open to any buyer who is looking for performance,” he said. “Every Dodge vehicle is designed to deliver that visceral feel that reminds buyers why they fell in love with driving in the first place, and we’re open to any buyer who is looking for that feeling, regardless of the brand they’ve previously driven.”

I don’t want to give you the impression that GM no longer cares about performance cars and Pontiac customers. Cadillac is largely about luxury and tire-shredding performance. At the North American International Auto Show, Cadillac showcased the new CTS-V, a 640-hp road rocket.

And Chevrolet has some interesting cars, such as the SS, which is a new version of the discontinued Pontiac G8 sports sedan, and the Corvette and Camaro. But GM has no mainstream brand purely devoted to performance or even with a strong performance image.

Even if Dodge does capture a good share of Pontiac buyers, success is not guaranteed, says AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan.

For one thing, GM won’t give up Pontiac customers easily.

GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney says GM consistently communicates with Pontiac customers, alerting them of new GM models and offering loyalty incentives to stay with GM. The company won’t disclose or quantify how successful it has been at retaining Pontiac customers, Carney said.

U.S. buyers have many performance vehicles from which to choose.

“When you look at other performance models — the Ford Focus ST, the Raptor, BMW’s M series, Audi’s S and RS models — none of those automakers dedicate a whole brand to performance,” Sullivan says. “There is a limited market for go-fast stuff. Look how many Accords, Camrys and Altimas sold last year.”

Readers fired away immediately:

The U.S. has several performance cars, but it doesn’t have a “performance brand”, least of all Dodge which is best known for being the least expensive Chrysler. Ironically, Pontiac received one of the few true performance cars pre-failed GM produced, but GM never bothered to package G8 for North American success, so it languished into obscurity with the rest of Pontiac as merely not being the lowest rung on GM’s brand ladder.

Dodge is the least expensive Chrysler because Plymouth is no more.

Some of the problem with GM is. Is that it has abandoned the “average” American buyer who doesn’t have the income to buy a Camaro that doesn’t have a V6, which isn’t cheap to begin with anymore, or any of their other performance vehicles, which price wise escalate quite quickly from there on up. Where is the direct(quality mind you)competitor to the Fiesta ST, and the Focus ST in GM’s lineup? I’m sorry GM but a Sonic RS just isn’t it! Until then GM has a lot to do to keep customers in my mind.

that´s the point, fella. Congratulations .Oldsmobile could be what Cadillac no longer is: soft american upscale luxury, beside Buick. And Pontiac, one step down, a budget performance brand. That´s not the role of Chevy. You see? There is a clear gap betweven Mercedes and BMW and Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, for example. That gap could perfectly be filled by Olds and Pontiac. The same could be sad about Plymouth and Mercury. Where are the american automotive pride without all those brands?

Basically GM has “turned their back” on the performance enthusiast who: A. Doesn’t want a Camaro or B. Can’t afford $40K+ for a new ride. To me, it’s a total failure on the part of Barra, Reuss, etc… Once a you’ve lost a customer to Dodge, Ford or whomever, they most likely aren’t ever coming back.

Pontiac‘s problem was that too many of its cars were minimally upgraded Chevrolets. Pontiac had a similar problem to Mercury (upgraded Ford, or downgraded Lincoln?) and Oldsmobile (which was supposed to fit between Pontiac below and Buick above), in that GM and Ford didn’t sufficiently differentiate those brands, so they ultimately had little reason for existence. (Plymouth was a separate issue, basically Chrysler’s deciding it didn’t want a Chevrolet.)

 

Backing over the trial balloon

Yesterday’s blog item about Barack Obama’s wanting to tax college savings accounts lasted one day, reports Breitbart:

Facing strong opposition from parents and both political parties, Barack Obama is abandoning plans to tax college savings accounts, also called 529s.

In making the announcement, the White House also said it will “keep an expanded tuition tax credit at the center of his college access plan.”

The decision came just hours after Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio demanded that the proposal be withdrawn from the president’s budget, due out Monday, “for the sake of middle-class families.” But the call for the White House to relent also came from top Democrats, including Representatives Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking member of the Budget Committee.

While the WH sought to portray the initial plan as taxing the wealthy to benefit the middle class, analysis indicated that a large number people who are far from “wealthy” were benefiting from the ability to put money away for their children’s higher education without fear of it being taxed.

Both current House Speaker Republican John Boehner and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi came out against Obama’s initial plan.The New York Times reports:

The contretemps over college accounts held broader lessons. For one, tax reform and “simplification” have great appeal in the abstract, but many specific provisions of the tax code have large and vocal constituencies. In addition, Americans’ concept of the middle class is far more elastic than that of economists.

“That’s as middle class as it gets,” Representative Marlin Stutzman, Republican of Indiana, said of 529 college accounts.

Which prompts the Chicks on the Right to observe:

Gee…the whole “demonize the wealthy thing” didn’t work out for him this time…since it’s MIDDLE CLASS PEOPLE who are actually being demonized.  Too bad it’s taken SIX FREAKING YEARS for some of the lobotomized lemmings out there to wake the heck up.
(Insert eyeroll here that can stab my brain.)
Because that’s obviously what it takes.  Getting people RIGHT in their wallets.
You know what this has shown me?
That every single person in this country should have to WRITE A PHYSICAL CHECK every month for their taxes. None of this ridiculous have-taxes-taken-out-automatically crap.  No way.  Every American should have to WRITE A CHECK.  Every month.  To the government.  If everyone had to physically do that, and we were all completely aware of what we had to pay out of our paychecks every single month…we had to PHYSICALLY WRITE THE CHECK TO THEM – Republicans AND Democrats – I bet folks would be voting waaaaay differently at the polls.  Because let’s face it – it was both parties that came together on this 529 thing and said, “HELL NO!”
They both took a conservative approach on this, y’all.  They came together and said “UP YOURS” to the government.  And that’s a beautiful thing.
I bet that if folks had to physically write a check every month for their social security, FICA, and everything else in between, we’d start seeing a major change of political affiliation by some folks in this country. I stand by that bet.  Because conservatives are the party of fiscal responsibility and LESS GOVERNMENT.  LESS TAXATION.  But people are too distracted by social issues – because liberals are masters of distraction, as you well know.
If people had to write the checks instead of having taxes taken out automatically, they’d have to think about it.  It’d be more painful.  There’d be no out-of-sight, out-of-mind.  Their wallets would be visually affected every month.  They’d SEE it.   (You know, like the rest of us who are already painfully aware and already vote conservative).

Presty the DJ for Jan. 29

Today in 1942 premiered what now is the second longest running program in the history of radio — the BBC’s “Desert Island Discs”:

What’s the longest running program in the history of radio? The Grand Ole Opry.

Today in 1968, the Doors appeared at the Pussy Cat a Go Go in Las Vegas. After the show, Jim Morrison pretended to light up a marijuana cigarette outside. The resulting fight with a security guard concluded with Morrison’s arrest for vagancy, public drunkenness, and failure to possess identification.

The number one British single today in 1969 was its only British number one:

Continue reading →

Weather or not you got it right …

The New York Observer isn’t happy with the National Weather Service’s not-entirely-correct forecast of Snowpocalypse:

The head of the National Weather Service admitted today that his agency did not do enough to communicate uncertainty about its blizzard forecast for New York City.

In particular, the agency is trying to track down exactly how the words “potentially historic” became attached to the forecast, helping to fuel overblown media coverage and possibly unnecessary storm preparations. Mayor Bill de Blasio repeated the word “historic” during blizzard press conferences, holding up snow statistics dating back to the 19th century in order to defend his decision to close roads and subways and threaten to arrest anyone driving on the roads last night.

Dr. Louis Uccellini, the director of the National Weather Service, told a media conference call at 3pm Tuesday that the agency is now working with “social scientists” about how to communicate serious forecasts better in the future to the public and decision-makers. There is always uncertainty in any forecast, he said.

“During interviews I did yesterday,” he said, “I tried to communicate this uncertainly. Clearly this is not enough. We have many challenges ahead of us to make sure we communicate this uncertainty.”

He said the use of the word “historic,” was put in the headline of a blizzard notification released directly by a local forecast office which had jurisdiction. It was not vetted by anyone in the national communications office or by the director himself.

“We rely on the forecast individuals there and the M.I.C. to vet these forecasts,” he added, referring to the meteorologist in charge of the local office. There are 122 forecast offices in the United States.

Despite saying he was open to change, Mr. Uccellini was also quick to defend his forecasters and even the person who included the word historic in a forecast titled, “Crippling and Potentially Historic Storm Set to Hit…” He said that if the forecast had been correct, the snowfall amounts would have been historic for New York, and they might still be record-setting for Boston when the totals are in.

“If those snowfall events had occurred it would have become a historic event in the NYC area,” the director said.

“We’re working more closely with the social science community with communicating the risk, how we simplify our messages and how we communicate with people who have to make tough decisions,” he said.

Though many blame Mayor de Blasio for overhyping this week’s non-blizzard and shutting the city for no reason, a good portion of the blame does seems to belong on the shoulders of the National Weather Service.

A weather service spokesperson said that once the storm is done, it’s likely a post-mortem will be done to determine exactly which local office generated the “potentially historic” lingo. It’s possible that it came out of conversations between a few offices or out of either the Upton, NY office or the Mount Holly, NJ office, which happens to be the home office of meteorologist Gary Szatkowski, who tweeted his own apology earlier in the day.

“My deepest apologies to many key decision makers and so many members of the general public,” he tweeted after midnight Tuesday morning. He continued in the next tweet, “You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn’t. Once again, I’m sorry.”

The problem is that, as Midwesterners know, it is not possible to completely accurately predict what Mother Nature is going to do. The storm apparently took a late eastern turn, which meant it hit Boston much harder than it did New York. Well, better them than us survivors of the craptacular winter of 2013–14.

My favorite online meteorologist, Mike Smith, adds:

While our forecasts were far from perfect, two facts stand out, at least to me:

  • ·       The reports from Manhattan that I have seen indicate 8-9 inches accumulated.
  • ·       Far east Queens had 15+inches (still snowing) and Islip, last I saw, had 23” with moderate snow still falling.

 

The forecast for Boston, Providence, Worcester, and other areas was nearly perfect. This is the scene at Boston U about 11:30am. A fierce blizzard is in progress.

I can tell you story after story of using the barotropic,  baroclinic, and LFM models along with “rules of thumb” (Goree and Yonkin, BJ Cooks’, etc.) in the 1970’s through the mid-80s and confidently forecasting “four to eight inches” and waking up the next day to absolutely dry streets and clear skies. We had no idea what a “dry slot” was. There were also heavy snow storms that went unforecast. What progress we have made!

Assume for a moment that Manhattan received 9” of snow that was unforecast. Absolute gridlock would have resulted. With our forecast, sand and salt trucks were loaded, plows were put on dump trucks, etc. School was called in many areas but most districts would have called it for 9” as well as 20” – beyond the threshold for calling school, it didn’t matter. The same can be said from the people who were allowed to work from home. Airlines cancelled flights (perhaps too many) appropriately. Railroads moved snow plows into position and they were needed. They just had to move them a little farther east than originally planned.

View from JFK International’s tower. Via Twitter. Think they would
have been able to conduct operations normally?

In other words: Our NYC forecast, while hardly perfect, was useful.

There is a wonderful book called The Children’s Blizzard. It tells the story of an unforecast ferocious blizzard that struck as children in Minnesota and the Dakotas were walking home from school. At least 213 died (total fatalities around 500). There is no reason to believe that would not happen again today if a similar storm occurred without any warning. Don’t believe me? Think back to the Joplin tornado. When the NWS warning system failed, society went right back to triple-digit tornado fatalities.

There is little doubt in my mind that this forecast for Boston, Providence and so many other areas will, in the end, have saved lives. Yes, we want to learn from this storm. But let’s take a moment to congratulate our fellow meteorologists and be proud we get to work in a profession that saves so many lives and does so much good for our nation and the world.

I’m sure you want to know how The Onion reported this:

The New York Times, meanwhile, covered the CYA going on when the predictions didn’t pan out, even injecting presidential politics:

Across the Hudson River, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican considering a run for president, trumpeted his experience with weather emergencies. On Sunday, while he was at his son’s hockey game in Bayonne, a resident asked if he was worried about the storm, he said. “We’ve had Hurricane Irene, we’ve had Hurricane Sandy,” Mr. Christie said, recalling the conversation on Monday. “For better or for worse, we know how to deal with these situations.”

The Times story prompted this comment:

“The National Weather Service, or NOAA, is mostly to blame here for their overarching scare tactics and plain inability to accurately forecast. … Fire the lot and start using time tested techniques such as finger in the wind and pressure headaches.”

 

First, they came for your “excess” income …

Jonathan Krause:

As part of his plan to “simplify the tax code”, President Obama wants to revoke the tax-exempt status of 529 investment accounts.  For those not familiar, 529’s are “Educational IRA’s”–usually run by states–that allow parents to save money for their children’s college education.  Under current law, if that money is used for school expenses, the parents don’t pay taxes on the distributions.  If parents start when a child is born and save religiously, they are rewarded with not having their kid saddled with student loan debt upon graduation.

But the Obama Administration–and economists on the Left–think the “wrong people” are taking advantage of 529 plans.  They believe that most of the seven million accounts are held by parents who “could afford to save for college anyway”–and that the 529 is just a tax-shelter.  They may be right–the average 529 investor probably doesn’t have a $400 smartphone sitting next to a $400 tablet with the same purchased apps on both of them, or subscriptions to ten different streaming video services, or the largest broadband internet package for freeze-free gaming, or unlimited data plans, or two $6 Mocha Grande Lattes every day and can “afford” to save for their kids’ college.  What those “experts” fail to realize, however, is that by making 529 distributions “regular income” they also will cost middle class families money in financial aid for which they will no longer quality because they “make too much”.

The fight over 529’s is just a prelude to the real target of what will be President Obama’s liberal successors in Washington–Roth IRA’s.  There is $217 billion dollars currently held in 529 accounts.  But there is over $1-TRILLION sitting in Roth IRA’s–all of it growing tax-free–and waiting to be distributed tax-free.  The President–again to “simplify the tax code”–is proposing a cap on the value of Roth’s at $3.4 million dollars.  (That is apparently all the Government believes you should be allowed to save for retirement–so don’t invest TOO well young savers).  Meanwhile, the calls are already coming from those at the Liberal think tanks to revoke the tax-free status of Roth’s and tax the distributions not at the lower capital gains level–but again as regular income to “maximize Government revenues”.  The argument being–again–that those who have been saving in Roth IRA’s could have been putting that money away in other ways and don’t “deserve” the tax break.

But there is still another pool of money that dwarfs even the Roth IRA sum–and that is the $12-TRILLION in wealth that Baby Boomers will be handing down to their Generation X and Gen Y children over the next couple of decades.  Economists are calling the “greatest transfer of wealth in human history”–and that isn’t sitting well with those on the Left.  Remember, they want to “redistribute wealth”–not transfer it.  And that is why calls for increasing the inheritance tax and reducing the amount that is exempt from inheritance tax are already building.  And it’s why Liberal pundits are sharpening their vocabulary with terms like “Genetic Lottery Winners” to describe those poised to get something from their dead parents.