F is for Ford

fordDetroit automakers hate government regulations and will deploy armies of lobbyists to get their way in Washington. And they routinely win. The argument goes like this: auto industry experts at such companies as GM, Chrysler and Ford know way more about the car business than “Washington bureaucrats” … and besides, if said auto industry experts get it wrong, Washington will bail them out anyway, so what’s the problem?

Since the 1973 OPEC shaft-job Washington regulators have consistently called for higher fuel efficiency from the automakers’ fleets only to receive immense pushback from the U.S. industry which wants to sell more high-profit, big-ass vehicles that slurp gas. Although profit is the motive, the industry will insist the regulatory goals are technically infeasible – just like it was infeasible to engineer cost-effective airbags, until foreign competition introduced them. And then miraculously, Detroit managed to comply.

Getting back to fuel economy: as long as gas prices stay low, everything’s copacetic. But when gas prices spike (often before the emergence of a recession), buyers head for the smaller, more efficient vehicles which are for the most part supplied by Detroit’s competition. GM’s mix of vehicles leading up to the Great Recession was heavy on trucks and SUVs. The economy turned south, people fled the big rides, and GM headed for bankruptcy – only to be backstopped by Bush’s TARP bailout to the tune of $30 billion (that includes GMAC).

Now Ford is back complaining about fuel efficiency regulations – specifically the requirement that the industry deliver greater numbers of electric vehicles. Ford CEO Mark Fields squawked about it to Bloomberg News in December 2016. According to the report :

“Ford Motor Co. plans to lobby President-elect Donald Trump to soften U.S. and state fuel-economy rules that hurt profits by forcing automakers to build more electric cars and hybrids than are warranted by customer demand. ‘In 2008, there were 12 electrified vehicles offered in the U.S. market and it represented 2.3 percent of the industry,’ Mark Fields, chief executive officer of Ford, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Southfield, Michigan, office Friday. ‘Fast forward to 2016, there’s 55 models, and year to date it’s 2.8 percent.’”

Clearly Ford wants to go in a direction opposite that of Tesla Motors which has been the top cheerleader for electric vehicles and a leading pioneer of the technology.

Then in early April, the market cap of Tesla Motors surpassed that of Ford suggesting that investors have a sense that electric is a bigger deal than CEO Fields believes. Then on May 22, Ford abruptly fired Fields who had been at the company for 28 years.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford said at the time, “Our world has changed dramatically. Look at the pace of change and the competitors coming into our space, and we need to match or beat that.”

Ya think?

Roger and Out

British actor Roger Moore died the other day at age 89. Best remembered as the man who played the iconic role of James Bond in seven films running from 1973 to 1985, Moore was already established as a suave, swashbuckler in the early 1960s TV hit “The Saint.” Surely his comfort playing the deboniare Simon Templar character paved the way for him to take over Bond from Sean Connery.

The early James Bond movies starring Connery were patently ludicrous – just consider how the comic Austin Powers films are more like remakes than parodies. By the time Moore took on the Bond mantle, the producers had openly embraced the stupidity of the plots and widened the aperture for wry humor – something that the droll Moore executed with aplomb.

One of my favorite scenes comes near the end of the ridiculous “Moonraker” in which Moore as Bond accompanied by main squeeze Holly Goodhead commandeer the bad guy’s space shuttle and blast evil orbiting nerve gas containers to kingdom come. (Sidebar: the inclusion of a hot chick named “Goodhead” shows how lazy the screenwriters became in the middle of the franchise before tightening things up in the Daniel Craig period.) Following the successful annihilation of the nerve gas Bond and Goodhead are caught on video having sex in the weightlessness of space. The MI6 chief demands answers. The best line ever: “I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir.”

Perhaps the best homage to the Bond series came in the form of clever cartoon parodies published in Mad Magazine. One such parody was of Moore’s first outing as Bond in “Live and Let Die” which takes place in the underworld of New Orleans. Bond seeks out villain Mr. Big in the Fillet of Soul restaurant which caters to the black community. Here is Mad’s take on the encounter which like all good parodies enhances the foolishness by treading closely to the target of ridicule.

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Here’s the original risible scene.


How Bond escapes becoming an ingredient in the jambalaya is beyond me.

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