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BACK SEAT DRIVING - FEBRUARY 2006

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Jan 31, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ROY NAKANO BACK SEAT DRIVING THE CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING FERRARI DRIVER - EPISODE 3 February 28, 2006

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Hey, Maybe There Really Is A Dietrich Sheriff's detectives said Monday that they believe a gun magazine discovered near the wrecked Ferrari Enzo in Malibu is connected to the crash, reports the Associated Press. Evidently, they plan to interview an unnamed person who they believe was in the car with Swedish game machine entrepreneur Stefan Eriksson. The crash has also garnered the attention of a leading Scottish bank, reports Richard Winton and David Pierson of the Los Angeles Times. The bank has reportedly informed sheriff's investigators that it may own the destroyed car as a creditor. At the same time, detectives are trying to figure out why another exotic car in Eriksson's extensive collection, a Mercedes SLR, was listed as stolen by Scotland Yard in London, said Sheriff's Sgt. Phil Brooks to the Times. Brooks now reports that the Sheriff's Department believes the car was traveling 162 mph when it crashed. "The Ferrari, with just a few inches of undercarriage clearance, hit a bump at a crest in the road, sending the vehicle airborne and into the power pole," Brooks informed the Times. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD THE CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING FERRARI DRIVER - EPISODE 2 February 23, 2006

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Who Is The Real Killer of the Ferrari Enzo? "The driver was Britney Spears," confesses BT Justice. "Definitely. Sean Preston was in her lap. They were being chased by paparazzi. Drinking was not a factor." "Whenever I am a little drunk I always look for a random German to pilot my sports car home," says Robert Peaceofme. "Heck, they know how to drive on the autobahn after all. I bet the driver was ejected from the car and launched into near Earth orbit. There is probably a safety feature on a million dollar car that handles that." "It's a PR stunt to bring more attention to Ferrari," asserts Curb Jumper. "Either that, or a conspiracy to increase the value of the remaining 399 Enzos." In any event, a hotline has been set up to find the real killer of the Ferrari Enzo in Malibu. Anyone with leads are encouraged to call the hotline at 1-800-DIETRICH. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD THE CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING FERRARI DRIVER February 22, 2006

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By now, every Southern Californian has heard about the million dollar Ferrari Enzo that crashed along a hilltop crest on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu yesterday. The news programs have been reporting that the Enzo was traveling anywhere from "over 100 mph" to "close to 200 mph." The driver could not be found. According to Los Angeles Times staff writer Bob Pool, "The driver jumped out of the wreckage and ran into the canyon above, evading a three-hour search by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department helicopter and a mountain search-and-rescue team." According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Stefan Eriksson identified himself as a passenger in the vehicle. Eriksson said he was a passenger in the Ferrari, which he said was being driven by a German acquaintance he knew only as Dietrich. Eriksson is evidently also the owner of the Ferrari Enzo. The automotive forums are brimming with theories about the missing driver. The most interesting one is the notion that it is standard operating procedure to flee the scene of an accident if you were intoxicated during the crash. This supposedly allows a drunk driver to claim that he or she got drunk after the crash, thereby substituting a "driving under the influence" charge with the lesser one of leaving the scene of an accident. Sheriff's Sgt. Philip Brooks informed the Times that they are far from convinced they have the whole story. Eriksson "had a .09 blood-alcohol level, but if he's a passenger, that's okay," Brooks told the Times. "But he had a bloody lip, and only the air bag on the driver's side had blood on it. The passenger-side air bag did not. My Scooby-Doo detectives are looking closely into that." Brooks' own theory: "Maybe the 'driver' had a friend who picked him up. Maybe he thumbed a ride. Maybe he was a ghost." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD FORD PARKING - SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL February 18, 2006

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"Ford Motor Co. is drawing a line in the asphalt," writes Bryce Hoffman of The Detroit News. After the company's Dearborn truck plant exiled non-Ford vehicles to the far side of the parking lot, similar restrictions are being enforced at Ford factories around the country. "Chevrolets, Toyotas and anything else not built by Ford or one of its subsidiaries are no longer welcome in the prime parking areas at Batavia Transmission LLC in Ohio, Woodhaven Stamping or at any of the factories in Ford's Rouge complex," says Hoffman. According to The Detroit News, and confirmed by Ford Spokeswoan Anne Marie Gaffari, similar policies are being considered at the Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake and the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky. "The majority of our plants now have such parking policies," says Gattari, adding that many of these rules had been on the books at plants but were ignored. "What Dearborn Truck has done has reignited the enforcement of those policies." Ford says plant management and union leadership have worked together on the parking restrictions, reports The Detroit News. "Ford is serious," said Jim Stoufer, UAW Local 249 president. "We support buying Ford products. It's our livelihood. It's going to be a fight for survival." One area of disagreement appears to be how Ford-owned foreign brands should be treated. Stoufer wants to see the ban applied to all foreign-made vehicles, including foreign brands owned by Ford such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Those vehicles, as well as Mazda vehicles (which Ford owns a controlling interest are exempt at most facilities. "The union's stance is union-made, American-made," Stoufer said, noting to TDN that only American-made cars and trucks can park at the union hall. "We don't want to tell our members they can't buy another vehicle that's made by the UAW." Hoffman reports that similar rules are under consideration at other Ford plants, including the Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne and the Louisville Assembly Plant. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

BT JUSTICE: BSD HENRY FORD III JUMPS ON THE FAST TRACK IN THE FAMILY BUSINESS February 15, 2006 Henry Ford III, great-great grandson of Henry Ford, is joining the family business. The announcement was made by his father, Edsel Ford II, a member of the Ford Motor Company board of directors and former president and COO of Ford Credit, last weekend in Orlando, FL, at the annual convention of the National Association of Automobile Dealers. It isn't surprising the young Henry III is joining the company. But the timing is surprising. And comments of his father may raise an eyebrow or two. The timing is surprising because the company is in the midst of laying off about 30,000 employees, including 4,000 white collar employees. "There are no crown princes at Ford," said Edsel Ford, trying to make a case that his son will not receive preferential treatment. Somehow, I don't envision 26-year-old Henry III being treated the same as other new hires. Consider that before deciding on a career path, Henry III received advice from senior company managers, including William Clay Ford II, chairman of the board, CEO and his father's cousin. Henry will initially work in labor relations, a hotbed of activity as the company's begins negotiations with the UAW on a new contract. The current contract expires next year. Henry III has a BA in from Dartmouth College and has been working as a middle school teacher in Alexandria, Va. He's is the eldest of Edsel Ford's four sons. If history is any precedent, Henry III will quickly rise through the corporate ranks, as his cousin, Elena Ford, has. Elena, 38, was hired in 1995. Though she has not distinguished herself in any way - unless, of course, you consider her revival of Mercury - and you have noticed that, haven't you? - she has been treated to a steady progression of promotions and is now director of North America Product Marketing, Planning and Strategy. No crown princes at Ford? We shall see. - BT Justice Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD JUDGE RULES 159 MPH OKAY February 11 2006 A British traffic officer caught driving at 159 mph but cleared by a court of speeding and dangerous driving faces a legal move at the High Court in London Wednesday to convict him, reports Reuters. The Attorney General will appeal against the acquittal of constable Mark Milton and seek a High Court order that the advanced police driver should be convicted over his high speed blast in the early hours of December 5, 2003. According to Reuters, "Milton, a qualified advanced driver, was recorded by an onboard camera in his upgraded unmarked Vauxhall Vectra police car traveling at 91 mph in a 30 mph zone and hitting 159 mph on the M54 motorway." The legal limit in Britain is evidently 70 mph. Milton's defense, accepted by the local judge in May 2005, was that he had taken the car on a test run around Telford, Shropshire, where he was based. The judge said the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he had driven dangerously and that the car was being "used for police purposes" when the incident occurred. "The ruling prompted outrage in the media and condemnation from motoring groups," says Reuters. Lawyers for the Attorney General will argue the district judge erred in law when he made his judgment. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD SUPERBOWL CAR AD WINNERS AND LOSERS February 7, 2006

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Martin Wolk, MSNBC's Chief Economics Correspondent has made up his mind about who won in Super Bowl XL. Besides the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marks says marketing teams from Ameriquest, Anheuser-Busch and Pepsico were among those scoring off the field. "There were a few fumbles as well, including Ford's decision to use Kermit the Frog to underscore the "green" credentials of its hybrid Escape SUV. Who is supposed to buy the car, pre-schoolers?" In reality, baby boomers, gen-Xers and gen-Yers all grew up with Kermit and we all remember his signature song, "It's Not Easy Being Green." Score one for Ford, IMHO. Here's how Wolk sizes up the other car ads in Super Bowl XL: Winner Toyota - It's tough to stand out from the crowd with a completely "straight" ad, but the Japanese carmaker managed the feat with its bilingual ad for the hybrid Toyota Camry. The moment of bonding between a Spanish-speaking father and his son surely resonated well with the target market for the family sedan. Toyota also managed to grab viewers' attention with a second-half ad featuring a fantasy sequence of its Tacoma truck being tossed around mercilessly in the ocean surf and then emerging to drive away. Loser Cadillac - Another production number that was less than thrilling was the "fashion show" featuring the 2007 Escalade rising from a pool of water. "So, to summarize: Toyota was a winner, with inventive, novel advertising. Ford and GM were losers with tired misfires. Sounds a lot like Detroit's recent history," says Wolk. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

Google says BMW site took a wrong turn. ROY NAKANO: BSD GOOGLE GIGS BMW FOR WEB SPAMMING February 6, 2006 The German website of BMW, BMW.de, has been removed from Google's search results as part of the web company's crack down on the manipulation of its search engine, reports Kate Mackenzie of Financial Times (FT.com). A spokeswoman said the company cannot comment on specific cases but said, "We cannot tolerate websites trying to manipulate search results as we aim to provide users with the relevant and objective search results." The BMW.de website evidently used "doorway" pages, which can be employed to trick search engines into leading their users to websites that are not directly related to the search terms. Marc Hassinger, spokesperson for business and finance communications at BMW Deutschland, told FT that BMW.de doorway pages only redirected users to relevant pages - for example, one doorway page that frequently used the German word for "used car" redirected users to a page about BMW used car sales. He said this was done so that German web users searching for a second-hand BMW car dealership would find an index of dealerships around the country. The handwriting, however, had already been on the wall. Matt Cutts, a software engineer at Google, wrote last month in his weblog that the company would begin to take a tougher line on web spamming by non-English language websites. On Saturday, Cutts wrote that BMW.de had been removed, for violating the Google guideline: "Do not deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users." Cutts wrote that he expects that Google's Web spam team will require a re-inclusion request including details on who created the misleading pages before BMW.de is included in the database again. He said that some of the offending pages had already been removed. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD THOU SHALL NOT SELL THE LORD'S HOUSE FOR A BMW February 4, 2006 Ripon pastor agrees to 16 months behind bars for selling church

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A Ripon pastor accused of selling the town's oldest church pleaded guilty to embezzlement on Monday and agreed to 16 months in prison, according to the Associated Press. Randall Radic, 53, entered his plea in San Joaquin County Superior Court as part of a deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop nine other charges. AP reports that Radic had preached at First Congregational Church for nearly a decade before he sold the church last October for $525,000 - allegedly using the money to buy a BMW. He also faked documents that gave him possession of his house, which was owned by the church, then used the property to take out loans, authorities assert. Before the plea deal, Radic had faced up to nine years in prison for 10 counts, including two counts of theft by embezzlement, two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, four counts of forgery of signature and two counts of presenting a fraudulent document, reports AP. "Radic remains in San Joaquin County Jail on $750,000 bail," according to AP. "He is scheduled to appear for a formal sentencing and restitution hearing on March 16." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD NEVERMIND February 3, 2006

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Bush's Goals on Energy Find Obstacles The energy proposals set out on Tuesday by President Bush has run into a few obstacles. After he declared in his State of the Union address that the United States was "addicted to oil" and had to wean itself from a century-old habit, the President drew some flack from his supporters as well as from the Middle East.

His call for the replacement of 75 percent of the United States' Middle East oil imports with ethanol and other energy sources by 2025 evidently upset Saudi Arabia, the main American oil supplier in the Persian Gulf. In an interview on Wednesday, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said to New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller that he will have to ask Mr. Bush's office "what he exactly meant by that." Analysts reported to Bumiller that they were startled that Mr. Bush had singled out the Middle East with implicit criticism, and on the very day that the Saudis provided important support for American interests at a meeting in Vienna of ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. In Washington, Saudi ambassador Turki said he was puzzled by Mr. Bush's words in the speech. He wanted to know if reducing American dependence on foreign oil also applied to other suppliers to the United States. "Is that a declaration that the U.S. is going to work to be independent of Canadian oil, Mexican oil and Venezuelan oil?" he asked, adding, "I see no threat from America from receiving its oil from the Middle East." On Capitol Hill, Republicans praised the president's overall goals, but sounded notes of caution, with representatives of oil-producing states leading the way. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said he was enthusiastic about nuclear power but questioned whether the government should be subsidizing alternative fuels like ethanol. "It loses some of its shine when it becomes another government support program for an alternative fuel, which seems to be the pattern here in Washington," Mr. Cornyn said. Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas, the chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, even seemed to contradict the president's alarms about high energy prices. "America runs on energy that is both abundant and available at prices we can afford to pay," Mr. Barton said in a statement. The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget. A veteran researcher told the Times that the staff had been told that the cuts would be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass, which includes ethanol. Those are two of the technologies that the President cited on Tuesday night as holding the promise to replace part of the nation's oil imports. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

CHUCK DAPOZ: BSD EX-FORD ENGINEER SELLING HIS ALARM CLOCK ON EBAY February 2, 2006

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It's depressing to get pink-slipped from a high-paying job. But a former Ford engineer is making a joke of being furloughed. Or, maybe, he's publicly criticizing his ex-employer. Mark Coletti, 29, is selling his alarm clock on eBay, according to yesterday's Detroit Free Press. Last week, Ford began cutting 4,000 white-collar jobs, and Coletti was among the first to be let go. His eBay ad announces, "Dual alarm clock-used for 7 yrs by former Ford engineer." It goes on, "This alarm clock is SO reliable that it helped me achieve a perfect attendance award for 4 of my 7 years at the company!!! Since I was laid off last week as part of Ford's Way Forward initiative, I no longer have the need for an alarm clock." Coletti comes from a well-known Ford family. His father, John, worked at Ford for 32 years, before retiring at the end of 2004, and headed Ford's Special Vehicle Team, which made performance versions of the Mustang, Focus and F-150, and also led development of the Ford GT Mark Coletti's description of his clock on eBay runs 700 words, which is verbose for a simple appliance. But he's not merely selling product features. He writes, "I run out of money in a few months and need all the financial help I can get!!! Check back as I may also be selling my business attire dress shoes, button down Polo shirts, khaki's, miscellaneous Ford Motor Company awards and plaques and other corporate-America items I no longer need in future auctions." He concludes, "Have a great day working! I'm off to watch the Price is Right and then hitting the tanning salon..." As of this morning, bidding for the alarm clock was up to $102.50, and 70 bids had been placed. The 10-day listing ends February 8. - Chuck Dapoz To view the listing, go to alarm clock. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD RETURN OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PRESIDENT? February 1, 2006

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"America is addicted to oil." No, that's not a message from the Sierra Club. It's President Bush giving his State of the Union address. On Tuesday, the former oilman said America must break its dependence on foreign oil. In the speech, Bush called for reducing the USA's dependence on Middle Eastern oil by 75 percent. The United States currently imports about 10 percent of its oil from the Middle East. "The best way to break this addiction is through technology," said Bush. Among the items addressed: A six-year goal for making the alternative fuel ethanol practical and competitive, and vowing to fund additional research into ways to make ethanol from not just corn but also from wood-chips, wheat stalks and other sources. The goal, he said, is to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past." In addition, Bush said he will ask Congress to fund a 22 percent increase in federal energy research to focus on cleaner coal-fired plants, nuclear energy, hydrogen fuel cells, and better batteries for hybrid and electric cars.

Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

Ford Mustang Stamp

That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. Since then, it became Reporting From Car Culture Ground Zero, then From The Heart of Car Culture, to today's The Cars and Culture of Southern California. At all times, however, we aimed to chronicle the Southland's spirit - much like a journal. Now, the diary goes semi-daily. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from month-to-month, to see what articles and reviews have been added to our rather staggering database. With Back Seat Driving, a.k.a. BSD (note the similarity to two well-worn abbreviations, BS and BFD), we give you a reason to come back more often (all opinions, by the way, are those of the respective author). So, go ahead and bookmark www.lacar.com. We'll be sure to always provide a link to the latest blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey into the cars and culture of Southern California. - Roy Nakano

For past Blog entries, click the following: January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 May 2005 April 2005 March 2005 February 2005 January 2005 December 2004 November 2004 October 2004 September 2004 August 2004 July 2004 June 2004 May 2004 April 2004

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