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BACK SEAT DRIVING - SEPTEMBER 2007

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 Sun, Sep 2, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LING: BACK SEAT DRIVING GROWING UP HOCKEY Editor-at-Large Brian Kennedy's New Book

brian kennedy hockey

Life is ultimately about love. We all recognize love, although we do not love in the same way. None understands the logic of our individual passions, but we count ourselves fortunate to be near its mystery. LA Car Editor-at-Large and sports journalist Brian Kennedy writes about his lifelong love and passion in Growing Up Hockey (Folklore Publishing, 2007). The book draws you in at the beginning, with Brian's preschool adventure onto ice in Montreal, and ends with his touching the Duck's Stanley Cup in Los Angeles. The section titles of his book say it well: Learning the Game, Living the Game, Loving the Game. This is a story of a boy who grows up in Canada 's suburbs living for his pee wee league and collecting NHL cards. This is a story of a man who still is the consummate fan watching games over and over so that the video wears thin. He played until it got too rough, he refereed, he bought tickets from scalpers. He finally finds opportunity to worm himself nearer the game by becoming a sports writer. Here is another instance where he writes so he can be closer to his favorite sport. You see, Brian has another passion and love. Brian also writes about cars and car racing. Hockey and cars are about the adrenaline of gliding speed. But why analyze. Growing Up Hockey should be approached in much the same way as Brian's automotive articles: Just sit back, hang on and enjoy the ride. - Susie Ling, Road Warrior Growing Up Hockey By Brian Kennedy $19.95 Paperback: 352 pages Publisher: Folklore Publishing (September 2007) Language: English ISBN-10: 1894864654 ISBN-13: 978-1894864657 Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches Growing Up Hockey is available through Amazon.com. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING STOP...IN THE NAAME OF LOVE City Tries A New Vocab To Get You To Stop

stop

A big red sign that says "Stop" may not always be enough to get your attention while driving through the residential areas around your neighborhood. The government in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn realizes this. That's why it's trying a new vocabulary to get everyone to stop. "Maybe a laugh will get their attention," says Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann. . The Associated Press reports that this Chicago suburb has installed second stop signs beneath the regular ones at 50 intersections with messages, including "WHOAAA" or "Stop ... and smell the roses." "I thought it might make people smile and take notice," Mayor Dave Heilmann said to AP as he launched the campaign Friday. "You've got people on their cell phones, their BlackBerries and iPods while driving. Those are all distractions. Hopefully, when they see a sign they're not expecting it might make them stop." The new signs are red octagons, just like the real stop signs, but instead of just "Stop" they say "Stop ... right there pilgrim" (for those of you too young to know, it's a phrase made popular by actor John Wayne) and "Stop ... in the naame of love." ("naame" is the drawn-out pronunciation in the 1960s hit song by the legendary Motown singing trio, The Supremes). Only time will tell if this new approach to traffic management will work. However, AP reports that while the mayor was posing for a photograph with one of the new signs, a driver sped by without stopping. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

DACUMA: BACK SEAT DRIVING SOAPBOX DERBY Pasadena Team to Compete in Red Bull Soapbox Race

Soapbox

A team of Pasadena locals have been selected for the second time to compete in the Red Bull Soapbox Race in Seattle on September 29. Last year, these soapbox veterans placed fifth and wow-ed the audience dressed as a Vans-sneaker atop an oversized skateboard racer. This year, they will race as "Team Spicoli" down a half-mile slope against 45 other teams from all over the nation in a homemade, human-powered, checkered Volkswagen microbus a la "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," decked out in the trademark Vans black-and-white checker print. The Red Bull Soapbox Race began in Belgium in 2000. Since then, it has visited almost 30 countries, making its U.S. debut in St. Louis last year. Entries are judged not only on speed, creativity, and showmanship, which challenges entrants to put their mechanical skills to work, all the while thinking outside of the (soap)box. Please join me in building hometown support for the team as they continue their build and prepare to compete in Seattle! - Mary Aurelia Dacuma Team Name: Team Spicoli Driver: Grant Delgatty Mechanics: John Wilber, Dave Solomon, Michael De Wit, Rodney Rambo Nuts and Bolts Watch out! The Valley dudes from Ridgemont High are ready to bring "fast times and fast racing" to Seattle. Team Spicoli, a hazy collection of five co-workers at Vans shoe company "like to get some gnarly tube action when the surf's up, dude," says driver Grant Delgatty. Then it should be no surprise their soapbox is a replica of Jeff Spicoli's VW bus. Or that their team pit is the place to be on race day: "If the bus is rockin', don't forget to bring the Red Bull!" But don't think for a minute Team Spicoli will be out to lunch. This crew's got experience, having competed with a giant skateboard in last year's Red Bull Soapbox Race in St. Louis. Danger is their business. As their hero says "Hey Bud, let's party!" Full House It's a good thing that around Fremont there's freedom to be peculiar, because no ordinary racers will be hitting the track on race day. The lineup in Soapbox Seattle includes Bob Saget, a few 'drunk' Elvises and even everyone's favorite childhood toy - Lincoln Logs. Teams hail from as far away as Florida and as close as the Fremont district itself. While these auto amateurs are the latest bunch to hit the road, there have been many before them behind the wheel. The first Red Bull Soapbox Race took place in Belgium in 2000, and has since visited almost 30 countries including Austria, England, Jamaica, Czech Republic and Australia to name a few. The first U.S. pit stop was in St. Louis in 2006. Pump the Brakes It may be the most outrageous race around, but there are still a few rules of the road. All driving machines must be entirely human-powered - no stored power or external energy sources allowed. Secondly, all vehicles must be less than six feet wide, less than 20 feet in length and no more than seven feet from the ground. Finally, all crafts must weigh no more than 176 lbs (not including the driver). Obey the traffic laws and you could score big. The first place prize is an unforgettable NASCAR experience including flight and hotel for all four team members. The second prize is the ultimate driving day/weekend at one of the most challenging courses in the country - speeding will be a must! Each member of the third place team will get a day of go kart racing. There will also be a People's Choice award selected day of by the crowd's SMS voting. Don't wait for the flag to drop! Get your creative 'motor' running and test your craft at Red Bull Soapbox Race! For more details on the race, visit www.redbullsoapboxusa.com. To help support the Pasadena team, contact Mary at Manning Selvage & Lee (323-866-6062) Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

BT JUSTICE: BACK SEAT DRIVING HOW MUCH DOES THE UAW EXPECT TO GET FROM THE GENERAL? "It's not like divorcing a millionaire" I was scratching my head Monday as I followed reports about the United Auto Workers union striking General Motors. The heart of the situation seems to be UAW members digging in their heels. They publicly say they want to maintain the same wages and benefits they've long enjoyed. The union's always fought for more, and it's always won more. Its members have enjoyed some of the highest blue-collar wages in the world and gold-plated benefits. Workers in other industries dream of reaching what the UAW attained. Some pundits have exclaimed the UAW doesn't understand the world has changed. I haven't been critical of UAW leadership. The team running the UAW is a smart bunch. But Monday Ron Gettelfinger, UAW President, made me wonder if his team was missing the big picture. During a news conference, one of the issues he discussed was the huge disparity between wages of UAW members and Detroit Three executives. "It does seem odd to us that as much as workers do, they can't do enough, and as much as executives get, they can't get enough," said Gettelfinger. Time out. What the heck does executive compensation have to do with wages paid to line workers and skilled craftsmen? It's an emotional issue. But emotions shouldn't cloud fundamentals. One of those fundamentals is supply and demand. The supply of savvy executives is small, and demand is large. The opposite is true for assembly line workers. The Detroit Three are forced to pay colossal salaries to senior executives. That's right. The Detroit Three are FORCED to pay big executive salaries. Headhunters call Detroit execs every day, offering good jobs across the country and around the world. If the Detroit Three don't offer big salaries and dangle big incentives, the execs are gone. Over the last few year's we've seen Detroit execs head to Microsoft, Wal-Mart and many other automotive and non-automotive companies. Just this month we've seen Chrysler recruit Jim Press, formerly the top American at Toyota, and Phil Murtaugh, GM's top executive in China. There's huge demand for high-caliber execs. I hope this doesn't sound crude, but can you see an automaker chasing down an individual blue collar worker and bringing him or her to Detroit? What's the demand for blue collar workers? And what are the wages of blue collar workers in Alabama, Nuevo León and Shanghai? That's who UAW members are competing with ## and for the wages paid in Alabama, Nuevo León and Shanghai. Think about it this way: A labor shortage in the U.S. rust belt would force the Detroit Three to raise wages to bring in workers. They'd be competing with other industries for workers. Now look at the other side, with today's overabundance of blue collar labor, especially in the rust belt. Millions of workers would gladly move to Detroit or Cleveland for UAW wages. That's the harsh reality of supply and demand. The UAW wielded enormous clout when it was the sole provider of labor to the auto industry in the U.S. Demand for labor was high, and the UAW controlled the supply. The UAW is no longer the only provider of labor to the U.S. auto industry. It doesn't supply workers to plants owned by Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes, BMW, Hyundai, Kia and others. The Detroit Three compete against companies with lower labor costs, putting them at an economic disadvantage. In the bigger picture, labor from China, Mexico and other third world countries now competes with UAW workers in the U.S. That huge, global supply of labor drives down blue collar wages. This principle of supply and demand for labor is true in all industries, not just the car business. If GM, Ford and Chrysler are going to compete with Toyota and the others global automakers, then they must operate with similar costs. And the UAW leadership knows that. After thinking about it, I suspect Gettelfinger isn't missing the big picture. He knows the story, but he also has to fight the good fight and position his members for the inevitable. Perhaps the strike against GM is posturing by the union, to show the rank-and-file it's fighting for them. The strike could be part of a drama to prepare union members for the unavoidable tragedy of the first-ever wage decline for the UAW. This afternoon a friend commented on the UAW strike by saying, "It's not like divorcing a millionaire and trying to get as much as you can." That may be an apt analogy. The UAW and the Detroit Three are married, and there's not a fortune to be shared. The sooner they kiss and make up ## and come to terms with the realities of today's global competition ## the better for both parties. - B.T. Justice Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING THEY SHOOT HUMMERS, DON'T THEY? Mazda Club Clashes With Hummer Driver in China

Hummer

In China, they call Hummers "Hanma" - or angry horse. On September 18, 2007, National Public Radio reported on an incident that involved a very angry Hummer driver and about 50 members of a Mazda drivers' club on a highway near Nanjing in eastern China. According to NPR's Anthony Kuhn, it started when the Hummer barged into the Mazda convoy via the emergency lane. "The Hummer's driver probably thought it was fun to barge into this pack of cars. Our convoy thought that this wasn't too polite," said the Mazda club's leader, A-Xiang, to NPR. "So we decided to box him in, for the fun of it. Once the Hummer made his way forward, we surrounded him and slowed to a crawl, probably about 18 mph." "With the Hummer honking furiously and traffic backed up behind them, the Mazdas finally moved aside to let cars pass," said Kuhn. The incident lasted about four minutes total. Ordinarily, this would have been the end of the story. However, the Mazda club decided to post a video of the incident onto its Web site - and that's when all hell broke loose. It ended in an arrest of the lead driver, fines and a media firestorm, according to NPR. "The story offers a glimpse into China's emerging car culture and Internet politics," says Kuhn. "In China these days, growing income inequality is generating a lot of social tension." The incident became a hot topic of discussion in the Chinese media, with a lot of the talk about class hatred and car envy. Evidently, Hummers are known as the vehicle of choice of newly minted robber barons. "Especially coal mine bosses," adds Kuhn, "who are not widely known for their discreet spending habits or environmental consciousness." To listen to an audio clip of the NPR report, go to Hummer, Mazda Envoy Clash on Chinese Road. To see a YouTube video of the clash, click here. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING ROUND TWO Court Tosses California Lawsuit Against Carmakers for Greenhouse Gases Just as the ink began to dry on the Vermont court opinion allowing the state to regulate greenhouse gases, another court has dismissed California's global warming lawsuit against six automakers, saying the issues raised in the nuisance claim should be addressed by lawmakers and not the court. The state "has failed to provide the court with sufficient explanation or legal support as to how this court could impose damages against the defendant automakers without unreasonably encroaching into the global warming issues currently under consideration by the political branches," Judge Martin Jenkins said in a 24-page ruling issued on September 17, 2007. The first-of-its-kind lawsuit, filed by then-California Attorney General Bill Lockyer one year ago, sought to hold Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota liable for the environmental harm their cars and trucks produce. Lockyer and his successor, Jerry Brown, argued that cars are the source of more than 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in California, making the defendants "one of the largest contributors to global warming" in the state. "Of course we're disappointed. We're evaluating what to do next," said Supervising Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Alex to Cheryl Miller of The Recorder. Alex said he understood the judge's concerns about wading into the global warming issue, "But we do think it's such an important issue to the people of this state that we think it's an appropriate case for the court to make a decision. We don't think it's just a case for the Congress and the executive branch." "Our bottom-line point in this case is that global warming presents exceedingly complex questions that need to be addressed at the national and international levels, not through a lawsuit," said automaker attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. to Miller. Brown's office is still fighting a separate lawsuit filed by automakers that challenges a 2005 state law regulating tailpipe emissions. The California law is similar to the one that was the subject of the Vermont case described below. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING AN INCONVENIENT COURT RULING Vermont Wins Court Battle on Greenhouse Gas Regulation The efforts of some states to regulate greenhouse gases and the lawsuits by car manufacturers to nullify those regulations have been ongoing for a few years now. The manufacturers have been arguing that the state laws are thinly disguised efforts to regulate gas mileage - something that only the federal government can do. In furtherance of this argument, the manufacturers contend that it's impossible to regulate carbon dioxide from motor vehicles without regulating fuel economy. That argument has some merit, as a few state lawmakers readily admitted that they saw the regulation as a good way to force automakers to build more fuel efficient vehicles than the federal government was willing to do - and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But that was before "An Inconvenient Truth." Today, the concern over global warming has taken center stage - and has arguably dwarfed the singular fuel economy debate. On September 12, 2007, the manufacturers' argument took a broadside hit from the court, when United States District Court Judge William Sessions issued the ruling in Green Mountain Plymouth Dodge Jeep v. Crombie. Sessions held that Vermont's greenhouse gas law is valid and not preempted by the federal fuel economy law or by federal foreign policy. Vermont had adopted a regulation that is identical to California's. Under the Clean Air Act, California may set more stringent limits than the federal government on automobile tailpipe emissions and other states may adopt California's more stringent standards. Judge Sessions' ruling is contained in a 244-page opinion, which also granted judgment against the automakers claims that the state law is preempted by federal policy. He dismissed all other claims. The case was filed in federal court by automakers General Motors and DaimlerChrysler along with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers against the state of Vermont (George Crombie is the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources). The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers filed a separate complaint that was consolidated with this one. Attorney Matt Pawa represented the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environmental Defense, which intervened to help Vermont defend the case. The battle is widely believed to be headed to the United States Supreme Court. The states won this battle. We shall see what happens next. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING CHRYSLER SNATCHES TOP TOYOTA EXECUTIVE When the new owners of Chrysler LLC announed that its new CEO would be the recently ousted CEO of Home Depot, yellow caution flags went up (see the August Back Seat Driving entry by BT Justice, What Are They Thinking At Chrysler?). The CEO, Robert Nardelli, didn't help any when he said one of his goals is to "monetize some assets" of Chrysler that may not be fully valued. On September 6, 2007, the new owners of Chrysler dropped the biggest hint that they may not be in this for the quick buck. Nardelli announced the appointment of James Press as Vice Chairman and President of the new Chrysler LLC. Press, who was President and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motors in North America Inc. and a Director of the parent company, will now be responsible for North American Sales, International Sales, Global Marketing, Product Strategy, and Service and Parts for Chrysler LLC. "Tom LaSorda and I are thrilled that one of the most successful executives in the history of the auto industry has joined our leadership team at the New Chrysler" said Nardelli. "Our top team now consists of a world-class 'supply' leader in Tom and an equally world-class 'demand' leader in Jim." "I've known Jim for many years and know that he will hit the ground sprinting" said LaSorda. "I look forward to partnering with him and Bob as part of the Office of the Chairman." Press joins LaSorda as a Vice Chairman and President, reporting to Nardelli. LaSorda's responsibilities will continue to include Manufacturing, Procurement and Supply, Employee Relations and Global Business Development and Alliances. "I am grateful for the support and opportunities I received during my three-plus decades at Toyota" said Press. "I relish this new opportunity with the Chrysler team to be a part of the resurgence of a true American icon here and around the world. Part of my new responsibilities will be strengthening and energizing the dealer body. This is something I was passionate about at Toyota and will be passionate about at Chrysler." Press joins Chrysler after 37 years with Toyota, where he most recently served as the first non-Japanese President of Toyota Motor North America Inc., responsible for sales, engineering and the company's 15 manufacturing plants with 41,000 employees in North America. He was also the first non-Japanese executive selected to the Board of Directors of Toyota Motor Corporation. During his tenure at Toyota, the company grew from an upstart new company selling 100,000 vehicles per year to the second largest auto company in the United States. Press becomes a member of the Chrysler LLC Board of Directors and the Board of Managers of Cerberus Operations and Advisory Co. (COAC), LLC. Press joins LaSorda as Vice Chairman of COAC. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR iCAR?

iCar

U.S. computer company Apple Inc. and German automaker Volkswagen AG are discussing the possibility of building an "iCar" that would feature products by the producer of the popular iPod personal music player. That's the word from the Associated Press. According to sources at AP, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs and Volkswagen's chief Martin Winterkorn met late last month in California and plan to meet for further discussions. Volkswagen spokesman Hans-Gerd Bode confirmed the meetings. There are "scores of ideas," but few concrete plans at this point, Bode told AP. The German financial magazine Capital says market experts estimate that a compact car upgraded with Apple products would be of substantial interest to young target groups. This won't be the first time Apple and VW collaborated on a project. Apple already works with VW and other automakers to offer an integrated in-car hookup for iPods. "Electronics, ranging from satellite navigation machines to cup warmers, are increasingly a selling point for automakers, reports the Associated Press. "Ford Motor Company, for instance, will debut this fall an in-car communication and entertainment system developed with Microsoft Corporation that will cost $395 as an option." The system, called Sync, is said to allow drivers (using either voice recognition or steering wheel controls) to listen to their digital music players and have text messages on their cell phones read aloud. So, what would an iCar look like? The very first "i" products from Apple (the original iMac, the original iPod, and, of course, the new iPhone) are usually not cheap, so I expect one of the premium cars from VW to carry the iCar name - say the yet-to-be-introduced four-door coupe that's slotted above the Passat. Instead of something like BMW's i-Drive, VW can opt for an iPod-like circular menu control with Internet, email and all the functions currently on the iPhone. There could be front and rear docks for iPod playback, complete with DVD screens for movie and broadcast/satellite audio and video playback. GPS navigation could include the capability to auto dial your destination, pull up a menu, and order your food before you get to the restaurant. Next, how about an iCar Mini based on the GTI? An iCar Nano based on the Polo? Or, the Mini and Nano designations can be used for less expensive packages on all the cars. The iCar package could end up being an option much the same way that Bose audio systems are options on a variety of vehicles. The possibilities are numerous, and they can milk this for a whole lot of money. It's a wonder it took them this long to work on the iCar project. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

LA Car

That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. It's original website address was about five times the size of lacar.com. Since then, La Car became LA Car. Its subtitle 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 automotive spirit - much like one's own journal or diary. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from week-to-week, 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) and Live Wires - Hot & Tender News From the Car Culture (co-located with Back Seat Driving, and updated at least daily), we give you some reasons 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 Live Wires and the latest Back Seat Driving blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey from the heart of the car culture. - Roy Nakano

For past Blog entries, click the following: August 2007 July 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 August 2006 July 2006 June 2006 May 2006 April 2006 March 2006 February 2006 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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