Saturday, January 24, 2009

How iPod Killed the Local Radio Personality

Much like The Buggles’ song “Video Killed the Radio Star” it looks like the iPod may be at it this time and the victim is the disc jockey. The fact is that almost every car and truck sold today has an auxiliary jack (or the option of one) for plugging in the popular digital music player by Apple, or a Zune, or some other type of MP3 player. The radio business has also changed over the past decade, we lost Stern to satellite, stations have changed formats much like we switch out an old pair of sneakers, and many have become part of a larger conglomerate, all in the name of spreading a company’s message or strengthening their already powerful market share.


Let’s face it, most of us when we’re not blabbing on our mobile phones, or trying to map out directions to grandma’s house are listening to the radio or have some form of multimedia plugged into that above-mentioned aux jack while driving around town.

In Los Angeles there are approximately 45 stations anyone can tune in to find a variety of formats from hip-hop, country, jazz, alternative, and at least a dozen Spanish-language stations all battling for your attention. It can be mind-boggling with all the choices, yet alone trying to find the exact frequency playing the perfect song.

Local and syndicated radio talk show host Tom Leykis has stated that the radio business is dying out. Many stations that once featured market-specific formats are now being centralized to reduce costs. For instance, out of the four dozen or so radio stations in LA, almost half of those are owned by the big three media giants: Emmis Communications, CBS Radio, or Clear Channel, these corporate owners will soon be killing your local radio personality all in the name of improving profits, increasing ratings, and streamlining operations (if they haven’t already). Take for instance Clear Channel, when the media giant bought out a classic rock station in San Diego, they changed programming and Howard Stern was yanked from the airwaves of America’s Finest City. Another example in Los Angeles, a radio station once known as The Arrow 93.1 FM featured actual DJ’s announcing songs, it is now known as Jack FM, which has stations across North America and their slogan is “playing what we want”, gone are the DJ’s and their varied tones calling out music and seeking the 12th caller.

You can blame corporate greed, but I see other sources of noise in this equation: TiVo, technology, and our constant craving to be in control has forced out the independent radio stations while also alienating listeners who had the propensity to cling on to a pair of Chuck Taylors long after the soles wore thin and walking through a puddle meant soggy socks and hell to pay when the shoes came off. Let’s face it, TiVo and the DVR have changed the way we watch TV and its music equivalent, the digital music player, has altered how we enjoy our tunes. When was the last time you bought a video tape or CD? The former was probably more than 5 years ago, the latter, some of you are resistant but may be slowly but surely increasing online purchases and downloads of your favorite media. Technology has improved our ability to obtain things, dial-up modems are almost non-existent and the home landline telephone may soon be extinct, with both of these going away, data has become more accessible, and as a result, has put easily downloadable media in the hands of 47% of adult Americans (those with a broadband connection). Finally, our craving to be in control is why portable GPS units can now be had for less than $100 and why travel agents are becoming less significant, being in control means being able to choose and not rely on others, and in our highly-independent society those two are key criteria. So long Seacrest!!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chrysler in the Dead Pool?

Like a wilted rose sitting in stagnant water, this blog has been long neglected. Call it my time has been occupied with gainful employment or that my focus has been centered someplace else other than the pages on this website, I have no excuse other than my mind has been elsewhere.

Let’s just say that since the last post, the automotive world and economy have seen some drastic changes. It’s hard to put a finger on a single-source to fault for the recession/depression, but two glaring themes ring true, greed and poor judgment had much to do with the current state of things. Here in the states, we are seeing ever-increasing unemployment rates, and every time you open the paper, it is not uncommon to see stories of Company X laying off employees or even municipalities closing doors on social programs and the like (at least here in Orange County, California).

To summarize things, car sales are at record lows, the American automakers got their government loans and now it’s a matter of time if the CEO’s each can pull Ford, GM, and Chrysler out of the muck. I personally see glimmers of hope with both Ford and GM, but since Chrysler went private after Cerberus Capital took over the company in mid-‘07; their current financial state is only left to speculation. I strongly believe that things are not rosy for Chrysler, unless some cash can be infused into the company by a buy-out offer from Nissan, a merge with GM, or some other offer, I predict Chrysler won’t be around in another 10 years or so. If we take a look back to almost three decades ago, Chrysler faced a similar fate (though the lone player in the near-bankruptcy ring back then), one Lee Iacocca took Chrysler off of the banks’ black list, with the help of a government loan signed by then-President Carter, by introducing a core product line that brought the company record sales and single-handedly changed the American car market, I am talking about the Chrysler K-cars and more specifically the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans. The K platform allowed Chrysler to essentially take a single chassis, stretch it to a certain degree to suit a multitude of body styles, but keep costs low by sharing common parts such as suspension components, engines, and transmissions. The Caravan and Voyager were wildly popular when they debuted back in late 1983, the same cannot be said today as minivans account only 4.7% of total vehicles sales (as of September 2008) down from 8% back in 2000. The minivan may soon be dead as crossovers offer a cooler mode of transport while being equal in terms of utility. Unless, Chrysler can hit another home run with another revolutionary product, the money lent is only buying Chrysler time and could be written off as a loss without some much-needed angel financing.

Next topic: How iPod Killed the Local Radio Personality

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Korean Lexus?


Can you guess what kind of car is pictured above?
Infiniti, Lexus, BMW you might think, but it's actually the new Hyundai Genesis. The car should be at your local Hyundai dealer and the Korean manufacturer hopes to take a chunk out of the above-named luxury carmakers' sales. Does it have the right features to compete amongst the S-Classes, 750's, and LS's? Wood accents, heated seats, navigation with live traffic updates, and adaptive cruise control (which is coming soon), it's all there and a loaded V-8 example will cost about $42,000.
"A V-8 in a Hyundai?" you ask.
Yes, the new Tau V-8 in which Hyundai spent over 4 years and $260 million developing puts out 368 horsepower and should be plenty of power for the new Genesis. The real question is: Will the Genesis really make waves that Hyundai hopes it will? My prediction is not exactly, at least not on our shores. You see with the weakening dollar, the current state of the economy, and with Hyundai opting to sell the flagship in their own dealerships it will be a tough sell even for cross-shoppers. Sure the styling is unique and tasteful, and the price is perfect to have people make a double-take, but unless Hyundai can get the marketing right, Lexus buyers and Mercedes shoppers wouldn't be caught dead in a Hyundai dealership. That factor alone is why Mazda gave up on trying to compete with Lexus and Infiniti back in the 90's. Good luck Hyundai!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Oxidized Advertising?

I had the rare experience of seeing the same car twice in the same day. And no, it wasn't my neighbor Pat either. In fact, I had to take my dog to the vet the other day and spotted this particular vehicle on the way to the Dr. Adam's office and then saw the very same car on my way to meeting my wife for lunch three hours later.

"Why does this car stand out?" you may be wondering.

For one it had a professional-looking vinyl decal on the back window most likely advertising the family business. In truth, the business advertised is a great concept which is a kid's fitness center. When I was growing up my fitness routine consisted of pedaling my butt to my friend's house or throwing the football in front of the house, no need for a fancy gymnasium or rock climbing walls required.

What most stood out about the mobile billboard is that the paint on both the roof and trunk was oxidized to the point of the clear coat looked like the surface of a dry, salt lake on a layer of otherwise smooth, black paint. Much like the example below:


When I laid eyes on this car I looked at the ad and thought great job on the tax write off and obviously the car was paid off (a mid-'90's Acura Legend with a wax job 5 years overdue). To me image is everything and I personally wouldn't want my nieces scampering around this person's indoor playground. I mean: If you can't take care of your car how is your business run? It wasn't like the car was twenty years old, and the community I live in is has a reputation of affluence (trust me, I am somewhat out of place here). Are there rats running around the facility or a general lack of cleanliness rich with bacteria waiting to cause illness to the next child that grabs hold of the rings. My '69 Karmann Ghia's paint job is probably five years older and is holding up much better considering that it's been weathering the elements in Northern California and hasn't been driven in over a dozen years. There's little sign of oxidation on my VW, but rust has shown its ugly face. I certainly wouldn't plaster my name on the car in such a state but that's another blog topic.

Have you seen terrible examples of mobile advertising that make you think twice about frequenting the establishment or calling, or make you wonder if the advertiser is aware that their name is being soured by poor marketing decisions? Send me your examples.

DWD: 39, Miles: 2098. The Fit survived a trip to San Diego this weekend. Theory: Less surface area equals less odds that door edge(s) and sheet metal make contact. Or does a purple car demand respect?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Slam and Stats

There is nothing more frightening than observing a car slam into another vehicle in your peripheral, especially when your vehicle has no crumple zones or airbags to speak of. The vehicle I was riding was my ’03 Honda Superhawk and the crash occurred about four lanes away during Friday's rush hour traffic. The driver that caused the accident must have been preoccupied, but I couldn't imagine what would have caused this great of a distraction especially given the large amount of cars waiting to exit, nobody appeared to be cut off, and all vehicles in front of the errant driver were stopped. The offender slammed on the brakes and must have hit the vehicle in front at a speed between 10-12 miles per hour. It sounds minor but the force caused the vehicle being struck to plow into the vehicle in front of it. Boom! That’s three motorists whose days were ruined. In addition, the force could have even been severe enough to cause some minor neck injuries.

The accident wasn't as dramatic as the footage above, but you get the idea...

I’ve witnessed such an incident only once before in my life and the action occurred in the very next lane on the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the vehicle I occupied also offered little in occupant protection (a ’69 Karmann Ghia, my restoration project at the moment). That incident involved a family in a Camry that failed to react quickly enough as the vehicle in front of them slammed their brakes on. Airbags were only offered on ultra-luxury vehicles at the time and crumple zones and safety cages were an afterthought to most manufacturers unless you drove one of those aforementioned luxury cars or the hood emblem displayed Volvo. Is somebody trying to tell me something?

I blogged about driver distraction and its potential impact on driving and laws to eliminate them at least those of the communicative variety, but even that legislature may only spare a few lives. The fact is more vehicles are occupying basically the same amount of roads, consider these statistics: between 1982 and 2002 vehicle miles travelled increased by 79% while highway lane miles only increased a mere 3%; total population in 1982 was about 231 million, in 2002 that number grew to over 288 million (obviously the number of vehicles occupying the roads increased), the startling statistic was that in '88 there were about 47,000 fatalities involving motor vehicles, and in spite of the increased number of vehicles occupying the roads and the growing commutes, this number has hovered right between 40,000-43,0000 fatalities every year thereafter. Certainly laws have been altered, some for the better, others with little or no benefit, but the biggest impact are the efforts made by manufacturers along with legislation requiring safety devices such as airbags of all sorts, improved structural design, and improved restraint systems (especially for kids).

Future topic: Electronic stability control and and how it will make you a better driver.

DWD: 25, Miles: 1304 The Fit survived wife's last day of work at her old job. Her commute will now increase almost 20 miles/day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lease a Bentley?!

Take a look at the ad to the left, now you can lease a Bentley convertible for the bargain price of $3000 per month! The dealership must be starving for business (at least on the Bentley side) as this dealership is located some 80 miles from Orange County, California where this ad was found in yesterday's paper. In fact, Riverside County and its neighbor San Bernardino County was once ranked the third-highest ranking region in the nation for foreclosures just last year. The region has also fell victim to ever-slipping home prices which also dipped to an all-time low since 2004. It's a tough marketplace and is part of the reason this dealership is willing to take out such an ad in the greener pastures of Orange County.

A little more info on the ad: the small print down below has some interesting tidbits. For one, the lessee is locked into a 4-year term and the residual buyout after the lease is up is just a measly $107,000! The generous lease also comes with a 5,000 mile/year mileage allowance (one should really limit their trips to the red carpet). It's a beautiful car don't get me wrong, but I would rather drive myself in a Porsche Turbo Cabriolet and put the $70 grand I saved into a some tax-free municipal bonds. It pays to read the fine print on any ad, and any smart consumer can do better (yes, even better than a Bentley). Caveat emptor!

DWD: 19, Miles: 876

Friday, July 4, 2008

Death Race Redux

I saw the movie Wanted today. I thought it was okay, definitely had a good twist in the plot. Of course there were previews beforehand and one of particular interest was for the flick: Death Race. It is a loose interpretation of the 1975 cult-classic film Death Race 2000 which starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. The plot is set in the year 2000 (duh!) in which the United States is destroyed by financial crisis (does that ring a bell?), oh, and a military coup. The race is a cross-country tour with gladiator-like cars equipped to dismember unlucky pedestrians along the way. I suppose trying to adapt that last part into the modern remake wouldn't actually be PC, so instead prisoners are trying to kill each other on the way to the finish line. That makes much more sense!

Conducting a search for this title on Wikipedia also generated another appellation: Death Race 1976. The arcade-style video game was perhaps one of the first controversial, violent video games in history (think Grand Theft Auto for the 1970's). The modern version for the Playstation 2 and PC is called Carmageddon. And while the graphics of the original game were nothing to write home about, the thought of gremlins leaping out of your vehicle then having to run them over and upon doing so would generate a tombstone (which resembles a cross more-or-less) is pretty outrageous even by today's standards. I'm sure this game didn't gain popularity on the religious front and is a part of history we can share with our children and children's children; just make sure to show them photos or bust out the Atari 2600 for emphasis.

DWD: 16, Miles: 834: Survived a packed movie theater parking lot again. Was everyone at the movies today?!