Friday, December 7, 2012

Why your next car may cost more than it should.

Image from the FiatUSA website - go visit for more!

I like cars, especially European ones. And Italian cars are my favorite of the Euros. My first car was Italian (Alfa Romeo), my second car was French (Renault), and I've owned a BMW along the way as well. I've also owned plenty of American, Japanese, and Korean automobiles (including a "Suzuki Forenza" - the ultimate amalgam of a worldwide automobile: the car was built in Korea by GM-Daewoo; styled by the Italian design group Pininfarina, although the hatchback version was styled by another Italian, Giugiaro; used an engine made in Australia by Holden, which was based on an old, German Opel design; and sold in America as a Suzuki). I've driven other European cars as well, including Mercedes, Peugeot, Volvo, other BMWs, some Mini Coopers, and a Fiat 500. But I still like Italian cars the best. That little 500 (I test drove a Sport model in B'ham on my way back south from a business trip in Huntsville) was a neat car - certainly not overly powerful, but handled well, and actually rode well on the interstate, too. I'd really like to get my hands on an Abarth model (hey, Christmas is coming!), and/or perhaps the forthcoming 500L. But I want to talk about the 500e for a moment, the Fiat token "electric vehicle" for the states (well, for California, anyway), which will soon be available (Spring of 2013, although, as mentioned, only in California).

Based on this article (and this one backs it up), Fiat USA will not make any money selling the 500e. In fact, they will lose approximately $10,000 on each one sold (pricing has not yet been established, or at least published, but prior indications suggest a $35-40k sticker). Yes, lose money, 5 digits' worth, on every one sold. "So, why would they do this?" you ask. Doesn't really make sense, now, does it? Well, it's the government's fault. California regulations require any manufacturer of a certain size to sell a minimum number of zero-emission vehicles. And hybrids, plug-in or not, or any other "partial zero emission vehicle," do not apply towards this minimum requirement. So, the state of California is requiring limited-range, loss-inducing vehicles to be sold. "What's the big deal? Saves the earth!" you say. Does it? really? Those electric vehicles don't get their power from the sun (well, they could, if your house is on a solar array, but otherwise, it's coming from your local power plant). Some of which may be good ol' coal plants, which (due to carbon trading) typically are somehow exempted from emission regulation (no, I'm not posting any links to back up this claim; you can look it up yourself, and comment if I'm wrong). Alternatively, they're (relatively clean!) nuclear plants, or possibly aero or hydro plants. And they do have limited range, so you'll have to plan your trips accordingly.

But the biggest problem with this "strategy" is the fact that the vehicles are going to cost more than they're sold for. Fiat will have to make that money up somewhere... likely in the sticker prices for their vehicles going up across the board (including Chrysler vehicles, since Fiat owns Chrysler). So, your 5.7L, Hemi-powered, 4x4 Ram Pickup, with its 13/19 EPA rating, is going to cost a little bit more (which you're paying to help offset the price that someone else did not pay on their Fiat 500e).

That's just bad governing, in my opinion. Personally, I think auto manufacturers should just all boycott California and quit selling cars there. Then they won't have to meet these ridiculous regulations and can keep prices low, invest in research and technology, and eventually sell electric/hybrid vehicles at a profit. Perhaps the neighboring states could just open up extra dealerships just across the California borders where Californians could go to buy their cars. Just a thought.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Fancy title, eh? "Unicorns."  I always did like them; I think they're probably my third favorite animal (after elephants and ants). "But they're not real," you say. "They're only a myth!" you reply. "I like corn, but unitards are weird," you somehow only semi-relatedly utter.

And to that, I say, "Have you checked out the Korean Central News Agency (of North Korea) recently?" Apparently, per this article, "Archaeologists of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have recently reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong." That jewel was hidden among such great headlines as "Mongolian Delegation Goes back Home" and "Chinese Party Delegation Here" and (a day later) "Chinese Party Delegation Leaves," "National Exhibition of Liquor, Condiments Held in Pyongyang," "New Korean Film Produced," "New Kinds of Saunas Appear in Pyongyang" ("Where'd that new kind of sauna come from?" "I don't know, it just appeared!"), and the particularly exciting "Model Plane Operators of DPRK's Textile Mill Sports Team." (The news articles and information linked here are courtesy of the Korean News Service (KNS) in Tokyo.)

This was originally brought to my attention by this article by Alexander Abad-Santos (published on the Atlantic Wire web site), where he notes (per a commenter) that the Western Unicorn and the Korean Unicorn are actually somewhat different in concept; the following image depicts the concept of the Korean Unicorn, known as a "Qilin":

Kind of cool, actually.  Look at some other Qilin images, and it gets even neater. Maybe if they'd made it "My Little Qilin" instead of "My Little Pony"... wait, NO PONIES!

Anyway, there's a pretty good article on the Qilin here (which, incidentally, is the source of the image, above), related to its Korean Cultural Heritage, but the page is in Korean. Fortunately, if you happen to be browsing the web in Google's Chrome browser, when you go to that page it will offer to translate it from Korean to English for you (or, I assume, whatever language you happen to have as your default, but since you're reading this in English, I'm assuming English is your default; then again, maybe you're reading this translated by Google from English to your default language). Which is amusing in itself, attempting to read the automated translation (Asian to English translations rarely go well; I have enjoyed quite a few mistranslations over the years, and reading the instructions on most chopstick packs is quite amusing, especially the ones that end with, "Now you can pick up anything!"). So, it appears the Qilin is a "Chromatic brilliant divine splendor giraffe" with "Forehead, a long-horned giraffe Chromatic radiantly colorful multicolored hair-handed one-horned animal. In the body of a deer and the end of the tail, hooves and mane similar known for having imaginary animals. Example, from the dragon, phoenix, tortoise and forty Wed (四 spirit 兽) done, and has been recognized as a sacred animal." Cool.

So, in the west, "Unicorn" is typically a one-horned horse, while in Korea, "Unicorn" is a one-horned, brilliantly-multicolored "giraffe" (with the body of a deer). And apparently they were ridden by an ancient Korean king, who had a lair of them, which has been reconfirmed by DPRK archaeologists.

I guess this brings new life to the advice, "don't play leapfrog with a unicorn."

In other news, the Spanish Fort High School Toros defeated the St. Paul's Saints tonight in round four of the AHSAA state playoffs (5A division), and will be moving on to the 5A state championship game in Auburn next week (Thursday) against McAdory HS. Go, Toros! The first half was mainly a defensive battle, resulting in a 3-3 tie at the half, with several turnovers (often in or near the red zone) for each team. The second half opened with a scoring drive by St. Paul's, going ahead 10-3, which stood as the score until the fourth quarter, with more turnovers during the 3rd. Spanish Fort tied the game early in the 4th, and took the lead (17-10) with just under ten minutes to play. With St. Paul's failing to convert on 4th & four at midfield with under six minutes to play, Spanish Fort got their running game going and drove down the field to score again, making it a two point game, 24-10. St. Paul's did a good job moving the ball, but the drive stalled on the Toro side of the field, and on 4th & 9 the Toros intercepted St. Paul's QB, taking over on their own 2 yard line with 3:56 to play. Some good running plays (including a 67-yard breakaway which was unfortunately called back due to offsetting personal fouls during the run) allowed Spanish Fort to keep the ball out of the hands of the St. Paul's offense and run out the clock. St. Paul's QB made some phenomenal plays, avoiding would-be sacks (sometimes more than one on the same play) and scrambling to keep the play alive while his receivers somehow managed to find wide-open spots in the Toro defense. Unfortunately for St. Paul's, several players left the field injured, two of which were carried off the field by training staff (leg/ankle injuries). Prayers for their quick and full recovery are of course solicited! All-in-all, it was a good game by both teams, and now we just say "Go, Toros!" Bring home a second state 5A championship in three years! (SFHS was the 2010 5A State Champ.)

If you're interested in Alabama High School Football standings, rankings, and stats, as I think I've already mentioned, check out talsimanred's (note: link to the left goes to the base page, while link to the right goes to the AHS Football Ratings page) Alabama High School Football Ratings page.

And with that, I will bid you g'night (maybe it's day when you're reading this, but it's nearly 1 am while I'm writing it!).