Saturday, October 28, 2006
The last Ford Taurus rolled off the line in Georgia yesterday ending a 21 year history. My last Taurus (actually a Mercury Sable) “rolled off” this past summer when I traded the 2004 Sable for a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
The price of gas had just peaked past $3.00 a gallon and I had been sniffing around hybrids since they appeared a few years ago. Had Ford come up with a reasonable hybrid – instead of the ridiculous SUB hybrid (that got almost the same gas mileage as the Sable), I might have bought one.
I owned three Taurus/Sables over a ten year period. The first, a 1996 was my favorite. Unlike the average person, I loved the oval shape and Star Trek interior. I know that the radio button drove everyone crazy, but I loved them. This was my first automatic transmission in many years, and after as few weeks of driving, I had no interest in returning to the stick. Yes, the gas mileage compared to the 1991 Mazda Protégé (4-cylinder) was striking, but in those days we weren’t too concerned about these things.
The 1996 Taurus started to nickel-and-dime me at around 100K. First the heater core (all three had the same problem), the brakes (again all three had the same defect) and then the catalytic converter. I had dumped $2500 into it in six months and it needed a thousand dollars more work to make it last another year. I used that as a down payment at bought a 2000 Taurus. By then the Ford engineers had bowed to the “complaints” of the old farts running the company and had ruined the design to a box. The novelty and forward thinking elements were all gone. But it was a comfortable and relatively safe car.
At around 100K this one started to misbehave like the last one and my extended warrantee had expired. After breaking down on a road trip to DC and having to pay $500 to have it fixed, I drove back to the dealer and got the 2004 Sable.
The Sable was a step up in terms of creature comforts and I loved some of the higher tech gizmos – my favorite was the self-dimming rear view mirror. But with each successive Taurus/Sable, the gas mileage dropped. The Sable only got 26 mpg on the highway (although it got 29 mpg when we drove to Florida in spring 2005). In the winter, the best I could hope for was 24 mpg.
I reflect on this because I think it is symptomatic of what was happening to Ford in general. Their business plan was becoming more Republican with no regard to gas mileage issues and more interest in continuing to promote large gas-guzzling behemoths like the Explorer and Expedition. I was increasingly becoming ashamed of driving a Ford product and it was clear the company had no interest in changing.
So, the death of the Taurus and what it represented are clearly symbolic of the demise of Ford Motors. They have now dropped behind Toyota and are threatened with extinction.
We’ve owned Ford products in my family since the 1930s. When my father steered away in the late 70’s to Chrysler, he regretted it. But he never bought another Ford. I’ve owned seven Ford/Mercury; most bought new. But, I’ll tell you, without a major turn around in their corporate mindset, I think I’ve bought my last.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
But the best review is Stephen Colbert's Colbert's Report
Sunday, October 08, 2006
His piece deals with a Brookings Institution report that was released this week called "Charting Maine's Future" which provides a reasonably upbeat perspective of Maine's current economic picture. Coming in at this time of negativism - something always associated with the annual elections season - I found this report particularly refreshing and the Nemitz piece particularly relevant.
Nemitz based part of this column on the comments of former governor Angus King who, for the sake for full disclosure, was involved in the funding of the report. King has been reported in the media this past week as praising the report and is quoted in the Nemitz piece as saying: "That's their stock and trade, telling people how bad off they are." This is in reference to the nature of partisan politics that, as Nemitz states, "run increasingly on pure negatives."
If I see one more TABOR ad or one more for that Woodcock telling us that Maine is the "most highly taxed state in the Union," I'm gonna throw up. All I can say is I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and brother you do not know what taxes are. Long before there were sales taxes or rooms and meals taxes in Maine we had them in New York. And we paid them. I'm sure there were people complaining about them 50 years ago, but they didn't have an ad on the TV every five minutes. Geez, people might actually start to believe that nonsense.
All I can tell you is that a couple of years ago I attended a wedding in Plymouth MA for the son of one of my cousins. Attending the wedding were the groom's aunt and uncle who live in Westchester County, NY. These are people I remember meeting at family gatherings 40 years ago and I know them to be good Westchester Republicans - at least that's what mother used to say. Well they are very well off; he a retired VP from some multimillion dollar international company; she a socialite, and the live in one of the more high priced areas of Westchester. At the wedding, we got talking about local real estate and they were absolutely astounded at the fact that they had gone and looked at several beautiful new homes being build along the Massachusetts shore with price tags in the close to a million dollar range. They expressed their surprise that the taxes on the properties were only about $6,000 per year. According to the rich cousins, a similar property in NY would be taxed over $10,000. I guess it's all relative.
One of the more enlightening pieces of information coming from this Brookings report is the fact that the Maine population is actually growing. And our population is not growing because we are being overrun with Mexicans and migrant workers from Third World Countries. Maine's population is growing because rich retired people are coming to Maine because of our beautiful way of life. Imagine that.
Don't they know were the most highly taxes state in the nation? I guess not.
Or, perhaps they know what I know. That the Woodcocks and the Republicans and the pro-TABOR people are just a bunch of rich farts that want more money for themselves and they are trying to convince the few folks whose houses are in areas of Maine where there have been incredible increases in value of the land and are being "taxes out" that it's those "devils" in Augusta that are doing this to them and that by voting in the Pubs and TABOR all of their problems with go away. Sorry sister, TABOR ain't gonna do anything to save your house.
Nemitz best comments come at the end of the column:
Oh, as lest you believe I am a Angus King fan, I'm not. I was one of the thousands of State workers who were fired when King came into office.
King, who helped fund the Brookings report, likens Maine's funk to the advice he received during a motorcycle safety course: Focus on the road ahead and that's where you'll go. Stare too long at the roadside ditch, on the other hand, and guess where you'll end up?
"Maine looks in the ditch all the time," King said. "And lo and behold "