His name: Joe Magnum, T.I. (for ``Tire Investigator''). His assignment: find out why Big O Tires Inc.'s competitors are supposedly ``losing customers.'' During the tire franchiser's annual dealer meeting, held recently in Las Vegas, a clever live-action and videotaped skit interlaced among the conference speakers featured the investigator on the trail of ``The Case of the Missing Customers.''
At one point, disguised as a ``newsman,'' Joe went undercover into an independent tire dealership, identifying himself as a reporter for Crain's Tire Business Modern Review Daily.
Talk about consolidation within the tire industry.
Speaking of that conference, Mike Lyons, a top Big O dealer from Longmont, Colo., and master of ceremonies for the meeting, pulled a Johnny Carson-esque routine in describing the size (``How big is it?'') of the MGM Grand Hotel in Vegas.
The hotel/casino complex, site of the Big O meeting, is touted as the world's largest hotel. It took him a plane flight and a couple taxi rides-and that was just to get from his hotel room to the conference center, Mr. Lyons kidded.
The place is so gigantic (it really is) that he thought about establishing a Big O store in the MGM's west wing, 'til he discovered that influential California Big O dealers Wes and Jim Stephenson had already beat him to it. The store will open later this year, joked Mr. Lyons.
While there won't be a Big O store opening there, the company's dealers decided they will return to the MGM Grand next year for their annual meeting.
Just when he thought it was safe to go out into his backyard. . .
Carl Baumgardner, a retired Fort Wayne, Ind., mechanic didn't give it a second thought as he fixed two leaks in the exhaust system of his Cadillac Sedan deVille in his detached garage. That is, until a city code enforcement officer came by with a warning.
Finish the repairs within a day or be ticketed, Mr. Baumgardner was told. Someone had called to complain.
As it turns out, the errant do-it-yourselfer was violating a city code by fixing his car in his garage.
``You mean to tell me I can't work on my own car in my own garage?'' said an enraged Mr. Baumgardner. ``They should use a little common sense before they write that ticket.''
A ``completely dumbfounded'' Keith Miller, president of the Fairfield/Belmont Association, said he ``was aware of the ordinance against commercial work, but I never dreamed it would apply to working at home.'' So he directed Mr. Baumgardner and his wife, Carolyn, to city officials for clarification.
``Next thing we know, all of this is happening, and there's discussion on the radio,'' Mrs. Baumgardner said.
Now the city has a new policy addressing how to interpret the section of the city code Mr. Baumgardner violated. Residents cannot sell multiple vehicles within 12 months after repairing them on their property. But routine maintenance-including washing, changing automobile fluids and some repairs-are now allowed. (They just can't use any tools to do the work-that'll teach 'em.)
Damn, it's dark
A recent General Motors Corp. recall of 1995 Bonnevilles reportedly came with a real technical explanation about the consequences pursuant to the problem of the vehicle's headlights and parking lights sometimes going out. The automaker warned: ``Sudden loss of headlamp lighting could reduce driver visibility.''
Kind of like saying a loss of breathing could lead to death-or, at the least, some interesting changes in color.
what's in a name?
A lot of thought goes into picking a name for a new car model, right?
Here are a few import examples noted in a recent issue of Beck/Arnley Worldparts Corp.'s newsletter:
ACURA-Legend: An unverified popular story.
ISUZU-Impulse: A sudden wish or urge that prompts an unpremeditated act.
MITSUBISHI-Mirage: Something that falsely appears to be real.
SUBARU-Brat: A spoiled or ill-mannered child (driving you crazy?)
TOYOTA-Corona: A cigar having a long, non-tapering body and blunt ends. Avalon: The isle of the dead.
DIAHATSU-Charade: Pretense, sham.