Want fries with that car?
Some might call it a bold step-that is, Ford Motor Co.'s naming Rich Stoddart as head of marketing for the car maker's Ford Division. Why? Because of where he's been.
But at least one car dealer is questioning the act, and finding humor in it.
Larry S. Merriam, president of Merriam, Key, Park City Auto Dealerships in Bridgeport, Conn., stated in a letter to the editor in Automotive News that sometimes the news of the car industry ``is funnier than `Saturday Night Live.' '' In an earlier story in the publication on Mr. Stoddart, AN pointed out that he was best known for the $75 million rollout of McDonald's Corp.'s Arch Deluxe burger. He had called it ``the most successful product launch in McDonald's history.''
But, Mr. Merriam noted, ``Unfortunately, as you (AN) said, `not enough people liked it, and the product failed.'''
Come on, ...whatever past experience someone brings to a new job shouldn't be held against them-unless and until the day arches go up over Ford dealerships across the land.
Most of us have probably been feeling that kind of nauseous feeling in the pits of our stomachs in recent weeks-a condition that even stuff like Maalox likely won't help.
We're talking about the skyrocketing price of gasoline. So a news release we got from Runzheimer International, the Rochester, Wis.-based management consulting firm, seemed extremely timely. Motorists pay more than $4 per gallon for gas in a number of cities across the globe, according to the company's latest analysis of retail gas prices in 82 locations worldwide.
For comparison, in April self-serve unleaded regular in the U.S. was averaging $1.46 per gallon and $3.40 in Canada (it's now above $1.77 in the Akron area). However, a U.S. gallon of self-serve unleaded regular in Hong Kong sells for $5.33; in London it's $4.34; in Oslo, Norway, $4.23; and $4.20 in Tokyo.
On the other hand, if you want the real cheap brew, take a trip to Caracas, Venezuela, where a gallon of gas sells for only 39 cents; or 47 cents in Jakarta, Indonesia; 50 cents in Quito, Ecuador; and in Kuwait City, Kuwait-which one would guess should be awash in oil and cheap gas-the price is 76 cents per gallon.
Runzheimer noted that, ``when you view the U.S. from a global perspective, we're still among the least expensive nations for fuel, although if prices continue trending upwards, this scenario could change.'' (Hasn't it already?) Then the report added: ``One thing is certain, gas prices are rising much faster than the overall inflation rate in this country.''
Somehow, that sentiment doesn't seem to make it any easier to stomach, especially when analysts are talking about 3-buck-a-gallon gas by this summer. Now be honest-does a gas-guzzling sport-utility really seem practical?
No more bad-hair days
You just can't be clean enough for some companies.
With the intricacies of today's automotive technologies, such as anti-lock brake systems, some of the pieces-parts must be assembled in environments that aren't your typical factory setting, but more resemble the ultra-cleanliness of a hospital operating room.
Workers at the Continental Teves plant in Morganton, N.C., for example, have to wear hair caps. In deference to regional preferences, according to Automotive News, they have three choices for sizes of hair coverings: regular, extra large and bouffant-which we take to mean ``big hair.''
Many workers, including some of the men, choose the (cute?) two-tiered bouffant coverings as they assemble electronic braking units. So at the end of the day, the brake units are squeaky-clean-and the workers' hair looks pretty good, too. Could start a whole-new fashion trend, with color-coordinated hair nets, uniforms and such.
This 'n that
School daze-School officials in Runnells, Iowa, recently realized to air is human when they discovered what some would describe as a malicious student prank (unless you're a student). Early one morning they found 15 of the district's 30 school buses in the fleet's garage, about a half-mile from a high school, with the air let out of their front tires.
The Des Moines Register reported that officials had to call a tire company to get the tires reinflated, but there was no permanent damage to them. Alden Skinner, the district's director of support systems, said despite the flats, all the kids got to school on time (ha ha).
That loud hissing sound officials heard wasn't coming from the tires-it was from the dejected students.
A sight-We spotted a couple ``blue hairs'' cruising along in a top-down, shiny new red Corvette sporting the vanity license plate: ``ARE TURN.'' You'd think at their age at least they'd be able to spell.
Quotes du jour-A former U.S. Army intelligence officer quoted the following statement, taken from a military intelligence (?) document during the Vietnam War: ``This unit had an estimated strength of about 2,000 men, of which 300 were women.'' (Hmm... we lost that one, didn't we?)
Then there's the quote from Sen. William Scott, R.-Va., during a Pentagon briefing in which Army officials began telling him about missile silos. ``Wait a minute! I'm not interested in agriculture. I want the military stuff,'' he retorted.
Take my wife, please
This Henny Youngman-ish kind of story's been making the e-mail rounds lately. (Anyone willing to try it?)
Seems a fellow bought a new Mercedes and was out on the interstate cruising along with the top down. Before long he decided to see what it could do. The speedometer was at 80 mph when he saw the flashing red and blue lights behind him. Figuring there's no way a cop car would catch a cranking Mercedes, he opened 'er up and the needle shot past 90, 100.... Then the reality of what he was doing settled in.
So he pulled over and the police officer came up to him, took his license without a word and examined it and the car.
``It's been a long day, this is the end of my shift and it's Friday the 13th,'' the cop said. ``I don't feel like more paperwork, so if you can give me an excuse for your driving that I haven't heard before, you can go.''
Mr. Mercedes thinks for a moment, then replies: ``Last week my wife ran off with a cop. I was afraid you were trying to give her back!''
``Have a nice weekend,'' said the officer.
(Ladies, you can ``adjust'' the story to suit your needs.)
Just a regular guy
At the Michelin North America Inc. meeting held earlier this year in Phoenix, Michelin Americas Small Tires (MAST) dealers heard a Top-10 list presented by Barry Downs, vice president for the tire maker's Western U.S. region.
Among things listed was being able to call Michelin chief Edouard M. Michelin ``Eddie,'' who, by the way, attended the event. But the Top 10 only contained eight items-``because it was discounted 20 percent, according to tire industry policy,'' Mr. Downs joked.
He brought down the house by showing a Smirnoff commercial-the one where one of two guys ``sacrifices'' his buddy, who gets chased by a bear while the other gets the libations all to himself and a group of cute female campers. The TV spot, Mr. Downs noted, is the epitomy of a business solution: determine the problem, execute a resolution, then enjoy the benefits. (Brings to mind the adage that sometimes you get the bear, sometimes it gets you.)
During the meeting, dealers also got a flavor for just how ``regular'' a guy ``Eddie'' can be. Seems he and his family were driving in France when they got a flat tire on their van, which was sporting the tire maker's PAX run-flat tire/wheel system. So he stopped at the nearest garage, rolled up is sleeves and helped a local mechanic fix the flat with the available tools.
The man definitely has a future in the tire business.