Saturday, October 31, 2009

We'll do the high-end stuff here

This is another example that puts the lie to the idea that lower-end work would (and should) migrate to lower-cost countries.

“The Riviera concept made us realize how small the world was,” Mr. Welburn, the design vice president, said. “It’s not east; it’s not west. It’s Buick.”

It has an interior done by a Chinese design lab and an exterior adapted by Americans from a Chinese design, all riding on what Mr. Federico calls “a heavily European-influenced chassis system.”

If they are to get the production duties and now they are doing the design also, what is left?

The engineering and electronics? Also done 'there'.

Accounting, bookkeeping ? Moving 'there'?

Executive suite? Surely set to move 'there' should the bailout resuscitate the company.

Lastly, taxes paid here? Sure to move 'there' when the company moves it's headquarters and incorporates overseas.

November 1, 2009
Design | Buick LaCrosse

How New Buicks Took Shape in China

THE idea of creating a new Buick in a design studio in China, as General Motors has done with the 2010 LaCrosse, is not as loopy as it might sound. Buicks have a certain cachet in China, dating back some eight decades to when the emperor bought one.

But today’s commercial imperative is more compelling than nostalgia: sales of Buicks in China first outpaced sales in the United States in 2006, and the margin is considerable today. For the first nine months of 2009, for instance, Buick sold 312,798 vehicles in China; in the United States, it sold 72,389.

In 1997 General Motors established two joint ventures with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation in China. One was for manufacturing. The other venture, for design and engineering, is the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center. The center has done the engineering to adapt various G.M. global models for the Chinese market.

It was logical, then, to expect that the Chinese designers and engineers would eventually take the lead in developing a new vehicle for both markets. That became a reality in July 2006 when Ed Welburn, G.M.’s vice president for global design, gave the Shanghai center an assignment to develop a design study for introduction at the 2007 Shanghai auto show.

The design study would be a modern-day version of the Riviera, which in its 1963 version was a trend-setting personal luxury coupe with crisply chiseled surfaces inspired by vintage Rolls-Royces. After the Shanghai debut, the 2007 Riviera concept was not forgotten; its design language, drawn from Buick history and Chinese culture, became the basis for another concept, the Invicta of 2008, as well as the production 2010 LaCrosse.

Under the guidance of Min Cao, lead exterior designer for the Riviera concept, the Pan Asia team looked to the Buick Y-Job concept of 1938, designed by Harley Earl, and to classic Buicks of the ’50s and ’60s. Three signature elements were distilled from those decades: the waterfall grille, the portholes and a “sweep-spear” design line along the side.

The low, wide grille of the Y-Job, a stark contrast to the tall, narrow radiator grilles of that era — probably influenced by the pioneering Lincoln Zephyr — set the stage for the 1942 Buick’s thick convex vertical bars just above the front bumper, a theme continued through 1954. When the vertical bar theme was revived in the 1990s, the previous semi-elliptical form became a full ellipse and moved up the car’s face. A 2004 concept, the Vélite, moved it farther up and wrapped it over the leading edge of the hood, creating a true waterfall form. It was this design that was applied to the Riviera concept.

Portholes appeared in 1949 and were part of Buick styling through 1957, appearing occasionally after that. Usually they were on the side of the fender and were called ventiports; in theory, at least, they vented warm air from under the hood. The Riviera concept moved them to the upper surface of the hood — an extension of the front light clusters.

The sweep-spear styling accent was both a body contour that provided emphasis above the front and rear wheels and a diving chrome accent line that followed those forms. It faded from favor after 1958 on the mainstream models but was resurrected with the 1963 Riviera.

Drawing from Chinese cultural history as well, exterior designers looked to the yuan bao, a gold ingot with convex and concave surfaces, which inspired them to develop similar forms on the car, especially where the roof joined the rear deck and spoiler lip.

Early design sketches by Nenghua Liu, lead interior designer of the Riviera concept, showed a wraparound treatment that had no discernible start or finish. It was an attempt to provide a sense of sanctuary, a place where occupants would feel relaxed and tranquil. A theme of earth and water was adopted for the colors and textures, and avoided hard, aggressive forms. A jadelike material on backlighted interior surfaces was included to signify the importance of that stone in Chinese culture.

“The Riviera concept made us realize how small the world was,” Mr. Welburn, the design vice president, said. “It’s not east; it’s not west. It’s Buick.”

Making clear what the future held for the Riviera’s design, Mr. Welburn continued, “The Riviera communicates the global design vocabulary of the Buick brand and sets the stage for General Motors’ design, engineering and manufacturing centers to work together on the next generation of Buick midsize luxury cars.”

That foretold the path from the Riviera concept to the 2010 LaCrosse. Joining the Pan Asia team in that project were designers at the Warren, Mich., technical center and chassis and body engineers in Rüsselsheim, Germany.

Using virtual reality technology that permitted 3-D visualization of proposed designs, the widely scattered designers took styling themes developed for the coupe body of the Riviera concept and applied them to a four-door sedan based on the new midsize car architecture developed for Opel’s flagship, the Insignia. The Riviera’s pair of gullwing doors gave way to four conventional doors.

The sedan was revealed at the Beijing auto show in 2008 as the Invicta concept. Other than a different front fascia, it was pretty much the 2010 LaCrosse that made its debut at the 2009 Detroit show.

The exterior of the LaCrosse clearly carries design themes drawn from the Riviera. It has a design line that runs along the top of the body side and around the car and is said to have been inspired by Chinese ribbon dancing. It also carries forward the sweep-spear tradition for Buick. Most of the Riviera’s exterior forms have been squared up slightly for a more efficient use of space.

November 1, 2009
Behind the Wheel | 2010 Buick LaCrosse

A Buick With Higher Aspirations

AS if the world needed more proof that General Motors’ stars were out of alignment, the company managed to introduce some of its best cars — true world-class competitors — just before it tumbled into the disgrace of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. G.M. finally found the magic formula just as the momentum from decades of mediocrity carried it over the edge.

The latest example of this belated excellence is the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, which joins other top-notch latecomers — like the Buick Enclave, the Cadillac CTS, the GMC Acadia and the Chevrolet Malibu and Traverse — in the newly shrunken universe of G.M. dealer showrooms.

If your forehead crinkles in mystification at the name LaCrosse, allow me to explain. It is Buick’s midsize front-drive sedan, now available with an all-wheel-drive option. But forget the old car, which was a vehicular nonentity. The new model is quite different, and for a good reason.

“LaCrosse plays a huge role in terms of changing the way people think of the Buick brand,” said Craig Bierley, Buick’s product marketing director.

The LaCrosse was an international effort with new mechanical underpinnings that G.M. calls its “midsize global platform.” Developed in Europe, it was first used for the Opel Insignia, voted the 2009 Car of the Year by European auto writers.

But Jim Federico, G.M.’s global vehicle line executive for midsize cars, says the LaCrosse is not a rebadged Insignia with a green card in the glovebox. It has an interior done by a Chinese design lab and an exterior adapted by Americans from a Chinese design, all riding on what Mr. Federico calls “a heavily European-influenced chassis system.”

The 2010 LaCrosse is about the same size as its predecessor, but the look is new. One interesting element is that Buick’s signature “portholes” are on the hood, facing up, rather than on the fenders. Mr. Federico said this was no manufacturing mistake, that putting them on the side would have disrupted the design. “It broke up the car,” he said. “It was not flowing. You had lost the harmony.”

The cabin has a lovely flowing theme that manages to look fresh but not quirky. Many surfaces and panels are soft. The front seats are comfortable, and the back seat has gained about three inches of legroom, a huge increase. There’s enough room for a six-foot passenger to be comfortably seated behind a six-foot driver. Since the LaCrosse is also being built and sold in China — where the big back seat is expected to make it a midsize limo for capitalistic Communists — G.M. had the interior done by the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center, a joint venture with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.

My biggest complaint about the interior: there are no trays on which something can be kept in view and easily retrieved.

The 13-cubic-foot trunk provides reasonable storage, although it is smaller — by three cubic feet — than the old model’s.

Buick has decided that one of its brand characteristics will be hushed motoring. Even on the highway there is almost no wind noise. The sound that does intrude tends to come up from the road.

The LaCrosse comes with all the important safety equipment, from electronic stability control to side-impact air bags. After crash-testing the LaCrosse, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety declared it a “top safety pick.”

Mr. Bierley, the marketing director, says the LaCrosse is aimed at buyers in their late 40s and 50s. “The people that we are hoping to attract do not want a soft, cushy ride,” he said. “They do not want to feel every bump in the road, but they want to be connected to the driving experience.”

The LaCrosse team managed that tricky compromise. On a rough surface, the suspension deflects all but the worst impacts. The body is also solid and shake-free. Upward body movements are well controlled, which keeps the LaCrosse from feeling floaty, like so many Buicks of yesteryear.

To my knowledge nobody has ever accurately used “agile” and “Buick” in the same sentence, and though the thought crossed my mind I am reluctant to do so here. But for a front-drive two-ton vehicle, the LaCrosse is surprisingly quick to respond and feels nicely connected to the driver, although the steering could use a little more feel.

Two months ago, Mark LaNeve, at the time G.M.’s vice president for United States sales, said quality issues at the assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan., were holding up delivery of the LaCrosse. In an e-mail message, Randal Fox, a Buick spokesman, said, “The issues are minor (mainly fit and finish), but we want to make sure the cars are right before they’re shipped.” Last week, Mr. Fox said full-speed production had resumed by the end of September.

The midgrade LaCrosse, the CXL, has a 255-horsepower, direct-injection 3-liter V-6 and a 6-speed automatic. The transmission’s gear ratios were well chosen, assuring a quick response and strong acceleration under all conditions. The transmission is also smart enough that midway through a slow turn, just when the driver is ready to accelerate, it immediately and smoothly slips down a couple of gears.

Cruising at 65 miles per hour in sixth gear, the engine works at a relaxed, quiet and fuel-efficient 1,400 r.p.m. The federal mileage rating is 17 miles per gallon city and 26 m.p.g. highway. That is less than the 2009 model, which got 17 m.p.g. in town and 28 on the highway with a 3.8-liter V-6 and a 4-speed automatic. But that engine had 55 less horsepower and was propelling a vehicle 500 pounds lighter.

The fanciest LaCrosse, the CSX, comes with a 280-horsepower 3.6-liter direct-injection V-6, also with the 6-speed automatic. Oddly, its 17/27 m.p.g. rating gives it a 1 m.p.g. highway fuel economy advantage over the smaller engine.

Late this year, in an unusual move for a near-luxury brand, Buick will offer a direct-injection 4-cylinder (2.4 liters, 182 horsepower) as the standard engine in the base-level CX. Mr. Federico says that version is expected to go from zero to 60 m.p.h. in 9.2 seconds and deliver 20/30 m.p.g. That car is expected to cost slightly less than the current CX, which has the 3-liter and a base price of $27,835.

The CXL starts at $30,395 and offers all-wheel drive for an additional $2,175. The CXS is $33,765 and up.

I tested a CXL, which is expected to account for half of LaCrosse sales. Options like a navigation system, heated and cooled front seats and a fancy stereo brought the sticker price to $35,915. What one gets for that money is a near-luxury sedan with a distinctive style that is also interesting to drive. It recognizes that while baby boomers are getting older, they still want a connection with their cars.

The LaCrosse also means good news for the bigger picture. Not only should it help to end Buick’s serial identity crisis, but its underlying structure will be used on a fistful of other G.M. vehicles, including a new Regal to be introduced next year. That bodes well for a company that just limped out of Chapter 11 and is hoping its next chapter will be a happier one.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Economics writers

.... don't need to take any courses in logic obviously:

WASHINGTON – The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in September, the highest since June 1983, as employers cut far more jobs than expected.

The report is evidence that the worst recession since the 1930s .....

If this is the highest unemployment rate since 1983, which by implication is the last time it was this high or higher yet, then how come the current recession is then compared to the 1930's ?

Wouldn't this then be the worst recession since 1983 ? (unemployment in the 1930's peaked around 25%) .

By using this incorrect comparison the writer is being subtly sympathetic to the current Federal administration implying that it is struggling with an economic situation unseen since the great depression.

And therefore we should cut it some slack, not blame the current administration's effort and allow for more time for the economy to unwind.

But the very first two lines cited above put the lie to this comparison.

The writer uses false logic, but can the reader see through this ?

Usually not. People read 'trusted sources' with a low skepticism radar and accept the 'straight reporting'.

The straight reporting is then referenced elsewhere where it becomes more an 'accepted fact'.

Jobless rate reaches 9.8 percent in September

WASHINGTON – The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in September, the highest since June 1983, as employers cut far more jobs than expected.

The report is evidence that the worst recession since the 1930s is still inflicting widespread pain and underscores one of the biggest threats to the nascent economic recovery: that consumers, worried about job losses and stagnant wages, will restrain spending. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's economy.

The Labor Department said Friday that the economy lost a net total of 263,000 jobs last month, from a downwardly revised 201,000 in August. That's worse than Wall Street economists' expectations of 180,000 job losses, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

The unemployment rate rose from 9.7 percent in August, matching expectations.

"The labor market is still going backwards," economist Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors, wrote in a note to clients.

The report also points to an uneven economic rebound, analysts said.

"We remain convinced that we are in the early stages of an economic recovery," said Michelle Meyer, an economist at Barclays Capital. But today's report "suggests the recovery will be bumpy in the beginning."

If laid-off workers who have settled for part-time work or have given up looking for new jobs are included, the unemployment rate rose to 17 percent, the highest on records dating from 1994.

According to a separate report Friday, U.S. factory orders fell in August by the largest amount in five months.

The Commerce Department said demand for manufactured goods dropped 0.8 percent, much worse than the 0.7 percent gain that economists had expected. The August decline reflected plunging demand for commercial aircraft, a category that surged in July.

The weak reports sent the stock market down in morning trading. The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 49 points, while broader indexes also declined.

More than a half-million unemployed people gave up looking for work last month. Had they continued searching, the official jobless rate would have been higher.

The number of people out of work for six months or longer jumped to a record 5.4 million, and they now make up almost 36 percent of the unemployed — also a record.

All told, 15.1 million Americans are now out of work, the department said. And more than 7.2 million jobs have been eliminated since the recession began in December 2007.

Many analysts expect the economy grew at a healthy clip in the July-September quarter, technically ending the recession, but few think the recovery will be strong enough to lower the jobless rate. Most economists expect the rate to top 10 percent and keep climbing.

The economy has received a boost from the Cash for Clunkers auto rebate program and other government stimulus efforts, but many economists believe that growth will slow in the current quarter and early next year as the impact of those programs fade.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday that even if the economy were to grow at a 3 percent pace in the coming quarters, it would not be enough to quickly drive down the unemployment rate. Bernanke said the rate is likely to remain above 9 percent through the end of 2010.

Besides the sagging jobs market, other potential obstacles to a smooth recovery include wary consumers, the troubled commercial real estate market, and a tight lending environment for individuals and businesses, said Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

"These challenges will likely make the recovery rather restrained by historical standards, with subdued levels of spending and lending continuing to hold back a more rapid recovery," Rosengren said in a speech in Boston on Friday.

Against that backdrop, key monetary and fiscal policy supports will need to be keep in place to help foster a recovery, Rosengren said.

Hourly earnings rose by a penny last month, while weekly wages fell $1.54 to $616.11, according to the government data.

The average hourly work week fell back to a record low of 33 in September. That figure is important because economists are looking for companies to add more hours for current workers before they hire new ones.

The uncertainty that surrounds the recovery has made employers reluctant to hire. The Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs from large corporations, said earlier this week that only 13 percent of its members expect to increase hiring over the next six months.

While job losses have slowed since the first quarter of this year when they averaged 691,000 a month, the cuts actually worsened last month in many sectors compared with August.

Construction jobs fell by 64,000, more than the 60,000 eliminated in August. And service sector companies cut 147,000 jobs, more than double the 69,000 in the previous month. Retailers lost 38,500 jobs, compared to less than 9,000 in August.

Government jobs fell 53,000, the report said, with local governments cutting the most.

Temporary help agencies eliminated 1,700 jobs, down from the previous month, but still a sign of labor market weakness. Economists see temporary jobs as a leading indicator, as employers are likely to hire temp workers before permanent ones.

President Barack Obama said in a speech earlier this week that his $787 billion stimulus package and other efforts have "broken our economic freefall," though he acknowledged the labor market hasn't improved.

Republicans charge that continued job losses are evidence that the stimulus was an expensive failure.

Graduate Level bullying

You need to the next to the last paragraph to determine what types of 'disability' are mostly targeted. This information should be at the beginning of the article.

I was curious what types of disabled are targeted. Are these cowardly criminals targeting paraplegics? Or perhaps the blind?

No, not those :

The study found that people with cognitive disabilities such as mental retardation, developmental disabilities and cerebral palsy represented the largest group of victims.

Bullying is preying on the weak and bullies in schools pick on those who they see as having an emotional makeup that will preclude them from standing up to the aggression. So the bully can get both his reward such as money or favors and also he can act out some level of physical aggression.

People who suffer from mental disabilities are also perceived as most likely not to resist. And as they become adults trying to live on their own or have some independence they are open to mor opportunities to become targets for these same predators.

A study should be done on the reverse side of this, i.e. who are the types of people who commit violent acts against mentally disabled people?

The profile that will undoubtedly emerge will be people who were bullies when they were young and have now graduated to more serious violent bullying as they got older.

Study: Disabled more likely to be victims of violent crime

  • Story Highlights
  • Study: Young, middle-age disabled people more likely to be victimized
  • Many of the crimes were committed by people who didn't know victims, study finds
  • Study: People with cognitive disabilities represented largest group of victims
By Terry Frieden
CNN Justice Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- People with disabilities are 50 percent more likely to be victims of violent crimes than are people without disabilities, according to a government study released Thursday.

The first national study of its kind found that a wide range of disabled people -- including blind, deaf, developmentally disabled, and others with physical and mental limitations -- were victims of assaults, rapes and robberies in 716,000 cases in 2007.

The study by the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said instances of violence against disabled people occurred overall 1½ times the rate of those without disabilities, but the numbers varied by age group.

The most vulnerable groups were disabled people ages 12 to 19 and 35 to 49, for whom victimization occurred at nearly twice the rate of non-disabled persons.

Michael Rand, chief of victimization research for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, did not speculate on the reasons for the findings.

"It's hard to say," Rand said. "We didn't try to get at motivations."

Rand, a co-author of the study, said many of the crimes were committed by people who did not know their victims. Forty percent of the crimes against disabled male victims were committed by strangers versus 45 percent against those without disabilities.

The difference for females was greater: 34 percent of disabled females were victimized by strangers versus 24 percent for women without disabilities.

The study found that people with cognitive disabilities such as mental retardation, developmental disabilities and cerebral palsy represented the largest group of victims.

Simple assaults accounted for about two-thirds of the crimes against disabled people in the study, which tallied 476,000 simple assaults, 114,000 aggravated assaults, 79,000 robberies, and 47,000 rapes or sexual assaults.