Consumer Goods and Retail
Cars changed: Instead of mediocre crapmobiles that rust and rot, wobbling, squeaking and rattling, down the road, they’ve become durable, quality pieces.
What was remarkable, though, wasn’t the improvement. Or that automotive styling held up for longer without becoming so dated. It was the change in mindset, at the car companies.
In the past, almost everyone seemed to intuit that vehicles were only built to last a few rounds in the asphalt jungle, then retire young to the crusher. Emphasizing that perception, were the annual model changes that meant a big accusing finger pointing your way if you drove an out-of-fashion car.
- Autos: Past, present and future
- What’s happening in retail?
- The Target and Sears disasters
- CEOs or hatchet men?
- Facing the issues
Strike that. Cars did change for the better, back in the late 1980s-1990s. Then the insanity took hold and cars were overcomplicated and over-regulated by “safety nanny” obsessive-compulsives.
The apex was probably in the early 90s. Car design was quite refined, without being over-styled, weight was way down, helping attain some of the best fuel economy ever, and cars were quite nimble and not over-sized.
Then the downfall.
In the name of (hypothetical) safety, cars became overweight, and overly technically complicated as they tried to reconcile the contradictory demands for better gas mileage and better crash ratings. Overweight, due to required reinforcement to meet unrealistic crash standards, cars got stupid as the quest for fuel economy resulted in absurd complication, to address the inherent problems with gas engines.
There was no benefit associated with the sick joke of “automotive safety measures” introduced over the last 20 or so years. Visibility is obscured by slit windows and thick pillars, airbags are potential killers, and systems for “driving assistance,” make drivers inattentive and complacent — like the fool who was decapitated when he let his “self-driving” car plow its way under a tractor-trailer.
And cars became overly computerized: Point them upward and they could fly you to Mars. Of course, such features are a clever ruse. Instead of rotted floorboards, sills and fenders, instead it is the complex electronics that’s going to go boobs-up and outdated and force you to scrap the car, because that stuff is too expensive to repair out of warranty, in a revised form of “planned obsolescence.”
Yes, look at cars. Now, rather than devices of convenience and to exercise freedom, they are a control mechanism, and money extraction and redistribution machine for the state. Police terror, state revenue, and manipulation of the masses are the real reasons we are even allowed to travel in cars in the first place. Knowing that, we can easily predict the future of transportation, because, like mechanical inertia, we know that undesirable things of a social and political nature tend to continue on the same path if not corrected.
I like to think of myself as a bit of an enthusiast when it comes to cars, but that’s just making the best of a bad thing. It’s possible that gasoline cars got solidly established, only due to vast subsidies thrown at the petroleum industry. And the taxation to pay for the infrastructure, like highways. Refineries, distribution systems, pipelines, oil exploration — all of it, enormous investment, was financed on the backs of taxpayers.
The whole “car craze” is nearing the end — perhaps it was a foolish phenomenon that should never have been necessary. Electric cars were more than adequate, then and now, plus they’re quicker, to boot. Electrical power would have been far superior, and saved a lot of peoples’ health. It may well have been a deliberate plan to poison the population, to keep them dumbed-down — including by means of lead — a poisonous element that is now said to have been unnecessary for even those old engines.
People love to snort up exhaust fumes. And some auto journalists love to pile the scorn on electric cars. But they don’t consider how wildly stupid gasoline engines are. To try to make them ante up a few hard-gotten gains, engineers have to pile on complex engineering solutions like variable valve timing, variable compression, direct injection, multiple scroll turbochargers, engine start/stop, 9- and 10-speed transmissions and CVT transmissions, and more.
Yet they never wanted cars to progress. We know they haven’t really progressed, because a small independent company can, at times, run rings around what the big makers have come up with. Christian Von Koenigsegg’s car company, for example, has only around 200 cars out on the road, yet has some of the most advanced engineering. He pulled the transmission out of his latest car, the Regera, and made it the world’s fastest accelerating car to 250 MPH! But the rest of the auto industry is seemingly oblivious. To spell it out: He proved you don’t need conventional transmissions in cars, and it is more efficient to not have them! Now shouldn’t that be an occasion for joy and rapid mobilization in factories to reflect the improvement? Anytime you can remove a complex component, you get a huge advantage.
Now, a fluid coupling/torque converter still connects the V-8 engine to the differential at the rear end of this hybrid car, but it doesn’t contribute to the car’s propulsion until about 30 MPH. Before that, electric motors provide the drive. With an effectively one-speed transmission, no gearing, the drive ratio has to be pretty high, since the engine can only rev so fast. Despite that the Regera is a supercar, any common hybrid could still exploit the technology. And why wouldn’t a manufacturer want to?
But simplification doesn’t seem to be a goal for the mainstream automakers. No, Rube Goldberg levels of absurd complexity are what they seek.
The auto companies are afraid of looking foolish. Not Invented Here syndrome — they didn’t think of it, despite being in business for a century or more in some cases, so they have to save face by ignoring innovation. But they needn’t worry: They already DO look foolish.
No, the North American car makers never subscribed to continuous progress and improvement. They only shuffled the deck until they were forced to change. The Japanese and Germans makers began to eat their lunch, and that was the catalyst for their improvement starting in the 1980s.
Hell, they still regress, a lot of times. Certainly styling, in most cases, has seemed to have gone for a crap in the backyard and never returned. Engineering, too. Packard automobiles, back in the ’50’s, had an interconnected torsion bar suspension that linked front and rear wheels in a way that let you run over railway tracks at speed and hardly know they were there. Tucker cars had a central “cyclops” headlight that tracked the steering, so you could see where you were going when turning. They’re just rediscovering that now in some luxury cars that have movable beams.
Look at Pattakon’s technical solutions to improve the internal combustion (I.C.) engine. And look at Bruce Crower’s six-stroke engine. The Bishop rotary valve also got short-shrift. Automakers should be jumping up to use and invest in these things, but don’t, showing how controlled the system is.
And the scum car manufacturers never did anything to help drivers avoid stupid issues with the police. They don’t offer built-in radar detectors for places that permit it, for one.
How about stealth design to make cars less visible to radar? No, not gonna happen, that’s for sure.
When Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) became more powerful, car makers should have jumped to use them instead of idiotic old-style filament bulbs, so you aren’t getting pulled over for “broken taillight,” but adoption of LEDs is taking forever. Funny, how few cars have callouts for bad lights on the dashboard — it’s like they want you getting tickets.
Progress, simplification, and elimination of parts where possible are all important parts of engineering, especially a complex system like an auto.
The Toyota Prius proves a point. Somehow, by adding an electric motor and heavy battery pack, you can massively improve the efficiency of the gas engine. So how much more do you improve it by ditching the stupid engine and its paraphernalia, then? That gives it away: If the car is more efficient with two powertrains than one, one of the powertrains is surely a dud.
Well, that should be true, but in the case of I.C. and Electric, the two complement, filling in for one another’s weak areas. For the electric motor, the weakness is solely attributable to batteries.
Yes, batteries leave something to be desired, but they were never developed and optimized for cars. Still, the first Tesla, modified from a Lotus Elise sports car, used laptop-type batteries in bundles, and managed to be quicker in a straight line than the I.C.-engined car it was based on. I still get a grin thinking of Jay Leno’s antique electric that he had to “prep,” merely by topping up the 100-year-old battery with some water! I think it was the 1909 Baker Electric, since he seems to have a few early electrics.
Old car exhaust was horrendous, and even now it’s no rose petal perfume — there is still a real issue when a cold car starts up and it spews something horrific, before the cat converters are primed to do their thing. But I.C. was a great business plan. It gave a vast market to a bunch of swindlers who had large holdings in petroleum, it produced an industry with high barriers to entry (meaning big profits for banks from bank loans to car manufacturers, and the convenience of few competitors, allowing a select group to dominate), and it poisoned the environment that we live in. That’s why I.C. was pushed.
Note that Henry Ford tried to get around a petroleum monopoly by making his Model T run on hemp oil, but of course they manufactured a big hysterical crusade against hemp to counter that.
And, what do you know? Hemp oil produces lower emissions during combustion than petroleum fuels, produces fabrics, food, paper, fuel oil… And it is cultivable almost everywhere. Hemp could be economic, allowing us to grow our own indefinitely renewable fuel stocks, though it would need economy of scale. Yet they still gripe, moan, whine and complain about “Peak Oil! Peak Oil!” Obviously the message, that hemp oil is cleaner burning, did not get through, or was ignored.
Of course, business continues to resist work-at-home, too, though we are now more than fully suited-up to embrace that for white collar jobs. That would save plenty of “Carbon Gas Emissions.”
Thinking about the political scene, a potential reason for all the crap cars produced in North America, particularly of the 1950s and 1970s, comes to mind. The car industry probably thought it was sure to get away with lousy manufacturing, due to faith in lobbyists. The manufacturers no doubt thought that they would get an embargo or tariffs put in place against the Japanese and Germans. They may have succeeded if the intent were not to move the manufacturing base out of North America, (the reasons, among many: to bring North American industry to its knees, to keep wages down and to tap cheaper workers overseas).
(As a for instance, General Morons — er, Motors — GM, thought about building an ’60s Opel model from Germany — the Diplomat — in the U.S., as a Cadillac, but the tolerances in North American factories were so poor, they couldn’t match the specs for the car and weren’t able to do the job.)
They knew when they signed treaties like NAFTA, that jobs would be, in the words of Ross Perot, “sucked out” of the country.
Then the domestic automakers all failed (yes, even Ford, which received mostly unpublicized stealth handouts), and we were treated to the farce of bailouts to “save jobs.” They don’t give a damn about jobs. Real unemployment is something like 30%+ in the U.S. right now.
This is what I mean about the car industry being used as a money redistribution machine. Like when the excuse of GM going bankrupt was used to rob the taxpayer ($10+ billion losses admitted to, in the fallout) and move money to cronies. They didn’t care about the “jobs they saved,” in bailing out GM (however, they do care about image, the way they are perceived, so don’t want too many jobs to disappear too obviously at one time. Also, they do care about one of their most important tools: grandstanding). They introduced NAFTA, wanting to destroy jobs. And the GM bailout saved nothing. They said, “Oh, the suppliers would have gone under, too,” an absurd statement, because the other makers would produce more vehicles to take up GM’s slack, therefore requiring just as many parts suppliers, and business interests would have bought the productive parts of GM, and continued to make the Chevys and GMCs that sell.
Letting GM go would have strengthened the economy. For example, they’re still producing Cadillacs, despite low sales. I’m sorry to any owners, but the new ones are ugly, crude-looking things with no resale value, that no sensible wealthy man would want any part of. The ‘Slade could have been shuffled off to GMC, but Cadillackluster should have been “expired.” Even when they come up with a desirable concept car, they can’t even produce it, with the excuse that they don’t have a platform to fit it. What kind of an auto company, with a heritage tracing back over 100 years, doesn’t even understand the function of concept cars? They produce something meant to gauge public interest in a styling direction, then when they find something that tickles fancies, they ditch it? Dissolving GM, and purging the idiots that still run it, would have cleaned out the incompetent deadwood.
And with the resurrection of that bunch of creeps we now see things like this, as reported by GM Inside News:
The Empire Strikes Back, GM-Backed Legislation Attempts to Sink Silicon Valley
Several states are considering adopting a General Motors-backed bill that would exclude technology companies from testing autonomous driving technology within their borders, if passed, the legislation would restrict the operation of self-driving fleets to traditional vehicle manufacturers.
So, they’re still up to their old scummy lobbying tricks, this time trying to hobble Silicon Valley. Furthermore, everything is still an excuse with them. They can’t make any money off hybrid cars, like their “Volt”, which I think I’ve seen maybe three of on the roads, while Toyota cleans up with its Prius, and it is so reliable and economical, it seems to be taking over the taxis. I asked a taxi driver about his and he was raving about its goodness and how it had 260,000 km (160,000 miles). The car showed little wear, too. I don’t care for the styling and it apparently sucks as a driver’s/enthusiast’s car, but most people just want economical and reliable A->B transportation, making those aspects irrelevant.
By bailout logic, every business that is going down should be bailed. Little Jimmy’s Lemonade stand? Of course, because the lemon producers will suffer if little Jimmy doesn’t buy their lemons. People are wrong to still buy GM’s lemons, too. They seem to be better made, these days, but they aren’t as good as the foreign makers, and their former strong suit, styling, is a complete shambles. I think the company is crooked as hell, and, of course, it, too, spies on its customers.
I remember a GM worker being very confident, years before the bankruptcy, but when the fish was only just starting to rot from the head, that he had it on good sources that there were no worries. Government would never let GM go bankrupt because JOBS! Well, he was right about government saving GM, but “JOBS” was just the excuse.
GM is crony capitalism and the auto industry is a money redistribution machine.
Nope, the I.C. engine should have never been permitted such penetration in the market, and it only got a foothold, then a monopoly, because of illegitimate use of tax money to foster an otherwise unsustainable business model.
Overextending the Budget
Today, the ridiculousness of proliferation of all these BMWs, Audis, Mercedes (BAMs) and other high-end vehicles on the road is disturbing. It would be like seeing, growing up in the sixties and seventies, vast numbers of Caddies and Rolls-Royces on the road, with hordes of Mercedes 600s, Jags and Bentleys taking up the slack. Back in the day, in my neck of the woods, more than just a few new Buicks, Chryslers and Country Squires would be a shocker. That was a time when just power windows were more than a bit “showy,” and far too “spendy.” $38.00? Outlandish! (If anyone even bothered to shop them out.) Air-con was another “luxury,” that had to be sold on its practical benefits, like helping defog the windows, and even at that took a long time to get a foothold.
I don’t think they were even informed enough to sell A/C on the miracle of helping stop you dying from heat stroke in the summer. No one cared, “going for a ride” was enough of an extravagance. Ah, the ’60s and ’70s. Burned on those idiotic vinyl seats — summer scorching on shorts-clad legs, heat exhaustion, clouds-o-stink from foul, lead-contaminated exhausts, usually rich in tinges of black and blue, burned arms on hot chrome trim, and more, were all part of the “fun.”
Cars were either crap, or… not. If you fluked a good one, it could be very well built, tolerating much abuse, mainly in the form of typical slapdash, afterthought maintenance. Now, times have changed, and they’re not overbuilt so much as overwrought.
Yes, times have changed, and all these BAMs don’t reflect a thriving and prosperous society, but lucky leases and seven-year “underwater” car loans. But you aren’t socially acceptable without one. I have to admit to being oblivious to all that, myself. My credit score is a perfect “Cheap-O” out of 850.
$350/month luxury car leases, to push people into vehicles they can’t really afford. The overpopulation of “luxury” cars and SUVs prowling the roads is a dumb anomaly. Before you buy or lease a LUXURY CAR, you must (or should, rather) be a LUXURY PERSON. That is, earning BIG MONEY, like $200,000+ annually, not 50, 60, 70K. But white bread and watery mayo people are down there signing contracts anyway, then we hear the “shocking” statistics that no one has anything stashed away for retirement, or contingencies.
You can’t protect people against themselves, but this used to be self-regulating. You had to have the cash or find someone to lend it to you, and they had STANDARDS, to ensure they would get their money BACK. Things are so twisted now, they expect a certain percentage “default,” and it actually makes them RICHER somehow. No sweat off their brows, since they’ve been collecting on the car via monthly payments, then they just repossess the car and resell it for an inflated price on the same terms, to different people that can’t afford it.
This is another change from the “norm” that reflects a bad turn in society, and a turn toward more ruthless profiteering. It shapes what is coming, and is evidence of a spooky “end-game” to push people out of cars altogether.
Meaning? That the auto industry will just basically become a government agency, with guaranteed profits, producing generic automated cars. The cars will have to interface with government control systems. And that will mean various new “certifications” that government can withhold at will.
The push for cars to go automated, has a twist where we’ll still pay through the nose, and they’ll still make the police presence known. What excuses might they use for a police presence if the cars drive themselves? Well, they’ll just do what they always have: Not modify the “laws” to reflect the changes in technology. You’ll still get hit for “speeding,” even if the car is self-driving, because, “it’s your responsibility to ensure your car’s computer is in good order and won’t allow car to speed.” And there will be “emergency roadblocks” to ensure vehicles on the road are unmodified, “safe,” etc. After all, for saafeteee, all those computers, cameras and sensors will have to be very well maintained! Even “drunk driving/drunk riding,” checks, just because.
Self-driving cars could be a terrific boon. For one thing, you could set up their algorithms so there were never any traffic jams. By reducing and increasing speeds of travel as appropriate, you could approach the multiples of uncongested traffic that our roads were designed for. It’s the bad driving idiots, the Road Tards, that muck everything up, so pulling them out of the picture would make everyone happier. There would be no motivation to run red lights, velocities could be much higher, there would be no daily tension for the commuter…
Too good to be true. You can count on government to step up and ruin the potential benefits for all of us. Not only that, the generic “every-car,” will mean no more distinct brands or styling. That is pretty much inevitable, like the “Car of the Future” farce at NASCAR. It will certainly save the manufacturers from the costs of annual styling changes, but make the roadways and the drive that much less interesting. That’ll just be part of it, though.
Some people think we’ll all be on bicycles and on foot while a very few rich travel in electric cars, but that’s a limited view. The future is dystopian, but we’ll probably all be able to buy, or at least travel in, cars, with the disadvantage that these self-driving cars will simply drive you to the police station over complaints, “something someone saw” on a surveillance camera, fines, behind on your cable payment, didn’t buy a dog license this year, you name it. And of course, like other forms of government and corporate buggery, they will be used as spy devices. They already are — General Morons’ OnStar system, for example, can listen in on your conversations, and has been used for exactly that. It’s naïve to say that “they” will always know where you are, minute by minute, where you shop, eat, visit, since they’re already mostly there. There seems to be big money in this form of profiling/tracking, because the information they gather on us is sold and exploited.
Yes, there are many reasons they want to spy on us, and they do, in every way imaginable. For one, the aforementioned money to be made in profiling. If someone knows your behavior, they can sell you things, fine you, frame you, sell your information to others… For another, it’s because the government is composed of criminals and psychopaths. When you have a bunch like that, they think it’s nice to have scapegoats to cover for their own crimes — and also nice to have blackmail material over others. It’s just a matter of course for politicians and their minions. After all, it’s done to them to ensure they toe the line.
Digital currency and self-driving cars are two very “out there” pushes by government. The technical problems and social push-back may make them pipe dreams. For example, the infrastructure investment for autonomous cars, when government is always crying poor, is an issue.
Bob Lutz, a talented former bigwig at GM and Chrysler — one of the good ones — says it’s a 15-25 year wait to full automation, and cottage industries will cater to the rich who want to drive themselves around their private property. Not just Lutz, but a lot of people are predicting this sort of thing, but there are things that point against it, too, like the effects on the auto industry and, consequently, the whole economy. They’re going to have to also modify roads and intersections to make them amenable to automatic control, with the introduction of sensors that interact with the cars. (Things are otherwise too complicated for automation, like 4-way stops, or snowy or flooded roadways.) Thus, there are technical issues that work against the plan. As noted, there’s also going to be hesitation by greedy government that will think it can’t live without all its ticket fines, license fees, parking meter fees, gas taxes… Also, high speed travel on the highways would make the airlines sour, since it would make cars a much better alternative to planes over contiguous land areas. Don’t worry about that, they’ll still hold the same ridiculous speed restrictions. Because “SAFETY,” despite the fact that the whole point of cars is to get from point A to point B, FAST.
You also have to wonder if they are thinking of using autonomous cars to replace public transit — trains and buses.
Ride-sharing has its limitations, since most private car owners don’t want to use them in a sharing system to be defiled by careless strangers. Of course, we could end up with a stratified system where we have public (shared) cars, taxis and private vehicles.
I suppose the really rich will still be able to purchase and drive their ostentatious rides, while the rabble will be locked into the autonomous paradigm, maybe being allowed to drive at the special Disneyland ride, “Back in the Old Days,” or something.
If they really want to push self-driving cars, look for a ramp-up of reports discrediting human drivers, on how unsafe driving is, how many fatal accidents there are, “The Tragic Human Cost,” and so on. And how safe and convenient the “new way” will be. If they go this route, you’ll know they are committed to the autonomous paradigm.
The idea of autonomous cars is a very old one, going back to the Fifties, and before. A Utopian ideal, then. Now, full of sinister connotations.
Favorable and Unfavorable
What people might find favorable, governments find unfavorable, and vice-versa. It’s a mixed bag with autonomous cars.
They could reduce gridlock, save resources, free up drivers to relax or do something productive while on the road. They could mean less money spent on gas, elimination of licensing and fines. All positive for the average driver.
But the ability to track everyone is desirable only to government and those with bad intent, and unemployment due to reduction of car industry workers (and cascading results of that), is no bed of roses either.
And of course, they — counter-intuitively — will not stop licensing “drivers.” No: that will remain, in some form or another, based on some excuse or another.
And the reduction is gas consumption will be an excuse for more government bellyaching: “We can’t keep up the roads, there’s not enough money coming in from gasoline tax!”
Of course, that will spell higher taxes on electricity, and some new road tax or two.
Despite the disadvantages, it does appear that the move is toward autonomous cars, and so electric cars are getting a push. It is somewhat easier to have total control over the fundamentally simpler electrics.
With a commitment to the elimination of I.C. engines, comes the potential benefit — for government and automakers — of another “Cash for Clunkers”-style debacle, where everyone is forced to get their non-automated cars/non-electric cars off the road, and to have to buy new cars.
There will be a huge backlash from the collector car community, of course. There will probably be certain special concessions for them — if they’re willing to pay through the nose for permits to travel — and then they’ll probably be restricted to certain roads only.
At first, I thought it might actually be a great boon to get the crazies away from the steering wheel, but, on further consideration, unfortunately, driving within and around robotic cars may be more frustrating than the unruly mayhem of the mob — the “madding crowd.” At least most people are trying to proceed quickly, while robot cars will move at the lowest common denominator — that is, dead slow.
As always, none of this is for our benefit, though it will be framed that way.
Even though there are many benefits to electrics, there is a real backlash against electric cars. One source said they’re “coal burners,” based on the spurious nonsense that they recharge from coal-based power stations. Which is absurd, because there are such things as hydroelectric generators, natural gas generators, solar power, and more.
Even for coal plants, it’s easier to cleanse the exhaust output from one source, than from millions of cars.
Someone else thinks the electrics won’t be much fun. Another thinks they’re being shoved down our throats and aren’t justifiable in a “free market.”
First off, everyone, sensibly, likes electric cars for their clean operation, fierce acceleration and quiet running. Just because you don’t have a spewing exhaust from a stinky engine screaming like a banshee doesn’t mean a car isn’t “fun.” There will still be premium cars, sports cars, and so on.
Regarding the “free market,” as we know, the oil industry is SUBSIDIZED. The car industry is SUBSIDIZED — to the tune of tens of billions each year. Examples: direct cash handouts and indirect payments, like the “Cash for Clunkers” debacle, that paid car dealers a $3,500-$4,500 subsidy from the federal government, after discounting a new vehicle purchase to someone who traded in an old car.
I wonder where the “free markets” were, when governments were bailing out the car makers, on our dime, for yet more billions upon billions of dollars?
Electrics are a boon to the average person who won’t have to finance oil changes, the absurd repair bills for hopelessly complex I.C. engines, nor pay so much for gasoline. The sky won’t fall on the petroleum industry, either, because petrochemicals still have huge markets for plastics and other synthetics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, lubricants, asphalt, jet fuel…
People who get agitated about the passing of combustion engines don’t think things through, but often just froth at the mouth and bare their teeth. Then they seize on excuses. “You’ll be recharging every few miles, and never get anywhere! I’m not going to look like a fool and sit for four hours at a stretch to recharge 80% and only go 200 miles!”
Or there is that repetitive lament that the power companies will “brown out” with all the new demand, when it’s already been made clear that most electrics will recharge at night and actually improve grid efficiency via load leveling.
The sour attitudes themselves prove they aren’t even trying, but just looking for a snivel session. I guess auto journalists are afraid of losing their trade, but otherwise there’s no excuse to dump on electrics. On long stretches, i.e.: highways, there could be a system set up to recharge batteries and power the cars, using electrical pickups in the road itself. Or via a system to inductively charge batteries while moving. This surely isn’t an insurmountable technological hurdle, and batteries wouldn’t even have to improve, though they will, with time.
Any on-the-road charging, of course, shouldn’t be a taxpayer-subsidized freebie, but should be done on a toll road system so it can calculate consumption and charge for the electricity use.
Electric autonomous cars could also free up parking lots, free up roads, and thereby liberate land for more productive uses. Land in cities is becoming so expensive that this possibility is very attractive.
This is not to say that electrics are 100% of the way there yet, just that, if the thought, effort and investment that went into the improvement of gas vehicles had been applied to electric cars and their batteries, we’d long since have had fantastic, practical electric transportation.
The Retail Industry
Meantime, the whole retail sector is crashing. People have pulled in their horns and are exercising a lot more discretion in their shopping habits, and limiting consumption, as a natural survival reflex.
Consequently, businesses are falling like dominoes — Retail Dive lists 19 major failures/bankruptcies so far this year.
Despite this, we’ve come to the day where businesses are involved in social modification schemes and “virtue signaling,” rather than actually running their business.
This isn’t unplanned. And it is financed by historically low interest rates, crony banks to crony businesses.
When Target stores started allowing transgenders, into whatever toilets or change rooms they wanted, it was stupid on a whole deep level. And people started to boycott Target, with over 1.4 million signing a pledge to do so. Its stock price and profits were, of course, affected, now off about 30% from its last 10 years’ peak.
We don’t have to get into a whole debate about “transgenders” and moral issues. Just from a business perspective, it was a given that the majority of people was going to be offended or put off by such an act. The whole controversy it created with the new policy was avoidable.
All Target had to do from the start was put in a third, “Other” bathroom. Or how about, “Alternative?” Whatever term you’d need not to cause a “micro-aggression.” That they didn’t go this route is absolute proof of a shoddy attempt at social engineering.
There’s no real need for Target to exist. There are better, and/or cheaper alternatives. One positive: It actually DID go out of business in Canada.
The stock price drop after this debacle most likely had something to do with the new policy, yet the CEO blithely, point blank, said there was absolutely no fallout, and no connection with the stock price fall. You’d think he would have instead quickly back-pedaled to cover his behind, but no.
Well, there was one thing: Target is introducing “Unisex” potties “at a cost of $20 million,” (why they mention that, I don’t know, because it’s peanuts if you have hundreds of stores). As I stated, they should have done this from the start. This whole controversy must have been planned. These scoundrels don’t do anything without consulting legal counsel and, undoubtedly, the government.
Maybe it doesn’t matter anyway, and they see the writing on the wall: Retail has to die a slow death, it’s just not practical in the form it is now: Excessive coverage (too many stores), the same BS merchandise appearing in store after store, competition from web retailers. It’s funny, though: Target did have a potentially good idea they started and had to drop. It was going to open smaller outlets with less merchandise, but fronting a giant automated warehouse that would dispatch chosen items to you, the so-called, “Store of the Future.” Also they were planning to set up an “on-line marketplace” where other retailers and manufacturers could sell products. That’s a next-generation implementation that I could see working out very well. But they flushed it all down the commode.
In a process unhindered due to corruption within the legal system and law enforcement, the western nations are being bled dry.
It’s depressing to watch the destruction, before a looming final take-down.
Tricks like short-selling stock in insider trades, while presiding over a failing company, get a pass, and much more.
Case in point: Sears.
Symbol of the wrongs of the failing retail industry, exhibit A: Eddie Lampert. “The most hated CEO in America.” Over the past three years of his 10-year plus rule (having control over that time, though becoming CEO only about 3 years ago), he’s brought the stock price down by over 80%. Revenue continues to plummet, and net income has fallen deeply into the red. In fact, Sears is going to need $1.5 billion this year to stay afloat.
While letting Sears (and Kmart) stores go to ruin, not performing repairs, he is using tricks to bleed money out, like selling Sears real estate to his holding company then renting it back to Sears, or leasing it to any other store willing to pay up higher rates.
He also seems to be a psycho in the same vein as Bill Gates, making Mr. Burns look like a saint. He works from a home office and communicates via videoconferencing. He quizzes his underlings until he finds the first question they can’t answer, setting up for the opportunity to lambaste them in a lunatic frenzy.
Oddly, he had no retail experience before Sears.
The method to this madness is that he continues to personally profit, though the shareholders are up in arms. Lambert spun off the Lands’ End brand, and sold the Craftsman brand. He recently licensed the Kenmore and DieHard brands for use by other companies.
It’s a similar strategy to what we’re seeing with the North American end of Fiat-Chrysler, where the Ram truck badge was spun off of Dodge, meanwhile starving Dodge and Chrysler of new product. All we get is old product with a little pancake makeup over it, model discontinuations and grandiose promises.
Isn’t this just good business? After all, the failure of these retailers is almost inevitable. However, those who think it’s “good business,” are forgetting the losses of tens of thousands of small investors in these companies. This is an indirect extraction of all of their investments. Theft. And if it were a good model/strategy, you could argue that the stock would be going up, not down. Sears turning into a landlord, renting its properties and, licensing IP holdings and brands (“Craftsman,” etc.), could have become lucrative if done right.
But the scheme and scam here, is to legitimize the con. If Sears is a public entity (trading on the stock market), the top executives are under a fiduciary duty, as I see it, to protect the stockholders, not suck them dry and individually profit off the exercise.
Well, it’s all coming to a head — as documented in Zero Hedge, August 25, 2017.
Sears Death Spiral Accelerates: Vendors Halt Shipments As Cost Of Default Insurance Soars
Lampert is “helping” Sears eke out a few more death rattles by funding high-interest loans from his own pocket, like a line of credit of $200 million at 9.75%. He holds other debt of Sears, secured by Sears’ fixed assets, like its real estate and inventory. It seems like he’s well covered for any eventuality, as he’ll have first crack at the assets, or in setting a new course for Sears, under bankruptcy.
Meantime, Sears’ suppliers can’t get insurance on their shipments.
The current situation gives Sears a few more quarters, at best.
This corruption is a microcosm of the general trend that we see in the political realm, the courts, the economy and other businesses. It flourishes because rich and poor support it: rich either directly benefit from, or can shelter from, bad policy, a bad legal system, and certain economic policies that the bulk of the population can’t escape from. And, of course, many poor parasite off the welfare state. The main losers are in the middle class.
It’s a commercial Big Bleed, corporate meltdown and squeeze leading to a final draining as the waning morsels of value are pulled from corporate entities, staged with a final, private sector assault, where average people’s assets are targeted, their homes raided and ransacked, their bank accounts robbed, in a lead-up to inevitable war that will “soften us up” to accept some radical social changes.
Not speculation. They’re already using asset seizure, negative interest rates, theft by cop, and other methods to implement this. To add to this, we see asset seizures by banks, and other tricks like engineered mortgage foreclosure. The mass of humanity stumbles on, oblivious to it all.
The “Economic Model”
The new economic model, rather: Insane exploitation by corporate entities through various sketchy justifications, fueled by abnormally cheap money.
There is no longer any profit in building for the future. Does it mean they’re planning for no future?.
Look at the Sears example. It sold cars, houses, boats. If it had persevered, and managed to stay relevant, it would still have been well-established and profitable. Sears had the Sears Catalog, really a precursor to today’s Amazon. With foresight, by migrating that catalog to e-commerce, Sears could have been first in online retail, and itself been a potential Amazon. But it failed, as Kodak squandered its lead in photography, and didn’t keep up with the times and the digital revolution.
So what do you do in today’s world? It’s too hard or risky to build something from scratch, or sometimes even to preserve your business. It’s just not worth the bother, when you can make more money “the new way.” So you do a controlled demo of your business, and buy up or control the successor and let others take the risk and expend the sweat equity. You use cheap and easy money from your banker cronies and approval from the controlled government to make this effortless. That is, you pick and choose the best new and successful ventures, offloading the risk of doing something new yourself, and re-emerge, “caterpillar to butterfly” style.
At the dying company, situate a CEO goon having no conscience or compassion, that won’t hesitate to cut, fire, slash and burn. Ever wondered why they hire CEOs with no experience in the industry? Nardelli, who helped bring down Chrysler, was brought in after getting the boot from Home Depot, for example. He had no retail experience when he went to Home Despot, no automotive experience when he went to Chrysler.
Muñoz came from the railway business and ends up at United Airlines. Ridiculous. If you or I go to a job interview, what is the first thing they ask about? “What’s your experience? Do you have enough experience? Experience, experience, experience?”
One of the problems, though, with the thuggish sociopath insiders that companies like to hire as CEO hatchet men, is that they have no human compass, so they get into BS situations — like Muñoz did when he bungled the Dr. Dao incident at United Airlines. But it doesn’t matter — corporations do the CEO shuffle and move them around, exchanging them, crony for crony.
So, the fix is clearly in. But with the ruse having become obvious, it makes any “future shock” less impactful. That’s important, so as not to discourage a search for solutions. Ruthless corporate entities should not be allowed so much power that they can rob people and affect their livelihoods with impunity. So, it’s necessary to find new corporate structures that can’t get that power in the first place. It’s a simpler solution than you might think, and something we’ll examine in subsequent articles.