By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — January 21, 2016 — This week we take a look at the big snowstorm that hit Saskatoon, why the US Car Czar doesn’t believe we’ll see another record setting sales year in 2016 and the rare find of over 200 classic cars on a chicken farm in New Zealand.
– It could be a big week for collision repair centres in Saskatoon. A report on television news in that city suggests shops are going to be busy over the next couple of weeks. The news reporter followed up a big snowstorm on Tuesday with an interview with Jennifer Giocoli, front office manager at Precision Auto Body. “We’re going to get tow-ins, which are big collisions; we’re also going to get a lot of bumper hits,” said Giocoli. Saskatoon police responded to 53 crashes Tuesday, including a nine-vehicle collision. In a media release, Saskatoon police urged drivers to slow down as city streets were icy and dangerous.
– Mainstream news sources are catching on to the idea that automated cars are a thing. A CBC news reporter in Detroit posted a story about a virtual reality automated car booth at the North American International Automotive Show. The reporter went on to wonder if the rise of AVs could kill recreational driving. Some of the comments collected by the reporter are interesting. Richard Wallace, Director of Transportation Systems Analysis with the Centre for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is quoted as saying that, “Eventually, we might have a generation that never learns how to drive at all.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk is quoted as saying, “Any cars that are being made that don’t have full autonomy will have negative value. It will be like owning a horse. You will only be owning it for sentimental reasons.” Wallace imagined a day coming for those that “those who love driving as an activity” will one day be only able to do so legally “in dedicated locations for recreational purposes.”
– Obama was also at this year’s car show in Detroit. Obama’s Car Czar, Ben Rattner, was also there. In an interview with local Detroit media, he expressed surprise at the record sales of autos over the past few years. He suggest the levels are not sustainable. “We thought that sales would certainly get back to the 15 million range, because of the replacement rate for keeping the fleet from aging … I have doubts about the sustainability of 18 million cars (being sold in the US) simply because consumers’ purchasing power has not increased as much as people would have liked,” he said. What’s more, new vehicles are again being bought with sub-prime credit, Rattner noted, “and I don’t think anybody should be thrilled about that.”
– This week featured a case of an autobody tech stepping in to help out police. In Ohio, a man fleeing police was tackled by an auto body shop technician, who dropped his wrench and wrestled the man to the ground. According to a local news report, once the tech had tackled him, the suspect told the tech that “I can’t breathe.” The tech reportedly said, “It sucks to be you.”
– In another case Alan Picker, a collision facility owner in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, was awarded an honourary membership with his county’s prosecutor’s office. According to the report, “On March 6, 2015, a vehicle that struck and killed a 27-year-old was only found after Picker identified the make and model of the vehicle used in the crash from a piece of its front-end.” Picker recognized the colour of the grill of a Chrysler he had recently painted.
– The Ontario Liberals have finally thrown in the towel on that whole auto insurance promise. Premier Kathleen Wynne says her government’s target to cut auto insurance rates by 15 per cent by last year was a “stretch goal.” The Liberals famously promised to reduce car insurance premiums by 15 per cent by August 2015 as part of a deal to get NDP support for the 2013 budget when they were a minority government. This past August the goal had only been halfway met. Now, it seems Wynne is just giving up on that whole promise. “We always knew it was a stretch goal,” Wynne was quoted as saying in a recent National Post article.
– The US federal government will be allocating $4 billion over the next 10 years to help speed up the development and adoption of fully autonomous cars. US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that “the federal government will remove any potential roadblocks currently preventing the technology from taking off.”
– A report from a consultancy points out that rolled aluminum costs continue to fall. A cratering in commodity and energy prices is helping drive down costs. Could this drive the shift to aluminum in vehicles? Possibly. According to the report, “Costs are falling in the rolled products industry, due to both lower LME prices and weak energy prices … the profitability of an aluminum rolling mill depends greatly on the plant’s raw material allocation strategy.” Mills typically source a range of raw materials including primary remelt ingot or liquid, rolling slab, hot rolled coil and a variety of different forms of scrap. The scrap generated in-house, termed run-around scrap, is also used to minimize costs. Typically, run-around scrap will make up approximately 30-35 percent of the total raw material mix. Raw material costs represent approximately 65-75 percent of a rolling mill’s total costs, therefore corporate costs are very closely linked to the LME price. This has fallen markedly since 2014 and CRU forecasts the price to weaken further in 2016.
– A news reporter uncovered a trove of classic old British cars at a New Zealand chicken farm. Looking for part of a Vauxhall? You might find it here. The owner used to be known locally as “Captain Vauxhall.”
– Actor Jamie Foxx is being called a hero after he sprung into action, saving a driver from an overturned car that caught fire directly in front of his house. It still doesn’t make up for his starring role in “Booty Call.”
– Jerry Seinfeld has announced is auctioning off all his classic cars. What? Does this mean no more of his remarkably unfunny online comedy series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee?” Say it isn’t so!