By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario – June 15, 2018 – In today's Friday Fun: A festival goer gets head stuck in exhaust pipe, thefts of metal off new cars on the rise, former city planner declares Toronto traffic a state of emergency, and much, much more.
A fantastic, absurd bit of news this past week comes out of the Winstock Country Music Festival in Minnesota. According to local reports EMS workers had to attend to a 19 year-old girl who got her head stuck in a tailpipe. It was said she got drunk, and thought it would be a good idea to see if her head fit in an over-sized tailpipe. And while it was a large aftermarket custom pipe, it wasn’t large enough. She was stuck until emergency personnel could attend and free her. The local Winsted Fire Department had to use a power saw to do that. She was apparently escorted off the grounds following the extraction. The pictures are great and can be found here, https://bit.ly/2JIpHka
Police in Rhode Island have uncovered what seems to be a long-term theft at a local auto storage depot. According to a report more than 800 catalytic converters have been stolen from a vehicle storage yard over the course of this year. The newspaper story quotes a North Kingstown police officer who says hundreds of Volkswagen vehicles stored at the North Atlantic Distribution yard were stripped of their parts. These thefts are no surprise. Cat converters contain palladium, platinum and other expensive metals. By early 2018 the price for these metals were hitting records. These are markets that depend on recycled sources for 30% of the total consumption. The only mystery was how the depot didn’t realize the thefts were occurring.
In other auto theft news: Global News in Vancouver aired a security video that showed a thief cutting out the exhaust of a Ford truck to use as scrap metal. The Vancouver area was recently hit by a series of gasoline thefts, where thieves were targeting trucks with plastic gasoline tanks. The thieves knew they could drill a hole in without worry about a spark to steal the gas. But in the latest case it seems the thieves made off with the entire exhaust system, which was presumably sold for scrap. The price of steel has been rising of late as a result of Donald trump’s trade war. That rise in the price of steel filters down to the recycled metals market, incentivizing these kinds of thefts. The exhaust system was stolen off an F-450 at Peacemaker Filmworks, a production company in a Burnaby industrial park. An area RCMP officer was quoted as saying, “If somebody comes to you and is wanting to sell a catalytic converter, and it appears obvious that it’s stolen, call the police, don’t accept the part.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released results of its latest testing. The organization finds that the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee are the worst midsize SUVs in terms of crash tests. According to a report, “... damage to the Ford Explorer caused the structure to collapse, and both the Grand Cherokee and Honda Pilot showed the possibility of head injuries.” The ratings were based on results from the passenger-side small overlap test. According to the press release, a small overlap crash happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a utility pole or tree. The chief of research for the Institute was quoted as saying, “Although some vehicles in this group offer very good protection, in other models, the airbags, safety belts and structure showed serious deficiencies. In those SUVs, a front-seat passenger would be at risk of injuries to the head, hip or leg in a right-side small overlap front crash.” The researcher went on to say that, “... the institute had noticed that some automakers had improved safety for drivers but had neglected front-seat passengers and wanted to put them on notice that the institute expects the same level of protection for both.” The Kia Sorento earned the Top Safety Pick rating from the group. The GMC Acadia and Volkswagen Atlas also performed well in the tests. But in the case of the Ford Explorer, “The crash test dummy experienced forces consistent with broken bones or dislocations of the right hip or lower leg…” https://on.freep.com/2JFJZLi
Several media reports of late have noted the bright potential in the used car market in China. To this point, as the country takes up a car-based lifestyle, the market for used cars has been relatively small. There is a broad cultural aversion in China toward second hand products of any kind. As a result, as the car market has boomed, the vast majority of Chinese have chosen new vehicles. The used car market has languished. According to one recent media report, “In most markets, sales of used cars outpace those of new ones by a wide margin, usually two-to-one or more. About 39 million used cars were sold in the U.S. last year, for instance, compared to 17 million new ones. In China, the opposite prevailed with 29 million new cars sold, and just 12 million used ones.” This is a remarkable inversion in the basic dynamics that usually apply in a car market. But many commentators are now predicting that the used car market in China will begin to grow at a rapid pace. For one, the sale of new cars has been skyrocketing in the country, which is now the world's largest auto market. And so there are just many more cars around than there ever have been in the past. According to a media report, “… as used-car inventories rise and consumers become more comfortable buying second-hand vehicles,” the Chinese used car market is set to boom in the years ahead. According to a story in the popular auto trade press publication Wards Auto, “China’s used-car market grew by a compounded annual growth rate of about 17% from 2010 to 2015.” But the ratio of used to new car sales in China is only 0.26, compared with 2.5 in the U.S. That ratio will change however as new car sales slow and used car lots fill up with product. According to Wards Auto, “The concept of Certified Pre-Owned is not well-known in China, so BMW is putting a lot of effort into branding its program. A big selling point is a 7-day return policy and a 1-year unlimited manufacturer’s warranty.”
Complaints about Toronto traffic are nothing new. But the construction of tends of thousand of condo units in the downtown core has seen the population explode. At the same time the introduction of new public transportation options lags by decades. The result is a city that is absolutely jammed in terms of traffic. It’s always been bad. But according to some the situation is moved from one of simply annoyance, to public danger. Another wave of bike-car collisions ended in more deaths this past week. The Globe and Mail declared the mayor’s signing of the Vision Plan (a pledge to reduce the number of pedestrian and bike deaths) a complete failure. Rounding out the criticism this week was the former city planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, who took to twitter to say that, “It’s too much to take. It’s unbearable It’s time to declare a state of emergency, and immediately begin with the basics. First step is to lower speed limits and enforce them. The game playing — pretending we don’t know what to do — must stop.” The city is reportedly considering doubling speed fines around elementary schools. Photo radar may be installed around schools as well. Two young children have died this year waiting to be picked up from school, so this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Keesmaat is a popular local figure in that she is outspoken and progressive on urban planning policies in the city. Some have called on her to run for mayor. She’s declined to do so this far. But she did go on to tweet this week that, “I am calling for a state of emergency, which means treating this crisis as a high priority and investing in immediate measures to create a safe environment for vulnerable road users.” Considering the constant rate of pedestrian and bike deaths in a city where all the many surface parking lots that existed just a decade ago have been replaced by condos, it’s a message that will resonate with many.