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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Arizona County Says Goodbye to Speed Cameras

Could this be a sign of more to come? The sherif of Pinal County, Arizona, has recommended to the county government that it end it's contract with Redflex, one of the main suppliers of speed cameras to jurisdictions across the country.

The Arizona Republic reports that Sheriff Paul Babeu dismissed the cameras effectiveness in reducing speeds on area roads, and even noted that in some cases, the camers made road conditions worse.

"I'm against photo speed enforcement completely,' Babeu said, walking the three-member panel through a detailed PowerPoint presentation. 'Here in Pinal, it's failed miserably.'

"Babeu said speed cameras created dangerous road conditions and offered little financial benefit for the county. He plans to boost traffic enforcement through additional manpower."

Perhaps the most interesting revelation in this story is the lack of profit for the Arizona county, and the resistance of motorists to paying tickets issued to their vehicles, regardless of who was behind the wheel at the time of the infraction.

He reported Wednesday that the two cameras were activated 11,416 times from September 2007 through last month. Of those activations, 7,290 resulted in citations, but only 3,711 were paid, according to The Republic.

"Babeu said most of the total $134,199.43 in fines and fees from the paid citations covered administrative and operational costs, leaving the county with a net profit of $12,391.58 that Babeu dismissed as paltry.

"Moreover, Babeu said, total motor-vehicle accidents increased by 16 percent in the same time period, and fatal collisions in the Queen Creek area doubled from three to six.

"The sheriff said he couldn't be certain that speed cameras were to blame for the crashes, but he believes they were a factor."

A growing number of jurisdictions in my own, Maryland, are installing speed cameras, evidently hoping to make a killing off of motorists who essentially have no way to combat the devices. Because the units cannot identify the individual driver and issue a ticket to that person, the only way to generate revenue is to give the vehicle owner the ticket.

That violates the presumption of innocence and is the Achilles Heel of automated, vehicle-focused traffic enforcement technology, at least in my humble opinion. I think it's only a matter of time before a federal judge says this racket has got to stop.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hybrid Sales Plunged 33 Percent In 08

Wait a minute, gas hit and in some places exceeded $4 a gallon last summer, right? And everybody was proclaiming the end of the SUV and the commencement of the Age of Aquarius, I mean, of the Hybrid on America roads, too.

So why did hybrid market share dip from three percent of all sales to just two percent of the total? As ESPN's Chris Berman might say - Whaaaatttttt?

Henry Payne at NRO has details on what may well be the most counter-intuitive data trend of the year just past:

"For the year, hybrid sales as a percentage of the market sunk below 2 percent with sales of just 17,000 units — a significant decline from a high of 3 percent in the summer of 2007. That’s a long way from Barack Obama’s campaign promise that 'we will get one million 150-mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads within six years.'”

So, will the new chief executive and his top White House environmental advisor, former EPA director Carol Browner, dare to try forcing consumers to buy what Washington thinks they should buy? Or maybe they'll just do what the enviro-whackos have wanted to do all along - ban private autos entirely and make everybody herd onto mass transit cattle cars.

Those are the old reliable tactics of the folks Browner rubs elbows with at the Socialist International's Commission for a Sustainable World Society. Just makes you feel all warm and cuddly knowing how "sustainable" we'll all be, doesn't it?

Oh, you didn't know Browner was a member of SI? Go here and check it out. These are the people who really seriously believe that they know better than we do how each of us should live our individual lives. Which reminds me of something Ronald Reagan asked in 1981:

"If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lose Your Job, Give Back Our Hyundai

Hyundai has an interesting new warranty option that allows some buyers to return a vehicle they purchased within the previous year if they lose their income. The program is subject to a number of qualifications. Here's how Hyundai describes it:

The Hyundai Assurance Program, the first of its kind for an automaker in the U.S. auto industry, allows consumers to walk away from a financing obligation when certain adverse life events occur, providing protection from financial shortfalls that arise from vehicle depreciation (negative equity) up to $7,500.

"The Hyundai Assurance Program compliments America’s Best Warranty as standard protection on new vehicles financed or leased from a participating Hyundai dealer, and supplements all existing consumer incentives.

"The program is available to any consumer, regardless of age, health, employment history or financed amount of the vehicle. The program is complimentary for the first 12 months of the financing or lease date for vehicles financed through Hyundai Motor Finance Company and other third-party lenders and financing sources.

" Covered circumstances include:

· Involuntary unemployment
· Physical disability
· Loss of driver's license due to medical impairment
· International employment transfer
· Self-employed personal bankruptcy
· Accidental death

"Consumers must have made at least two scheduled payments on their loan or lease, be current on all payments and pay for any outstanding balance above the $7,500 benefit amount which results from negative equity.

"Once the benefit is approved by the Hyundai Assurance administrator and the customer pays any outstanding balance, the customer returns the vehicle to the selling dealer, whose appraisal is factored into the valuation formula, and the consumer avoids further financial obligation or negative impact to his/her credit. The dealer is then able to remarket the vehicle."

My question is this: If you lose your job and return your new Hyundai, how are you going to find and get to your next job?

For more details from Hyundai, go here.

Friday, January 2, 2009

UPDATES: Car Sales Are Up! No, Really They Are!! Well, Maybe Not Exactly Up But .....

Remember the old adage about fools whistling in the dark? Robert Farago at The Truth About Cars points to a steller example of that phenomena in the auto industry among Michigan dealers. And Ronnie Schreiber has a new blog, Motor City Motorobilia, that looks quite interesting.

And The Wall Street Journal points to the Treasury's decision to aid GMAC as another illustration of why it's never fair or even prudent for government to pick winners and losers in the market. To wit:

"The messy little policy issue is that these GM products compete with those sold by Ford, Toyota, Honda and numerous other car makers that won't benefit from GMAC's cash infusion. And with the cost of financing often crucial to buyer decisions, the feds have now put the muscle of the state behind one company's products.

"Ford in particular must wonder what it did to deserve this slap. CEO Alan Mulally joined the GM and Chrysler chiefs in testifying for the bailout even while insisting his company didn't want the funds. And once the bailout was announced, Mr. Mulally said that 'All of us at Ford appreciate the prudent step the Administration has taken to address the near-term liquidity issues of GM and Chrysler.' So much for gratitude."

Makes me want to go buy a new F-150. Well, almost. Maybe a Focus Hybrid?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What a Concept: Let Detroit Build 'Profitable' Cars and Trucks!

Some heretical thoughts being bandied about at The Wall Street Journal where today's edition features an editorial that pushes the idea of liberating Detroit to build and sell cars and trucks that actually make money, instead of having to offer vehicles that first satisfy bureaucratic edicts from Washington bureaucrats.

I know, I know, leave GM, Ford and Chrysler to their own devices and they'll probably build millions of full-size trucks - Ford F-150s, Chevy Silverados and Dodge Rams - that get lousy gas mileage and pollute the environment, compared to the economy weezer modules Washington's all-wise bureaucrats seek to force everybody else to drive, like it or not, because it's "good for us and the environment."

Along the way, the WSJ analysis focuses on the crucial role of the government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules in the undoing of the Big Three:

"The fuel-economy rules apply equally to foreign brands, of course, some of which also specialize in big, powerful vehicles. But they afford themselves an out. BMW paid $230 million in CAFE fines from 1983 to 2007 to avoid building small cars at a loss to please Washington. Volvo paid $56 million. Daimler paid $55 million.

"Why don't the Big Three take this out? Explains the Government Accountability Office, because they fear the political repercussions of being tagged with "unlawful conduct."

"They must be laughing up their sleeves in Stuttgart, having unloaded Chrysler in the nick of time. Democrats had just taken over Congress the previous November, vowing tough new mileage standards. One week before the Chrysler sale, candidate Barack Obama gave an environmental speech harshly critical of the Detroit auto makers. Three weeks after, the Big Three ran up the white flag and agreed not to oppose new fuel economy rules.

"This year, Daimler paid one of the biggest CAFE fines ever, $30 million -- or $118 per car, a pittance to Mercedes buyers. By dumping Chrysler, meanwhile, it avoided its share of an estimated $100 billion in unremunerative investments the Big Three will have to make to meet the new fuel-mileage rules."

Read the whole thing. Then write your congressman and ask him why he wants to kill America's greatest industry.