“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chrysler - Traded like an old mule.

Who do you know that has the cash to buy a car company? Someone who needs instant brand recognition and an entry in the US auto market?

Daimler Chrysler Confirms Chrysler Talks

By MATT MOORE, AP Business Writer

BERLIN - DaimlerChrysler AG is confident a turnaround program at its Chrysler unit will return the beleaguered American brand to profitability, but Chairman Dieter Zetsche said Wednesday the automaker is in talks with unidentified potential buyers.

"As announced on Feb. 14, we are open to all options for future collaboration with Chrysler," he told some 9,000 shareholders crammed inside Berlin's exhibition center. "The statement is still true today."

He said that the talks have been with "potential partners who have shown a clear interest" and "so far, I am satisfied with the process. Everything is going according to plan."

He would not elaborate on who was involved in the talks.

Zetsche stunned the automotive world on Feb. 14 when he said that continued losses and fierce competition in the United States meant that the German-American automaker was considering all options for its Chrysler unit, and did not rule out a possible sale, saying only that all options were being considered.

He did not disclose whether any decision to sell Chrysler had been made or if the company was any closer to a solution. Still, he did say a recovery plan that will cut 13,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada was moving forward.

The Chrysler unit lost $1.5 billion in 2006.

"The crucial factor was the unforeseeable shift in demand to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles which was triggered by increased gas prices in the U.S.," Zetsche said. He noted that Chrysler's strengths have been minivans, pickups and sport utility vehicles, autos not known for their fuel efficiency. Read the rest.

Poor 'ol Chrysler. Always a distant third except on the street or track. It was back in the early seventies that Lee Iacocca brought them back from near death. The era of American muscle cars was over and a long period of darkness was descending on Detroit. Chrysler was in financial trouble and its new CEO, with nowhere else to turn, had to go hat in hand to Congress and beg for the money to keep the company afloat. The problem then as now, was soaring fuel prices. The entire country debated whether it was appropriate for the Government to get involved in the largest bailout in US history but Mr. Iacocca convinced Congress to loan him the money necessary to return the company to the black. He paid off the loan early and then lead the nations efforts to refurbish the Statue of Liberty in time for the July 4, 1976 celebration. Mr. Iacocca made a lot of money for himself and became the iconic American success story.

I wish Chrysler well. It's unfortunate that the company is being traded around like this especially in light of the fact that they made the minivan ubiquitous.


  1. Maybe they deserve to be traded FOR making the minivan ubiquitous, but to answer your question on who would seem to be a likely candidate to buy them, that would be the Chinese, who have the manufacturing prowess but are brand light.

    But is that a brand that helps them? It also comes loaded with some severe legacy costs.

    The Japanese have been masterful at manufacturing good salable cars, and now trucks, and doing it while also establishing new brands.

    What automobile brand has every really come back?

    Packard, DeSoto, Studebaker are all there ready for the taking.

  2. Can't even remember the cars that came out under Lee, but can't forget the Car he brought out for Ford:
    (They won LeMans at that time too, forget if he was behind that.)

  3. The original was the biggest winner, and would fit in better now with it's 2.1 liter 4.

    "Introduced in November 1983 for the 1984 model year, the first minivan of all time, the Dodge Caravan was based on the Chrysler S platform, an extended derivative of the Chrysler K platform"

    However, it Wasn't the first Minivan of all time:
    I had a Corvair Van:
    Got good mileage (24) and I cut a hole in the roof and installed a pot-bellied stove for camping!
    Then when we had the farm, we used to fill it up to the ceiling with horseshit.
    ...the cow crap went in the back of the 49 chev P/U, however!

  4. Now that I think about it, that was ARABIAN Horseshit.
    ...not good.

  5. 2164th: What automobile brand has every really come back?

    It's all about management decisions. For example, Airbus kept dumping their government-subsidized crap on the market in the post-911 airline depression, and they captured more than half of the market share and gained some short-lived prestige, and bouyed by this euphoria they went on to throw billions into the development of a hub-to-hub double-decker plane so big it will take an hour just to unload passengers. Meanwhile, as Boeing took it in the shorts with their "free market" "capitalist" model, they gambled with the fuel-efficient wide-bodied 787 Dreamliner, designed to go from point-to-point, like from Peoria to Las Vegas, and they've sold 500 of them before the first one rolls out onto Paine Field in Everett; in fact, they're sold out through 2012.

  6. When comparing cars by nationality, one trend stands out: The Japanese and South Koreans continue to make the most reliable cars, with 11 problems per 100 vehicles, on average. U.S. automakers follow, with 16 problems per 100, while European manufacturers lag, with 19 problems per 100.

    Of the 43 current-year models that made the Most Reliable list, 36 were from Japanese manufacturers, six came from domestic automakers and one came from South Korea. Toyota took top honors, placing 21 vehicles on the list. Honda was next with 10 vehicles, Ford and GM each had three, and Subaru and Nissan had two apiece.

    Among new American models, the Lincoln Zephyr (now called the MKZ) had a sterling first year in reliability. Its platform mates — the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan — also did well. Some new or redesigned models from GM — the Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS and Chevrolet Tahoe — were very reliable. This is promising and gives the consumer more choices than ever in finding reliable new vehicles.

    Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at

  7. The Chinese may buy the brand, the dealer network and shed the legacy cost, one way or another. Fire even more folk then the Germans envision, faster.

    As to one of yesterday's subjects, after Mr Powell came down of the civil war side of the Iraq debate, Mr Snow had this to say:

    ",,, Q Tony, as the President has noticed and has made comments about the sectarian violence worsening, could you talk to us about conversations within the White House to, say, civil war versus sectarian violence?

    MR. SNOW: There is not a lot of conversation about the label; there's a lot of conversation about the mission, the desire to figure out the best way forward in combating sectarian violence. And you have seen encouraging signs -- again, you've seen it from Mr. al Hakim yesterday. We have seen it in the discussions with the Prime Minister. We've seen it in the determination of Kurds, of Shia and Sunni to work together to build a moderate center within Iraq that can go after insurgents, criminal gangs and militias. And all of those are important areas of emphasis.

    At the same time, also beyond that, you take a look at what it takes to build a nation: a sense of identity, a sense of pride, a sense of, this is a place where you have a future. Therefore, we've talked a lot about the hydrocarbon legislation. That's going to be voted on, we understand, this month. It's a good thing, and it's a big breakthrough. Again, Mr. al Hakim yesterday said oil is a shared resource of all Iraqis. May not be important in this room, but it's hugely important there.

    So if you talk about the conditions in which -- that we face in Iraq, the question is not, what is the label of the day, but instead, what is the way forward so Iraq will be able to stand on its own.

    Q But it's not the label of the day -- the sectarian violence has been going on for quite some time.

    MR. SNOW: As a matter of fact, as Mr. al Hakim noted, the sectarian violence has been going on for 82 years.

    Q Well, my question now is, what is the definition of the White House of the words "civil war?"

    MR. SNOW: That's an interesting question, and there's no clear answer to it, because the one thing -- I spent a lot of time thinking about this last week, and I'm not sure you get any two people to agree. For instance, if a civil war is a situation in which you have two clearly identified organizations with clearly identified leadership, both actively soliciting support from the populace and fighting over territory, authority and legitimacy -- it probably doesn't apply. If you have as your definition of a civil war something that involves the entire land mass -- north, south, east and west -- doesn't apply. But some people think the sectarian violence you've seen -- centered largely around Baghdad, and you also have some terrorist activity in Anbar, a considerable amount -- they think that is civil war. So it depends on which metrics you use for doing it. And frankly, I gave up on trying because there are any number of people who have different measurements.

    Last week, John Keegan, who is probably -- may be the foremost military historian in practice today, had a long piece where he argues that it is not a civil war, and he laid out his metrics. Then you had other scholars who are laying out theirs. You see what I mean, April? The thing is there is no simple dictionary definition that gives you the ability to go through this. And Jim and I went through it with the Webster's last week.

    Q Well, I'm just wondering, though, about the significance of -- you had Colin Powell and Kofi Annan join the list of those saying it is a civil war.

    MR. SNOW: Yes.

    Q So what is the significance? It's one of these questions --

    MR. SNOW: Well, I think one of the dangers is that civil war had been used in a political context. It's interesting -- what intervened other than an election to get people to change the label? And that's --

    Q The violence got worse, I suppose.

    MR. SNOW: Well, the violence was awfully -- October was the worst month.

    Q That's what I mean, it got -- so it wasn't that it was an election, it was that the violence was driving it.

    MR. SNOW: No, it was -- no, I'm not so sure. And so you wonder, is the label politically driven? And I think at this point, rather than getting into a dispute about that, as I've said before, this is a time -- and we've heard Democrats and Republicans both talking about this -- we've got an opportunity for people to say, okay, let's just figure out what the situation is. Where is the violence? Who is responsible? How do you deal with it? What are the most effective ways? How do we win? And how do we build that sense of national unity around this, which I think offers us an important moment?

    Q But if we had a question where -- if there was a point where everyone could agree it was a civil war, and that's the way it was being referred to --

    MR. SNOW: Well, if you can get everybody to agree --

    Q Let me just ask this question, Tony.

    MR. SNOW: All right.

    Q What would change in terms of how the United States' effort in Iraq was conducted, what would change in the White House if it were a civil war as opposed to --

    MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- I think the term has more political resonance in the sense that it has been used to describe a situation that would be hopeless, in which our people would be targets. And so that is what I think the linguistic use of the term has been in political circles.

    Q So once you're talking about civil war, we're talking about a situation without hope?

    MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know. That's the way I think it's been spun politically. That is not -- but again, I don't think at this point, trying to get into the fight over labels -- because, again, I spend a lot of time on it, Jim, and I'm not going to argue with John Keegan and I'm not going to argue with other scholars. The most important thing to do is to figure out what exactly the situation is, the facts on the ground, and how to move to victory.

    Q Since there's still confusion or ambiguity on the definition, why not pull the metrics together as to define?

    MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that -- look, Congress regularly gets a 1090 report that is nothing but metrics, gets it every quarter. So it's not as if we're not laying out the metrics. The question is whether you want to spend all your time trying to figure out whether that fits a dictionary definition of civil war, insurgency. What you have is violence, and the challenge is to tamp it down, so that the Iraqis can live in peace.

    Q Are you telling us that the label is unimportant? Is that what you're saying, it doesn't matter what you call it?

    MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that's what I said. I said it's very difficult to figure out that there is any clear definition, and if you have one, please pass it on.

    Q Tony, may I just quick follow, please? Yesterday, al Hakim spoke at the United States Institute of Peace, where he said that there is no civil war in Iraq, but also he said he doesn't see that Iraq will be back in the days of Saddam Hussein. This is what he told the President in the White House?

    MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know what he told the President because I wasn't in on the meeting. But you had the readout. But you're absolutely right, he said he did not perceive it as a civil war, and he also talked about the bad old days of Saddam. He, as you know, along with the Sunni assistant Prime Minister and a number of others, lost family under Saddam. And some of them have also lost members during the present war, and it has not changed their commitment.

    Thank you.

    So the head man of the
    Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution Iraq
    is now our authority figure on the goings on, in Iraq. Wonder what biases and perceptions Mr al-Hakim brought to the table. Funded, as he is, by the Iranians.
    Two Iranian agents being detaineed during a US raid at one of his Training or Operational bases, not long after his meeting with Mr Bush.

    As Mr Snow said it comes down to definitions and the White House will not debate linguistic experts, seeing the word in it's own perspective, with it's own perceptions. Not based upon facts or dictionaries.

    It does not support the habu theory of leftist domination in choosing the term Civil War to describe the violence in Iraq.

    At least according to Mr Snow.

    Mr Talabani, the President of Iraq, he said the US was engaged in an Iraqi Civil War, and thanked US for it. He IS a real leftist, though.

  8. Q Well, my question now is, what is the definition of the White House of the words "civil war?"

    MR. SNOW: That's an interesting question, and there's no clear answer to it, because the one thing -- I spent a lot of time thinking about this last week, and I'm not sure you get any two people to agree. For instance, if a civil war is a situation in which you have two clearly identified organizations with clearly identified leadership, both actively soliciting support from the populace and fighting over territory, authority and legitimacy -- it probably doesn't apply. If you have as your definition of a civil war something that involves the entire land mass -- north, south, east and west -- doesn't apply. But some people think the sectarian violence you've seen -- centered largely around Baghdad, and you also have some terrorist activity in Anbar, a considerable amount -- they think that is civil war. So it depends on which metrics you use for doing it. And frankly, I gave up on trying because there are any number of people who have different measurements.

  9. Who might buy Chrylser? Magna seems to be interested. hmmm a company that makes auto parts buying a car maker. Reminds me of a guy I knew who at one time sold buses to African governments - a Mercedes was included as a gift with every sale and the buses were sold at cost...mind you they had the repair/parts contract. Ever driven on an African road? They made loads of money.

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