Prius sighting in Florida

Two middle-aged ladies were in front of us at Lion Country Safari:

Biden/Harris, Black Lives Matter, and Eat More Kale plus an Imagine there’s no hunger license plate (proceeds to the Florida Association of Food Banks). The “UU” sticker likely is for “Unitarian Universalism”, a pro-Palestinian church (settler colonialism by Jews in Israel is bad; settler colonialism in North America is not so bad that any Unitarian Universalist church needs to give back its land to the nearest Native Americans).

The next day, we found the “Prius Eater” in the Costco parking lot:

Through the window at Lion Country Safari:

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Subaru Outback review

On a recent trip to Denver, I rented a $550/week “full size” car from Hertz and received a 2021 Subaru Outback station wagon. As part of the Great Falling Apart of the U.S. service industry, the vehicle was delivered only 3/4 full of gasoline. The 4-cylinder engine made alarming strained noises when pushed hard enough to merge onto I-25 (even accelerating from 0 to 35 mph on a local road sounded like it was a dramatic event for the vehicle’s innards). This is not the refined 6-cylinder powerplant of our beloved Honda Odyssey.

There is a huge touch screen in the middle of the car and, as with Tesla, a lot of essential buttons are available only within the touch screen, typically at least one or two menu touches away. Apple CarPlay is slow to establish compared to how it works on the Honda Odyssey and the entire infotainment system seems slow.

The lane departure warning system is much more active than on the Honda and generates a lot of spurious warnings, e.g., when merging onto a highway from a ramp.

Who buys these cars rather than a Honda or a Toyota?

Here’s the vehicle on I-70:

Speaking of vehicles, here’s a Ford in Idaho Springs that probably doesn’t generate any complaints regarding the touch screen or lane departure warning system:

and another Ford truck, from Beaver Liquors (near Beaver Creek), delivering supplies deemed “essential” by Colorado Covidcrats.

Of course, it is also possible to take a bus. Note the four mask-related signs in this photo of a single public transit vehicle (Vail Lionshead village):

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It will be tougher to get a parking space in Palm Beach

“Rolls-Royce, Bentley, BMW Sales Surge as Cheaper Brands Lag Behind” (WSJ):

The most luxurious brands such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche and BMW have reported record sales.

Bentley sold 14,659 cars last year, an increase of 31% from the year before and a record for the company. Porsche, also owned by VW, sold 301,915 cars, an increase of 11% world-wide. Both brands posted growth in the U.S., Europe, and China.

Rolls-Royce, owned by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, whose tailor-made superluxury cars have starting prices of more than $300,000, sold a record 5,586 cars last year, up 49% from the year before.

Martin Fritsches, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Americas, told the Journal that buyers of superluxury cars like Rolls-Royce are younger today. The average age of a customer is about 43 years old, which means many of their clientele are in their 30s.

In part, Mr. Fritsches said, Rolls-Royce’s wealthy customers have been sheltered from the hardships felt by many during the pandemic. They benefited more from the economic recovery, the cryptocurrency boom and soaring stock prices. And many of the buyers are first-time Rolls owners, he said, including young entrepreneurs who got rich on the stock market and cryptocurrencies.

Meanwhile, when we took our Honda Odyssey in for an oil change recently, the dealer had exactly 0 new Hondas in stock. If we’d wanted to replace our Odyssey it would have required paying 20% more than we paid a year ago and waiting 1-2 months.

“Global chip shortage: Everything you need to know” (TechRepublic, November 2021):

A shortage in the supply of semiconductors first hit the automotive industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and has had a cascading effect, causing global disruption. The shortage can be traced back to the first half of 2020, when overall consumer demand for cars declined during the lockdown. This forced chip manufacturers to shift their focus to other areas, such as computer equipment and mobile devices, which spiked in demand with more people working remotely.

Part of the problem is that the return on investment isn’t compelling enough to build new foundries—which cost billions of dollars and take years to construct—to satisfy the demand by automakers, according to IDC. Automakers operate in a just-in-time environment without business continuity planning, according to Mario Morales, program vice president of the semiconductor group at IDC.

After they canceled orders early on in the pandemic, disgruntled suppliers turned to other markets that were still doing well, such as consumer electronics, and automakers found themselves lower on the priority list.

I still don’t get it. A replacement for our Odyssey is at least $7,000 more than we paid for the identical vehicle in January 2021. Let’s say that Bidenflation has driven up Honda’s costs by $3,000. Assuming that Honda made a profit on our Odyssey, Honda could still pay up to $4,000 for some chips and sell Odysseys at a profit (they’d have to raise the price to dealers so that Honda recovered the $3,000 premium over sticker that the dealer is currently charging). Apple can’t pay $4,000 for the chips that go inside a $1,400 iPhone. Microsoft can’t pay $4,000 for the chips that go inside a $500 Xbox Series X. Econ 101 suggests that the car companies can outbid anyone other than the U.S. military for the chips that they want. How is it possible that integrated circuit supplies are limiting car production?

Consistent with the WSJ article, I did find a Cadillac available for immediate delivery near the Venice (FL) airport:

“Microlino EV, Adorable Two-Seater, Going into Production in Europe” (Car and Driver):

“Our goal was to deliver the first vehicles to customers within the end of the year [2021], but the worldwide supply-chain chaos is affecting us like many other carmakers,” the company indicated. “Despite our preparations to order crucial parts way in advance, the situation has gotten much worse and is now affecting more and more parts. Now, even commodity parts like simple connectors for the wiring harness have become scarce and have lead times of up to 50 weeks!”

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Elon Musk pinball machine

Here are some photos from a recent excursion to the Silverball Pinball Museum in Delray Beach, Florida. Statistics that folks in NY, MA, and CA are passionate about watching showed that Florida was in the midst of a raging COVID-19 plague at the time, but patrons were not discouraged nor, typically, masked.

A 1984 Space Shuttle machine reflects the period’s enthusiasm about NASA’s can-do spirit (first launch 1981, ultimate cost 250X more than planned by the best and brightest government scientists (who were following #Science)):

Here’s one from 1976 that celebrates an individual, Elton John:

What if we combine and update these ideas into a modern machine: Elon Musk!

The score is in dollars and the player’s goal is to hit $300 billion for a replay. The game follows the authoritative biography. The first challenge is to move X.com and Confinity together to form PayPal by hitting a bunch of targets. Once that is accomplished, the score goes up by $1.5 billion. The next goal is to move NASA, represented by a lumbering dinosaur, to award a contract to SpaceX. Success results in the score going up by $1.6 billion. Then there is the “build a roadster” challenge in which all of the world’s batteries have to be gathered up by endlessly repeated cycles of hitting bumpers. Once the roadster is built, the Tesla component of the score goes up by $10 billion. Plaintiff Justine Musk comes out from the sidelines to attack Elon in family court. If the player can successfully unlock the prenuptial agreement, she goes away without significantly denting the score (otherwise the player loses 50% to the plaintiff and 10% for legal fees). SolarCity is represented by an albatross and, if captured by the player, results in the score going down by $2 billion. If the ramps are used successfully, a tunnel opens up labeled “Boring Company”. A platoon of Covidcrats pops up to close the Tesla factory. If the player can hit each one with a ball “Reopen Factory and Move to Texas” mode is activated (score boost of $50 billion). Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates run in from the sidelines trying to grab the “world’s richest douche” trophy in the middle. If the player can get the ball into two traps, family court plaintiffs come out to attack both Bezos and Gates, reducing them in size by half. Bill Gates, whether or not reduced in size by half by years of family court action, comes out with a massive syringe and attempts to jab all of the other characters with a COVID-19 vaccine. If the player can get the ball to escape up a ramp, the machine enters “Knucklehead mode“.

Elizabeth Warren pops up in full Native American elder regalia. If the player can hit each feather on a headdress with the ball, Senator Karen disappears. In the “Philip the Sourpuss” special edition of the machine, 600 lb. gorillas named “Toyota”, “Honda”, “Hyundai”, “Ford”, “GM”, and “Volkswagen” come out to attack Elon with electric vehicles that cost less than whatever Tesla can produce, that are much quieter and more comfortable on the highway, and that don’t have an iPad stuck in the middle of the dashboard as the only interface. In this special edition game, there is no way to beat the gorillas and the player’s score goes to $100 billion, reflecting only the value of SpaceX.

Here’s some artwork from another machine at the same venue that can be adapted for the Elizabeth Warren segment:

Readers: What do you think of this idea for a pinball machine? Or it could also be a videogame. In general, wouldn’t it be awesome to have biography-based pinball and videogames?

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How is Rivian still worth $78 billion?

In What edge does Rivian have in the truck or EV market? (November 2021) I wondered how Rivian could be worth $127 billion, given that Ford will soon be selling electric pickups. As of today, the company is worth $78 billion and GM has promised to start delivering electric pickups in volume within two years (engadget). Like the Ford, the Chevy starts at around half of what Rivian wants for its electric pickup. If everything goes perfect, Rivian will produce a handful of trucks before Chevy pushes the Silverado EV out the door in late 2023, but why does that translate to $78 billion in long-term value? If there is $5,000 in profit to be had from each truck and we use a discount rate of 0%, Rivian needs to sell more than 15 million trucks before $78 billion in profit is generated.

The GM truck does seem better than what Rivian is offering due to the capability of extending the bed via folding back seats. And with a massive frunk it would be a pretty good family vehicle (put the stuff that is valuable and/or can’t get wet in the frunk). Why would anyone pay $67,500 for the Rivian when the “work” version of the GM can be had for $40,000?

In my opinion, the Silverado interior and dashboard seem to be better-designed than what Rivian offers. If we wanted a pickup truck we certainly wouldn’t pay extra to get a Rivian rather than a Chevy or Ford and it doesn’t seem likely that Rivian can profitably produce trucks at the Chevy or Ford price.

Can someone again please explain to me why Rivian is worth anything?

[Also, what about my faith in the Efficient Market Hypothesis? How did Rivian go down in value by 40 percent over two months? There haven’t been any surprises from the legacy car manufacturers.]

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The Korean Empire Strikes Back (against Tesla)

In Volkswagen ID.4 versus Tesla Y: Did the Empire Strike Back? I wondered if some of the world’s best engineers (at least when it comes to cheating on emissions tests) could make a better car than Tesla. The answer, at least for the Audi division, turned out to be “no” (see Good news for dogs: Tesla 3 dominates Hyundai, Audi, and Polestar).

This week our government-affiliated media told us “Miss America makes history, as a Korean American from Alaska wins the title” (NPR):

“I never could have imagined in a million years that I would be Miss America, let alone that I would be Miss Alaska,” a beaming Emma Broyles told The Associated Press on Friday in a Zoom call from Connecticut, where she won the competition about 12 hours earlier.

Broyles, 20, said her grandparents immigrated from Korea to Anchorage about 50 years ago, before her mother was born.

“Although my mom is full Korean, she was born and raised right in Anchorage, Alaska,” Broyles said.

(For those who aren’t familiar with Korean language and culture, “Broyles” is a common surname for people from Changwon, capital of Gyeongsangnam-do.)

Broyles’ future plans include becoming a dermatologist and returning to Alaska to practice her profession.

This prompted me to write a derm friend, “She’ll be the nation’s second prettiest dermatologist.” Separately, I’m not sure what med school Miss America plans to attend. At the med schools with which I am familiar, there are no future dermatologists on track to make $650,000 per year in the private sector outside of a major metropolitan area. Every student describes plans to choose a low-income specialty with an emphasis on delivering care to “the underserved.”

And the non-government-run Motortrend says that Koreans are making a better car for Americans who want electric, but don’t go to the drag strip every Friday night. From “2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 First Drive” (12/16):

The Ioniq 5 costs tens of thousands of dollars less than the Model Y, can go just about as far on a charge, charges faster, has more standard and optional features, is quieter inside, rides better, is built better, and has a better interior. The Model Y is quicker and sportier, and the Supercharger network is currently more reliable and easier to use than the non-uniform charging options for everyone else, but that and brand prestige are all the Tesla really wins on.

Hyundai has delivered a quieter EV than Tesla, however, having gone above and beyond stuffing the Ioniq 5 with noise-abating technologies. This mass-appeal electric SUV is as quiet inside as a high-dollar luxury car. Wind and road noise are kept to such a minimum you’ll easily lose track of just how fast you’re going.

Similarly, the Ioniq 5 rides considerably smoother than the Model Y and Model 3. That’s what you get in exchange for the slower, less sporty driving experience. … The quiet comfort and unhurried demeanor make it a relaxing car to drive rather than an exciting one.

More than any of its other legacy competitors, the Ioniq 5 makes you consider what you’re actually paying extra for in a Tesla, and the answer to that question just got a lot smaller.

(With 333 million Americans (and more arriving every day) trying to share a highway system built for 180 million people (U.S. population in 1960), I don’t know how many Tesla owners are able to take advantage of the sportiness. I personally will take the quiet and comfort for sitting in traffic!)

What will a RWD Hyundai cost for driving around Florida? About $37,000 for the long-range version after $7,500 in tax credit has been squeezed out of middle-class Americans who couldn’t afford to buy a fancy new car. This is $20,000 cheaper than a Tesla Y, Motortrend points out.

Will the Ioniq 5 have dog mode? Some earlier Hyundais have offered “utility mode” that may do the same thing (see Hyundai electric cars actually do have dog mode). The Ioniq 5 has the, uh, bones for it: “Heat Pump System Explained – How Heating and Cooling Works | IONIQ 5”.

As long as we’re talking drag racing, here are some photos from today’s trip to the local track:

I have been meaning to get a helmet and enter the Honda Odyssey in a race. I have also been thinking that it would be fun to offer Biden/Harris bumper stickers to the folks with American flag paint schemes on their dragsters.

Speaking of #Science-informed government, Dr. Jill Biden, M.D., wants these motorsports-loving sandhill cranes to lay off the corn dogs, deep-fried Oreos, and funnel cakes:

Circling back to the main theme… is it time for Elon Musk to retire from Tesla? Even if the company can survive and perhaps thrive against the companies that have built most of the world’s cars, Tesla won’t be nearly as much fun to run if there is real competition.

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Tough week for a Tesla hater like me

“Naming Elon Musk person of the year is Time’s ‘worst choice ever’, say critics” (Guardian, today) ranks Elon Musk at least one notch below Adolf Hitler (Man of the Year in 1938). My hatred for Tesla isn’t quite that severe, and it is primarily based on the insufferable smugness of early adopters of the cars rather than the company or its founder per se, but this is still a tough week for someone who wakes up every morning to see whether Honda and Toyota (big press conference today, but no cars yet!) are ready to deliver what I just know will be a far superior vehicle to anything that Tesla could make at the same price. I dream of the day when Mindy the Crippler can relax in an all-electric Honda Odyssey set for “Canine in Car” (TM) and I will be reunited with her via a door that slides back rather than one that swings up to hit me in the forehead (Tesla X).

Who shares my outrage and pain? A Native American elder:

(Musk responded that he will pay $15 billion in personal income tax for 2021, then added “Don’t spend it all at once … oh wait you did already.”)

It is a little strange that a U.S. Senator hates Musk this much, considering that SpaceX saves the taxpayers a ton of money (wouldn’t the government missions done via SpaceX cost $billions more if done by NASA employees and the usual contractor suspects?). Also, since Tesla employees earn far above the median U.S. wage, even if Musk never paid a dime of tax himself, the company that he started would be an enormous indirect contributor to the U.S. Treasury (the employees will pay income tax, payroll tax, property tax, sales tax, etc.) in addition to the company’s own direct contributions (employer’s share of payroll tax at least).

Elon Musk does seem deserving in some ways. Tesla is the only car company that enables dogs to spend full days with their humans (“dog mode”).

“Elon Musk Calls Bill Gates a ‘Knucklehead’ After Vaccine Criticism As Billionaire Clash Continues” (Newsweek, October 1, 2020) was a moment of greatness. (Musk predicted failure to achieve salvation through vaccination and was agreeing with Harvard Medical School’s Martin Kulldorff’s April 2020 position:

Note that Bill Gates’s beliefs regarding SARS-CoV-2 that led to the “knucklehead” label proved insignificant compared to his unwise decision to get married (Melinda Gates sued Bill for tens of $billions just a few months after Musk called Bill a “knucklehead”).)

Elon Musk set an example to every American who loves liberty by moving from the slave state of California to the (mostly) free state of Texas. (The majority of Californians who recently voted themselves into slavery are no doubt cheered by the latest governor’s mask order.) A reader emailed me to help regarding a plan to move from the Seattle area to Florida. He was dithering because he wasn’t sure that a public school in Florida would provide everything that his kids could get in Washington State. From October 2021:

As one illustration of where we are going, the next week King County will go to requiring 72 hour old tests or proof of vaccination if you want to go to restaurant or gym etc etc

My response:

Think about what your kids are learning if you DON’T move to a freedom-oriented state (e.g., Florida or South Dakota). They’re learning that when the government orders the sheep to jump through a bunch of new hoops, the correct response is to ask “How high, sir?” We can tell our kids that when Massachusetts shut down their schools, sports, etc., and ordered them to wear masks all the time, we picked them up and moved them to a place where people value freedom and education for all children. I think that might be a more valuable lesson than whatever they might have learned in their old schools.

Musk showed Americans that, while moving is inconvenient, now that government is bigger than ever, the willingness and ability to move is critical. (The same would be true for a Floridian who loves lockdown, mask orders, vaccine papers checks, and essential marijuana. He/she/ze/they should pick up in Palm Beach and move to San Francisco or Boston.)

While Americans trip over each other in a frenzy to buy houses that they’ll have to spend 10-20 hours/week maintaining, burying themselves in debt in the process, Musk unloaded all of his residential property. A great example to young people that the best way to stay creative is not to burden oneself with the job of amateur property manager and handypersonx.

I think it might have been better to give the award to SARS-CoV-2, which is often personified as an enemy. SARS-CoV-2 has achieved more mindshare and influence over human lives than any other person or personified entity.

Readers: If not Musk, who should have been TIME’s Person of the Year?

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What edge does Rivian have in the truck or EV market?

“Rivian Is The Biggest Company With No Revenue In The U.S.” (Jalopnik) provides a little background on what is now the world’s third most valuable vehicle maker (Tesla #1, Toyota #2, Rivian #3, just ahead of VW).

Readers: Please educate me! What does Rivian know how to do that makes it worth huge $$ despite zero revenue? Wikipedia doesn’t describe any innovations other than maybe putting in four motors (but so what? A C8 Corvette has only one motor and it gets down the road and around corners).

It can’t be battery chemistry because the company buys batteries from Samsung (InsideEVs).

It can’t be that nobody else can make an electric pickup truck because the Ford F-150 Lightning will be here soon.

It can’t be that nobody else can make electric commercial vehicles because Mercedes promises the eSprinters to Americans starting in 2023 (Car and Driver).

I don’t see how it can be the case that Rivian will flood the market before the legacy companies, the way that Tesla has remarkably done, because Rivian is only just struggling to get its first vehicles out to consumers. If things go perfect, Rivian will deliver 40,000 units in its first year (source). Ford sells nearly 1 million F-150s per year.

An electric pickup enthusiast will have to wait his/her/zir/their turn for either a Rivian or a Ford. Why wouldn’t the typical buyer prefer to order a Ford? The price for Ford’s electric truck is lower than Rivian’s price and the reviews of the Ford are positive (example).

Ford is an investor in Rivian, so presumably there is a rational answer to why Rivian is worth a lot (since Ford knows the industry!). But what is that answer?

(Investors take note: I thought and wrote pretty much all of the above about Tesla when the company was young. I think it is safe to say that I have been proven wrong! But on the third hand Tesla didn’t arrive on the scene at the precise moment that the legacy car makers were going all-in on electric vehicles while Rivian is arriving after Ford already demoed the electric F-150.)

vs.

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What is the practical highway speed limit in Florida? (and in other states)

I caught an Uber from Jupiter to PBI the other morning. My Colombiana driver (I did not actually ask for this driver’s gender ID; should it be Colombianx?) blasted down the left lane of I-95 at 90 mph.

(Was this unsafe in a subcompact Honda C-HR? Certainly not! We were both wearing masks.)

I assume that an Uber driver knows the real-world speed limit and therefore that 90 mph is slower than speeding ticket territory. That raises the question: how fast would one have to drive on the straight perfectly smooth highways of Florida to be pulled over?

Based on what I have seen, traveling at 80-85 is a 75th percentile speed on I-95 in South Florida or on Florida’s Turnpike towards Orlando. Back in Massachusetts, I would say that the real-world limit is 80 mph (i.e., that one is likely to get a ticket driving above 80; note that Maskachusetts highway standards are lower than in Florida, where everything is newer and can be done to the latest highway engineering textbook standards).

Readers; What’s the real speed limit in your state?

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Leasing a car a bad idea now that nobody in the U.S. wants to work?

I used to love the idea of leasing a car. Interest rates were almost zero. Technological improvements seemed like they had the potential to devalue used cars suddenly, e.g., if self-driving cars actually worked or if electric cars became inexpensive. The lease shifted the risk of devaluation onto the manufacturer. As with most things, my instincts were dead wrong. Instead of used cars being devalued, they’ve spiked to historic high valuations. As part of our move to Florida, I’ve discovered that a leased car is a huge headache if anything changes, e.g., state of residence. We couldn’t just pull the title out of a file folder and go to the nearest “tag and title agency” to get our Florida plates.

Moving our leased Honda required some interaction with people at Honda Financial Services. But now that half of America’s workers have decided to go home to play Xbox, smoke essential marijuana, etc., this turns out to require one-hour waits on hold for every question. It would be the same one-hour wait for anything related to insurance claims, e.g., if you got into a fender-bender.

If it is safe to say that customer service in the U.S. has degraded permanently (a high percentage of the long-term unemployed permanently leave the labor force and companies have learned that they can inflict any amount of pain on consumers by saying “#BecauseCOVID”), maybe it is smart to cut the number of situations in which one is a customer and/or deal only with enterprises that have figured out to do absolutely everything via Web form?

Separately, who is getting a Z06 Corvette? Does one need a flat-plane crank to be happy on trips to the supermarket?

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