BMW Wants Scooters, DOT Wants Talking Cars, And Prof Wants GM To Decentralize

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BMW Wants Scooters, DOT Wants Talking Cars, And Prof Wants GM To Decentralize

1st Gear: DOT Is Going To Test Talking Cars
Reuters reports on a big test project the Transportation Department is putting on in Ann Arbor, Mich. Over the next year, DOT and the University of Michigan will fit nearly 3,000 cars, trucks and buses with wireless devices that track other vehicles' speed and location, alert drivers to congestion or change a traffic light to green, if conditions are safe. The cars, which come from eight companies including GM and Toyota, will be able to communicate with roadside devices at 29 locations around town.

Oh, we have so many questions about this, including: where are the devices? What happens when drunken college students figure out they can change traffic signals? And how are we going to tell if one of these cars is ahead of us so we can honk at the driver to get the light to turn green? All kidding aside, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says this is a "big deal" and could actually cut down on the number of crashes. He thinks car-to-car communication is the way of the future. As long as drunken college students don't game the system, that is.


BMW Wants Scooters, DOT Wants Talking Cars, And Prof Wants GM To Decentralize

2nd Gear: Kenosha Gets Money To Clean Up After Chrysler
The Milwaukee journal-Sentinel says the state of Wisconsin will provide Kenosha with a $1.5 million loan to help pay the cost of cleaning up the site of a Chrysler engine plant that closed in 2010. Some of the buildings on the site are more than a century old, and there is severely contaminated land and ground water. The loan has to be repaid by 2017. The total cost of clearing the site is $30 million. Old Carco Liquidation Trust, which was formed when Chrysler went into bankruptcy, will pay for the buildings to be torn down. When that happens, the ownership of the property will transfer from Old Carco either to the city or a party named by the state (in other words, they hope to find a buyer.)

After the transfer, the Journal-Sentinel says the state and city will be able to start spending $10 million from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, on the cleanup. It's fascinating that more than two years after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, there is still work being done to clear out its old plants. Of course, we know about the task that the Racer Trust faces in finding buyers for leftover GM plants (it just found a real estate developer to take on a parcel in Mansfield, Ohio).


BMW Wants Scooters, DOT Wants Talking Cars, And Prof Wants GM To Decentralize

3rd Gear: Soon, You Can Scoot Around On A BMW
Bloomberg tells us that BMW is getting back into the scooter business. It hasn't sold one for nine years, since it discontinued the C1. But Audi's purchase of Ducati has revived BMW's interest in the market. These are not docile little put-puts that can be driven around town, though, but well-powered two-wheelers. "The new scooters offer us a massive sales opportunity," Heiner Faust, sales chief for BMW motorcycles, told Bloomberg. The idea is to attract what the company calls "sleepers" — car owners who rode motorbikes in their youth. "The maxi scooters are the ideal products to activate them," Faust said. BMW plans to deliver at least 10,000 scooters next year — equivalent to about 9 percent of the company's motorcycle sales in 2011.


BMW Wants Scooters, DOT Wants Talking Cars, And Prof Wants GM To Decentralize

4th Gear: Wharton Prof to GM: You're Doing It Wrong
GM CEO Dan Akerson is bent on breaking through GM's stodgy corporate culture. But Lawrence Hrebiniak, professor emeritus at the Wharton School, thinks yet another GM reorganization might end up doing more harm than good. Hrebiniak is particularly concerned that creating global function heads, which Akerson argues are more efficient, will just take GM back to the days when its operations were in silos. "Efficient? Perhaps; with centralized purchasing and the scale and scope, economies are possible," he notes. "But more effective? Centralization is usually associated with less nimble and slower responses to diverse global markets and customer needs. Centralized controls also demand better coordination and information-sharing - tasks that if not done well can increase inefficiency and slow [down] responses to geographically dispersed markets."

Instead of just move the pieces around, Hrebiniak thinks GM might be better off rethinking the way it evaluates its performance. "Provide incentives for desired and clearly stated performance goals; hold people responsible and accountable for performance outcomes; change or move people who don't perform; and promote managers who meet the revised performance parameters and who value cooperation and knowledge sharing for the common good." Without doing so, in the future GM "will be looking [back] at the ineffectiveness of yet another structural change and wonder what happened," he says. Now, I know some folks think any criticism of GM is just more media bashing. But this isn't a reporter, it's a management professor who knows his stuff.


BMW Wants Scooters, DOT Wants Talking Cars, And Prof Wants GM To Decentralize

Reverse: Sacre Bleu! DeGaulle Owes His Life To A Car
On this day 50 years ago, French President Charles DeGaulle survived an assassination attempt with the help of a Citroen DS 19, better known as The Goddess. Near dusk, De Gaulle and his wife were riding from the Elysee Palace to Orly Airport. As his black Citroen DS sped along the Avenue de la Liberation in Paris at 70 miles per hour, 12 gunmen opened fire on the car. A hail of 140 bullets, most of them coming from behind, killed two of the president's motorcycle bodyguards, shattered the car's rear window and punctured all four of its tires. But his driver was able to maneuver out of a full skid and save the DeGaulles. {History]

Neutral
In keeping with our new discussion system, here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS.

Let's talk about DOT's smart car project in Ann Arbor. We've driven in Europe where state-run systems will override the radio to give you the latest traffic reports and instructions for how to avoid bottlenecks (particularly amusing in German). Do you want your car to get this kind of info? Or do you have doubts that it can work? Do you have any experience with this technology? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.

BMW Wants Scooters, DOT Wants Talking Cars, And Prof Wants GM To Decentralize
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BMW Wants Scooters, DOT Wants Talking Cars, And Prof Wants GM To Decentralize
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