Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fiat Fivehundred Fitting

OK, we are still in bankruptcy and the ink is not dry on a Fiat deal, but that doesn't mean that we don't see a few Fiat's around at Chrysler. Since I love small cars but am challenged at 6' 5", so I've taken the opportunity to do a fitting in a Fiat 500.
First of all, this car was a 100 Hp version with a fairly high end interior. Its not the Lounge model shown here, but a similarly upmarket little car. The seats are nicely bolstered with leather on the bolsters and cloth on the center panels. The leather continues, padded, on the arm rest and part of the door. Naturally, its a stylish Italian combination of grays and dark brown.

For me, it is tantalizingly close to a great fit. I have plenty of legroom with good seat support, sufficient shoulder width, and almost enough headroom. As is typical these days, the headliner comes down a little just behind a normal head to provide padding up there. Because I want to sit a little farther back, my head interferes with this by about 1/2 inch. The real dilemma for me is that this is a new car and seat usually compact with some miles. So can I do a 500 as is and hope the seat compresses, do I get one and modify the seat, or do I wait for something a little bigger?

It is interesting listen to other people's observations of the 500. Most think this is a really tiny car. I've heard things like, " I suppose I could drive one to and from work, as long as I never had to carry anyone else." I guess because I grew up when the original Mini and 500 were out there, I am always amazed at how much bigger these cars are than their progenitors. I sure hope people get to love little cars as much as I do.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Recession Affects Everyone

Last weekend, NPR had a story about Craigslist and the South Carolina Attorney General who was complaining about Craigslist advertising adult services. Apparently, Craigslist had a category named "Erotic" that included advertisements for sexual services. The Attorney General called Craigslist, "The largest brothel in the country."

To say the least, I was amazed and a little curious. So I went to my local Craigslist and there it was, the "Erotic" category. Clicking on the button, I found a series of links with abbreviations. I selected "w4m" and was presented with a list of ads that can only be described as call girls touting their wares. Some of these ads had photos and some had price lists, for example, "100 coffee beans for a full cup of coffee."

Others apparently worked on a wage basis because their price list was on a time basis, so much for a 1/2 hour, so much for a full hour, etc. This is where the recession comes in. One particular lady listed her normal rates, but in a column to the right of those rates was a "limited time, special offer" with reduced rates shown in yellow.

By the way, Craigslist has removed the erotic category, replaced it with "adult" and will screen the new category for inappropriate ads.

As I say, the recession is affecting everyone.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Men's Room

First of all, allow me to apologize for having all these posts about work. My focus on work is stronger than usual because of all the stuff going on and all the time I'm spending there. Also, I'm not spending much money or doing anything interesting at home, so work is all that's left.

Now, some observations about changes at Chrysler over the last 9 months.

Let's start out with the Urinal Rules, which are not specific to Chrysler, but are unsaid and fully observed by all men. There are 3 main rules.

1. If at all possible, leave an empty urinal between you and the next guy. That's why they can put urinals so close together. As a general rule, we go every other urinal anyway.

2. Look straight ahead and no talking. Your there to do your business and get out. No conversation required.

3. Take a wide stance. No matter what happens, a little bit of pee makes it to the floor in front of the urinal. You wouldn't want to be standing in somebody else's pee, would you?

t Chrysler Tech Center, in some of the busier bathrooms, they have installed "waterfree" urinals. The idea is that the smell comes from the urine being exposed to air where the bacteria in the urine combines with the oxygen in the air to grow and make bad smells. The idea for the waterfree urinal is that, if you limit the contact with the air and there is enough fresh pee going in, then you don't need to flush it down. At Chelsea, we have the usual flush type urinals.

Over the last 9 months, we have had a lot fewer people around the facilities. And I, the keen scientific observer that I am, have noticed a couple of things. With fewer people, the "waterfree" urinals have more time to ripen and there are definitely bathrooms there that make you want to hold your nose.

As for Chelsea, when we had lots of people, I always made it a point to choose the least frequently used urinal with the smallest wet spot on the floor in front of it. Now that we are fewer people, the floor is dry and its hard to tell which urinal to choose.

Wishing you equally enlightening scientific observations.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lucky in Lutz

richard seaman photo

When I came back to Chrysler in 1999, I heard a lot about Bob Lutz. Most said that he was a true car guy, a great boss to work for, someone who would challenge you to do the best without beating you up, someone who made clear decisions and made a great balance between exciting products and profitable cost control. His famous quote is, "Often wrong, never in doubt." Everyone up to and including Vice Presidents talked about his style and skill and how he and Mr. Castaing made Chrysler great.

Now if you listen to the press, you would think that Chrysler never made a decent car, much less an inspirational car, but back in the 90's we were the leaders with innovative and profitable cars (not only trucks). In fact, somewhere back there it said that Mr. Lutz was on the cover of Forbes and Chrysler was the most admired company in America.

By the time I joined in 99, the Daimler crowd was here, Lutz was pushed out and gone to Exide, and the shine on the company was in the rearview mirror.

As it happens, Mr. Lutz lives pretty close to Chelsea Proving Grounds and always had a keen interest in what was going on there. As aircraft collector, he kept his private helicopter at his house and the rest of his planes at Willow Run. While he was at Exide, he would stop by an visit the proving grounds once in while.

It would usually go something like this. I would be out on the Vehicle Dynamics Facility, making a fair bit of noise with tires squealing, etc. and all of a sudden everything would be overcome with a huge roar as a twin engine jet fighter would streak across the pad at about 200 feet elevation. Naturally, that was Mr. Lutz coming to see what was going on. He would usually end up tipping it over on one wing and doing a tight circle around the pad while he checked out the cars out testing there.

Once he went to GM, I guess he thought it wouldn't be right and we didn't see him again. According to K, he started up is visits in Milford at the GM grounds.

I understand that Mr. Lutz has left GM as part of the bailout reorganization. I believe it too, because I was driving out on the oval the other day and saw an old style jet fighter flying low over the VDF. I'm thinking, Mr. Lutz is back.

For me, that is a really good omen. Its a sign that, even though he was away for 10 years, he is still interested and cares what is happening to Chrysler. Cool. I think he may just be our lucky charm.

Now if we could just get Sergio to talk Bob into coming back..........


Yes, that really is Bob in one of his toy jets. Full acknowledgement to Richard Seaman who took the photo at the Yankee Air Show.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Chrysler in bankruptcy. I've been trying to figure out what it means.
Somehow, nothing feels different. In the back of my mind, I'm a little worried about my job, but then I've been worried about that for the last few years. Actually, at some level, I've been worried about that for my whole career. It seems like you get a few years of things going well and then about twice as many years of walking along the edge of the cliff, waiting for the company to fall off.

The weird thing is that, although I've worked professionally for 4 different companies, each who went through bad times with major layoffs and the future looking bleak, I've never been laid off from any of those companies. Maybe that's why I'm stupidly oblivious to the current situation.
On the other hand, everybody at work, just keeps working on the new cars we are planning and on making the current cars better. In fact, we are really busy. There is really nothing we can do to affect the bankruptcy court. So we just keep working hard until they come and tell us to go home.

But I don't really expect to be told to go home. When I think of bankruptcy, I think of a company that doesn't produce something people want to buy, you know, buggy whips or something. In spite of all the bad opinions of Chrysler in the press, the reality is that we make a number of cars that people buy and like. It just that nobody is buying cars right now.

Oh sure, we've got to do better. The last 10 years of Daimler and the Home Depot guy have been like living with a vampire who slowly sucks the life out of us. Maybe that's the most hopeful thing that makes bankruptcy seem OK. After all, it seems like Fiat really does know and like making cars and wants to build good ones. Let's hope so.

The other thing is that the best times, the best cars, have come after we came out of a bad time. I remember being at Chrysler when the last government bailout happened in the late 70's. Everything was doom and gloom, but at the time we were working on the minivan. Since this is our worst bad time ever, maybe we will make the best cars we ever did.

I am reminded of Charlie Lowther and his Business school professor who told his class that the bad times are usually not as bad as we worry they will be and the good times are never as good as we dream they will be.

So the next time I'm asked how am I doing with the bankruptcy, don't be surprised if I say, "I'm doing fine. How are you?"