My wife, my sons, and I drive cars based on the B5 generation (late 1990s/early 2000s) Audi A4 platform. Having previously owned exceptionally DIY-friendly late 1980s Chrysler K-cars and K-car derivatives, we initiallly needed some time to find our way around the VW/Audi engine compartment, but now these cars no longer seem so intimidating. Having access to superb online discussion forums at Passatworld.com, vwvortex.com, and several Audi enthusiast websites has helped immensely, and my Vehicle Control Diagnostic Software has helped me pinpoint problems efficiently.
German cars generally deliver a superb driving experience, but they are like spoiled children, requiring syntheic motor oil, Tier 1 gasoline, biennial brake fluid changes, and fastidious maintenance. VW/Audi cars have a specific weakness in rubber parts, such as seals, CV boots, and vacuum hoses. If you want a car which thrives on neglect, get a Toyota Corolla or Camry or a Honda Civic or Accord.
I retired from one of the "majors" in the appliance industry. The company I worked for had component managers for: elements, gas-fired burners, platform structures, maintops, electronic controls, etc etc. These engineers knew their components but it was up the to platform manager and program leaders to "mesh" these components into the proper package to provide a workable appliance. All too often, that did not happen with any real ease. Schedules were king and designs sometimes suffered due to unrealistic schedules. There did not seem to be the "systems" approach to an overall assembly of components. The products were safe but not very competitive with West European designs--at least when reliability was concerned. It seems to me we are looking at a very similar problem with the American Auto industry.
The explanation for the increase in gas prices is probably similar to the explanation of why Dogbert,(evil HR director), in the Dilbert comic strip, explains why he does such evil things. The answer: "Because I can". Evil needs no additional motivation. YES, I certainly am being judgemental.
The problem is not that "we are addicted to oil", the reason is that we are quite attached to the degree of personal freedom that we have available to us by reason of our high level of personal mobility. That is, we can jump in our car and go almost anywhere at almost any time. In huge sections of the developed world you can't do that. As Americans, we are indeed addicted to personal freedom. Of course, that does include the freedom to do things that some say is not good for us.
Of course, on some rare occasions even engineers may make mistakes. That is what separates us from MBAs; they always make mistakes.
I have to admit that I'm okay with profit and even a little bit of greed. I think where so many companies fall short is in their focus on the short term. Too many CEOs fear a quick exit, so they focus on the short term and ignore the long-term consequences. I don't understand why a bond of trust between consumer and automaker -- built over a long period of time -- should be deemed less profitable.
I guess you're right, Old Curmudgeon. Yet it does seem odd that the price of gasoline is moving at a different trajectory than the price of oil. By simple logic, at some point there would be some equalization.
Rob: I'm NOT a stock market maven myself. That's what I pay a financial whiz kid to do it for me, BUT it is my undestanding that there ARE speculators that will (hedge a) "bet" on just about anything that one can dream up, including where a fly will land at the airport in Singapore. So, it would seem to me that there also ARE speculators that can cause the price of gasoline & other direct petroleum distillates to fluctuate at will.
I agree, Old Curmudgeon. I'm confused by the :speculation" agruement. I can understnad speculating on crude and thus driving up the price. But can you speculation as refined gasoline? The price of crude is not the problem. The price of crude has only gone up about 5%, while the price of gas has gone up nearly 30%. And that's in Europe as well, not just in North America.
Rob: And that's another reason why there is so much dissent in the discussion about crude prices vs. gasoline prices. The price of crude for the past several months has hovered around the $105/bbl. figure, yet the price of gasoline continues to rise at a rate of at least a nickel a week, sometimes more. There doesn't seem to be a coherent explanation for this; one could make an argument that this flies in the face of the "Law of Supply & Demand" of classic Economics 101. It almost seems that it is more beholden to the Law of Expedient Political Rhetoric".
Rob: Supposedly the "reason" why gasoline is so highly priced currently is because they're in the midst of the winter to summer changeover mode @ the refineries, AND because there are plans in place to PERMANENTLY close at least one (or more) domestic refineries, including one on the East Coast (NJ or PA?) facility.
However, we've also heard the news reports, etal. in which it has been shown that the industry is EXPORTING domestically-produced gasoline to foreign depots.
Is this a contrivance? Is it a conspiracy? Is it collusion? Who knows! But, we're all paying the price, NO pun intended!
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
Using Siemens NX software, a team of engineering students from the University of Michigan built an electric vehicle and raced in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. One of those students blogged for Design News throughout the race.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.