Explaining Southern California's economy

DeBord Report Live: Sasha Strauss of Innovation Protocol at the Crawford Family Forum

The DeBord Report is going live! On Wednesday, March 21, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Crawford Family Forum, I'll be conversing with the always lively Sasha Strauss, the Managing Director of Innovation Protocol. We'll be talking about the "New World of Branding Strategies," something Strauss knows plenty about. RSVP early to reserve a seat!

If you're interested in a preview, you can watch Strauss in action in the video above.

You can also listen to Strauss here and here — he's appeared often on "The Patt Morrison Show." In both segments, he discusses something that's near and dear to me: the auto industry.

Leading up to the event, I'll be writing a micro-series of blog posts about branding and some the issues the practice is now facing.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.


Talking electric cars at the Crawford Family Forum

Matt DeBord and Chris Paine


DeBord Repor blogger and "Revenge of the Electric Car" director Chris Paine talk, what else? Electric cars with a panel of experts.

I'm getting this post up late — but better late than...later. Anyway, we had a great film screening and panel discussion last week at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum. The main event was Chris Paine's "Revenge of the Electric Car," the follow-up to his hit "Who Killed the Electric Car." The evening was the result of a partnership between KPCC and Community Cinema

After the screening for a packed house, I moderated a panel discussion about the film and electric cars in general, featuring Paine, Greg "Gadget" Abbott (who appears in the documentary), Geoff Wardle — Director of Advanced Mobility Research at Art Center College of Design — and Brandy Schaffels, a senior editor at startup consumer car-buying resource TrueCar.com. You can listen the to entire discussion here.

We covered a lot of ground. The upshot is that we're all optimistic that the auto industry has finally accepted the electric car as a reality, although there remain ongoing challenges to its breakout success. At least the story in "Revenge of the Electric Car" doesn't end like "Who Killed the Electric Car," with the innovative EV1 being crushed by General Motors.


United Technologies is selling very-cool-named Rocketdyne

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AP Photo/Reed Saxon

This Feb. 12, 2009 photo shows buildings at the old Rocketdyne facility, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, in the Simi Valley area near Los Angeles.

You'd have to work pretty hard to find a company with a cooler name and cooler history than Rocketdyne, located in Canoga Park, Calif. The firm makes rocket engines and has, under its own (cool) name since the mid-1950s. Now it's being sold by parent United Technologies, so that UT can spend $16.5 billion to buy Goodrich Corp.

Rocketdyne is currently part of Pratt & Whitney and is no stranger to getting passed around. The sale is also a good example of how even relatively sold companies like United Technologies (market cap: around $78 billion) need to go through some gyrations to grow. 

According to Businessweek, UT wanted to sell $4 billion in new stock to fund its purchase of Goodrich, but it's now going to sell assets, including Rocketdyne, and issue a pile of new debt. Given that the assets sales are likely to raise only about $3 billion, UT might have had to take on new debt anyway. But there's no mention in press reports of using stock for the transaction, so this is looking pretty much like a cash-and-debt deal.


Say goodbye to Arco in Southern California

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David McNew/Getty Images

An Arco gas station in Pasadena. It won't be around for much longer.

This just in — really! BP has informed operators of its Arco stations in Southern California that it won't be renewing leases with Thrifty Oil, which owns the current Arco sites, according to the OC Register. Arco has been in SoCal for 46 years and currently occupies 257 locations, so this is no small deal. USA Gasoline will take their place.

USA Gasoline is owned by Tesoro, which is more of a refiner that sells its gas at its own locations, along the lines of Valero. BP of course is a vast multinational energy company whose core business is oil extraction.

There's another wrinkle to the story, in this period of steep gas prices in our region. From the OC Register:

The move by BP has set off a firestorm of protest among the 106 Arco franchisees, many of whom own multiple stations and stand to lose their entire investment. About 2,000 Arco workers also will lose their jobs

It also raises questions about what will happen to gasoline prices when Arco, known as the low-price leader, is no longer in the market.


New iPad reveals Apple's customers-last sales strategy

Ipad Fanatic

Ashley Bailey/KPCC

Laverne Mirley of Monrovia was one of the first to get her hands on a new iPad in Pasadena. Her grandson held her a spot in line all night outside the Apple Store on Colorado Blvd.

Just in case you've spent the last 24 hours sleeping under an old iBook G4, the NEW Apple iPad hit Apple Stores today. One man reportedly waited in line for week, presumably to pick up the 4G-enabled 64GB tablet with the awesome retina display screen (price: $829).

Classic Apple, in the Greatest Company on Earth Era. The entry level iPad 2 (WiFi only) even went on sale for $399. But unless you're a completely blinkered Apple devotee, you have to ask yourself why Apple waited until now to launch what we're not supposed to call the iPad 2S or the iPad 3, because Apple wants us to henceforth refer to the iPad only as an iPad, better to avoid the generation-creep that plagues the iPhone, version 5 of which is expected to arrive this summer. 

The iPad, old and wizened as the device is since its appearance in 2010, traditionally sees a new model in March. This provides Apple with a nine-month period in which to sell the device, capping what has up to this point been a veritable frenzy with the holiday season. It then holds on for a year and squeezes every last sale is can out of the current generation of the device before pulling the trigger on the upgrade following holiday season number two.