Explaining Southern California's economy

LA Auto Show: The future of Lincoln

So let me throw this one open to the audience. Lincoln: luxury yes or luxury no? And does Ford have any business keeping its luxury brand alive, when many people think that it just isn't as...luxurious as brands like BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, and even Cadillac, its historic rival?

I've argued elsewhere that Ford should let Lincoln go. But maybe I'm wrong...

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LA Auto Show: Telling the luxury technology story at Cadillac

Cadillac has a new in-car infortainment system, called Cue, that it's rolling out for the 2012 model year. At the 2011 LA Auto Show, it was one of the minor examples I saw of a major trend in the car business: bringing technology into vehicles.

An important thing to note now is that while just a few years back, luxury customers might have been more interested in whether their car seats were hand-stitched, heated, and massaged to a butter-soft texture by elves, they now want to know that their $50,000 automobile will be able to keep pace with the technological innovations that we're seeing almost montly in consumers products.

If a sub-$20,000 Chevy Cruze can talk to the interwebs and play MP3s, the Cadillac had better be able to, as well.

When it comes to tech, luxury cars aren't immune from the discussion anymore. And we all know how important the luxury market is in LA.

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LA Auto Show: Volkswagen aims for world domination!

Just having a little fun with Volkswagen here (Das Auto!). The German carmaker wants to knock off General Motors and/or Toyota as the globe's biggest auto company, and while it's doing well in Europe, China, and Latin America, it's been notably less-than-successful in the USA.

VW definitely wants to change that. But with a mere 3 percent of the North American market, it's a tall order. That said, much of that 3 percent seems concentrated in...Southern California. So if the VW plan for world domination is to begin, it will begin in LA. Or at that $1 billion plant they just opened in Tennessee...

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LA Auto Show: My yearly visit to MINI

The 2011 LA Auto Show is now open to the public, so get on down to the LA Convention Center and check out some cool new rides! I'm no longer on site, but I've got plenty of video left to post. So check back in for my continuing automotive adventures.

At the show every year, I like to swing by the MINI display. MINIs are popular in LA and the brand (owned by BMW) has continued to grow beyond the base vehicle, with the its retro allure. A few years back, MINI introduced the Clubman, basically a very small station wagon. More recently, MINI has come out with an SUV of sorts, the controversial — and contradictory — "Big MINI" Countryman. And also a coupe, which sacrifices the back seat of the original MINI Cooper and goes for a roadsterish look.

What's next? Perhaps a MINI pickup? A...MINI-camino? I wouldn't be surprised.

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Bankers v. politicians: Why the financial crisis still hasn't ended

Frank Stoltze/KPCC

Hundreds of Occupy protesters gathered in downtown L.A. for a march through the financial district.

Here's a real barn-burner of an opinion essay from David Coates, a professor at Wake Forest who harbors no love for the global banking class — the financial elites who brought us the financial crisis, as well as the eurozone crisis, and who are currently getting rid of elected leaders in Europe at a brisk clip while doing whatever it takes to stall reform in the U.S. Not surprisingly, Coates sees Occupy Wall Street — which in recent weeks has come under siege from authorities — as being a populist movement that's trying to push back against the bankers.

This a taste of his lash, from the Huffington Post:

We live in troubled and ironic times. The times are certainly troubled. The IMF's Managing Director has recently spoken with some justification of a looming "lost decade" for the global economy — warning of "dark clouds" blocking the capacity of the world's leading economies to deliver a renewed bout of economic growth and generalized prosperity. The times are also deeply ironic: since the governing solution to those dark clouds — in countries as substantial as Italy and Greece, and in institutions as powerful as the IMF — would currently appear to be the replacement of elected leaders by appointed technocrats. The solution favored by the powerful is the transfer of state authority from democratically chosen leaders to governors drawn predominantly from the ranks of the very bankers whose inadequate supervision of their own industry darkened the skies in the first place. In this manner, a global financial crisis that initially discredited bankers has incrementally morphed into one to be settled on terms directly specified by bankers themselves. A crisis of economics has been turned into a crisis of democracy. It is an outrage.

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