Posts tagged ‘business’


Have you driven a Ford … lately? Probably not

13.09.2021


Ford’s Brazilian line-up, 2021. Once upon a time, there were locally developed Corcels and Mavericks; even the EcoSport was a Brazilian development. Today, it’s Mustang, a couple of trucks, and a rebadged Chinese crossover.

We heard a lot about the demise of Holden as GM retreats from continents at a time, seemingly in a quest to be a Sino-American player rather than a global one. We’ve heard less about Ford shrinking as well, though the phenomenon is similar.
   Ford’s Brazilian range is now the Mustang, Ranger, Territory (which is a fundamentally badge-engineered Yusheng S330 from China with a Fordized interior), and Bronco. It’s beating a retreat from Brazil, at the cost of tens of thousands of jobs (its own, plus associated industries’) in a country that already has 15 per cent unemployment.
   Their reasoning is that electrification and technological change are driving restructuring, which seems plausible, till you realize that in other markets, including Thailand where there’s still a plant making Fords, the company is fielding essentially trucks, the truck-based Everest, and the Mustang.
   Ford warned us that this would be its course of action a few years ago, but now it’s happening, it makes even less sense.
   Say it’s all about (eventual) electrification. You’d want vehicles in your portfolio now that lend themselves to energy efficiency, so that people begin associating your brand with it. Trucks and pony cars don’t fit with this long-term. And I still believe that at some point, even before trucks commonly have electric powertrains, someone is going to say, ‘These tall bodies with massive frontal areas are using up way more of the juice I’m paying for. We don’t need something this big.’
   Let’s say Ford quickly pivots. It sticks a conventional saloon body on the Mustang Mach-E platform (which, let’s be honest, started off as a Focus crossover—the product code, CX727, tells us as much) in record time. Would anyone buy it? Probably not before they see what the Asians, who don’t abandon segments because they can’t be bothered working hard, have in their showrooms. Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, and countless Chinese marques, have been building their goodwill in the meantime.
   It’s why two decades ago, I warned against DaimlerChrysler killing off its price-leading brand, Plymouth. You never know when recessionary times come and you want an entry-level brand. Before the decade was out, that time came, and Chrysler didn’t have much it could use without diluting its existing brands’ market perceptions to have some price leaders.
   Ford retreating from B- and C-segment family cars, even CD- and E-segment ones, means it’ll find it difficult to get back into those markets later on. A good example would be the French, who don’t find much success in the large saloon market generally, and would find it very hard to re-enter in a lot of places.
   I realize the action isn’t in regular passenger cars these days, but the fact that Fiat, Chevrolet and Volkswagen still manage to field broad lines in Brazil suggests that the market still exists and they can still eke out some money from their sales.
   It’s as though the US car firms are giving up, ceding territory. And on this note, Ford has form.
   In the 1990s, Ford’s US arm under-marketed the Contour and Mystique Stateside, cars based on the original European Mondeo. I saw precious little advertising for them in US motoring press. As far as I can tell, they wanted to bury it because they didn’t like the fact it wasn’t developed by them, but by Ford’s German-based team in Köln. ‘See, told you those Europeans wouldn’t know how to engineer a CD-segment car for the US.’ The fiefdom in Dearborn got its own way and later developed the Mazda-based Fusion, while the Europeans did two more generations of Mondeo.
   In the 2000s, it decided to flush the goodwill of the Taurus name down the toilet, before then-new CEO Alan Mulally saw what was happening and hurriedly renamed the Five Hundred to Taurus.
   It under-marketed the last generation of Falcon—you seldom saw them on forecourts—and that looked like a pretext for closing the Australian plant (‘See, no one wants big cars’) even though by this point the Falcon was smaller than the Mondeo in most measures other than overall length, and plenty of people were buying similarly sized rear-wheel-drive saloons over at BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
   The Mondeo hybrid has been another model that you barely hear of, even though the Fusion Hybrid, the American version of the car, had been on sale years before.
   Think about what they gave up. Here, Ford once owned the taxi market. It doesn’t any more as cabbies ultimately wound up in Priuses and Camrys. Had Ford fielded a big hybrid saloon earlier, Toyota might not have made inroads into the taxi market to the same extent. Ford almost seems apologetic for being in segments where others come to, and when challenging the market leaders, doesn’t put much effort in any more.
   Objectively, I would rather have a Mondeo Hybrid than a Camry, but good luck seeing one in a Ford showroom.
   Maybe Ford’s smart to be putting all its resources into growth areas like trucks and crossovers. Puma and Escape have appeal in the B- and C-segment crossover markets in places like New Zealand. They’re fairly car-like now, too. But to me that’s putting all your eggs into one basket. In countries like Brazil and Thailand, where Ford doesn’t sell well resolved crossovers in these segments, it’s treading a fine line. I look at the market leadership it once had in cars, in so many places, and in 2021 that looks like a thing of the past. More’s the pity.

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On publishing in 2021, as told to Business Desk

03.09.2021


Above: Coverage in Business Desk, with me pictured with Lucire fashion and beauty editor Sopheak Seng.

Big thanks to Daniel Dunkley, who wrote this piece about me and my publishing work in Business Desk, well worth subscribing to (coincidentally, I spotted an article about my friend and classmate Hamish Edwards today, too).
   I had a lengthy chat with Daniel because he asked great questions—the fact he got a lot out of me shows how good a journalist he is. And he reveals some of our more recent developments, as well as my thoughts on the industry in general—things I hadn’t really got on to record often to a journalist, certainly not in the last few years.
   I had my Business Desk alerts switched off so I didn’t know he had already written his story (on the day of our interview) till another friend and classmate told me earlier this week. It also shows that Google’s News Alerts are totally useless, something that I realized recently when it took them three weeks to send the alert (the time between its original spidering of the article and the email being sent out). Those had been worsening over the years and I had seen them be one or two days behind, but now they rarely arrive. Three weeks is plain unacceptable for one of the last services on Google I still used.
   Back to Daniel’s story. It’s a great read, and I’m glad someone here in Aotearoa looked me up. I realize most of our readers are abroad and we earn most from exports, but a lot of what we’ve done is to promote just how good our country is. I’m proud of what we’re able to achieve from our part of the world.



Above: Google News Alerts take an awfully long time to arrive, if at all. I hadn’t seen one for weeks, then this one arrives, three weeks after Google News spidered and indexed the article. Google feels like another site that now fails to get the basics right.

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Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Baseless threats

27.08.2021

A couple of years ago, friends in Wellington, who own a business—let’s call it X—were approached by a US company with the same name, though in a slightly different industry.
   They wanted my friends to give up their page name facebook.com/x to them, and suggested that they should be facebook.com/xnz.
   No suggestion of payment, just a “you should consider”, and if I recall correctly, something to do with how much bigger they were.
   This was a really strange argument from someone in the US where their culture’s often based around the plucky individual taking on bigger players.
   How many myriads or even millions did Condé Nast pay to get style.com from Express all those years ago? If you’re that much bigger, maybe you could have afforded it? Or maybe you were just being cheeky, thinking you could get something for nothing. Well, not quite nothing. A little bit of bullying.
   Basically, taking away all the legalese and wank designed to make my friends hesitate, the Americans were upset that someone got in there with a Facebook page name years (nine years, if I recall correctly) before they did. How dare these Kiwis!
   ‘How should we respond?’ asked my friends.
   ‘You can either (a) ignore them or (b) tell them to go to hell,’ I advised. I think they chose (a). After all, there’s no point replying to one-sided rudeness.
   I’m reminded of this story because of emails from another US company recently and, again, stripping away the rudeness and implying I was a liar, boils down to them not really liking their First Amendment. Not when someone else exercises it fairly.
   Americans aren’t alone in being dicks about something but these particular two companies sure don’t like other people doing things that they can equally do. They trotted out a level of rudeness from the outset that you seldom see from their country, where regular Americans try their best to be nice.
   A third case was from the UK, where we received a threat from the agent of a fading celebrity whose crowning achievements were probably some soap opera and shooting for FHM in the 1990s. I don’t recall the circumstances in depth but I can tell you that that woman has not had much coverage since, by us or any other publication. Choose the wrong people, and you flush your goodwill down the toilet. Who’d touch you now, when there are plenty more stories that we can pursue with fewer headaches?
   I don’t know where the rudeness comes from, but I presume it’s a superiority complex that hides the fact that their arguments bear little merit. The result is that they damage their brands or their client’s reputations in the process.
   If you encounter it in business, then it’s a cinch that they don’t really have much to stand on. They feel bullying is their only means, because if they argued it rationally or faced the issue honestly they wouldn’t get what they want. It’s worth keeping an eye out for, and not waste your time on.

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August 2021 gallery

11.08.2021

Here are August 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Volkswagen Gol G4—more at Autocade.
   The fake friends of social media being the junk food equivalent of real friendships, from this post by Umair Haque.
   Stay at home, wear a mask—geek humour shared from Twitter.
   Thaikila swimwear—seems to have an interesting history.
   More on the Fiat 124 Sport Spider here at Autocade.
   Jerry Inzerillo, first male on the cover of an issue of Lucire anywhere in the world, in this case the August 2021 issue of Lucire KSA. The story can be found here on our website.

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Putting on the breaks

20.06.2021

Being self-employed my whole adult life, I haven’t exactly been let go from actual employment, but there have been some gigs, paid and unpaid, that came to an end without me expecting it.
   I’ve never been sore about losing them, but I don’t agree with the way they were done.
   Gig 1. Did a quarterly task for these folks, which soon became a monthly one. Lasted 14 years and was either the longest-serving or second-longest-serving in that capacity. Let go in a group email.
   Gig 2. Voluntary one, told that I wouldn’t be needed because the organization was going in a new direction. I wouldn’t be replaced because of this new format. Found out later that there was no new format and I was replaced. Would it have hurt to tell the truth? After all, I replaced the previous person, and I would have been fine with them needing a fresh face. It’s not as though I made any money off them!
   Gig 3. Another voluntary one. Hadn’t heard anything but then I usually didn’t till pretty late in the game. Except this time I had to chase them up, given how late things got. When do you need me? Found out I was replaced and that the decision had been made months earlier. I was the last to know. Offered some inconsequential consolation, but no apology. Ironically this happened as my influence in this particular area grew substantially overseas, so the help I could have given them was immense, so bad luck and bad timing to that mob. Bridges burned.
   I’ve let a few people go in the past—one had so many allegations against him (theft, sexual harassment) that with hindsight I wonder why we took so long. Given the anonymous (and ineffective and illogical) letters he’s sent to some of my most loyal colleagues, I think he’s still sore. Others had to be let go when the financial winds blew against us. But I’m pretty sure they all knew why.
   The only mysterious one from our companies was one person who claimed I cut him off and stopped using his writing services. It was a complete lie—he just vanished. At one point we re-established contact. We agreed to put it down to an email glitch (although this person regularly phoned me and stopped doing so, but in the interests of moving on, I let it go). Years later, he did it again—just disappeared. He told a mutual friend of ours the same lie, that I ceased to have anything to do with him. I relayed the above story to that friend but I could see she didn’t believe me—till he did it to her a few years later!

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Dear Gmail user: your industry has worn me down

11.06.2021

After three messages I decided I would answer one of those Gmail users asking about advertorial. And from now on I’m just going to copy and paste this to anyone else asking, ‘Why won’t you answer me?’

Dear [redacted]:

Sorry, this is why I haven’t answered you (and this is not because of you, but everyone else who has been enquiring about the same thing for years):

http://jackyan.com/blog/2021/06/time-to-stop-entertaining-advertorial-enquiries-from-gmail/

   Almost every time I answer one of these emails it leads nowhere, and I’ve answered hundreds over the last few years. What many of them have in common is Gmail. So to save time and energy I’m no longer entertaining link and advertorial requests coming from Gmail.
   Even if it were one in twelve I’d be borderline OK (the ratio I had doing phone sales during a recession) but one in hundreds is just not worth it. Your industry has worn me and my colleagues down.

Sincerely,

Jack

   I really don’t know why, in the 2020s, anyone would use Gmail, given its rather massive problem of allowing more than one person to use an email address. But I guess if you use Google, you’re not too concerned about privacy, with the endless stories on this topic out there. It shouldn’t then matter if someone else with a similar address can read your emails.

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Finished replying to my 2005 and 2006 emails

07.06.2021

I’m not exactly proud of this, but last month I finished replying to all my emails from 2005.
   That year I was stuck in Auckland for an extra day due to the airport there being fogged in. I said to another traveller, ‘Well, I won’t catch up on emails now till the end of the year.’ He looked at me as though I was kidding. Except I was being unduly optimistic since it took 16 years to finish replying to everyone.
   Today I replied to the last one from 2006, and fortunately, the AOL address appears to be current.
   I feel like I’m Ringo Starr in that early Simpsons episode who insisted on replying to all his Beatles fan mail personally, even though it was now the 1990s.
   I never had the quantity he had, but the pattern wasn’t particularly healthy: new emails would come in, I’d have to reply to those, and non-urgent ones got pushed up the inbox.
   These old emails were actually very nice and courteous ones, so they weren’t of subjects or by writers whom I was trying to avoid.
   The writer of the first one had since retired but I still tracked him down to apologize, as I have done with the second who, as far as I can tell, remains active.
   I felt that at the least they deserved the courtesy of a reply, even if my timing was lousy.
   Why am I blogging about this? Probably to tell others not to follow my example. And to get off social media, which I’m sure eventually played a part in further delays. Why poke about on some tiny phone keyboard when you can structure your day better with a desktop machine and type more efficiently?
   I have some fond memories of dial-up and not being constantly connected because you planned the emails you needed to send out. Your imagination could be fuelled by your offline time. We have to make the decision to get offline and take responsibility for how we spend our time. I suspect that is what I am rediscovering these days, including reading paper books more than I used to. I’m sure there’s a resurgence of printed matter lying in wait as people tire of the division and mindlessness of some of the most popular websites on our planet right now. And it’ll be the trendy young people, those who see from our example what a waste of time these sites are, who’ll drive it.

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Facebook goes even more pro-bot with change in group policy

02.06.2021

Why are there antitrust or monopoly laws? Why is the usual interpretation of the Chicago School really, really bad for the United States? Umair Haque’s latest post spells it out pretty well, in my opinion.
   Just an idea: let’s not import any of their dangerous ideas into our society, or allow their ever-growing giants to get more of a foothold in our country (and not pay tax here either). Because we have a tendency to kiss their arses sometimes. Just ask Kim Dotcom. Things like their legal precedents are still persuasive here, and with how different their priorities are, we need to place even less weight on them. Let’s not forget the rules we play by here, and that means whomever enters this market has to play by the same.


Speaking of daft decisions on the other side of the Pacific by dishonest parties who have got too big due to what amounts to lawlessness, Facebook has removed the requirement for users to answer questions when they join a public group. These questions were our way of safeguarding the one public group I still look after there, and over 99 per cent of users (no exaggeration; if anything, an underestimate) who attempted to join were bots. I define bots as including any legitimate account running bot software, which I thought was against Facebook’s T&Cs, but not in practice. I still report a lot of them, though unlike 2014 I won’t do them all. I just can’t report thousands that I might see on a single visit.
   I can imagine why Facebook has done this. This way Facebook hides the number of bots from group moderators (as if we hadn’t known of their problems for the good part of a decade), and protects the bots as they continue their activity across the platform. This will encourage even more bots, and as I identified in an earlier post, I see more bots than humans these days on there (and I’m not even a regular user).
   I knew they were liars and shysters so I imagine this is in keeping with that. Cover up just how badly compromised the platform is by bots.
   I haven’t seen much on this change in Facebook group policy, but as changes go, this has to be the most anti-human, pro-bot move they have made in 17 years. No one ever demanded more rights for bots, but here’s Facebook giving it to them.

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May 2021 gallery

01.05.2021

Here are May 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

Sources
Viki Odintcova, via Instagram.
   Alexa Breit, photographed by Weniamin Schmidt, via Instagram.
   Vickery Electrical advertisement: something I asked my Dad to photocopy for me in the 1980s. Briefly we had one of those Apple II portables, on loan from a colleague of Dad. I can’t recall if it had one disk drive or two, but it was a fun little unit to have in my bedroom for that period. Dad was prepared to buy it if I wanted to keep it, but I didn’t have much software to run, plus I already had the Commodore 64 for schoolwork.
   Lucire issue 43 cover, photographed by Damien Carney, creative direction and fashion styling by Nikko Kefalas, make-up by Joanne Gair, hair by Kirsten Brooke Anderson, and assisted by Rachel Bell, and modelled by Elena Sartison. Find out more here.
   Drew Barrymore quotation from Elephant Journal on Twitter.
   I still have plenty of old stamps, which I tend to save for family (though I’m less discerning about those discounted Christmas ones, which I always used to buy in bulk). This is going to my cousin’s daughter and her husband, and their family.
   Comments after an article on Buzzfeed News. Business as usual for Facebook.
   Happy birthday to our niece Esme!
   Tania Dawson promotes Rabbit Borrows, from Instagram.
   Bizarre that the only car with a manual transmission on sale at Archibalds is from the 1950s. I’m sure New Zealand was majority-manual into the first decade of this century.
   More on the 1982–94 Chevrolet Cavalier at Autocade.
   Citroën C5 X, as covered in Lucire.
   Amira Aly (Mrs Oliver Pocher) photographed by Christoph Gellert, reposted from Instagram.
   Gaza statistics, sourced from Twitter.
   Even after 44½ years of living in the occident, I find certain western customs very strange. From Twitter.
   Number crunching from Private Eye, reposted from Twitter.
   Evaporated milk, reposted from Twitter.
   Triumph Herald advertisement from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Cadillac tailfins, reposted from Tumblr.
   This photo of Sophia Loren was captioned ‘© David Hurn | Sophia Loren, Inglaterra, 1965’ on Tumblr. I wonder if she is on the set of Stanley Donen’s Arabesque. Reposted from Tumblr.
   I had the pleasure of watching Peggy Sue Got Married again a few weeks ago. This was a nice scene at the end, that seemed to suggest that Peggy Sue had travelled back in time. John Barry’s score is sublime.
   The Murdoch method: reposted from my old NewTumbl account.
   Alexa Breit photographed by Sagaj, reposted from Instagram.

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There goes the neighbourhood

05.03.2021

Demolition has commenced on 1–4 Māmari Street, across the road from where I lived for over three decades.
   I’m not against change and my feelings toward the development have already been recorded here.
   It was with a tinge of sadness that I saw the demolition crews there and the only wall left standing was part of the north side to no. 4.
   Right now the sections, littered with debris, are letting in plenty of summer sunlight.
   But not for long.
   I’ll remember Gus and Lyna Bourke’s place at no. 2 which I understand they bought after the war. Lyna was widowed by the time we met her in 1983, and she had an incredibly low-mileage silver Hillman Hunter in the garage. As her eyesight failed, the car stayed in there, and it was in incredibly good nick by the time she passed in the 1990s. We always had good chats and Lyna was our “neighbourhood watch” as she kept an eye on the street from her living room.
   Frank and Carol Reading and their family at no. 3 were probably there for a decent half-century, and they were incredibly good neighbours. Frank passed only a few years ago but they had wisely bought the Bourke residence as well in the 1990s, plus no. 4 decades before, so I imagine that made life easy for the developers who only had to purchase from two sellers to build on the site.
   We visited the Reading house many times over the years to help each other out, and that was the great community we had in the cul-de-sac back then. On our side of the street there were frequent chats over the fences with nos. 12 and 14.
   The old street changed a lot when both nos. 10 and 11 went on the market in 2018, then it was our turn in 2019. And now it has had its biggest change in probably a century as those old weatherboard bungalows from the early 20th century were demolished.
   I realize same-again McHouses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but as one famous architect recently told me: it’s hard to get creativity consented. And the demand is there, so this was inevitable. I already felt that the old street was a memory, but one that could be refreshed on a revisit; but now it really is a memory. Contrast this with the other neighbourhoods I’ve lived in Wellington, which have remained largely the same, or were subject to far slower developments after our departure.
   Just as well I got the neighbours together in 2011 to stop the council taking away the right turn into the street. With 24 dwellings there in the near future, they’re going to need it more than ever.

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A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan)

And yes, the above video was on Instagram, which is going the way of Myspace and Facebook, I believe. I haven’t been on there for nearly a fortnight and the feed held little interest to me. Near-daily ’Gramming from 2012 to 2019 was enough.

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