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Ramblings for June 5, 2000


Cars are the stars

BMW has captured the public’s interest by introducing their Z3 and Z8 sports cars in James Bond movies, but Porsche's 2000 911 sports cars will be well represented in four of this summer's hottest movies: Mission: Impossible 2, starring Tom Cruise; Hollow Man, starring Kevin Bacon; Gone in Sixty Seconds, starring Nicholas Cage, and The Kid, starring Bruce Willis.

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Cruise reunites with the brand that brought him early success – many will remember him as the Porsche 928/U-boat captain from Risky Business. He now races across Australia and Spain on an impossible mission, behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 Cabriolet daringly tangling with a femme fatale driving an Audi TT Roadster. Kevin Bacon is the leader of a group of young scientists who unlocks the secret of invisibility, and like many researchers, drives a Porsche. (Well, they do in Hollywood labs!) In Gone in Sixty Seconds, a silver Porsche 911 Carrera is among the many desirable cars that Nicholas Cage makes disappear. Finally, Bruce Willis stars in Disney's The Kid, and his life is suddenly turned upside down when he drives his Porsche 911 Cabriolet into a tunnel and exits the other side having gone back in time and finds himself driving a 1958 Porsche 356 Speedster. Anyone for Sleeper meets 48 Hours?

Online car buying and the great divide

A challenge: name any consumer good or service that we buy the same way that we did in the Fifties. I can name only one – the automobile.

In today’s rapidly morphing car-retailing world, many dealers are scared, having been in control of the process and not knowing any other way to do business. They have panicked at the prospect of sales warehouses, open auctions and now, Internet sales. All the new methods have been fought in the courts, with varying degrees of success, but clearly, the days of the traditional dealer are numbered.

The impetus to change retailing is coming from a cadre of former car-company leaders moving on to theoretically greener pastures. Adding on Roger Penske to the list, it also includes Michael Jackson, late of Mercedes-Benz; Joel Manby of Saab, now of Greenlight.com; and Karen Francis, who leapt from Oldsmobile to an online investment firm.

Whether or not they approve, dealers will be caught up in the wave of changes. According to a recent independent survey, U.S. new automobile sales revenue generated from the Internet will accelerate from $2.1 billion in 1999 to $27.3 billion in 2004. No major technological barriers exist to inhibit online car sales and automobile dealers, online firms, financing and insurance companies.

Car dealers and manufacturers will need to find a way to coexist. No system will work in the long run without their participation. But at the same time, they will have to accept the responsibility of being a part of the transaction, and not the whole.

Racing’s next generation

If anyone needed evidence that the next generation is ready to take over on the racetrack, two of the top races in the racing year were completely dominated by the up and comers over the weekend. Last year, Colombian Juan Montoya was an unknown, but not only did he win Rookie of the Year honors in the CART Indy car series, he was also the series champion as well. This year, the rival Northern Lights Indy Racing League opened its events to outsiders, and with the support of the amazing Ganassi team, Montoya won the Indy 500, probably the best-known race in the world. On the NASCAR front, the Coca-Cola 600 stock-car race was dominated by rookies Jerry Nadeau and Dale Earnhardt Jr. before being won by another rookie, Matt Kenseth. These wins point out that the greatest advantage to winning is a top-flight, balanced team, but what is remarkable is that there is a youth movement, placing new drivers into those team’s cars.

 

Bob welcomes comments or questions at bstorck@sprynet.com.

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