Federal Government Must Press Car Companies To Keep AM Radio In Dashboards

Recently the National Association of Broadcasters stated that surely “automakers do not want to alienate the nearly 48 million Americans who listen to AM radio each week.”  If you have not been following this topic about car manufacturers and placement of radio sets in car dashboards—and admittingly there is a raft of headlines from the debt ceiling to the military needs for Ukraine that take precedence—it might seem an obscure and off-beat issue to be discussing.  But it is an issue that connects with many across the nation and for very important reasons.

Many may not be aware of the fact that AM radio is very much the backbone of the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS), and as such AM radio plays a critical role in informing Americans as well as keeping them safe when, and should, disaster strike.  While images of national calamity come to mind with the mention of EAS, I can attest to the importance of AM radio in the lives of people week in and week out.  A representative example of those 48 million in the nation impacted by AM radio would be ‘the Egg Harbor reporter’ who alerted me each snowstorm of the road conditions concerning a stretch of Northern Door County once the snow and sleet started to fall.

He was an articulate retired man who called the radio station often when I was on the air and since he lived close to a hill that was so troublesome during inclement weather gave me information that I then imparted to the radio listeners.  AM radio is very much a valued and even at times critical lifeline to information during emergencies and natural disasters.  Folks throughout Door and Kewaunee counties needed to know about storm-related information or news of detours around crash sites on highways or alerts about downed power lines in neighborhoods that needed to be avoided when walking or driving. The list goes on and on about today’s needs listeners have and the role AM radio still plays in communities across the nation.

So, it is alarming to learn of the response to a letter written by U.S. Senator Edward Markey to car companies asking them to maintain broadcast AM radio as a feature in electric vehicles and other future vehicles.  Markey wrote in December to all the big automakers: Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, BMW, and Kia among them. He asked for a thorough accounting of where AM radio receivers stand in the view of automakers and to inform him of any plans to discontinue access to AM in new cars.

The auto industry response comes from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation and appears to be a resounding non-endorsement of AM radio. In fact, the letter makes no mention of the industry’s intentions of keeping AM radio intact in the dashboard.  It instead pointed to the many other ways that Americans now can receive emergency alerting information.

The importance of this matter was clearly demonstrated when seven former FEMA officials asked the federal government to help keep AM radios in electric vehicles. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the group petitions the government to seek assurances from automakers to maintain AM radios in EVs, arguing that the band is vital to the federal National Public Warning System.

I can speak to this issue as a former broadcaster who understands the tight connections listeners have with a local radio station and the importance they placed on solid reporting and dissemination of alerts and updates concerning a wide array of issues. There is a bond radio announcers have with their communities and one that listeners rely on daily with the one behind the studio microphone. It is a really rather basic concept, something that even car executives should be able to grasp. Reliable communications via AM radio are something a very large segment of the citizenry desire to have access to in an emergency. 

Republicans Must Face Facts

There are many topics Republicans much enjoy blustering about, or as the nation witnessed on Tuesday night, acting out with childlike behavior when confronted with data that goes against their rhetoric and fund-raising efforts. While it goes without saying a large majority of the GOP base is wedded to partisan and misleading reporting (and I am being mighty generous with my wording) and even duped by conspiracy theories that are pure lunacy on steroids, there is no getting around the bottom line. Facts matter. Complied data showing trends and outcomes matter. As such, I want to post a number of charts (thanks to Steve Rattner) that underscore some of the topics which have made news of late, and which created such inner turmoil for some conservative House members they presented their true colors to a national television audience. (I tried to size these somewhat equally, but given how each was detailed in varying ways, it did not come out as visually desired.)

A few days ago the nation was reminded, with data from Republican states, how popular the Affordable Care Act is with conservatives. In spite of the zeal and energy from conservative elected pols in those states, the data does not lie. Overall, more Americans (16.3 million) signed up for healthcare through ACA exchanges last year than ever before. The numbers show a 36% increase since 2020.

For better or worse, U.S. crude oil production is set to break records this year. For all the sputtering and pretending the evidence supports that this industry is not being hemmed in and still not doing all it can to reap profits.

Though the national debt has increased under both parties when in power, the national debt grew faster under Trump than any other president in recent history. Just a fact. The gnashing of teeth and the all-but throwing of feces from the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene at the SOTU can not refute the data.

History, a topic this blogger warms to, shows that when it comes to bipartisan work to pass the debt ceiling increase, Democrats work more often with the other side of the aisle than do Republicans.

This blog has noted for years (since 2006) that raising the debt ceiling is not an option and one that is just part and parcel of being an elected official with an understanding of what must be done. As history proves, it has happened many times and the pressure to undertake, again, what is the only logically adult path, will force the pols to do the same this year.

The gun deaths in our nation are staggering and unacceptable.

The Child-Care Tax Credit is an issue that strikes many Americans, this home included, as just a wise and prudent policy that should not be burdened with needless partisanship. Data shows this policy kept 2.9 million children out of poverty in 2021.

One more chart that lands on a topic that concerns me as a customer of goods, and for the sake of this paragraph, cars. The chip shortage, apart from the supply chain issues, dealt a harsh blow to the auto industry with my local Mini car salesman lamenting (before Congress acted), the folly of how our nation has dropped the ball on the production of this much-needed technology. From a defense production and national security perspective, this has long been a ripe topic for discussion. The wave of the future will be electric cars and investing as a nation in this goal is vital to our economy and the environment.

Mini Cooper Is 60 Years Old

In January of 2011 I made a decision that turned out to be a good one.  With my father very ill, and the years moving along as the graying in my hair proved, I looked at my ‘bucket list’ and noticed that one matter could be easily done, and would create lots of smiles.  James was very much encouraging the idea, too.

It was decided that convertibles would be the future.  We still very much feel that way. Our purchase of a Volkswagon Beetle, the final model year of the classic design with only 1,500 manufactured worldwide, meant I had a gem in the driveway.   I adored the car.

A wicked thunderstorm and a large limb from a neighbor’s tree ended my driving the car.  Azure was gone.  (We name all our cars.)  There was a happy ending–of sorts–to that car.

James and I had talked about the cars we liked and what we did not like about the majority on the road.  We both wanted something that was unique and different.   And we also both loved Mini Coopers.  We also much appreciate our dealership and their full team for professional service.

Our first one was the Green Rocket and driven off the car lot to our home in 2016.  With computerization running rampant in cars, and I am grateful for that fact, it also takes more money for garage time at a dealership.  So in 2016, we leased our car, and for us, that made lots of economic sense given our driving habits.

This June we leased our second Mini convertible, as the famed car was celebrating sixty years since the very first Mini was introduced.  It was then the Morris Mini-Minor which was manufactured by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) came off the assembly line.

The car, which would go on to become a British icon, was announced to the public on August 26, 1959, and for the first decade of its existence, was sold under the Morris and Austin brand names. Powering original models was a four-cylinder mustering up a mere 34 HP. While that may not sound like much nowadays (and it really isn’t), it was a lot for a car as small as the Mini six decades ago.

I have not had  a speeding ticket for decades, but truth be told, I have never had a faster car on take-off, or more feeling of wonder on tight turns, then what happens in our Little Red Chili Pepper.  They really do keep making the engines better and the driver happier.

Life is too short to keep placing the bucket list for a time further down the line.


Why We All Need To Thank California!

Rolling back climate changing policies is one of the most damaging long-term impacts that history will record of the term Donald Trump was in the Oval Office.   To deny not only what scientists worldwide have documented and proven to be happening to our planet, but also to pretend one’s eyes are lying on a daily basis is just absurd.  Yet that is what this White House is doing. Thankfully, not everyone is singing from the same hymnal when it comes to auto emissions.

At the heart of this fight is a most sensible pollution standard, put in place during President Obama’s administration, (and the last time this blogger was able to place the word president before the officeholder) which requires automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, cutting carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of all the cars affected by the regulations, about the same amount the United States produces in a year.

Trump, of course, wants to roll back and significantly weaken this requirement.  Some of his ‘reasoning’ is due to business costs to car-makers.  There is also the fact Trump has a deep disdain for the first African-American president, and wishes to undermine all of Obama’s accomplishments.  Recall that this auto requirement remains the single largest policy enacted by the United States to reduce planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps the sun’s heat and is a major contributor to climate change.  That is a scientific fact.

Now to the politics of this fight as four of the world’s largest automakers have struck a deal with California to reduce automobile emissions, siding with the state in its fight with Trump.  Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW (as a Mini convertible driver I was most pleased to see BMW’s name) have joined arms on this matter, and this morning I heard it reported Mercedes-Benz will do the same.  With such efforts by car-makers there will be no way for Trump to impose a lack of science and logic into a regulation.  When market share is looked at regarding those who will not relent on fuel emission standards it means 40% of all cars sold in the United States.  The law of economics wins.

We all need to say thanks to California.  First, and foremost, that state’s political leadership took the needs of the planet into consideration.  They placed science and the consumers up ahead of politics and a narcissistic person sitting in the White House.

And then to add frosting to the cake they showed Donald Trump, on a signature issue of his administration, to be impotent.

And so it goes.

Partisan Rhetoric Vs. Lies: Paul Ryan’s Nose Is Growing

Readers to my blog know I love political conventions.  Give me a good partisan speech, even when coming from the other side of the aisle,  and I will get a cup of tea and have a grand time.  But there is one thing I really do not want to hear in such a speech, and that is a bold out-right lie.

Bark away on philosophy and missing campaign promises, and I will listen and watch.  But just do not lie to me.

I have much enjoyed the Wisconsin flavor that has come from the GOP convention over the past days.  Media attention to our state and politicians has been interesting to follow.

Then came Paul Ryan’s address to the convention Wednesday night.  There were many issues that struck me as plain political over-reach in his speech, such as when he spoke about the president walking away from the Simpson-Bowles commission, the much talked about deficit-cutting recommendations (which I supported).

I had to smile since Ryan, who served on the commission, voted against the recommendations but still chided the president.  That is the type of partisan spin I expect from a convention speech, and frankly can accept as part of the game of politics.

But what I can not abide is a bold-faced lie.

In his address Ryan told the nation that President Obama failed to keep the Janesville GM plant open.  The truth is the plant was closed in 2008 when President Bush was in office.  There was never any promise from candidate Obama in 2008 to keep the Janesville plant open. Rather Obama spoke often about the need to have plants such as the one in Janesville be viable along with the need for a clean energy economy.

To pretend, as Ryan does over and over, that somehow President Obama failed the people of Janesville on this matter is just a most indecent way to conduct a campaign.

I fully understand that this election is a tough one as the candidates struggle for every vote in what promises to be an extremely close outcome.  But if there is to be any credibility once governing begins in January, should it not start in the fashion the campaign is conducted in August?

Volkswagen World’s Biggest Carmaker

In October 2010 I wrote the following.

….when it comes to automobiles I love German engineering and the styling of Volkswagens. In the past decade I have owned only VW’s, and swear I am never driving domestic again. There just is no comparison with comfort, under the hood precision, lack of problems once purchased, or price for the whole package.

I commented that…

With news that VW has a business plan in place to take over as the world’s largest auto maker comes a concern from guys like me who like to be just a little unique in everything, including the cars we own.

“A lot of people worry that we are going to start making VWs for the masses,” says Mark Barnes, VW’s U.S. chief operating officer. “I like to say we’re going to bring the masses to VW.”

Time will tell.

Now comes news that VW is indeed conquering the world.  My concern however still lingers—is VW making cars that look like all the other vehicles on the road?  The new Beetle, for instance, is not anything more than an ordinary looking sedan-type car.  The new model lost all the charm of the iconic Beetle that many loved around the globe.

When Ferdinand Piëch arrived as Volkswagen’s chief executive in 1993, things looked dire. The carmaker was overspending, overmanned and inefficient, and had lost its reputation for quality. How things have changed: last year the VW group’s profits more than doubled, to a record €18.9 billion ($23.8 billion). As other European volume carmakers seek to close factories and cut jobs, VW is seizing market share in Europe, booming in China and staging a comeback in America. It plans to spend €76 billion on new models and new factories by 2016. Its global workforce is more than half a million, and growing.

Mr Piëch’s plan was for VW to become the world’s biggest carmaker by volume by 2018. Last year, however, as Toyota struggled with the aftermath of Japan’s tsunami and GM floundered in Europe, VW reached its goal seven years early (see chart), if you do not count Subaru, Toyota’s distant affiliate, or GM’s Wuling joint venture in China, which mainly makes Chinese-branded cars.

The 8.5m vehicles VW made last year cover all corners: Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT in the mass market; Audi in premium cars; Porsche, Bugatti and Lamborghini in sports cars; Bentley at the luxury end; plus various commercial-vehicle brands. Most (SEAT excepted) are firing on all cylinders. IHS Automotive, a forecaster, expects VW easily to beat its target of 11m sales by 2018.


Volkswagen Carefree Maintenance Program Makes For A Smile

I do not own stock in Volkswagen, nor paid to do PR work for them.  But I am mighty pleased to again shine a light on what I think is one amazing car company.  When I am treated right, and some one makes a positive impression I feel some sense of duty to highlight it so others will also know where quality can be found.

Today I took my car (purchased in Jan 2011) for an overall check up to make sure tires and belts and battery were all as they should be.  Since the car only has 8,400 miles I asked the service manager about the need for an oil change, which is due every 10,000 miles.

He told me that it would be a good time for an oil change.  In the office when he added the oil change to the original reason I was in for service I asked for an estimate.  He smiled, looked back and me, and said “there is no charge”. 

“But I am having my tires rotated,” I reminded him, and as much indicated that there must be some financial transaction that needed to take place.

It was then he told me that the Volkswagen Carefree Maintenance plan covers any new car bought from 2009 or since, and at 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 miles the oil change and filter, along with the entire checkup including tire rotation, battery check, topping fluids, etc are performed at no cost.

When buying my new car I must have been told all this, but since VW’s are so well constructed and reliable I have not had any reason to think about maintenance, or re-read that portion of the car manual which I covered after the purchase.

Walking out of the service garage with as much money in my checking account as when I arrived, and knowing this will happen for the next couple years for the same service is just another reason I love Volkswagen.

I was reminded upon leaving the dealership today that the last time I was in for an oil change with my previous car I started looking on the lot, and bought a new one that same afternoon.  It was a most unexpected and impromptu purchase that was unlike anything I had ever done before.  That made smiles for Zimbrick in early 2011, and seems to still make for a good story among the guys working there now.

Bottom line for anyone thinking of a new car purchase–take it from one who has driven several VW’s since 2003—there is no more solid build or dependable and comfortable drive than what can be found with a Volkswagen.

And then there are those oil changes that will make you smile.

Volkswagen has every reason to believe it can be the top car company in the world.

Why Does Dan Neil Sexualize The VW Beetle?

Being it is Sunday, and cloudy, cool, and wet weather hangs over Madison I am getting caught up on my reading.  One newspaper article however has not enlightened me as much as ticked me off.  Granted, there are many topics that make for emotional and at times frothy posts on my blog, but this one is also tinged with just plain disgust.

On the front page above the fold of the “Off Duty” section in Saturday’s WSJ was the headline grabbing font of “The Beetle Mans Up”.  First and foremost the term ‘mans up’ is so laden with gender expectations that it should only be used by those people who let the hair from their back curl up around their hairline.   That is not the term I expect used in a national newspaper with serious readers, and I certainly do not appreciate the tone it imparts for a larger audience.

But there it was.

Dan Neil had a long article on the new VW Beetle that has hit auto showrooms around the country.  The classic look and feel of the traditional Beetle that so many have loved over the decades has been shed for the coupe-like shallowness of the new car that is supposed to appeal to men. (GAG.)

The article by Neil is perhaps one of the most sexist pieces of ‘journalism’ that I have spotted in a newspaper in quite some time.  I provide a sampling.

About two-thirds of New Beetle buyers were women, the highest percentage of any  car on the market. That’s a problem because, as any car dealer will tell you,  women will sometimes buy a man’s car but men rarely ever buy a chick car.

I’m not sure giving away Beetles on the last of Oprah’s “Favorite Things”  shows helps advance the stud-bug meme, but let that go.


In order to qualify as more manly, the Beetle should do what, exactly? Leave the  seat up? Play fantasy football? These were not options. So in addition to a  shape that’s less, well, ovum-like, the Beetle is cut. Note the vertical  surfaces at the wheel arches and the crisp defining light lines around the  cabin’s greenhouse, as well as the chamfered hood line. Note also that the  bumper-breather grille is wider and more aggressive, more like bared teeth.


With a 0-60 mph pace of about 6.8 seconds and all the visual snarl, the Turbo simply radiates machismo, sort of like Justin Bieber in a muscle T.

And on and on it goes….

Within days of the new Beetle hitting the local market I made a trip to the dealership where I have purchased over time not one, but three new Beetles.  I love the classic look  and drive of the car, and think I fairly understand the reason people own and admire them.

People drive a VW Beetle as it looks different and sets them apart from most other cars on the road.  They are fun and spirited vehicles that zip around, can be parked almost anywhere, and get noticed.  Within the past month a lady asked to take a picture of my car at a local grocery store.  Last weekend a guy gave me thumbs up at the mall.  Just this past week two women at a stop light on East Washington smiled and said hello to James and myself.  Clearly the Beetle has a fan base.

Yes, Dan Neil I have owned three Beetles, and still use the men’s room at the shopping mall.

I can also say that it is easy for me to be lured into car shopping and making deals.  The latest version of my Beetle came to be parked in my driveway earlier this year after browsing during a simple oil change at my favorite dealership.  I saw a new car on the lot, it attracted me, and I traded the one on the oil rack in two hours.  So I am easy.

But when I looked at the new coupe-like plainness of the latest Beetle I had no more desire to test drive it than I did to hurl a stone at, Aeros, the name of our current car.    Yup, Mr Neil each car has a personality and gets a name  at this home, and I still own a jock-strap.

I find it insulting in 2011 that placing gender roles on cars is even considered a topic of conversation.  I find it even more outrageous that a national newspaper would allow for the sexist review of a car to be published.

Now having said that I will try to find some quiche in the kitchen to further confirm the troglodyte notions that Dan Neil seems to hold for men like me who drive a Beetle.

Bite me.