Feb 24, 2010

It was expected of Him. If He did not get to it first, Sehwag would have. But it is better that He is the first.


Feb 16, 2010

Yet another case of false reporting, more due to ara-gora knowledge than anything else.

The TREAD act was passed in response to dozens of deadly Ford Explorer rollover crashes caused by faulty Firestone tires. No fines were ever levied in that case.

In that case, both parties were culpable, especially Ford whose Explorer design was faulty and was known for years to be prone to rollover in industry circles. But it never came to light until a tire that caused the instability to worsen was put on it. See here and here, if interested more in the history of one of auto industry's biggest lawsuit and recall mess.


Feb 7, 2010

Thala's vendukol to Thalaivar

Recently, our Kalaignar granted land (asku busku. avaru enna pocket lerndhu edutha kodupaaru, elaam govt sothudhaan) to the members of FEFSI (adhavadhu Film Employees' Federation of South India) group. So the cohort comprising of mundhirikottais like Vijayakumar, Bharathiraja, Vairamuthu, Radhika, Sarathkumar et al. had to felicitate Kalaignar and so organized yet another bramaanda nigazhchi to potrify thamizh thaai's kalai sothu. One of the comedy highlights for it was having Harris Jeyaraj compose a 'thalaivar potru' song to praise our thalaivar. Naa edho Puli Urumudhu range ku song compose panni, they will superimpose images of our thalaivar from his young and dynamic days till the recent 'stephen hawking' stage with mandatory pictures of Valluvar Kottam, Mini-Flyovers and Kanyakumari Valluvar statue (because no Tamilian can recall any other achievement in our thalaivar's aatchi) nu edhirpaathen. Instead, Harris surprised everybody by going for a melody. Infact, the surprise was even more when he did not have Bombay Jayashree sing the melody. But anyways, listen to the wonderful lyrics. There is a goosebump causing line (sung by Unnimenon I think):

Neela nirathu kanaadi, kangalin mele koluviruka

Also, Ajith created a furor during the felicitation that was held on Feb.6 (probably at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium which has now become a dedicated paaratu vizha/audio launch/kalai kondaatam arangam). Unlike others he did not do the vazha vazha kozha kozha talk of potrifying thalaivar. After the mandatory couple of lines of he did that and this, he boldy made a firm request to thalaivar (which was actually more of a message to all the Tamil Industry's self proclaimed leaders and the general people) to not drag all actors and the cine industry into politics and force them to attend functions (he did not go as far as adding the line 'such as this' but it is implied). This must have been made long before the likes of Bharathiraja etc shot to limelight through the Neyveli fast or like Sathyaraj through the Hogenakkal fast. Both were for the same issues, by the way, but separated by few years which only goes to show the futility of such mass fasting. Rajini once came quite close to it (watch the video from 3:58). So, Ajith much be greatly appreciated for having the guts to say it in front of everyone. I am sure there are going to be a lot of calls for his head now!


Feb 5, 2010

One of the many articles that show Toyota's nightmare in real light (without the media glare that is). An interesting anecdote towards the end though, where the writer has mentioned about the infamous Audi 5000 issues of the late 80s:

Toyota either blames its customers and faces the wrath of the media or expresses contrition and admits it has quality issues. Perhaps having learned from the backlash against Audi when it—rightly—blamed its customers, Toyota has chosen the latter course of action.

Now you know why Toyota is in a fix. The real problem is not the recall but how to firefight right way. Because whatever it does now, the mass media will pounce on it. Say it is the driver's fault, they get thrashed because they were arrogant enough to pass the blame onto innocent blonde heads whose only fault was texting while driving and not knowing how a car functions other than knowing about its stereo system. Say it is their fault, they still get thrashed because Toyota is no longer the bastion of quality blah, blah, blah.. A classic case of the modern global organizations' operations being influenced by things out of their hands.


Feb 4, 2010

I have a mic, so what I say must be right

Continuing with the topic of Toyota's troubles with its massive recall, the media which glorified Toyota in the late 90s is now happily thrashing it. After all, the media does not care who you are or what you do. All they need is some news to create a frenzy. They ride on your good times and your bad times and feed off it; just like parasites.

When TMC recalled its cars for accelerator issues, immediately there was a wave of people owning older cars (that were not part of the recall) claiming 'sudden acceleration' which led to their vehicles crashing. Obviously, they follow it up with lawsuits claiming obscene sums from TMC. There was this guy who says because he is not able to get the accelerator pedal replaced in time for his car, he had to suffer mentally, and is depressed blah, blah blah.. Naturally, when the news of some braking issues with the 2010 Prius came out, people suddenly were saying their cars don't brake either.

So with all the bashing of Toyota that has been going on ( I am no Toyota enthusiast, mind you) I cannot help but notice the statements from several news agencies who have no clue of what they are talking about. Explaining a mat that holds on to the accelerator is simple enough. A worn out shim inside the pedal mechanism gets a bit more complex to explain. But a hybrid car's brake system? That is where the real fun begins.

It is reported that while driving on slippery or bumpy roads, sometimes the drivers of Prius suffer a momentary loss in braking. So some wise guy assumed that 'a moment' that is described by drivers equals a second and came up with a calculation that at 60mph the car would have traveled another 90 feet before it stops. This is going around in all channels and reports including America' s Dhinathandi, CNN.

Let us see in a simple way how the hybrid powertrain works, especially on a Prius. The Prius has a normal gasoline powered engine that combines with an electric motor to drive the car. The electric motor drives the car at low speeds (city driving or stop-and-go traffic) upto 30mph. Once the car accelerates to higher speeds, the gas engine takes up and drives the car. The electric motor continues to serve as power boost for rapid torque requirements. An important feature of such hybrid systems is the concept of regenerative braking. In simple terms, when the car brakes while it is being operated by the electric motor, the motor actually reverses its function and acts like a generator by using the kinetic energy of the vehicle to charge the battery pack. So in essence, this braking happens when the electric drive is functioning, i.e., at speeds less than 30mph. If the braking power needed is more than what the motor can apply, then the braking is done by conventional means using brake pads that slow the vehicle by friction. This transfer of control from the regenerative braking to conventional braking takes place during a fraction of a second giving the driver a feeling that the car is not braking as hard as it should, especially on surfaces where the ABS feels the need for more brake power causing the brake pads to step in.

So coming back to the original reports of 90 feet of increased stopping distances at 60mph: firstly when the car is at such high speeds, the braking is directly by brake pads and so there is no instance of control transfer. If considering a maximum speed of 30mph, the car requires another 44 feet to stop. Adding to it is the fact that the lapse is for a fraction of a second. Even if it is half a second, you are looking at 22 feet. And this control happens only when the car is already being braked by the motor. So you are looking at speeds less than 30mph, after which the brake pads step in, if required. So maybe 10 feet? 15? Significant number yes, but not as much as CNN and rest of the media says it to be.

CNN showed a segment in the evening, in which one of its viewers, Jessica Yellin had this problem with her Prius. Jessica is a smart lady, I should admit. She clearly mentions in her interview that the car does not lose braking power at high speeds but only when she is driving within city. When she applies the brakes hard it stops as it should but only during slow stops from low speeds does it give that feeling of momentary loss of braking. CNN then shows her trying to contact TMC to get an answer about her issues with Prius but they do not respond to her. Duh! Obviously, if 5million customers and 1million news reporters call you at the same time, you cannot expect a response.

Talk about shaping public opinion.

Not sure why Toyota is not coming out with a media blitz yet against all these propaganda.

And I should stop sounding like their P.R.O!


Feb 2, 2010

'Moving Forward' with Unintended Acceleration

With Toyota's massive recall over the last few months culminating in yet another recall last week for a 'sticky pedal', the company has taken severe beating to its image. Now, TMC has admitted to braking related issues in its marquee 2010 Prius. Though, I am not sure how much of a headwind it will prove to be for GM and the likes, I believe it will take Toyota Motor Corporation much work to regain the market share it lost in Jan. 2010 (as much as 20% drop in sales I believe).

I think issues like mats holding down the pedals are made out to be much bigger than they really are. Manufacturers have had much more serious recalls before (such as the Ford Explorer); Ford has million recalls in their 2009 models. But of course, it is bigger news when the King trips compared to a commoner tripping. So US house wants to hold a hearing and NHTSA is considering a fine that could total up to $15m! Good chance to recover some of they money that GM has swallowed, I say!

The common perception of Toyota's quality being far superior compared to GM & Ford (let us not include Chrysler in this even now), was created largely by GM's self initiated downfall in the late 90s and the seemingly never wrong-footed steps of TMC accentuated by the generous publicity by American media. Though it is no longer realistic, still the two American giants had a touch time of convincing people about it. But now that TMC has fallen down a notch, the playground seems to be more leveled. Will this prove to be the watershed? It will be interesting to see how TMC's PR division handle the crisis and how their sales fare in the next few months.


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