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Adjusting to the Collapsed Highway April 29, 2007

Posted by Stephanie in transportation.

The devastating pictures from The New York Times of Oakland, California immediately caught my attention today. 

“A fiery pre-dawn tanker truck accident caused the collapse of a heavily trafficked freeway overpass near downtown today, sending hundreds of feet of concrete crashing onto a highway below and hobbling a vital Bay Area interchange.”


Luckily no one was killed when the track carrying 8,600 gallons of gasoline crashed.  However the results of the intense fire cause catastrophic damage to the highways.  Most likely it was the extreme heat from the fire which melted the steel girders and bolts that support the concrete roadway which lead to the destruction of the road system. 

“On an average day, the two spans that were destroyed this morning carry 160,000 vehicles.”

We all complain as Route 80 in our neck of the woods is insistently under construction.  This however is planned construction and in comparison a far more manageable situation.  It will be interesting to see how the city reacts to the situation once the weekdays with rush hour traffic and busy work life resumes tomorrow.  With such an unforeseeable situation it will be interesting to follow how the repairs will be made considering budgets, the need to be time efficient and yet ensuring the safety of workers and eventually drivers. 

I would not be envious of handling this situation of project management.  The stress, pressure and watchful eyes of city planners, safety regulators, Californians and other stakeholders are sure to demand a quick yet safe solution.  

Would you be interested in construction/project management? It seems as though there are very clear tasks and goals.  But the unexpected challenges that arise with uncontrollable factors such as weather may be too stressful.

How do you think the city will adjust to the situation? What other problems do you see stemming from accident?


“When I was your age.. we had car taxis” April 3, 2007

Posted by Elaine in Birth, innovation, transportation.

Perhaps all the fictional inventions we see in futuristic movies are slowly coming into play. I came across an article that I found completely mind blowing. Is the next big thing in the transportation an air taxi? This is basically a small jet that carries passenger from one city to another that most major airlines miss. This company, DayJet, will not have the traditional scheduled flights that normal airlines practice. It will schedule their flights around their customers and take off at last minute notices. Private flights are not limited only to the wealthy anymore.

This is going to be a difficult company to get off the ground (no pun intended ha). As we learned in class, this is an example of exploiting, venturing out into a new niche. They can either be really successful and gain loyal customers, or they could risk their billion dollar company and lose it all. These planes need to be 80% full for the company to just break even. The idea is good, but is it practical?

What do you think of this company’s idea? Is it worth risking everything to explore this new idea of travel?

GM Design Change April 2, 2007

Posted by Brian Mulligan in Auto's, Growth, Manufacturing, transportation.

Design is the biggest part of car making. The design either turns a customer off or excites the customer to buy the car. Originally, GM thought that American design would sell well in both the US and internationally, but they were very wrong. They soon employed design teams in each country.

To combat the needs of international drivers, GM has established 11 design team scattered across the world. The most success for GM has actually been in China. Behind the work of Joe Qiu, the head designer for the highest selling Buick in China, the LaCrosse. He worked with his team in China, totalling 100 people with only one non-Chinese worker from Canada. This is a testament to the changes that GM has gone through.

In the past, GM believed that whatever came out of Detroit was the right thing for selling their cars in both US and abroad. The China office had a paltry 23 people, all American, in their office only six years ago. Now the office is all Chinese, whom are in touch with the needs and wants of the Chinese.

In a effort to promote creativity, GM actually pit all of the 11 offices of design against each other to create the best design for their cars. This created incentive for the designers and pushed them to find new ways to design cars and make them appeal to the public.

“But the executives also understood that they could no longer depend solely on Detroit talent. To compete with the best products, and to serve a global market, they would have to tap creativity in new places and in new ways. Welburn and Lutz decided that competition–the bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred sort–would expose the best ideas, wherever they came from.”

The CEO Ed Welburn decided to place the Chinese office against the North American office for the design of the Buick LaCrosse. The two teams came up with drastically different ideas for the car. In the end, Welburn combined both of their designs to create a car that had an interior inspired by Qiu and an exterior designed by the North American office. The car sold like wildfire in China, only second to the sales in the US as told in the article in Fast Company Magazine, “Made in China.”

Looking forward, the company has made sweeping changes with their design idea and how their company manages their creativity and design.

Do you think each country’s office should design the whole car for each region? Do you feel that this is cost effective? Do you think that GM should stick with this setup or not?

For Anyone Who Lives or has Driven in New York City February 27, 2007

Posted by K.C. in Auto's, Technology, transportation.

This article will probably only be exciting for people who either live in a big city with a vehicle or who travel to big cities by car. For the first time ever, Manhattan will have enough parking spots for everyone. Ok this is untrue but they will have New York City’s first automated parking garage. AutoMotion Parking Systems, the American subsidiary of Stolzer Parkhaus of
Strassburg, Germany has developed a parking system that is almost entirely robotic and computer controlled. Imagine a PEZ dispenser except with cars instead of candy. Instead of parking lots being old shady looking abandoned lots with cars parked horizontally, this new type of parking system parks cars vertically inside a building, without the need of reckless valets or parking attendants. The system is completely automatic and needs no human inputs to park the cars. 

“The driver locks the car, takes the keys and picks up an electronic card from a nearby machine. A large door closes behind the car; motion detectors ensure that no children or pets are left behind. Then the pallet holding the car slides below ground level, into two subterranean floors of storage. ‘It’s simple — park, swipe and leave,’”

Living in the city is already tough enough and having a car makes it even more difficult. It makes New Yorkers pretty mad to come home on a Sunday night to find that every last parking spot on the entire Island has been taken. Aside from the obvious convenience benefits, the parking system is energy efficient and may actually pollute less than traditional man powered parking systems.  

GM to buy Chrysler February 20, 2007

Posted by Charley S in Business-Society Issues, Merger, transportation.



Well it appears that two of the top three American car manufactures may be headed for a merger. In recent days the German ownership of DaimlerChrysler has expressed interest in getting rid of the Chrysler division. Last year, Chrysler posted up billions of dollars in losses, much like the other American car companies. Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, and Chrysler merged together over 9 years ago and for awhile it appeared that the marriage was working out. In the early 2000’s Chrysler was the only American car company that was still profitable, but it appears that even Chrysler cannot take the foreign pressure. GM has expressed interest in buying out its old rival and has already inquired to the board of directors as to whether this was possible. Some advantages for GM would be that they could cross manufacture Chrysler cars much more cheaply than Chrysler can now because GM has a bigger global network of suppliers. Also, Chrysler has been recognized recently to have very innovative designs and they would seek to utilize their engineers to improve current GM cars. Chrysler also does not have as big a pension problem as GM and they may seek to use Chrysler to help to offset some of the pension costs.

There are some major obstacles to overcome for GM if it were to purchase Chrysler. One would be the fact that there are too many Chrysler dealerships, many of which are literally located across the street from GM dealerships. It would be extremely expensive to close these dealerships because they are franchises and are protected against being arbitrarily closed by franchise laws. Another potential problem would be the integration of the employees of both companies. To start, there would be huge layoffs on both sides of the merger to eliminate redundancies. Also integrating the two giant companies cultures could prove extremely troublesome, especially considering the fact that the two have been rivals practically since the beginning of the automotive age. Frankly, I’m surprised that GM would be considering buying another company when all I have heard recently talks about how bad off GM is. I just checked their last annual income statement, and they lost 10 billion in 2005 and have lost in all the quarters available since then.

Jet Blue’s Blooper February 19, 2007

Posted by Elaine in Cases, Consumers, Stakeholder management, transportation.

This past Valentine’s Day was not exactly ideal for the 10,000 passengers that were stuck in Jet Blue planes, which were left stranded for six hours each on runways at JFK Airport in an ice storm. 23% of their flights to 11 different cities were cancelled due to the weather leaving many customers aggravated. After reading about corporate social responsibility in Chapter 7, I think Jet Blue is trying its best in taking a proactive approach to gaining its credibility back. They are working on a “Bill of Rights” which outlines the penalities Jet Blue faces and rewards for its passengers in situations where they experience difficulties during weather-related cancellations. Airlines would be required to offer travelers food, water, and clean bathrooms for any delays over three hours, and refund 150% of a flight’s ticket price for those delayed more than 12 hours. Is Jet Blue doing this because they’re morally obligated to compensate for their mistakes or is this just to deter being detested?

It’s to fend off any potential bad press in the future, but it did not mitigate the experience of those people on that flight, says Kate Hanni, one of the customers on the stranded planes.

She believes this is a move on Jet Blue’s part to save themselves from bad publicity. She was mad that the passengers weren’t informed (timely or at all) about the crucial weather impact and will most likely not be a Jet Blue customer after this inconvienent experience. Are the airlines to blame for mother nature’s behavior or should they have obliged to the warnings and consulted with their passengers beforehand? The mistakes have been made, but at least they’re taking steps to counteract their errors.

As It Polishes Green Image, GE Fights EPA February 14, 2007

Posted by silviamocanu07 in Organizational Environment, transportation.

The article that I have chosen for this week discusses General Electric’s new marketing campaign meant to create the image of being environmentally-friendly for the company (Link: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB117133508179906754-QHVlYvRMniiRmAHU7nheuaWNKy4_20080213.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top). However, this directly contradicts with GE’s actions to weaken smog controls for railroad locomotives in rules that are soon to be proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. GE currently dominates the $2 billion dollar North American locomotive market and it seeks to exercise its influence in order to avoid the additional costs associated with new EPA regulations.

I believe that this case is directly associated with one of our previous class discussions related to external organization environment. In this case, regulations are changing, and despite claims of attemptingto portray an image of being concerned with the environment, GE is not adapting to these changes, but rather it seeks to eliminate them. The pro-environment marketing campaign is a reaction to consumer pressures; however, GE proves that it is not consistent its approach, but rather hypocritical. The company wants the environmentally-friendly image that will bring in more customers, while at the same time it wants to evade the costs associated with actually producing more environmentally-safe locomotives.

I believe that this dual approach will hurt their public image and, potentially, their revenues in the long-run. GE is not being consistent is its policies and this will not benefit it. What do you think about GE’s approach? Do you think that this duality means that they are deceiving their customers?

Ford SUV February 13, 2007

Posted by wilson7 in Business-Society Issues, Manufacturing, transportation.

When Ford introduced the Bronco II, it received several warnings from its own engineers not to release the new model due to its unstable design.  Ford executives ignored these precautions and resumed the selling of the Bronco.  However, this once popular SUV was the cause of several thousand rollover accidents, which resulted in several lawsuits that Ford is still paying off today.  Despite the negative effects from the Bronco II release, it appears Ford executives have still not learned their lesson.  The company then launched the new Explorer, which is designed after the Bronco.  Although the vehicle has several new features, it appears to have the same rollover tendencies, as did the Bronco.  Once again, it looks like the Ford Company plans to forgone the necessary alterations and released its SUV despite its safety hazards.  The launch in the Ford Explorer will result in more accident fatalities and further loss of goodwill for Ford.  Do you think there is a flaw in Ford’s technology?  Is Ford using Computer-Aided Design to help solve this rollover problem? Why is Ford’s craftwork or ability to find new techniques to handle existing problems sorely lacking? 

 In the words of Henry Ford, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”

But this is exactly what his company is now doing just trying to make money and not caring about the people who buy the cars.  By launching the Ford Explorer in its current design, Ford will be contributing to the already increasing number of accident fatalities.  Through investigation, it has been found that a large number of accident deaths are caused by faulty car design. The problem with the design of the Ford Explorer stems from societies preoccupations with appearance rather than safety.  The more features a vehicle has the more luxurious it is in the minds of consumers.  However, these features increase the risk of death in an automobile accident.  Until we as consumers start to care more about our safety then how the car actually looks automobile makers will keep putting out these unsafe vehicles. How long do you think this will take?

Decline of U.S. Automakers February 6, 2007

Posted by collage9 in Organizational Design, Technology, transportation.

An article on CNN. com this morning took a look at what was happening to the three major US automakers and their foreign competitiors.  I thought it was interesting to see just how far (and fast) GM, Ford, and Chrysler are beginning to fall behind automakers such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.  It’s been no secret the last few years that the US automakers are begnning to lose their market share to their foreign competitors, but I found it interesting to see how they were going about combatting this problem.  With the market share of the foreign makers about to top 50% of US sales, GM spokesman John McDonald had this to say:

“The 50 percent is not a benchmark. It’s an interesting statistical point.  It’s like global sales leadership, it’s nice, and we’ve had it for 76 years. But if you’re not making money, it’s not really relevant. We can’t be chasing market share for the point of chasing market share. We can’t afford to lose money.”

 The Big Three is not concerned about losing its US buyers, but rather with cutting as much costs as possible in an attempt to regain profitability.  I understand McDonald’s point of not being able to afford to lose money, but I don’ think simply cutting costs is going to get the job done, especially in the long run.  I think it’s about time that GM, Ford, and Chrysler consider making some serious changes within their organizations.  If not, the momentum of the foreign automakers will continue to pick up speed (and market share) and the homegrown automakers will be in serious trouble.  I’m not going to pretend that I know what changes need to be made, but I think it’s about time that they take a page out of their foreign competitors book on how to operate an automotive organization, because it obviously seems to be working for them.

Ethics in Business January 31, 2007

Posted by wilson7 in Auto's, Consumers, transportation.
1 comment so far

In chapter two of our book it deals a lot with Ethics, this topic related to the Ford Pinto case that I read in Business Government & Society. In 1970, the Ford officials had to confront a difficult decision either delay production of the new Ford Pinto or continue as scheduled. The problem with the Pinto was the design of the gas tank, which failed 8 out of 11test trails (the 3 that passed the test all had modifications to the gas tank). The company decided to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it was worth the wait. This analysis determined that a person killed in a gas tank accident was worth $200,000, a person injured was worth $67,000, and vehicles burned $700. How is a company able to put a price on a human life? Is this fair to the families of these people? Anyway, Officials estimated that there would be 180 burned deaths, 180 burned injuries, and 2,100 burned vehicles thus totaling $49.5 million. On the other hand to fix the gas tank it would cost $11 per car and truck, there were 11 million cars and 1.5 million trucks totaling 137.5 million. The Ford officials decided to continue as schedule in the belief that the delay of the new automobile would cost the company more money than the lives that they put in danger. How do you think this situation worked out? 

Aristotle said that deciding what is the best ethical course is not easy. Reasonable people will disagree on what is right. The ultimate, overreaching questions are: What is an ethical company and to what extent should law require ethics? 

Did the Officials for Ford make the right ethical decision? I do not believe so; they put a car with defects on the road knowing that people would be seriously injured maybe even killed. They decided that making money was more important than human life. How many companies do you think are like this around the world? Is there 1, 100’s, 1000’s? A consumer would never know, only the members of that organization. Should there be laws that prevent this type of unethical behavior? I do not think this can be regulated by the government but only in the minds and hearts of the producer. Officials have to determine what is more important a quick buck or the death of several innocent people. Between 1971 and 1978 there were 700-2,500 deaths with fires involving the Ford Pinto and 100’s of millions of dollars in lawsuits. So was it worth it?