Thursday, June 28, 2012

Views from the Leipzig Street: Interesting Cars, photographed by UD Student Drew Hogenkamp

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A few photos from the Leipzig Automobile History and Technology UD Summer Program

Hi folks -- thanks to Sean Falkowski for these photos.  I hope to post more in the next few days.  As you can see we learned more than anyone can imagine while at Leipzig and on our field trips. Top photo from VW museum in Wolfsburg -- a chassis used to train mechanics.  The second a group photo at BMW, where we spent a week on a very unique program.  The thidd a group shot at the VW museum.

Good Bye Leipzig, Going Home (Maybe) on what is now the worst airline -- Delta!

Hi folks  -- appropriately, perhaps, stuck in Motown overnight. Delta Airlines a tragic comedy yesterday.  After 7 hours of confusion at the airport, maybe a labor slowdown or wildcat strike, a night at the Best Western in Romulus, MI. From now on DRIVE!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

: The Relationship between a love affair with an automobile and repressed and unsatisfied sexuality

It seems so  simple: The Relationship between a love affair with an automobile and repressed and unsatisfied sexuality
It has been a crazy five weeks here in Germany teaching automobile history.  Today was a particularly stressful day involving an eight hour back and forth from Leipzig to Ingolstadt train ride.  So I h ad some time to catch up with reading downloaded at one time or another on my hard drive, and also time to think as  well. One essay I re-read with more care than before was Hyman Weiland, “The Psychological Significance of Hot Rods and Driving on Adolescent Males,” in Psychiatric Quarterly, supplement,  31, part 2 (1957), 161ff. Concurrently I had been lecturing on America’s Love Affair with the Automobile during the 1950s with an eye towards why the love affair emerged during the 1950s and withered after the 1960s.  It is a question that remains with us today, as the auto industry attempts to attract youthful buyers who seem more interested in Ipods than IROCs.
Anyway, Weiland’s article really connected with me.  Is the love affair with a car – washing, waxing, desiring, obsessing, fantasizing, nothing more than males with unresolved psychological conflicts and sexual inadequacies sublimating unfulfilled sex into thoughts and actions focused on a metal and plastic thing? Can one generalize that idea to extend to some other material goods?
The upshot of all of this is that one may argue that beginning in the 1960s, as American males became far more free sexually, they became less fixated on cars. Put another way, loving another person was preferred to the washing, waxing, and working on a car. And that is the dilemma facing auto makers today.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Some Photos from the Nurburgring -- Vintage Racing Cars

Thanks to Tyler Chambers!  More photos next few days!  Can you identify?

Looks like a Bentley?

Stealing Gas

Hans Hartwig,  one of my summer students here in Leipzig, submitted a short piece on stealing gas out of a tank as an unsolicited attempt to gain extra credit as an addition to the mid-term test grade.
He wrote:
"So just this past week, my sister was driving back from Washington DC to Wisconsin. Of course Dayton is exactly in between my hometown and where she lives in DC. So a stop in Dayton overnight and a visit to the Pine Club was necessary.
Unfortunately, while she slept at the Marriott, someone siphoned her gas and she lost almost all of her tank. I wanted to do a little research about how to protect my car from gas thieves when I return to Dayton in August.
Here are a few I came up with.

1) Buy a lock -- most of them cost between $10 - 20.
2) A company called Tiss makes fuel tank safeguards that allow for refueling w/o a lock and key system.  Effective on almost any fuel tnak. company based in UK.
3) avoid the use of gas altogether. use public transit, a bike, or an electric car to get around.
4) Have a button installed that locks the tank and can only  be opened on the inside of the car.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Zwickau, the first home of Audi

Hi folks -- the class made the trip to Zwickau today and a a visit to the Horch/Audi Museum there. It is a better museum than I remember it from our 2009 trip, and highly recommended.  A very reasonable gift shop, and friendly staff and docents.  Best cars -- certainly a type C Rennwagen; pre-WWII DKWs; plenty of rare and enlightening memorabilia, including licenses from the 1920s  and 1930s, and service equipment;  excellent film footage from the 1930s, 40s and 50s; a German general store circa 1930; and 1960s and 1970s Trabants and associated accessories. Great supporting photographs take you back in time well beyond the cars themselves.

 A 1934 Audi, engine based on tooling from the American Rickenbacker

 A late 1930s (1937) Wanderer
 Type D Rennwagen
 Audi headquarters move to Chemnitz, 1936

Can you identify these 1950s American cars that are being transported on haulers?

This one could be tricky!

                                          An orphan that Bob Ebert would know about!

You have to get this one right!

                                          I am not sure about this car on right.

                                          As easy as pie!

Ed Garten can get this one in his sleep!

                                              Another Ebert special!

Thanks to Peter Haigh for forwarding me these unusual photos.  A nice break from the German stuff recently.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Leon, a Polish Cat -- the best cat ever!

Hi-- not a car post this morning -- just about my trip across the border from Gorlitz, Germany and my new friend Leon, a terrific cat.  This guy was walking through a restaurant while we were eating on the terrace.  He promptly took a seat with us, cleaned himself off,  and relaxed.  I generously petted him and massaged his neck, and he became my best friend, allowing me hold him.  In a world of stress and rush, Leon is a needed character.

But despite my desire to take him back to Germany, Leon belongs where he currently lives cheering up the lonely traveler.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

At BMW Leipzig -- What is Quality?

During the week at BMW Leipzig we had a presentation by W. Heinrich on Quality.  Is quality what BMW defines it as?  Or is it what the customer thinks?
BMW follows the Problem Management Process -- PMP.

It begins with the engineering phase where you need to connect with the customer -- it is then that you need to find most of the quality problems. Fewer should be found at the production phase,  and even less at the customer and service phase.

Long term product tests are in place at 40,000 and 80,000 km.

Not Everyone believes BMW rhetoric however.  Read this by blogger Chris Parente:

 I’ve been worrying about BMW reliability lately. And not about either my M3 or my 530. It’s how BMW’s quality and reliability have worsened in recent years.
A little background — I don’t buy new   BMWs, I like to buy lightly used ones that have been well maintained by their owners. So no one in Munich (or New Jersey, BMW’s NA HQ) cares what I think. Plus, I know and accept the fact that German cars require more preventative maintenance than American or Japanese cars. The payoff is (or at least was) a more engaging, enjoyable driving experience.
But reliability is getting worse, and the word is getting out. The complexity of new BMWs is through the roof, and they are having loads of computer and electronic problems. Consumer Reports ranks the 135i and 335i models as below average for reliability, and Kelley Blue Book ranks the overall value of the current 3 series as “poor” in its Cost to Own index.
Part of the problem is the total lack of maintenance most of the cars receive. Back when owners paid for maintenance, BMW had a long list of items that needed regular attention. You can get that list via an email request to Mike Miller, Tech Q&A columnist for Bimmer Magazine. His email is
Now that BMW pays for new car maintenance, suddenly cars need nothing but oil changes every 15,000 miles! The rank hypocrisy is galling to me. BMW is selling cars today that are disposable after 100,000 miles.
That may be OK for some buyers, who never plan to have the car that long. It’s disastrous for enthusiasts like me, who typically want to own and drive cars well past the end of the extended warranty period — in BMW’s case that’s 6 years or 100K miles, whichever comes first.
BMW might respond hey, our sales are up so we’re giving customers what they want. And you Americans should be thankful our cars don’t cost even more. We have to sell BMWs for less in North America due to the large number of competitors, and we get killed on the exchange rate due to the weakened dollar.
But let’s look closer at those sales numbers. Keep in  mind 2009 was a historically bad year for auto sales. According to, BMW sales in North America were up 12% in July year to year. However, Audi sales were up 17%, Acura sales 44% and Porsche 68% (admittedly from a much smaller base).  The competition has upped their game — what does BMW represent today besides brand cachet and high cost?
Speaking of Mike Miller, he hit it on the head in the latest issue of Bimmer Magazine. There’s no link available, so I include the response below. Mike is responding to a reader writing in concerned about buying a used E90 M3 (the current body style). Even with not including the full reply it’s long – but a good read.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BMW Production Methods: Day Two, an exercise with A Lego Car

Day 2 at BMW centered on a BMW employee teaching the students the BMW production system.  The Presentation, by Herr Rieger, was quite thorough and featured the Toyota system as modified by BMW.  To amplify the presentation Mr. Rieger had students break up into three teams of four each and develop a production system to assemble a Lego car.  Not as easy or childish as it looks. There were 5 attempts to hit a target of 40 seconds. While no team accomplished this, one team (Hilary, Evelyn, Peter, Zack)  consistently out did all the others, and  could put together a car in about 1 minute 5 seconds. The last exercise involved a switch of teams to take over existing systems devised by another team, and here the weakest team actually did quite well with the system devised by the best team.

We learned about waste, push, pull, flexibility, and far more today.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Four Stages of Automobile Consciousness, 1895-2012

Hi folks -- some material taken from a Powerpoint related to a lecture that I am giving at BMW-Leipzig later today. The first three pages are based on an important paper published in the American Quarterly in 1972 by Professor James Flink:

The Four Stages:

•1895-1910: From the introduction of the motor vehicle to the opening of the Ford Highland Park plant in 1910.
•1910-1958: The mass idolization of the automobile and mass accommodation to automobility.
•1958-1980: The emergence of the motorcar as a major social problem.
•1980-2012: A complex, at times ambivalent, pluralistic response reflective of race, class, political ideology, and generation
Stage 1 --  The Pioneer Era, 1895-1910
Characterized by the rapid development of an attitudinal and institutional context that made the automobiles domination of American civilization inevitable.
It was envisioned that within the foreseeable future a utopian horseless age would dawn

Why America where the automobile was adopted so readily?
.Volume production commonplace
Abundance of raw materials.
A more equal income distribution than Europe.
Absence of tariff barriers between states.
The motor was always seen as cleaner safer and more reliable than the horse.
It fit within prevailing notions of American individualism – control over the physical and social environment and as a status symbol.

Stage 2 -- the Automobile as the backbone of a consumer -oriented society
By 1920s first in value of product, 3rd in value of exports
The lifeblood of the petroleum industry
One of the chief customers of the steel industry
The biggest consumer of plate glass, rubber and lacquers 

Stage 3 -- The automobile at the the center of a religion
“…at the root of America’s disproportionate reverence for automobility there is something profoundly sexual.  Few people give ultimate devotion to sex; their really ultimate devotion goes to religions like this one.” – theologian Martin Marty, 1958

Stage 4 -- 1980-present

Most difficult to sort out
Has the automobile age ended as in the 19th century the open American frontier became settled?
However, the automobile remains key to America’s prosperity, as government can employ only so many and do only so much!
The love affair was tempered by the fact that the peak of our per capita income was reached in the 1968
Perceptions of the automobile refracted through race, class, political ideologies, and generational differences.

Despite the critics, in general and part from the wishful thinking of bi-coastal intellectuals, Americans will always be wedded to the road and their automobiles! (They may be electric, however! And the most successful will be fun to drive.)
It is a part of our innate restlessness and mobility.
It provides psychological satisfactions that mass transit cannot.
It plays into our notions of individualism and freedom, class mobility, and status.
Many different fragmented groups will continue to love the cars they own, and to value cars from the past.