GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Super Bowl Statistics: Hurting Women

At a automotive journalist meeting recently, I asked a luxury car company why they would spend more than $4 million dollars for thirty seconds of advertising to an audience of about 54 million homes, most of which have just enough budget to put out a bag of Doritos and stack the refrigerator with beer.  While the viewership was clocked at 111 million how many of those individual viewers include grandparents who have already bought their last car and children with no drivers licenses, people who don’t have enough money to buy a new car and city dwellers who don’t own a car and the cats and dogs who are hoping food will drop from the hands of the inebriated?  The non-sequitur answer was that the Super Bowl enhanced the brand’s image because of the exposure.  Seriously?  These days, you’re not in the game if you don’t have a Super Bowl ad.

Let’s look a little deeper into this—one with a moral slant.  According to Nielsen demographic data, 46 percent of the Super Bowl viewing audience is female, and more women watch the game than the Oscars, Grammys and Emmys combined.  Looking at auto registrations in 2014, women purchased 40 percent of the more than 16 million cars and trucks bought last year.  So on paper it certainly seems justifiable for auto companies to place their ads on the SuperBowl to reach all those women.

But let’s shape automotive advertisers decisions with some additional statistics to see if the Super Bowl is really the place to reach women.  The NFL players histories of domestic violence goes back long before last year when we witnessed on video Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend and dragging her unconscious out of an elevator.  No one who was alive in 1994 will forget the Los Angeles police chasing O.J. Simpson who was speeding away from of the scene of a murder of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman—for which he was ultimately acquitted.  

Before that, according to a 1994 article in the The Washington Post, 140 current and former professional or college football players were reported to the police for violent acts against women from 1989 to 1994.  In their book, Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL, Jeff Benedict and Don Yaeger reported that they did criminal background checks randomly of 500 players.  Twenty-one percent had a record for a serious crime and the predominate crime was domestic violence.

View a USA Today database that shows 713 arrests of NFL players from 2000 to 2014.  Of those arrests, 85 were related to domestic violence. Read the current scandals about college sports “heroes” who never went to class and convictions for sexual assaults.

Until the Ray Rice video, the NFL’s stance on the crimes of their players towards women was that they are responsible only for what happens in the game not what happens in the personal lives of their players.  Now they are making changes and doing something about their players propensity to hurt women because some advertisers balked.  How much more responsible toward women would it have been if the NFL had stood up and taken a position against domestic violence?  But it took a push notice from the money people before they acted.  

How important it would have been to women if auto companies had spent that $4 million (not including the cost of making the ad) on television fighting the issue of domestic violence.  These companies would have received more in the good will they generated—and in turn, sales—than they ever get from the wings and Doritos event in the dead of winter.

Volvo is the only car company I know of who cleverly piggybacked on Superbowl’s mega audience.  Sure they used their tiny budget to generate publicity because they can’t spend like the big guys.  The effort was called, The Volvo Interception, and it began at 6:30 p.m. ET on Superbowl Sunday. Whenever any car commercial aired during Super Bowl, people could tweet with the hashtag #VolvoContest to tell Volvo who they think deserved a brand new Volvo XC60. The Tweeter then had to say why his or her nominee was chosen. Five potential winners were selected by judges.  Not only have they done some good—albeit in the realm of the Super Bowl, but they did an end run around the big spenders.  For that I give them an “A” in creativity.

I’d love to give an “A” to a CEO who would stand up in front of America and refuse to participate in an event that harbors domestic abusers.  Mary Barra? And apologies to the players who are just immensely talented individuals who don’t hurt women—but they should also be fighting this epidemic.  What if we women agreed not to buy cars that were advertised on the Super Bowl? I brought a book to a Super Bowl party I attended for family.  Go Volvo!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Golf Made Easy--Not the Game--Just Transporting the Clubs

DV8 Bag With Clubs
by Mark West

"Golf without obstacles" was inventor Pat Brady's mantra during the five years it took to develop an golf bag the size of an ordinary backpack.  He was thinking of how to overcome the obstacles of weight and space to make golf accessible, convenient and affordable.  The result was this ingenious bag that fits an entire set of clubs and includes another compartment for an iPad or laptop to make practice sessions more effective.  

DV8’s patented, stainless steel coupler technology fits all the titanium and stainless steel club heads, which can be interchanged on one or two custom shafts in less than three seconds, with no tools or torque wrenches required.  Urban dwellers, frequent fliers, and small car owners can have a golf set that allows them to get on the course by subway or take clubs with them on business trips. The DV8 set is half the weight and about one fourth the size of a conventional set of golf-clubs. The design of the set makes it compact and light.   

Dubbing themselves “the Brady Bunch team” the company officials studied how to make playing golf more enjoyable, how to make practice more fun, and how to grow the game. “It's designed for the golfer whose primary goal is enjoyment.

“Our clubs represent a turning point in the industry, allowing more people to enjoy the game regardless of where they live, how they travel, or what they drive,” said Richard Stamper, president and CEO, DV8 Sports.

A complete DV8 set of clubs with shaft and the portable backpack-style bag weighs less than 15 pounds. Independent studies have shown there is no statistical difference in performance between DV8s clubs as compared to three of golf's leading brands.  Golf without obstacles was the idea that made PGA professional Rick Smith an member of the Brady Bunch team.  "We have to make golf more enjoyable," he said recently. "To grow the game, it needs to become more convenient for the vast number of players who play just for fun."  Smith is shown in a video demonstrating how quickly the club head can be changed ( Since peaking in 2003, the total number of golf participants has declined by 4.8 million or about 16 percent, according to a recent study conducted by the National Golf Foundation (NGA).  DV8 closely evaluated the golfing industry and figures there are a potential 39 million golfers being overlooked.
DV8 Club Array

These are not the hard-core golfers; they are occasional and latent golfers--the ones who play for fun. What prevents them from golfing are hurdles like the expense of owning a set of clubs that are used only occasionally and the challenge of transporting a typical set of clubs. DV8 Sports has come up with a way of solving those problems.
If not worried about your GHIN index or PGA rules or tournament play; if the name of your game is “fun and enjoyment” deviate and take a close look at DV8 Sports. DV8 Sports offers a range of sets including the convenient storage bag; the Starter at $499.95, the Practice at $699.95 and the Play (the complete set)  at $899.95. These sets can be customized also. To order a set or for more information go to     

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beetle Love-Redux

2.5 L 2014 Beetle
If I'm feeling alone in the world I just remind myself how many other VW Beetle lovers are out there.  We love Beetles.  I was even crazy enough to buy a 1962  to restore. But the new cars have the engine in the front and they are changed in so many other ways--like they have working heaters--and as far as I am concerned they are wonderful in a different--OK, better--way than previous incarnations.  I just drove the 2014 VW Beetle TDI diesel.  My love for the car is pulsating once again.  And here's a fact you might not know: in 2014, the Beetle celebrates 65 years in America.

It's tricky to quantify how many Beetles have been produced, but VW's latest figure as of a few years ago is 21.5 million worldwide and 4.8 million in the U.S.  It's the most successful single car design ever, having overtaken the Ford Model T in 1972.  With the 2011 all-new Beetle,Volkswagen has done a revitalization that taps into the Beetle's classic design cues.  In that way, it's different from the 1997 reintroduction New Beetle, which had more of a cartoonish quality to it--the defining lines in that car were all based on the circle.  While this Beetle has tapped into the retro feeling of the car, it is in no way a retro car. The balance needed to create a new car with nods to the past is very, very hard to achieve.  Previous attempts--vehicles like the PT Cruiser, the Chevrolet HHR and others haven't turned out very well.  But this Beetle is, to my eyes, great.

Our 2014 2-door hatchback Beetle was powered by an inline 4-clylinder TDI clean diesel engine that produced 140 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque (and remember, it's the torque that counts).  It was paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.  VW uses electronic power steering that now has more feel to it than earlier incarnations.  It had a good on center feel to it and combined with the responsive engine, the car simply sails off the line.  It was just a blast to drive.

The Dune
It has a power sliding roof--I don't usually like the moonroof but this was an exception.  The navigation and Fender audio were a pleasure to use.  And the new VW comes with some features that I increasingly think belong in a car--at least in the northeast, like heatable seats and side mirrors.  No indication that the steering wheel is heatable, and that is another feature I would look for in a vehicle I'd buy.

The styling and roominess of the interior is surprising as we tend to think of Beetles as midgets--but the new models and especially the newest model provides plenty of space even for the long of leg and arm. I found the seats solid and comfortable.

VW has a maintenance program that provide scheduled, approved maintenance free for two years.  The Vehicle limited warranty is 3 years/36,000 miles and the power train limited warranty is 5 years/60 miles.  VW provides roadside assistance packages included for 3 years/36,000 miles.

Fuel economy is 29 city/39 highway/32 combined.  We did a lot of highway driving and got around 37 during the test drive.  The Beetle we drove cost $29,415 including destination and I think that's a good price for this fun, roomy, functional car.  If you want it in orange, get the Dune.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Saving Pennies When Gas Prices Go Up

It seems un-American that gas prices go up just as working families get a few days to drive their cars to have some fun.  But it’s not a conspiracy.  There are reasons why gas prices increase in the spring and summer.  Demand increases because of vacations and that stretches the supply.  When natural disasters occur the price increases because transportation is disrupted or refineries are damaged.  One consistent reason is that energy companies conduct maintenance on their refineries in the spring, shutting them down and limiting their capacity until late May.  This shutdown allows them to change the fuel supply. 

This change in the fuel supply, which happens twice a year in the U.S., is known as the seasonal gasoline transition and this is the biggest reason for the increase in price during summer months. Gas sold during the summer is different and more expensive to produce  because of the ingredients it contains and because the refineries close. 

The seasonal fuel change was initiated in 1995 as part of the Reformulated Gasoline Program (RFG), which was established through the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the program to reduce pollution and smog during the summer ozone season, which occurs from June 1 to Sept. 15.  Summer-grade fuel burns cleaner than winter-grade fuel, causing it to produce less smog and releases less toxic air pollutants.

The estimates of the actual difference in cost of production is hard to pin down.  Estimates exist of an increase of only one cent to two cents per gallon. Other estimates range from three cents to 15 cents per gallon. 

The good news is that hot weather can actually increase your fuel economy. A vehicle’s engine warms up to an efficient temperature faster; summer grades of gasoline can have slightly more energy; and warm air causes less aerodynamic drag than cold air.
However, keeping passengers comfortable in hot weather by rolling down the windows or using the air conditioning (AC) can reduce fuel economy.
The guilty party, of course, is the car’s air conditioner.  An air conditioner reduces fuel economy in hot weather.  Under very hot conditions, AC use can reduce a conventional vehicle's fuel economy by more than 25%.  The AC's effect on hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles (EVs) can be even larger on a percentage basis.  How much less efficient depends on the outside temperature, humidity and intensity of the sun.  Open windows can increase aerodynamic drag.  At highway speeds your vehicle needs more energy to push through the air.  But you can’t suffocate.  Here’s advice for improving fuel economy in hot weather: 

Roll the windows down at lower speeds; use the AC at highway speeds.
Don't use the AC more than needed or set the temperature lower than needed.
Drive with the windows open for a short time before using the AC. Letting hot air out of the cabin first will put less demand on the AC and help your vehicle cool faster.
Don't idle with the AC running before driving. Turn the AC on after you begin to drive or after airing out the cabin briefly. Most AC systems will cool the vehicle faster while driving.
Read your owner's manual. Most manuals explain how the AC system controls work and how to best use and maintain the AC system.
For plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, pre-cooling the cabin while plugged into the charger can extend your vehicle's range. Also, using a warmer temperature setting for the AC will use less battery power.
Park in the shade or use a sunshade so that the cabin doesn't get as hot.

While these tips may seem obvious, most consumers crank their air conditioner and often do the exact opposite of what is recommended.  If you’re looking to save a few pennies, a few conscious changes in the way you cool down may be the answer.  Happy summer!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Teens Biggest Killer

Teenagers think they know more than adults and consider themselves invincible. Convince them otherwise.  Today’s teens are so worldly, we’re sometimes fooled into believing they are more mature than they are.  But teens are still children and they still make stupid mistakes, some of which are fatal. But adults do stupid things too.  And children notice.

Reading the headlines it might seem that the biggest killer of teenagers is drugs.  But that isn’t the case. According to a study conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide and made possible by a $2 million grant from General Motors Foundation, more teens die in motor vehicle crashes than from any other cause of death.  (The second most common cause of death is homicide and the third is suicide according to Safe Kids data from 2010.)  The toll is about 2,500 per year or 8 out of every 1,000 teens. Fatalities are split between teen drivers (56 percent) and passengers (44 percent).  In half of these fatalities, teens were not wearing seat belts.  While the number of fatalities has decreased 56 percent since 2002, behavior has not changed much.

Safe Kids found that half the teen passengers and slightly less than half of the teen drivers who die in fatal crashes are not buckled up and that hasn’t changed over the last decade.  Only about ten percent of passengers and six percent of drivers are unrestrained in non-fatal crashes.

In interviews with about 1,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 19, Safe Kids explored behaviors and thoughts when they ride in cars with other teens.  They learned that teens start riding more regularly with other teens at around age 15.  About ten percent of the 13 year olds traveled in cars with other teens every day or a few times week compared to 23 percent of 16 year olds.  Three times as many 16 year olds die in crashes as 13 year olds.  Research has been done in the past that has shown that compared to teens who are not transporting any teen passengers, having one teen passenger in a car with a teen driver increases the risk of a crash by 44 percent.  Two passengers double the risk and three or more passengers increases the risk four fold.  

Using a seatbelt is one of the easiest ways to prevent fatalities. Safe Kids found that many of the teens who did not use seat belts every time are more likely to have parents who don’t always use them.

Their top reasons for not using seat belts were that they forgot or weren’t in the habit (34 percent), they did not use them if they weren’t traveling far (16 percent), they were uncomfortable (11 percent) or they were in a hurry (five percent).  Teens interviewed think the main reason why other teens don’t buckle up is because they aren’t going far.

Teens learn these habits from their peers, but they also watch their parents behavior.  Teens reported seeing their parents unbuckled, texting while driving, talking on the phone, speeding or under the influence.  While 49 percent said they felt unsafe driving with a teen driver, 31 percent said they felt unsafe driving with an adult. 

Parents can influence their teenagers’ behaviors by driving responsibly always in front of their kids.  That means always buckling up so that it becomes a habit with children before they ever start to drive.

In addition, Safe Kids advocates for strong public policies.  The graduated driver’s license and night driving curfews have lowered risks.  Other best practices that need to be considered include zero tolerance for alcohol, a ban on texting and use of distracting technologies, limiting the number of teen passengers, no violations of mandatory seat belt laws for drivers and passengers, learner’s permit stage starting no earlier than age 16; full driving privileges at 18, at least 50 hours of driver’s education and adult-supervised driving.  Police should not be restricted from stopping drivers for these offenses.  Many states prevent them from doing so unless the driver is speeding or engaged in some other serious violation like running a red light.

Public policies will help.  But the buck stops at home.  Ask your kids to play it safe.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ford Mustang’s 50th birthday party swings at the World's Fair site in Queens

Here's my coverage of the New York Auto Show:

 Read more:

There's tons more at the New York Daily News website.