Friday, 18 August 2017

The 2017 Summer Escape – Dreaming of the Sandman




The recent sad events in Barcelona have cast shadows over vans and cars.

These long endemic societal enablers that mobilised millions and built countries, now momentarily viewed as social disablers when deployed maliciously.

But such events as a direct impact upon the average individual are still extremely improbable.

And as such vans and cars must continue to be recognised as the near miracles of mobility that they actually represent, and not as potential weapons against the public by a miniscule number of antagonists.

(NB recognise the immeasurable social relief brought about every day thanks to the motorised capabilities of the emergency services).

So, as we enter the 'back-end' of summer what better depiction of the holiday spirit and the joy of FUNctional mobility than the iconic 1970s Australian Holden Sandman.

This car-derived ute and van 'hybrid' served what was then still an up and coming nation, used as both daily work-horses and weekend/holiday retreat mechanisms.

So helping to take the nation itself from a global 'backwater' toward its full potential of economic maturity and a global cornerstone.

The spirit of this utility-van now seen elsewhere across the globe, by GM, VW, FIAT and others, from Brazil to South Africa to SE Asia and far beyond - even as 'proper pickups' take increased market share - and wherein some of tomorrow's generations will inevitably be conceived thanks to many people's own 'highway holidays' to the coast and their own experience of a 'summer of love'.

In need of its own escape, the investment-auto-motives weblog returns in mid September.






Friday, 4 August 2017

Intermission - Imparting Automotive Passion that Propels Economic Activity (Part 2) - Jay Leno...the Auto-Patron




Though obviously well known in the US as host of the legendary 'Tonight Show' on NBC, James Douglas Muir Leno has become almost legendary in his own life-time amongst car enthusiasts because of his personal and monetary devotion to vehicles 'en mass'.

No matter in which country a 'petrol-head' resides, thanks to the reach of the internet many millions are now wholly aware of the efforts of this man to both concentrate the historical 'intellectual wealth' of the auto-industry, and also participate in the continued evolution of this broad sphere; done so via the youtube and latterly TV based 'Jay Leno's Garage'.

Born of Italian-Scottish parentage in New Rochelle, NY State, (its name derived from French New World settlers) his formative years were spent in Andover, Massachusetts, amongst the 'New England' states (with numerous English derived place-names).

So paradoxically whilst although obviously 'All-American', it was inevitable that growing-up with the diverse and manifold 'old countries' influences of the Atlantic North East undoubtedly influenced Leno's understanding and outlook from a young age; providing historical and cultural breadth, leading to 'avenues of appreciation' that would be latterly become exemplified in his immense car collection.

Moreover, 'New England' itself provided a rich seam of multi-layered contextual interest, since it was the heartland of America's own industrial revolution from the 1770s onward This involved many production ('manufactory') centres, from textiles to the beginnings of precision manufacturing in armaments - which of course together with the systemisation of the butchery trade directly influenced Henry Ford's business model for the Model T in Detroit (another town with French origins).

Interestingly, because of the historical social dynamic 'New England' had always been a divergent mix; of the 'first-class', 'third-class' and incoming 'second class'. The long-rooted wealthy old-families maintained a virtual stranglehold of the 'high-brow' in land-ownership, education, politics, finance, industry and trade, etc, thus entrenched as the 'first-class' elite. Whilst the majority were effectively agriculturally and factory tied 'third class' whites, who had left Ireland and Scotland during the famine and earlier land clearances.

However, the regional demographic shifted when second generation, American born Irish, Italians and Poles moved out from New York and into New England in search of a better life, new opportunities and to form their own futures as entrepreneurs.

Leno's father was one of those men who moved-out of a grimy, heavily tribal and corrupt/criminal New York for the ideal of open air, broader horizons and golden summers for a future family. For much of the early to mid 20th century, it was this 'imported dynamism' of the entrepreneurial and hard-working 'immigrant classes' that helped propel New England's economy.

Although the region experienced the beginnings of industrial decline after WW2 in lower value sectors, thus seeing the decline of the working and lower middle classes, at least the counter-force existence of 'MIT' meant that the region enjoyed a concerted effort to create new high-level industries and re-generate mid-level sectors, aswell as providing academically led 'thought leadership' for the broader USA.

This broad context of mixed peoples, historic internationalism, industrial-commercial development and a sense of 'futurism' appears to have “cast the die” for the substrate of Jay Leno's interests and character, beneath the comedic surface.

Very telling is his story about his father, a man who when he had the opportunity to buy a new car took-up the American Dream by purchasing one of the biggest cars ever made: an early 1970s Chevy Station Wagon; since size was considered a determinate of success. So although Jay Leno himself is third generation American-Italian, and thus typically more 'fine-tuned' to societal nuance, this perfectly scripted sociological episode of family history, even at the time, was undoubtedly recognised for what it was, even before his father's open and honest explanation about self-rewarding symbolism.

Hence Leno's fascination for all divergent facets of the world about him, and specifically his broad social and inter-personal observations and analysis, which provided the basis and material for his later stand-up comedy and talk-show careers.

And similarly appreciation for the wide spectrum of cultural variety and nuance importantly has also shaped his appreciation for the world's widely diverse, eclectic automotive history, its own origins in very different socio-economic cultures and the aligned resultant technical solutions and outcomes.

[NB Many examples exist but two such brand-specific examples being:

1. the post-war governmental policies and corporate ambitions of France, illustrated by with the world of difference between Citroen's rudimentary Deux Cheveaux of 1948 and its highly sophisticated DS19 of 1955.
2. the American Nash model fitted-out for travelling salemen (to avoid hotel/motel costs) with fully reclining 'bed' seating, and provision of the first true in-car air-conditioning unit created by its Kelvinator home and business refrigeration division].

But where and how did his fascination begin?

It seems that first exposure to such socio-industrial learning came when the young Leno worked as a Saturday Boy at a local (inevitably 'high-end') European-imported car dealership, seemingly dedicated to: Mercedes, Volvo, SAAB, BMW, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Citroen and Jaguar. These cars so beloved by the real and aspirant 'Ivy League' set, as well depicted by Dustin Hoffman's Alfa-Romeo Duetto in the film 'The Graduate'. As a Saturday job, this was relative privilege, since most of his counterparts in auto-dealerships and repair shops were limited to the everyday products of Detroit's Big Three.

As such there would have been stories about the customers who bought and owned the incoming cars, themselves amongst both the upper echelon elite and the then small but increasing coterie of New England liberals (teachers, professors, PhD researchers, pyschologists etc). Presumably for a lower middle-class young man questions would abound: “who were they?”, “what they did they do?”, and “how important were they”. Inevitably then an 'in the field' study of a thin but rich slice of a rarefied auto-culture.

His natural curiosity for 'conceptual deconstruction' of the world around him is illustrated by his college course choice in Speech Therapy, this choice presumably influenced by his own formative problems in reading and writing (self stated as dyslexic). But that mindset – very probably together with the need to 'battle harder' in the world to overcome the limitation of dyslexia, and the inevitable social slights against Italians – provided the same 'deconstructive' investigative perspective to his growing fascination of automobiles, and thereafter the broader auto-industry.

The result of those early years of cars and people, and nigh on fifty years as a comedy-driven social deconstructionist has resulted in the public offering of Jay Leno's Garage.

A series whereby, although some conversational 'fall-back' repetition is inevitable so as to inject life into the subject, he is seemingly able to remember the minutia of detail about not only his own plethora of vehicles, but because of absorbed broad interest, also regards his guest's vehicles. This because whilst separate from the hands on work of vehicle restoration (fulfilling other 'celebrity' roles and admittedly not adept at mechanics, bodywork or electricals) he takes great interest in the detail of the repair and renovation works; as seen when describing the schedule of works for each of his own and other restoration projects, from even years ago.

No doubt this skill has grown from the need for contextual and specific recall from the early days of comedy performances (the stand-up routine plus theatre location/dates), and thereafter in TV the need to inevitably speed-read his guests' PR resum├ęs or details of their latest film, TV series, achievements etc, to ensure the on-screen conversation naturally flowed.

[NB Observation, lateral thinking and cross-contextualisation, much else....and timing....have been the cornerstones of intelligent comedy for decades, which given direct injection into people's minds has thus influenced western and now global society's humoristic speech formulae. In most circumstances humour provides 'social glue' and enables the ability to become a 'people person', which Leno has seemingly genuinely thrived upon.

(Though any decent person should always be aware of the disingenuous social 'schmoozers' who simply wish to make social connections to use others abilities or resources to their own advantage, this trend an unfortunate pandemic in the modern societal construct)].

In past episodes of 'JLG' it was noticeable that Leno would periodically appear momentarily disinterested in his guest whilst looking over a car. Whilst appearing rude (and so should obviously be self-recognised and overcome) the action obviously did not stem from the intentional rudeness. Instead, inevitably for people who have deep knowledge of a subject (and especially so if that person also has far broader responsibilities than the public might appreciate), there is a natural tendency to appear momentarily remote as his/her mind periodically switches off from overtly typical (and so 'regurgitated' conversation) to momentarily mentally attends to other matters of importance.

[NB the fact is that for specialists (and indeed polymaths) with a voracious appetite the 'same old' conversations can become irksome, especially so for 'people persons' who are essentially able to 'pre-read' the other conversational flow].

As a sociologocal aside, it should be noted that such people who have both intellectual and social depth (deconstructivism) and breadth, and so are able to foresee and pre-read what are all too often completely fabricated social situations, artificially presented as naturalistic to gain certain outcomes. Such people may become socially remote because of the agenda riven, dishonest, intercourse of others.

Herein, given his position, Leno has done very well to not to become a modern day Howard Hughes].

He has arrived at this broad knowledge thanks to a lifetime of indepth automotive interest, his increasing interaction fuelled by celebrity and wealth, but vitally aided by effectively professional research to enable the writing of various automotive magazine columns before the creation of his Garage, from Classis Car Magazine to Popular Mechanics. But it must be remembered that memory is only served well when prompted by enthusiasm.

And it is here that Leno excels.

As a “centre of the road”, “non-blue” and “non-alternative” comedian he operated in the great comedy tradition of something for all. The ability to impressively stand in that centre-ground meant he could reach a broad audience, trusted in front of children and grandparents alike; and hence his rise as host of 'The Tonight Show' at the age of 42, staying in situ for essentially 21 years.

His domestic and international audience reach obviously enormous by his departure. The next step was to take cultural reach and grasp and direct it toward the realm of all things automotive and mechanical, with obvious focus on cars.

Jay Leno's Garage has been broadcast in youtube video and now TV format for a decade, thus having to balance his efforts over both his 'evening shift' with the internal and external demands of JLG since 2014.

The vlog and programme has now become an evolved pillar of American auto-culture, spanning not just conversation and drives about specific weekly vehicle models, but itself a platform to exemplify and promote both the expansive world of motorised mobility (from military to the eccentric) and the newly emerged 'underling' US-centric start-ups and ventures that have emerged after the Great Financial Crisis in 2008. Leno views JLG as a publicly orientated 'output shaft' for the new engine of American enterprise.

The point to be made here is that because of fame and fortune he was able to fully indulge his automotive passions over a long period. But also seemingly recognised, perhaps from his origins, that unlike the transient and tempestuous world of Hollywood entertainment which sees people as little more than money-making products, the true heart of America had been built from the fundamentals of agriculture, industry, trade, retail, idealised consumerism, repair and replacement.

But whilst the movie and TV moguls of Hollywood were busy consistently generating and re-generating the 'American Dream', it relied upon the 'Average Joe' throughout America's economic rise that actually built the country, a country which Leno's grandfather (and many like him) viewed as the New World Utopia, when Old Europe was quickly fragmenting because of its own economic and power struggles.

Leno came from Middle America and to this day recognises the importance of Middle America – especially now given its massively shrunken demographic. It was the social construction of Middle America that made the country great, not the Wall Street boys, the Madison Avenue 'Mad Men' nor the Hollywood moguls and superstars; even if these groups seemingly embody the American Spirit and Dream, because of their proximity to capitalism.

Thus because of his roots and the Hollywood machine, Leno is a 'cultural-conduit', who having made his own historical mark in entertainment's 'hall of fame', seemingly now wishes to make a much deeper cultural impact across the broad fields of the American automotive arena.

As to whether the creation of the impressive collection and the subject platform of the show was truly autonomously evolved by Leno, or by external 'guidance' of the 'Hollywood machine', itself plugged into American soft-power efforts, is impossible to tell. But presumably its results from a meeting of both personal and national aims.

There are numerous other car collections across the USA, ranging from the Peterson Collection of 1920s and 1930s French 'couture' exotica, to the various dedication centres to the renowned drivers of yesteryear at the Indianapolis' 'Brick Yard', to the more recent past with Richard Petty and AJ Foyt NASCAR museums, and to the many 'Car is the Star' collections of TV and film vehicles, but JLG's remit appears to be to try and encapsulate the a breadth not seen before in the USA.

Typically most collections tend to be relatively focused and narrow, understandably so given direct relevant to the specific subject.

The only exceptions being rapidly declining state run collections which had a social remit to present the past, so presenting n often erratic broad range of vehicle types, with recognised focus on those local companies of the lost past.

However, since the 1980s these state-run enterprises have increasingly seen decline as the once healthy budgets of local municipals in the 1950s to the early 1990s shrank accordingly, so unable to retain visitor interest through the purchase new exhibits and stylistic refurbishment. This most prevalent in the 'Rust Belt' regions as local industry, commerce and so people disappeared, and wherein so much local and national history had previously been made. Hence the state owned collections were gradually sold-off or necessarily given away to better homes as museums closed.

So whilst the Motor Cities National Heritage Area was created in 1998, so as to generate a new era of culture-based wealth creation linked to Detroit's and Michigan's past, on a broader scale the outcome was that the story regards the socio-economic / industrial-consumer fabric of America has becoming effectively lost.

Hence, ultimately more reliance upon the very few major efforts of the private sector, the most recognised being the legendary Henry Ford Innovation Centre and associated 'Greenfield Village'.

But whilst this locality was once in the very American heartland it had produced and was able to then attract enormous visitor numbers, today this legendary site sits geographically off the beaten tourist path, especially so for the sizeable number of incoming Asian tourists who themselves want to experience the 'American (ie Californian) Dream'.

Thus, it is in a timely manner then that Jay Leno's efforts to fill his vast warehouse garage with all manner of vehicles and ephemera, accrued over the last 40 years or so, has come into being over the last decade, the decade in which the future trans-global importance of the BRIC, CIVETS, and 'Pioneer' nations has become properly recognised, and in which America is having to find its Animal Spirits once again.

In this realm Leno has become the most important 'new steward' regards much of the West's automotive past.

Precisely because of the immense diversity of vehicles collected – these obtained from a myriad of sources (from widows to defunct museums to private treaty sales) and obviously backed by an 'intelligence network' able to locate such items - no other collection appear to have such a diverse and characterful mix, from the 'everyman' spirit (of Chevrolet, Nash) to the aspirational (in Chrysler-Imperial) to the innovative (in Panhard, Citroen) to 'exotica' (of Bugatti, Lamborghini, McLaren) and back to the functional (as per the Lamborghini tractor) to radical 'home-built' specials (like the Shotwell, a mix of Morgan and TATRA layouts) to the limited-run special editions of mass manufactured vehicles (such as the Ford Shogun or the GMC [S-10] Syclone), and the yesteryear 'alternatives' of steam and electric power (with the Double and Baker respectively).

Exactly how 'Jay Leno's Garage' was ultimately formed will remain with Mr Leno and his closest associates, but over the past ten years or so the youtube channel and later TV programme has come to illustrate just how truly in love with the ideology and archetype of the car much of America still truly is.

At one extreme is the mature overtly wealthy car collector who pretends to be an aficionado of his vehicle and marque, even if plainly the case that he is really partakes for symbolic status and investment potential, and who in reality beyond the rhetoric knows little about the vehicle's history or its mechanics....perhaps none worse than some of the wholly self-absorbed egotistical 'Hollywood Set'.

The anti-dote amongst the worst of the wealthy are the less obvious, demure owners, participants and organisers who run the various Concour d'Elegance events and classic car meets all around the USA, Canada and increasingly Mexico and LatAm countries.

At the opposite extreme is the 'dirt-poor' young person to whom a car offers true mobility, independence and so freedom, and is in itself seen as an integral part of an absorbing history. He or she has either self-taught or been passed-down their mechanical knowledge, and has an evident fascination for their vehicle, even if ignorant about the 130 years of preceding motoring history.

That past that spans from the efforts of Cugnot's 'road-steam-ship' to Benz's first proper compact self-propelled car to the Model T Ford to the ambition of post-war Ferrari to Issigonis' Mini and onto the singular focus of today's Koenigsegg; aswell as the plethora of creations on 2,3 and 4 wheels during that journey.

To his eternal credit, Jay Leno purveys the best of both worlds simultaneously, his talks to young American engineers welcomed by college students to see and hear the revered elder statesman. He and his team, from the multi-skilled craftsmen, in the restoration department, the invisible administrators to those in video production, have created a site – physically and digitally - of true significance to the USA given its own resurgence ambition, and vitally enthused millions of people young and old in most corners of the world to appreciate the past and use those lessons to consider the future.

As such,, typically dressed in 'blue-collar' denim, subsumed ego and encyclopeadic knowledge, yet the public persona and connections to influence and so make things happen.

Jay Leno is the consummate 'Auto-Patron'.






Friday, 21 July 2017

Intermission – Imparting Automotive Passion that Propels Economic Activity – Jay Kay...Auto-Maton.



Jason Luis Cheetham was born at the very pivot-point when the 1960s ended and the 1970s began, and so it is only natural that much of his current car collection originates across these two decades.

He was born one of twin boys, his brother passing when only a few weeks old; so sharing a very rare personal happenstance with Elvis Presley.

Wikipedia relates the generalities of his background, professional and personal life, “hats and all”, but such a repetition is not the aim of this web-log.

Instead try to identify and interpret a few poignant and interesting observations regards the philosophy of his output.

A backdrop theme that emerged long ago was the way he and all in Jamiroquai were able to create seemingly simplistic but quite sophisticated 'funkadelic' musical composition and lyrical verse. And importantly use that performance platform to blend different strands of the macro (ie globally contextual) and micro (ie personal and lifestyle) interests.

As such Jay Kay become an enigmatic cultural totem in himself some time ago, and became intrinsic to the moulding of western consumer consciousness as the 21st century arrived and so implanting the sociological ideals for the century ahead. A major aspect of which has been the ability to increasingly meld the two historically antagonistic opposed ideologies of ecological mindfulness and conspicuous consumption.

It was twenty-one years ago in 1996 with the third album 'Travelling Without Moving', that cultural metamorphoses was seen to be underway. This when the band's endemically natural 'Buffalo Man' logo morphed into a Ferrari badge placed on carbon-fibre effect background.

Whether done in knowing or unknowing manner, that album cover itself acted as a cultural vehicle which helped set in motion the tremors of a new socio-economic idealism whereby eco-responsibility and luxury-opulance could be happily married, and moreover done so in a subtle manner via increased societal casualness with critically less apparent (hierarchical) social codification and artifice.

Thus some cornerstone albums, singles and music videos have been deliberately highly considered and constructed to present implicit reflections of the modern zeitgeist and its relative affect upon the human condition (eg 'Emergency on Planet Earth': ecological, 'Virtual Insanity': sociological, 'Automaton': technological), the big-picture issues that provide the philosophical pillars of the Jamiroquai brand.

Yet there is also a flip-side, one far more intrinsically human.

This invariably depicts Jay Kay as the archetype pop-star character in a pop-star world of luxury cars, personal jets, big houses, swimming pools, beautiful women, many apparent friends and seeming halcyon days. But critically unlike the use of such aspirational constructs in Hip-Hop, Rap and 'modern R+B' videos in which such items are used to display personal power, Jay Kay nearly always overlays the high-life visual upon lyrics about the very real shared human story of attraction, romance, love, relationship torment, loss, substance experimentation etc.

Thus, where a West Coast rapper might have deliberately worn a Rolex on his shirt sleeve (in the eponymous Agnelli style), Jay Kay instead “wears his heart on his sleeve” and in doing so reveals the quality of actually being self-effacing beneath the necessarily self-manufactured exterior.

So it seems only natural that those videos in which he bares his soul should also include his very well appreciated personal cars, which he visually transmits “on his own frequency”.

His personal car interest become known after the 1996 'Cosmic Girl' music video (from the album 'Travelling Without Moving') which included Lamborghini Diablo SE30, Ferrari F40 and F355.

But the breadth of that passion only really understood with what was a first true glimpse given by the TV series Fifth Gear's when the race-driver/presenters Vicki Butler-Henderson and Tiff Needell visited his home to purvey the likes of a Mercedes 600 Pullman, 300 SL Roadster and G-wagen, Bentley Continental S2 Mulliner Drop-Head, Lamborghini Miura, Ferrari 550 Maranello, FIAT 600 Abarth and Maserati A6G/54 (by Frua).

After 'Cosmic Girl' his individual cars took on their own music video guest-spots; done presumably because his creative life is so entwined, but also presumably to enable a rental fee from the overall video budget and to generate strong vehicle provenance as a cultural icon for improved future valuations of a vehicle.

In 'Cosmic Girl' - all about meeting a very rare type of girl, the three vying super-cars speeding through twisting roads, and in doing so provide the viewer with a proximity of the hi-energy felt when encountering that seemingly perfect person.

For 'Love Foolosophy' he compares the ethereal idea of love (indeed blind love) to that of the veneer of superstardom. This all too ironic analogy via knowing simulacra: driving along Corniche type roads in his Bentley S2 Mulliner convertible, wearing a mink coat and with supermodel Heidi Klum and Afghan dog on board.
The toss-away of the expensive coat depicts the comparative renouncement of materialism in recognition that the possibility of true love is superior to all else. Yet even with the best intention, the question posited is whether true love can actually exist, even with the best will, within the attractions of such a hedonistic and complex playboy environment? (where so much is social fakery to be part of the 'in crowd').

'Seven Days in Sunny June' sees a plethora of vehicles from hovercraft to monkey-bikes to a helicopter and the appearance of his yellow FIAT 600 Abarth. The lyrics recount the manner in which strong bonds of love can be formed through friendship for one person, but is not reciprocated by the opposite party. The setting is a hazy summer day filled with playful 'tom-foolery' and feel-good atmosphere, but marred by the disjointedness of what should be ideally a mutual feeling. Thus the theoretical perfection of riches and leisure is seen as at best a mere distraction.

'Feels Just Like it Should' interprets an 'acid trip' (or similar) with decayed urban visual parallels to the film Train Spotting (including 'the fall') and includes an imagined inner-world guide/tormentor.
He flips 'schizophrenically' between his real nerdy character and an imagined cool alter-ego when under the influence. With a 'trippy' reference to 'Love Foolosophy' he runs (akin to a dog) to catch a car, in this case the tail-fin of a specifically chosen immaculate 1962 Cadillac Elderado convertible (the year the Bentley S2 ended and intentionally aesthetically opposite). With a girl in the backseat and his guide/tormentor as driver he takes-on the imagined role of a dog, but his 'alpha-dog' relationship to the car and its occupants depicted by the registration plate of 'WUF' (one of many cross-referenced number plates in his videos). His sparking footwear reminiscent of a lyric line from 'Canned Heat', whilst other visual references reflect elements from the film 'The Matrix' (much cross-fertilised pop-cultural infusion also a mark). The 'trip' ends as his true nerdy self finds himself in a is thrown out of a brothel by his 'guide', who is actually a drug-pushing pimp.

'Black Devil Car' was reputedly written about his black Ferrari Enzo, anthropomorphism and relationship connectivity the central themes to the song. No video made as the song was less important on album track,  seemingly recorded like 'jam' session.

'Cloud Nine' was first publicised on the last episode of the recast (Le Blanc/Harris) Top Gear. Probably done so because the opening shots of the video filmed on a Spanish coast road are so auto-centric, the director deliberately creating visual shots reminiscent of those used in Steve McQueen movies.
The song and video recounts the remembered heartbreak of a past relationship, recognising that although his ex was beautiful, vivacious and funny (played by Monica Cruz) there was little substance beneath the high-lifestyle veneer and living in the moment. The video 'cuts' between a night-time red-lit beach-side bar and daytime of the road that leads to the bar.
Visual representation of the apparent initial commonality is brilliantly conveyed with the vehicle 'props' and cinema-photography. Jay Kay uses his own Ferrari 275 GTB/4 for road scenes and uses a colour matched Mercedes 280SE convertible (exterior and interior) driven by Cruz, highlighting the seeming strong match between the characters. However, the strikingly different bodystyles – architectural vs organic – highlights the true difference, as do their garments: her (affectational) formal status and glamour vs his 'nothing to prove' casualness.
The lyrics highlight that the man has moved-on to a better new relationship having been bitterly disappointed previously, that new relationship based on more than aspirational people, things and places.
The decision to never 'go back' is provided in a great visual ploy at the very end, when his Ferrari pulls up to the Mercedes, matching in colours and with the shot angle lining-up the chrome bumpers and chrome sill-strip of both cars perfectly, almost as if one. After a momentary pause, whilst remembering the reality of the matter, the Ferrari turns around and 'moves-on'.
(The video cross referencing continues with the cars' registration plates – AUTOM8 and COSMIC, both on California state plates, but filmed in Spain)

'Automaton' arrived in early 2017 and re-asserts Jamiroquai's focus on societal issues. It highlights the seismic impact of ever more immersive digital technology on the human mind and so behaviour and the world at large. Cyber-dehumanisation promotes the abandonment of public space and the physically interactive world, depicted as desolate and almost post-apocalyptic. Mental absorption of the digital world is all encompassing, but the warning is that this pre-ordained fixed world simultaneously depletes the person of true influence and so hollows-out the unconscious mind, as proactivity and creativity is subsumed to a reactivity devoid of complex humanity. Any truly creative person thus feels increasingly alienated from the world around them, related by the lyrical use of the book and film title 'The Man Who Fell to Earth'.
So a counter-culture need then to rail against and emphatically “over-ride” 'the machine'. This infers using the brilliance of the human mind to recognise highly powerful cyber-structures (eg 'suggested content') to beat the IT wizards that pull the strings of the human experience, who themselves are sat behind the corporate curtains.
Ultimately a one-man call for appreciation of the big-picture and the need for a mindful counter-balancing force so that humanity does not become a mass of automatons of the near all-powerful IT industry.


Throughout Jamiroqaui's video history it has been Jay Kay's use of his own cars (along with his renowned collection of hats, morphed into Jamiroqaui headgear) that has provided the all important additional personal touch, one which breaks down the typically existent 'fourth wall' between himself and audience.

And vitally, because of his upbringing as a singer's child, a strong sense of the absurdity of the music industry and pop stardom.

This well conveyed in the song 'High Times' illustrating the need for escapism from the psychological effects of extreme demands and exclusive rewards created by the wizards of music/entertainment industry. So swapping flash-bulb, paparazzi, luxury limousines for the anonymity of a utilitarian passenger van headed into the tropical rain forest.

Quite obviously, since “Emergency on Planet Earth”, Jamiroquai's 'eco-credentials' have snow-balled, 'Return of the Space Cowboy' re-affirming anti-hero stance that highlights the Earth's smallness and fragility in the breadth of boundless universe. The Buffalo Man logo deliberately used from the start to highlight the plight of nature if left to the outcome of man's ravenous commercial appetite for natural commodities, and specifically the devastating effects of deforestation on various increasingly endangered animal species.

(The Buffalo Man logo used to provide a kind of adopted tribal authenticity but critically to remind of the rapid decimation of the North American Buffalo in just a few decades during the mid 19th century, and its negative impact upon the great plains eco-system, the lack of manure to the thin top soil leading to the later dust-bowl effect).

That fascination toward the natural world has led to his raising awareness for conservation efforts toward a category of animals known as the Pangolins. Hardly known relative to the exposure of the big cats, elephants, whales etc, Pangolins are both forest and arid dwelling and very solitary, so very removed from popular consciousness but vital to biological diversity, since they in very few forms are the only sub-species of mammal with scale-plated coverings (formed from keratin).

The Pangolin name derives from Malaysian and described them as “the one who rolls-up”, this no doubt viewed as humorous and serendipitous to the man himself given the part 'roll-ups' have played in pop music for decades; from the unfiltered tobacco smoked by 'roadies' to the after-party 'pot' of band-members, groupies and friends.

In a world, indeed 'global village', that has become so devoid of true creativity in the arts and industry – true innovation over-shadowed by stylistic regurgitation - those who demonstrate themselves as both thought leaders and cultural creators ought to be better recognised, and indeed have more influence, than seems the case.

So whilst we live in a world where some music artists for good and bad reasons 'sell out' to big business (Apple Inc buying Dr Dre's 'Beats' a prime example), so arguably devaluing their cultural origins (as middle class 'Wiggers' think themselves 'straight out of Compton'), thankfully there are others with a different perspective. Because not born into inner-city poverty, they can see beyond the trappings and traps of great wealth, and so offer more meaningful 'food for thought', providing for cultural elevation.

The vehicles themselves used as multi-aspect cultural manifestations on and off screen, the car collection seemingly now more personal than ever before.

In our eclectic 'mash-up' modern age that seeks inspiration from all sources and proliferates the retro, never has the upper-class British restraint of the S2 Bentley been so well contrasted against the styling and colour excesses of a then futuristic Vignale-bodied Lamborghini Shooting Brake; whilst the detailing and bespoke colour combination of his Ferrari F12 Tour de France is the direct descendent of his 275GTB/4.

Moreover, he understands innate history and detail of much, absorbed like a sponge since childhood. If only all car collectors were as committed, creative and passionate in their endeavours. Historical appreciation and a curator's eye, are the hallmarks of a good collector, one who likewise invigorates a younger generation.






Thursday, 6 July 2017

Intermission – Imparting Automotive Passion that Propels Economic Activity – From Auto-Maton to Auto-Patron.




This web-log will continue enjoy an intermission over the next month or so, before considering the future 'shape' of Brazil and the 'fit' of its automotive sector

This once the necessary socio-economic reforms have been implemented to better align the country with its global competitors, and so avoid the likelihood of a possible 'middle-income trapped' economy. Arguably Brazil sits in a prime position to enable yet another era of economic progress, as long as it can create and implement a new “Grande Vision”.


However, in the meantime the topical intermission continues.

In the spirit of old BBC televisual intermissions – wherein monochrome focus upon a potter's wheel allowed the viewer the space of reflection - the following depicts the efforts of two men who epitomise absolute passion for the symbolism, societal impact and history of the motor car.

Critically, as the notional 'advanced West' becomes increasingly weaned-off the mid 20th century 'Autopia', with ideals of eco-consciousness enabled by e-connected urban efficiency, so the remainder of much of the world, from Azerbajan to Zimbabwe, seeks to continue to replicate the best of the West's automotive glory days with mass mobility and consumerism, achieved via yet greater integrated globalisation.

The new and further planned trans-continental trade-routes in road and rail across Asia, Africa and Latin America in turn propel B2B and B2C activities, and so lifestyle and vehicular aspirations.

But whereas those long established major cities with present or expectant pollution problems in today's BRIC and Pioneer nations will invariably follow the ULEV and pure EV pathway (presently policy-propelled by China), the likely emergence of new suburbia spread over vast tracts of land look likely to eventually replicate the Los Angeles growth model of the 'decentralised' town; wherein suburb after suburb becomes gradually enmeshed.
To this end, with the expectation of “proper homes” with driveways and family cars, the numerous millions continue to seek their own 'automotive nirvana', from the freedom and excitement provided to the youth of tomorrow in righteously 'selfish' personal cars (that must also imbue perhaps a hidden social consciousness), to the deeply considered multi-functionality in drive-train, packaging and style required by 'multi-mode' families who must consider not only their own ecological footprint, but who will also seemingly need to be seen as very visible propagators of the “Eco-Century”.

To simplistically 'culturally animate' these opposing perspectives, investment-auto-motives depicts the similarly nick-named, yet counterpoint characters, of Jay Kay and Jay Leno.

Both men have become renowned regards their personal passions for cars and vehicles, however their on-screen depictions – music videos vs subject specials – could be said to relate the highly ethereal (that creates the 'mood space') versus the enormously tangible (informative if not indeed didactic).

So to follow.....from Auto-Maton to Auto-Patron




Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Intermission - the Example of Anthony Clark Evans - From Back Lot Car Diffs to Centre Stage in Cardiff




Seemingly a million miles away from the investment topics of the auto-sector is the world of operatic singing, and the various competitions that bring forth astounding new talent. The pinnacle of which is the bi-annual event 'Cardiff Singer of the World', held at St David's Hall and sponsored by the BBC.

The operatic news press was abuzz at the 'wild-card' winner Catriona Morrison, given her late arrival from the lower ranks. Alongside the formal recommendation of the expert panel, the public voted for Louise Adler.

[NB This coalescence of Scottish-English winners subtly helping to quell the Scottish independence issue].

Other finalists were of Mongolian, Chinese-Australian and American backgrounds.

But it is the American, Mr Anthony Clark Evans – a baritone - that investment-auto-motives wishes to herald.

Unlike many budding opera singers, who from a young age are recognised as future potential and molded as such, with the multitude of supportive advantages therein from institutional grants to wealthy parents and patrons etc, Mr Clarke Evans had to rely upon himself, his self-determination and natural talent.

As a long-time aspirational singer, this man did all he could to finally get on track toward his goal, never giving-up even when things appeared dire. With such passion for his subject, itself necessarily underpinned by pragmatic real-life choices, he paved his path forward by working as a used car salesman for some time before being signed by Colombia Artists Management.

Those with such talent and appreciation of the higher art-forms usually also endemically have higher notions and expections of life itself and of course themselves. They see things very differently to those around them; focused upon the 'best' rather than the accepted 'standard'.

Thus it must have been painful to his very soul when he was stuck in a Kentucky auto-dealership selling cars and trucks to 'make ends meet'. Not so much the process in itself, though it can be soul destroying, but the fact that his mindset was so radically different to the archetypical mindset of the usual car sales person, who care little beyond 'shifting the metal'. His obvious sensitivity and consciousness must have been trampled in what is a 'cut and thrust' game between cross-town dealers, intra-state dealers and the newer collection of on-line operators.

[NB Perhaps especially regards the availability of dealer finance, a field which so soon after the financial crisis is once again peddling large credit packages to poor credit-history customers with little job security under the notion of low rates so as to sell vehicles].

More than his contemporaries, the achievement of Mr Clark Evans should be not only recognised but loudly applauded.

There is of course a parallel to the life story of Paul Potts – which itself inspired the film 'One Chance' starring James Corden...mobile-phone salesman turned opera singer. But the reality of having experienced the art-form, then forced to exist in the 'backwater banality' in a Kentucky town, is (without disrespecting that state) far more a tragedy than comedy.

Even more material in today's world where the upward mobility of so many has been made virtually impossible given the consequences of the 2008 crisis.

Mr Clark Evans is now well known at 'the Met' in New York and a number of other world class opera houses, having worked his way up from his beginnings in 'The Ozarks', well known for roles in La Boheme, Pagliacci and much else.

Today we live in a western-world in which people feel let-down and indeed beaten down, by badly performing economic structures, a lost faith in balanced politics, a fragmented society purported as cohesive, and the media's continual propulsion of celebrity-culture amid the masses who still seek to emulate at great cost, so creating a schizophrenic societal mentality precisely because people's reality is so far from the perceived. Critically the shattering of the post-WW2 'American Dream' in which the rise of 'mental disorders' is itself simply the natural human reaction to a new 'invisible tribe' attitude whereby deep financially-driven hostility is masked by friendliness and so the affects of hidden hypocrisy.

Unsurprisingly, for many a screen-focused existence is far better than the real thing.

In such an age the story of Mr Clark Evans needs to be highlighted more than ever, not told through the Hollywood screen or through Netflix, but in the everyday social intercourse of people.

It would reset the idea of 'everyday ambition' toward 'aspired perfection', and more importantly the ideal of 'everyday perfectionism' (in all things) an attitude which moulds the broad consciousness.

In the meantime it would be wonderful to think that a closer alliance could be formed between the high artistic aims of opera and that of similar world-class automotive exhibitions.

As such, given his professional background, his life's vocation means Mr Clark Evans is the perfect candidate to appear at the renowned events, whether Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Villa d'Este, Goodwood FoS, Hampton Court, etc which would provide for a level of sublime interaction.

Within popular culture since 1968 it has been the voice of Matt Monroe singing 'On Days Like These' (accompanying the winding drive of a Lamborghini Muira through the Italian Alps) that has been 'the' automotive signature tune

Perhaps it is time for something new in 2018 and onward, whereby each Concour's d' Elegance commissions new unique classical signature tunes. The sound of the human voice and orchestral instruments as counterpoint to the high pitched whine of starter motors and the explosions and tuneful exhausts of IL6's, V8's, V10's, V12's and W16's, would be glorious.

For it has been the creations of the artists of this world who have given life its very meaning for many, especially for those in less than convivial personal circumstances – in a true Rodolfo manner (as per 'La Boheme').

After all, let us not forget that the very basic metal-working shops in which the great carrozzeria performed their own 'rolling sculptures' - Figoni et Filashi, Farina, Pininfarina, Touring, Ghia, Vignale, Zagato, Bertone, Chapron, Vanden Plas, Barker, Mulliner, Park-Ward - were in the winter-times of decades past little different from the cold artistic lofty garrets of painters, poets and playwrights.

(So how poetic it is that one of the automotive artistic greats - Marcello Gandini - who shares the name of a Boheme character, appeared to live 'la dolce vita', created the signature wheel-arch from supercars to coaches, had a father who himself was an orchestral conductor).

Thus it is heart-warming to witness the rise of someone who through ambition, effort and talent has risen to the heady heights of classical singing.

For used car salesmen it was once (and perhaps still is) an old 'trick of the trade' to cure any worrisome audible whine of a car's 'diff' (axle differential) by adding saw-dust into the diff's 'banjo' housing. This and a thousand other tricks inevitably creating the untrustworthy stereotype.

So how prosaic to see a person work their way up from Car Diff's and Banjos to Cardiff and Orchestras.

And just maybe he could create a populist following, via performances at the very successfully resuscitated ACE Cafe in North West London. A place where all kinds of enthusiasts and clubs meet...a new kind of venue which circuitously depicts the man's very own initials.





Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Intermission – An Apposite Jordan B. Peterson Citation - “Clean Up Your Room”


The recent events in Brasilia provide a momentary pause to the long-running weblog topic about the past, present and future of Brazil.

Time for an intermission, and so pause for thought.

The riots which led to enormous damage to public buildings in the supposed cause of anti-Reforms protestation appears to have been deliberately orchestrated; using the anger of a minority of disillusioned young men to 'vent-off' general anger.

Hence there looks to be more behind the riots than immediately meets the eye.

However, such visible extremism, seemingly secretly condoned by many with fantasies of yesteryear rebellion, indicates that this is a pertinent time for many now 'over-entitled' lower middle-class Brazilians - who themselves went on one day strikes - to undertake their own period of self-reflection.

To have some 'time out', see the bigger picture and their responsible place within that picture.

Temer's reforms are far from truly unpalatable and will help provide the necessary monies for new social safety nets for those nationals and immigrants who have long been 'under the radar' and truly marginalised. Those who to date have been merely surviving and existing. So allowing them to better secure, and participate within, a more meaningful future.

Those Brazilians who have long enjoyed the fruits of two decades of economic stability, and the comforts of the new middle class should now look to themselves to further improve metropolitan conditions and lifestyle. Firstly in the Confucian manner about ones-self, family, community and so city etc in obvious ways, from beautification to crime prevention. Instead of blaming the already over-burdened state.

Unlike the West which is still having to battle macro-economic headwinds, stagnation and possible decline – and which has a remit to fairly implement social security assistance (but often knowingly fails) – Brazil is on its long upward economic trajectory.

As the ethos of reduced state-interventionism takes hold and is slowly but gradually superseded by increasingly vibrant and forward-looking commercialisation within a myriad of sectors, so new thinking, improved competition, and new efficiencies for wealth creation for ever more people.

However, the recent Brasilia experience which turned the capital into a momentary war-zone and ghost-town is seemingly the consequence of overt leftist agenda which fails to recognise the power of a true mixed-economy. It is an ideology out of kilter with the realms of balanced fairness, and indeed appears a far cry from the righteousness of past Latin ideals for inclusion and social improvement.

Instead recent actions appear very much self-seeking and so highly retrogressive, even if profferred under the thin veil of of "social justice".

As is now understood, much of the western world has been similarly deeply tainted, through which nearly fifty years of academic post-modern ideology (from its Marxist 'Communard' roots) has through ever more fragmented identity-politics been inculcated via the mainstream media.

So whilst shock events in the UK - such as the Manchester Arena bombing and Grenfell Tower fire - provide a momentary basis for apparent unity, the truth is that society long ago became selfishly deconstructed into a multitude of 'them and us' agendas (on religious, sexuality and race bases) which when set against the 'new norm' of scant financial resources generated endemic fragmentation of western societies.

But thankfully there remain some true defenders of "reason and right"...none better known than the Canadian Professor Jordan B. Peterson.

His experiences of targeted persecution by the far left for countering the dominant, untrammeled liberal theocracy has become well known.

[NB Others who have stood alone against a sea of deliberately formed persecution of any kind, for any length of time, will understand his plight].

Thanks to his centrist, balanced, long-view critical thinking – absorbed from many of the Humanities fields and the Sciences - Peterson has become an icon of the modern age for those both young and old who vitally understand a necessary sense of responsibility regards themselves and society at large.

[NB regards one important topic - his opposition to the extrapolation of gender pronouns (as discussed by the befuddled Canadian Senate) has sound basis. Yet thus far one seemingly unrecognised issue in this burgeoning 'trans-gender' age, is the ability for criminals to deliberately abuse this trend, by disingenuously creating false 'alternatively gendered' identities of both sexes for highly lucrative illegal purposes].      
So at this pertinent watershed point in Brazil, those Brazilians who have deplorably similarly become as overly self-entitled and are approaching the worst of the West , should...in Peterson's words...”Clean Up Your Room”.

Only such a centrist attitude amongst the many will stop Brazil from slipping back into its distant history of crowd induced, swing politics which often assisted the political protagonists far more than the people; and under which enormous pendulum swings of social idealism gave inevitable way to the unwanted economic swings of continued long-time bust after long-period boom.
          
Time now for all to question themselves and heed Peterson's sentiments. 


Friday, 19 May 2017

Micro Level Trends – Brazil's Automotive Sector – “Brazil 66”...Sixty Six Years of Economic Power Lifting (Part 5.3)



Following the previous headline stories from inside Brazil via the 'Rio Times', this portion of the web-log summarises the Financial Times' recent Special Report titled 'Reinventing Brazil' (16.05.2017).

Such reports are typically produced when new positive sentiment towards a region has become apparent in the wider world after a turnaround in capital markets dynamics, local investment project plans, B2B and B2C sentiment. Yet such 'pull-outs' will also be produced when the tipping-point of a new era appears, such as with the recent similar report on South Africa and its political retuning.

The beginnings of such 'good news stories' are in turn promoted by substantial advertising by national government (seeking FDI), industry and trade bodies (looking to promote new or regenerated sectors), and tourist boards (to attract foreign currency and create commercial opportunity).

The FT's articles then provide a good momentary further snapshot to the previous post, and importantly provides insights from vitally positioned political leaders, business luminaries and entrepreneurs.

Hereafter are condensed summaries of the articles provided :


Item 1:
“Reforms end three years of turmoil and recession”

- New 'buzz' on Avenida Faria Lima (Brazil's Wall St).
- Sao Paulo bourse sees marked shift in new IPO numbers
(3 so far in 2017, with 10 – 15 others expected)
- Sentiment driven by Temer's steadfastness on required Reforms
- Beyond exported commodities, industrial powerhouses emerging
- Scandals seen to reflect strong anti-corruption arms of the law
- New middle class expect better 'democratisation' of public assets and services
- Rousseff's budgetary machinations replaced with Temer's better 'mechanisation'
- Newly imposed budget ceiling necessitate major systematic overhauls.
- State asset divestment toward domestic and (critically) foreign investors
- Airports, Highways and Oil and Gas increasing levels of private ownership
- Apparent successful return of inflation target management
- Reduction of BNDES (national development bank) lending...which...
- * relieves Treasury
- * disconnects its from the low rates inducing 'high inflation spiral'
- * reduces prevalence of politico-business 'connections'
- * Temer... “I am not disposed to fiscal popularism”...when real change is needed.


Item 2:
“Finance minister reins in profligate spending”

- Minister Henrique Meirelles...”need to down-size government proportion of GDP”
- Background in US-Latam banking and as Brazil's previous Central Bank Governor
- Expected that the mass populace's approval will return as results of Reforms appear
- Government expenditures cost 20% GDP today, to be 15% in a decade
- “This is now a constitutional requirement” (so driving the imperative)
- “Need to treat public sector and private sector social entitlements similarly”
- “For Brazil to create (future) jobs it must have pension reform”
- “This to also ensure pension system remains solvent”
- “The 1st part of labour reform regards (domestic and foreign) Outs-Sourcing passed...
- ...this eliminates a lot of rigidity in the system”
- “The 2nd part of labour reform – yet to be passed – concentrates on the over-generous laws regards workers' rights (which presently deters domestic and FDI investment)
- “New measures to simplify bureaucracy and the tax system (to encourage commerce)
- Presently Brazil one of the worst countries in the world to initiate a new business.
- Need to change historical trends of major sentiment driven inflows and outflows of investment.


Item 3:
“Development Bank overhauls lending”

- The role and methods of BNDES to evolve and modernise
- From yesteryear's 3rd/2nd World idiom toward a more laissez faire 1st World character
- Responding to criticism about perpetuating the 'Patron System'
- This being the advantageous funding terms (below market rates) to the Brazilian elite
- To reduce subsidised lending
- Apply stricter criteria for financing
- Achieve a steep increase in benchmark interest rates, closer to market rates.
- The Sao Paulo business lobbyist 'FIESP' objecting to seemingly radical change
- Past has seen mismatch between BNDES and Central Bank aims = systemic friction
- BNDES responds saying the outcome would be a broad gain for all by reducing inflation
pressures on the Central Bank and so allow for reduction in base rate, so raising lending levels.
- BNDES to increasingly distance itself from the Treasury
- It will increasingly look to local and international markets for wholesale borrowing
- But over next 5 years low-cost loans to be available for specific projects
- Those with greater social benefit: Education, Health, Sanitation, Solar Energy, Urban Mobility, Waterways, Railways, Transportation/Distribution of Gas and Bio-Fuels, Public Administration, Small Businesses.
- These projects to be presented as Public-Private ventures so attracting local capital.

Item 4:
“Political uncertainty still drags on the economy”

- Public dissatisfaction protest of 2013 directed at costs of The Olympics
- Public malaise rising since given incurred debt vs public obligation
- This after 30m raised out of poverty by the PT Party (internal ideas of “turncoat public”)
- New promises made but little achieved besides 'plea bargains' to eradicate corruption
- Leading to the enormous Petrobras Scandal and others since (eg Odebrecht Construction).
- The enormity has tainted the elite (past and present governments and business leaders)
- Affected Temer's governments standing, with only 9% approval rating.
- Today Brazil stands at “the most vulnerable point in its 30 year democracy”
- With only 30% of Brazilians currently believing in Brazilian Democracy (-22% YoY)
- Supreme Court responds by dismantling the legal privileges of politicians
- The October 2018 election now “wide-open”
- Bolsonaro vs Doria (right-wing Congressman vs centrist Mayor of Sao Paulo)


Item 5:
“Views from the top on what Temer should do”
Panel of guests from the Brazilian business world

As per corruption :
- “What we see happening today (regards corruption) is not new, having happened in the US during the 1920s (cites 'The Robber Barons')”
[NB this suggests that such periods are inevitable as countries move higher up the economic ladder and portions of any elite maximise their gains as the economic system that previously protected their gains itself evolves to greater inclusion of the masses].
- “Such scandals will unleash a better Brazil into the future”
- “There is an enormous gap between what we are as a country and what we can be”

As per Labour Reforms :
- “We have operations in 80-90 countries, [Brazil] is the most complicated”
- (And as such) “Brazil is only 3-4% of our revenue”
- “We have a large number of claims (and outcomes) that make little sense”
As per Taxation Reforms :
- “the problem here is not just about size but complexity”
As per Public Administration Reforms :
- “The tendancy to over-regulate in many areas from consumer rights to telecoms”
- “In telecoms our obligations do not match real world use requirements”
- “We have a lot of obligations to the past, but very few to the future”
    - “Something that must change is the governmental belief that individuals are unwise (and so require 'Nanny State' protection).
    - “If you don't alter the welfare system how are we going to pay for longer lived pensioners?”“The world has changed, so much Brazil”
As per SOE Political Appointments :
- “We have no Ministers or Army on the Board [of Petrobras], when talking of 'Re-inventing Brazil' we need professionals”

As per FDI and Trade :
(Year to March saw record FDI of near $86bn)
- “Brazil has to have the export mindset, not just flavour of the month because of crisis”

As per Populism vs Economic Reform
- “Maybe the time has come for business to be more engaged in debate (re: Reform tensions)
- “Brazil (desperately) needs global leaders, modern laws and old values”
- “It needs people who can understand what is happening around the world”.


Item 6:
“Sao Paulo's talent for renewal is paying off”

- City expands beyond its trade and industrial heartland roots
- Newer higher value sectors in Services, IT and Retail
- Broadening of the 'Culture Industry' creates future economic value-streams
- Increasing 'info-tainment' correlation to the internet
- City planning to de-congest routeways (more bus-ways and cycle-ways)
- The “Beautiful City” campaign eradicates graffiti but is criticised for
also removing social commentary and 'artworks'
[NB The campaign's main aim to eradicate gangland 'tags' and improve aesthetics. Graffiti is low-order crime but recognised as gang allegiance stepping-stone to higher crimes and gang culture].
- Main issues of public transport and crime under central government control in Brasilia
[NB Strong police force but with less autonomy than believed ideal].
- The failures of the public system (eg medical) promotes opportunities for entrepreneurial new entrants able to deploy innovative or technology transfer IT
- Sao Paulo's market size (21m residents) and their aspiration and dissatisfaction provides a central 'growth point' for very varied new business possibilities.
- The city's role as Latin America's 'Financial Hub' means obvious self-serving economic eco-system as well as increasing presence of FinTech and small and large Venture Capital.




Friday, 5 May 2017

Micro Level Trends – Brazil's Automotive Sector – “Brazil 66”...Sixty Six Years of Economic Power Lifting (Part 5.2)




Before looking at the future of Brazil, a future much enabled by the previously highlighted Reform Agenda, and the possible long-term shape of government planning, the domestic auto-market and the roles of incumbent MNC players, and new indigenous and foreign entrants, it is well worth seeing a socio-economic 'snapshot' of the here and now in Q2 2017.

With the recent 'on the ground' report from the FT's John Authors pointing to the broad “new expectations” from Brazil for investors with successful reforms, this juncture of the web-log seeks to provide an echo of the current pulse of Brazil, the city and elsewhere.
Done so by re-conveying the recent news topics voiced by the English language newspaper 'The Rio Times'.
But before entering the realms of the daily news, the first vital issue to convey is the manner in which Brasilia has progressively led the world.


The Automotive Headline -
On 19th April 2017 Brasilia announced the easing of protectionism within its auto-industry.

This comes after criticism that for too long “exacerbated protectionism” and will see new measures inacted under the title of 'Roto 2030' (Route 2030), surpassing the previous prescription of the previous 'Inovar Auto' scheme.

Introduced by Snr Igor Calvet (Minister for Industry, Trade and Foreign Services) the new “open door” initiative starts at the beginning of 2018. 

As stated this will indeed create improved conditions of competition so raising all-round product quality in the long run. In the mid-term help broader B2C and B2B choice in all vehicle sub-sectors, from the new availability of more package efficient small city cars better suited to congested streets through to purchase flexibility for road haulage companies that can better balance up-front price versus running costs and residual values.

However, any notion of any 'automatic' price reduction resulting from cheaper imports was stated as not the case - though in reality will be seen to a certain extent - since much depends upon taxation issues, logistics costs and labour costs. 

This implicitly indicates that the government will seek to manage ultimate retail prices to both “harmonise” similar products – so effectively creating a Brazilian-made home-advantage - and in that process take advantage of the available tax-take on those cheaper imported vehicles, the importers obviously seeking to reduce such import prices as much as possible so as to reduce the final cost of per unit importation. Those same importers also likely to 'buy' sales through standard trade tactics, such as prey registrations of new vehicles sold as notionally used at discount.

This web-log previously described the lobbying role of the Importer's Association IBEIFA, and understandably this lobbying group is enthused to see such a shift in policy, even if for now the exact details remain unclear. The prime issue for it is the IPI tax level on industrial goods, which moved from 25% to a lofty 55%.

Reducing this problematic constraint and gaining assured long-term clarity regards a tax-reduction time-line – so that its members can better plan – obviously is critical to fully enacting the ideology of the 'open door' announcement.

However, for now this a brave undertaking given the mass populace's mood regards domestic employment security and opportuty, so balancing the rhetoric against outcomes is critical, as Temer's government well understands.
But given the evolving protectionist rhetoric elsewhere around the world, Brazil should be applauded, and in this way the country can be seen to be increasingly fulfiling its role in global leadership, with (ROTA) 2030 the seeming watershed point.
Bravo Brazil!


The Main News Feeds -

Item 1 : The 2017 General Strike

On May 28th a General Strike took place organised by the 9 biggest unions. The believed impact of announced Austerity Measures and the agitation of the unions sent protesters onto the streets across Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Brasilia; with stoppage of public transport and access to public buildings in Rio itself.

The industrial heartland of Sao Paulo continued to operate but at a notably slower pace given both worries about commuting and possible riots keeping people at home and of course the general 'feeling in the air' amongst those at work.

Given their position in the lower social ranks, it appears that many of the lower middle class masses (themselves very fearful of unemployment and a much retracted social-net budget) believe that President Temer is “removed from the people”, having gained his post directly because of Rousseff's forced departure.

Others, typically very the innately 'middling' class, have taken an alternative perspective. They believe that the strike was called in the self-interest of the unions, with especially senior union members defending their accrued personal interests, both political and financial.

But as seen in an Ipsos poll of 1,200 people in early April, Temer's own approval rating of just 4% highlights the general dissatisfaction amongst Brazilians; 98% believe Brazil to be on the wrong path

That in essence equates to the desire that if the people are to ultimately feel the pain, then so too should the privileged who occupy the highest offices of the land.

Perhaps only by rebalancing Brasilia's own rewards system, will the apparent anger and intraction of the masses be overcome. Shared pain for shared latter gain.


Item 2 : Pushing the Reforms Forward

President Temer sought to demonstrate his pluck with the statement that even in the face of social protests his cabinet's Reform Agenda will succeed.

The nationwide strike at the end of April contesting the primary pillars of the reform measures (esp pensions, labour and social security) was meant to undermine the scale of change, but Temer pre-empted any ideas of a dragged-out battle by stating that the three elements of the Judiciary, Executive and Legislative were of the same unified 'progressive' mindset.

With special mention of Japanese investment interest whilst opening the new Japan House cultural centre, he stated that effectively a new era was underway that would be to the eventual good of all; workers, managers and domestic and foreign investor / owners.

Temer argued that the Reforms are necessary since the sizeable aspect of a bloated Pensions Budget negates resources being given to Education and Health Care, and that old restrictive Labour Laws prevent the hiring of more workers by both domestic and (especially foreign) companies.


Item 3 : Best Trade Balance in 28 Years

At long last having absorbed both the 'Car Wash' affair and the 'Weak Meat' scandal the National Trade Balance saw a surplus of US6.969 billion, the best result since 1989.

Demonstrating continued strength, the first four months total reached US$21.387 bn, far surpassing the previous record of 2016 when it saw US$13.2 bn. April 2017 saw Total Exports of $17.686 bn versus $10.717 bn for Total Imports.

Unsurprisingly given the meat scandal's requirement to temporarily close meat-packing plants and cancellation of shipping orders, Meat Exports were down 13.3% in April YoY.

But with new confidence arising the government predicts a 2017 EoY Balance Surplus of $55 bn (versus the $47.7 bn of 2016).

This a very tangible and so pertinent sign of renewed national economic confidence, the $7 bn differential between 2017's exports and imports so bolstering the fiscal and monetary policies required behind the Reform Agenda.


Item 4 : Temer Meets Spain's Rajoy

To help further boost the record trade figures, President Temer met with Spain's President Mariano Rajoy at the end of April. Both are convinced of the need to advance relations between MERCOSUR and the EU.

Previous arrangements such as the Bus and Coach builder Irizar's entry into Brazil will now be complimented by new mutual destination projects in General Development, Trade, Infrastructure, Water and Transport; with heightened diplomacy the enabling factor.

The manner in which Spain addressed its own Reform Agenda after the European Sovereign Debt Crisis was of interest to Temer, with lessons learned obvious application to Brazil.

Rajoy said “the Brazilian government has a number of ambitious plans for its economy in keeping with its immense potential, and I'm convinced that this is an opportunity for increasing the presence of Spanish companies and to optimize our trade”.


Item 5 : Fevela Clearances...Cinematic Story-Telling

Vila Autodromo in the Jacarepagua district (West Rio) was a favela that began to expand with the need to build and service the major upscale housing complex that accompanied the 1974-1977 on-site creation of the Autodromo Internacional (Nelson Piquet).

Over four decades the fevala grew from an all male small construction worker shanty village to latterly include wives and girlfriends who cleaned the luxury apartment blocks; with the inevitable arrival of children and even aged grandparents.

Though much improved over the years the fevela had not been planned, so lacked properly considered fundamental amenities for what became a large township; and though its notional 'citizens' were hands-on regards gradual improvement it was always functionally below par of the ever improving modern norm.

This reason / excuse was given when the government sought to utilise the land for construction of the 2016 Olympic Village, Stadiums and infrastructure. The location was apt for such a scheme and the old 'township' would always be a symbol of Brazil's erratic social past, but more importantly a problem to the redevelopment ideals of the city and nation.

Thus the inhabitants of the Vila Autodromo fevela were removed to 'make way for the future' and that story has been captured in spirit – if not detail – by the new film “Vazio do Lado de Fora” (Empty on the Outside). Directed by Eduardo Brandao Pinto the short film will appear soon at the renowned 2017 Cannes Film festival.

However, undoubtedly to ease social tensions and avoid appearing the international bad-guy “it does not tell the story exactly, more of an aesthetic”.

It now seems obvious that whilst still fresh in the mass-memory, Brazil seeks to quickly re-tell the story to re-set the mass-consciousness. It seems that Historical Revisionism appears quicker than ever.


Item 6 : The Favelas Continue to Grow

Previously reported some years ago, once again the facts about the seeming endless growth of many fevelas have been re-reported to highlight a prime social issue. Between 2000 and 2010 the average population growth in 'normal' (ie officially planned and organised) areas of Brazilian cities was about 7%.

In stark contrast the fevelas saw a massive upturn through both incoming residends and the rise of birth rates over death rates. The highest seen in Rio de Janaeiro with a mighty 27% increase.

This has been reported to illustrate the size of the problem that not just the government faces, but the population at large as the idiom of the 'haves and have nots' becomes ever more complex.

Even though a costly exercise, to help aid integration of those at the very bottom of society, the Senate recently approved an Immigration Amnesty law in mid April which actually goes far further than its title implies. Well beyond mere amnesty, it provides a new era of security for the previously illegitimate immigrants, by providing citizenship rights to state resources such as welfare, healthcare, education and employment status rights.


A New Era For Many -

This then validates a mass of people who were previously 'under the radar', and far worse off than the current bleating working and lower-middle classes, and allows them to become fully participant in, and beneficiaries from, the slowly re-bounding Brazilian economy.

For a country which promotes the ideals of 'diverse social integration' the upfront costs will be sizeable, but the advantages brought by quickly deploying more unskilled and semi-skilled labour, from directed education and the assurance of a social safety-net means that over the mid and long terms Brazil will have been seen to have maintained and indeed improved its productive capacity. 

This beginning with the major infrastructure projects that demand enormous levels of affordable man-power, providing the basis for new factories and plant which in turn require many levels of personnel skill-sets and in turn promote the professions from engineering to accountancy and so much more.