Monday, September 21, 2015

Volkswagen Scandal--Buying Opportunity??

Volkswagen got their hand caught in a VERY big cookie jar this weekend.  As the largest automaker in the world, VW certainly has the ability to shake off nearly any bad news or just pay bad news to go away.  It may not be big enough to make this disappear.  We've seen lots of recent bad news for automakers including the near bankruptcy of the entire US based segment, the shortage of production from Japan after the earthquake/tsumani, Toyota's massive recalls, and most recently, GM's coverup of airbag deaths.  All of these have represented buying opportunities for these companies' associated stock.

VW, if you haven't heard, purposefully installed sophisticated software in its US diesel vehicles to detect when emissions evaluating equipment is attached to the vehicle and then modify the data it produces to fool the emissions equipment into thinking it was up to 40 times less polluting than it actually was and then returns to normal data output when the emissions equipment is removed.  The difference between the items mentioned above and VW's case is that all of the above started with a mistake or natural disaster.  Even GM's woes are, at their core, starting with an engineering/design mistake, and by some low level associate at that.  With VW, modifying software to fool testing equipment is not likely to be just the flaw of a single engineer.  More likely is that it was a collaboration between sales, marketing, engineering, management, etc...a far more reaching "scandal" than the others. Mary Barra at GM has been barely touched by the deaths of some 150 people in the airbag issues....With VW, though no one has died (directly, though some might argue for "environment" deaths from additional pollution I suppose) management is unlikely to remain unscathed.

Already today there is talk of outright banning VW sales in the US, direct arrests of VW management, and the potential to fine VW up to $18B for this incident.  VW's stock has been brutalized this morning, falling some 20% and $6B in marketcap.

On a motorsports related item, VW has recently announced its purchase of the Red Bull F1 team in '16.  Given that buying and annual budgets for an F1 team are a multibillion dollar investment, might that end up on the chopping block?  VW has been a big backer and funder of WRC and has taken the championship there (at the cost of hundred of millions) for three years in a row, is it time to bail on that effort??  Might its US oriented support of teams in the Red Bull Global RallyCross series be in question??  When your company loses $6B overnight, its executives are potentially walking away in handcuffs, sales in one of its largest markets are likely to take a major hit and you face billion dollar fines and years of legal costs and wrangling, motorsports kind of fall into an area that is easily cut to focus on core operations.

Lastly, with the stock down 20% and the other companies above all representing great buying opportunities at the lows of their problems, is now the time to buy VW stock in hopes that the story doesn't have as big of a bite as it looks at first?  The stock was already off its recent high of $250 a share as recently as April of this year so this $33 decline to $130 at the moment just continues a recent trend and likely puts the stock into the oversold category.  The risk is that this isn't a localized issue, that these conspiracies have occurred elsewhere in VW's lineup or that the US government takes drastic action against the company or its management.  VW's primary market at this point is China, and China doesn't really care about pollution or what VW does with the US market but China's economy is slowing and won't provide as much support as it otherwise might have.  I'd stay away at this point.  I don't think this issue will be localized or not end up with VW executives on the nightly news doing a perp walk while VW sales in the US were already off more than 2% this year.  I don't think the stock has too much more of a downside but additional bad news is likely to prevent a significant upside.  Stay away.

Friday, September 4, 2015

NORRA Announces Dates, Payment Plan, New Classes and More...

NORRA (National Off-Road Racing Association) has sent out invitations to prior racers and announced a number of changes to vehicle classes amongst other changes.  Some of the racer beneficial changes include a payment plan starting this month so you can stretch the cost out over a long period of time.  One of the class changes includes the elimination of a "rally" class and now includes three Rally-Raid classes (I would imagine "Rally-Raid Production" would cover most stage rally vehicles) and divides vehicles into a number of categories based on age and eliminates an "overall" winner (though adds an "overall" winner for each age category).

I don't know (OK, I'm pretty sure I won't) if I will return to this race in '16 but it was such a great/horrible/wonderful experience for me as a racer I can't help but recommend it to any rally/offroad racer out there.  Nowhere else in North America will you have a chance to race some 1000 miles in a single rally event.  Kudos to NORRA to continuing to make changes that benefit racers and not remaining static.

NORRA 2016 Announcement

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why Did Jimmie Johnson Leave Desert Racing...

Saw this the other day and thought it was well researched.  I have known the stories about how Jimmie had a bad crash in the Mexican desert and was stranded there for a long time and this experience scared him sufficiently to never race offroad again.

His lack of return to the desert is always viewed as even more of a shock given some of his close friends include longtime desert racers and bikers like Ricky Johnson (no relation).  Often times casual desert racing fans will scoff at Jimmie Johnson and consider him a bit of a wuss for having given up the sport after a single wreck...after many SCORES for wrecks has he been in during his time in NASCAR?  And in offroad racing, whether you crash or not is far more a result of your own doing and responsibility than it is the numbskull's next to you like in NAPCAR...

Regardless, Jimmie never returned to desert racing and here is the story why...

Why JJ never returned to desert racing...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gimmick Racing Socks...

Must be a trend...came across these two sets of socks targeted at racing enthusiasts in recent days.

First up are Blipshift's "3 Pedal Socks"for $17 a pair.  They look good for casual or business casual use.  I have one Blipshift shirt already and its quality was solid so I would imagine these socks are near the same.

If you want a pair, you can go here:
3 Pedal Socks...

The second set are Robby Gordon's Speed Energy Drink socks...I like these a tad better as they have a sense of humor about them.  To date they have only sold them at various Speed Energy Drink related events and not over the Internet.  Hopefully if enough people harass Robby Gordon and Speed Energy they will make them available to a wider shopping audience.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ledwidge Lookoff Rally Spectator Stage

Only a few days till we take off for the Ledwidge Lookoff Rally in Nova Scotia.  Its not much but the entry list is up to six entries.  Three 2WD and three AWD.  Hopefully there will be one or two last minute entries to bump this up a bit but regardless we're going to have a good time, see some new roads and meet some great people.  The first day's spectator stage is unique in that it takes place entirely within a quarry and the roads on which it takes place are nice and wide and flat.  These little sprint stages aren't favorable to the NISMO Stuff Frontier sponsored by Bedard Pharmacy, particularly when they appear so smooth.  We'll do our best and look forward to the longer stages of Saturday.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lots of Nissan 200SXs for Sale in New England Right Now

So tempting to get one of these...many look in good condition, a couple are the turbo models with the oh-so-awesome hoods.  All would make great hillclimb, rallycross, stage rally vehicles.  Or at the very least they would make an epic daily driver.

First is a Black, 1986 model up in Hebron, NH.  This one is the most heavily modified with numerous  engine and suspension mods.  It has a KA24DET swap and presently is not really drivable given its blown turbo and bad exhaust.  Body is in good nick but it will take some work and money to really get on the road in a legit fashion.  Price is listed at @2,500

Second is an '87 200SX notchback.  I like the hatch version much better than the notchback and this one is in a decidedly ugly gold color, is an automatic and has evidently had an attempt to turn it into some sort of drift vehicle with a welded rear diff.  It does still have the cool pop-up lights though!  This one is in Plaistow, NH and is going for $1,200 though with the welded diff, it won't really be pleasant to drive on a daily basis.

There is also a 1987 200SX SE-V6 for sale in Southern Maine that would be a nice little car given it has the 300ZX's engine and driveline but the poster doesn't present a picture and says it has a good deal of exterior rust and hasn't been run for a few years.  He's asking for $2,000 which is pretty steep given the many multiple thousands necessary to really get it running again.

There was also a beautiful, manual, turbo 200SX in Providence, RI that I had intended to post here as well as it has been around a few times now but not purchased...alas, its listing has expired.  It was in good shape with no rust, good engine, etc.  The owner stated it needed some new plugs, wires and brakes but otherwise was in fine condition.  It would be the best of the lot so keep an eye open for a relisting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Next Step in an Improved Towing Experience...

First step was actually obtaining a trailer.  That was done recently.  Now on to sprucing it up and making it more user friendly.

When I got it the four tires on the trailer, 225/75d15s, were all in very good condition.  No real wear of any significant kind.  But given the heavy weight of my race truck on the trailer, frequent poor road conditions, long travel distances, etc. I wanted a couple spares.  So a couple brand new mounted spares we now have.  As long as I'm not heading back to Baja, two spares should cut it one would think.

Then on to how to get the truck ON the trailer.  The prior owner had been using wooden planks to get his smallish car on the trailer and that worked just fine.  I wanted something a bit heavier duty while being light as well.  So it was aluminum ramps that were acquired.  With that the trailer is ready to go to its first event just one week away.