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Catching Up With GM, Prison Bibles, Chuck Curcio & China's Michelin Love Fest

August 22, 2011
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Earlier this year we reported about 2007-08 model year Chevy Impalas and their dodgy, tire eating rear ends. Drivers were getting maybe 6,000 miles out of a set of tires thanks to what civilian mechanics were claiming was a serious suspension design flaw.

A class action suit filed on behalf of thousands of owners sought having GM recognize the problem, recall the cars and replace the suspect suspension parts.

Seems reasonable. Except General Motors now claims it’s not General Motors. Rather that any problems, issues, faults, miscues, snafus, fubars (feel free to throw your favorite word here) caused, created or otherwise executed by the “old” GM is not theirs to deal with.

In a blatant attempt to avoid an expensive fix, the New GM says that because the faulty cars were produced prior to the rapid-fire bankruptcy/reorganization/bailout that created it, the vehicles were technically produced – and, by extension, the sole problem of – the Old GM, the now renamed Motors Liquidation Co., which has no viable assets of any kind.

And this logic holds even though the New GM agreed to assume responsibility for the Old GM’s warranty obligations. The New GM says that the Impala warranties are still good and that they will continue to honor them, but the suspension “problem” is not covered under the warranty.

Oddly, the tire wear problem also happened to police cruiser version of the Impala, but one of the GMs recalled those cars and fixed the problem for free.

Anyone now wonder why there is even a New GM? Anyone want to take odds on how long the New GM actually lasts?

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I don’t know about you, but I often find myself laying in bed at night wondering just what kind of contraband today’s modern prisoners are hiding in their prison cells.

Were there girlie mags, shivs, toilet-brewed booze just like from the movies? Maybe a shortwave radio for entertainment? Not sure how you could hide a 42-inch flat-screen and home theater system, but that thought crossed my mind.

After all, we give prisoners better care than we give the homeless and downtrodden, so it only makes sense.

Well, the Vancouver Sun wondered about all of this, too, and filed an Access to Information Act request (Canada’s version of our Freedom of Information Act) to uncover a list of everything prison officials nicked from British Columbia federal prisons between January 2008 and October 2010.

Besides the usual drugs and weapons, there was…

• Seven Bibles, 11 pages from Bibles, and 10 porno mags, so it looks like God wins that round. (The seized Bibles, by the way, weren’t for religious reasons; the prisoners in question were either hiding things in hollowed out pages or were using the pages as rolling paper. Conversely, the porno magazines had only smoking hot models.)

• A package of Fig Newtons, a kilo of bacon (Canadian), seven pounds of rice, packages of raw chicken, and two bags of cooked turkey, complete with stuffing and cranberries.

• 186 knives, a reciprocating saw blade, two padlocks in a pillowcase, two pencils taped together and a rock tied in a sock.

• Some 30 cellphones, various phone accessories and SIM cards, and a homemade phone charger.

• A Nazi calendar (Goering was Mr. March!), a laser pointer, two winning lottery tickets, and a crab trap.

• One brand new Michelin winter tire.

Now we can all sleep!

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When it comes to reputations, the Chinese media (with the ‘wink-wink’ support of the Chinese government) goes two ways: total attack and teardown (see Kumho) or lavish love fest where the person, company, product, idea is the bestest ever.

Right now, the China Daily, the country’s largest English-language newspaper, loves Michelin.

In a glowing 800-word story on Aug. 15, reporter Li Fangfang gave great kudos to the tiremaker’s safety focus. In “Michelin Steers Society to Safety,” Li updated readers on the many road safety efforts Michelin has undertaken in that country.

In fairness, China needs a lot of help with road safety. Like driver training.

According to Li’s story, “In China, according to the Ministry of Public Security, 238,351 road traffic accidents killed 67,759 and injured 275,125 people in 2009, causing direct property loss of 910 million yuan ($140 million). Illegal driving, excessively fast driving, poor vehicle condition, intoxicated driving, driving while tired and poor safety awareness are the six major causes of accidents.”

In other words, it’s an uphill battle, but Bib feels up to the task.

“In light of these statistics, Chapot pledged that Michelin China would appeal to all of its employees, business partners and customers to observe safety principles and take the lead in shouldering responsibility for creating a better and safer road transportation environment,” Li wrote.

"Michelin's mission is to make a contribution to the sustainable mobility of humans and goods, and safety is one of the core values of sustainable mobility," Yves Chapot, president of Michelin (China) Investment Co., said in the story. "In addition to innovative tires that ensure people's safe commuting, Michelin has also been actively raising public awareness of road safety through education programs in cooperation with various Chinese authorities and organizations. The Michelin 2011 Safety Campaign is another big step forward in our continuous efforts toward road safety for better mobility."

While the article shows that the reporter had at least a sip of the Kool-aid (yes, they have Kool-aid in China), any company that tries to change the habits and mindset of a billion people – with an eye to keeping those people safe – deserves a little love.

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Ever wonder what the progeny of tire guys end up doing? Here’s one: Michael Curcio, son of Tire Kingdom founder Chuck Curcio, is a top-star chef down in Florida. His recently opened Chuck Burger Joint in Palm Beach Gardens is already considered a “get-to” place. The Palm Beach Post cooed that “the ‘secret beef blend’ burgers are free of hormones and antibiotics.”

Dad retired from the tire biz for good in 1996, having sold and then bought back and then re-sold Tire Kingdom earlier in the decade. Today he is involved in the Delphi University and Spiritual Center in Florida.
As for the restaurant, “Curcio is going for a mix of roadside burger joint and uptown aesthetic,” the paper wrote. “The furniture is made of reclaimed, sustainable materials, the produce is harvested locally and the beverage list is eclectic – it includes craft beer, wine, Sprecher Root Beer from Milwaukee and a sugar-sweetened, pop cult favorite: Mexican Coke.”

Now all it needs is a tire swing!