Felix Salmon

Why fuel-economy standards make sense

Eduardo Porter has a very good explanation, today, of why it makes much more sense, from an economic perspective, to simply start raising gasoline taxes than it does to implement ever-tougher fuel-efficiency standards. But before we get to the meat of his argument, it’s worth correcting his numbers. Here’s his conclusion:

Adventures with marginal pricing, auto edition

Brian Chen has the news today that Uber is rolling out a cheaper version of its service:

Does more economic activity mean more driving?

Mark Perry is convinced that the recent uptick in vehicle miles is a good sign, economically speaking; Calculated Risk is not as convinced. Both, however, are working on the assumption that vehicle miles are an excellent proxy for economic activity as a whole, and that the more they rise, the better the economy is doing.

Who deserves the credit for GM?

Andrew Ross Sorkin loves private equity.

Sorkin finally get around to responding to Malcolm Gladwell today, and he’s unimpressed. Here’s how he frames the question:

Rattner’s Overhaul

I’m a fan of Steve Rattner’s book about the auto bailout, Overhaul, and I’m also a fan of Malcom Gladwell’s very tough review of it.

How the Google car could boost electric-car sales

Google’s driverless car is one of those technologies which makes me feel old, in a bad way: I would dearly love to have been able to grow up with this technology. And I can’t wait for it to arrive: I’m not a very good driver, and I’m sure that taking a Google car would be much safer for both me and for other road users.

Uncle Sam spends $3.5 billion buying a subprime lender

Quite aside from the costs of rescuing GM itself, the U.S. government spent a whopping $17.2 billion bailing out GM’s subprime lender, GMAC. It’s never going to get repaid in full: at the moment estimates of total losses on that deal are running at about the $6 billion mark.

Auto dealers vs Treasury, part 322

Jim Surowiecki didn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the power of auto dealers in general and Big Three auto dealers in particular. They’re grossly inefficient, as this chart from Monday’s SIGTARP report on them shows.

How comprehensive is Zipcar’s insurance?

zipcar.tiffBack in 2006, I started writing about Zipcar insurance. Zipcar — which is going public in an offering worth as much as $75 million — has a history of being more than a little disingenuous about the degree to which its drivers are insured. I spoke to them in February 2007, and they promised to change the language on their website; instead, in May 2007, they decided to start leaving sock-puppet comments on my blog, rather than actually do what they’d promised. Eventually, in October, they merged with Flexcar, which had much better insurance policies, and as part of the merger they adopted Flexcar’s insurance plan. (They had to, or face mass defections by Flexcar’s corporate client base.)