Who’s Driving Your Car?

Who’s driving whom?

In the early 1900’s, there were over 2000 manufacturers making cars, over 1500 of these in the USA alone. Now, there are only 39 brands of vehicle which you can buy. Of these, 30 of them are controlled by just nine players. Six companies maintain some form of independence: Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Rover-MG, Proton-Lotus, Porsche and Morgan. Honda and Hyundai sell millions of units, the others are responsible for a comparative handful of sales. Therefore, we have just 12 companies who are responsible for the look and feel of the entire world automotive industry. No wonder my car looks the same as 100 others!

The great American Ford empire now controls the European Volvo and British Jaguar; General Motors Holden has links with Fiat, Subaru and Saab; Fiat in turn, controls Ferrari, Lancia and Maserati; Mercedes & (Daimler)Chrysler now own Mitsubishi; The ‘old commoner’ Volkswagon now controls the more prestigious Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini; BMW owns the almost opposite ends of the spectrum, Mini and Rolls Royce. Toyota has invested heavily into Daihatsu; Nissan has merged with Renault.

In the next few years, it is expected that further mergers and buyouts will occur, leaving perhaps five or six mega-corporations to decide what the world will drive. If you think that it is confusing now that we can buy Lexus, Lexcens and Nexus, or drive Barinas, Berlinas and Berninas… If you already think that it is getting hard to tell whether a car is a Falcon, a Commodore or a Toyota… just wait, things may get even more uniform…

In a few years, it may be possible to have everyone in your family driving a car with a different badge on it, (for example, Jaguar, GM, VW, Mercedes, Subaru and Mini) and yet find that the cash you pay out all goes to the one ultimate recipient company. (See Invest News #33 “Who’s Taking Your Money”, issued December 2004 for even more jaw-dropping revelations. Online at [http://www.invest.org.au/news] or ask me for a paper or email copy.)

Who drives the cars that drive us?

In the early days of motoring in the US, the Rockefellers controlled the Standard Oil trust. A few other companies, including Texaco and Gulf, were backed by the Mellons, Morgans and Vanderbilts. European capitalists rushed to develop their own oil industry, out of which came Royal Dutch, Shell, British Petroleum (BP), and the Petroleum Company of France (CFP), which eventually became Total.

Dozens of oil companies battled it out for most of the century; one by one they were defeated or absorbed by larger ones. The five super majors which today dominate the oil industry are the result of mergers that swept the oil industry starting just a few years ago.

In 1998, 12 already enormous oil companies combined to form five. Exxon (who owned Esso, Rockefeller’s “SO” or “Standard Oil”) merged with Mobil; then Chevron, which had already bought up Gulf and Caltex, merged with Texaco; Shell & Royal Dutch combined, BP bought out Amoco, Marathon and Arc; Total merged with Elf and Fina.

Watch the five, focus on one or two

Even if you only own shares in Telstra, it makes sense to keep an eye on what Optus, Vodafone or Virgin are doing. Are their deals better? Are their profits higher? Will their new marketing campaign mean that Telstra sales will suffer? Will bad publicity about the National Bank make my Commonwealth stocks worth more? Think about it. Now, back to oils and cars…

Exxon/Mobil Exxon is the largest company of any kind in the world as measured by sales, which totalled US$242 billion in 2003. That is more than the budget revenue of 185 nations, including Brazil, Canada, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. In 2003, the five biggest oil companies operating in the U.S. (ExxonMobil, Chevron-Texaco, ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch/Shell) made US$53 billion in net profits. Almost half of this profit was made by Exxon alone. Last year, Exxon produced US$21.5 billion in profits.

The five biggest auto companies in the world (GM, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen) produced only US$15 billion in profits – combined. Twenty one billion… hmmm, that’s a lot of money… That’s a lot of profit. How do they spend it all? Feeding the world? Saving the whales? Or diversifying into other areas to make yet more profits?

Exxon has been granted over 10 000 US patents for new inventions in the last ten years alone. They also own the chain of “On The Run” convenience stores, and ‘smart-card’ technology based “Speedpass”, a system which enables you to pay for food and fuel by waving your key-ring in front of a service station scanner. You can actually fill your belly, fill your tank and pay for the purchases, with one company making money on all three transactions.

The word of the day will now have to be “ubiquitous”, as in “seeming to be everywhere”. Just think of Volkswagon beetles in the 60’s or McDonald’s restaurants in the 80’s, or the prefix “www” in the “noughties”. Now go to http://www.dictionary.com to hear an American accented robot pronounce the word “ubiquitous”… ☺

Shell/Royal Dutch

Every four seconds, one plane and 1200 cars are refueled by a Shell oil company. Shell also “goes green”, running hydrogen-powered cars, vans and buses in the USA, Europe and Asia. But the ubiquitous company doesn’t just make fuel, oh no…

Shell also makes the chemicals used in plastic bags, detergents, lubricants, clothing, packaging, paints, adhesives, unbreakable windows, plywood, computer casings, compact discs, foams for furniture and bedding, coatings for floors and furniture, artificial sports tracks, ski suits and waterproof leisure wear, medicines, dyes, antifreeze, PET drink bottles, car tyres, telephones, carpet backings, nitrile rubber hoses, footwear, road surfaces and neoprene items, like wetsuits.

Next time you are playing sport, it is entirely possible that you drove your Shell petrol filled car on a Shell-built asphalt road, walked on a Shell-made artificial grass with your Shell-built sports shoes, and washed down your Shell-manufactured pain-killer with a drink from your Shell-made water bottle. What was that word again? Omnipresent? Struth! Just thinking about all that different stuff made by one company makes me feel like I need a good lie down. Or was it thinking of sport that made me tired? ☺

So now what? You should be aware that there are only a handful companies who control the market for oil and cars. They are not going to disappear, nor will they get smaller. Even if global oil supplies do run out, and we are all forced to drive hydrogen, steam or electric cars, you can be certain that the giant oil companies and car companies will be one step ahead of us. Be assured that the major corporations have already manufactured the new breed of vehicle which will drive us rapidly into the 21st century, complete with its rubber tyres, rubber seals, plastic dashboard and foam seats all proudly manufactured by a major oil company.

When you realise that all of the major companies are interrelated, you start to care a little less which car you are going to hitch a ride with, as you realise that they are merely five carriages on the one train. Climb aboard any one and you will get to where you are going. Invest in any one and you will be sure to make money.

This article, email and its attachments are not intended to constitute any form of financial advice or recommendation of, or an offer to buy or offer to sell, any security or other financial product. We recommend that you seek your own independent legal or financial advice before proceeding with any investment decision. Oh, and be REALLY careful cos it’s a jungle out there!

Chemical Free Home – The Benefit of Alcohol Based Cleaners and Solvents

Alcohol makes an excellent household cleaner. Denatured or isopropyl alcohol can be used as a selective cleaner around the home on a variety of surfaces.

Alcohol of this type can have a drying effect on the skin. It is recommended you wear protective rubber gloves when physically handling this cleaning product.

Some of the the things around the home worth having a go at cleaning with Alcohol include:

Grass stains

Rubbing alcohol on grass stains on clothes can help prevent the stain from penetrating the fibres and sticking to the material permanently. Grass stains on Lino, Vinyl or tiled floors can be easily removed by adding a few drops to a cloth and rubbing the stained area until the mark is gone. Carpet can also be cleaned in a similar way. Before using on carpet or textile (clothing, linen etc.) test a small area to make sure it does not discolour the fabric.

Ink

Ink seems to be attracted to the material in a white business shirt. If you are in the unfortunate situation of finding a pen has leaked its contents all over your clothing Rubbing alcohol may help lift the stain. Be careful however, you may end up bleeding the stain throughout the area making it worse than it was to begin with. When the stain has lifted rinse the alcohol from the garment and wash independent of other clothing to remove any excess alcohol.

Dyes

Dyes such as hair dye will stain anything they come in contact with. Soaking towels or protective coverings in a mixture of alcohol and water may help remove dye stains. Alcohol may also remove dye stains from hard floors, bench tops or other areas where a spill is likely to occur.

Glass

Streak free windows can be achieved by mixing denatured alcohol in a 50:50 mix with water. Using a spray bottle (similar to a commercially available window cleaner) simply spray windows as you normally would and wipe over with a piece of paper towel or lint free cloth. This mixture can be used both indoors and outside. Be careful around window sealing rubber as the alcohol may loosen some types of silicone or may smear black rubber seals which could stain window trimmings or, timber weather boards and brickwork.

Grease and grime

Isopropyl alcohol is ideal for removing grease and grime from several types of material. It can be used to clean surfaces prior to painting with enamel based paints. Grease and tar can also be removed from automotive paintwork with isopropyl alcohol.

When using Denatured or Isopropyl alcohol as solvent or household cleaner always test to ensure no further staining will result from its use. Some stains such as ink may cause further running of the stain. Since the item is probably damaged anyway (due to the stain) its always worth a try. But don’t expect miracles. Prevention, as the saying goes, is always better than cure.

© Eric J. Smith

How to Remove Stains in Leather Seats

You left the car window down or the sunroof open and there’s a water stain in your car’s leather seat….or your girlfriend spilled here red wine in your leather car seat on a night out on the town….or your kids decided they were a soon to be artist and tried their techniques out on your leather car seat with a pen, arrggg. Got kids myself, so feel your pain. Stain removal in leather seats can be tough, here’s a few tricks to help get you going.

As a professional leather repair specialist I’m here to tell you that there are not to many products that can be used on a leather car seat that won’t remove the finish before removing the stain. Most leather in today’s cars is a finished leather with a water borne urethane leather dye applied to it and is pretty susceptible to chemicals and can be removed pretty easily with a solvent cleaner. So when in doubt call a professional.

Water stains in Leather Seat….this is a pretty hard one to get rid of. I recently had reader send me an email on how he could get the water stains out of his car after leaving his sunroof open. This part is kinda for him considering I think I lost his email with pictures, I did get to see them though, so not all was lost. The pictures showed a crease that ran along the middle of the leather seat where the water had puckered the leather. In this type of situation there are two things we could do, one is sand the crease out and with some fillers and dye make the seat new again, this is where a leather professional comes in to play, or replacement of the section that is creased, that’s where an upholstery shop comes in. In these type of situations there aren’t any leather conditioners or cleaners in the world that will remove a creased or puckered leather, what happens is the actual structure of the fibers in the leather have been altered and what you see is what you have.

If the water hasn’t puckered the leather and has just left a stain, a little trick I learned from my good friend Dwain Berlin with Leather Craft Secrets, and you go to your bread box in the kitchen for this one. Take a piece of bread and roll it up into a ball and rub and blot the area with the bread ball, works pretty good. Dwain has a lot of great advice for leather care, and if your interested in some great fun with leather go check out his book, it’s quite impressive and I myself learned a few things.

Most of the time water will just evaporate and with no problems and the stains will disappear. If your car leather gets wet dry it as best you can with a towel and then condition it with your Lexol Conditioner. One way to dry the cars leather is by leaving the windows down and setting it in the sun to dry, or crack the windows and turn your car on with the heat on full blast and let it run for about 30 minutes. I’m not real hip on that one cause it’s a waste of gas but it does work to dry things out better. But always condition, some rain waters are pretty dirty and harsh and the leather needs those extra nutrients to keep it soft.

If the stains are just too bad then new leather dye is the only way to bring it back then call your local leather professional like me to come and make it new again.

Mold Stains in Leather Seat….Or mildew which ever. This one kinda goes along with the water stains. Take and mix a cup of water and a cup of rubbing alcohol and mix them together, take a towel and rub a small amount of the solution onto the stained areas, until the spot is gone, again watch for dye lift, this trick works pretty well and usually removes the mildew pretty quick without dye removal.

Food Stains in Leather Seat….This one can be an easy one if you just don’t eat in your car, but I’m just as guilty as most and eat on the run. A mild dish soap and warm water with a rag or scotch brite pad will do the trick in most cases. Most automotive leather is finished and food stuffs usually will wipe right off. If you run into a stubborn one though try a little all-purpose degreaser on a rag, don’t rub too much or dye may lift. If the stain on your leather car seat from food doesn’t come up with this then the dye from the food has penetrated the fibers of the leather and has dyed it, so it’s time for a professional leather dye job.

Aniline leather or NuBuck leather is a different story though, thats the soft stuff you see as an inserted piece usually in the middle of the seats. You can use the soapy solution but water spots sometimes show up, so a special cleaner works best for this kind of leather. One I suggest is from the guys over at Leather Magic, they have a NuBuck Leather Care Kit that is the answer to all your NuBack needs. This kit includes cleaners and conditioners for the soft stuff, this type of leather is delicate and should be treated as such. Don’t use your usual leather cleaners and conditioners on this type of leather due to fact of the oils in them will damage the look of the leather, then no more soft feeling NuBuck, so definitely check out Leather Magics NuBuck Kit.

Ink, Marker, and Crayon on Leather Seat….Urgent!!! Get to it as soon as you can! If the ink is fresh you have a better chance of removing it from the leather then not. Rubbing alcohol, with a little bit of acetone added will sometimes get it. I’ve heard of hairspray, tried it with not much luck. Usually when an ink pen and leather come together they marry and don’t split to easily. Ink is a dye and is made to penetrate whatever it comes into contact with. Most ink spots I’ve ran into I’ve usually had to dye the leather to cover the spot.

Crayon on a leather seat can be a booger if it’s melted in the seat, you can try this but be careful not to burn or pucker your leather. Take an iron and a paper towel and lay the paper towel over the crayon and with a low heat rub the iron over the paper towel over the crayon. The crayon will melt into the paper towel, move the towel around to clean spots until the crayon is gone, a little of rubbing alcohol should remove the remaining. This trick works on carpet and cloth too. If they’re just marks on the leather seat a little soap and water should do the trick or even a little rubbing alcohol on a towel works good to. If all fails there is a product from Protective Products Corp. that is all natural with no solvents that will remove crayon and lipstick it’s called Solv-It, but just like anything try a spot in an unsuspecting spot to see if it removes dye.

One last trick that I’ve read about around the net and am in the process of testing it, but it the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, they do work around the house, so why not the car too. I’ve removed crayon and marks on my walls before with them, I do notice it take a little paint with it though, but they do work. If you use one, be careful and don’t go ape sh$#, rub it then look, rub it then look, they will remove dye, so when using it take your time and check it as you go.

Sweat Stains in Leather Seat ….Salt stains from sweat can be pretty gross looking, but there is a little trick. Take and make a solution of 3 parts vinegar and one part water and wet a towel and rub the area clean, the vinegar breaks down the and helps to remove the stain.

Paint on Leather Seat….Paint removal on a leather car seat, well that ones a hard one. If it has dried it’s probably there to stay. If it’s a water color, just use soap and water to remove it. Latex house paint, you can try a little Goof Off but keep in mind this is a solvent and can damage the leather seat and remove dye. I have in the past been able to take my pocket knife and scrape it off. Wet the area first with a little water and lightly try to lift the paint off with your knife or even a razor blade, but don’t cut the leather. Mostly though this really doesn’t work without removing the dye underneath, but I have had luck sometimes. If its car paint, try a little paint reducer on a rag, but just wipe lightly and don’t soak the area with the reducer. Solvents and leather seats just don’t mix.

My best advice to all when it come to stains in your leather car seats, and that is to be conscious of what you do, try to keep our little Picasso’s pen free, keep our food out of our cars, roll the windows up and sunroofs closed, and always remember to treat the leather with your Lexol Conditioner on a regular basis, this helps to keep the leather car seats protected and soft and makes it easier to get the spills and accidents from turning into disasters.

But always remember that we leather repair professionals are here to save those leather car seats and bring them back to there original state. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me for all your leather repair needs.

Stain Removal in Carpet – Stain Removal Help

Hey guys … It's been a while since I've posted a helpful tip to add to your arsenal of automotive interior repairs I've giving here on my blog.

So I thought of giving you a little bit on Stain Removal in Carpet. This is one thing I get a lot of questions for and that is how to get those nasty brown, or black, or even red stains out of the interior carpet of the vehicles i work on on a daily basis.

The trick isn't to it isn't really a trick at all, it's timing and knowledge of what to use where and when. Getting to a spill before it gets a chance to soak in is your best defense against a stain in your carpet. If you spill something wipe it up and soak it up as quickly as possible and then flush with water and soak it up with a towel, or what ever you have at the time. But that's not always the case and that's where this little guide will help you, but really if you can wipe spills up a fast as you can and this helps to get the actual stain out later when you have more time.

One of the most common stains I see in vehicles are footprints or skid marks from dirty and greasy shoes. The answer to this is a de-greaser. There are so many different options to use in this situation, but I'm here to make this as simple as possible and effective. Supplies you will need are a couple of white towels, a scrub brush and a mild detergent, like dawn dish soap, a small pail of warm water mixing the soap to 1/4 oz. soap to gallon of water. Dip your brush in the soap and water, scrub the areas lightly with the brush making sure not to soak the carpet then wipe and blot with the towel. Repeat if necessary, wiping and blotting the area with the towel to remove the dirt and grime and the water, you don't want it to sour later if left wet. If your have a shop vac, use it to suck up the water and to fluff the carpet pile back up to dry better. Place a fan in the vehicle if needed to dry further if you've had a bad one.

Now sometimes more then not you will need something a little stronger to get the grease out. I use Castrol Super Clean, the purple stuff. I've used Simple Green at times too, and some of the products at some of detail shops I'm at from time to time, so really any good de-greaser will work. Just spray the area with the cleaner, scrub with the brush, then wipe it up with a towel. Now if at all possible flush the area with water, this will help to remove the chemicals from the carpet and will help to preserve the natural look to the carpet. Some of those chemicals are pretty strong and if left can damage the carpet.

Soda pop and coffee stains, are another I run across a lot. Now this one can be booger to get out. A coffee stain if left can do permanent damage to the carpet and at times I have had to just dye the carpet to cover up the stain. If coffee is your problem, here are a few tips, catch the spill as quickly as possible then flush with mild soap and water like before with the grease, but you may have to soak it a little more to get it out. Now if this is an old stain, one thing you can try is hydrogen peroxide. This can be used as a mild bleaching agent. Just pore a little in a cup and with a tooth brush scrub it into the stain let sit for about 20-30 minutes then flush with your soapy water solution. If this doesn't work, I found a product at my local janitorial supply shop called Perculator, it comes in spray bottle and is primarily a peroxide mix, and works pretty good, but it's still not a miracle worker. Coffee can be a pain, but with a little luck and timing on this one you can get it out. Now soda pop, if it's not an orange or red which I'll talk about in a minute, can usually be taken care of with the warm water and soap.

Food stains can range from greasy french fries smashed in the carpet to dried ketchup, to jelly beans and candy. Most of these can be dealt with with your soap and water. Ammonia can be added to the solution to help cut the greasy foods. Scrape the chunks out with a blunt knife before you get wet this will help to not spread the stain further. Candies might take a little more due to dyes added for color, wash as much as possible to remove the candy, if the stain remains you can try peroxide but like I said there are dyes in some candies that do just that, dye the carpet. Gum is another candy that can be removed with mostly picking it out but the rest might take a little chemical. Goof Off is a good one to keep on hand for a lot of different things, but it works great on gum too. After you pick most of it out just take a little Goof Off on a towel and wipe the rest right out.

Red Wine is sort of a food stain but treated a little different. If it's fresh flush with cold water and soak it up as much as possible. Try even a little club soda and pore directly onto the stain and soak it up with a towel. This should get most of it. One last trick is an enzyme cleaner, enzymes get right to it when it comes to food stains. They are known for removing food stuff stains, but I haven't had much luck with red wine though so I'll talk about it in a minute on getting the red stains out of your carpet.

Now if you have a misfortune and happen to get a blood stain on your carpet then this one needs to be handled with cold water and not warm or you will set the stain. If it's dried then scrap the dried blood with a blunt knife to get the chunks out, vacuum them up, then scrub the area with cold water and a mild soap. Peroxide can be used to help remove the reddish tint if needed. Then flush again with the soap and water, then vacuum with your shop vac. One other remedy is a blood enzyme, which will eat the blood away. Blood Buster is good one, it's an enzymatic cleaner designed for bio stains.

One that I deal with upon occasion is pet urine. Talk about nasty … but, hey they have to pee too, just not where we always want them to. This one is one you can go to your kitchen for, vinegar, helps to neutralize the acids in the pee. Supplies for this one are paper towels if still wet, white towels, mild soap and warm water, brush and vinegar. First soak up what you can with if it's still wet with the paper towels, next take your soapy solution of warm water and soap, 1 / 4oz. of soap to a gallon of water, dip the brush and scrub the area with the soapy water, blot with the towel and repeat until the stain is gone. After wards pore a little vinegar over the stain and let set for about an hour. Lastly rinse with water and vacuum with a shop vac or dab with towels until mostly dry. If the stain is still there, let it dry, then apply an enzyme. Enzymes work really well for all bio stuffs including urine. The guys over at Petguest have come up with a 100% enzyme concentrate that is made for the elimination of pet stains and odors.

The old melted crayon stain in the carpet …. Man what a mess this can be, but believe it or not it's pretty easy to remove if you have a clothes iron and a brown paper bag. Scrape the majority away with a blunt knife then lay the brown bag over the crayon and with the heated iron, rub it over the bag over the spot. The heat from the iron will melt the crayon into the bag. Just rotate the bag around to keep a clean side down and after a while the crayon will be on the bag not on the carpet. Patience on this one helps, but again if the spot remains try a little chemical like your Goof Off.

Paint is another carpet stain that can give you a bunch of problems. First thing you need to determine what kind of paint it is. If it's automotive paint then a solvent paint reducer or thinner can be used to remove it. I usually use lacquer thinner, works fast and removes most paint spills. Now if it's house paint, then scrape off the excess with a blunt knife and pull out the Goof Off, try not to spread it out to much, work small and from the outside in on the stain. I guess nail polish is a paint, but with this one use nail polish remover or straight acetone with a towel, and again work the stain from the outside in so to not spread it out to far.

Now this is probably got to be the worst carpet stain out there. The red stain in the carpet. This is caused by a # 40 Red dye that is put in a lot of drinks like Kool Aid and, red and orange sodas. If you run across this one there is only one way to remove it and that's with a strong chemical. I have found a product that I use on these type of stains and have had really good luck with it, it's called Red Dye Solution. There are others out there like Red Relief, and Red Out, all work pretty similar. You pore the chemical on the stain, and with a wet white towel and a steam iron you remove the stain. It is a time consuming project and with some luck all of the stain will be removed. Sometimes a little blue hue will be left from the chemical but it sure is a lot better then a bright red stain jumping out at you. But with a little carpet dye over the top and your good as new. You can find these products usually at your local janitorial supply shop or online. I'm working on getting some here on my site, so bare with me.

Stain Removal In Carpetcan be frustrating at times, but there no substitute for a professional. These tips can help and may just save you but if you have any problems or feel that the stain is just a little above your head then don't hesitate to call an automotive interior repair professional like myself to come in a make your life a little easier. For those of you that are the professionals feel free to post your tips in the comments so we can all benefit from your expertise in carpet stain removal.