What’s going on at Uber Technologies Inc.?

by A. R. Bunch

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Lot’s on every front and the downside of having a company everyone talks about is pretty obvious when you have a stumble. I don’t want the mud to be the only thing talked about, however, since it’s not all bad news.

So, on the dark side, according to stories by Greg Bensigner of WSJ  the CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, has stepped down. This comes on the heels of a boating accident that claimed his mother’s life and seriously injured his father. It also comes on the heels of a note from five investors asking him to step aside due to a lot of allegations around sexual harassment of women in the workplace.

The allegations receive merit due to the firing and resignation of many top executives at Uber, but the official statement by Kalanick was, “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

To put the events of the last four months in context here’s a brief run down brought to you by Justin Bariso:

Starting February 19, 2017 Susan Fowler, former Uber Engineer, reported on her personal blog that she’d faced discrimination, harassment, and career sabotage while at Uber.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder began a major investigation into the company’s practices and management style

Numerous executives fled the company on their own volition (or were soon fired)

Another 20 employees were fired over claims of inappropriate behavior

A prominent member of Uber’s board resigned after a comment was leaked that many felt was sexist

Uber brought aboard Wan Ling Martello, head of Nestle Asia, as its second female board member

Uber loses market share to chief competitor Lyft

Ultimately, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s founder, resigns as CEO

On the bright side. Uber appears to have cleaned house on this issue.

On the dark side, law suits have begun between Google and Uber over self-driving technology. Lawsuits between such companies aren’t typically that damning though. Its just a part of trying to develop new technology in a world where everyone else is too. Uber stands accused of hiring an engineer who took files with him when he left Google. Could be fire beneath that smoke, or could all just be fog.

Uber has recently a bid to force its drivers to abide by the arbitration clause brought against it from drivers who claimed that Uber misrepresented how much they could potentially earn (http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-uber-arbitration-20150610-story.html). Uber has gotten away with changing the deal on its drivers at the drop of a hat simply by requiring them to agree to new terms or don’t drive today. It ruffles feathers, which is unfortunate, because the company can probably make money hand over fist without doing so.

They’ve also been sued by drivers over worker classification and an ruling in that case, June 21st, declared that Uber drivers are Uber employees not contractors, and therefore not exempt from labor laws.

On the bright side. Uber has started to address some of the concerns from their drivers. In recent communication with it’s drivers they stated that they are beginning a 180 days of change campaign, during which they will be adding tipping to their app, reducing the time riders have to cancel without paying, and charging time for riders who order a ride and then don’t make an effort to be findable by drivers. These are all common sense changes and it’s good to see Uber focused on more than just expanding to new cities and countries.

Why is Uber getting so much coverage on the Kicker Blog? Because if car driving is automated by companies such as Uber, Apple, and Google, car ownership as we know it could be changed forever. Next week we’ll be looking at these possible changes. Stay tuned.

Best Car Brands of 2017

By Ezekiel Gacee

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Best Car Brands to Look Out For In 2017

Vehicle manufacturers are coming up with great car design each passing day. There are all sorts of cars coming from Germany, USA, Japan, Britain and other manufacturing countries. Here at The Kicker, we’re agnostic when it comes to which car is superior. Every manufacturer has turned out a lemon (with the possible exception of Tesla who hasn’t been around long enough to do so.) “What’s a good car,” generally comes down to what you need it to do. In fact that one reason, we’re fans of pre-purchase inspection by companies like Tire Kickers. Because nothing out there will tell you the value of a particular car like having it inspected. You wouldn’t buy a house because other houses in the neighborhood were well built; you’d want to know the house you’re buying is solid before you buy. Getting a car inspected is more important that where you choose to buy your car from.

But we can report on what other car experts are saying based on their performance testing. Choosing among all the brands can be a daunting task. They are all advertising their brands as the best brands to consider investing in. This may help narrow it down.

But what actually makes a good car brand and what are the best car brands in the market today?

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Analysis Report

According to Consumer Reports analysis Audi is the best car brand for the year 2017. Audi has been performing well in the consumer report and it was, in fact, top of the list in 2016. In an analysis that looked at different brands consistency and their performance on different tracks and terrains, Porsche comes second while BMW, Lexus, and Subaru follow in that order. Most of these brands are consistent customer favorites for best brands for many years in a row as well.

Chrysler performed amazingly in the analysis by moving ranks and proving to be more consistent than other famous brands.  Acura, Infiniti, and Cadillac also are good cars to look out for in 2017. They performed well in ranking. Tesla is among the top performing American brands. Famous brands that have not been performing well in the list include Fiat, Jeep, Mitsubishi and Land Rover.

 Road Test

In addition to reliability, safety and owner satisfaction different models by famous brands were road tested. Every model tested for Porsche, BMW, and Mazda managed to rise in ranking. In overall recommendation by auto experts Audi, Honda and Hyundai were standing at 86 percent on the test.

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Reliability and new road tests make the different brands shift positions in the ranking. Some car brands, for instance, had superior cars in past years but in the new road test, they fail to prove their consistency. Such cars include Subaru Legacy and Outback which are now being rated average. Mini also fails to make the list of best cars in 2017 because clients viewed Cooper and Clubman as unreliable and therefore a poor performer.

Consideration

For a brand to be considered best it must be consistent in reliability and meet the owner satisfaction. The overall score in terms of performance and also the road test score help to gauge each brands measure of reliability and performance. Audi performed excellently in reliability and owner satisfaction. In the road test, the brand was high with an impressive 86 percent score and an overall score of 81 percent.

In a summary the best car brands of 2017 based on their overall score on performance, reliability and road-tests are; Audi (81), Porsche (77), BMW (77), Lexus (77), Subaru (74), KIA (74), Mazda(73 ), Tesla (73), Honda (72) and Buick (72). The below the list are Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Jeep and Fiat which performed poorly on reliability.

CARS ARE WHO WE ARE

by Greg Zschomler

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Sometimes a car is just a car, right?

Uh, that would be: no.

A car is never “just a car” (unless it’s a rental).

Our car is more than a mere vehicle for getting around. It is part of who you are; part of your identity—an extension of your personality and a reflection of your very nature. A car is that dear companion that faithfully propels you through life’s many adventures, like:

  • That long and, otherwise lonely, road trip back home to be with family for the holidays.
  • That romantic embrace atop “Blueberry Hill.”
  • That once-in-a-lifetime vacation across the States to a Disney Park.
  • That adrenaline fueled 4 a.m. trip through the ice and snow to the hospital for the birth of your baby.
  • That magical journey to a breathtaking vista where somehow God spoke to the very core of your soul.
  • That hoot of a night out with friends that seemed to take you beyond the point of laughter to a deep happy place you’ll treasure forever.

No, a car is not simply a car.

Our car is our work instrument, our dashboard diner, our get-away vehicle, our home away from home, our mobile storage unit, our respite from the elements, our rock-n-roll hoochie-koo, our personal isolation chamber, our friendly gathering place, our nap nook, our “cone of silence,” our “submarine race” observation station, our portable office and our haven of rest.

Our cars are our babies.Greg_cars are2

And when we treat them with love and respect, they’re good to us in return. We not only rely on them to get us where we’re going but to protect us and our family in the process. And when you put that kind of faith and trust in something, you also put a piece of your heart there.

Sure it’s nice to get a new car once in a while, but it’s hard to say goodbye to old “true blue,” too. We remember our first car like we remember our first kiss. (There are just things you can never forget.) But, like the people we love, cars often come into and move out of our lives for a variety of reasons. Still, they will forever hold a place in our lives. They are the markers of who we were, who we are, and even who we will become because they take us to new places, bring us back to times gone by, and serve us in the here and now.

And when “Betsy” one day departs for that “scrap yard in the sky” we will move on with a certain forlorn sorrow, fond memories and a forever longing to be reunited. When we see another like her our remembrances will be stirred, our hearts will flutter anew, and we will wistfully sigh and remark: “I used to have a car like that.” Old tales will ensue and they will tie us together because, after all…

…a car is NOT just a car.

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All pictures courtesy of Pixabay