Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nobel Prize contributor found working at a Toyota dealership

When his research grant ran out, Doug Prasher gave his work to a colleague. Guess who won the prize.
DealersEdge Daily Headlines

A scientist who contributed to the research behind this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry has been shut out from the glory and will remain in Alabama working as a shuttle driver for a Toyota dealership while three of his colleagues enjoy a $1.4 million payday, reports the New York Post.

Twenty years ago, Dr. Douglas Prasher was one of the driving forces behind research that earned a Nobel Prize in chemistry this week. While his former colleagues will fly to Stockholm in December to accept the Nobel Prize and a $1.4 million check, the former Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist will be earning $10 an hour.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Prasher began research on a fluorescent protein found in a type of jellyfish and - working with a $220,000 grant from the American Cancer Society - was able to isolate and clone the gene that helped create it.

When his grant money ran out, he voluntarily gave copies of the genes he had developed to Columbia University's Martin Chalfie - one of three men to win the Nobel this week for their work on fluorescent proteins.

Dr. Prasher took the dealership job after a year of unemployment so he could put his kids though college.

His contribution was acknowledged by one of the Nobel laureates, Professor Chalfie, who said, “they could've easily given the prize to Douglas (Prasher) and the other two and left me out."

The Nobel committee only allows three people to share a prize. Despite his work, Dr. Prasher lost out.

According to published reports, as a result of the publicity, Dr. Prasher has received job inquiries from several research groups.


Virtual car dealerships open in Phoenix-area Wal-Mart stores

I'm still trying to figure out the difference between this and staying at home shopping on your computer. I mean - who wants to endure the BS of going into a Walmart to use the service? Has anyone had the pleasure of trying to develop pictures at a Walmart self-serve photo kiosk? Oh well, time will prove if this is a good idea or not.

Pilot program allows Wal-Mart customers to shop for new and used vehicles

By Hannah Scott

In an exclusive pilot program with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Live X Auto Exchange will begin to offer electronically enhanced auto trading services that bring an entirely new retail experience to consumers, reports television station KTAR in Phoenix.

Live X Auto Exchange is setting up shop at two Phoenix area Wal-Mart Super Centers. The “showroom” floor features music, televisions and computer screens to bring sellers and buyers together.

"It's a one-stop shop where you can get financing, you can look at all of the vehicles across town," said Patrick Dial, president and chief executive officer of Live X.

Live X uses a pricing intelligence system that takes the haggling out of car buying, Mr. Dial said.

There's one car on each showroom floor, which attracts people initially.

"When they come in and they ask, 'What are you guys doing?' we step them over to our technology and say, 'We're now in the car business, let me step you through it.'"

“Trading assistants” are at each of the showrooms to help people navigate through the online inventory, which features new and used cars from dealerships around Phoenix.

Live X Auto has an exclusive arrangement with Wal-Mart. It is an electronic trading platform that combines a virtual trading experience bringing car buyers and sellers together. Financing can be approved on the spot with several lenders including Wal-Mart's local partner, Desert Schools Credit Union.

There is a three-day, 500-mile exchange policy on most cars.


Monday, October 6, 2008

GM’s Top-Selling Chevy Dealer Out of Business

GM’s Top-Selling Chevy Dealer Out of Business

By Cliff Banks
General Motors Corp.’s top-selling Chevrolet dealer group is closing all of its 13 dealerships this week, citing various reasons for the drastic measure.

Bill Heard Enterprises Inc. sold more than 40,000 new vehicles – most of them Chevrolets – in 2007 and was ranked 11th on the Ward’s Megadealer 100 this year with $2.2 billion in total revenue.

W.T. Heard Sr. opened the group’s first dealership in 1919 in Columbus, GA. The group had dealerships in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas with more than 2,700 employees.

All 13 of Heard’s stores ranked on the Ward’s Dealer 500 list this year.

A statement released by the company cites rising fuel prices, truck and SUV-laden inventory and the overall economic slowdown as reasons for going out of business.
Within the last couple of weeks, GMAC Financial Services stopped financing the inventory for several of Bill Heard’s stores, hampering the group’s ability to floor plan and order vehicles.


GMAC did not say why it did so, but several Heard stores have come under fire the last several years for a slew of allegations regarding violating business and ethical regulations in the states in which they operate.

GMAC reportedly threatened to pull its financing last year after Bill Heard sent 10,000 customers what appeared to be a recall notice but actually was a bid for service-department business.

Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs filed a $50 million deceptive-advertising lawsuit against the group’s four Georgia dealerships for the same offense. It was the first lawsuit filed by the OCA in its 32-year history against a dealership, according to a report in the Atlanta Business Chronicle last year.
The report also claims Bill Heard has paid more than $280,000 in fines to the state of Georgia since 1991.

Other states, including Florida, Texas and Arizona have been investigating the false recall notice claims, as well.

In early September, Bill Heard closed its Scottsdale, AZ, store which opened to great fanfare less than two years ago. And last year, the company sold its dealership in Antioch, TN, which at one time was selling more than 1,000 new and used vehicles a month.

GM likely will reopen several, if not all, of Bill Heard’s stores once buyers are found and the deals completed. GM spokeswoman Susan Garontakos says the auto maker will look to find new owners to keep the stores running.

In 2005, GM named Bill Heard one of its “Dealers of the Year,” an exclusive list of auto retailers demonstrating strong sales performance and customer service. Each of the 110 dealers on the list received the 2004 Jack Smith Leadership Award.