The Peaks and Valleys of General Motors

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General Motors is a company whose names holds a certain ring to it. We we hear the words General Motors we are reminded of industry, the working man, America in the early 19th century, smoke stacks, blue and white collars, luxury, speed, and a large, circular sky scraper located in the heart of Detroit with the domineering letters “GM” adorning it’s facade.

GM’s history has been filled many more ups than downs. For over seven decades was the leader in global sales. They have survived two World Wars, industry changes following the OAPEC Oil Crisis, the “invasion” of the Japanese automobile industry into America, Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, and now they’re powering through a series of recalls unlike the company has ever seen.

As of right now, GM has recalled somewhere in the ballpark of 11.2 million vehicles so far in 2014. This past Thursday, May 15, 2014, their most recent recall was announced. Corrosion on the wiring on the taillights could potentially cause the lights to malfunction. Along with this recall there were other problems reported. Low beam headlamp problems in older Corvettes, Hydraulic brake booster problems in 2014 Malibu’s, windshield wiper failure in 13-14 Cadillac CTS’, and a tie-rod defect in a few hundred full-size trucks.

Talk about running through everything with a fine tooth comb. These recalls are due to the fact that GM initially did a recall in the early part of 2014 in regards to an ignition switch problem. Key rings that were weighted too heavily could cause the ignition key to slip backward turning the engine off and disabling the airbag. This resulted in the deaths of 13 people. GM has also been fined $35 million for delaying the recall.

“I want to make it clear to our customers that you are our compass. You are the heart of everything we do and we intend to make this recall as smooth as possible for you so we will not let it ever happen again. We will learn from this and we will be a better company. Thank you for your patience.”  – Mary Barra, General Motors CEO, statement on the GM ignition switch recall.

Mary Barra lives and breathes GM. She started working for the company when she was 18 and became CEO on January 15, 2014. It was awfully inconvenient for her to take power right before such a monumental blow would strike, but she has fought through it making statement after statement, testifying before congress, constant press and media coverage, and continuing to recall more vehicles that are deemed unsafe.

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To give you an idea of the peaks and valley’s of GM we can take a look at their stock prices. On December 17, 2013, GM was trading at $41.53. As of May 16, 2014, they are down to $34.00. Their low point this year was on April 11 when they hit bottom at $31.93. This was almost a $10 difference in prices per share in only a few short months.

What of all the claims that were filed do to these faulty parts? If the insurance company has you covered financially for damages then you are technically out nothing. But their loss will probably result in a lawsuit with the company issuing the recall. However, these are all specific to each case as they are all different and no two accidents are the same.

What will the future hold for the company? As of right now we can only foresee a continuation of the events that have occurred in the first half of this fiscal year. The potential for another large scale recall is always a possibility, but there is always hope that this is the end of a long and rocky road for consumers and General Motors.

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The Autonomous Vehicle: Safety in the Numbers

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There’s a great story about Driverless Vehicles and senior citizens. AutonomouStuff, LLC, a company that specializes in supplying components commonly used within autonomy systems, held a focus group that consisted of 27 senior citizens (aged 72-96) and concerned the future of motor vehicles. When told about the technology that driverless vehicles would have and how it would affect our world they were asked if they would actually use one of these cars.

Before anyone had a chance to raise their hand, a sweet little 92 year old woman spoke up. “How soon will this technology be available? Everyone around me on the road will be safer because I’m not giving up my keys for anything!”

The group had a unanimous decision in favor of the driverless cars. It’s difficult to determine these kinds of numbers because of all the angles to consider. With an aging population of baby boomers that have increased life expectancy, we will see an America with more and more seniors on the road

 

Driverless Vehicles in Our Current World

In 1998, legislation was put into place that allows for what is known as a “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle.” They are basically golf carts with four walls. This year, they were approved for operation with driverless capabilities. Within 2014 there have already been four new companies that came into existence whose only focus is manufacturing the NEV’s.

The famous “Google Car” or Google’s driverless vehicles have now amassed 700,000 miles on the road that have resulted in accidents that were only caused by other drivers. People can sue all day long claiming that these cars are unsafe or that the technology isn’t ready yet, but the truth of the matter is that they’re here to stay.

As of right now there are still only four states that allow for driverless vehicle testing on open city roads, but there are many more that are openly debating the idea of letting them onto their own city streets. This will hopefully fall under the radar of hot button issues that have plagued our politics since 1776.

Many create images of self-driving car of the future that are incorrect. Some imagine slick-backed Ferrari looking speedsters with dashboard screens where you can watch TV, while others picture mobile offices with no front windows and a desk they can work at while they drive. This is incorrect because, although we would like to think that everything is going to be futuristic, the truth is that cars are going to look pretty similar to how they do now.

With the current technology of expected collision and avoidance, cars will be fitted with this technology without too many major modifications. This is way all of the Google Cars are things like a Lexus or a Prius. We may even be able to retrofit our current vehicles with this technology since it’s being developed so rapidly.

Currently, that is an App called “Ion Road” that converts our phone into a collision avoidance system. All you have to do is mount it onto your dashboard. Essentially, this is really all that a driverless vehicle does, save for the fact that it’s driverless and prevents accidents… And all the other bells and whistles they’ll put on it.

 

A Projection of Our Future

By 2016, we will begin to see driverless vehicles on the roads. People will have the opportunity to personally own a vehicle that requires no control other than the push of a button and the input of a destination.

By 2020, these vehicles will become the standard for shipping companies around the United States or at least the companies will have seriously begun adopting them into their business model. City busses, school busses, taxis, and other city vehicles will have started the conversion process. Death by motor vehicle accidents will be in steep decline as the roads become safer and safer.

By 2025, people all over the world will be using driverless vehicles as their mode of transportation. The idea of a classic car will start to take the definition of anything with a steering wheel and a brake pedal. With just a mobile device you will be able to summon a vehicle, put in a location and be on the road in time to take a nap while your car takes you safely to your destination.

This is just the author’s opinion of a possible timeline of how driverless vehicles will inevitably become more prevalent in our everyday life.

 

*Much of this article was inspired by a recent webinar concerning insurance and the future of the autonomous vehicle presented by the following:

Fraker, Guy. (April 30th, 2014). Webinar – “Autonomous Vehicles – Liability and Their Effect  On Insurance.”

Premium Entertainment: Our 3 Favorite Insurance Salesmen in Movie History

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Cinema is an art form that encapsulates our entire world. Characters that are both relatable and lovable are created to tell stories of truth and fiction. On the silver screen we’ve seen depictions of every kind of person from crime fighting superheroes and swashbuckling pirates to fearless soldiers. Characters are often dramatic and powerful that exemplify our hopes and dreams.Movies have the ability to tell real stories about real people and there’s no one more real than your friendly neighborhood insurance agent!

Here’s our list of the top insurance 3 agents in cinema history…

 

  1. Ned Ryerson  –  “Groundhog Day”

If you’ve seen Groundhog Day and you know anything about insurance salesmen then you know the definition of the word tenacity. Agents are always looking to get out there and make sure that you have the best coverage possible.

Groundhog Day shares the story of a one Phil Connors who is stuck in an endless repetitive cycle having to relive the holiday over and over. Each day is the same. He becomes so familiar with the events of the day that he knows what’s going to happen anywhere at any time.

In the middle of the film is Ned Ryerson. Ned is played by the classic film actor Stephen Tobolowsky. His portrayal of Ned shows a man that is determined to win the business of Phil Conners. At first, Phil is apprehensive of Ned due to his confusing situation, but by the end of the movie Phil has purchased “whole life, term, uniflex, fire, theft, auto, dental, health (with the optional death and dismemberment plan), water damage…” Every kind of insurance you can imagine.

The point to the whole movie is to just be the best person you can be. In this case, buying as much possible insurance from your agent can save your life and get you back on track to the way things should be.

Ned Ryerson will live on in our hearts as the greatest depiction of an insurance agent in cinema history. Check out the clip below to see Ned in all his glory.

 

  1. Mr. Incredible  –  “The Incredibles”

The Incredibles, an animated film from 2004, tells the story of a typical suburban family. Everything is normal from their small home, two cars, kids in school… minus the fact that they all have superpowers. After the government outlaws vigilantism the family is forced to hide their powers from the public and give up crime fighting.

Mr. Incredible, voiced by Craig T. Nelson, is now living life as your average Joe, Bob Parr. His days are now spent behind a desk making phone calls, answering e-mails, checking renewal dates, making sure to follow-up on leads, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.

But his character says a lot about the life of an insurance agent. It’s hard work, it can be stressful, but deep down aren’t they all really just superheroes? Don’t they all really save lives by making sure that you are protected when the time comes?

 

  1. Tim Lippe  –  “Cedar Rapids”

Life for insurance agent, Tim Lippe, played by Ed Helms, has been very sheltered. He lives in small town Wisconsin where he works for a small insurance company. His life gets turned upside down when his friend and mentor suddenly passes away. Tim is then sent by his company to an insurance convention in the big city of Cedar Rapids where everything is bigger and different.

Tim is our hero because of unforgettable lines like, “Insurance agents get people’s lives back on track.” Never have truer words been spoken.

He’s a simple man who enjoys the small pleasures in life. He is a real person and he is relatable. Not always is life fun and games. Sometimes it’s hard work and determination. Tim Lippe is the perfect embodiment of your everyday insurance agent.

 

Characters are people. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tough. Some are humble. Some save lives using superpowers and some save real lives by protecting people from financial ruin. The next time you meet with your agent please remember that they don’t just sell insurance, but that they may have a family at home, bills just like everyone else and that deep down they really do care.

Insurance Fraud: A Victimless Crime?

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It’s a cold December morning as a man sits by his fireplace stoking the flames. The light of the flames dance all around the cold, gigantic room as it reveals to us a collection of antique art hanging on the walls.

The phone rings once. “Be here is 30 minutes. The Van Gogh is all set as well as the Picasso. I’ll be long gone before you’re finished.” The man hangs up the phone and exits the room. The flames bounce around more and more gently as the fire smolders. The only sound heard is the crackle of the fire and the tick of a grandfather clock in the corner.

Glass shatters. A man dressed in black enters as swift as a cat and makes his way to the far wall where a framed painting is hung. He opens a large velvet sack and carefully lowers a beautiful post-impressionist painting of a river into it. He grabs another nearby and then slips back out through the window.

The homeowner returns to witness the crime scene. He sits down in his chair and makes a phone call. “I’d like to file a police report.” He says. “Priceless art has been stolen from my home.” A smile racks across his wrinkled face.

 

Insurance Fraud is Not a Victimless Crime

Insurance fraud happens and it is illegal. The story above illustrates a fictional retelling of an actual case of insurance fraud in which a California man planned to have expensive fine art stolen from him home so that he could cash in on the $17,500.000 insurance claim. He was convicted and found guilty in 1999.

There have been many other cases involving people who purposely crash their cars, people faking their own deaths and business owners burning down their own properties. Insurance fraud is not uncommon and it happens all the time. What people don’t realize it that it’s not just a victimless crime.

A business owner paid someone to burn his business to the ground so that he could collect on the insurance money. The fire raged out of control and end up burning down several nearby homes and killing one innocent bystander.

 

An Excerpt from Wikipedia on Insurance Fraud

“Insurance fraud occurs when any act is committed with the intent to fraudulently obtain some benefit or advantage to which they are not otherwise entitled or someone knowingly denies some benefit that is due and to which someone is entitled.

According to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation the most common schemes include: Premium Diversion, Fee Churning, Asset Diversion and Workers Compensation Fraud. The perpetrators in these schemes can be both insurance company employees and claimants. False insurance claims are insurance claims filed with the intent to defraud an insurance provider.

Insurance fraud has existed ever since the beginning of insurance as a commercial enterprise. Fraudulent claims account for a significant portion of all claims received by insurers, and cost billions of euros annually. Types of insurance fraud are very diverse, and occur in all areas of insurance.

Insurance crimes also range in severity, from slightly exaggerating claims to deliberately causing accidents or damage. Fraudulent activities also affect the lives of innocent people, both directly through accidental or purposeful injury or damage, and indirectly as these crimes cause insurance premiums to be higher. Insurance fraud poses a very significant problem, and governments and other organizations are making efforts to deter such activities”

 

So, the next time you think of planning a heist like pretending someone stole your Van Gogh  painting remember you might not lose an ear like Van Gogh but may lose something nearly as important, your freedom.  Many jurisdictions take insurance fraud extremely seriously and will prosecute to the furthest extent of the law.  The common saying of “you do the crime you do the time” can be used perfectly in this case. Insurance Fraud is a crime and it is illegal.

The Autonomous Vehicle: The World of Today

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There was a common vision of the future that children from the 20th century shared. A world filled with flying cars brimming the blue skies, people in glass homes higher than sky scrapers, meals encapsulated entirely inside of a pill, robots at our beck and call, and a more advanced, yet simpler time.

Technology advances at lightning speeds in all aspects design and engineering. For many years we really believed that we would hop in our flying car and be in Cabo in a matter of hours. This is still a future possibility, but for right now there is something coming our way and it’s big. It’s going to change our lives.

The Autonomous Vehicle, or driver-less car, is no longer a vision of the future and they are coming to a store near you. So, what does that mean…Autonomous Vehicle? It’s an advancement in the common motor vehicle. One that will require someone to input a location, push a button then kick back and enjoy the ride. By using sensors, GPS, radar, and computer vision, an Autonomous Vehicle can safely transport anyone or anything to anywhere without the need for someone to actually be behind the wheel. I’m not even sure if they’ll come with wheels!

Now, this make take a few years but lawmakers, insurance companies, transportation companies, and everybody under the sun is beginning to realize that a driver-less vehicle is going to have a major impact on everything in our lives. From picking your kids up from school to drastically altering mass shipping and transportation, an Autonomous Vehicle will change the way we look at the world.

The Facts and Figures

Google had a driver-less car zipping around the streets of California for a while putting on the odometer over 300,000 miles. The car was in two accidents in that entire time. Both were caused by other drivers hitting the car.

“More than 90 percent of road accidents are caused by human error. We, therefore, have to focus on people in our traffic safety programmes” Said Bob Joop Goos, chairman of the International Organisation for Road Accident Prevention.  So what happens if we just take people out of the equation?

How would you insure an autonomous vehicle? And would you even need to?

Car accidents are a leading cause of death in Americans. While the stats show that fatalities from accidents have steadily decreased in the past decade, they are not to a point that is acceptable. Distracted driving, whether it be drinking a coffee, texting, zoning out… etc. has become a serious problem. So, while cars are becoming safer, drivers are paying less attention to the road. It’s a simple fact. 20 years ago you’d never see a driver reading a text message, but today you may see five on the way to work.

Preparing for the Autonomous Future

In the next few years we will begin to see driver-less cars on the road. It’s a simple fact that they are here and they will be taking over transportation as we know it. So, how do we prepare for it? Where do we even begin?

This will be a gradual change. One by one people will start to see themselves being exposed to more and more Autonomous Vehicles as they begin to fill our roads, but there may come a time when they spread like wildfire, when new legislation is put into place requiring that all vehicles must be driver-less.  There may come a time when you go to the dealership and check out the new Ford Mustang and it may not have a steering wheel.

But do not fear! This is an advancement in technology. This is a step forward. There is much more we will learn as these cars come into our lives. There will be endless studies and testing before these cars are allowed in all 50 states, but they are already legally on the road for testing in California, Nevada, Michigan, and Florida with Texas not too far behind.

This is an open dialogue discussing the future of the Autonomous Vehicle and how it shaped our future, but more so how it’s shaping our present.