By Jetta! 800,000 More VW’s Offend; B(u)y Jeep-ers! U.S. Auto Sales Don’t Offend; Call of Duty About to Get a Whole Lot Sweeter

This thing just keeps growing and growing…

Image courtesy of  fantasista/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of fantasista/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you thought it was okay to start thinking about buying a Volkswagen, the company announced that yet another 800,000 vehicles are getting caught in the toxic wind of the company’s emissions probe. This revelation was the result of an internal probe and while those cars are currently out and about, Volkswagen wants to reassure the public that the cars are still safe to drive. Just don’t breathe around them. The auto company set aside close to $7 billion hoping that amount will be enough to cover the repairs and lawsuits. It won’t be. It’s estimated that there are 11 million Volkswagens worldwide that currently have the illegal software installed. Now it’s up to newly crowned CEO Matthias Mueller, who came over from Porsche, to help save the embattled car company, which already lost a third of its value and reported its first quarterly loss in 15 years.

Speaking of cars…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But on this side of the pond, car companies are having a much better day than Volkswagen. In fact, GM and Fiat Chrysler are currently in the wonderful throes of their best two month stretch. Ever. Well, in 15 years anyway. Even if you weren’t one of the lucky ones to have purchased one of those vehicles, it’s still good news since increased automobile sales indicate that the U.S. economy is in fairly decent shape. Ford did okay and Nissan did a little better. But nothing like GM, whose sales were up a nice beefy 16%, even though analysts only thought its sales would increase 12%. The company did especially well with a little help from its pricey truck lines and SUV’s. Fiat Chrysler’s sales were up a very respectable 15%, selling over 195,500 cars just last month. However, the company had a humongous boost from its Jeep brand which saw a massive 33% increase. This makes it the 67th consecutive month of increased sales for Fiat Chrysler. But, what exactly, is the reason why all these people are running out and buying up cars? If you answered low gas prices, then score one for you. The national average gas price hit a new low of $2.20 a gallon, 85 cents less than last year at this time.  But low interest rates and a slew of manufacturer incentives in order to move out the 2015 inventory also helped matters. A lot.

Call of Candy Crush Duty…

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What happens when you cross the “Call of Duty” with a bunch of confections? You get the biggest acquisition of a mobile-game. Ever. Even bigger than the much-hyped Microsoft acquisition of Mojang, maker of the very beloved “Minecraft.” That’s right, Activision Blizzard, video-game maker of perennial fave games, including “Call of Duty” and “Skylanders,” scooped up King Digital Entertainment, the force behind the highly addictive “Candy Crush,” for a whopping $5.9 billion. Activision Blizzard is getting the mobile confection game maker for $18 a share, a premium over its $17.84 closing price and $4.50 less than its $22.50 IPO.  But many are wondering if Activision’s purchase will pay off. On the one hand, this is a great way for Activation to get into the $20 billion mobile gaming industry. On the other hand, King Digital failed to impress with Candy Crush follow-ups, Farm Heroes Saga and Pet Rescue, leaving many to wonder if the company’s got anything left to show.  After all, its third quarter earnings weren’t exactly sweet and monthly active users came in at 474 million, down from last year’s 495 million.

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Oh!-PEC Ready to Talk; Cry Me a River: Minecraft Creator’s Got the Blues; Listeria Out. Blue Bell In.

To heck with the Prius…

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hope you enjoyed that cheap gas while it lasted because OPEC is now ready to dig deep inside itself to talk about the current oil situation – news that sent oil prices surging 8.8% today to almost $50 a barrel. That, my friends, is the biggest 3 day gain in 25 years. OPEC, as in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (they have a magazine!) is ready to put the brakes on its output just as the U.S. also revised numbers its own estimates of oil production. (The Energy Information Administration came up with a new way to calculate U.S. oil production and that resulted in a 13 million barrel difference from the previous method. Talk about your margin of error.) OPEC’s willingness to talk stems from its desire to achieve “fair and reasonable prices.” Which basically means, OPEC isn’t enjoying the low price of oil – due to the glut – and wants to get those prices right back up again. I suppose that since it produces 40% of the world oil output its entitled to feel this way.  Of course, Saudi Arabia, an OPEC member has to be willing to play ball too. However, some experts don’t think that’s going to happen. OPEC is also hoping that these low oil prices will get people to consume more of it and maybe buy some gas-guzzling SUV’s to facilitate this idea. OPEC is estimating that oil use will rise to 1.3 million barrels per day, up from 2014’s 92.7 million barrels per day.  So…about that hybrid…

Poor little rich boy…

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.” So tweeted Minecraft creator Marcus “Notch” Persson over the weekend as he lamented over his obscene wealth.  He then tweeted how he feels unappreciated by his former employees: “When we sold the company, the biggest effort went into making sure the employees got taken care of, and they all hate me now.” Boo hoo. Good thing he sold his company to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. He can use all that money to blow his nose and wipe away his tears as he wallows in his $70 million, 23,000 square foot home in one of Los Angeles’ best zip codes. He also attributes his women troubles to his immeasurable wealth: “Found a great girl, but she’s afraid of me and my life style and went with a normal person instead.” And that’s totally understandable. To want to be with someone normal. See where I’m going with this? Thought so. By Monday, however, Persson’s spirits seemed to have lifted since he tweeted: “fwiw, while there are articles about my depression because I had a bad day and vented on a trend I saw, I’m sitting here having a nice day.” Good because I, for one, was worried. Maybe now he can sit around and find a solution for the oil glut?

We all scream…

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Order has been restored as Texas-based Blue Bell Ice Cream hits the freezer shelves once again. And this time the ice cream is presumably listeria-free! According to the Centers for Disease Control, the deadly virus found in the ice cream was responsible for three deaths and several illnesses and the dairy company’s products were yanked from stores. The 108 year old company now has to pull out all the stops to recover – and not just fiscally.  The company laid off and furloughed thousands of employees and upgraded or is in the process of upgrading its various facilities. But if you really want your Blue Bell fix, make sure you’re in Texas or Alabama, as the cold creamy confection is only available in those parts. Stores are even betting that the demand for the stuff will be so great that some chains have limited purchases of Blue Bell products to four per person.

Microsoft Gets “Craft”-y; Radio Smack; Marriott Hotels: The Envelope Please…

Mine-ful…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Look out Xbox. Microsoft put on its best game face as it picked up Mojang Ab, the maker of Minecraft, arguably one of the most awesomest games to hit the universe. Ever. Actually it hit the universe in 2009 and to date has raked in about $100 million in profit, not just from the game itself but from merchandising and licensing deals, as well. The game has sold over 50 million copies (and counting). For the privilege of owning this gaming masterpiece, Microsoft has to write out a hefty $2.5 billion check.  However, the interesting part of this not-so-little sale is that the founders and top executives (and shareholders)  – all three of them – will not be coming along for the ride. Rumor has it that Swedish Minecraft creator Markus Persson, and company, have big plans to focus on new endeavors. Though the super pricey acquisition is not really expected to bring in major bank for Microsoft,  it is expected to beef up the presence of Microsoft’s Windows based smart phones, now that Minecraft will be so handily available.

Resignedly…

Image courtesy of pat138241/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pat138241/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As it sails towards the seas of bankruptcy, Radio Shack’s CFO, John Feray, decided to jump ship, resigning for “personal reasons” less than eight months after assuming his post. Tis’ a shame indeed for if he had just stayed through March 2015, he could have pocketed $275,000 as part of a retention agreement in his contract. I wouldn’t mind a few hundred thousand in my pocket just for staying put. But alas, consultant Holly Etlin will, for the second time, serve as interim CFO. Radio Shack CEO Joe Magnacca acknowledged Radio Shack is thisclose to riding the bankruptcy pony on its 5,000 stores while dexterously managing to avoid discussing the untimely departure of Mr. Feray. The electronic retailer has been trying to scale back by closing hundreds of stores but it would appear to be of no avail as it just can’t compete with all those online retailers offering up goodies at extremely competitive prices.

Cuz you’ve got hospitality…

Image courtesy of pigdevilphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pigdevilphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tip the housekeeper! So says Maria Shriver, sometimes Kennedy and ex-wife of the Governator, who just launched a program called A Woman’s Nation, to promote the advancement of women in the workplace and to recognize the value of woman in all areas of life. Go Women! And you too, Maria Shriver! Because hotel guests rarely see the hotel room attendants, their hard work and efforts often get overlooked. But those days are sure to come to an end, at Marriott Hotels, anyway, as strategically placed and conveniently marked envelopes will be put out to remind guests to leave a tip of between $1-$5 a day – as opposed to leaving a tip only once a guest checks out. Incidentally, room attendants are the largest employee group of Marriott and work in over 160,000 rooms in over 4,000 properties all over the world. The company pulled in $13 billion in revenue in 2013.