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The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

When Does an Upset Stomach Give You a Corporate Migraine?

August 2006, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

To judge a man's character by only one of its manifestations is like judging the sea by a jugful of its water.
Paul Eldridge

If you hear that a mountain has moved, believe; but if you hear that a man has changed his character, believe it not.
Mohammedan proverb

I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the house-tops.
Oscar Wilde

I begin to find that too good a character is inconvenient.
Sir Walter Scott

We all need our Pepcid-AC, Pepto Bismol, or an old-fashioned cathartic to get rid of today's gas-induced expense problems. How can anyone help?

If you're still addicted to the morning newspaper (as I am), you won't have any difficulty in identifying with the current promotions by some of the auto companies. The ads seem to be in every day and they're persuasive.

"We'll purchase your gas for the rest of the year and guarantee you all you want for $ 1.99/gallon, max!" Or, "We'll buy all your gas for the rest of the year at no extra cost!" (That's presuming that you purchase one of their overstocked, hard-to-sell at the moment, maybe nearly gas-guzzler, vehicle. And, of course, this alleviates you from having to sacrifice your first-born or your spouse's chastity.)

But, it's true! Everyone behind the wheel today talks much about the price of oil (crude or gas at the pump). You get hooked when you notice that it came down 3 cents in the past week. Then, you're heartbroken when it goes up a nickel the next week. It's on everybody's mind.

To underscore my theory above, I re-read Mike Antich's cover story in the July issue. Greg Asadoorian of Invensys says, "We'll look closer at mpg as a selector criteria." At Boehringer Ingelheim, Lee Miller tells us that they have set up a minimum miles per gallon requirement for all levels.

Sheryl Grossman at GE Healthcare advises that they are now hedging on fuel costs as a corporation. Debbie Mize at Hallmark calls gasoline a "huge concern." The feeling is contagious and not going away.

Perhaps it was best summed up by Sam Alfano, director of finance at Cook's Pest Control in Decatur, Ala. He eloquently stated, "Everything pales next to the concerns about high fuel costs." Who can argue?

I'm a bit of a research nut, so I checked out the Camry from 10 years ago (and I'm only talking about 4-bangers here) but their 2.2L L4 was giving 21 (city)/28 (highway) back then. Today's Camry happens to be 100 lbs. heavier and the 2.4L engine gives you 158 hp and 24/32. Both the Ford Fusion and the Chevrolet Malibu give you more than 30 mpg highway today. Some progress.

My sometimes-colleague from MotorTrend, Angus Mackenzie, dug out some interesting data. And with a presumed Scottish name as he bears, let's accede that he knows cost numbers. Back in 1981, government figures pegged gas costs at $ 1.38/gallon while a production worker earned an average wage of $7.28/hr. So, it took about 1 1.4 minutes of work to buy a gallon of gas. Thai's the base.

At the beginning of this year with gas at $2.35 (yes, I know it's gone up since then), this same worker was earning an average of $16.42/hr. or 8.6 minutes to pay off a gallon. In real terms, gas in January was about 25- percent cheaper than in 1981. (Now, does that really make you feel better? Or richer?)

Like Debbie Mize says, it's a huge concern. Still Alfano's is the best, "Everything pales next to the concerns about high fuel costs." Managing this challenge is a test in character for all of us.

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