Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two Interesting Updates...

1. At least one Nissan exec thinks that the U.S. car culture is about to undergo a fundamental change:
Unlike most executives, he welcomes the imposition of new U.S. fuel regulations that mandate 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

"It is not an issue" for Nissan (NSANY) he says.

He expects the new regs to drive more small cars, improved technoloy, and a broader variety of shapes and sizes, as designers try to get more variety out of similarly-sized vehicles.

But he points to some discouraging global trends that don't bode well for the industry.

He notes that consumers in Japan are losing their mojo when it comes to cars. The population is aging, and younger drivers would rather spend their money on new cellphones and Internet access.

"Japan is increasingly not interested in new cars," he says.
2. Meanwhile, the scope of the permanent housing market correction continues to expand:
Nationally, the variety of communities facing a wave of foreclosures is striking. Many areas of go-go growth—the Southwest, California’s Central Valley, much of Florida, eastern Colorado, Greater Atlanta—have been hard-hit. So too have portions of the Rust Belt, and a narrow east-west strip running from Tennessee into Arkansas. The places encompass run-down neighborhoods as well as areas with at least a veneer of affluence. (On the street pictured below, many of the houses sold for $400,000 or more.) If nothing else, the meltdown forces us to consider how much uncertainty may lurk beneath the surface of apparent prosperity; an ample suburban house could be an asset or a liability, depending on the terms of the mortgage and the direction of the local market.