What Portland is driving?

(last updated 19 July 2017)

Ever wondered who is really driving all those Teslas? Every time when you are on the road is there really a German luxury car in next lane or are you just dreaming? Are they really taking over the US market!? Are US automakers pretty much relegated to selling Trucks? And their measly stock prices are indeed justified by what people are buying? Then what are the most reliable brands that everyone is buying?

The chart below from my recent study of about 4000 vehicles in Portland, OR helps answer some of these questions.

Despite being the most valuable automaker, the number of Teslas in market is even lower than Minis & Scions. Tesla stands at number 24, out of 25 top brands. Although Toyota & Honda are clear leaders in total number of vehicles on road, the German luxury brands are slowly getting closer to eclipsing the US automakers. In fact, the biggest segment for US automakers is Trucks/SUVs/Vans & they trail far behind in sedans. If you were to blindly guess the vehicle type for a US brand, you will be wrong more than half the time when picked a sedan.

So what are the key takeaways? I will have to go into details in a separate post, but here is a short summary.

To truly stand out, buy a Tesla or a Cadillac. Tesla: because they are the new head turner, and very rare. Cadillac because they are almost dead and nowhere to be seen. The Pacific Northwest prides in their hippie Subarus but they are not as ubiquitous as they are claimed to be. GM, Chrysler, and to some extent Ford, are mainly left with selling trucks. Toyota is beating everyone by a long margin, in total vehicles, in sedans, in trucks, and in hybrids. Honda is close but there is a long gap after that. Nissan is a surprise with as many as Subarus and more than Chrysler but their Fiat brand is nowhere to be seen. When you say hybrid, you might as well say Prius because there isn’t anything else out there. EV is not as popular as everyone claims to be. And whatever is there, it’s almost all Nissan Leaf. Did you know how surprisingly cheap it is? Just lookup (spoiler alert: there is an almost 65% discount on on it after dealership rebates, tax breaks, employer discounts & new credits from the recently passed $5.2 billion Oregon infrastructure bill).

This is the key plot. Take a look & let me know your observations. I will follow with a longer post later this week.



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The Joys & Sorrows of Work

I recently quit my job after 6 years.

It’s been one week now and time to reflect on the change after all the good-byes are said, farewell hangover has worn off and the honeymoon is almost over.

I got comments from lot of colleagues when I informed about my plans to leave. Almost all were positive, wishing me good luck and asking about next plans.

Here are few comments, from standard good bye to some very interesting ones.

  • Enjoy your freedom
  • Respect! I always wanted to do this, but could never take that first step
  • What kind of Portfolio do you have? It got to be a big jackpot, otherwise nobody can take this kind of step
  • I feel happy for you. I wish I could do that
  • It’s okay to take a break & re-think the priorities. You should be able to return back if you want to
  • So sad to see you go. Good luck
  • This was a surprise, at least to me. I hope all is well. You will be fine wherever you decide to go
  • What’s the plan? Where next?
  • It was fun working with you all these years. I wish you all the best
  • Too many good people are leaving. And I know why. Good luck and I hope our paths cross in future
  • We will miss you around here

I believe it is necessary to work. For paying the bills and for enjoying the basic luxuries of life. Work helps pay for what the government has promised the retirees. And to pay for the roads, the bridges, the telecommunication systems, for space exploration, for fighting the wars.  Every able-bodied person should work. But not for the sake of it. And one should never sell their soul for their work.

Quitting is hard. People spend more time at work than what they spend actively engaged with their families. So coworkers do feel like family, whether you like them or not. That’s when the joys and sorrows of work start to define our life.

During my  time at work, I have encountered three kinds of coworkers:

  • Highly motivated and fully engaged; they feel their work defines them and they define the company. They are management darlings and rise up until the Dilbert principle catches up with them (‘in a company you eventually end up in a role where you can do the least damage’). But their numbers are small
  • Worker bees; they are programmed to do their job without much fuss. They are reliable, easy to manage, and handle pretty much all the work on ground until they are given more responsibility; that’s when they leave or decide not to grow anymore; they are the punching bag for upper management & build the ladder for them to grow
  • Ride-it-out crowd; mostly those who have no choice but to stick around to pay the bills and build a good cushion to retire; pretty much everyone ends up in this camp later or sooner, until the the meaninglessness of the daily grind dawns on them

Most people will not be in any of these positions without rebelling, if given a choice. There are circumstances beyond anyone’s control that ‘motivate’ people to chug along. And these start very early in their life.

  • Structured Debt: it is surprising how much student loans an average new-hire has; and this cuts both ways: some  of it will be paid over next several years preventing them from saving; and some of it is paid by the parents draining their life long savings
  • Non-structured Debt: the quest to acquire the latest and greatest items out there. I found it impressive how many new-hires buy brand new cars (very often luxury brands) & how often they replace them. There is no parking available on Saturdays and Sundays in the mall next to my house. Portland is a great place for outdoors, but notice the gear people wear. Try next time on a hike: It’s branded, expensive & rarely old.
  • Next-generation’s Debt: most people have kids & they are expensive: (1) childcare costs are high; (2) families end up with only one income as one parent stays with kids; this erodes their current and future income; (3) you need to save a lot for their future. For summer camps, for large family vacations and for college tuition.
  • Mortgage Debt: a typical family pays double the amount what their house if worth, over 30 years. The great American dream of owning a home forces people to put down their roots and never re-locate. And the employer knows that, using it against them.
  • The Impending Health-crisis Debt: If there is one reason why people have to keep working, it’s health insurance. The US system of health insurance through employees forces people into jobs they don’t want to do. And as you grow older, the bills and premiums grow, making it even harder to leave.

I am not immune to any of these but have carefully avoided the ones I could. And that has helped me step out and say goodbye. What next? That still needs to be answered.


So long…

After 6 years, I say goodbye. Thanks for sharing the joys & sorrows of work. Let’s stay in touch, leave me a comment.

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– by Robert Frost