May 11, 2007

VW Jet: Cool project, hot subject

I mentioned this amazing VW jet project recently, in a completely different context, over on my information security blog. as something of a joke.

The joke was NOT about the street legal JET-IN-A-VW project (I think there's an old proverb that goes something like "Jest not about a man who can fit a jet engine into car and live to drive it about"). Indeed, I urge you to read Ron Patrick's account of the project--it's fascinating stuff, especially the matter-of-fact manner in which he says things like "The first thing I did when I got the car was to cut the hole in the back for the engine. Made a fancy jig out of a tripod, a rod, and a lawnmower wheel to mark out the cut and went at it with a pneumatic saw" and "Air for the jet enters the car through the two side windows and the sunroof. It's a little windy inside but not unbearable." Amazing!

My infosec joke was about VW, which used [allegedly] a VW corporate jet [aircraft] to steal a bunch of secret documents from GM. And herein lies the automotive angle, something I have not heard anyone speculate about before. As part of the settlement of the ensuing industrial espionage lawsuit, VW agreed to buy more than a billion dollars worth of parts from General Motors over 7 years. That agreement was around 1997. So we can assume VW used a lot of GM made parts in its vehicles between 1997 and 2004.

Now, have you experienced reliability problems with a VW during that time period? I know my daughter has, on two different vehicles (kid can be such slow learners sometimes). And I seem to recall that VW has consistently had at least one model in the Consumer Reports "least reliable" list every year during that time, and still does today....do I need to connect the dots?

Let me drop another hint, outside the auto field. In the last year, Dell, Apple, IBM, Toshiba and others have all had to issue recalls on notebook computers with batteries made by Sony. All the numbers I have been able to find [as a blogger, not a paid journalist with a fact-checking department at my fingertips] seem to indicate that a smaller percentage of Sony Vaio computers shipped with the defective batteries than Toshibas, Dells, etc. Hmmmmmm....

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