I don’t know if you are in the market for a new car but J.D. Power has recently completed a quality study for the 2019 U.S. models.  New-vehicle quality in 2019 stays flat compared with 2018, marking the first year without improvement since 2014, according to the J.D. Power 2019 Initial Quality Study (IQS), SM recently released.   More brands worsened than improved over the past 12 months.  Not good but good to know.  We are going to take a look at the key findings and present the rankings in a gar graph.  That bar graph is presented later in this post.

“Automakers continue to make progress in areas like infotainment that attract a lot of consumer attention,” said Dave Sargent, Vice President of Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “However, some traditional problems crept up this year including paint imperfections, brake and suspension noises, engines not starting and the ‘check engine’ light coming on early in the ownership experience. Also, more people are having issues with their advanced driver assistance systems, which are critical for building consumer trust in future automated vehicles.”

Initial quality is measured by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first ninety (90) days of ownership, with a lower score reflecting higher quality. In this year’s study, only thirteen (13) brands improved, while 18 worsened. The industry average remained unchanged at ninety-three (93) PP100.

Following are key findings of the 2019 study:

  • Gap between Korean brands and others continues to widen: The three highest-ranking brands—Genesis, Kia and Hyundai—are all from Korean manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group, and the gap between these three brands and all others has widened considerably. Remarkably, six teen (16) of eighteen (18) models from Hyundai Motor Group rank in the top three in their respective segments. These vehicles tend to perform especially well in the areas of infotainment and other electronic components.
  • Domestic brands above average: Ford (83 PP100), Lincoln (84 PP100), Chevrolet (85 PP100), Dodge (90 PP100) and Buick (92 PP100) all perform better than the industry average of 93 PP100. Overall, Domestic-branded vehicles perform close to the average in most areas.
  • All European brands are below average: In contrast to the success of the Korean automakers and the leading domestic and Japanese brands, all ten (10) European marques are below average. The largest gaps for the European vehicles are infotainment and other electronics.
  • Porsche 911 again achieves the best score of any model: The Porsche 911, with just fifty-eight (58) PP100, has the best score of any model for the second consecutive year.
  • Infotainment problems are decreasing: Infotainment remains the most problematic category for new-vehicle owners. However, this area is the most improved from 2018, led by fewer problems for voice recognition and Bluetooth.
  • Problems with driver assistance systems are increasing: As advanced driver assistance systems become more widespread and increasingly complex, more owners are indicating problems. The average for premium brands is 6.1 PP100, up from 5.0 last year, while the average for mass market brands is 3.5 PP100.
  • New and redesigned vehicles still trail carryover vehicles: Vehicles that were launched in 2019 have an average problem level of 103 PP100, which equals the best score ever. However, this is still well below the score for carryover models, which have an average problem level of 91 PP100.

Highest Ranking Brands:

Genesis ranks highest in overall initial quality with a score of just sixty-three (63) PP100. Kia (70 PP100) places second and Hyundai (71 PP100) ranks third. This is the second year in a row that the three Korean brands are at the top of the overall ranking, and it is the fifth consecutive year that Kia is the highest-ranked mass market brand. Ford (83 PP100) ranks fourth and Lincoln (84 PP100) ranks fifth, marking the first time both Ford Motor Company brands place in the top five in the same year.

Land Rover is the most-improved brand, with owners reporting thirty-seven (37) PP100 fewer problems than in 2018. Other brands with strong improvements include Jaguar (18 PP100 improvement), and Dodge and Volvo (each with 8 PP100 improvement). This is the highest Dodge has ever ranked in the study.

The parent corporation receiving the most model-level awards is Hyundai Motor Group (six awards), followed by General Motors Company (five); BMW AG (three); Ford Motor Company (two) and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (two).

  • Hyundai Motor Group models that rank highest in their respective segments are Genesis G70; Hyundai Santa Fe; Kia Forte; Kia Rio; Kia Sedona; and Kia Sportage.
  • General Motors Company models that rank highest in their segments are Cadillac Escalade; Chevrolet Equinox; Chevrolet Malibu; Chevrolet Silverado HD; and Chevrolet Tahoe.
  • BMW AG models that rank highest in their segments are BMW 2 Series; BMW X4; and MINI Cooper.
  • Ford Motor Company models that rank highest in their segments are Ford Fusion and Ford Ranger.
  • Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. models that rank highest in their segments are Nissan Maxima and Nissan Titan.

Other models that rank highest in their respective segments are Dodge Challenger, Lexus RX and Mercedes-Benz CLS.

You can see the pictorial ranking as follows:

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WINE

July 18, 2019


Okay, when you think of wine, I mean the good stuff, what country or countries do you automatically think of?  Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Argentina.  In looking at available data, we may see the following pie chart indicating the top ten (10) wine-growing countries in the world.

I do not think there are any real surprises here.

The chart below will help quantify amounts.  (NOTE: 1 Hectare is equivalent to 2.47105 acres.)  I was surprised that the United States constitutes a large wine-growing country and is fourth on the list.

For the past week and one-half my wife and I visited our family in Austin and Dallas.  Our son and daughter-in-law purchased property in the Johnson City area, and we were there for a brief visit.  During that visit, we scheduled two wine-tasting events during the first afternoon.  I was very much surprised at the quality of the wine and certainly did not know that much about grape growing and wine production in the hill country of Texas.  Let’s take a look.

TEXAS HILL COUNTRY WINERIES:

Texas Hill Country Wineries is a non-profit trade association, established in 1999 by a group of eight (8) wineries to promote their tasting rooms and wine production. Over the years the group of eight (8) grew to sixteen (16), twenty-four (24), thirty-two (32), forty-two (42) and now over fifty (50). The purpose of the association is to promote the development of member wineries by promoting Hill Country produced wines thereby; increasing the number of visitors and overall awareness of the industry. There is a diversity of passion in the personalities of the many member wineries, cultivating a spectacular experience for the adventurous visitors and wine lovers to share unparalleled hospitality. The community of Texas Hill Country Wineries presents the independent origins of the craft while promoting the winery membership.

To increase traffic to the tasting rooms, the membership created five (5) unique wine trails throughout the year. To this day THCW still hosts four (4) of those original events, including Wine Lovers Celebration, Wine & Wildflower Journey, Texas Wine Month Passport and the Christmas Wine Affair. These events are self-guided driving tours, with wineries offering tastings and discounts. Along the way, you might meet winemakers and owners, hearing first-hand their enthusiasm for what they do. The events are also a chance to enjoy legendary Hill Country musicians, artists, chefs and entertainers of all kinds.

THCW has grown with more than just winery members and trail events. Industry education events focused on growing grapes in Texas, winemaking, marketing and overall business are hosted throughout the year to support Texas wineries across the state. In 2015, a scholarship fund was created with a portion of event ticket sales and profits to award Texas students working towards a degree supporting the wine industry. Over the past few years, approximately $27,000 has been awarded and the program is thriving. A Board of seven (7) THCW members, with the support of the Grower, Winemaker, Marketing, Events, Legislative and Community Outreach Committees, oversee all planning and operations for the association, making all of the events, scholarships and more possible for members.

We now are going to take a tour of the two wineries we visited during that day.

LEWIS WINERY:

Lewis Wines is located in Johnson City and is owned by Doug Lewis and Duncan McNabb. Both Doug and Duncan handle all the winemaking, sales, etc. The winery opened February 2013. Doug and Duncan were roommates in college and have been friends since. Doug worked at Pedernales Cellars helping winemaking, harvesting, and anything else which needed doing. Duncan would also help out too. They started making a few barrels of wine at Pedernales to learn the craft of winemaking, and in 2011 they started thinking about making commercial wine. Thus, the hatching of the idea of Lewis Wines began.

The digital below shows the entrance to the Lewis Winery.

The pavilion where the tasting occurred is given below.  As you can see, plenty of space with a covered pavilion.  You can see some of the acreage in the background.

The wine is served up from the “tasting bar” inside the facility and as you can see, it is well-equipped

We were served four (4) wines from the menu given below.  Also, there were meat, fruit, jellies and cheese trays ordered to accompany the wines.

WILLIAM CHRIS WINERY:

The William Chris Winery was approximately eight (8) miles from the Lewis Winery.  The tasting here was all outside but under a covered area as you will see from the pictures below.  The entrance to the facility is shown in the first digital.

When you go around the corner you see the path to the actual tasting area.

You can get some idea as to the size of the vineyard from the area below.  This area is used for a great many events such as weddings, graduation ceremonies, birthday parties, corporate events, etc.

Owners and winemakers, Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett, sat down together at a Hill Country bar one night and discovered they shared a similar philosophy for winemaking. They believe that the way to put Texas on the map as a respected wine region is to promote wines made exclusively from Texas grown fruit.

WILLIAM ‘BILL’ BLACKMON

Bill Blackmon holds 30 years of winegrowing experience in Texas, having planted and managed several of the state’s earliest and finest vineyards in both the High Plains and the Hill Country. Beginning in the late 1970s, after graduating from Texas Tech with a degree in agriculture and economics, Bill worked with some of the early wineries in the Lubbock area. In the following decade, he planted and managed vineyards in the High Plains, including the Hunter Family Vineyard. In the 1990’s he moved to Fredericksburg to plant some of the first vineyards in the Hill Country, including the estate vineyard Willow City, Granite Hill Vineyards.

 CHRIS BRUNDRETT

Chris Brundrett has established a career in the Hill Country as one of the state’s fastest rising young winegrowers. While earning a horticulture degree from Texas A&M, Chris spent time in the Hill Country, acquiring experience in the winery and the vineyard. He then quickly proceeded to take on head winemaking responsibilities for several wine labels, managing vineyard properties in both the Hill Country and the High Plains. In 2017, Chris was honored with the Outstanding Alumni Award from Texas A&M University. The following year, Wine Enthusiast Magazine tapped him as a winemaker that is changing the face of American wine.

What began as an acquaintance as winemakers in the Hill Country became a collaboration between Bill and Chris, focusing on a shared winemaking philosophy. As the word ‘winegrowers’ implies, Bill and Chris agree that great wines are not made but grown. They also believe that wine should be inspired by the pleasure that is shared with an extended community of friends and family. The creation of each new vintage depends greatly upon these two priorities.

The next two digital pictures show just some of the vines now growing on their property.  Our server indicated that harvest is just around the corner.

I was certainly surprised as to the quality of the wine and the wide variety available.  Naturally, we came home with several bottles.  Hope you can make the visit someday.

TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

July 16, 2019


For the past two weeks, my wife and I visited our youngest son and his family in Dallas, Texas.   They recently purchased several acres in the Hill Country very close to Johnson City, Texas.  Now, being from east Tennessee, I need to explain their definition of “hills” just might not be my definition of “hills”.  A hill is not always a hill but I will say this, the country is striking and extremely beautiful.  I was certainly taken back by the topography and the countryside itself.  I lost count of the number of deer we stopped for on the way to their property.  A two-lane winding road about two (2) miles from Johnson City brought us to their property.

JUST WHERE IS THE HILL COUNTRY

The Texas Hill Country is a geographic region located in the Edwards Plateau at the crossroads of West Texas, Central Texas, and South Texas.  Given its location, climate, terrain, and vegetation, the Hill Country can be considered the border between the American Southwest and Southeast.

The region is notable for its karst topography and tall rugged hills of limestone or granite. Many of the hills rise to a height of four to five hundred (400-500) feet above the surrounding plains and valleys, with Packsaddle Mountain rising to a height of eight hundred (800) feet above the Llano River in Kingsland. The Hill Country also includes the Llano Uplift and the second-largest granite dome in the United States, Enchanted Rock. The terrain throughout the region is punctuated by a thin layer of topsoil and a large number of exposed rocks and boulders, making the region very dry and prone to flash flooding.  Native vegetation in the region includes various Yucca, prickly pear, cactus, dessert spoon, and wildflowers in the Llano Uplift. The predominant trees in the region are ashe juniper and Texas live oak.

Bound on the east by the Balcones Escarpment, the Hill Country reaches into the far northern portions of San Antonio and the western portions of Austin. As a result of springs discharging water stored in the Edwards Aquifer, several cities such as Austin, San Marcos, and New Braunfels were settled at the base of the Balcones Escarpment. The region’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the United States.

The two figures below will give you some idea as to the region and cities within the Hill Country.

As you can see, the hill country is just about in the middle of the state and provides the crossroads between east / west and north/south. 

Below are some of the most prominent towns in the area that make up the Hill Country.

  • San Marcos
  • Boerne
  • New Braunfels
  • Wimberley
  • Canyon Lake/Spring Branch
  • Fredericksburg
  • Kerrville
  • Luckenbach
  • Johnson City

As you can see, small towns: no big cities: no traffic problems: no congestion.

Given below are digitals taken from their property.  You can see there is a pretty rugged landscape with rock outcroppings. 

The digital below does not do justice to the sun set.  It was simply beautiful.  After sun set, you can see thousands of stars and I mean thousands of stars.  Even though it was really hot during the daytime, when the sun goes down the heat radiates from the ground very quickly and the humidity seems to drop considerably.

Nothing runs like a Deere—John Deere that is.  My son quickly found that a push mower was not even close to the equipment needed to mow even a small portion of the property .

One thing that concerns me—maybe two things.  Number one—rattlesnakes and scorpions.  I’m also told that chiggers are “abundant” in this area.  Our youngest grandson is two years old and apparently fearless. 

As always, I’m interested in your comments.  Please feel free.


NOTE: Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, INRIX, Chmura Economics & Analytics, Indeed, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Renwood RealtyTrac, County Health Rankings, Zillow, Administrative Office of the United States Courts, TransUnion, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Council for Community and Economic Research, Gallup-Healthways, Numbeo, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Sharecare.

Stress is inevitable, at least for most people even those of us who are retired. Everyone experiences some type and level of stress over a normal day and certainly a lifetime.  Stress is not always a bad thing. Certain kinds of stress can have positive effects on a person’s well-being, at least in the right doses. According to Psychology Today, “A little bit of stress, known as ‘acute stress,’ can be exciting—it keeps us active and alert.”  Acute stress can be a motivator to get started and stop procrastination relative to your “to-do-list”.

When stress reaches an unmanageable level, however, it turns “chronic.” That’s when we become vulnerable to its damaging effects such as health problems and loss of productivity.  In the United States., stress affects more than one hundred (100)  million people. The leading causes? Money tops the list, followed by work, family and relationships. By one estimate, workplace-related stress alone costs society more than three hundred billion dollars ($300) per year.

To determine the cities where Americans cope best, WalletHub compared more than one hundred and eighty (180) cities across thirty-nine (39) key metrics. The data set ranges from average weekly work hours to debt load to divorce and suicide rates. Read on for our findings, expert insight and a full description of our methodology.

Methodology

In order to determine the most and least stressed cities in America, WalletHub compared one hundred eighty-two (182) cities — including the one hundred and fifty (150) most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across four key dimensions: 1) Work Stress, 2) Financial Stress, 3) Family Stress, and 4) Health & Safety Stress.  The sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.

WalletHub evaluated the four dimensions using thirty-nine (39) relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a one hundred (100)-point scale, with a score of one hundred (100) representing the highest levels of stress.

Finally, they determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Work Stress – Total Points: 25

  • Average Weekly Work Hours: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Job Security: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Traffic Congestion: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the annual hours spent in congestion per auto commuter.
  • Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Share of Households where No Adults Work: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Average Commute Time (in Minutes): Half Weight (~1.47 Points)
  • Income Growth: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
    Note: “Growth” compares income levels in 2017 versus in 2016.
  • Job Satisfaction Ranking: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on Indeed Job Happiness Index.

Financial Stress – Total Points: 25

  • Median Annual Household Income: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
  • Share of Households Behind on Bills in Past 12 Months: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Personal-Bankruptcy Rate: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Median Debt per Median Earnings: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Median Credit Score: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Poverty Rate: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Food Insecurity: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: Food Insecurity is the percentage of the population who did not have access to a reliable source of food during the past year.
  • Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Housing Costs (accounts for both rental and sale prices) / Median Annual Household Income.
  • Share of Mortgage Holders with Negative Equity: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the proportion of mortgage holders whose balance on mortgage is higher than the value of homes.

Family Stress – Total Points: 25

  • Separation & Divorce Rate: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Share of Single Parent Households: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Median Duration of Current Marriage: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Strength of Social Ties: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on responses to Sharecare’s RealAge® Test and was used to indicate where relationships with family and friends are stronger, thus providing an upside to one’s social life and well-being.
  • Availability of Childcare Workers per Total Number of Children: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Child Care Cost: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
    Note: Monthly Cost of Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private for 1 Child (proxy for child care cost).

Health & Safety Stress – Total Points: 25

  • Share of Adults in Fair or Poor Health: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Adults Who Could Not See a Doctor Because of Cost: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Adults Diagnosed with Depression: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Mental Health: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of adults with 14 or more mentally unhealthy days reported in the past month.
  • Suicide Rate: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Insured Population: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Adult Binge Drinkers: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of adults consuming four or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion.
  • Share of Adult Smokers: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Physical-Activity Rate: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Obese Residents: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Adults with Inadequate Sleep: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of adults sleeping fewer than seven hours per night.
  • Well-Being Index: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Crime Rate: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Hate-Crime Incidents per Capita: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)


RESULTS:

CONCLUSIONS:  I was very surprised to find that my city, Chattanooga was forty on the list. Bums me out a little but the conclusions are right there.  I would invite you to take a look at WalletHub to see where your city ranks.  You may be stressed out and not know it.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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