Dan Harmon

Automotive Contributor

Dan Harmon was one of the original members of Lake Effect (formerly At Ten). He started at WUWM in November of 1998 and left December of 2015 after 17 years of production.

He continues on as one of Lake Effect's automotive contributors, which he's been since the early days of At Ten.

Dan's interest in cars goes way back, before he even had a drivers license. He usually finds something to like about any car and thinks we live in a very exciting time for automobiles.

"We're at a low in automotive aesthetic design, but the changes in technology make up for it," Dan says. "I love 'old' cars, but always look forward to what comes next.”

Dan interviews auto writer, Mark Savage, each month (among others), and can be seen haunting car dealerships and auto shows. He lives in Portland, OR, where old cars refuse to die.

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Trucks, SUVs and crossovers — oh my. What's a poor sedan to do?

There was a time when sedans were king of the roads. If you needed more cargo room, you bought a station wagon. But those days are long gone. Trucks, SUVs, and crossovers have reigned supreme, basically, since the gas shortages of the 1970s.

But sedans have been quietly doing their thing this whole time, getting us from point A to B without any fanfare besides the occasional headline. And while there are fewer choices these days, the remaining ones have upped their game to stay competitive.

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Electric cars have come a long way over the past few decades, but they still only run a short distance. Once limited to traveling less than 100 miles before needing a recharge, some modern electric vehicles have doubled that mileage.

"I guess what's impressive to me is that electric cars are coming on stronger and stronger. They have more distance, more range than they used to have, and there's more of them out there," notes automotive contributor Mark Savage.

Chicago Auto Show

The Milwaukee Auto Show finished its annual run over the weekend.  It was a chance for people in this area to see what’s new and different in cars coming to a dealer near you.  

But the Milwaukee show does not have the same influence in the industry or with the automotive press and some others, especially the Chicago Auto Show, which ran earlier this year.

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In December, automotive contributors Mark Savage and Dan Harmon discussed automakers pulling out of the sedan market. Thankfully, for people who do need small, medium, and large size cars, there are still plenty of makes and models to choose from.

But what ever happened to the family car? The car that defined the American middle class for a long time: the station wagon, complete with faux-wood paneling and a rooftop luggage rack chugging along the highway.

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General Motors announced in November that it's closing five plants in the U.S. and Canada and stopping production of several of its passenger cars. That will result in thousands of job losses as GM works to turn its financial picture around.

Analysts say GM has not adjusted to changing consumer tastes fast enough, which is why the company will now discontinue the once-popular Chevy Cruze and Volt lines, along with some Buick and Cadillac models.

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Buying a car may be one of the most stressful things you ever do. Whether it’s new or used, a car is one of the most expensive items you will ever buy.

While the internet has helped consumers arrive at a dealership armed with more information, that hasn’t really changed the overall dealership experience. And depending on that experience, it’s very easy to feel you’ve gotten a bad deal.

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Dan Harmon

It’s hard to imagine the world without hybrid cars.

More than 20 years ago in Japan, the Toyota Prius was the first of these cars produced for the mass market. Two years later, the Honda Insight was available in both the United States and Japan. Today, not only are there more hybrid options available, they also have a significant place in the automotive market.

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If you walked into a car dealership today and asked the salesperson which vehicles had anti-lock brakes, you would be in for a puzzled look. If you asked the same question 30 years ago, their reaction would be entirely different.

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Lake Effect speaks with contributor and car writer Mark Savage every month about trends in the automotive industry - from the minutiae to the bigger picture. But Savage also writes about much smaller cars - model cars, in fact.

"It's kind of creating your own special world in miniature because it's smaller and it's easier to deal with and you can fill a room or a house with it," he says.

Dan Harmon

The Swedish automaker Volvo made headlines last year - twice. The car company, already known for its safety, stepped up its game by asserting that "no one riding in their cars made after 2020 will die in a crash."

"Our idea is to avoid the collision in the first place, so that all those other things, like body rigidity, airbags, seat belts, become a safety net," says Volvo USA spokesman Russell Datz.

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General Motors’ entry into the zero emissions vehicle landscape started more than 20 years ago with its EV1 project.  The effort was, by most accounts, successful.  But the vehicles were all leased, and when the leases ran out, they were all returned to Chevrolet and unceremoniously destroyed.

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Although the general public may have reservations about the future of electric cars, car makers are plowing forward.  Chevrolet announced earlier this month that the company is moving towards an all-electric future.  That word comes as Tesla continues to scale up production of a growing line of cars.

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The great American road trip can be a cross-country sojourn, a long weekend, or even an afternoon.

It’s those latter two ideas – the shorter road trip that got contributors Dan Harmon and Mark Savage talking. Normally, they talk about cars. But both contributors are encouraging people to actually sit and enjoy using their cars through a classic American pastime.

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We live in an increasingly automated world. What used to take many physical steps can often be taken care of by a click of a mouse or a swipe of a finger across a screen.

However, there are still many things that require human intervention. For now we still have to drive our cars - but for how long? Lake Effect auto contributor Mark Savage notes that the market is changing quicker than expected. A younger target audience, Savage says, view cars as an appliance. "It does what you want it to do, and now you shouldn't even have to drive it," he says.

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Diesel passenger cars have had a tumultuous past in the United States. In the last 15 years, they gained some acceptance among American consumers before a recent downturn. But in the pursuit of increased gas mileage, an increasing number of car makers are now offering diesel models in this country.

But a notable absence today is Volkswagen, which once sold the most diesels vehicles in this country. After VW was slapped with a huge penalty for rigging emission test results, the company pulled its diesels off the market.

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For a long time, electric vehicles were neither practical nor especially affordable. To add insult to injury, you also couldn’t go very far in them before you needed an often hard to find charging station.

But Tesla’s newest Model 3 is the first mass produced electric car. It will also be the company’s most affordable car to date with a list price starting at $35,000. And the distance you can go between charges has improved to 215 miles.

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Long gone are the days of compact pickup trucks where the fanciest gadget you may have inside the cab is a radio. Today, pickup trucks are the top 3 selling vehicles in the North American market. But even as their sales numbers have risen, they’re used less and less for work and more as a luxury family vehicle.

New trucks are able to seat up to six adults, have a multitude of gadgets, and can easily cost up to $50,000.

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Not all that long ago - at least in automotive history - luxury cars were promoted in a lot of ways. There was the rich, Corinthian leather. The comfortable passenger space and the huge trunk. And of course, there was the soft - sometimes practically squishy ride.

That's not the way Cadillac, Lincoln, or really any luxury manufacturers advertise their cars any more. It's all about speed and performance, and maybe passenger space, too. But it's a trend that caught the eye of  Lake Effect automotive contributor, Mark Savage.

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Horse racing fans have had two big dates on their calendar already this spring, with the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.  Auto racing fans have a huge one coming up on Sunday, with the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

"It's a team sport, so it's who has the best aerodynamicist and work best with the driver, who has the best team as far as making good pit stops and getting the car set up properly for the driver, and then who has the best driver," says automotive contributor Mark Savage, who writes about cars for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and on his website.

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There are probably still a few cars on the road that have only a radio, or perhaps even a cassette deck. However nowadays, it's kind of a throwback to even find a CD player in some newer models.

Electronics are a huge deal in the cars of the 21st century, from the way the engines themselves are controlled, to how drivers and passengers are kept safe and how they’re entertained.

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Wisconsin writer Lesley Kagen applies a nostalgic look to difficult circumstances in many of her novels. In her latest title, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, the difficult circumstances come fast and furious.

There’s mental illness, cancer, aging, loneliness and even marital stress. But through it all, Kagen maintains perspective, and often a lighter tone. 

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When the singer Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, she became just the latest example of a musician on a seemingly promising trajectory to have their life cut short by drugs or alcohol.

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There was an internet sensation briefly this month when it was discovered by baseball researchers that Ferris Bueller’s day off occurred exactly 30 years ago. Meanwhile, another 1980's staple, The Breakfast Club, also turned 30.

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The movie industry has two especially busy times – there is the flurry of activity towards the end of the year, when holiday movies and potential award-winners come out, and then there is the highly anticipated summer movie season as well. Lake Effect film contributor Dave Luhrssen gives a preview of what's to come and his recommendations:

Chris Vanderlinden

While Milwaukee has a well-deserved blue collar reputation, its creative class has been growing in more recent years. But the creative economy isn't always visible - and might not be as entrenched yet as the manufacturing, tech and health care sectors.

An offshoot of an international organization is working to change that. CreativeMornings is a breakfast lecture series featuring a monthly theme. It now exists in 115 cities around the world, from Auckland to Dubai, and has been in Milwaukee since last fall.

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Not long ago, the idea that you could design a car that could drive itself and its passengers from place to place safely was something out of science fiction films. But the idea has gone from drawing boards to a prototype to the road.

At least two companies have set early versions of the self-driving car out for a spin – Audi, the German maker of some high-end cars and SUVs, and Google.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is still deciding what the future holds for its most successful international show.

Top Gearthe car culture show, was thrown into disarray recently when the BBC fired one of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson had been in hot water several times before, but finally went over the line when he berated and physically attacked one of his producers.

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Many fairy tales have resurfaced in various forms on film, stage, musicals and even operas to appeal to large audience of all ages.

However, the classic fairy tales originally written by Brothers Grimm were gruesome, sexual and slightly violent - a far cry from the sanitized versions of today. The 2015 Cinderella film by Disney excludes pigeons pecking out the stepsister's eyes, and the sisters cutting off their toes and heels in attempt to fit into the glass slipper.

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This month’s Milwaukee Magazine is billed as the Food Lover’s Guide – or the Epicure’s Guide – to Milwaukee.  But if you think that means a list of great restaurants, you’re mistaken.  It’s a guide to all-things-food related, such as preserving food, top tools, raising animals, and even knife lessons.

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People who came of age in the 1980s often think back fondly on those days of skinny knit ties, shoulder pads, and Brat Pack movies.  It’s a period that people coming of age today might think of as, well, thirty years ago. 

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