This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:30 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Ohio Could Be Next To Ban Direct Auto Sales
We've covered Tesla's fight against lawmakers and the powerful car dealer lobbies who line their pockets in states like Texas and New York. Now, the fight is coming to Ohio, and it could be settled as soon as today.
The backstory, in case you aren't aware, is that Tesla wants to sell their cars directly to customers rather than through a third-party middleman like a car dealer. Naturally, car dealers are threatened by this, and they're spending big bucks to pressure state lawmakers to ban direct sales.
Our pals over at Green Car Report have the details on today's hearing on Ohio Senate Bill 137, an otherwise uncontroversial bill with an anti-Tesla amendment attached to it.
The proposed amendment would ban Tesla's practice of selling its electric cars directly to customers, who place their orders online with the company after seeing and learning about the Model S in company-owned stores.
That would require Tesla to transact its sales through independently-owned third parties, which is to say, traditional car dealerships.
We'll stay on top of today's decision in Ohio. One has to wonder how much longer it will be until Elon Musk takes his fight to the federal level.
2nd Gear: Nissan: It's Jatco's Fault Customers Hate Our CVT
Besides a few oddballs like the 370Z and GT-R, Nissan's non-manual transmission lineup these days consists only of continuously variable transmissions. Enthusiasts like us tend to hate CVTs because they're miserably boring to drive.
Guess who else hates Nissan's CVT? The people who bought them, according to Automotive News. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn blames supplier Jatco for these issues, and while there were indeed some launch glitches, maybe the problem is really driver ignorance?
Nissan dealers have gotten customer complaints and service visits because of unfamiliarity with CVT behavior. Because CVTs have no fixed gears, drivers do not experience the gear-by-gear stepping-up sensation of traditional automatic transmissions — only a smooth and steady increase in engine revolutions. To an uninitiated driver, the transmission could sound like it is stuck in a single gear.
I don't know, maybe you could do some research into exactly what you're getting before you buy it? Or maybe the car salesman can take two minutes to explain what a CVT is? That could work too.
3rd Gear: The Mini Rocketman Is Still Do-Able But It Needs A Dance Partner
The upcoming 2015 Mini Cooper is the most sophisticated and BMW-y Mini Cooper yet. At the same time, it's also bigger, leading many (including this reporter) to wish Mini would launch a smaller hatchback along the lines of the great Mini Rocketman concept.
According to AutoGuide, the Rocketman is still possible but it could be a long, long time (sorry) because Mini needs a partner to help make a business case for such a car. BMW has often turned to outside help for the Mini — previous engines were built by Chrysler and then PSA Peugeot Citroën — so they'd like some backup in developing a smaller platform that the Rocketman could ride on, says Mini product chief Pat McKenna.
While reception for the Rocketman concept, unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, was positive, McKenna says the platform is the challenge. The new Cooper hardtop rides on what is known as the UKL architecture, underpinnings that will also be shared with BMW, though currently the brand has no platform small enough for the Rocketman.
The price of developing a new architecture solely for one model is prohibitive and so, says McKenna, “the only way it would happen would be if it was a partnership with another company.”
4th Gear: Jeeps in China! JEEPS IN CHINA!
For the first time since 2006, Jeeps will be built in China again, according to Automotive News. Despite what some politicians would have you believe, this has been going on since the early 1980s — Jeep was the first first foreign-branded vehicle to be produced in China.
That's good news for Chinese customers who want a Jeep, because the cost to buy an American-built one is insane.
Because China charges a 25 percent import tariff on cars, assembling vehicles in China would lower the price of Jeep's Grand Cherokee, which starts from 579,900 yuan ($95,000) in China, compared with $28,995 in the United States, according to the automaker's Web site.
5th Gear: Speaking Of The Cherokee, It's Doing Great, Thanks For Asking
The Detroit News reports that Chrysler just recorded its best November sales month since 2007, having moved some 145,275 cars. The Cherokee is a big reason for that. Despite the delays, transmission troubles and its unconventional looks (to put it politely) the new Cherokee is proving to be a strong seller already.
“Our all-new Jeep Cherokee is off to a terrific start with more than 10,169 units sold in its first full month on sale,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Chrysler, in a statement. “Our launch emphasis on Jeep Cherokee quality is now being rewarded with brisk sales and helping Chrysler Group achieve our 44th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth.”
Reverse: Vaya Con Dios, AMC Pacer
On December 3, 1979, the last Pacer rolls off the assembly line at the American Motors Corporation (AMC) factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. When the car first came on the market in 1975, it was a sensation, hailed as the car of the future. "When you buy any other car," ads said, "all you end up with is today's car. When you get a Pacer, you get a piece of tomorrow." By 1979, however, sales had faded considerably. Today, polls and experts agree: the Pacer was one of the worst cars of all time.
Neutral: Can You Make A CVT That Doesn't Suck?
I keep thinking about how a CVT is now an option on the most unlikely of cars: the 2015 Subaru WRX. How do you make a CVT that's great for enthusiasts? Is that even possible?