This is the Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parcel it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Italian Road Rally Canceled After Fatal Crash
ESPN reports the annual road rally in Lucca, Italy was canceled after a driver and navigator were killed during an early morning leg. The 47th Lucca City Cup rally was canceled early Sunday after driver Valerio Catelani and navigator Daniela Bertoneri were killed in their Peugeot 207 S2000. In a statement, the rally organizers said the two were a few miles into the early morning leg when their car slammed into a protective barrier and burst into flames. Lucca is about 45 miles west of Florence. It's the second fatal crash in an Italian road rally in the past two months.
2nd Gear: West Coast Dealers Are Slashing Leaf Prices
Green Car Reports says dealers out west are offering up to $5,000 off the price of the Nissan Leaf. Word of the discounts comes amid several reports of problems in Arizona with Leafs whose batteries may be losing charges in the wake of high temperatures. Nissan also is wrestling with issues involving a battery charger made by GE Energy. Green Car Reports says it found the $5,000 off deals at two dealers in California and one in Seattle, and it also discovered a lease deal for as little as $345 a month.
3rd Gear: VW Beetle Ragtop (Minus Charge) Is On Its Way
Inside Line reports Volkswagen will introduce the 2013 Beetle Convertible at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. VW also says there won't be an electric version, even though it showed the EBugster concept last year in Detroit and Beijing. There also aren't any photos yet, so we're just guessing what it might look like. The new version of the Beetle convertible will be offered with three engines: a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine. It expects the manual version to get 41 mpg in highway driving. VW plans to announce pricing at the L.A. show.
4th Gear: Pickup Truck Sales Are Picking Up
The Wall Street Journal (sub. required) reports pickup truck sales are making a comeback. Sales were up 14 percent in the first half of the year at the three Detroit auto companies. That's a sign that small businesses, such as construction firms, are starting to buy new trucks. One reason is that the housing market seems to be improving, which is boosting hopes that pickup sales will improve further in the second half of 2012, and into 2013. It also could be that these business owners ran their trucks into the ground during the recession, and simply have to get new ones.
The WSJ says car companies like this news because profits on pickups have traditionally been healthy. But, pickup truck sales have a much smaller share of U.S. auto sales that they did before the recession. In 2004, automakers sold a record 2.46 million pickups, good for 14 percent of the market. Last year, they sold 1.5 million, which was below 10 percent. Gone are the days when people drove pickups as second cars; now, pickups in somebody's driveway are more likely there because they're actually being used for something.
5th Gear: Ford Dealers Get Extra Cash For Escape Expenses
The Detroit Free Press reports Ford is giving dealers $300 per customer to cover expenses related to its 2013 Escape recall. Ford has told owners to park their vehicles until they can be fixed. Each owner is getting a loaner car. Ford has told dealers to return the repaired Escapes washed, vacuumed and with a full tank of gas. Ford says it hopes the vehicles can be fixed in two weeks. The recall took place last week after Ford received three reports of fires caused by damaged fuel lines.
6th Gear: Big Week In France For Peugeot
The BBC reports there will be a lot of meetings this week between Peugeot officials and the French government. It also says the government is getting ready to roll out an aid package to help French automakers. Today, France's prime minister meets with PSA chief executive Philippe Varin. On Thursday, Peugeot Chairman Thierry Peugeot is scheduled to meet with industry minister Arnaud Montebourg, who's already met with Varin and labor leaders. Peugeot himself is wading into things by warning the government's criticism of Peugeot is leaving it vulnerable to hostile takeover attempts. How so? Well, PSA shares have fallen 20 percent since the company announced plans to cut 8,000 jobs.
Here's what Peugeot said to Le Figaro: "We are ready to accept criticism, but there are limits...The attacks the company is currently facing have an immediate effect on (investor) perception. This is a dangerous situation." He continued: "We are well aware of the seriousness of the plan to cut 8,000 jobs. These measures are painful. I understand they can cause shock within the company, the government and the whole of the country." Given that the government is about to provide assistance, the old French phase, "Ne pas mordre la main qui vous nourrit" might apply, non?
The Shattered Dream Of DeltaWing Designer Ben Bowlby [Automobile]
Nissan 370Z Will Cost A Little More [Nissan]
Toyota To Start Building Engines In Bangalore Next Month [Press Trust of India]
Meet VW's Marketing Director In China [Advertising Age China]
Chrysler Sales Are Up In Central Ohio [Columbus Dispatch]
Aging Bikers Are Buying Tricycles [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
In keeping with our new discussion system, here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS.
Today, what's your thinking on the rebound in pickup truck sales? Are you seeing any evidence where you live that home construction is coming back? Any of your friends bring home a new pickup lately? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.