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: GM Is Leaking And It's Just Got To Stop
The Detroit News reports that GM's CEO, Dan Akerson, is shocked, shocked at all the leaks that have come from the company over the Joel Ewanick situation and he wants to put a stop to them. Akerson seems to have been particularly upset by this week's Bloomberg report that detailed the internal frictions over Joel Ewanick and his alleged failure to disclose the full cost of the $559 million Man U deal. The story "was almost verbatim what happened. That is unfair to anybody whether you think he's right, wrong or in-between," Akerson said.
As Matt said yesterday, there's been an awful lot of trash talk about Ewanick that's been emanating from all corners of GM, some of it on the record, some of it off the record. (It isn't just people in the auto industry who've noticed. Yesterday, Marty St. George, the CMO at JetBlue, tweeted, "Still strangely bothered by @joelewanick's ouster. GM needed change, got change, fired change.") If Akerson is going to get upset about the leaks, then maybe he ought to be questioning why some people get accurate leaks and some get inaccurate ones. Back when the deal was signed for GM to put the Chevy name on Man U jerseys, British newspapers uniformly reported that the deal was worth about $300 million. But Reuters reported correctly that it was worth closer to $600 million. Who gave the Brits the bad info? Was it GM or Man U? Was a low-ball number deliberately leaked to throw people off the trail of the real number?
On the conference call, which the AP also tapped into, Akerson said, "We have to stop leaking in this company. It's an act of treason - it really is." No, it really isn't. Here's a little insight about leaks. They happen for two reasons. Some are authorized PR department leaks. Somebody wants the information to be out, but doesn't want to be seen as saying it (we've really never understood why). The other kind of leaks happen when an insider wants information to get out in the hopes that justice of some form will be done, even if it's just putting the company in its place. And when a company starts to spiral downward, for instance, people throw caution to the winds and the place leaks like a sieve. You don't stop leaks by telling people not to leak. You stop leaks by having nothing to leak, which usually means you're running a confident, successful work place.
(Do some justice right now and use an anonymous burner account to leave some information about GM or any other car company in Kinja below. — MH)
2nd Gear: VW Wants A Better Seat
Reuters reports that Volkswagen has a settled on a key part of its strategy to become the world's biggest carmaker. It plans to fix Seat, its money-losing Spanish car division. Seat (pronounced SAY-ott) is VW's Achilles heel. While the rest of the company has been profitable, Seat has lost $1.2 billion since 2008, and has been profitable only once in the past 10 years. (Ouch.) Reuters says VW wants Seat to become less reliant on crisis-ridden Spain and instead seize potential in China and Russia, both of which Seat entered this year. The best news for VW is that Seat has its youngest buyers.
3rd Gear: Do You Want A 5-Door Civic Hatchback?
USA Today says Honda may bring a five-door hatchback version of the Civic compact to the U.S. The next generation is expected around 2016. It will have multiple body styles and many different powertrains. Civic will be built in 14 different plants and sold in 160 countries although 55% of global sales currently are in Canada and the U.S., says Erik Berkman, president of Honda R&D Americas. Hyundai brought a five-door version of its popular Elantra to the U.S. this year, and of course, there's the Prius. Honda has already decided that the next Civic sedan and coupe for sale in the U.S. will be developed in North America, Berkman says. The current Civic debuted last year to mixed reviews, meaning some reviewers beat it up pretty badly mainly over cheap interior materials. Consumer Reports magazine urges readers to avoid buying it. A near-term fix is in the works.
4th Gear: Welcome To The Hotel Toyota
The Hindu Business Line reports Toyota is launching its first venture in the hotel business. Its Indian business has formd a joint venture with the Bangalore-based Hyagreeva Hotels. Starting in January, Toyota will take over two floors of The Chancery hotel, and offer facilities tailored for Japanese travelers, like cuisine, massage, spa treatments and a communal bath (it's called an onsen in Japan). Toyota executive Kazuyuki Kawai says Toyota isn't putting in any money. It will just provide HR and marketing support and a knowledge of Japanese culture. "Our aim is to start small and grow big. We need somebody's help to study the market and find the best way. Right now, we want to make our relationship with the Chancery a success. We will then decide what to do in the future," Kawai told the publication.
Just imagine, for a moment, how your favorite car company would run a hotel. Toyota, we assume, will have beige walls. BMW's would have super-fast elevators. Chrysler's would have an Italian general manager but Americans at the front desk. At Ford, there would be a friendly guy in a red sweater parking cars. (Actually, Ford sort of has its own hotel, if you count the Dearborn Inn.) At Honda, all the rooms would pretty much look the same. Oh, we could go on and on...
Reverse: The Accident That Changed Automotive History
On this day in 1978, three Indiana teenagers died in the fiery crash of their Ford Pinto, setting off a chain of events that would have a permanent impact on automotive history. A grand jury later returned indictments against Ford on three counts of reckless homicide, marking the first time in history that a corporation had been charged with murder. Ford claimed that the Pinto's fuel-tank design was the same as other subcompacts, and that the company had done everything possible to comply with the recall once it had been enacted. Due to a lack of evidence, the jury found Ford not guilty in the case. But the door was flung open for similar lawsuits. [History]
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. Do you think a "leak" is actually treasonous? Or is it natural for companies or employees to want to release information on the DL? Remember, there's no right answer, that's why it's neutral.