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: BMW Juices Its Sales With Cars Nobody Owns
The Wall Street Journal (sub. required) has one of those stories that just makes you shake your head about auto sales. It says BMW, which is in a tight battle with Mercedes for leadership in luxury car sales, included "demo" models in their sales for July. According to the Journal, BMW made a one-day offer to dealers on July 31: they'd get up to $7,000 in discounts for every 2012 model, as long as they reported the cars as sold. To do so, dealers apparently bought cars that they intended to use only for test drives or as loaner cars, and then included them in their monthly sales totals. They're supposed to be marked as used cars, but many dealers keep them in their new car inventories, since they're current models and buyers can purchase them if they want.
The Journal says July sales spiked for the vehicle types eligible for the discounts. It sold 1,696 of its 7 Series sedans in July, the highest monthly total so far this year, and triple the June total of 539. For the 3 Series coupe, which had demo discounts totaling $3,200, sales climbed to 2,555 cars, up from 1,222 in June and the coupe's highest total for 2012. The paper says the move calls to mind what happened in 1998, when Cadillac and Lincoln were battling to lead the luxury car market. (Yes, they did.) Cadillac was trailing but its sales suddenly surged in December and it took the crown. Months later, GM acknowledged that Cadillac had purchased vehicles from its dealers, juicing the sales number.
2nd Gear: Auto Dealers Make Lemonade Out of Lemons (So To Speak)
Speaking of dealers, Bloomberg reports on a new study showing that despite all the cutbacks, car dealers are actually selling a record number of vehicles per showroom. Urban Science, a Detroit consulting firm, says annual sales per dealer will grow to 805 this year. The old record was 784 per dealer in 2005. There are 17,770 dealerships in the United States. But there are actually more dealers now in China, and those dealers sell more cars than American dealers. Urban Science says China has 19,890 franchised showrooms, and the average dealership sells 980 vehicles. Urban Science projects the Chinese market will sell 19.5 million vehicles this year, versus about 14.3 million in the U.S.
3rd Gear: Audi R8 E-Tron Can See Behind It
Agence France Presse reports there will be a first on the upcoming Audi R8 e-tron: a digital rear-view mirror. It says Audi will unveil the device, which it tested at LeMans, when it shows the e-tron at the Paris Motor Show. The new mirror has a 7-inch color screen from Samsung, and it will display a high-resolution, high-contrast picture, with the same high definition day and night. The screen is connected to a camera in the back of the vehicle, and the device will be able to display what's going on behind the car at a wider angle than with regular rear-view mirrors. It could either be mind-numbing when you're stuck in traffic, or fascinating if you're around some great scenery.
4th Gear: Toronto's Crazy Mayor Reads While He's Driving
And in another driving related story, The Toronto Sun reports that Rob Ford, the controversial mayor of Toronto, has been spotted reading at the wheel. A photo posted to Twitter shows Ford reading documents on the Gardiner Expressway. while sitting in the driver's seat of his new Cadillac Escalade. Now sure, traffic heading into Toronto sometimes gets clogged, so there is sometimes a chance to catch up on the news, but the tweeter says traffic was moving at about 70 clicks per hour. And, this is the mayor we're talking about. Ford, who doesn't have a driver, even admits that he's guilty. "Yeah, probably," he replied when asked about it at a news conference. "I'm busy. I'm trying to catch up on my work, and you know, I keep my eyes on the road, but I'm busy." What Ford did actually isn't illegal. Ontario's distracted driving ordinance applies only to electronics, making legal to eat, drink and yes, read behind the wheel.
Reverse: Henry And Tom Go Their Separate Ways
On this day in 1899, Henry Ford took the first step toward founding Ford Motor Company. He resigned his position as chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company's main plant in Detroit in order to concentrate on automobile production. It actually had been a pretty cushy job. Charged with keeping the city's electricity flowing, Ford was on call 24 hours a day, with no regular working hours. So, when he was not working, he could tinker away at his real goal of building gas-powered vehicles. Four years after he left Edison, Ford founded the car company and in 1908, he introduced the Model T. [History]
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