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, Bin Laden And Ford On The White House's Mind
CBS News reports on Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Detroit's Labor Day parade yesterday. While he was in town. Biden tried out a line that you're going to hear a lot during the fall presidential campaign. "You want to know whether we're better off?" Biden said to a cheering crowd of about 3,500 people in downtown Detroit. "I've got a little bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."
Meanwhile, President Obama was in Toledo, where he had breakfast with three auto workers, as shown in this White House press pool photo. He raised the possibility that all three of the Detroit car companies would have disintegrated if there hadn't been an $82 billion government bailout, including the bankruptcies at GM and Chrysler. Without it, "GM and Chrysler wouldn't exist today," Obama said, according to the Associated Press.. "The suppliers and the distributors that get their business from these companies would have died off too. Then even Ford could have gone down as well."
Given what Paul Ryan said about the car companies last week, it's clear that the auto industry is going to be front and center of politics from here on out. As Matt said yesterday, we're going to cover what the politicians are saying, explain why it matters, and call time when we spot someone playing with the truth. Those of us who follow the industry know that when the political sphere gets hold of an auto story, it can get twisted and reversed and battered like a rhetorical NASCAR crash. So, we'll be diving in when needed to help sort it out.
2nd Gear: New Golf Leaks Ahead Of Today's Reveal
Auto Zeitung supposedly has photos of the new Golf, which Volkswagen is unveiling today in Berlin. They look like brochure scans to us. Zer Customs explains that the seventh generation Golf keeps the same general proportions as its predecessor, but there are quite a few styling changes. The rear light clusters have been modified, as well as the rear bumper and the tailpipes. From the leaked photos, VW seems to have completely redesigned the Golf VII's interior. There's a new center console, a new steering wheel and new dials. We already know that this version will be lighter than its predecessor. Reuters says VW is counting on the new Golf to be a hit so it can catch Toyota in the race to be the world's biggest car company.
3rd Gear: Double Decker London Bus Sells for $106,000
The BBC reports a vintage RML Leyland Routemaster bus sold at Christie's yesterday for $106,000, way over the $50,000 to $60,000 the auctioneers thought the double decker would bring. The bus, built in 1966, used to ply Route 73 up Oxford Street, past Marble Arch, to Kensington High Street and the Park Lane Hilton. It's part of a fleet of classic Routemasters that traveled on London streets for decades. Although a few of them are still on two routes in London, most are retired and were replaced by a new bus style this past February. The Routemaster was part of an auction that also included Margaret Thatcher's suits as well as one of the medals from the first Olympic games.
When I'm in London, I'll take the Tube for speed (although it's not nearly as speedy as it used to be) but I love jumping on a bus and being able to look out the window at cars and buildings. If you see a Routemaster go by in London, take a ride. While you might get mired in traffic, it's much more more interesting than being stuck underground.
4th Gear: August European Sales Are Ugly
U.S. automakers are reporting their August sales today, but the results are already in from Europe, and they are pretty dismal. Reuters says sales in France dropped 11 percent, for the 10th monthly decline in a row. Sales in Italy dropped 20 percent, the ninth straight month they've been down. Sales were up a bit in Spain, but that's because the sales tax is going up there and customers wanted to beat the increase. That didn't help Ford, though: its Spanish sales dropped 22 percent, while its French sales were down 17 percent. September and October "are going to be a disaster", Spanish car dealers' association Faconauto said, according to Reuters. Sales are set for a sharp fall unless automakers discount even more aggressively, a spokesman said.
Reverse: The Edsel Arrives In Showrooms
On this day in 1957, the Edsel arrived in showrooms, giving the industry a new word for lemon. The Edsel was its own division of Ford, and there were 1,300 dealers offering four main versions of the car, the smaller Pacer and Ranger, and the larger Corsair and Citation. In theory, the Edsel should have been a hit car but just as it was being introduced, the U.S. economy went into a nosedive. 1958 brought some of the worst sales in industry history, and people for the first time were using fuel economy as a consideration when they went car shopping. Also, the Edsel probably could never have lived up to its hype. In its first year on sale, Ford lost $250 million on the Edsel, the equivalent of $2.5 billion today. And the worst was yet to come. [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.
Today, let's hear what you think of the new Golf and VW's aggressiveness in general. We'd especially like VW owners to write in. Can VW become the world's biggest car company? Can VWs appeal that widely to Americans and buyers in other markets without ruining what we like about Volkswagen? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.