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: Scooting Around On A BMW
Car and Driver says BMW is going to unveil the C Evolution scooter in Paris next week. We told you last month that BMW was getting back into the scooter business, after having been out of it for nine years. BMW says the C Evolution is a "near-production prototype" of an electric scooter as it may appear in mass-market form. The e-scooter has been designed to address increasingly stringent urban emission standards, without the range limitations of traditional electric vehicles.
Car and Driver says the C Evolution is powered by an electric motor producing 47 horsepower. It can reach 75 mph, so highway travel is possible, although it will depend on laws governing scooters in the places where it's sold. BMW said "it comfortably holds its own" against 600-cc scooters and uses the same lithium-ion batteries as the i3. It says the C Evolution will have a range 60 miles, while charging will take three hours.
2nd Gear: Japan-China Crisis A Body Blow To Akio
Reuters says the big protests in China aimed at Japanese companies have probably cost them $250 million in production, and are likely to hurt auto sales. Although Nissan factories are back to work, both Honda and Toyota still have temporary production halts. Meanwhile, Bloomberg says Japanese companies are making employee safety a top priority. "It was unbearable to watch," Akio Toyoda said at a briefing in Tokyo today. "Seeing cars damaged like that, for me, it felt like my body was receiving the blows." Toyoda serves as head of the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Bloomberg says Audi has asked that Chinese dealer to take down the banner we first reported on that reads, "Japanese must all be killed." Audi, which counts China as its biggest market, says dealers have to be reasonable in expressing patriotism. "As a company, we should not take positions in political issues," the Volkswagen owned luxury carmaker said on its Japanese website. "We sincerely regret such kind of behavior happened, and feel indignant toward this behavior." The message isn't posted on Audi's Chinese web site, though, according to Bloomberg.
3rd Gear: Ford Boasts Of Big Interest In The New Fusion
Advertising Age says Ford is claiming to have had 11 million "interactions" with consumers on the Web as it launches the new Fusion. Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of global marketing, says the company is "making financial commitments in pre-launch that we wouldn't have imagined a year or two ago." Although Farley wouldn't say how much money that means, he says, "You take a significant part of the budget for six months or three months — I can't tell you the figure, but it's significant — and spend that money generating interest in the product."
Farley says Ford chose Ryan Seacrest as the face of Random Acts of Fusion because he had an "embedded" audience of fans and people who trust him. He says Seacrest is careful with his brand, which Ford appreciates. The Ford executive says the company will be using similar tactics when it launches the MKZ. (Does that mean Simon Cowell for Lincoln?)
4th Gear: Former GM CEO to Treasury: Get Out Of Here
The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed from Ed Whitacre, who served between Fritz Henderson and Dan Akerson as GM's CEO. In it, he basically tells the Treasury to get lost, even though the company was saved with $50 billion in tax payers' money.. "The Treasury Department should sell every last share that it owns of General Motors-as quickly as possible." He goes on, "...the government has been an active participant in GM's management for more than three years, and that's long enough. It's time for Treasury to step out of the way so that GM can fully focus on what it does best: designing, building and selling the world's best vehicles."
Earlier this week, I wrote a piece for Forbes basically saying the opposite. Until the federal bailout came along, GM was floundering. It essentially thumbed its nose at the Obama administration by failing to present a serious restructuring plan, and it was only when Rick Wagoner was fired and the Obama auto team stepped in that things actually began to happen at the company. You hear a lot of talk from inside GM that the old culture still hasn't gone away, despite everything that Akerson has tried to do to turn up the jets. If Treasury were to sell its shares now, a) the taxpayers would lose $15 billion and b) the force that fixed GM would vanish. But let's let Akerson have the last word:
"So long as TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money is wrapped up in GM, the company will never shake its "Government Motors" image," he says in the Journal. "That label, as competitors and GM employees are keenly aware, is code for one thing: 'GM is a failure.' And while GM might have been a failure three years ago, it's not today. But it's also not the master of its own destiny-and it never will be as long as it's under TARP."
5th Gear: Chrysler Getting Some Rich Corinthian Letter
Designer John Varvatos has made his own version of the Chrysler 300C and it's clear the man digs the black look (or, as Matt said on Marketplace, "Murdered Out"). But which classic Designer-aggrandized American car was his inspiration? Not the Levi's Gremlin or the Bill Blass Lincoln. Nope, he tells Vanity Fair's Brett Berk it's "maybe from the Cordoba, with the Corinthian leather." A man after our own heart.
Reverse: An Invite For The Ultimate Road Trip
On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union take the ultimate trip — to the moon. He surprised pretty much everybody by expanding on his proposal two years earlier that the U.S. make it a goal to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. The Soviets never got back to Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson dropped the idea of a joint mission. But America did get there on its own, in 1969. [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, should the Treasury Department unload its GM shares now? Or should it wait until the stock price is higher? Or just hang onto its GM stake? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.