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 Looking For Some Higher Love
Bloomberg reports an interesting move by General Motors. It is looking to double its revolving credit line to $10 billion next year, and it wants it to be rated investment grade, even though the company currently has junk credit ratings. A revolving credit line, called a revolver in bank speak, is like a line of credit for a homeowner or an individual borrower. A company taps into when it needs cash, to pay for operations and sometimes for one-time expenses.
"We think we can get it priced as if we're investment grade, which is kind of one of our goals going into 2013, to achieve investment grade," CEO Dan Akerson told Bloomberg yesterday in an interview. If GM's banks agree, that would be a signal of their faith in the company's turnaround plan, and it could help GM's stock. And, analysts think GM should try to increase its liquidity now, when rates are low. However, nobody knows how well GM's Opel restructuring program is going to go, nor is it clear how Europe is going to climb out of its mess.
2nd Gear: Elon Musk Battles Car Dealers
The Wall Street Journal (sub. required) says Tesla is being sued by car dealers in New York and Massachusetts for opening company-owned dealership. They say the move violates those states' franchise laws, which are designed to protect dealers and keep companies from competing with them. Tesla doesn't have any franchised dealers, it owns all of its outlets. So, essentially, what the dealers are trying to do is keep Tesla from doing business in those places.
The Journal says Elon Musk, as you might expect, isn't taking this lying down. In a blog post yesterday, he wrote, "Automotive franchise laws were put in place decades ago to prevent a manufacturer from unfairly opening stores in direct competition with an existing franchise dealer that had already invested time, money and effort to open and promote their business. That would, of course, be wrong, but Tesla does not have this issue. We have granted no franchises anywhere in the world that will be harmed by us opening stores." Dealers have beaten bigger companies than Tesla, though. In the 1990s, both GM and Ford tried to operate their own dealerships, only to back down. Although you can shop online, for instance, only a dealer can actually sell you a car.
3rd Gear: VW Unveils The Taigun, Confusing SpellCheck
Automobile reports Volkswagen has unveiled the Taigun, a small crossover concept, at the Sao Paulo Motor Show. Nope, that's not a typo — the Taigun's name is an anagram for Tiguan. But it's much smaller, 151.3 inches long, and 68 inches wide, which makes it essentially the same size as a Mini Cooper hatchback. The Taigun is part of VW's new Small Family Range, which also has produced the Up! The Taigun is similar to the Cross Coupe Concept, which VW displayed at last year's Tokyo Motor Show. The Taigun weighs only 2,172 pounds, and VW says it gets 52 mpg, and can reach a top speed of 115 mph. Automobile says given VW's beigekrieg eagerness, the Taigun is likely to hit a showroom in the next few years.
4th Gear: BMW Heading South To Build Cars
And in more news from Brazil, the Detroit News reports BMW is going ahead with plans to build a factory there. BMW, which had delayed the factory, submitted a plan to the Brazilian government yesterday for a $260 million plant. The factory would produce 30,000 vehicles a year starting in 2014. BMW already builds motorcycles in Brazil and there's growing demand for its vehicles there. The News notes that BMW currently has 29 factories and assembly operations in 14 countries, so its production is spreading far beyond Germany.
Reverse: Tanti Auguri, Alex Zanardi
On this day in 1966, Alessandro Zanardi was born. We know him as Alex and also know him as a hero. He's been a race car driver, marathoner, gold medal Paralympian, and oh by the way, he lost his legs in a 2001 crash. But, Zanardi is talking about returning to racing, and you might see him at the Indy 500 someday. Happy birthday, Alex. [BBC]
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, we'd like to know: how do you feel about car dealers? Was Elon Musk right to keep his Tesla dealerships in house? Or should he offer franchises? Any thoughts about franchise laws? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.