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: Sandy, The Hurricane That May Smack Detroit
I took a look for Forbes at the damage that Hurricane Sandy may do to the economy. While much of the attention is riveted on the East Coast, meteorologists think Sandy is going to make a left turn and head inland. It could hurt the auto industry in two ways. First, Sandy is striking at the end of the month, which is traditionally the busiest time for auto sales. Dealers want to close transactions and get their numbers in by Halloween. But this month, many people on the Eastern Seaboard were more concerned with buying supplies and packing up the cars they own to get out of town. That's not a great way to end the first month of the 2013 model year.
Second, the flooding from Sandy might not be so bad in the areas of the Midwest where it hits, but wind could cause some real trouble. Meteorologists are predicting 50 mph wind gusts, and storm surges on the Great Lakes. Over the Fourth of July, the Detroit area was hit by power outages that went on for days. Yes, car plants have their own power plants, but people still have to get to work and a lot of folks don't want to leave the vicinity when their power is out. Second, storms can bring down trees and cause other damage to surrounding buildings. And it's not just Detroit: there are plants from Cleveland across to Chicago, and south to Kentucky that could be affected. We're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best here, and hope you're safe, too.
2nd Gear: BMW's Secret Contingency Plan
Der Spiegel reports (via Reuters) that BMW can withstand a 30 percent drop sales without losing money or laying off employees. The contingency plan is the result of a deal, reached last month between management and employees, that allows BMW to eliminate shifts, put staff on vacation during difficult times, and remove limits on overtime. These are the kind of steps that other carmakers have proposed but have had trouble persuading unions to accept, and they come amid one of the worst European downturns in recent years. BMW is set to report its financial results on Nov. 6, and it's in the midst of a battle with Mercedes and Audi for leadership in the European luxury market.
3rd Gear: Chevrolet To Build A New Global Car In Argentina
General Motors is sinking $350 million in its its plant in Rosario, Argentina, to build an all-new Chevrolet model that it plans to sell around the world. GM isn't giving out details about the car, which will be introduced in 2015. But the investment is an endorsement of the plant and the Argentinian economy, which has had its ups and downs since GM opened the plant in 1997.
GM has used Rosario mainly as an export plant, but it says it's going to build more vehicles there for Argentina and other markets. Rosario, which is about an hour's flight west of Buenos Aires, was part of a collection of plants that GM built in the 1990s that were based in part on the Toyota Production System, including factories in Thailand and eastern Germany. Carmakers are beginning to get interested in Latin America again after a long spell of investment in China and South Asia, so the GM move is right in line with the rest of the industry.
4th Gear: Beige Leadership Belongs To Toyota, At Least for Now
Automotive News (sub. required) says the Toyota Camry is certain to repeat this year as the best-selling car in the United States for the 11th straight year. And it also looks like Toyota is staying ahead of GM as the world's biggest carmaker. With just two full months to go, Camry has a lead of about 67,000 cars over the Honda Accord, and it may wind up the year selling 400,000 Camrys. Camry sales are up 37 percent this year, which trumps the 25 percent increase that Toyota was hoping for. It helps that the new version of the Camry has been on sale for a full year, while the fresh Accord is just reaching showrooms,
Meanwhile, Bloomberg says Toyota maintained its lead over GM during the summer in the top car sales spot. Toyota sold 2.43 million cars worldwide, while GM sold 2.28 million vehicles during the third quarter. Toyota might not sell quite that many this quarter, depending on how badly it's affected by problems in China. (This morning, Honda said that its troubles there will cut its earning forecast by about $1 billion, according to Reuters.) But, even though Volkswagen in the midst of its beigekrieg, Toyota isn't giving up the title without a fight.
Reverse: Rocket Man Returns To Space
On this day in 1998, John Glenn returned to space. You might know him as the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, or perhaps as an Ohio senator or presidential candidate. Despite his political career, Glenn always wanted to go back to the stars. He joined the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, and at age 77, spent nine days studying the effect of health problems on aging. [Discovery]
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