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: VW's Beigekrieg Leans On Tiguan
Motor Trend says Volkswagen wants the Tiguan compact crossover to be the fourth pillar of its American sales strategy, along with Beetle, Jetta and Passat. That beigekrieg insight comes from Rainer Michel, VW's vice president of marketing and strategy. Of course, VW has a long way to go before Tiguan is a household name, especially since a lot of people don't know what one is. (The name is a combination of tiger and iguana.)
But Michel, in sort of a humblebrag, points out that VW went from selling 12,000 Passats a year to 10,000 a month. It hasn't decided whether it wants to bring a Tiguan R to the U.S., but the idea is "something we very much continue to pursue." There's nothing to say, either, about a Passat hybrid. However, "Volkswagen acts very fast" when it makes up its mind to do so.
2nd Gear: Let (The City Of) Detroit Go Bankrupt?
I took part in a segment on the public radio program Stateside about the possibility that Detroit might go bankrupt. There is a lot of talk that what was good for General Motors and Chrysler might also be good for Detroit. But a municipal bankruptcy is much different than the federal bailouts that the car companies received, as Daniel Howes from the Detroit News and I discussed. For one thing, the federal bankruptcy code is much more fuzzy when it comes to Chapter 9 cases than Chapter 11s like the car companies or Chapter 7 liquidations. A whole bunch of issues have to be ironed out, including: what specifically defines Detroit? Who is the actual "debtor" - the mayor, city council, the city's legal council? And, who would write the plan to reorganize the city?
Whatever happens, this is a turning point for the city. Its image is much improved, thanks to the Chrysler ads and the hipsters that are making the city cooler, but its finances are a disaster. For years, Howes says Detroit has overestimated tax revenue and underestimated its expenses. A bankruptcy would throw sunlight on a lot of things that have been hidden in political closets, but it might take years to fix the city. There's talk an emergency manager might be appointed by the state, which could be one step. Anything that happens with the city will affect the car companies, since they represent Detroit to the world. It's going to be an interesting few weeks and months of debate, and I wouldn't be surprised if President Obama gets tugged into it at some point.
3rd Gear: Can Hyundai And Kia Keep Up?
The Chosun Ilbo reports that while Hyundai and Kia aren't seeing sales fall, they may be having a little trouble keeping up in a tough American market. Their combined market share in November fell slightly to 8.3 percent, the lowest for 2013, and they slipped from sixth to seventh in the market. Analysts are watching to see whether there will be any fall out from falsified mileage claims. A Hyundai study says just 10 percent of consumers are aware of the situation, according to the paper. And, Hyundai had its best November since it began selling cars in the U.S. However, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW and Volkswagen all saw double digit increases last month, when Hyundai and Kia sales rose 9 percent.
4th Gear: Salve, Sergio! Chrysler Sets Up A Foundation In His Honor
The Associated Press reports that Chrysler is setting up a foundation to honor Sergio Marchionne. Over the next five years, Chrysler will donate an amount equal to the value of 5 million Chrysler shares each year to the Marchionne foundation. Although you can't buy Chrysler stock, at least not this year, the company placed the value of Chrysler shares at $7.63 in its 2011 annual report. So, the initial contribution is worth at least $38 million.
Money from the foundation initially will be spent to educate children of Chrysler employees, but it also will support other charitable causes, the company said. Marchionne doesn't take a salary from Chrysler, but he earned $22.2 million from Fiat in salary and other compensation last year. The Marchionne foundation could potentially be a significant player in Detroit, where philanthropy is always welcome. The AP says the first contribution to the foundation will be made in December of 2013, and it will begin making awards in 2014. More specific information will come next year.
5th Gear: Facebook Thinks GM Is Coming Back
When then-GM Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick suddenly announced his company was pulling all its advertising from Facebook because he didn't think Facebook provided a return on investment, the social media network was caught having to explain why the second largest advertiser in the country stopped believing in them on the eve of their IPO. Then Ewanick was fired just as suddenly.
Now Business Insider reports that Facebook's Marketing VP Carolyn Everson thinks GM might come back. Specifically, she told them "I personally have seen GM executives over the last couple of months, I've been to Detroit, and there is a new CMO for General Motors in Canada who's a very big Facebook supporter. There's Facebook supporters at GM throughout the world, so I'm confident this situation is going to be in a better place soon."
6th Gear: Ian Callum, Focus ST, And Toyobaru Take Home Top Gear Awards
We tend to not care that much about year-end awards because they're part of a huge self-supporting media circus that has little relevance in this modern world. But we never tire of using this photo of Jaguar's Ian Callum, who was named "Man Of The Year" by TopGear-the-Magazine. Our own Matt Hardigree personally witnessed Ian Callum letting his pal Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain buy beers for TG's Matt Jones and then later, at a bar, some guy with Trey Songz almost put Jones on the phone with the real Freeway Rick Ross. Collusion! Clearly, Callum did nothing to deserve this award... other than move Jaguar's design forward for the first time in two generations. At least now we know why he was laughing.
They also gave awards to the Focus ST wagon we don't get and the Toyota GT-86 we get as a Scion FR-S.
Reverse: Halifax Bursts Into Flames
On this day in 1917, the French cargo ship Mont-Blanc collided with the Belgian relief boat the Imo, and set off an explosion that killed 1,700 people and injured another 9,000. The explosion was the largest man-made disaster at the point in time, and is still remembered as one of the deadliest days in Canadian history. The accident happened, experts theorize, because the ships didn't observe traffic rules in the overcrowded harbor. The crew of the explosives-laden Mont-Blanc abandoned ship as soon as the accident took place. Twenty minutes later, the boat rammed a pier and set the Halifax shoreline on fire. [CBC]
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, do you think Hyundai and Kia have seen their peak? Or can they still make progress in the American market? How much will the fuel economy scandal affect them? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.