Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st: A New LS Is Coming But Does It Matter?
I always liked the OG Bubble Era Lexus LS from the late 1980s and early ‘90s. It wasn’t anything flashy or insanely dynamic to drive, but it was a hella reliable way to get a super luxurious V8 sedan. When it came out it was kind of like the best S-Class in the world.
You could argue the LS’ relevance has faded quite a bit since it put Lexus on the map, especially since the brand’s bread and butter is now small and midsize crossovers like the RX and NX.
But a new LS is coming to next month’s Detroit Auto Show. You can see the teaser image above. (Presumably Lexus will be revealing the rest of it eventually, unless it is some kind of revolutionary invisible half-car.) Here’s what The Detroit News reports in a brief dispatch:
Lexus said the new LS will be sold in more than 90 countries globally and will be built on a new global architecture for luxury vehicles. The rear-wheel drive platform will offer drivers a more “dynamic experience on the road,” and the car will feature a more luxurious interior and “visionary technology.” Lexus said.
But will people buy it in today’s crossover-crazed market, one that has been brutal to sedans? The BMW 7 Series is an amazing machine and it’s had a hell of a time selling. What makes the LS different?
2nd Gear: In Fact...
In fact! A new report from Edmunds indicates that for the first time ever, luxury SUVs and crossovers will outsell luxury sedans, an outcome expected by the end of 2016 (a couple weeks, if you’re keeping track.) Here’s what they said:
“Low gas prices, changing consumer tastes and attractive new vehicles are creating the perfect environment for luxury SUV sales to grow,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. “Given that luxury brand loyalty rates are typically higher than for volume brands, this trend has the potential to affect this vehicle segment for years to come.”
While overall sales of luxury vehicles are expected to remain flat in 2016 as compared to last year, SUVs are bringing growth to brands that historically have been considered niche players. Jaguar and Volvo are enjoying the most gains, thanks to the popularity of the F-Pace and XC90. Jaguar’s overall sales were up more than 81 percent through the first three quarters of the year, while Volvo’s overall sales rose almost 26 percent. The F-Pace and XC90 are also helping Jaguar and Volvo attract a significantly higher number of conquest buyers, which has the long-term potential to help diversify a segment that’s long been dominated by a small number of high-volume manufacturers.
This market shift is largely being led by women: 57 percent of women who bought a luxury vehicle in 2016 bought an SUV, compared to 49 percent of men. Women are also becoming increasingly more influential in the overall luxury market– this year just over 40 percent of luxury vehicles will be sold to women, compared to 36 percent in 2011.
Welcome to the sedanocalypse.
3rd Gear: Detroit Could Be Lame On New Debuts
As we reported yesterday, Fiat Chrysler isn’t bringing anything new to the Detroit Auto Show next month. Toyota will unveil a new Camry and Lexus LS. General Motors could haul out the mythical mid-engined Corvette, but I’m not yet convinced it’s ready for prime time. A special standalone event seems more likely. What else is coming?
Hard to say, especially since CES in Las Vegas is increasingly a car show; that’s the next great frontier for the tech industry. Plus, while auto shows are great for you and yours to sit in all the cars, we’re seeing increasingly fewer new car debuts at the big ones in favor of special events and online reveals.
We’ll see what happens at Detroit next month. One thing is certain: I’m going to freeze my ass off there, like I do every year.
4th Gear: Where Are The Phones?
Where are the cars? More like where are the phones. Let’s ask Volkswagen about that one. Via Bloomberg:
The Federal Trade Commission is seeking to further question Volkswagen Group’s U.S. officials about whether evidence including mobile phones was destroyed amid the probe of diesel vehicles rigged to cheat emissions tests.
“In the context of the massive scandal at the center of this case, 23 lost or bricked phones is a bright red flag, especially when they include phones that belonged to important individuals,” FTC attorneys said in a court filing Thursday. The agency “should not have to accept VW’s assurance that there is nothing to see and that we should just move along.”
The FTC, the U.S. government’s consumer protection and anti-trust watchdog, asked the San Francisco judge overseeing most of the consumer and government claims against VW to order further questioning of a company witness. While Volkswagen Group of America contends its “designated corporate witness” has already answered thousands of questions during a deposition, the FTC said the person provided “nonsensical or evasive responses” when questioned about whether the company intentionally destroyed evidence.
5th Gear: So Many Patents
Who leads the auto industry in the number of patents? Not Tesla, not some startup, not Christian von Koenigsegg (he doesn’t need to because he’s from the future anyway), but Ford! Via The Detroit Free Press:
Ford has registered 1,442 patents this year, a 25% increase from 2015 and the most among the largest automakers in the U.S. Based on data compiled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Toyota was granted 1,368 so far this year, followed by General Motors at 1,131 and Honda at 1,011.
Raj Nair, executive vice president for product development and chief technology officer, attributed the increase to the push to develop more semi- and fully autonomous technologies as Ford and its competitors position themselves for shared-vehicle mobility.
“We are living the innovation mind-set in all parts of our business across the globe,” Nair said in a news release. “Our employees are delivering exciting new technologies for our customers at record levels.
Reverse: The One Who Knocks