Toyota president Akio Toyoda and Mazda president Masamichi Kogai announce a $1.6-billion U.S. plant. Photo credit: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

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 Gear: Get Ready For Some American-Made Japanese Cars

After reports came out Thursday that Toyota and Mazda would team up to build a $1.6-billion U.S. assembly plant, the two announced it Friday morning. Reuters reports that in addition to it, Toyota will take a 5-percent stake in Mazda and Mazda, the smaller of the two, will take a .25-percent stake in Toyota.

Advertisement

Toyota announced in January that its plans to spend $10 billion in the U.S. over the next five years weren’t in response to President Donald Trump’s pressure to relocate back to America, CNBC reported at the time.

It’s just that pure, sweet American Dream. American made, friends, that’s what makes auto manufacturers great again. Totally. From Reuters:

The plant, something of a surprise at a time of overcapacity in the U.S. market, will be a boost to U.S. President Donald Trump ...

The plant will be capable of producing 300,000 vehicles a year, with production divided between the two automakers, and employ about 4,000 people. It will start operating in 2021.

The electric vehicles cooperation, meanwhile, comes as the tightening of global emissions regulations prompts more automakers to develop battery powered cars, as the industry struggles with hefty research costs and intense competition from technology companies over technology like self-driving cars.

As part of the agreement, Toyota and Mazda will also work together to develop in-car information technologies and automated driving functions.

Whether it was his pressure or not, Donald is very happy. He probably won’t block Toyota or Mazda on Twitter in the near future. Not sad!

2nd Gear: Here’s Hoping That Your Car Doesn’t Break Down In Chicago

Nearly 2,000 Chicago-area mechanics went on strike Tuesday, with Automotive News reporting that it affects about 130 of the 420 new-car dealerships in the area. The strike was still going on Thursday.

Advertisement

Most of the debate centers around scheduling and work hours, which unionized mechanics aren’t thrilled about. Rather than offering, you know, a change in work scheduling, Automotive News reports that a committee representing area dealerships proposed a three-year contract that promised wage increases of 5 percent annually. That got rejected by the mechanics.

Here’s what’s been going on for the past few days, from Automotive News:

The union is mainly pushing for a guaranteed 40-hour work week, a change [Chicago Automobile Trade Association presiden David] Sloan said could eliminate the current system, which rewards a dealership’s most productive technicians with more hours.

Dealerships have “draconian pay structures prohibiting our ability to attract young, aspiring mechanics to enter the auto repair profession,” according to a statement released by the union.

Unattractive pay rates coupled with the inability to progress or achieve a long-term profession in the field are drivers of mechanic frustration, said Sam Cicinelli, Local 701 directing business representative, in the statement.

The dealer committee said big repairs could be affected by the strike, but small things like oil changes could go on. A former mechanic himself, Cicinelli spoke to the Chicago Tribune and said there’s “nobody that’s in there to do oil changes or anything of the sort.”

3rd Gear: It Must Pay To Be Rich And Well Known

Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt has a court date Friday morning, and the Detroit Free Press reports that he’s expected to plead guilty in the manufacturer’s giant diesel cheating scandal. But, naturally, this rich and well-known executive will be pleading guilty to far lesser charges than we originally thought.

Advertisement

Schmidt was originally charged with 11 felonies and up to 169 years in prison for his role in the Dieselgate scandal, but now, the Detroit Free Press reports that he’s down to two charges—conspiracy and violating the Clean Air Act—and possibly no prison time. Sounds just peachy, Oliver.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The most serious charge, conspiracy, carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.

Schmidt, who worked at Volkswagen’s research and development center in Auburn Hills, is not accused of creating the software that helped cheat emissions tests, but the government said he took part in the cover-up. He was arrested Jan. 7 in Miami. ...

In February, The New York Times reported that Schmidt’s lawyers said he “merely did what Volkswagen lawyers told him to do” during meetings with regulators.

Schmidt sure will have fun dodging all of that prison time in the next few hours. Go forth and help secretively pollute our earth, friend.

4th Gear: Investors Sure Do Trust This Dude Who Wants To Dig Huge Tunnels

Tesla’s stock is soaring just like its Model 3 reservations, because investors have a lot of faith in the guy who wants to dig a giant hole from Washington, D.C. to the middle of New York City when he’s not working in the car business.

Advertisement

The stock jumped more than 6 percent Thursday to nearly $350 a share, and it kept going up after hours. Tesla opened lower on Friday, down 46 cents and .13 percent as of 9:30 a.m. ET. But as of Thursday, Reuters reports that Tesla’s stock was up 63 percent in 2017, “underscoring Wall Street’s confidence in Musk.”

Seriously, y’all, this dude wants to build tunnels everywhere as a side gig and will almost certainly move to Mars when the artificial intelligence-powered machines take over Earth and kill the human population. Let’s be a little less sheep-like toward this shepherd. Anyway, here’s what Reuters had to say:

The Palo Alto, California company late on Wednesday reported quarterly results that beat average analyst estimates, and said it received more than 1,800 reservations per day for the Model 3 since its launch last week.

Tesla had $3 billion in cash on hand at the end of the June quarter, reassuring investors who were worried after Musk warned on Friday that the automaker would face six months of “manufacturing hell” in ramping up production of the Model 3.

Tesla’s cash burn, expected to top $2 billion this year, has prompted short-sellers like Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn to bet against the company ... and some analysts expect the carmaker to seek extra funding this year.

Musk said investors should have “zero concern” Tesla would fail to reach its production target of 10,000 vehicles each week by the end of 2018.

Totally. Don’t be concerned at all, Wall Street.

5th Gear: The Great Ferrari, The Non-Conformer, Will Not Go To Formula E

Ferrari won’t make autonomous cars. Boss Sergio Marchionne said you’d have to shoot him first. Ferrari also won’t make an SUV. But, actually, Ferrari will.

Advertisement

Ferrari is a non-conformer. You can’t make Ferrari sell you a car, and you can’t make Ferrari do the things that the other automakers are doing. That includes entering the all-electric FIA Formula E Championship. From Motorsport.com:

Only last week, Mercedes dropped a bombshell when it announced that it would be quitting the DTM at the end of 2018 to pursue FE the following season.

A few days later Porsche announced it own FE move as it pulled the plug on its LMP1 project in WEC.

Ferrari has long hinted about getting involved in FE, because of the growing momentum towards electric road cars.

However, Marchionne thinks that any bid to join the electric racing series would not be with Ferrari but instead with one of the other brands within the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group – which includes Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Fiat, Dodge and Chrysler.

Alright, Ferrari, we get it. You’re cool and you don’t do the things other people do. Thanks for the reminder.

Reverse: Bee Glad You Weren’t In Tarrytown, New York On This Day In 1994

On Aug. 4, 1994, the New York Times reported that the flatbed on a truck carrying 24 million bees tipped over on a New York highway. The truck was on its way to Florida, but the whole bee accident happened near Tarrytown, New York. The New York Times reported that drivers were backed up for miles while police told them all to keep their windows rolled up. Fun!

Neutral: Has The Chicago Mechanic Strike Affected Anyone You Know?

Is this big ordeal making the impact mechanics say it is? Do you know anyone who’s been out of a car repair over the past few days?

Advertisement

Correction: We originally attributed the Chicago Tribune quote above to just a mechanic. The person who said it, Sam Cicinelli, is a former mechanic and the union’s business representative.