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 parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: It's Like Oprah Is Giving The Damn Things Away
The measure everyone uses for how well cars are selling isn't the total number of cars (which reached a whopping and impressive 1.5 million last month), but something called SAAR. That's the Seasonal Adjusted Annual Rate and takes in account how many cars usually sell, seasonally, and tries to determine the total number of cars sold in a year.
That number just hit 16.1 million in August, which is the first time that's done that since 2007, which means it's the best since that whole recession thing.
Who won? Almost everyone. Honda was up a crazy 27% (more on that later), Toyota and Nissan were boosted 23% and 33% from a year earlier, and Subaru was up 45% to sell more than 40,000 cars for the first time ever.
GM saw retail sales rise 22%, while fleet sales dropped 8%. Both are good numbers. Cadillac was up 38% and Buick up 37%. Chrysler had its 41st consecutive monthly gain with an overall increase of 12%, lead by Ram truck sales. Chrysler and Fiat were relatively stagnant. Ford was up 12%, which is 13% for Ford and 1% for Lincoln.
Were there any losers?
Scion sold a few dozen fewer cars, the VW division of Volkswagen was down about 2%, but Bentley, Audi, Porsche, and Lamborghini where all up (Lamborghini by three whole cars).
Volvo was down 13%, and that's worth talking about.
As always, Automotive News has the full chart and wrap up.
2nd Gear: Oh Volvo!
Instead, Volvo has an aging and less competitive lineup on dealer lots.
Here's Volvo's CEO Håkan Samuelsson, per The Wall Street Journal
"We are far from satisfied with our performance in the U.S.," Mr. Samuelsson said in an interview on Wednesday. The unit, he said, is stuck "in a bad spiral that we have to break" and solving the problem is "on our focus list."
Solutions include a better leading deal they've signed with Bank of America and renovated dealerships. The real solution, though, is obvious: Better product.
The first new XC90 in a billion years comes online, we're getting wagons back, and maybe that coupe concept will come soon. They still need a 240 though.
3rd Gear: So WTF Is Up With Honda?
We rag on Honda, but they're still good cars and I think the new Accord is actually fairly nice. Still, a 27% gain ain't nothing to sneeze at. They even sold more Acuras, although the 9% lift lagged the industry.
There are questions on how we view their sales, though. The new Honda CR-V was slightly redesigned and was up a crazy 45%. It's the most well-balanced, and therefore most average of all of CUVs, but it's not a bad car (the Mazda CX-5 is probably best car in this class and was up 82.3% year-over-year but is practically a niche product in comparison. The Forester is also way up, and that's pretty good too).
What about the Accord? Up 11%. This makes perfect sense. Many of us would prefer the Mazda6 or the Fusion but, honestly, you can't go wrong with the Accord and it is quite fast with the V6. It's also the mid-size coupe left.
No, the problem comes with the Civic. Sales are up 59% year-over-year. Does this mean their hastily redesigned car proves that America wants more than boring appliances? Or does it mean that, no matter what, people will buy Civics?
I don't know, but I hope Honda takes the right lesson from all of this. You can read more about it at Automotive News.
4th Gear: Toyota Back On The Recall Train
Toyota is recalling 234,000 vehicles, reports David Shepardson, to address two separate problems.
On one hand, they're recalling 133,000 of the Highlander Hybrids and Lexus RX400h hybrids over a transistor in the hybrid system's inverter assembly. If it freaks out the car may enter limp-home mode, although the car could shut down all together which, if you were parked in front of a runaway train full of gasoline could lead to… fiery death.
The same goes for the 102,000 Lexus IS 350/GS350 models that might lose a bolt used to "secure the variable valve timing control device."
5th Gear: Court Upholds Judgement Against Ford
This is sort of a strange case. A boy named Billy Meals was riding in the back seat of his father's Ford when a drunk driver hit the car head on. The boy was paralyzed and the court ruled that the injury was partially due to a fault in the seat belt mechanics.
According to the AP, the family was initially awarded $6.57 million from Ford. An appeals court reduced that to $1.93 million but the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated the lower court's verdict.
In total, the boy appears to be getting $43.8 million.
Reverse: On The Road Agaain
On September 5, 1957, New York Times writer Gilbert Millstein gives a rave review to "On the Road," the second novel (hardly anyone had read the first) by a 35-year-old Columbia dropout named Jack Kerouac. "Jack went to bed obscure," Kerouac's girlfriend told a reporter, "and woke up famous."
Neutral: Would You Buy A Honda? What About A Volvo? Why is Honda doing so well? What will it take to make Volvo succeed?
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