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?
Matt is out all of this week and part of next week as he drives across the country in an Audi R8 Spyder. Sounds like a rough plight he's in and we're all really sorry for him. While he's off having what is probably an awful time, I'll be here to grind these gears together each morning.
1st Gear: Ford And The UAW Want Healthy Workers
A healthy worker is a happy worker. At least that seems to be the thought of the UAW and Ford, who are launching a new, voluntary pilot program for hourly workers.
Details aren't available yet, but think of it as an incentive for making lifestyle choices that aren't sitting around and smoking weed and drinking during your lunch break. Right now, salary employees are required to get annual physicals to establish wellness goals. This should be much the same, and would result in lower health care premiums for workers who meet the goals.
It's going to be totally voluntary at first, but rumor has it that the wellness program will be mandatory by 2015.
2nd Gear: Pickup Prices Are Rising Fast
In 2005, the average transaction price for a large pickup was $31,059. In 2013, that has risen to $39,915.
Ok, inflation you say. Everything else is more expensive too, you croon. You're right, but not as right as you could be. That transaction price is an increase of 29 percent. The industry as a whole has only had an average increase of 13 percent.
Pickups have gotten a lot more features over the last few years, which definitely contributes to the rising prices. The volume of sales is also rebounding, with the possibility of two million sold this year, the first time that would happen since before the recession.
It's a pretty damn good time to sell some trucks.
3rd Gear: Audis Will Pay For Their Own Parking, Thank You Very Much
Audi made a car recently that could navigate a parking deck without any assistance from a driver. It's like magic.
But it couldn't get out of a garage if you had to take a ticket to get in. Looks like they recognized the problem and are working on a wireless scheme to get rid of that ticket. Sure, things like this already exist in some ways, but this would be the first fully integrated system. There is a catch: The tech is being developed with a parking company in Ingolstadt, so it only works in Germany.
Gotta lock that down.
4th Gear: Detroit Is Hiring
The economy still has a bit too much unemployment, but the auto industry is recovering nicely, with expected record sales this year of nearly 15.5 million cars and trucks. And that demand for cars is creating demand for more people, like engineers, techs, and factory workers. Chrysler has plans to hire at least 3,500 people, Ford has 2,200 planned, and GM is adding at least 4,000.
Dust off that resume.
5th Gear: Le Mans Practice Roundup
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is next weekend. Here's what happened this weekend that you need to know:
Audi is the quickest with its R18 e-tron quattro, as was expected. I expected the Toyotas to be a bit quicker, but they were a full five seconds off the pace of the Audis. That's a disappointment.
OAK Racing's Morgan-Nissan led the P2 runners while Aston Martin led both GTE Pro and GTE AM with V8 Vantages. That's pretty good for their 100th anniversary.
Paul Newman, the blue-eyed movie star-turned-race car driver, accomplishes the greatest feat of his racing career on this day in 1979, roaring into second place in the 47th 24 Hours of Le Mans, the famous endurance race held annually in Le Mans, France.
What do you think about the mega rise in pickup prices? Crazy? Urban cowboys inflating the market? Or is this a real rebound?