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?
Earlier this month we did things a little differently by putting the gears inside the comments below to make it easier for you to comment on individual gears. I think there were some benefits to it, but let's try it out the other way.
I still encourage you to make your own gears in the comments that we can star to the top.
1st Gear: Japanese Cars For Chinese People Who Hate Japanese People
China and Japan are locked in a conflict over a few islands and this has bled over into the market, with Chinese citizens reacting with nationalistic zeal against all things Japanese.
The strategic advantage of the islands is a little hazy, but no one ever lost public support by making an enemy out of someone different. What has been lost for the Japanese automakers is a big market, while Chinese companies have lost some investment.
According to Bloomberg, Nissan introduced the Teana sedan (new Altima here) as a "barometer" for the Chinese market. They're big selling point is "a quieter ride and better gas mileage." Hey, it worked for the Germans.
2nd Gear: Chrysler Sales Up 4%
The period between 2008 and 2010 was so bad for automakers they could reasonably claim big year-over-year increases even though, realistically, sales were far off from their pre-Carpocalypse averages. That's harder to do now that we've had more than a few good quarters.
In the case of Chrysler, sales for February are the best they've been since 2008, with a total of 133,521 units moved. The biggest movers were Dodge, but Ram Truck and FIAT also posted growth. Only Chrysler and Jeep were down, with the Liberty dropping a whopping 79% as they gear up for the new Cherokee and had fewer to sell. The brightest spot might be the new Durango, which was up 38%, and the Charger, which was up 41%.
They also sold zero Vipers, compared to one Viper last year. We've got a feeling that number is going to increase very soon.
3rd Gear: Who Said What To Whom And When?
The saga of What Jeremy Clements said that got him indefinitely suspended is up-in-the-air. It's clear he said something about Danica Patrick in the week, but it may have just been the usual critique over NASCAR fixing the pole for her, and he admitted he used a racial slur around a reporter, Marty Breckerman, from MTV.
We don't know what Clements said and we don't know the conditions in which he said it. While using a racial slur in any context is bad, it's not even clear how aware Clements was that he was talking to a reporter and what earned him the indefinite suspension. USA Today's Jeff Gluck argues, persuasively, that in light of all the other NASCAR bad behavior this indefinite suspension seems unusually harsh.
MTV is dragging their feet on this, constantly promising to release a story, constantly not releasing a story. Until then it's all speculation.
It's possible Clements thought he was in a situation where he wasn't on-the-record and thus spoke freely. That his version of speaking freely is to sound like an ignorant asshole is troublesome and unfortunate, but is it really actionable?
4th Gear: The 16 Million Cars We Buy Are Going To Be A Different 16 Million Cars
It may seem obvious, but when the car market finally nches back towards a pre-Carpocalypse rate of 16 million cars they're not going to be the same 16 million vehicles we bought in 2007.
Our cars are aging, unemployment is going down, and more people are going to have to buy cars (or at least want to). But our disposable income isn't increasing at the same pace as auto sales, which means we need to buy cheaper cars instead of fully loaded SUVs. Or, as the WSJ puts it:
Comparing the new 16 million to the old 16 million is like comparing apples and oranges. Or Chevy Cruzes with GMC Yukons.
5th Gear: Detroit Is Getting An Emergency Manager
Detroit politicians may not like it, but Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is definitely calling for an emergency manager to take over the city's dire finances. Think of Chris Traeger showing up to help out Pawnee, Indiana on Parks and Recreation.
The politicians may not like it, but The Detroit News' Daniel Howes says business leaders support the idea, if only to end the unease caused by uncertainty.
"Enough of kicking the can down the road," Matthew Cullen, president of the Rock Ventures Inc. arm of Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans Inc. empire, said Thursday to a conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. "People are all worried about an emergency manager. Enough. Let's get going."