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: Automakers Hope For A Silver Lining On Black Friday
More than likely, 2016 won’t hit the record new car sales figure that 2015 did. And the American automakers are having a tough time convincing Wall Street analysts that their stock is worth a damn. So car companies and dealerships are aiming for a bigger-than-usual Black Friday push this year to help with both those problems, reports Reuters. The goal is to cut the inventory backlog and move some metal.
Ford kicked off its Black Friday sales promotions in early November, after reporting an 11.7 percent drop in October sales.
Rivals have since followed suit. GM’s GMC truck brand is promoting “Black Friday All Month Long” with discounts of as much as 20 percent off list prices for pickup trucks.
Luxury automakers usually join the fray in December. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus brand began touting its annual “December to Remember” deals ahead of Thanksgiving weekend, offering 0.9 percent, five-year loans or $1,000 off on its compact IS 300 sedan in certain markets.
GM this week began offering markdowns on the Chevrolet Corvette sports car through retailer Costco Wholesale Corp.’s car-buying club, the first time the Corvette has been offered through the discount retailer’s car buying service.
At the start of the month, there were 122 days of Corvette inventory, up 51 percent from a year earlier and nearly double the level automakers consider ideal, according to Automotive News data.
Buy a Corvette! It’s your time.
2nd Gear: Maybe November Could Be Fine
Here again from Reuters is the sales outcome everyone is hoping for by the end of this month:
November U.S. auto sales will be up 5 percent from a year earlier, making it possible that 2016 will top last year’s record high, industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive said on Wednesday.
The consultants estimated industry sales in the United States this month at 1.39 million vehicles, up from 1.32 million, helped by two more selling days than a year earlier. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate will be 17.9 million vehicles, a slide from 18 million vehicles last year.
It’s possible! Never give up hope!
3rd Gear: The Big Subaru SUV Is Actually A Big Risk
One would think that given America’s current crossover SUV craze that the production version of the ginormous Subaru Viziv-7 would be an instant moneymaker. Not necessarily. As The Detroit News points out, Subaru has been quite successful as of late, but mostly on the strength of the Outback. This is a whole other game.
Make no mistake, this vehicle is a huge strategic risk for the company. Subaru sells a few sedans. It even has a pudgy running back of a sports car that commands a cultish following.
But right now, the automaker lives and dies by the Outback, a rough-and-tumble wagon it’s been perfecting since 1994. Its second-best seller, the Forester, is essentially a slightly taller version. A Subaru dealership is thus something like a steakhouse: there are other things on the menu, but nobody really goes there for the chicken.
When the company strays from this script, it tends to get in trouble. Its last attempt to take a piece of the traditional SUV market was a minor disaster. From 2005 through 2014, Subaru made the Tribeca, a mid-sized SUV best remembered as one of the worst-selling cars in its category. When all was said and done, Subaru sold an average of about 9,000 Tribecas a year — a number that the Outback hits in about two weeks.
Tynan said designers simply missed on the Tribeca. “It had an ugly grill and just wasn’t Subaru-y’ enough,” he explained, referring to the brand’s crunchy mix of safety, ruggedness and affordability.
I think if gas prices stay cheap this thing will do just fine.
4th Gear: Ram Dumps The Dodge Grille
Ram Trucks may be a separate brand from Dodge these days, but for years it shared the same crosshair grille as those cars and of Dodge Rams past. Expect that to change soon, reports The Detroit News:
Executives with the Italian-American automaker won’t commit that the grille, which Ram pickups and cargo vans have continued to use since the company separated the brand from Dodge in 2009, will completely disappear but the writing is on the wall, or grille, in this case.
“I love what the company has done by differentiating each brand — from the marketing to the materials — and it’s inspired us as designers to make sure we do that with cars themselves,” Fiat Chrysler head of global design Ralph Gilles told The Detroit News on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Auto Show. “It takes time. Establishing a brand takes five years, so we’re kind of at that point.”
Since the 2015 Detroit auto show, the company has introduced light-duty and heavy-duty pickups (Rebel, Limited, Power Wagon and Laramie Longhorn models) as well as two concepts (Ram Rebel TRX and Ram Promaster van) with non-crosshair grilles that prominently feature “RAM.” The company’s advertisements also have shifted toward the new grilles rather than those with the crosshair.
5th Gear: VW Can Actually Make Money Off This Diesel Mess
Part of Volkswagen’s nearly $15 billion settlement with regulators over the diesel cheating scandal is a requirement that it spend $2 billion on zero-emission vehicle projects over the next decade in the U.S. As Automotive News reports, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a money-losing venture for VW.
In a letter in response to questions from lawmakers released Tuesday, EPA enforcement chief Cynthia Giles said “nothing” in the consent decree prohibits VW “from obtaining revenue” from projects that receive that funding.
“The ZEV investment requirement will be a business investment made by Volkswagen,” Giles said in the letter. “VW may see a benefit from mandatory ZEV investments, and that would not be inconsistent with the [consent decree.] Volkswagen could have decided to make these investments even without this enforcement case, but now it is required to do so.”
The provision in the record-setting consent decree will likely be scrutinized by lawmakers, who scheduled a hearing next week to look into the company’s settlement.
Reverse: Elvis Did The Best Movies
Neutral: Are You Buying A Car This Black Friday?
God help you if so.