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: Ford Is Proof That We're Sometimes Right
Being a good car company executive, I'm starting to learn, means listening just enough to enthusiasts and journalists but not too much. Ford is probably the best example of this.
We begged and pleaded with Ford to bring the beautiful, European-ized Mondeo to the United States as the Fusion and now the Fusion is reclaiming the mid-size territory once held by the Ford Taurus.
We demanded a European-ized Focus and a Ford Fiesta, and now those products are helping Ford have a big month while others stumble. The same for the Escape.
We also asked for turbodiesel wagons with manual transmissions in matte brown and a bunch of other crap that might work or might Saturn Astrafuck them into oblivion, so props to Ford for listening juuuuuuust enough.
Now, I'm not foolish enough to believe that Ford simply read Jalopnik comments and copied down the thoughts into little notebooks. While I know for certain that higher ups at many car companies do trawl comments for insight, the realities of global platform sharing, production capacity, et cetera have more of an impact.
Doesn't matter. Car enthusiasts pay the most attention and, while our demands can sometimes be a bit whacky, there's collective insight there. Clearly, we were right.
Though GM had a bad month this month, for various reasons, Cadillac was up 10%. I'd say Caddy is the brand that's most embodied the requests and desires of enthusiasts and in a way that still maintains a broad, market-targeted appeal.
I mean, look at the Cadillac Vsport models. How long have we chastised premium carmakers for "S-line" and "M-ish" sport models that were more badging than anything else.
So… where's our El Camino? You'll sell a billion of them!
2nd Gear: Ford Now Owns 15% Of Your Hybrid/EV Market
Ford launched three new hybrids and two plug-in hybrids (and a Focus EV no one cares about) a year ago, back when they had 3% of the hybrid market. Today they have 15%, reports Karl Henkel.
That kind of improvement is like the Astros going from this year's miserable production to a .500 season next year.
What happened? Despite screwing up the EPA mileage on their C-Max, people love the shit out of some Fusions and the C-Max is a hit, too. Also, Prii and Camry Hybrids are boring. Also, Honda's hybrids have generally sucked up to this point.
Toyota is still the massive leader in this area, of course, but it used to be Toyota and everyone else in the hybrid game. Now it's Toyota, Ford, and everyone else.
3rd Gear: Bill Ford Tells Microsoft "Hands Off My Man"
“The plan is he’s going to stick around,” said Ford, 56, of Mulally in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Monday. “I’m happy he’s sticking around. But we also feel really good about where we are in terms of succession.”
Ford acknowledged that the CEO does not have a contract.
“He’s here as long as he and I would like it to happen ... As good as Alan is, we knew that he wasn’t going to last forever. ... We have the best team today that we’ve had in my working career. I feel really good, as does Alan, about where we are going forward.”
That makes it sound like Mulally is going to depart sometime in the 2nd quarter of 2014. What's your guess?
4th Gear: Tesla Model S Is The Best Selling Car In Norway
Props to Green Car Reports for this nugget: The Tesla Model S is the best-selling car in Norway in September.
That's overall. More than any other car.
Of course, Norway is crazy about giving tax breaks and incentives to EV owners and the Model S is, by far, the best EV you can buy (and one of the best cars you can buy) so it makes perfect sense.
5th Gear: How Screwed Are We?
That's the uncomfortable question that Keith Naughton asks today.
Detroit is right to worry, said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago. These are not like the heady days of irrational exuberance that followed the 21-day shutdown in 1995-96. Consumers are far more skittish today as the economy continues to struggle to get out of first gear.
“It’s going to be a lot harder to woo consumers in as these headlines start to play out, particularly once they start to affect financial markets,” Swonk said in an interview yesterday. “When financial markets get really volatile, people get hesitant to buy big-ticket items.”
Reverse: Back To Watkins Glen
On this day in 1948, the first American road race since World War II takes place in Watkins Glen, a tiny town near the Finger Lakes in New York. In 1961, the Watkins Glen event was added to the Formula One Grand Prix schedule and for the next 20 years it was a destination for the world's best drivers. Compared to Monte Carlo and other sophisticated stops on the Formula One circuit, Watkins Glen was scarcely even on the map (Sports Illustrated poked fun at its "courage and cornpone, sophistication with straw in its teeth"), but the race was named the best Grand Prix of the season more than once.
Neutral: What Did Enthusiasts Get Right/Wrong? What cars did enthusiasts beg for that succeeded? What cars failed?
Photo Credit: AP