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: Ford Has Got Money For Michigan
What do Americans want? Jobs! Who’s gonna give them to us? Ford! The automaker will invest $1.2 billion in three Michigan plants, reports The Detroit News. From the story:
The company said Tuesday it will invest $850 million to retool its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne for truck and SUV production; $150 million in its Romeo Engine Plant to expand capacity for several vehicles; and $200 million to build a data center at the company’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant. Ford announced in January the Flat Rock facility also would see a $700 million investment and 700 new jobs to support the production of electrified and autonomous vehicles.
Ford said the Romeo investment will “create or retain” 130 jobs. The company on Tuesday did not say how many jobs would be added as a result of the other two investments. The investments simultaneously support Ford’s strong truck and SUV segments, and the company’s push to cover multiple “mobility” fields through autonomous vehicle fleets and ride-sharing services.
The Detroit News also notes:
The investments at the Michigan Assembly Plant and Romeo Engine Plant were negotiated as part of the 2015 Ford-United Auto Workers contract. The investments at Flat Rock — those announced today and those announced in January — are new.
Though President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed automakers to build factories in the U.S., it’s unclear if Ford’s Tuesday announcement will be a direct result of that.
2nd Gear: Mexico’s Still Making A Shitload Of Cars
If you didn’t already know, trucks and SUVs sold and are selling like hotcakes. And despite President Trump’s calls to reduce the number of cars made in Mexico, the number of Mexican-made trucks and SUVs increased “sharply” in January and February, according to The Wall Street Journal:
Mexico’s share of North American automotive production exceeded 20% through two months, gaining considerable regional share amid falling output in the U.S. and Canada over the same period. Analysts expect Mexico’s role in the North American Free Trade Agreement zone to grow as most auto makers have capacity increases planned for Mexico.
Mexico registered an unexpected trade surplus in February as growth in exports outpaced that of imports, thanks to higher oil prices and strong exports of manufactured goods. Auto exports, increasing 4.9%, were a contributing factor.
Though automakers like FCA and Volkswagen are increasing investments and jobs in American plants, their dependence on Mexican factories probably won’t decrease.
It’s also worth nothing that Trump became President only two months ago. Plans for building new Mexican plants were put in place long before he was elected and it is unlikely that scheduling will change.
3rd Gear: Opel Wants To Woo Buyers By Putting Tech In The New Insignia
General Motors is all done with Opel, but that’s not what you need to worry about right now. Please pay attention, because the new Opel Insignia has upgraded tech and improved quality that might help it compete with the BMW 3 Series, reports Automotive News Europe:
Those upgrades include a head-up display, semi-autonomous lane-keeping assist, a pop-up hood to aid pedestrian protection and the latest generation of Opel’s IntelliLink infotainment system that can be used with a wifi hot-spot function.
“If buyers look at what this car delivers in terms of styling, functionality and features and then looks at what they need to pay, they would think it was a good alternative,” to models from premium brands, Insignia chief engineer Andreas Zipser told Automotive News Europe at the Geneva auto show this month.
Those features... sound... pretty standard to me? I suppose the Opel is actually a few thousand Euros cheaper than the BMW in Germany, so it’s got that going for it.
4th Gear: Piëch Out
The newest development in the Volkswagen Family drama?
Ferdinand Piëch is basically done, according to Automotive News Europe:
Ferdinand Piech, a world-class eccentric but a figure of transcendent importance in the history of cars and car companies, is selling his nearly 15 percent voting stake in the family firm that controls Volkswagen Group. It is the endgame in a bitter family dispute of the kind that has characterized his life and career.
Once the sale is finalized, then where will he go?
5th Gear: Tesla’s Newfound Chinese Money
Reuters notes that this is the same Tencent that’s best known for its WeChat mobile app. In a regulatory filing, Tesla said that Tencent now owns more than eight million shares in the company.
Neutral: So automakers are investing in American plants. But what happens if buyers don’t buy the cars made in America?