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: Another Civic Wagon, Another Want Unfulfilled
The quickly redesigned 2013 Honda Civic is a fine car. Not a great car, but a fine car. It's efficient, it's comfortable, it's generally not slow. It just doesn't offer anything special for the enthusiast buyer beyond safety and value.
In Europe, there is something they offer. This. It's the new Honda Civic Tourer (aka wagon) and it's just the right kind of strange. Sporty may be an overstatement, but this design is sleek and functional and I'd totally rock one.
It'll premiere in Frankfurt next month where, I'm sure, someone will remind us that it's for Europe-only. At best we could hope they slap body cladding on it and call it an SUV/light truck.
2nd Gear: Daimler Isn't Giving Up On Smart
Yeah, Smart isn't working out in the U.S., but there's gotta be a market for the cars… right?
That market might be CHina, where Smart plans to sell its redesigned two-seater, an EV, and a four-seat car being developed with Renault reports Bloomberg.
While it's very true that there are 160 cites with more than one million people and not enough parking, I'm curious how many will risk putting an expensive plate on such an inexpensive car. Daimler thinks they can increase sales of the brand's products 15% on the back of increased Chinese car sales.
3rd Gear: Fiat Workers Paid To Not Work
This story from The Wall Street Journal chronicles people in Italy who work for Fiat who get paid to not work thanks to a state-run program that pays workers who are on forced leave.
Can we get that for journalists?
While the money isn't great and, I think, many Italians would rather work for a living than take a handout, the government probably doesn't want any more unemployment than it already has. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has said he wants to invest in Italy, but a showdown with the unions and uncertain in Europe has slowed down those plans.
4th Gear: How Ford And GM Got Their Subcompact Mojo Back
There once was a time, not long ago, when American subcompacts sucked. There was the Festiva, the Asspyre, the Aveo, and all manner of other shitboxes.
Now, it's the Japanese (and Chrysler, maybe) who are trying to play catch-up.
While the extremely cheap Nissan Versa is still the best selling cheap subcompact, the Fiesta and Chevy Sonic are right behind. The Honda Fit (which is a good car) and the Toyota Yaris (which is a car) are behind them.
The success is sweet to Ford Motor Co. and General Motors. But to observers such as Tom Libby, head of North American forecasting for R. L. Polk & Co., it is astonishing."To see a GM brand outselling Toyota and Honda in a small-car segment is a little startling," says Libby, who has been tracking market trends for 35 years. "That's not something that's happened before. "In fact," he adds, "it made me look closer at the sales numbers for the Toyota Yaris. They're so low by comparison that I thought it was a typo."
5th Gear: Booming Car Market Means Suppliers Have To Play Catch Up
As the S.A.A.R. (the seasonally adjusted rate of annual car sales) starts to approach 16 million, the people who supply carmakers with all of those parts to build those popular cars are scrambling to keep up says The Detroit Free Press.
For instance, Ford blames a drop in sales of Escapes and Fusions on the fact that they don't make enough Escapes and Fusions.
The challenge, of course, is expanding enough to meet demand but not so much that you're going to have to lay people off or cut down production again. It's a fun balancing act.
Reverse: Carpocalypse Now
On this day in 1988, director Francis Ford Coppola's critically acclaimed biopic "Tucker: The Man & His Dream" premieres in U.S. theaters, starring Jeff Bridges as the brash Chicago businessman-turned-car-designer Preston Tucker who shook up 1940s-era Detroit with his streamlined, affordable "Car of Tomorrow."
Neutral: Honda Civic Wagon Would you rock it?
Photo Credit: Getty Images