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 read or we’ll get really passive aggressive at you.
1st Gear: Sorry To Burst Your Bubble
As a consumer-driven economy, we’ve been programmed to be attracted to the latest, new shiny thing. We’ve gotta have it! And sometimes we don’t have enough money for it! So we take out a loan! Everyone takes out a loan! And then bad shit happens! Sound familiar?
This time, it’s cars. And it’s not all on the consumers, by the way. Automakers have been relying on “cheap and easy credit” from financial institutions to help them along, reports Bloomberg. Rising interest rates and bad loans are causing financial institutions to be pickier with who they throw money out to.
The reasons for this? From the story:
For one thing, subprime borrowers have been falling behind on their car-loan payments at a rate not seen since just after the 2008 financial crisis. Delinquencies for auto debt of all stripes have been climbing, with the value of those behind for at least 30 days swelling to $23.3 billion in December, a 14 percent jump from a year earlier, according to the Federal Reserve.
This helps explain why 10 percent of senior bank-loan officers said they expect to pull back on extending credit to car buyers this year, according to a Fed survey. Expectations are that terms will toughen for loans the vast majority of Americans need to buy new vehicles as the Fed boosts benchmark rates.
“This has come full circle,” Keller, the consultant, said. “We’ve created an auto market of 17.5 million vehicles based on accommodating credit. There will be consequences.”
While this most likely means that people won’t be buying the expensive, new cars as often as they’re doing now, it could mean that buyers could look to cheaper or used models. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
2nd Gear: Big, Big Recall For Hyundai And Kia
Wait, how big a recall, you ask? Uh, well...
Like, 1.3 million cars in the United States, Canada and South Korea, according to Reuters. The reason? “Engine problems:”
The two automakers have submitted a plan to recall 1.3 million vehicles due to an engine defect that could cause them to stall, the companies said in a statement. The plan, which must be approved by U.S. authorities, involves Hyundai’s Sonata and Santa Fe and Kia’s Optima, Sorento and Sportage.
The duo said they were also recalling 171,348 vehicles in South Korea due to a similar manufacturing problem, which leads to possible stalling of its Theta 2 engine.
A stalling engine means a potential crash. No good very bad news.
The technical issues were further explained by The Detroit News:
All have either 2-Liter or 2.4-Liter gasoline engines. The U.S. engines were made at the Hyundai’s engine plant in Alabama.
The companies say in documents posted Friday by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that debris left from manufacturing can restrict oil flow to connecting rod bearings. Since they are cooled by oil, the restriction can increase temperatures and cause the bearings to wear and fail, and the engines could stall.
Owners will hear a knocking sound from the engine that increases in frequency as the engine speed rises. They also could get engine warning lights on their dashboard, Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor said. Those with problems should contact their dealers.
While the two automakers didn’t comment on how much the recall would cost them, Reuters tapped a financial analyst who estimated roughly $220 million.
3rd Gear: Subaru Wants To Make Its Cars Less Ugly Finally
Before you start shouting, just know that I like the way Subarus look. No, I don’t think they are beautiful cars. They are ugly. But I like that they are ugly. See the difference?
Subaru wants to change that, writes Wards Auto:
“For the first time the company is emphasizing design as a competitive advantage,” Matt Wherry, manager-product planning and design department at Subaru Research and Development in Tustin, CA, tells WardsAuto here during a discussion of the new Impreza compact car. “We’ve made great cars, but not necessarily the most beautiful. Now they’re really going to be emotionally appealing, to a level they haven’t been before.”
Whenever I read about car styling from the mouth of the automaker, the word “emotional” always turns up. I still not sure what to make of this word, but I think in Subaru’s case, “emotionally appealing” could mean “thank God I don’t want to kill it with fire anymore.”
Also, Subaru wants its cars to appeal to Teh Youths, who are apparently so surrounded by beautifully designed things that a prettier Subaru will help with sales? Okay. Sure.
4th Gear: The Opel-Buicks Are Staying
So. Opel is no longer part of GM anymore and has joined PSA Group. That’s old news. What about all the Opel/Buicks, though? Looks like they’re staying, reports Automotive News Europe. For now, anyway:
Two Opel plants in Germany will get new models as promised, securing their midterm future following PSA Group’s acquisition of the automaker from General Motors.
Opel also committed to produce Buick-branded vehicles for GM in its German factories beyond 2019.
Opel will build a large SUV at its home factory in Ruesselsheim near Frankfurt, starting in 2020, the company said in a release on Thursday. Opel’s plant in Eisenach, eastern Germany, will produce a successor to the Mokka X subcompact SUV starting in 2019.
“Investments are also confirmed for exports of sister products for another GM brand from these plants,” the statement said.
On Tuesday, GM unveiled the sixth-generation Buick Regal — which will be sold in the U.S. in four-door hatchback and wagon variants — and said the models will be built by Opel in Ruesselsheim. The Regal shares its underpinnings with the Insignia midsize model.
In cased you missed it, the new Regal was very much our shit.
5th Gear: Lyft Could Get In On This Whole ‘Government’ Thing
President Donald Trump could be calling in help from Lyft as an undersecretary of transportation for policy, according to Reuters. Derek Kan, who is a general manager for Lyft in Southern California, was a policy adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, husband of current Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao:
The announcement comes after Chao said in late February she was reviewing self-driving vehicle guidance issued by the Obama administration.
Reuters reported in February that General Motors Co’s plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with Lyft, beginning in 2018, citing two sources familiar with the automaker’s plans. GM is an investor in Lyft.
Kan will offer policy guidance as the department faces a number of big decisions at the agency.
Because, you know, nobody actually knows what the deal is with these robot cars. And the Lyft guy can help! Hopefully!
Neutral: How do you feel about Subarus? Ugly? Beautiful? Meh?