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: MOAR SALES
Automotive News reports last month was the strongest February for new car sales in 15 years. Gosh! Here’s who won and lost:
Ford, paced by gains across the board, surged 20 percent. Fiat Chrysler rode strong demand for Rams and Jeeps to a 12 percent increase. Honda said sales improved 13 percent to 118,985 while Nissan said its sales grew 11 percent to 130,911. Both Honda and Nissan said they set records for the month.
General Motors, meanwhile, said sales fell 1.5 percent, a surprising decline that the company attributed to a 39 percent cutback in deliveries to fleet customers. GM said retail sales rose 6.6 percent.
But GM bolstered forecasts of a strong month for the industry, projecting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.7 million — a figure slightly higher than the average forecast of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
2nd Gear: Honda On The Comeback Track
After a few years out in the wilderness, the new Civic and existing CR-V appear to be pushing Honda back to a more dominant position, Automotive News reports. Acura, on the other hand...
Honda reported sales of 118,985 vehicles, a 13 percent rise from a year earlier. Honda brand sales jumped 15 percent to 106,212, also a new high mark, while monthly Acura deliveries fell for the second time this year.
Still, the results place American Honda on a comeback track. Its 1.7 percent January sales decline trailed the industry’s 0.4 percent drop. The automaker hasn’t gained U.S. market share since 2012.
Growth in American Honda car sales exceeded gains by its light trucks, even as industrywide sales of light trucks outpace those of cars. American Honda car sales including Acura rose 16 percent to 61,950, while truck sales jumped 9.3 percent to 57,035.
[...] Each Acura vehicle had year-over-year sales declines except for the ILX compact car. ILX sales rose 56 percent on the month to 1,500.
The ILX, huh? Okay then.
3rd Gear: Things Are Going Swell, Volkswagen Says?
Hey Volkswagen, how are your talks going with the EPA and California Air Resources Board to reach a solution over the cheating diesel cars?
They’re... going, VW says! Reuters:
“In the U.S. we are working intensely with the respective authorities on a sustainable overall solution,” Mueller said at a reception on the eve of the Geneva auto show.
“We continue to be in constructive talks,” he said, adding that negotiations between both sides will resume on Thursday. Earlier on Monday, Mueller told Reuters TV that he did not believe that U.S. authorities were being too hard on the German carmaker, though they were pushing “very strongly” steps to clear up the scandal.
VW is “progressing well” in its efforts to investigate the circumstances of the manipulations and will draw “the right conclusions” from its findings, due to be published in the second half of April, the CEO told reporters.
The company faces a judge-imposed mandate to reach a solution this month.
4th Gear: Autonomous Cars Could Be Great For Seniors
Car enthusiasts balk at self-driving vehicles, but they could be a huge boon to people who cannot drive themselves, or struggle to. Here’s Bloomberg on that:
With more than 43 million people in the U.S. now 65 and older, and 10,000 more hitting that mark every day, aging Americans are a natural target market for self-driving vehicles. Mobility needs — getting to the doctor or the grocery store, seeing family and friends — become paramount for seniors, especially since 79 percent live in suburbs and rural areas.
“For the first time in history, older people are going to be the lifestyle leaders of a new technology,” said Joseph Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab in Cambridge. “Younger people may have had smartphones in their hands first, but it’s the 50-plus consumers who will be first with smart cars.”
John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, featured Swanson during a January presentation in Detroit. His own mother is 96; both she and Swanson gave up their driver’s licenses, and the freedom that came with them, roughly a decade ago.
“A fully self-driving car has the potential to have a huge impact on people like Florence and my mom,” Krafcik said. “Mobility should be open to the millions around the world who don’t have the privilege of holding a driver’s license.”
5th Gear: Fiat Chrysler Dumps The ‘Eminem’ Super Bowl Ad Agency
Super Bowl ads are inexorably dumb, as is the public’s worship of them every time the big game happens. But it’s hard to watch Chrysler’s old ad with Eminem and not get at least some feels, even if the 200 was crap.
The agency behind that ad and several other memorable Fiat Chrysler ads is Wieden+Kennedy. But now the two are parting ways, reports The Detroit Free Press:
“Making your mark in the automotive category isn’t easy. But we’re damn proud of the one we made with FCA,” Tom Blessington, managing director of Wieden+Kennedy Portland, said in a statement. “We’re even more proud of the company’s turnaround. Parting ways is always hard, but sometimes it’s just the right call. We wish FCA all the best.”
FCA Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois’ goal is for the automaker’s commercials to be both memorable and different. Wieden+Kennedy, Francois said, deserves credit for helping FCA achieve those goals.
“It has been a great partnership and, as these things do go, it is now the right time for both the agency and FCA to seek other pursuits,” Francois said in a news release.
The Super Bowl ad Wieden+Kennedy and FCA created with Eminem is widely viewed as groundbreaking and among the best that has ever aired during the Super Bowl.
Reverse: 1 Million Mustangs, Faster Than Expected