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: Sticking Around
The Dodge Challenger and Charger and Chrysler 300 have received substantial upgrades over the years ranging from better interiors to, in the case of the last two, obscenely powerful supercharged engines. But their platforms are old, heavy and in some ways uncompetitive, though they are paid for—and still profitable and strong sellers.
Eventually those cars will switch the “Giorgio” rear-drive platform used by the Alfa Romeo Giulia and other cars, though that may come with the death of the 300. But Automotive News reports that while this has been anticipated for some time, it likely won’t happen until 2020 for the 2021 model year:
The Dodge Challenger coupe and Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans won’t be redesigned onto the automaker’s new Giorgio platform until the 2021 model year, when FCA is likely to discontinue production of one of the large sedans, according to one internal FCA source and one at an FCA supplier.
Information from those sources confirms vague details released in a contract highlighter sent to union members that explained the company’s new four-year labor contract with the Canadian auto workers union Unifor.
The agreement, ratified by Unifor members last month, calls for FCA to invest $325 million Canadian ($242 million U.S.) in the Brampton, Ontario, plant to rebuild its antiquated paint shop. Construction is to begin in the summer of 2017, according to the contract highlighter from union President Jerry Dias.
That report says the Giorgio platform would be made longer and wider for muscle car duty, and could spawn a convertible variant for the first time since the old Chrysler 200 droptop was killed.
At a dealer event in 2015, inside sources described the next Charger as looking a lot like a sleek late 1990s concept car. It seems like we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out.
2nd Gear: Tesla Looks To Ze Germans
One of the biggest questions around Tesla these days is whether it can really hit its ambitious production target of 500,000 vehicles by 2018. That’s a lofty goal for the still relatively small automaker. But Tesla may get some help in automation by buying German company Grohmann Engineering. Via Reuters:
The deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed, is expected to add over 1,000 engineering and skilled technician jobs in Germany over the next two years, Tesla said in a blogpost.
Several elements of Tesla’s automated manufacturing systems will be designed and produced in Pruem, Germany.
Grohmann Engineering, which would be renamed Tesla Grohmann Automation after the deal, will serve as the initial base for Tesla Advanced Automation Germany headquarters, with other locations to follow.
3rd Gear: Ferrari Almost Has To Go Hybrid
Since spinning off from Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari to prove it can be super profitable by becoming a bit more of a volume brand; CEO Sergio Marchionne wants sales above 10,000 a year. How can the brand do that, especially when it is constrained by fuel economy CO2 regulations? It’s simple: more hybrids. Via Automotive News, here’s Marchionne being kind of vague on the subject:
He promised a “fundamental shift” in the way Ferrari manufactures its cars. Beyond hybrids, this will include a combination of combustion and electrification that will “even yield additional performance,” he said. “Although I neither commit to this nor do I give any sort of certification of it being our objective, it is possible that the [annual sales] number could be well in excess of 10,000 cars in 2025,” Marchionne told analysts.
Spun off from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles at the start of the year, Ferrari has been under pressure to show it can increase profit without the backing of a larger parent. Marchionne had promised to position the group as a luxury goods business by expanding the brand beyond cars, but on Monday he said the focus would be on vehicles first.
Marchionne also said the carmaker would expand the range to vehicles that appeal to a larger demographic by focusing on characteristics other than the technological prowess typical of its recent V-8 and V-12 models.
One such example is the GTC4Lusso T, a four-seater with a smaller V-8 turbo engine, “designed to be driven every day,” the company said when the car was unveiled in September.
Does Marchionne know what he’s doing? I wonder that a lot.
4th Gear: ‘We Will Find Somebody’
Speaking of Marchionne! Fiat Chrysler is still looking for a partner to build small front-wheel drive cars, which it swears it doesn’t care about anyway. Whatever. Buy Jeeps instead, losers. Via Automotive News:
A more important goal is developing the Alfa Romeo Giorgio platform that underpins the new Giulia sedan to cover vehicles from other brands to “preserve the uniqueness of the rear-wheel-drive offering that we have across fundamentally four brands which are Alfa, Maserati, Dodge and potentially Jeep.”
Marchionne repeated his earlier assertion that the market shift away from passenger cars is “a structural change” that will be permanent. “I think we’ve adapted our industrial footprint to reflect what we consider to be a permanent change and I think we need to rely on the economies of scale and capital deployed and invested by others to give us the desired objective.”
“Our search for a front-wheel- drive passenger-car solution to deal with very much of an American problem has got limited impact on our ambitions.” Marchionne said. “But it’s a matter of time. We will find somebody.”
We’re fine. Everything is fine.
5th Gear: Democrats Want More Self-Driving Cars, Or Something
As our long national election nightmare crawls to a close, Autotrader looked at how your politics supposedly inform your vehicle technology choices. Via The Detroit Free Press:
Autotrader polled online shoppers and found Democrats are more likely to consider a vehicle with autonomous features for their next purchase. Democrats like the idea of autonomous vehicles more: 46% are positive, compared to 29% of Republicans.
More than half — 58% — of Democrats think autonomous vehicles will make people better drivers. Only 44% of Republicans believe that.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats were more likely to be comfortable riding in an autonomous vehicle — 44% — compared to just 29% of Republicans. Democrats are also younger and more likely to have a vehicle with connectivity and entertainment features.
The study also said Dems are more likely buy Subarus and Toyotas and the like, while Republicans are more likely to buy Rams and Silverados and Ford F-Series trucks. Maybe? I dunno. Buy whatever you want. In the end, no car can save you from nuclear holocaust. Remember that.
Reverse: Ain’t That Some Shit
Neutral: Does Marchionne Know What He’s Doing?
Of all the major automakers, Fiat Chrysler seems to be the one that lacks a cohesive strategy, especially when you compare how things are now to the ambitious five-year plan laid out in 2014. What’s the play here? Hope people keep buying Jeeps and Rams in droves?