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: We Can’t All Be Astronauts
By now you probably know the story with car sales in 2016: trucks and crossovers are way up, while small cars, sports cars and sedans are way down. But an analysis by Bloomberg revealed some interesting data on who the winners and losers were. For example, the Audi TT did pretty well in its class:
Few people care for little sports cars anymore—at least, those not stamped with a Porsche badge. That makes it all the more incredible for Audi to have moved about 3,000 TTs in 2016. Alfa-Romeo, by comparison, will struggle to offload 500 of its dead-sexy 4C. Credit Audi’s coup to a 2015 refresh that included a new, lightweight aluminum body, very cool headlights, and futuristic interior design.
And despite being a bit long in the tooth at the moment, the Infiniti QX50 is doing quite well with sales up 272 percent year-over-year:
Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, now makes four sizes of SUV. The QX50 is the second-smallest, perhaps more accurately called the just-right size. This is the size and shape of vehicle that Americans want to buy right now, more than anything else. The latest iteration is a little larger and sportier than before. Think of it as the poor man’s Porsche Macan, with similar performance for almost half the cost.
The biggest losers? The Kia K900 luxury sedan, the Fiat 500L, and the Chrysler 200, which was not a bad car at all but is such a sales loser that it is now dead. Sad!
2nd Gear: Not The Mercury Milan!
The 2007 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan (remember that?) are under investigation for possible brake failures. Get yours inspected. Via Reuters:
U.S. safety regulators are investigating Ford Motor Co.’s Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans from the 2007 to 2009 model years for brakes that may fail in certain conditions.
There have been three reported crashes related to this issue, but no injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford officials said.
The probe was opened on Dec. 20 and involves one of Ford’s most popular models, the Fusion. The Milan is no longer produced.
The probe can lead to a safety recall but is short of one at this point.
This is a problem for me because I personally own eight Mercury Milans.
3rd Gear: Panasonic Goes Big On Tesla
As this Reuters story notes, Japanese electronics giant Panasonic has been shifting away from consumer gadgets and more toward cars. And yesterday will invest more than 30 billion yen ($256 million) in Tesla for a Buffalo, New York battery production facility.
Tesla’s shares were up 3.5 percent at $220.75 in early trading on Tuesday.
Japan’s Panasonic, which has been retreating from low-margin consumer electronics to focus more on automotive components and other businesses targeting corporate clients, will make the investment in Tesla’s factory in Buffalo, New York.
The U.S. electric car maker is making a long-term purchase commitment from Panasonic as part of the deal, besides providing factory buildings and infrastructure.
4th Gear: Auto Shows Are Changing
As we’ve said before on Morning Shift, the role of the big auto show—Detroit, New York, LA, the rest—as a means to reveal new products and hold press conferences is rapidly changing. Thank the internet, one-off events and now CES for that. Via The Detroit News:
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will have a substantial presence on the Detroit auto show floor next month, but isn’t expected to pull the wraps off any new vehicles. However, Fiat Chrysler is expected to debut an all-electric concept vehicle a week before at the CES show in Las Vegas.
Chinese-backed startup Faraday Future will unveil its first production car in Las Vegas. But Chinese automaker Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. will take a different route and is expected to unveil at least one vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
When and where to unveil new vehicles has changed with the convergence of Motor City muscle and Silicon Valley technology. CES, formerly the Consumer Electronics Show, attracts the attention of more automakers. And tech companies will travel to the Motor City in January.
“We’ve witnessed a rising tide of the suppliers and vehicle OEMs, and now big tech companies,” said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes the CES show. “It has definitely become the go-to event globally for vehicle tech … and it continues to grow.”
CES and Detroit are basically back-to-back this year, starting next week and leading into the other. We’ll see how that plays out.
5th Gear: New UConnect Coming Soon
And speaking of tech news, we’ll see a new version of Fiat Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system at CES this year, on a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. UConnect has long been heralded as one of the best, if not the best, systems on the market for its speed, stability, ease of use and general tendency to not be a massive pain in the ass the way other systems are. Here are the updates coming, via The Detroit Free Press:
According to FCA, the new version of the system includes performance improvements with faster startup time and enhanced processing power, a new 8.4-inch touchscreen that offers multi-touch gestures, vivid imagery, sharper graphics and the ability to support smartphone integrations.
The new version of Uconnect also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — systems allow users to plug their phones into the car and display and use the phone’s functions from the car’s touchscreen.
Let’s hope it stays good.
Reverse: RIP Florence