This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:30 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: Consumer Reports Slams Lexus IS 250, Doesn't Like Q50 Much Either
Having all agreed that, short of maybe the aging Acura TSX, there's no car that Honda's luxury arm builds we actually like, we've got both Lexus and Infiniti to choose from in picking a luxury performer from Japanese automakers.
Infiniti has always been middle-of-the-road, but they've built nothing as despicable as the all-but-a-Camry ES and I've always personally like the G37 in sedan form.
Where CR agrees with us is that the Infiniti Q50 is an attractive, high-tech package that fails to deliver driving feel. Where they disagree, and this may only be because they tested the AWD 250 and we focused on the RWD 350, is that the Lexus IS is a step in the wrong direction.
We found the 2014 Lexus IS to have sharper handling, better driving feel, and overall better packaging than the outgoing model. Yeah, the IS 250 should be avoided, but the 350 ain't bad even if it isn't as good as the ATS.
The bottom line is Infiniti is soul-searching while Lexus is improving, although neither are as good of a value or as good of a performer as an older Infiniti. And Acura, of course, is dead to us until they can get their beaks out of their asses.
2nd Gear: Tennessee Workers Say VW Making Them Join Union
In what has the be the weirdest move in recent history, Volkswagen is being accused of coercing members to join a union reports The Detroit News.
Background: VW wants to setup a German-style workers council facilitated by the UAW as is required by U.S. law. A majority of workers signed cards in support of the move.
Why did they do it? Four workers in the Chattanooga, Tennessee plant allege that a manager hinted they'd lose out on getting production of the new small crossover to Mexico. Yes, this sounds like bizarro world.
It should be noted that, while this absolutely may be true, three of the people in this lawsuit are involved in the other lawsuit trying to stop this move backed by the "National Right To Work" org, which appears to be connected to the Koch brothers so the motives behind their actions are questionable in the least.
That's union politics, however. Everyone has an agenda and no one is to be trusted (not business, not unions, not the media).
3rd Gear: CNG Mazda3 To Tokyo
If you haven't already ascertained, we're big fans of the 2014 Mazda3, so it's intriguing to us that Mazda is bringing a pair of alternative fuel versions to the Tokyo Motor Show in November.
First up is the SKYACTIV-CNG Concept which, ENOUGH WITH THE CAPLOCKS, is another one of the new crop of dual-use CNG/Gasoline vehicles that can run on either fuel. Also on hand will be the Mazda3 SKYACTIV-D, which has the 2.2-liter diesel engine and goes on sale in Japan next year.
There's also a hybrid, but who cares? Will we get any of these vehicles? Maybe not.
4th Gear: First Production HondaJet Nearing Completion
Hey, remember the HondaJet? Apparently, they're still building that. It's only been like 100 years.
"The HondaJet program continues its steady progress toward certification, and we anticipate receiving Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Type Inspection Authorisation in the next few months," said Michimasa Fujino, president and CEO of Honda Aircraft Company. "Entering this final phase of flight testing will be a significant milestone toward certification."
We can't wait! Actually, we can wait! Because we've had to! Forever!
5th Gear: Abe Vs. Aiba
I talk a little about the yen and Japan's PM Shinzo Abe and how his moves impact the global car market, and particularly the profitability of Japanese exports. All of this falls under 'Abenomics,' which is a term I don't get into that often because that's drilling down into economic policy that extends far beyond cars.
Economics is just a giant chess game and moving one rook here impacts a pawn over there, and small manufacturers who serve domestic customers feel a bit like pawns.
Abenomics has sent stocks to the highest level in five years and lifted profits of Toyota as a weaker yen boosted the value of overseas earnings. Aiba says the government needs to pay more attention to smaller companies like his that face higher wage and materials costs with little immediate benefit from the currency's decline.
Reverse: A Surprisingly Effective Policy
On October 22, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Highway Beautification Act, which attempts to limit billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising, as well as with junkyards and other unsightly roadside messes, along America's interstate highways. The act also encouraged "scenic enhancement" by funding local efforts to clean up and landscape the green spaces on either side of the roadways. "This bill will enrich our spirits and restore a small measure of our national greatness," Johnson said at the bill's signing ceremony. "Beauty belongs to all the people. And so long as I am President, what has been divinely given to nature will not be taken recklessly away by man."
Neutral: Best Japanese Luxury Sedan Ever?
Is anything better than the original IS
350 IS300 with a stick?
Photo Credit: Getty Images