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: Manual Transmissions Are Going Quickly. Dammit.
Dammit dammit dammit. The manual transmission—the joy of car enthusiasts around the world, is dying. We knew this, of course, but now we were reminded again by The LA Times, who says less than three percent of cars in the U.S. come with a stick and a clutch.
It’s apparently all our fault, because we, Americans just not buying any of them. And in terms of vehicles offered with manuals, The LA Times shows the numbers are equally as bleak, saying:
In 2006, 47% of new models offered in the U.S. were available with both automatic and manual transmissions, according to a study by Edmunds.com. By 2011, that number had dropped to 37%. This year, the number has fallen to 27%.
The site rounded up brands that don’t offer a single manual, and that includes Mercedes, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Lexus, Chrysler and Buick.
They talked with KBB’s senior analyst Karl Brauer who said:
It’s a disgrace...Yes, it’s more troublesome and expensive for the automakers. But it’s completely inexcusable that Ferrari doesn’t even offer a manual.
Damn right it’s a disgrace! Especially when you look at other countries around the world. The LA Times did just that, saying:
Edmunds senior analyst Ivan Drury said fewer than 3% of current U.S. car sales are manual vehicles — compared with 80% in some European and Asian countries, and down in the U.S. from 7% in 2012 and 25% in 1992.
And, in the most depressing thing you’ll read all day, the article ended with this line:
“That number is never going to go back up,” Drury said. “The trajectory is down, headed for zero.”
2nd Gear: Toyota To Expedite EV Development With Four-Man Team
For decades now, Toyota has spent much of its energy focusing on hybrids, owning that market in the U.S. with its popular jellybean-shaped Prius. But, with the exception of the Rav4 EV— a half-assed joint effort with Tesla used solely for California’s clean-vehicle compliance— the company has largely stayed away from fully electric vehicles.
But now that’s changing, as Toyota just announced in a press release that it’s creating an “in-house venture company for EV development.” The company says this will be a tiny “virtual organization” consisting of one person from Toyota Motors Corporation, one from parent Toyota Industries Corporation, and one each from tier one suppliers Aisin Seiki and Denso, all of whom will be “independent of other internal structural organizations.”
Toyota says it went with such a small team, because the tiny organization structure will allow the company to “ implement unconventional work processes, leading to accelerated project progress and, thus, fast-to-market products.”
The press release definitely made it seem like Toyota is doing this begrudgingly, as the company admits it has put a “special focus” on fuel cell vehicles, saying these kinds of vehicles really are the best of all worlds:
in terms of cruising range, hydrogen fueling times and other aspects, [FCVs] offer convenience on par with that of current gasoline-powered vehicles, making them, in TMC’s view, ideal as a form of “ultimate eco-car”.
But—again, almost begrudgingly— Toyota admits that EVs are a necessary evil, saying:
However, differing energy and infrastructure issues around the world and the rapid strengthening of regulations aimed at increasing the use of zero-emission vehicles have heightened the need for product lineups that can respond to various situations. As such, along with its promotion of FCVs, TMC has decided to create a structure that will allow it to commercialize EVs at an early stage, as an alternative means of achieving zero emissions.
The tiny organization will launch this December, so get ready to start see even more Toyotas with green leaves on the back driven by smug owners who think they’re saving the world.
3rd Gear: With Purchase of Takata, Autoliv could Own 60 Percent of Airbag Market
Ever since Takata’s airbag recall—which claimed the life of over a dozen people after ammonium nitrate in the airbags degraded, becoming highly explosive, and sending shrapnel into occupants’ bodies— Takata has been struggling financially.
To recover from the dropping share prices and billions of dollars in recalls and legal claims, the Japanese automotive supplier has been on the hunt for a buyer, and now, according to The Wall Street Journal, it looks like the company may have found one.
The company is called Autoliv, and it is a Swedish automotive safety supplier that owns 40 percent of the global airbag market, making it the most prominent airbag supplier in the world.
The news site says Takata’s customers, primarily automakers, don’t care so much about the financial aspects of the deal, they’re just focused on Takata finding a buyer who won’t shake things up too much. The news site wrote:
Auto makers attending the presentation “loved Autoliv’s proposal” because of the company’s experience as a supplier and ability to take over with little disruption, one person briefed on the meeting said.
One problem with this proposal though: Takata owns 20 percent of the airbag market, and Autoliv owns 40. One company owning 60 percent of the crucial airbag market could conflict with antitrust laws.
4th Gear: VW To Sell Crap-Tons Of EVs In China To Actually Meet Regs
Regulators in China are contemplating enacting new legislation that would require automakers to sell a certain number of environmentally-friendly cars. So, in a shocking move, Volkswagen actually plans to meet these emissions regulations, saying it will offer a crap-ton of EVs in the world’s biggest automobile market, with Reuters saying:
VW...plans to be one of biggest players in so-called ‘new energy vehicles’ (NEV) in China, saying it was targeting annual sales of 400,000 by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025 as Beijing pushes automakers to sell low-emissions cars via incentives and friendly regulations.
The news site says the first “NEVs,” which will be produced in China, will come from the Audi brand, but that more EVs and plug-ins are in the cards for the German automaker.
5th Gear: It’s The Los Angeles Auto Show, And It Doesn’t Suck This Year