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: The Records Keep Rolling In
It's hard to pick a stat for Tesla that puts what they're doing in any context. It only sells a few cars but it's now valued by the stock market at more than half of what GM, with all its assets and all its sales, is valued at. It's stock is up 619% in a year, the best for any automaker in more than two decades.
I think Bloomberg highlights the best one, though: It's trading at 154x estimated earnings. That's a helluva a show of faith in the company, and a sign that investors are hyped up on Tesla.
Building the world's largest battery plant will help that, assuming they can find customers for all those batteries.
2nd Gear: Nader No Fan Of Dingell
Not one to let bygones be bygones, Ralph Nader took one last shot at soon-to-be-former Congressman John Dingell, the longtime supporter of the auto industry. David Shepardson has the background and the story, but here's the best:
"(Dingell) was totally and cruelly indentured to the auto industry even though he was from an overwhelmingly safe Democratic district. More than any other lawmaker, Democratic or Republican, he fought to make sure that the auto Goliaths got their way in Congress and at the EPA and the Department of Transportation," Nader said.
Nader blasted Dingell for "delaying the issuance of the life-saving airbag standard, in opposing noxious emission controls on motor vehicles and, most irrationally, in freezing fuel-efficiency rules for many years. He did this with sheer stubborn willpower and by forging a mutually destructive alliance between the Big Three auto companies — GM, Ford, and Chrysler — and the United Auto Workers."
Ouch. Dingell didn't take the bait.
3rd Gear: Speaking Of Former Auto Company Employees...
Dan Akerson, formerly GM CEO, isn't wasting away in his retirement but instead he'll join the board of defense company Lockheed Martin.
Akerson's a proud Naval Academy grad so defense isn't entirely out of his grasp. Plus, as Nathan Bomey points out, he was also the managing director of the Carlyle Group before, which had defense assets.
4th Gear: Mazda's Mexican Adventure
Exporting a ton of its cars from Japan is not a great business strategy for Mazda, even though it's been working out for the company lately do to a favorable currency situation that's probably not going to last forever. Where to go next? Mexico! Automotive News has the skinny:
Mazda Motor Corp. Chairman Takashi Yamanouchi opened the company's new small-car assembly plant in Mexico today, calling it the company's "most important global strategic base." The factory, which will ramp up to annual capacity of 230,000 vehicles, is a cornerstone of the structural reform plan "upon which the very future of company hinges," Yamanouchi said in remarks prepared for the opening ceremony.
Since Mazda no longer produces cars at Flat Rock with Ford, this is now the only factory the company has in North America.
5th Gear: Ford Is, Like, Super Popular
Whereas human popularity isn't a zero sum game, automotive popularity sort of is if you measure it by market share. Therefore, even in an expanding market, one automaker's success comes at the expense of another automaker's bottom line. In particular, it seems like Ford's success is definitely tied to Toyota's decline.
Its share of the U.S. retail market fell to 13.5 percent last year from 16.3 percent in 2008, according to data provided to Bloomberg by IHS Automotive using Polk vehicle-registration records. Toyota's 2.8 percentage point loss matched the gain of Ford Motor Co.'s main brand, to a 13.2 percent share, over the same period.
While recalls and typhoons and whatever else didn't help, it feels to me like the biggest factor is the strength of Ford not the weakness of Toyota. Also, it'll take a lot more than a few natural disasters and an attractive Fusion to overtake the world's largest carmaker.
Reverse: America's Greatest Italian-Born Racer
Mario Andretti, whose name will become synonymous with American auto racing, is born in Montona, Italy, on February 28, 1940. In a career that spanned five decades, Andretti was known for his versatility as a driver, taking the checkered flag behind the wheel of sports cars, sprint cars and stock cars on a variety of race courses. His long list of achievements includes a Formula One World Championship, four Champ Car National Championships (1965, 1966, 1969, 1984), three 12 Hours of Sebring victories (1967, 1970, 1972) and wins at the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Neutral: Where Does Tesla Stop?
Or does it stop?
Photo Credit: Getty Images