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: Why Would An Autonomous Car Need A Steering Wheel?
This man, Han Hendriks, is your enemy. It doesn't hurt that he looks like the bad guy in a Die Hard movie, but instead of imagining him yanking an HK from his neatly pressed jacket, imagine it's a drawing of a car without a steering wheel.
In a world of autonomous cars, a steering wheel is more of an impediment than anything else, or so the Johnson Controls VP seems to think in this interview with Karl Henkel.
Of course, I'm being a luddite here and the reality is he's not entirely mistaken about the future. The path we're on in is his path, not the auto-enjoyment path unless something changes.
Just read this:
"After 2025, the steering wheel will play a less dominant role in the interior," Hendriks said from the company's Plymouth campus on Tuesday. "With fully autonomous vehicles, you don't have to be forward looking as a driver, you don't need to have an instrument panel. Then you can really just think of a car as a box that you enter."
I'm sure he said more, but it's at this point in the article that I blacked out from rage.
2nd Gear: GM Rolls Out A New And Improved Credit Card
For reasons I never fully understood, my grandfather had a GM credit card. He didn't even like GM products and the only GM-built car he ever drove in my lifetime was a Buick that he hated. I guess he did have an awesome Subaru Loyale station wagon which, at one point, counts as a GM product.
Now the card is getting more features, reports the Detroit Free Press, with 5% rewards on the first $5,000 and 2% on all purchases after that.
Of course, the biggest change is that the old card had hard limits and couldn't accumulate over time. Now there's no limit and you can let those rewards accrue.
In theory, you could spend $605,000 on your card and earn enough to buy a new Chevy Sonic outright! You know, the stripper one.
3rd Gear: GM Found A New Way To Save Money
GM sells more cars than Ford, Ford makes more money per-car than GM. GM's fixes for this are complex and varied, but one of the bigger changes is to fix some interesting logistical issues that have cropped up over the company's long history.
As The Wall Street Journal details, but shifting truck metal-stamping from its plants in Ohio and Michigan to right next to its assembly plant in Arlington, Texas they'll save an estimated $40 million per year in shipping.
Overall, if GM moves its profit margin in North America from 8% to 10% it'll add crap tons of money (i.e. hundreds of millions of dollars).
4th Gear: Porsche's Awesome LA 'Experience' Center Is Coming
Joining its new Atlanta HQ track will be this awesome "Porsche Experience Center" in Los Angeles near the intersection of the 405 and 110. Full article over on Automotive News, but the key details are:
TRACK TRACK TRACK PORSCHE TRACK TRACK TRACK.
There will be some sort of cost to use the very technical track unless you're a prospective customer (or maybe auto journo) in which case it'll be waived. They can also have events at the track, driver training, whatever.
It's going to be great when it opens next year.
5th Gear: SRT's Track Experience
SRT, like Porsche, seems to realize that getting butts in seats is the best way to translate enthusiasm into sales. Put another way: Flaunt it if you got it, and SRT has definitely got cars that are fun to drive. What it doesn't have is robust sales.
As Bloomberg reports, track events around the country and driving instruction is helping to turn prospective buyers (with money) into SRT owners and enthusiasts.
"I was like, 'Dude, that's just a bonus,"' Newman, 36, a Hackettstown, New Jersey, poker player, said last month between laps at New York's Watkins Glen International track, handling the same turns navigated by Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon and the Stewarts — both Jackie the Scotsman and Tony the Hoosier.
Gotta say, a professional poker player seems like the ideal buyer for a Jeep GC SRT.
Reverse: That Magic Day
On October 16, 1958, Chevrolet begins to sell a car-truck hybrid that it calls the El Camino. Inspired by the Ford Ranchero, which had already been on the market for two years, the El Camino was a combination sedan-pickup truck built on the Impala body, with the same "cat's eye" taillights and dramatic rear fins. It was, ads trilled, "the most beautiful thing that ever shouldered a load!" "It rides and handles like a convertible," Chevy said, "yet hauls and hustles like the workingest thing on wheels."
Neutral: Would you ever buy a car without a steering wheel?
Why? Why not?
Photo Credit: Getty Images, Porsche, SRT, Johnson Controls