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: Today Should Be Interesting
It’s new car sales reporting day for July! Are you so excited? You should be.
The numbers released by automakers today are expected by many analysts to be either just moderate sales gains or declines as the record sales party may be coming to an end. Here’s The Detroit News to start:
Edmunds.com expects a 0.8 percent sales increase compared to the same month a year ago, while J.D. Power and LMC Automotive expect a 2.1 percent gain. Kelley Blue Book forecasts a 1 percent sales drop.
“Last year’s record-setting sales performance was powered primarily by a strong second half, and July sales suggest that 2016 is poised to play out in the same way,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com executive director of industry analysis said in a statement. “With low interest rates and a leasing market that’s stronger than ever, automakers have a great opportunity to build on last year’s burst of summer sales. The growth might not be as significant as in recent years, but it’s still growth nonetheless.”
Kelley Blue Book expects General Motors Co. to have one of the worst months, thanks to a continued planned decrease in fleet sales. It says Nissan could have the best month, and predicts modest gains for both Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Who knows, maybe we’ll get some surprises.
2nd Gear: 95 Other Fatalities
At a recent auto industry conference in Traverse City, Mich., the buzz was all about the first known fatality in a semi-autonomous car back in May where a driver in a Model S crashed into a semi trailer. It was bound to happen, but context is also important, transportation officials said. Via The Detroit Free Press:
While the accident raises significant issues, [Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation] said, “We’ve got to put it in context.”
“That same day there were 95 other fatalities...and every day since then there have been 95 more fatalities,” Steudle said.
Steudle said driver error is the cause of most traffic deaths.
In general, auto industry executives and regulators both believe that the evolution towards self-driving cars will improve safety and reduce traffic fatalities.
That’s the goal, anyway.
3rd Gear: Is Ride-Hailing A Threat? (No)
There seems to be this general opinion that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft will somehow kill private vehicle ownership in many cities, and then the auto industry as a whole. Um... probably not. Via Automotive News:
But urban dwellers who use these mobility services typically own one vehicle per household. The national average is two vehicles per household.
Ride-hailing customers tend to be young and highly educated. And in an interesting trend, urban dwellers that use these services also have increased their usage of public transit. This suggests that car-sharing and ride-hailing complement rather than compete with traditional urban bus and subway service in major cities such as New York, Washington and San Francisco.
According to [the Center for Automotive Research]’s examination of the trends, North American car-sharing programs will grow. CAR forecasts that they will attract 3.8 million users and nearly 51,000 vehicles in 2021, up from 1.6 million users in 2014.
Ask the millions of Americans who don’t live in cities how much they use Uber and Lyft and you’ll have your answer.
4th Gear: Honda Bounces Back
Honda’s really had a rough go in recent years between some uncompetitive products, natural disasters, recalls, and then the Takata airbag crisis. But in the U.S., as well as China, the automaker is rapidly coming back. Here’s Bloomberg:
Honda Motor Co. reported profit that beat analyst estimates as demand increased in the U.S. and China, its two biggest markets.
Net income was 174.7 billion yen ($1.7 billion) in the three months through June, the Tokyo-based automaker said in a statement on Tuesday. That compares with the 134.6 billion yen average of seven analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Demand for its models in the U.S. including the Civic sedan and HR-V crossover helped Honda lower its promotion costs by about 11 percent in the first six months, according to researcher Autodata Corp. In China, a cut in the purchase tax of smaller-engine models spurred sales of its cars like the City small sedan and XR-V crossover to outpace industrywide expansion.
We’ve driven the new Civic and found it to be excellent, and a nice return to form for the automaker.
5th Gear: Mitsubishi’s Sorry Again
Investigators hired by Mitsubishi after the automaker admitted in April to overstating the fuel economy on its minivehicles criticized the firm for “not having the manufacturing philosophy of an automaker”.
They also said in their report on Tuesday that Japan’s sixth-largest automaker by vehicle sales had not rallied its workers to help get it back on track following previous scandals going back to 2000, when it revealed it had covered up customer complaints for more than two decades.
Rather, the investigators said the company had been more focused on cutting costs from 2004, when it admitted to conducting secret recalls, which squeezed the resources engine designers needed to keep the company competitive.
Reverse: Forza Andretti