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: How Volvo Got Her Groove Back
It’s kind of a miracle that post-U.S. Carpocalypse, Volvo exists at all. After being sold off by a struggling Ford, the brand could have easily faded into obscurity like Saab. Instead it’s cranking out some truly amazing cars like the XC90, not to mention more wagons.
Volvo’s still got a ways to go, but it’s already breaking sales records. Here’s Bloomberg:
Buoyed by the new XC90 sport utility vehicle, deliveries reached a new high last year, rising 8 percent to 503,127 vehicles, Gothenburg-based Volvo Cars said Friday in a statement. It was the first time the 89-year-old automaker has breached the half-million sales mark in one year.
The company, owned by Chinese billionaire Li Shufu’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., is retooling its lineup to compete with leading luxury-car makers including BMW AG. It’s counting on growing demand for premium models in the U.S., where it’s planning to build a car factory, to propel sales gains. The Swedish company is presenting the S90 sedan to the public for the first time next week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and it said Friday that the entire model range will be renewed in four years.
“Volvo is about to enter the second phase of its global transformation,” Chief Executive Officer Hakan Samuelsson said in the statement. “Once completed, Volvo will have ceased being a minor automotive player and taken its position as a truly global premium car company.”
2nd Gear: First GM Ignition Switch Trial Begins Monday
Monday’s “bellweather” ignition switch trial could determine how the General Motors lawsuits go. From Bloomberg:
The car maker, which faces at least 16 trials on death and injury claims in state and federal courts in the U.S. in 2016, has said in regulatory filings that it couldn’t estimate its potential liability. It hasn’t set aside a reserve for the pending lawsuits, Jim Cain, a spokesman, said in an interview. He said GM will deal with the suits one at a time, challenging the plaintiffs to show that the defective switches caused the accidents.
The trials begin with the first of six bellwether cases in Manhattan, three chosen by plaintiffs’ lawyers, three by the defense. Bellwethers are used to test strategies and theories and learn what works and what doesn’t. The first, selected by the plaintiffs, isn’t one of the strongest claims against GM. It may have been selected for that reason — win a tough case and send the defense reeling, lose it and you have stronger ones ahead.
3rd Gear: Plug-In Volkswagen Tiguan Coming To Detroit
The all-new 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan looks pretty sharp, and the company apparently has a plug-in electric version debuting at the Detroit Auto Show. VW needs bigger crossovers in its lineup and it needs to clean up its image after Dieselgate. Will this help? Reuters:
Europe’s biggest automaker is putting increasing emphasis on electric cars following its cheating of diesel emissions tests, which analysts think could hit demand for diesel vehicles, and a focus on SUVs makes sense given their growing popularity.
“VW can’t release an SUV soon enough,” Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo said. “SUV market share is at its highest ever level (in the U.S.),” with compact SUVs such as the new Tiguan accounting for 13 percent of all U.S. auto sales in 2015.
4th Gear: New GMC Acadia Too
I don’t have much to say about the GMC Acadia except that “it is an SUV you can buy with money,” but a new one is coming to Detroit. Not that it matters, since the current Acadia—which dates back to 2006—still sold in record numbers in 2015 amid the SUV boom. The Detroit News:
An update is needed for the Acadia, which competes in a segment with a new Honda Pilot, the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander.
“It’s quite old,” said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst for IHS Automotive. “The segment here, technology is moving forward. It’s time to update it.”
Still, sales of the Acadia in the U.S. last year reached a high for the vehicle at 96,393, up 14.8 percent from 2014 totals.
5th Gear: Come To The Auto Show!
If you’re near Detroit, you should, it’s gonna be ginormous. One more from The Detroit News:
Workers are working nearly around the clock to get Cobo Center’s 735,000 square feet of show floor and display areas filled with LED screens, massive sets and stages before Monday, when more than 5,000 journalists from more than 60 countries are expected to arrive for the show’s press days.
“Everybody’s in a great mood,” Paul Sabatini, chairman of the Detroit auto show, said during a walk-through of the show floor with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “As you walk through, you can see the difference ... it’s amazing to see how great it is.”
This year’s show — open to the public from Jan. 16-25 — will feature more than 40 primarily global vehicle debuts from the world’s largest automakers. They’ll take place on $200 million worth of new sets and stages inside Cobo Center, which last year completed a multiyear, nearly $300 million renovation.