This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 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 Chinese Are Fighting With Swedes Over Soul Of Volvo
The most interesting news today comes from Reuters, who reports that Volvo's Chinese owners are clashing with Volvo's Swedish management over what to do with the company.
Specifically, Geely's billionaire owner Li Shufu wants to double sales by being more competitive in China. Volvo's CEO Hakan Samuelsson probably wants to sell more cars, too, but doesn't want to ruin Volvo's imagine doing it.
Here's where I'm going to pull off some Kung Fu logic on you. Samuelsson is right, what Volvo has done is create a nice niche for itself, and he's right to say "Volvo will never compete in that segment where customers are expecting to have V12 or V8 engines. Volvos are 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engine cars."
Li may want an S-Class fighter, but Volvo shouldn't spend the money trying to compete in a space that isn't all that great anyways.
Still, like Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in a Rush Hour movie, the tension between the two will produce something great. Although, in this case the Chinese guy is the stylish and loud black cop and the Swedes are the by-the-book Chinese cop.
That Hegel guy explained it, look it up.
Volvo needs to Subaru, in that they maintain their basic identity while stretching to accommodate bigger tastes. Of course, Subaru did that by ignoring China, but shitty Chinese tastes aren't that different from American tastes and China is Volvo's America.
Bottom line is the Chinese need to push the Swedes out of their comfort zone if they want to survive.
Just don't touch a Swedish man's radio!
2nd Gear: GM Needs To "Win" In Europe
GM Vice Chair Steve Girsky laid it out for reporters, including Dub Shep about Opel/Vauxhall and GM's reinvestment in the sagging continent.
"We need to win here if we're going to win anywhere in the world," he told them. Still. Dub Shep knows the score:
"You had a culture here of losing is normal: 'It's OK to lose because that's normal,' and we needed to define a new normal," Girsky said. He said he still expects Opel to break even by mid-decade, as the company continues to cut costs to bring its break-even point down.
That's a long view of things.
3rd Gear: VW Going Electric With 40 EVs and Hybrids
Volkswagen's long resistance to EVs is finally over, with the brand rolling out EV and Hybrid after EV and Hybrid in Frankfurt this weekend. Again, according to Dub Shep, he said up to 40 EVs and Hybrids are going to be sold around the world if there's sufficient demand.
In the typical "Vee are going to take over ze world" talk that we're getting used to from VW, Winterkorn said they'd be leading the industry in EVs by 2018.
This, apparently, does not involve buying Tesla.
4th Gear: WTF VW? Says Corker
Yep, VW is talking about going with the UAW, which has Tennessee Senator Bob Corker all in a tizzy.
“For management to invite the UAW in is almost beyond belief,” Corker said. “They will become the object of many business school studies — and I’m a little worried could become a laughingstock in many ways — if they inflict this wound.”
I'm curious what Corker is really worried about here. He's saying that VW, which would invite the UAW to run a "works council" at the plant, will scare other investment away from the Southeast. He could be right.
But there's a part of my brain that says this:
- 1. Corker brags about bringing VW to Tennessee.
- 2. The UAW is not popular amongst Republic voters.
- 3. Corker is worried that if VW goes UAW, a primary challenger will run ads to the effect that Corker brought union labor to Tennessee.
Maybe that's just my old political brain working, though, as Corker has a few years to not worry about a challenge.
5th Gear: Anti-Japanese Feelings Still Hurting The Japanese in China
A year after anti-Japanese feeling in China led to an angry mob beating the shit out of a Corolla driver, the big Japanese automakers are still having issues in the country. This report from the WSJ points out that, while sales have turned around, there are lingering issues in interior and western parts of China.
"That is where the auto industry's future lies," said Mei Songlin, vice president and managing director with advisory firm J.D. Power China. Referring to China's interior cities, he added, "if they can't be strong in tier three and four [cities] then that is a hurdle for growth."
Ultimately, though, people like cheap good cars.
Reverse: I Had No Idea About This
On September 11, 1915, Collier's magazine publishes the second in a series of three essays on automobile travel by a not-yet-well-known writer named Emily Post. The series, called "By Motor to the Fair," told the story of Post's 27-day drive from New York City to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. The next year, Post published her first nonfiction book: the well-received By Motor to the Golden Gate, an expanded account of her trip. Later, of course, she went on to become one of the world's most famous and beloved authorities on etiquette.
Neutral: What do you want to see from Volvo? Are you Team China or Team Sweden?
Photo Credit: Getty Images