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: Beigekrieg Faltering On The Western Front?
I had a long discussion with a VW rep at the Detroit Auto Show about our Beigekrieg posts and any intimation on our part that Volkswagen is going astray in its search for 800K brand sales and 1 million sales overall (with Audi).
Apparently, I'm not alone as Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's works council and a member of VW's "powerful supervisory board" dropped to reporters that he thought VW's performance here blew, and that it wasn't going to get better anytime soon.
He suggested that VW's entire U.S. strategy has broken down, citing an anemic sales force and a lack of sufficient variety in its models. He also said VW is out of touch with the tastes of American drivers.
"The situation in the U.S. is a disaster," he said. "The worm has to taste good to the fish, not the fisherman. Sometimes I have the impression that it's the other way around with us."
VW sales were down 7% last year (although, after a a couple of great years) and they're starting to improve their products but… but…
What else did he have to say? There was also some talk of a pickup truck.
YES! YES! YES!
It's worth noting a few important points here:
1. Osterloh has a stake in where the 7-passenger vehicle gets built and that's probably in a unionized Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, so there may be some gamesmanship here.
2. While we want VW to do all sorts of things, a 7-passenger vehicle is low on our list unless it's this.
I think VW shot themselves in the foot by saying they'd sell 800K cars here by 2018 instead of picking a regular growth % target. Now we'll know when they've failed.
2nd Gear: Toyota Is Still The World's Biggest Automaker
Predictably, Toyota is again the world's biggest automaker, officially outselling both GM and VW with a 2.4% rise to 9.98 million cars reports Bloomberg.
Not only did Toyota sell more cars, they also banked more profits.
It's worth noting, as Bloomberg does, that the lead over GM narrowed to 270,000 units as GM continued to grow in China and in the US. Volkswagen isn't far behind at 9.7 million units, a 5% increase despite the stale situation in the United States.
3rd Gear: No, America's Love Affair With The Car Isn't Over
We're going to continue to revive this dead horse because other publications keep insisting on beating it do death. USA Today couldn't help but ask if our love affair with cars is over, including this shitty lede:
Here's a scary thought for automakers celebrating the return of the auto boom: It's already over.
Well, no, that's not what's happening at all. Are people moving to cities and no longer requiring 16 vehicles per household? Yes. Does that mean they hate cars? No, it means they're making rational decisions.
At least this article quotes someone who knows what they're talking about.
Such statistics play into a common notion that young people today don't covet cars the way their parents did — and are happy to ride bikes, use car-sharing and get around in other ways.
But that might not be so, said Lacey Plache, chief economist at Edmunds.com.
Her data show that once jobs are easier to get, the 18-to-34 age group will dive into the work world, "get good jobs and form households. Once they get out there and form their own households, then the average (car ownership numbers) go up."
4th Gear: A Tesla Will Cost You 50% More In China
That's actually quite fair given that most cars there cost more after taxes, transportation costs, et cetera.
"It's a good price," John Zeng, Shanghai-based managing director of researcher LMC Automotive, said of Tesla's Model S. "This should attract premium customers to try this product, especially in big cities."
Since some of the elite there have come under scrutiny for their habits it seems like the Tesla is the perfect way to demonstrate status, but also show you care about the environment blah blah blah.
5th Gear: Fiat-Chrysler To Confuse Everyone Some More
Fiat will probably list shares on the New York Stock Exchange when it puts Chrysler up on the market. That's not a surprise.
What is odd is that they say they'll have a "fiscal domicile" in the U.K. for the purposes of maintaining a better tax setup. Why Britain is better than other tax-friendly companies is beyond my understanding
And to confuse people even more, the HQ is unlikely to be in New York or London. At this rate, they'll headquarter the company in Lisbon just to screw with us.
Reverse: Ed Begley, Jr. Is Still A guy
On this day in 2006, "Who Killed the Electric Car?," a documentary about the aborted attempt by the auto industry to create an electric vehicle, debuts at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. The movie posited that there was a conspiracy between oil companies, automakers and the government to kill the electric car.
Neutral: What Do You Think Of VW's Strategy? They obviously couldn't keep building $30K tiny Passats, but what about their current lineup?
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