It Doesn't Suck To Sell Cars In Europe Anymore

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This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every morning. 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: It's Springtime In Europe

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It's finally a decent time to be a car manufacturer in Europe after years of dwindling sales, shrinking profits, and increasing desperation. Opel isn't losing as much money, the French are stabilizing a bit, and the traditional German manufacturers are starting to see signs of life.

Here's the AP on how that's helping BMW:

Munich-based BMW AG said Tuesday it "profited from increasingly friendly market conditions in the first quarter of 2014, particularly in Europe." Sales were strong for its mainstay 3 Series and 5 Series, as well as its redone X5 sport-utility made in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Overall, revenues rose 3.9 percent to 18.24 billion euros as the company sold 3.4 percent more cars in Europe, where markets have started to show signs of improvement. Demand started to recover from low levels after an economic crisis that weighed on incomes and sent unemployment up in countries such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy.

So that's good.

2nd Gear: Alfa Is Going To Get Internally Funded

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How is Fiat going to save Alfa? According to Bloomberg they'll get by with a little help from their friends:

iat's expansion will focus on rebuilding the Alfa Romeo brand, which became a cultural icon with the 1960s film "The Graduate," with plans to develop a new line of rear-wheel-drive sedans and sport-utility vehicles, people familiar have said.

The models will begin hitting the market in 2016, and high-end versions will be equipped with motors developed by Ferrari, the Fiat-owned supercar maker, the people said. The relaunch will be boosted by selling cars through Jeep's international dealer network, widening Alfa's reach, they said.

The revival of Alfa Romeo is key to Marchionne's plans for the merged carmaker. With allure stemming from classics like the iconic Duetto spider of the 1960s, Alfa has the potential to help drive profit for the group, in the same way that Audi does at VW, by commanding higher prices than mass-market models bearing the Chrysler, Dodge or Fiat badges.


We'll hear more from their five-year plan today.

3rd Gear: GM Engineer To Conveniently Retire Amid Ignition Probe

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Jim Federico, the engineer who figured out the ignition switch problem a year before the recall, is going to retire. That's convenient.

Here's Nathan Bomey on the case:

Martin said Federico was retiring voluntarily and his decision was not related to the investigations of how the ignition switch problem was handled.

Federico's departure comes nearly a month after GM suspended with pay two engineers — Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman, who were involved in the decision to change the ignition switch design without changing the part number.

It also comes about two weeks after John Calabrese, GM global engineering chief, retired voluntarily.



4th Gear: Speaking of Recalls

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Honda will recall more than 31K cars in India, reports the WSJ:

A total of 15,623 units of the Brio hatchbacks and 15,603 units of the Amaze compact car manufactured from February 28, 2013 through January 16, 2014 are being recalled, Honda Cars India Ltd. said.

The auto maker said there was a possibility that the proportioning valves, which help distribute brake pressure to the wheels, may not have been assembled properly.


I think the Amaze is actually a great name.

5th Gear: Hard To Build Cars In A Socialist Country

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While you could argue there are some benefits of socialism (government ministers in socialist countries often get pretty sweet uniforms, for one), socialist countries rarely produce awesome cars. So… fuck socialism.

For example, building cars in Venezuela, which is quasi-socialist, is next to impossible. Products is down 76% and both Ford and Toyota have, at various times, had to stop production.


Here's a great look by Reuters at what's going on:

Like other private businesses in Venezuela, carmakers have been complaining that the socialist government's currency controls are preventing them from importing essential products due to restrictions and delays in purchases of dollars.



Automobiles are just one sector of many where President Nicolas Maduro's government is facing clamor to release more dollars for imports. He says unscrupulous businessmen exaggerate needs in order to flip dollars on the black market for profit.

But nevertheless ministers are holding urgent meetings with business heads to try and resolve problems and help reverse the slide in local production.



Reverse: Tell That To Waltrip

On this day in 1991, 51-year-old race car driver Harry Gant racks up his 12th National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Winston Cup career victory in the Winston 500 in Talladega, Alabama. In doing so, Gant bettered his own record as the oldest man ever to win a NASCAR event.



Neutral: Is Europe Recovering?

How fast? Who will survive? Who will thrive?

Photo Credit: Getty Images


Second gear: So just who is the "allure stemming from the classics" going to appeal to? The Graduate was released in 1967. So if you remember the car in the movie (it was great) you had to be at least 17 MOL, and you are at least 64 today. Kinda narrows the market down, don't you think?