This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday 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: They Are Literally Running Out Of Showroom Space
It's as if somewhere along the way product planners, specifically Ze Germans, saw a Malcom Gladwell TED talk and blew a massive nut when they realized they could make a million variants of every platform. "It's like the pasta sauce!" they exclaimed.
And some of these made sense. If you make a sedan on a platform, and a wagon on a platform, why not make a crossover? Why not make a slightly sportier version of that crossover? Why not make a really sporty version of that crossover? Why not make a coupe version of that crossover? Why not make a slightly sporty version of that couple version of that crossover based on the sedan? Why not make a really sporty version of the slightly sporty version of that coupe version of that crossover based on the sedan?
If you think that's a joke check out the upcoming Mercedes lineup. Or better yet, why does Audi offer an A5 and an A7 Sportback given that the two models are barly different in size and difficult even for autojournalists to distinguish between?
Now a report by PwC, via Bloomberg, says that car companies are going to have to chill out within the next few years as investments are going to be aligned towards technology, as consumers find it hard to differentiate between models, and as they literally run out of space in stores to show the cars.
Luxury-car models started multiplying in the ’90s, according to Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen. At the time, Volkswagen AG’s Audi offered about 10 different variants. Now, the world’s second-biggest luxury-car maker sells about 50, including the lookalike four-door A5 and A7 coupes. In the crossover segment, only 4.8 inches in length and about $1,100 separate BMW’s X6 and a 5-Series Gran Turismo.
The effort is often wasted. The expense of stocking so many cars means most customers don’t get to see all the choices, said Detlef Kuhlmey, sales manager at Autohaus Kramm in Berlin, which sells vehicles from General Motors Co.’s Opel. Across town, Audi Zentrum Adlershof relies on touch screens to show what won’t fit in the dealership, said managing director Andre Reiser.
The Bloomberg story also notes that Porsche is going to limit the 911 to about 20 variations right now, or 22 if you count the convertible and hard top versions of the 911 GTS.
Seems smart to me.
2nd Gear: Caddy's Global HQ Now Has A Home
Looks like Cadillac is going to end up less in SoHo (although they will literally be South of Houston) and more in the Hudson Square neighborhood to the west of SoHo.
This makes sense as there is basically no fucking office space in SoHo. Trust us, we looked. We're abandoning our cramped office for better digs further uptown even though everyone loves being in the neighborhood.
I want to applaud Cadillac for this choice — even if it's just window dressing and most of the decisions will be made in Warren and the RennCen as they already. Most luxury automakers are in Jersey now, and not NYC, which makes no sense other than the no sense it makes to have a car company in a place where you can scarcely drive (although I hear one German automaker is looking for office space in the American south and possibly leaving NJ).
Plus, they're going to be neighbors with the Classic Car Club Manhattan.
3rd Gear: Barra To Skip Her Own Award Ceremony
A small group of dedicated people can cause all sorts of headaches. In this case, those people are apparently friends and relatives of those killed in GM vehicles who say that the National Women's History Museum plan to give an award to Mary Barra in the wake of the recalls is bad juju.
"It has not even been a year since Mrs. Barra began serving as CEO. An award like this would best be held for a time when she has demonstrated to consumers, shareholders, employees and public officials that she, and the company she leads, has earned it," the group said in its letter.
I guess. Her being the CEO of a major car company is historic, especially since it's the "Katherine Graham Living Legacy Award" named in honor of a woman who was willing to get her "tit in a big ol' wringer" as Barra has clearly done here.
No word on whether or not Barra will still accept the award.
4th Gear: U.S. Agrees To Guardrail Testing Over Objections
Another D.C. story, another safety protest, although this one makes a bit more sense. Trinity, the guardrail company whose safety equipment might actually impale your car instead of deflecting it, was already found guilty of defrauding the Federal Highway Administration over a specific design.
In response, the FHA asked Trinity to redo the tests but, even then, some aren't happy with how those tests are going to be checked out.
Joining the fray, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, wrote a scathing letter to the Federal Highway Administration, calling the testing proposal “far too deferential to Trinity.” Mr. Blumenthal particularly raised concerns that the federal agency was allowing Trinity to use an old set of testing standards that has since been updated with stricter safety requirements — for instance, testing at a shallow angle.
Roadside safety devices developed or significantly modified after 2011 must be tested under the updated guidelines. On the other hand, hardware that had already been accepted under the older standard does not have to be retested under the newer guidelines.
The federal agency said that, because it deemed the ET-Plus eligible for federal funding back in 2005, it would need to meet the older guidelines. It did not, however, did not address the fact that the company was found liable for fraud associated with that acceptance process.
Yeah, you lose your right to work under grandfathered provisions at the point where you defraud regulators.
5th Gear: Ford And South Africa Again
Frequent strikes in South Africa have made it difficult to operate as an automaker in that country, at least according to Ford's president of business there.
Carmakers resumed production in September after a four-week strike by 220,000 metalworkers. Last year a strike by auto workers cost the industry $2 billion in lost output, followed by a strike in the auto parts sector and another by truck drivers who haul vehicles to ports and dealerships.
"Year after year after year, having that much of your output constrained by labor actions, you don't have a clear view of what your output might be," Nemeth said. "That will have an impact in our investment decisions."
The challenge seems to be that workers there want higher wages based on their perception of the success of these industries. Unfortunately, confidence in the South African economy is low... partially because of labor. It's sort of a lose-lose for everyone.
Reverse: Adios Pig Stand
On November 14, 2006, state officials close the last two of Texas' famed Pig Stand restaurants, the only remaining pieces of the nation's first drive-in restaurant empire. The restaurants' owners were bankrupt, and they owed the Texas comptroller more than $200,000 in unpaid sales taxes.
Neutral: Who Is The Worst At Making Variations? Which automaker has taken the variations to the extreme?
Photo Credit: Getty Images