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: Subaru Demand Reaches New Heights
No other automaker, besides maybe Jeep, has exploded in popularity the way Subaru has in recent years. Once the sole purview of snow-state professor types and WRXbros, the company has gone mainstream pretty hard as of late.
Now the still-small and mostly independent company has a new problem: raising production to meet this insane demand. Here’s president Yasuyuki Yoshinaga in Automotive News:
Citing brisk demand, Yoshinaga predicted that Subaru will hit its North America regional sales target of 600,000 vehicles in 2015, five years ahead of his original schedule. Achieving the goal would deliver an eighth straight year of growth and a seventh straight year of record sales.
Sales might be even higher if Subaru had more vehicles to sell. Capacity-constrained Subaru of America started December with the fewest units on hand it has had any month this year, enough to last a mere 16 days at its November sales pace, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
“We have to revise our target a little bit upward,” Yoshinaga told Automotive News. “When we announce the next fiscal full-year results in May, we will announce revised target numbers for the next three fiscal years: 2016, 2017 and 2018.”
Subaru’s Indiana plant is the only one it has outside Japan.
2nd Gear: Nobody Wants To Start A Nissan Franchise
Yes, Nissan’s current lineup seems pretty unappealing to enthusiasts (aside from the expensive GT-R and aging 370Z) but it’s doing well among the Normals as it chases a 10 percent share of the U.S. market by 2017.
But that pursuit of volume has rubbed some dealers the wrong way, Automotive News reports:
More than a dozen dealers in Boston and elsewhere in the U.S. said they believe Nissan, after several years of rapid growth, now is setting unrealistically high sales targets. It employs stair-step incentives that, these dealers complained, end up causing them to sell cars at a loss to try to qualify for the incentives.
They also said Nissan uses hardball tactics with dealers who, in Nissan’s view, are underperforming. After repeated warning letters, these dealers said, Nissan will push dealers to name a new general manager or ask them to sell their stores. At a national dealers meeting in May, the theme of the event, attendees reported, was “grow or go.”
“Nissan has been the most aggressive manufacturer, in terms of dealership terminations, across the country,” said Joe Roesner, president of Fontana Group Inc., a consulting firm in Tucson, Ariz. “That has negatively impacted the value of the franchise with current and potential owners.”
3rd Gear: Fancy AWD For Buick
The Buick LaCrosse sedan has only ever seen middling success in the U.S. at best, and when the all-new 2017 model goes on sale next year, Buick will tout a fancy twin clutch all-wheel drive system from British supplier GKN Driveline. Will buyers care? One more from Automotive News:
“This has a real performance element to it, with big benefits on acceleration and cornering,” LaCrosse Marketing Manager Doug Osterhoff said in a recent interview. “We think this will have more play” in warm-weather states where consumers have traditionally eschewed the awd option.
Most awd systems for front-wheel-drive vehicles use a clutch at the front axle that controls the amount of torque that flows to the rear wheels. A differential typically is used to split the torque between the rear wheels.
GKN’s twin-clutch system instead uses two electronically controlled clutch packs in the center of the rear driveline module that can control torque between the axles, sending 100 percent of torque to the front, or back, as needed based on driving conditions.
4th Gear: Say Goodbye To These Cars In 2015
The Detroit Free Press has an obituary for all the cars going out of production as this year winds down. Most of them, save from the Lancer Evo and Mazda5 mini-minivan (a longtime Jalopnik staff favorite) will not be missed, like the Lincoln MKS:
The arrival of the exciting looking Lincoln Continental will spell the end of this big, bland sedan. The MKS looked and felt heavy and awkward, a forgettable car from a forgettable brand. Its impractical trunk was a significant weakness for a car whose greatest hope for success would have been as an airport limo. MKS production will end before the new Continental goes on sale in late 2016.
RIP, forgettable cars.
5th Gear: CARB Gives Itself A VW Deadline Extension
Yep, Dieselgate will stretch into 2016. While Volkswagen has submitted a repair plan to the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board—a plan that remains secret for now—the latter agency is extending its own approval deadline to Jan. 14. Via Reuters:
In a letter to VW, the Air Resources Board said that after getting updates from VW this week on its proposed plan, it would extend its deadline to consider the plan by about three weeks.
VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said the automaker continues “to fully cooperate with EPA and CARB as we work to develop an approved remedy as quickly as possible.”
VW has said that newer vehicles will require a software upgrade, but older vehicles will require the addition of new emissions hardware, along with new software.
Reverse: What Americans Remember Most About Alfa Romeo (Besides Rust)
Neutral: Why Is Subaru Such A Hit?
And what can other automakers learn from Fuji Heavy?
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