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: Good For Us, Bad For Other People
Long-term, I think that lower gas prices are good for consumers and will lead to lower demand for oil and higher car sales in the United States.
But there are other benefits as well; lower oil prices hurt the people we don't like and help the people we do. At least one analyst is predicting that the low oil prices will cause Russia's Vladimir Putin to resign and get Iran to say like "Fuck this shit" to their nuclear program.
That's a biiiiiiiit rich, but I like the boldness.
“Any massive redistribution of income can raise political tensions,” Schmieding of Berenberg Bank said in the Jan. 6 report. “But, net/net, strengthening the U.S., Europe, Japan, China and India, while weakening Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, is likely to make the world a safer place in the end.”
2nd Gear: Cheap Gas Won't Last Forever, Says Obama
A nice get for The Detroit News as David Shepardson lands an exclusive phoner with President Obama before Air Force One touches down in Detroit for a Michigan appearance where we're sure to hear about how his administration saved many, many jobs.
Hell, they did, take a victory lap.
Shepardson leads with a discussion of fuel economy, which seems to be on everyone's mind right now:
“I would strongly advise American consumers to continue to think about how you save money at the pump because it is good for the environment, it’s good for family pocketbooks and if you go back to old habits and suddenly gas is back at $3.50, you are going to not be real happy,” Obama said in an exclusive telephone interview with The Detroit News on Tuesday, the eve of his visit to Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne.
During his Michigan appearance, the president will tout his administration’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry, which saved at least a million jobs and a critical part of the U.S. and Michigan economy. It’s among a series of actions he has taken that Obama is highlighting at stops in several U.S. cities as he prepares for his Jan. 20 State of the Union address.
Obama said “folks should enjoy” low gas prices, but cautioned that they won’t be around forever. Americans could sock away some of the money, “or better yet” buy a new car or new appliance, he said.
“The American people should not believe that ... demand for oil by China and India and all these emerging countries is going to stay flat. Just demographics tell us demand is going to continue to grow, that over the long term it will grow faster than supply and we have to be smart about our energy policy,” Obama said.
So go out and buy a more efficient new vehicle and call it a day.
3rd Gear: Volkswagen's Panacea "MORE SUVS"
Volkswagen has missed out on the SUV craze part deux and is not in a position to take advantage of the lower fuel prices like their competitors (and high diesel prices aren't helping).
So what's their plan? They'll be showing their 7-seat SUV at the Detroit Auto Show next week.
The VW brand lost momentum in the U.S. after several years of strong growth because the company largely ignored the SUV trend and neglected its existing product portfolio, company officials and analysts have said. Volkswagen of America, the U.S. unit of VW’s namesake brand, sold 366,704 cars in the U.S. in 2014, down 10% from the previous year.
Now, Mr. Winterkorn aims to make the Volkswagen group the world’s leading manufacturer of SUVs and crossover vehicles ranging from low-budget compact models to new ultraluxury SUVs planned by its Bentley and Lamborghini brands.
The VW brand, the company’s biggest volume business, will launch the CrossBlue next year. The 7-seater is larger than anything VW offers in Europe, with a shoulder-high bulging hood and the spaciousness and commanding perspective that American drivers demand from an SUV.
Controversial statement time: I don't think that a big SUV, even one that'll be Passat-like in value and mediocre in design, is the best way to solve Volkswagen's problems. I think the newly redesigned Golf will help and I think smaller, crossover-like vehicles are a better bet. Who knows, they might be smarter than I am.
4th Gear: Hope You're Ready For More Recalls
NHTSA's new boss is saying that with all the focus on safety defects this year we might see even more recalls than in 2014, which scarcely seems possible.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the hearings, and news reports, brought visibility to these issues, and complaints came in,” he said.
Vehicle recalls in the U.S. surpassed the 60 million mark for the first time in a single year in 2014, double the previous annual record of 30.8 million set in 2004, according to an analysis of data on NHTSA’s website. The increase was largely because of the rush to prevent more deaths from defective GM ignition switches and Takata air bags.
“We’ll probably see an increase in recalls” again in 2015, Rosekind said. “This was the year of the recall, right? Put your seat-belt on, folks.”
5th Gear: Opel Up!
After years of loss and stagnation, GM's Opel/Vauxhall brand saw a 3% rise in sales in 2014 for 3% year-over-year growth to 1.8 million cars, as Reuters reports.
That's not great for the U.S., but that's great for Europe.
They'll probably still lost money, but not as much and they may be closer to break even than they've been in a long time.
Reverse: Not Like Those Rambunctious Dodge Bros
Walter Chrysler, the founder of the Chrysler Corporation, one of America's Big Three automakers, is featured on the cover of Time magazine as its Man of the Year. In 1928, under Walter Chrysler's leadership, his company had acquired the Dodge Brothers Company, thereby becoming the world's third-largest automaker. Also that year, Chrysler launched the low-priced Plymouth line and the mid-priced DeSoto brand. Additionally, Walter Chrysler had bankrolled construction of the Chrysler Building in New York City. When it was completed two years later, in 1930, the 77-story art-deco skyscraper was the world's tallest building.
Neutral: Cheap Oil Good/Cheap Oil Bad? What's going to happen with oil? Is it a good or a bad thing?
Photo Credit: Getty Images/AP