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: The Great Summer Shutdown Shutdown
Every year automakers in the U.S. idle or shut down plants in the summer. This is both so that automakers can retool lines for new/refreshed models and, when inventory backs up a chance to adjust production a bit to catch up.
Yeah, that ain't happening now.
GM, Ford and Chrysler closed more than two dozen plants during the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009. Now, with cars and trucks rising to levels not seen since 2007, there is little slack in their manufacturing networks.
"Today, plant downtime scheduling is driven by specific vehicle life cycles and market demand," said GM spokesman Bill Grotz. "This approach gives us more flexibility and enables quicker response to market conditions."
The Freep has the full list of plants that are either shortening their idle period or not stopping production at all.
It's worth pointing out that a fews months ago when I called bullshit on a facetious ZeroHedge article I assumed that we'd see a bit of a slow down to catch up with rising inventory but, alas, last month's sales extravaganza means that I was wrong when I said "Automakers will probably idle plants this summer to make up the difference, depending on how quickly they imagine sales will rebound."
Of course, that makes ZeroHedge's argument that much sillier. Unless of course the economy tanks soon, consumer confidence drops, and people stop buying cars.
2nd Gear: Mazda Killing It In Europe
Mazda is doing well in the United States, even with somewhat disappointing Mazda6 sales, but they're doing even better in Europe where sales were up 24% through June.
That's great for Mazda which, as Bloomberg rightly points out, is the most "export-dependent" automaker in Japan. What does this mean? Honda, Toyota, Nissan and even Subaru have significant production facilities in other markets.
Mazda's production is still heavily Japanese, which is actually great right now because the yen has been lower and Abenomics has incentivized companies that serve global markets.
Hopefully, Mazda can use strategic partnerships and invest some profits in expanding their manufacturing base.
3rd Gear: Mark Fields Gets His Private Jet Back
Son of New Jersey Mark Fields just took the top job at Ford and he's going to get a nice chunk of change reports The Detroit News.
Specifically, he'll get:
Fields will get a salary and bonus package worth $5.25 million this year. That includes a $1.75 million base salary — up from his $1.54 million base salary in 2013 as Ford's chief operating officer — plus $3.5 million in incentive compensation. And the company is offering him options to buy more than 710,000 shares of stock at an exercise price of $17.21 per share, which compensation analyst GMI Ratings values at more than $3 million.
That's actually right in line with what I'd expect and, likely, what he deserves.
Here's the interesting part, though:
The Dearborn-based company, citing security reasons, will require Fields and his family to use a corporate jet to travel back and forth from his home near Miami — a privilege Fields enjoyed before the recession and auto crisis.
Fields took a lot of shit for using a private jet to commute back and forth between his family in Florida and Detroit and thus started flying commercial. No more of that now…
Whatever, so far Fields has done nothing but show himself to be a good Mulally acolyte and sensible leader. Assuming he maintains the company's strong position, he could take a soybean-powered dirigible to Florida and no one would be in a position to give him shit for it.
4th Gear: Jeep Hasn't Fixed Shit
While everyone is jumping on GM for their response to their safety recalls (including us), people have mostly ignored the fact that Jeep hasn't done shit about their big Jeep fire fix.
Per the WSJ:
A year ago Fiat Chrysler agreed to recall vehicles and install trailer hitches to protect their fuel tanks in a rear-end crash. But Fiat Chrysler said in April it won't have parts to begin making repairs until August.
On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called for an executive of the auto maker to explain under oath the delay in launching the repairs. NHTSA estimates it could take Fiat Chrysler's sole supplier more than four years at the current production rate to build enough trailer hitches for the recalled Jeeps.
Also, the fix is kind of bullshit:
An outgoing Ray LaHood reportedly met with Sergio Marchionne at an airport and they agreed to this half-assed panacea and thus you can understand why Jeep isn't taking it seriously.
There needs to be a discussion of NHTSA's failings in the GM recall and failings here and how much Ray LaHood is the worst Secretary of Transportation in a generation. Although, now it seems that the Foxx-run DOT is at least fronting that they've suddenly found their lost pair of testicles.
5th Gear: Europe's Truck Execs Even Bitchier Than America's
No one is more anxious to carp about their competition or take cheap shots than truck people. There's something macho, I guess, about the market and that makes professionals gleeful and often childish in their assault on their foes.
This is even worse in Europe. Why? Daimler's head truck guy Wolfgang Bernhard was formerly a VW guy before getting "pushed aside" when Martin Winterkorn took over that company. Conversely, VW's head truck guy is Andreas Renschler, who was the head guy at Daimler trucks until he realized Dr. Z has found the fountain of youth and will never, ever die.
Thus, both execs know exactly how to screw with the other guy, and Bernhard screwed with Volkswagen by saying VW was going to buy U.S. truckmaker Paccar which, according to VW, ain't going to happen.
Bloomberg has the blow-by-blow above but, c'mon guys, don't you have anything better to do?
Reverse: Great Scott!
On this day in 1985, the blockbuster action-comedy "Back to the Future"—in which John DeLorean's iconic concept car is memorably transformed into a time-travel device—is released in theaters across the United States.
Neutral: Is This Going To Bite Them In The Ass?
Are we headed towards another bubble or are carmakers in the U.S. right to keep building?
Photo Credit: Getty Images