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American Toyota Exec Resigns After Drug Arrest In Japan

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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: Hamp Out

Julie Hamp, Toyota’s chief communications officer and its highest ranking woman executive, has resigned from the company, according to a statement. Hamp was arrested in Japan a few weeks ago after police say she picked up a parcel containing toy necklaces full of oxycodone painkiller pills in violation of that country’s notoriously harsh drug laws. Via Reuters:

Hamp, a U.S. citizen, leaves Toyota about a month after she relocated to Tokyo to become the Japanese automaker’s chief communications officer. Her appointment was part of a drive by the company to diversify a male-dominated, mostly Japanese executive line-up.

In a statement, Toyota said it had accepted Hamp’s resignation after “considering the concerns and inconvenience that recent events have caused our stakeholders”.


Not a surprising outcome, unfortunately. But Hamp’s legal troubles are likely just beginning. Read Kat’s piece on Japanese drug laws to find out why.

2nd Gear: Fiat Chrysler Up

Another month, another round of record sales for Fiat Chrysler. This time it’s up 8.2 percent year-over-year, thanks to Jeep and the not-bad-at-all Chrysler 200 sedan. Automotive News reports:

Continued strength from Jeep and the redesigned Chrysler 200 midsize sedan helped push Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ sales up 8.2 percent last month.

The automaker reported U.S. deliveries of 185,035 in June, its 63rd consecutive month of year-over -year increases. The results were just below the estimates of most analysts, who projected FCA’s June sales would grow 11 percent. Still, three of FCA’s five mass-market brands had sales increases during the month, led by Jeep, with a 25 percent rise.


Why? To quote one analyst, “Pent-up demand, as well as low interest rates, favorable credit terms and rising employment.”

3rd Gear: Hyundai Down

Hyundai, once the darling of the auto industry with its surge from abhorrent penalty boxes to some of the most competitive vehicles in the world, has been having a rough go of things lately. They just hit their third month of declining global sales and investors are kind of pissed as stock prices tumble.

Blame a strong currency in South Korea, slow China sales and a lack of SUVs in certain markets. From Bloomberg:

Deliveries fell 1.2 percent to 408,026 vehicles last month from a year earlier, according to a regulatory filing Wednesday. Overseas sales declined 2.2 percent to 345,224 units, while deliveries at home climbed 4.8 percent.

Hyundai has struggled this year from a stronger won and weaker yen that has given a competitive edge to Japanese rivals like Toyota Motor Corp. The South Korean automaker is responding by cutting costs and production, while planning to boost its sport utility vehicle line up to take advantage of the recent worldwide boom.


Keep in mind that’s global sales. I’m genuinely curious what their U.S. sales figures will be like for June. I’d assume they’re good, but maybe I’m wrong.

4th Gear: Hydrogen Subsidized

A day after Toyota announced the range for their Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car, which looks like a Camry from the Back To The Future II version of 2015, Japan’s three biggest automakers announced they’ll help cover the cost of hydrogen stations across that country. From Bloomberg:

Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. will cover as much as one-third of operating expenses for stations run by infrastructure companies, they said in a joint statement in Tokyo on Wednesday. The support will be capped at 11 million yen ($90,000) a station. The program will run until about 2020 and cost an estimated 5 billion yen to 6 billion yen, said Kiyotaka Ise, senior managing officer at Toyota.

Japan is planning to build hydrogen distribution facilities to encourage the use of what Toyota has called the next generation of auto technology. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the nation will create a “hydrogen society,” with fuel cell also powering homes and office buildings.


Smart, if you want people to buy hydrogen cars. Wonder if they’d do the same in the U.S. like Tesla did with their Supercharger stations.

5th Gear: Greece Bad

One thing you really should be paying attention to is the Greek financial crisis. Specifically, the effect it will have on the rest of us. What of the gradually recovering European auto market? The Detroit News reports:

While Greece isn’t a major market for the car companies, the collapse of the Greek economy and potential pullout from the Eurozone could have significant ripple effects that could send other European economies into distress. That could stunt any growth automakers have made there in recent years.

[...] The bigger issue, though, is if Greece were to pullout of the Eurozone and return to its former currency of the drachma, the remaining Eurozone economies likely would suffer, leading to more difficulties for automakers trying to build and sell vehicles in the entire region.

“Despite the ongoing issues, a single currency encourages business and is in the best long-term interests of the European economy,” Ford said in a statement Tuesday. “Eurozone governments should work to preserve the Euro, and any reform efforts should focus on improving the economic prospects in the Eurozone.”


We’ll see what happens.


Reverse: Thunderbird Gone

The last Thunderbird, Ford Motor Company’s iconic sports car, emerges from a Ford factory in Wixom, Michigan on this day in 2005.


Neutral: Hydrogen Here?

Look, the Japanese home market is pretty small compared to the rest of the world. I can’t imagine Japanese automakers will only focus on hydrogen for the home market. How soon until they push hard for hydrogen here, and will it ever catch on?


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