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: Guess The PRESIDENT’S DAY BLOWOUT SALE Wasn’t Enough
February was a no good, very bad month for car sales. But the seasonally adjusted annual sales are still strong, so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. U.S. light vehicle sales, meaning sedans and coupes, fell last month, according to Automotive News:
U.S. light-vehicle sales, hurt by a slump in car demand, slipped 1.1 percent in February as higher incentives and Presidents’ Day promotions failed to help the industry rebound from a decline in January volume.
It was a dismal month for car sales across the board, with combined sedan and coupe volume down more than 21 percent at each of the Detroit 3, 17 percent at Toyota Motor, 12 percent at Nissan and 11 percent at Hyundai-Kia, as U.S. consumers continue to embrace light trucks, notably crossovers. At American Honda, car deliveries slid 7.1 percent.
The SAAR is still strong, however, at an anticipated 17.57 million, helped along in part by truck sales. Mostly with incentives, though, which aren’t ideal for long-term profits because it cuts your profit margin per vehicle and that adds up in the long run.
Still, automakers are optimistic because February sales are historically low anyways and the spring sale seasons is coming. You always have to look forward to see what’s coming.
2nd Gear: Sell Lots, Charge More
Daimler, on the other hand, had a great February in terms of car sales. And in addition to selling more cars, it also raised the prices, according to Bloomberg. From the story:
After snatching the luxury sales crown from BMW last year, Mercedes looks poised to clinch the title again. Deliveries of the redesigned E-Class sedan surged 29 percent, while the GLS full-size SUV more than doubled. Daimler also boosted its average transaction price by about $4,700, according to TrueCar Inc.’s ALG.
I mean, if you raise the prices and people still buy your product, more power to you, then, I suppose.
3rd Gear: Daimler’s In On The Charging Now
Electric cars are a nice idea and all that, but if there is no infrastructure to support them, their usefulness is fairly limited, especially in Europe. Daimler is looking to help that infrastructure along, reports Electrek. The “help” comes in the form of a big investment in ChargePoint:
The company announced today that it is leading a $82 million round of investment in the major electric vehicle charging network ChargePoint.
ChargePoint, which is already the largest EV charging network in the US with more than 33,000 chargers, will use the money to expand to Europe.
BMW had already invested in the company and it is also joining on this new round of investment along with several other existing investors – bringing the total raised to more than $255 million.
There’s something in this for Daimler, of course. The company has already trademarked a name for its electric car brand (EQ) and it was announced last month that Smart will transition to electrification as well.
The times they are a’changing, friends.
4th Gear: Volkswagen Exec Goes To Court
April 18: the day that former U.S.-based VW exec Oliver Schmidt is set to appear in court to face charges for Dieselgate-related crimes. He faces 11 felony charges and, if convicted, could serve up to 169 years in prison, according to Automotive News Europe. Thing are looking pretty bleak for him, from the sounds of it:
Schmidt appeared at the hearing in a bright orange jail jumpsuit with “SANILAC COUNTY” printed on back. He is being held at a jail in the county north of Detroit. The former executive was shackled at the ankles and waist, which a court official said was the policy of the federal courthouse in Detroit.
German prosecutors on Jan. 20 searched Schmidt’s house, which could indicate that he may face charges in that country as well.
Schmidt’s lawyer is arguing for a postponement, though:
Schmidt’s attorney, George Donnini, asked U.S. District Judge Sean Cox if he could argue for another trial date because, he said, there was much discovery work to be done before trial, but Cox sternly disallowed the request. If the defense wants a change in the trial date, it should file a motion with the court, Cox said.
According to court documents, Schmidt’s lawyers have argued that he is just a small player in a large scandal and that he has cooperated with authorities.
Schmidt was arrested in Jan. at Miami International Airport while he was on vacation, which sucks so much! But Dieselgate was so bad!
It’s a mess.
5th Gear: The Tesla Model 3 Betas Are Comin’
We heard rumors of a pre-production Model 3 being built soon earlier last month and they were just confirmed. Via an SEC filing released yesterday, Electrek reports that the beta prototype is indeed being currently built in Fremont:
In a SEC filing released yesterday following the company’s earnings for the fourth quarter 2016, Tesla confirmed that it hadn’t completed a Model 3 beta prototype during the period covered by the filing (December 31, 2016).
Tesla added a note in the filing to confirm that those beta prototypes are part of the vehicles “currently” being built in Fremont:
“We expect that the next performance milestone to be achieved will be the successful completion of the Model 3 Beta Prototype, which would be achieved upon the determination by our Board of Directors that an eligible prototype has been completed. Candidates for such prototype are among the vehicles that we are currently building as part of our ongoing testing of our Model 3 vehicle design and manufacturing processes.”
The Model 3 will be Tesla’s high-volume, low cost model, aimed for buyers who aren’t in the price range for a Model X or Model S but still want a Tesla. Once they go on sale, will we be seeing them everywhere? Probably.
They sure look sharp, though.
Reverse: A Million Ponies
Neutral: Did you buy a car in February? What did you get?