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: AutoNation Wants To Succeed Where Google Autos Failed
Remember Google Autos? Yeah, me neither.
AutoNation sells more cars than anyone through a huge network of dealerships, but they have a problem: Too much of their money goes to Cars.com and Edmunds.com and other for dealership leads.
Thus, they're trying to cut out the middlemen.
The company is investing $100 million over the next two years to build the Web-based tool, which goes live later this year, and expand its digital capabilities—all with the aim of making the car-buying experience much more like purchasing an item on Amazon.com.
"You can sit at home, watch TV. You can view our entire inventory, select the vehicle you're interested in, get a price and then you can send us a deposit," said Mike Jackson, chief executive for AutoNation, following the company's release of second-quarter earnings Thursday. That vehicle then becomes the customer's car without the customer "ever having entered the store," he added.
This cut into their profits, despite higher revenues, and AutoNation traded down yesterday, but that's just shortsighted market reaction. This is exactly what AutoNation needs to do.
The idea that someone can purchase a car mostly online will get the most resistance from dealers, so having the nation's biggest dealer behind it can only help.
2nd Gear: Take To The Sea!
I was talking with a few colleagues last night and the discussion was around how terrible that beating GM's top lawyer Michael Millikin (pictured) took from the Senate yesterday was.
Basically, Milliken had to sit there while a bipartisan gang of senators repeatedly asked him and his superiors why someone as incompetent as him has been allowed to keep his job.
That's basically my nightmare. I'm in front of Congress and Amy Klobuchar is asking Nick Denton why they'd keep a dummy like me around. This begs the question: Why is GM keeping him around?
Daniel Howes makes the case, though not without pointing out the opposite one:
Recruiting a new general counsel from the outside, and getting him or her up to speed amid such a complicated and high-profile legal mess, would be enormously difficult, the thinking goes. But is a general counsel whose staff was warned four separate times of potential exposure to punitive damages in connection with the ignition-switch recalls, whose lawyers failed to connect mounting lawsuits to the switches, whose tenure is synonymous with poorly communicating silos, the credible choice to lead systemic change of GM's legal staff?
There's been a lot of this thinking going on at GM lately, a sort of "shocked there's gambling in this establishment" kind of rhetoric.
I have another quote, from Raylan Givens, I think is appropriate for much of the GM culture.
"If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you're the asshole."
3rd Gear: Fiat Says They're Not Selling To Volkswagen
All that talk about Volkswagen talking to the Agnelli family about buying Fiat Chrysler was bullshit, says Fiat Chrysler.
Two things going on here, based on how I read the denials:
1. I find it hard to swallow that VW wanted to buy all of Fiat, but there's a good chance that VW is going to try and buy something from Fiat, and a good chance that Fiat is going to be selling soon.
2. If Fiat is going to start selling assets or shares or whatever, there's nothing like a rumor of a takeover to drive shares up. Was the source of this German or, maybe, Italian? Just a guess.
4th Gear: Will The UK Gov Go To An All-Tesla Fleet?
In what would be a pretty big coup for Tesla, at least symbolically, the Government Car Service of the U.K. will consider purchasing right-hand drive Model S sedans in a bid to improve efficiency.
"The Model S we understand will be under evaluation for inclusion," said Simon Sproule, Palo Alto, California-based Tesla's spokesman. The sedan was among the cars on display at a press conference, and "it would be great to see California-built Teslas transporting Her Majesty's ministers on official business across London," said Sproule, who was born in the U.K.
Cool, although we'd take a Jag XFR-S wagon, thanks.
5th Gear: The Black Card Of Skodas
Our undying love for the Skoda brand I'm calling "The Summer of Skoda" continues with the debut of "eight models!" All of them are "Black Editions" of existing models.
Based on the already well-specified mid-level SE trim, the Black Edition range is available in either black or white exterior paint*. Each gets at least £1,200 worth of desirable optional extras, with Superb buyers benefiting from more than £3,200 of additional specification. The customer benefit is up to £1,720 depending on the model.
The exact detail of the enhancements varies by model, but examples of equipment that features in the Black Edition range includes black alloy wheels, additional black exterior styling details, sunset privacy glass, 'Amundsen' satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, full leather upholstery, cruise control, floor mats and metallic/pearl effect paint.
I'm a little confused that you can get "white exterior paint" on a Black Edition car, but such are the creative possibilities of Skoda.
Reverse: One Of The Greatest
Juan Manuel Fangio–the Argentine race car driver dubbed "the Maestro"–makes his European racing debut at the Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France in Reims, France on this day in 1948.
Neutral: Can AutoNation Do It?
Or will TrueCars.comunds maintain their death grip on leads?
Photo Credit: AP Images