This is the Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parcel it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Gas In California Hits Records
The Associated Press says gas prices in California set new records this weekend, rising an average 16 cents a gallon for unleaded in two days. The state's average price was $4.65 a gallon, but people in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Barbara paid more. Some gouger in Long Beach had the guts to charge $6.65 for a gallon of regular, according to Gas Buddy, while the lowest price in the state was $3.49 in San Pablo. These crazy prices seem to be related to a temporary shortage of supply, and analysts say they'll come down eventually. But Gas Buddy thinks they'll peak at $4.85 a gallon before they drop, and some stations are running low — 40 percent of the Costcos in California have shut down their pumps because they have no more (Costco usually cuts about 20 cents off the price for its members).
I was out west the past two weeks, and before I left on Saturday, I passed a gas station near San Francisco International Airport that was charging $4.89 a gallon. When I got home to Ann Arbor, the Amoco station near the farmer's market was charging $3.89 a gallon — $1 less per gallon. Two weekends ago, I felt like a chump because I paid $4.49 a gallon in Truckee, near Lake Tahoe. But on my final fill up, I paid $4.69 in Palo Alto before I dropped off the rental car. I was driving a new Hyundai Sonata, and it averaged 39 mpg in Eco mode. However, adding about two-thirds of a tank into it cost me $50. This has got to really be hurting people out there, on top of an economy that is still in pretty dismal shape.
2nd Gear: VW Deals Another Blow To The U.S.
Automotive News (sub. required) says Volkswagen is leaning toward Mexico as a production site for the new version of Golf. That's the second time VW has snubbed its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant in adding another model (the first came when VW decided to build a new Audi plant in Mexico). The Chattanooga plant zoomed to full capacity in record time, and folks there have pretty much expected that VW would start construction on a mirror plant, especially since there's plenty of room on the site. But CEO Martin Winterkorn tells Automobilwoche (AN's sister publication) that the company favors its Puebla, Mexico, plant for an overseas Golf site.
"Chattanooga has exhausted its capacity," Winterkorn said. "If we expand there, an SUV that ends up roomier than the Tiguan would have a good shot." (But, how many of a bigger SUV could VW sell in the U.S., given that gas prices like those in California are on everyone's mind?) Meanwhile, AN says VW is also due to build the new Golf in China. That country is VW's single most important market globally. The company plans to launch volume production at its Foshan plant in late 2013. The next Golf is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. in 2014. It sounds like VW is perfectly happy to displace Toyota in sales, but it isn't interested in replicating what Toyota has done with its U.S. production.
3rd Gear: Audi Planning The Q-Coupe Crossover
Car Magazine says Audi has decided not to build the Quattro concept car that it showed at Paris two years ago. Instead, it's planning to build a small crossover for Audi. Don't expect it to look like a Q5 or a BMW X5, though. It probably will look something like the Q2 Crosslane concept that Audi put on display in Paris, and which Travis didn't think much of. It will fit somewhere in the line up between the TT and the R8 supercar. Audi has to figure out which platform to use for the crossover — one of its own, or the global MQB platform from Volkswagen.
The blame in all of this lies with the Evoque. It's a great little crossover with lots of thoughtful design that fills an interesting niche for Land/Range Rover. Now everyone else wants to do it. Don't we have enough crossovers? Give it a diesel V10, though, and maybe we'll talk.
4th Gear: Wandering GM Workers Just Want To Go Home
The Vindicator has a poignant story about GM workers who took transfers to keep their jobs when things were bleak at the company. Now, they would like nothing more than to return to their home states. Many of the workers share the same dilemma. They have worked for GM for decades, and rather than get laid off, they agreed to go to other plants. But many left homes behind that they couldn't sell, not to mention their families. Companywide, GM relocated about 6,500 people. Some of them have been moved to two or more plants since leaving their home factory. Now, GM is going to try to move some of them back, but it's up to the plant to ask for workers. One of the issues the company faces is that it's much cheaper to hire new workers than it is to transfer veterans. But the United Auto Workers says GM owes it to its veterans to let them go home, if jobs are available.
Reverse: The Great Race Takes To The Air
On this day in 1919, the first transcontinental air race began, with 63 planes trying to fly between New York and California. A batch of 15 planes left the Presidio in San Francisco, while 48 took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island. (Yes, it was once something more than a shopping mall.) Lt. Belvin Maynard (no relation that I know of) flying a Havilland-4 with a Liberty motor, won the 5,400-mile race. It took him three days to fly across country and four to fly back. [History]
In keeping with our new discussion system, here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS.
Today, we want to know: what are you paying for gas? What did your last fill up-from scratch? Are you concerned about what's going on in California? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.
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