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BMW Goes Front-Wheel Drive, Drivers Go For Sticks, And Toyota Goes For The Gold

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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: Toyota Plans To Get Bigger And Richer
Reuters reports that Toyota is about to increase its sales forecast for 2012, just as it also is about to report a big jump in profits for the second quarter. It's possible that Toyota could sell 10 million vehicles this year, if you include its Hino and Daihatsu subsidiaries. On Friday, analysts expect Toyota to report a second-quarter profit of $3.9 billion, compared with a billion-dollar loss in the quarter last year. It's safe to say that Toyota has come roaring back from the problems it encountered because of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake, and that the big spate of recalls late last decade haven't done permanent damage. One of the reasons for Toyota's recovery is the new Camry as well as the extended family of Prius cars, which consumers still demand. We'll see how Toyota did in July when car sales come out today.


2nd Gear: Audi Is Working On A People Mover
Auto Car has news about the Audi MPV, a family focused vehicle it says will arrive in 2016, and compete with mini-minivans like the Ford S-Max in Europe. The MPV will be available with six or seven seats, and be based on VW's MQB architecture. That would allow it to come in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Audi MPV could come in gasoline, diesel and hybrid versions. And, Auto Car thinks the new model will usher in a series of V-names at Audi. This one could be called the V3 or V4. There isn't any word on whether it will be sold here, but given that Audi wants to become the world's biggest luxury car brand, this MPV might well be part of its U.S. lineup someday.

3rd Gear: First Front-Wheel BMW Appears On The Way
Auto Express says BMW is preparing to break with tradition and roll out its first front-wheel drive car at the Paris Motor Show. It's likely to be called the 1-Series GT, and will be based on the Mini platform. But BMW is planning to pitch it as cheaper to buy and operate than a Mini. Auto Express got the news from Klaus Draeger, a BMW board member and head of supply and purchasing. "A front-wheel-drive BMW will definitely come. We have a lot of experience. We know how to make the car turn-in sharply to corners and we know how to tune the steering so that there isn't much torque steer." When asked if it was coming at Paris, Draeger answered, "I am not going to contradict you!" (We love that Bavarian enthusiasm.)

Auto Express says one difference between BMW and the new MINI will be that the front-drive 1-Series will be offered with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic, while MINI will use a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. BMW is planning both hybrid and fully electric versions of the front-drive 1-Series, although neither will be available at the car's launch next year.


4th Gear: Fixing GM Is Like Tightening Your Grip On Mercury
Forbes took a look at the tough job that Dan Akerson is facing in trying to smooth things out at General Motors. Essentially, his method of running the company is like trying to keep a grip on mercury. He tries to rule with an iron fist, but then problems come bursting out between his fingers. Along with all its management drama and problems in Europe, pickup trucks are piling up at dealers' lots, according to Bloomberg. Today's auto sales and tomorrow's earnings report will be important record cards for the company.


5th Gear: Sergio's Yo-Yo: Chrysler's Up, Fiat's Down
We told you yesterday how pleased Sergio Marchionne was with Chrysler's second quarter performance. But Bloomberg says Marchionne has lots to worry about at Fiat. Its operating loss deepened in the second quarter, and the results show it's clear that Chrysler is propping up the company. Marchionne, who closed one plant in Italy last year, says he's looking at closing a second one this year unless he can find a way to export cars to the U.S. Fiat is planning to reduce its investments in Europe while increasing its capital spending at Chrysler. That's good news for the U.S. arm, of course, but it also means that Chrysler will be under pressure to keep performing well as its parent company sorts out its problems.


6th Gear: Sticks Are Back, But For How Long?
Edmunds says stick shifts are making a comeback but their long-term health is far from assured. So far this year, sales of cars with manual transmissions make up 7 percent of the market. That's a big jump (relatively speaking) from 3.9 percent last year. Part of the reason is that people are buying smaller cars and people who own aging manuals are coming back in the market and buying manuals again. But it's nothing compared with 20 years ago, when one of every four cars was sold with a stick shift. And Edmunds thinks that 20 years from now, manuals could be virtually extinct. For example, only one-third of the models on the market are available with manuals, down from half a decade ago. Manuals no longer uniformly offer better gas mileage than automatics, and they aren't cheaper any more, either. Plus, pretty much every major auto brand is available with an automatic, which wasn't true in the past.



Nearly 2,400 People Apply To Become Chicago Bus Drivers [Sun-Times]

Ford Sues Dana Over Windstar Recall [Associated Press]

Attendance Down, NASCAR Tracks Sprucing Up [USA Today]

Another Bad Day In India: 680 Million Without Power [Wall Street Journal, sub. required]


VW Tennessee Plant Turns One, Launches Third Shift [Volkswagen]

Man Loses BMW, Gun, Wallet In Gym Theft [Spokesman-Review]

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.


How do you feel about a front-wheel drive BMW? Has Mini eliminated any opposition you'd have to breaking up the rear-wheel cabal? Or would you rather see BMW come in rear-wheel drive only, with some all-wheel drive mixed in? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.


Photo Credit: Vikmanis


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