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: Luxury Mountain Is Now In China, Of Course
While Mercedes bested Audi for the first time in a while, BMW is still holding its lead in the luxury race with about 21,000 more cars sold through the first then months than their palls from Ingolstadt, and about 125,000 more than the boys and girls in Stuttgart.
The only problem is, as Reuters reports, last year they were 28,000 and 147,000 cars ahead, respectively, at the same points.
Newly redesigned models help, of course, as well as Audi and Benz's strength in China, but BMW is yet to be toppled and probably won't take a lower step on that podium this year.
2nd Gear: The Chinese Love GM
No one in China would call GM "Government Motors" unless they mean it as a compliment because everyone there loves their central government (well, maaaaybe not in Hong Kong or the many imprisoned dissidents, their supports, and a large but quiet part of the populace) and everyone there seems to love GM.
Cadillac was up a crest-burning 51% with an 18% rise for Buick and 19% rise for Chevrolet. According to Bloomberg that's a 15% rise year-over-year and a 12% average gain over the first nine months, which means it could grow faster than other companies and pick up more market share.
3rd Gear: Still, GM Has Problems Back Home
Mary Barra probably thought she was walking into a challenge, but with sales up, new products on the horizon, and an exit from government ownership, you could forgive her for thinking it was a promising one.
Now, it's like none of that matters, and she's on the "Let's fix the old bad habits" instead of "let's focus on the new, thoughtful company."
From Rick Wagoner, who used interlocking strategy boards and matrixed responsibility to drive accountability and product excellence that never seemed to arrive. And from his mentor, Jack Smith, who led the savvy globalization of GM following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union but couldn't lead the cultural revolution at home he knew to be necessary.
Now comes Barra, as much a product of the Old GM as Wagoner, Smith and Fritz Henderson. She is vowing radical change to a behavioral world view neither her predecessors, nor collapsing market share, nor Chapter 11, nor partial government control could deliver.
OK. How will we know she's succeeding? Investors and analysts, dealers and customers, competitors and suppliers, the news media and interested government officials — none of them has an inside seat to judge whether the rhetoric in the aftermath of GM's ignition-switch debacle will match reality.
I'm curious to see what happens.
4th Gear: How Does Toledo Do It?
Toledo would really rather not lose the Wrangler production. I feel like Chrysler could say they could build "every single other Chrysler and Fiat product except for the Wrangler" and Toledo would be like "NOPE, FUCK YOU, WRANGLER OR DEATH."
That's not a diss. I think it's kind of admirable, in the same way I'm sure Kentucky would pitch a fit if they tried to build the 'Vette anywhere else.
Mark Phelan thinks one or more of the following need to happen for Toledo to keep the Wrangler.
1) Productive negotiations with politicians and the UAW.
2) Hot sales of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart.
3) The replacement for the Wrangler retains the legendary SUV's traditional truck-style chassis.
That makes sense, but we can probably scratch #2 and, if not this round, scratch #3 sooner rather than later.
So... Help them Dennis Williams, you're their only hope.
5th Gear: Sergio Into The Stocks
I don't know Sergio, you sure you want to get into this market now? That's like suddenly becoming a big Adrian Petersen fan...
Alas, Fiat needs that cash money to carry out his five-year-plan.
Mr. Marchionne, who has said he plans to retire in 2018, wants Fiat Chrysler to join the ranks of the industry’s biggest sellers. His five-year plan calls for increasing volume by 60% over 2013 to seven million vehicles.
The merger and U.S. listing could give Mr. Marchionne, 62 years old and a consummate deal-maker, more leverage in selling noncore businesses or pursuing alliances, said Stefano Aversa, European head of consulting firm AlixPartners.
“I don’t think [Mr.] Marchionne has one single strategy, but multiple strategies to be executed according to market conditions and the company’s performance,” said Mr. Aversa. “The fact that FCA is being listed [in the U.S.] gives him multiple options and that in itself has a value.”
That sums it up nicely.
Reverse: A Proud Moment
On this day in 1987, the song "Here I Go Again" by English hard-rock group Whitesnake tops the Billboard pop singles chart in the United States. Today, what most people remember about the song is its saucy video: The actress Tawny Kitaen spends a great deal of it in a white negligee, writhing and cartwheeling across the hoods of two Jaguars parked next to one another. It is one of the most iconic music videos of the 1980s, and it features two of the most famous cars in pop-culture history.
Neutral: Will BMW Lose The Crown? And will it be Mercedes or Audi that finally gets them?
Photo Credit: Getty Images