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: So Many Chryslers You Guys
When we look at the auto world in 2014, I think there's a good chance Chrysler (or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as they call themselves now) could be declared the winner of the game. Just as analysts predicted, they had a tremendous December sales month with a 20 percent gain over the same month in 2013. That's incredible.
It also caps off a year where overall sales advanced 16 percent, according to Automotive News.
Sales last month rose 19 percent at Jeep, 35 percent at Ram, 53 percent at the Chrysler brand and 1 percent at Fiat. Volume slipped 2 percent at Dodge. The company's U.S. deliveries have now increased 57 consecutive months.
Also this, because it's important for other gears on TMS today:
FCA, formerly the Chrysler Group, is particularly well positioned as America rekindles its fondness for SUVs, crossovers and pickups. For the year, Jeep volume surged 41 percent to 692,348 — a U.S. record. Ram pickup deliveries surged 24 percent in 2014 to 439,789.
Cheap gas equals fun times for Jeep and Ram.
2nd Gear: Honda Just Had Its Second-Best Sales Year Ever
I know we enthusiasts can bitch and moan all day long about how Honda makes few, if any, cars that pique our interest anymore, but the truth is The Normals are snatching up Hondas like there's no tomorrow. The company just posted its sales numbers from December, rounding out the second-best year they've ever had.
USA Today also reports Acura sales were up 13.1 percent in December, "powered by new-to-the-line TLX and a strong showing by the entry ILX compact." And that's not even the refreshed 2016 ILX they showed off in LA. It's that kind of thrill, indeed.
3rd Gear: How Low Can We Go?
That photo up top isn't from 2003 — it's an AP photo taken in downtown Detroit on Jan. 1, 2015. In Michigan, the average cost of self-service unleaded gasoline is now $1.97 a gallon, the lowest it's been since March 2009. Nationally, the average hovers at $2.23 per gallon, and in many states it's easy to find sub-$2 a gallon gas.
Just how cheap will they get? That depends on which analyst or economics professor you want to ask. Some say they'll bottom out by MLK Day, some say at least until the fall. Basically, no one predicted this drop would happen, or that it would go on this long, so I think it's safe to say we don't really know yet. Enjoy your Dodge Magnums like the folks in that photo while you can.
4th Gear: And That's Tough For Automakers Too
While us consumers are enjoying the return of our God-given American right to cheap gasoline, automakers are scratching their heads. As you probably know by now, the plummet in gas meant a huge boost in truck and SUV sales, albeit ones that are definitely more efficient than their predecessors.
That's tough for automakers, who have spent the last few years burnishing their small car and hybrid lineup, reports USA Today. But due to ever-stricter fuel economy regulations, don't expect much to change planning-wise. Automakers just have to be flexible to meet changing demand across all markets:
Masamichi Kogai, Mazda's CEO, says gas price swings distort the production cycle. He says that automaker strives to keep a wide range of vehicles in play so it isn't caught short when there is a swing.
"Regardless of the gas price, we try to make sure all products are strong enough to meet the market," he said.
5th Gear: Obama's Visiting A Small Car Plant, So There
One person who's not using the cheap gas as an excuse to rip sick V8 burnouts (that's more of a Biden thing) is President Obama, who is expected to visit Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan on Wednesday.
That's the plant where they make the Focus and C-Max. No Mustangs or the new F-150 for this guy, it seems. From The Detroit News:
The president's expected visit to Ford's Michigan Assembly plant, where the Dearborn automaker builds small, fuel-efficient cars, is the latest in a long list of auto plant tours and speeches by Obama dating back to his first campaign, when the industry was on the brink of collapse. It's part of a multicity tour to highlight his administration's successes in preparation for his Jan. 20 State of the Union address.
As D-Shep pointed out on Twitter, it's at least Obama's ninth visit to an auto plant since taking office.
Reverse: It's A Really Neat Bridge
On this day in 1933, construction starts on what will become one of America's most famous landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge. When completed in 1937, the Golden Gate has a 4,200-foot-long suspension span, making it the world's longest suspension bridge. Since opening to the public in May 1937, almost 2 billion vehicles have crossed the bridge, in both the north- and southbound directions.
Neutral: How Low Do You Think We'll Go?
Cheap gas probably can't last forever. How long do you think we've got?