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: Datsun Is Up Next
Every now and then carmakers fail to learn the difference between cheap cars and inexpensive one. For some reason, it's been the Japanese lately, despite building their empires on exactly that premise.
A couple of years ago it was Honda putting out a super cheap Honda Civic that felt super cheap — a decision they immediately reversed after just a year. Now it's Nissan's turn with the Datsun brand in India.
As Bloomberg reports, the $5,100 Datsun Go hatch has only seen sales of 9,557 vehicles, well below their expectations. They only sold 607 of the cars last month, which is even worse than the Tata Nano, which is a pretty well-regarded failure.
Here's a key graph:
Take Alisha Gracias, a 26-year-old physiotherapist in the western Indian state of Goa, who bought her first car in April. Though she knew about Nissan’s no-frills brand, she paid almost 50 percent more than the top-end version of the Go to buy a Grand i10 from Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) Bluetooth connectivity, dual air bags, anti-locking brakes, rear parking sensors and power mirrors were among factors that led to her choice, she said.
“Besides, I didn’t like the looks of the Datsun,” Gracias said.
The Grand i10 outsells the Go, despite costing more and not being that much larger. The other cars that outsell the Go are hatchbacks and small sedans like the Honda City and Maruti/Suzuki Swift. While none of the ten best selling cars in India are luxurious (well, the Mahindra Bolero SUV is pretty nice), they're mostly nicer or, at least, from a brand that offers nicer cars.
I don't want to overstate this point because the idea behind Datsun is a good one, and the other big market they were pushing for is Russia and it's not their fault that Russia sucks right now. But Datsun needs to offer a model with more features and, most importantly, they need a halo car that gets people to think of Datsun positively.
While all of us would like a Datsun 510 remake, that doesn't make sense in India where everyone has gone SUV crazy. What Datsun needs is their own Dacia Duster.
2nd Gear: Marchionne Is Super Cereal About Leaving Guys
While the stock market was shrugging at Fiat Chrysler's listing yesterday (it closed $0.10 own at $8.50), CEO Sergio Marchionne was encouraging people that he will make sure it's clear who is taking over for him and that he's not going to pull a Mulally.
“I will not do the next plan. It’s impossible, right. There’s a point in time in which you leave the room for young punks,” Marchionne said in response to a Detroit News question.
He noted that in 2004, he was the fifth CEO at Fiat in two years. He and Fiat Chrysler chairman John Elkann have agreed they will “never allow that to happen again” as they do extensive succession planning.
“People, they come on the list. People come off the list,” Marchionne said. He noted that he spends almost two months a year reviewing the career tracks of nearly 2,000 employees at Chrysler. “All organizations fail because of bad leadership choices. I am a very firm believer that bad businesses are caused by bad leaders.”
Young punks? I think he's talking about us. Guys, we're taking over FCA. The LeFerrarivan is going to happen!
3rd Gear: Growth Slows In China
China is to foreign automakers what Old Digg used to be websites; put a little money into it and you'd get a huge return. Alas, the Old Digg went away (replaced with something much better to read but not necessarily for traffic) and we everyone moved on to trying to game reddit.
Automakers are probably worrying that Old Digg is in the same transition as it turns out growth in China was only 6.4% higher than the previous September, compared to 8% growth in August and 13.9% growth in May.
But there's still good news, the AP points out that sales growth for foreign automakers is higher than growth for Chinese brands.
4th Gear: Americans Still Love Trucks, Though
Ford will add 850 hourly jobs to the payroll at their Dearborn truck plant to help build the new F-150, which goes on sale soon and, frankly, Ford doesn't want to screw up.
Some analysts are worried problems could arise in the launch, potentially costing Ford market share in the segment. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas in a research note last week cut his price target for Ford's stock, citing the company's recent profit warning and the likelihood the changeover to the new F-150 will not go as smoothly as investors anticipate.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, said on Monday that the launch remains on schedule.
"Actually, the launch is going very well so far," he told reporters. "Every new-model launch that I've ever been a part of has issues, but actually this launch is going to plan."
Hinrichs then said "It's the truck of the future, nothing could possiblie go wrong... possibly go wrong. That's the first thing that's ever gone wrong."
5th Gear: Daimler Still Making Money
While most automakers have been revising their expectations down... or at least holding... Daimler thinks it's actually going to have a super year.
The world’s third-largest maker of luxury autos and biggest producer of heavy trucks is reviewing its forecast for 2014 cash flow after its industrial operations generated about 2.9 billion euros ($3.7 billion) in the third quarter, excluding acquisitions and disposals, the Stuttgart, Germany-based company said today in a statement. Daimler had previously forecast that free cash flow from its manufacturing businesses would significantly decline this year from last year’s 3.2 billion euros.
“The results are significantly better than expected,” said Frank Biller, a Stuttgart-based analyst with LBBW. “This shows that fears of a profit warning that weighed on the stock over the last weeks were unfounded.”
And they're one of the few automakers still selling a hot-rod wagon in the U.S. so... good for them.
On October 14, 1857, engineer and inventor Elwood Haynes is born in Portland, Indiana. Haynes designed one of the very first American automobiles, the Haynes "Pioneer." He was also an accomplished metallurgist: He patented stainless steel, stellite and a cobalt-chromium alloy that was used to make sharp dental and surgical tools. Haynes died of influenza in 1925.
Neutral: Cheap Versus Inexpensive What's a good example of a cheap car versus an inexpensive one?
Photo Credit: AP