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 parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Ford Is Betting Big On Four Cylinder Power
In 2008, approximately 40 percent of cars sold in the USA had four cylinder engines. Now, 53 percent of cars sold have four bangers. And by 2020, Ford is projecting that nearly 66 percent of cars sold will have four cylinders.
Because of fuel economy regulations, engine downsizing has become inevitable in America in order to meet stringent new regulations. Ford has fully embraced downsized engines with the Ecoboost family of turbo engines, hence why they predict that smaller engines are the future. While others agree that engine downsizing is inevitable, they don't quite think that 66 percent of cars sold in seven years will have tiny little motors.
Only time will tell.
2nd Gear: Hyundai And Kia Lose Ground At Home
Korea has lowered tariffs on imports. Good for consumers, bad for home brands like Hyundai and Kia. Especially for their more luxurious cars.
During the first quarter, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes all saw sales rise at least 25 percent in South Korea. The taxes on imports from Europe have dropped from eight percent to nearly three percent, and are set to be eliminated. Now, some European competitors are building higher quality cars at lower prices than Hyundai and Kia, which is the exact opposite of what our normal perception of Korean cars is.
It'll be interesting to see how this effects the car industry in the country as a whole.
3rd Gear: GM Is Back At IPO Level
After GM went public when they emerged from bankruptcy proceedings, it was first offered at $33 a share. Then it went up to $39. Then it shot down to $19. Well, GM is on the way back.
The stock closed at $33.42 on Friday, a bright sign in what has been a tumultuous couple of years for the automaker on the stock exchange. The US government still owns a stake, but plans to be out within a year.
4th Gear: Gas Is Cheaper, But People Aren't Spending All Willy Nilly
Gas prices are down, which is a good thing and normally will indicate an increase in discretionary spending.
Not this time.
In a new survey, 80 percent of people say that even though gas prices have fallen, they have not increased their discretionary spending. There are a number of factors that could contribute to this, including uncertainty based on the fluctuation of gas prices as well as lower incomes and uncertainty in the job market keep people from spending.
5th Gear: Indy 500 Qualifying
Qualifying for the 97th running of the Indy 500 was held Saturday and Sunday, with 33 cars setting times to be in the race. Speeds were anticipated to be the fastest since 2003, with a pole speed of more than 230 MPH possible over the four lap run.
In the end, it wasn't meant to be, with Indianapolis hometown hero Ed Carpenter grabbing a surprise pole position over 21-year old rookie Carlos Munoz and 26-year old third generation driver Marco Andretti.
The 500 is next Sunday at 11 AM. I expect you'll all be watching. Or not. Whichever.
On this day in 1995, to the likely dismay of Washington, D.C.-bound road trippers hoping for a glimpse of the presidential residence through their car windows, President Bill Clinton permanently closes the two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to all non-pedestrian traffic as a security measure.
Neutral: Let's Talk Small Engines
What do you think about Ford's claim that 66 percent of engines will be little four bangers in the next seven years? Are they crazy? Dead on? Conservative?