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: A RWD Electric Fiesta
If there's one factor that will get you excited about electric vehicles it's the possibilities of in-hub motors. They'll allow more dynamic handling through weight distribution and better packaging options by removing the traditional electric and gasoline drivetrains. Even better? You can make any car AWD or RWD.
Thus, we have the Schaeffler/Ford eWHEELDRIVE Fiesta. The in-wheel motors are responsible for driving, braking, and any driver assistance aids like ABS and electronic traction control
Ford sees this as a chance to build city cars that are more compact and thereby better suited for a future with massive cities and overcrowding. We see it as a way to BUILD A RWD FIESTA.
2nd Gear: A Falling Yen, A Rising Honda
Despite some questionable product choices, Honda posted a 6.6% rise in quarter profits according to Reuters, who says the company banked a first quarter profit of $760.9 million.
As we've discussed many times, Honda is benefiting from a weak yen, which dropped about 14% of its value compared to the dollar since the start of the year.
Honda also benefits from strong sales of its still boring but presentable CR-V and much improved Honda Accord, which is up 36% to best the Toyota Camry as the best-selling mid-sized sedan. Having driven both the Accord Coupe and regular Accord this seems right. It's a good product and, dare I say, a little sportier than the outgoing product.
Your move Toyota.
3rd Gear: A Rising Won, A Falling Kia/Hyundai
Per Bloomberg, Kia's profits were down 35% and Hyundai, which owns Kia, said its first quarter profit fell by 15%. Granted, a profit is still a profit, but they're going in the wrong direction.
As we've discussed many times, Hyundai/Kia is suffering from a stronger won, which is projected to gain 3% to the dollar by the end of the year according to Bloomberg.
That, plus production woes in South Korea, makes it that much harder to be profitable despite a slight rise in sales year-over-year. Weirdly, Kia is performing well in Europe where, well, almost no one else is.
4th Gear: American Motors HQ In Shambles
The complex that housed the former American Motors Corporation was one of the main centers of the automotive industry in the U.S. but, as The Detroit News points out, it only took three years to turn into a dumping ground.
Neighbors report worrying that the place is being stripped ahead of being abandoned, which makes sense since he's a scrap hauler who was reportedly convicted of running a chop shop in 2004 and who owes the government $930,000 in unpaid taxes. He told The Detroit News he's building a home for autistic children.
What a mensch. It's a great report, well researched and well documented so definitely read it.
5th Gear: Speaking Of All Things In Detroit Coming Down
Some tea leaf reading from The Wall Street Journal has determined that GM is signaling that Dan Akerson is on his way out at GM through a planned retirement in the next two years.
Mr. Akerson received $11.1 million in total compensation in 2012—a 44% increase over the previous year, due largely to a change in stock units granted for 2012 that vested immediately and were part of his total compensation, according to a federal filing and the company. Earlier stock units vested in three years and beginning in 2012 included no time restrictions.
Feelings about Akerson amongst insiders they vary from "He's a shiny-headed, ear-pickin' asshole" to "He's a shiny-headed, ear-pickin' genius." Whatever your thoughts, if he actually lasts two more years he'll have done what the last few CEOs haven't been able to do: Survive.
So who replaces him? The smart money is on North American boss Mark Reuss, who gets product and likes to comment on blogs (so, he's our pick), but don't count out Vice Chairman Steve Girsky.
Reverse: The End Of The Line For Volvo
On May 5, 2013, it is 20 years since Volvo's single best-selling model, the 240 series, went out of production. Almost 2.9 million cars were made during the 19 years the 240 was produced; the car that first was criticized for its boring and boxy appearance, but during its lifetime managed to set the international standard for both safety and environment, win the European Touring Car Championship and achieve the status of yuppie cult car before it was discontinued in May 1993.
The Volvo 240 was introduced in August 1974 as a logical continuation and development of the popular 140 series of cars, featuring a number of new and innovative technical solutions in many areas. This was especially emphasised by the very high level of safety and the car bore a strong visual resemblance to the VESC safety concept car that Volvo had showed two years earlier. This, among many other details, meant very large bumpers which gave the 240 its characteristic protruding jaw up front. The 240's dynamic and safety properties were well received but less so its aesthetic values. The design was considered boring and perpendicular. — Volvo Cars
Neutral: Who Should Run GM? Reuss? Girsky? None of them? Has Akerson been a godsend or a goddamn fool?
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