GM Shareholders Descend, Why This Economic News Should Scare You, And Tony Soprano Would Need A Transponder

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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 parcel it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?


1st Gear: Stock Slumping, GM Shareholders Meet
Every CEO wants to arrive at their company's annual meeting with happy news about the stock. That's not going to happen today at the Renaissance Center. The Detroit Free Press reports that GM is holding its annual meeting with its stock trading in the low $20s, or about a third less than its initial public offering in November 2010. And GM CEO Dan Akerson is frustrated. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports Akerson recently said GM's stodgy culture has changed only 20 to 25 percent since its 2009 bankruptcy.


2nd Gear: Lexus Mulling A Smaller GS Hybrid
Adding models to the Toyota Prius family has turned out to be a good move for American sales. Now, AutoExpress reports that Toyota planning to roll out a smaller Lexus GS hybrid. The new car is likely to be called the GS300h and will be aimed at BMW's 520d Efficient Dynamics and the Audi A6 2.0 TDi. More details are expected at the Paris Motor Show.


3rd Gear: New Jersey Wants Parkway To Go All-Electronic
We all know why Tony Soprano didn't have an E-Z-Pass: it kept the feds from tracking his whereabouts and spending habits. But if Tony were still alive (who knows, maybe he is) he may need one to drive on the Garden State Parkway. WCBS Radio says state officials are considering going to all electronic tolls on the Garden State and eliminating hundreds of traditional toll takers. For people like Tony who don't have transponders, New Jersey would send a bill in the mail. Perhaps they can find out whether the bear or someone else got him...


4th Gear: Volkswagen Plans A Big China Push
Volkswagen, which is sounding awfully bold with its aggressive global growth plans, is nearly doubling the number of cars it wants to build in China. The German magazine Focus reports that VW is aiming to produce 4 million cars a year by 2018, up from 2.3 million last year. VW recently announced plans for its seventh assembly plant in China, where it was one of the first western car companies to build vehicles.


5th Gear: Economic News That Made Our Blood Run Cold
If I can teach you anything about the fundamentals of car sales, it's these four words: jobs, housing, consumer confidence. Yesterday, a report from the Federal Reserve made me want to hide under the covers. The New York Times says the median family net worth in the United States is down to the levels of the 1990s. A report from the Fed shows median net worth (half of families are worth more, half worth less) was $77,300 in 2010, compared with $126,400 in 2007, before the recession started. The main reason is the crash in home values. Income fell too, by 7.7 percent. Why does this matter for the car companies? When people make less, and are worth less, they tend to buy fewer new cars and trucks. This concludes today's Econ lesson, but remember those four words, you'll hear them from me again.


6th Gear: Should The KKK Adopt A Highway?
The Atlanta Jounal-Constitution has this jaw-dropping story about the Ku Klux Klan seeking to adopt a highway. Don't understand why that's a big deal? Earlier this month, I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. After you watch a movie about the witnesses to Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination, you round a corner and come face to face with a Klan hood and cape. It's often the first time museum goers have ever examined one up close, and it's a jolt. The Klan's application to adopt a highway is one more reminder that what we think is history is all too real.



John Casesa Remembers GM Exec Alex Mair [Automotive News (sub. req.)]

Global Sales A Mixed Bag In May []

The Audi RS 4 Avant Priced At £54,925 [Carscoop]

Crashes Are Up In Ireland [Irish Times]

Ford, Hyundai Quality Is Perceived to Be Better [Autoblog]

Outrageous Graduation Gifts From The Ferrari Catalog [Forbes]

Today in Automotive History

On this day in 1940, Paris was on the verge of invasion by German troops, and Ford Motor Company agreed to manufacture 9,000 Rolls-Royce designed engines to be used in British and American planes. The Royal Air Force was in desperate need of new planes to fight German forces, and Ford president Edsel Ford said his company would make 6,000 engines for the RAF, 3,000 for the Air Force. But as soon as the press got wind of the deal, Henry Ford publicly canceled it, saying, "We're not doing business with the British government or any other government." This, however, was untrue, given Ford's close ties to the Nazi regime. Of course, Ford, like the other Detroit carmakers, eventually joined the American war effort in a big way.


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