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: Modular Baby
Volkswagen, for all its questionable product decisions over the last few years, still had the right idea with their modular platforms that underpin... uh... everything. They provide more flexibility in production as well as lower costs.
Toyota, for all its efficiency, still relies on multiple platforms for multiple vehicles. No more. Basically, all compact C-segment FWD cars will be on one shared platform under the Toyota New Global Architecture (or TNGA) system.
That may not sound like a huge move, but as Hans Greimel points out, that accounts for roughly half of the cars the company builds.
While this does save money and complexity, what we’ve learned with Volkswagen’s MQB platform is it gives automakers the chance to spend all their engineering effort on one chassis that can be used for a lot of products. It’s worked for VW. All of the Golfs and Golf derivatives are better than good.
Toyota is like Volkswagen in that they don’t always create what we’d like, but they’re always capable of creating something we’ll absolutely love. We’re looking forward to trying these new products, even if the first one is going to be a Prius.
2nd Gear: Ford Goes Big In India, Brings Back Aspire
When my parents were looking to buy their first car I was around 11, and part of me was more attracted to the fully loaded Aspire that was roughly the same price as a stripper three-door Ford Escort that they bought and that I’d end up taking to college seven years later.
My parents made the right choice. The Aspire was a Korean crapbox and the Escort, while lacking even a passenger-side mirror (not a legal requirement), held up through years of abuse and pizza delivery.
It’s therefore a little surprising to me that they’re bringing the nameplate back, but Reuters reports that the Figo Aspire will be a part of a $1 billion investment by Ford in a new plant in India that’ll produce new vehicles, largely for export.
There’s more info on the car over at Indian Autos Blog.
3rd Gear: Sergio Marchionne Is A Resolver
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told us yesterday that he wasn’t an engineer in a taped deposition over a Jeep lawsuit over a deadly rear-end crash related to the placement of fuel tanks on older Grand Cherokees and Liberty SUVs.
Today, he’s telling us that he’s a uniter, not a divider.
The lawyer for the family in the Georgia lawsuit, Jim Butler, pointed to an affidavit Mr. Marchionne signed in which he said: “I wanted to meet with Mr. LaHood and Mr. Strickland to discuss the possibility of a resolution of the dispute that had no finding of defect and the potential parameters of such a resolution,” according to a video feed of the proceedings provided by Courtroom View Network.
When asked by Mr. Butler if the purpose of the meeting was to avoid a defect finding, Mr. Marchionne said: “No, I was trying to resolve the issue. I was trying to find a resolution to the issue.” He said he wanted to find what “was acceptable to Chrysler and what was acceptable to NHTSA.”
This is the infamous airport meeting with then Secretary of Transportation and anthropomorphic half empty bottle of Hai Karate in your grandpa’s medicine cabinet Ray LaHood, wherein the secretary let Chrysler get away with installing trailer hitches on the vehicles. Ray LaHood was the worst.
4th Gear: Toledo Thinks It’s Getting The New Jeep Wrangler
Give it up to Sergio, he knows how to bargain. A couple of years ago we wouldn’t have thought of Jeep building the Wrangler anywhere but Toledo, Ohio, but FCA let it be understood that the new Jeep could be built anywhere.
Thus, Toldeo and the local UAW chapter, are in a position where they’re fighting to keep something they already had. From the Freep:
“I really believe it’s ours to lose,” said UAW Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower. “I think the members have put us in a very good position, I think the city, the county and the (Lucas County) Port Authority and the state of Ohio have put together a very attractive package that answers all of Sergio’s concerns.”
Winning production of the next Wrangler would do more than just preserve the 1,700 jobs for Toledo workers that make the current SUV. It would likely mean hundreds of additional workers because because of the growing global demand for the Wrangler.
FCA must make a decision soon on where to make the next Wrangler because it wants to begin production by the end of 2017 and it would take months to either expand the existing plant or build a new plant.
A global car company has a lot of moving pieces.
5th Gear: Tiers For Fears
Not surprisingly, UAW President Dennis Williams made it clear that the floating of a lower “third tier” by GM and Ford is dumb. From the Detroit News:
Williams, speaking at the second day of the union’s Special Bargaining Convention in Detroit, said the union’s two-tier wage structure at Detroit automakers is already more than enough. “I think they’ve got too many damn tiers now,” he said to the roaring applause of hundreds of UAW delegates at the convention.
NO MORE TIERS! FOUR MORE BEERS!
Reverse: A Win-Win?
On this day in 2008, the Ford Motor Company announces the sale of its Jaguar and Land Rover divisions to the Tata Group, one of India’s oldest and largest business conglomerates, for some $2.3 billion–less than half of what Ford originally paid for the brands. The sale came at a time when Ford, along with much of the rest of the auto industry, was experiencing a sales slump as a result of the global economic crisis. For Tata, which earlier that year had unveiled the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, the purchase of the venerable British-based luxury brands was referred to by some observers as a “mass to class” acquisition.
Neutral: Can Toyota Out VW VW?
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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