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: Feds Push Ahead With Rules On Black Boxes
The Detroit News says NHTSA has dealt a blow to efforts by car companies to delay rules governing black boxes. The rules are going to go ahead on Sept. 1, although the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers tried to push them back to Sept. 13. Black boxes — officially event data recorders or EDRs — collect data about the seconds leading up to a crash and can help investigators determine the cause. We heard a lot about EDRs during the controversy over sudden unintended acceleration involving Toyotas. EDRs don't have as much information as a jet's black box, but the data is important.
NHTSA pointed out that the new rules have been final since August 2006, and that implementing them has already been delayed by two years. The Alliance said that some automakers with older-generation EDRs may simply disable them in order to comply with the new regulations. The rules don't require cars to have EDRs, but they standardize the information that the EDRs collect, and make retrieving the data easier. Devices must record 15 data elements, including vehicle deceleration, in specific formats.
2nd Gear: Bailout Costs Keep Getting Bigger
Agence France Press says the cost of the federal auto bailout has grown by another $3.3 billion. In a report to Congress, the Treasury Department estimates that the cost to taxpayers is now $25 billion, based on figures through May. 31. That compares with an estimated loss of $21.7 billion as of Feb. 27, and it's a big contrast to a year ago, when Treasury estimated the loss to taxpayers at $14.3 billion. The figure keeps rising because General Motors' stock price keeps falling. The shares have lost 15 percent of their value since March.
3rd Gear: Hyundai Is Working On A 3-Series Fighter
Automotive News (sub. required) reports on Hyundai's future products, and says they include a rear-wheel drive luxury sports sedan. It's code-named "RK" and Automotive News says it will be based on the platform that's used for the Genesis coupe. Don't put down your deposit just yet: the RK isn't due in showrooms until 2015. In other Genesis news, Hyundai is revamping the sedan and plans to offer it for the first time with all-wheel drive. It's due to hit showrooms late next year as a 2014, although Automotive News says more changes could take place in the 2015 model.
4th Gear: GM Is Marketing Junk — Bonds, That Is
Dow Jones reports GM's financial unit is back in the bond market for the first time in 15 months, at prices that the car company has never seen before. The five-year bonds, which carry a "junk" or speculative rating, were launched at a yield of 4.75 percent, according to a person familiar with the transaction. According to Dealogic, this is the first sub-5 percent coupon bond ever sold by GM Financial Co., underscoring the low rates that the country's financial situation lets companies offer. Parent General Motors has never sold a bond at rates that low, either. The coupon rate is the premium that a bond buyer collects for basically loaning a company money.
Dow Jones says this is also the first five-year bond from GM since at least 1995, according to Dealogic records, which don't go back any further. The unit last sold $500 million worth of bonds in May 2011, paying a 6.75 percent coupon on seven-year paper. You can't go buy these bonds, unless you're a big institutional investor, because they aren't registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. What does this all mean? Well, it shows that even if GM's common stock is dropping in price. GM is confident enough in the market that it can go out and sell $1 billion in bonds. However, it also shows GM isn't going to offer a big premium just to get somebody to purchase its paper.
Reverse: A Big Day In Labor History
On this day in 1980, workers in Gdansk, Poland, seized the Lenin Shipyard and demanded pay raises and the right to form a union free from communist control. The massive strike saw the rise to prominence of labor leader Lech Walesa, who would be a key figure in bringing an end to communist rule in Poland. Walesa had been fired from his position at the shipyard in 1975, and was arrested numerous times before the shipyard blew up over government austerity measures. Walesa banded four labor unions together and into one movement called Solidarity. It took another decade, but the commies eventually were ousted and Walesa elected Poland's first independent leader since the end of World War II. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and hopefully gets free drinks in every bar he ever visits.
In keeping with our new discussion system, here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS. Or at least, that's what we usually do in this spot.
Today, let's offer some automotive advice to my nephew, Ben Maynard. It's his 21st birthday, and he's about to be a senior at the University of Michigan. He's (hopefully) headed for med school, and eventually he'll be buying his first car. So, what should Ben buy? Should he get a beater that he can afford while he pays off his student loans? Or something hot for a young doc? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.
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