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Japan Didn't Entirely Fall On Its Ass, Because Kei Cars

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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 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: Let's All Party Like It's Not 1997


E'rbody was all freaked out because Japan just raised their sales tax and the last time that happened was 1997 and it started a 21-month slide in car sales. Guess what? That didn't really happen!

"People's expectation for future income is not as bad as in 1997," Masahiko Hashimoto, an economist at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd., said by telephone. "This kind of sentiment would have an impact on their consumption behavior."



This isn't to say that the economy isn't going to continue to have its problems, or that they're going to have a banner year, but a drop of 1.2% for May isn't that bad, especially when you consider people rushed out to buy cars ahead of the tax change.

But still, minicars (or Kei Cars) were up!

"Deliveries of minicars rose 5.3 percent in May after a 2.9 percent rise in April, boosting domestic automakers including Toyota, Honda and Nissan Motor Co., which each made profit forecasts for this fiscal year that trailed analysts' estimates."



2nd Gear: Fiat Chrysler Says U.S. Can't Suck


Today's installment of "Shit you didn't really need to spell out for us" is brought to you buy the letters S and M for Sergio Marchionne, who says that their latest five-year plan relies on their U.S. operations not shitting the bed.

"The execution of the (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) business plan announced on May 6 depends on the fact that the U.S. operations perform well," Marchionne said at a business event in the Italian town of Trento.

Marchionne said the company needed cash from Chrysler's U.S. operations to fund its strategy in Europe, where Fiat was still battling with a weak and fragile economic recovery and over-capacity of the market for mass-market brands.


In other news, the success of this website will rely on more than just our moms reading it. That is all.

3rd Gear: U.S. Looking Into Chrysler Airbags


Meanwhile, a suddenly emboldened NHTSA is looking at the 2012 recall of Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee models for airbags that just randomly went off.

After closing its investigation after Chrysler's recall, NHTSA said it is now opening an investigation to see if Chrysler's fix solves the problem.

The remedy Chrysler developed consists of installing an in-line jumper harness with an integrated electrical filter for the circuits that connect to the air bag modules. NHTSA said the filter is intended to eliminate transient electrical spikes that Chrysler believes are responsible for the inadvertent airbag deployments.

Chrysler told NHTSA it it is aware of six vehicles that have had an inadvertent airbag deployment after the recall was completed. "No crashes were reported however injuries consisting of cuts and burns were alleged," Chrysler said.


Going to keep an eye on this one.

4th Gear: Do It In Clay


Despite all that fancy computer modeling, people still want to see a car full-sized before they build it. Thus, automakers still use clay models as the WSJ highlights in this interesting report.

"I've saved a lot of articles [saying] holograms are coming in, they're going to take over" for the clay models, says Mr. Pelowski, a 25-year Ford veteran whose father also worked for the company. It hasn't happened.

Indeed, despite Ford's use of three-dimensional imaging technology that allows executives to don headsets and see a virtual vehicle in a computer-generated cityscape, the top brass won't sign off on producing a new car—a decision that can involve spending a billion dollars or more—until they see full-size physical models.



5th Gear: The UAW Gets A New Prez Soon


The UAW is coming to Detroit today for their big Constitutional Convention, and there are two big things to watch out for:

1. The election of the president, who will almost certainly be Dennis Williams.

2. An increase in dues.

The most controversial proposal before convention delegates would increase monthly union dues from two hours of pay to two and a half hours. The increase would go into the UAW's strike fund.

If approved, it would be the first percentage increase since 1967.

Brian Pannebecker, a union dissident who supports right-to-work laws, is opposed to the dues increase.

"The reason they want to take more money from us is because they have been unable to get more money for us," said Pannebecker, who works at Ford's axle plant in Sterling Heights.


So yeah, another thing to watch.

Reverse: A Sad Day

The 32-year-old race car driver Bruce McLaren dies in a crash while testing an experimental car of his own design at a track in Goodwood, England on this day in 1970.


Neutral: Would you buy a Kei car if you lived in Japan?

Which one? What would you buy instead?

Photo Credit: AP Images