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Japanese Automakers Are Just Now Realizing That They Should Start Hiring More Women

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Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: It’s Almost Like Women Can Be Great Employees, Too

The automotive industry, for the most part, has always been a boys’ club. Especially for those looking for work with cars. Male employees vastly outnumber female employees. This is a problem that’s acutely felt by Japanese automakers in their home country.


Japan’s population decline translates directly to critical labor shortages, making automakers realize that, hey, maybe they should start looking into hiring female employees. A radical idea, I know! Anyway, the problem with this is that working for an automaker really isn’t a highly coveted job anymore. And the gender imbalance of auto industry is causing the would-be female hires to seek jobs in other industries, according to Bloomberg.

Automakers, in turn, are trying to diversify their workforce:

The auto industry is making a diversity push of its own. Toyota in 2014 started making college loans available to engineering students like Mitsuhashi (although she’s not a recipient). Last month, Toyota and Honda opened additional day care centers near their factories — with Toyota even offering to keep kids overnight for parents on late shifts, a service that may be as much a symptom of the industry’s problems as a solution. The companies say they’ve also introduced flexible hours for working mothers and added more women’s bathrooms on factory floors.


But while some say that they are seeing more women joining the industry in the past few years, worryingly, the top managerial positions are still skewed toward men:

At Toyota, fewer than 2 percent of the automaker’s 9,977 managers are women. The company in January promoted its first woman, Lexus engineer Chika Kako, into the upper echelon of its top 53 executives.

At Honda Motor Co., women account for less than 1 percent of the managers. One of them, engineer Natsuko Iwasaki, a team leader who the company made available for an interview, said overt sexism is less tolerated at the office these days. Yet it wasn’t so long ago when it seemed natural for her boss to ask whether she intended to quit once she got married. “He said he didn’t want to waste his time training me,’’ she said.


Part of the problem is that there are fewer female students in the science, engineering and math fields. In Japan, Bloomberg notes, only 15 percent of those students are women.


Change is happening, but it needs to be more sweeping and start at a base level. Encouraging more women to study math, science and engineering will diversify the labor pool. From there, companies need to alter their work environments to be more inclusive.

(To read up on some very awesome women in the American auto industry, check out Jalopnik’s What It Takes column!)


2nd Gear: Ford Isn’t Retreating, M’Kay?

After Ford announced last month that it would phase out small cars in North America until only the Mustang was left, there were some Thoughts that rang out across the industry.


Thoughts that said that this move was because Ford’s stock was doing so badly that investors wanted to see some kind of change. Thoughts that said it all comes down to money. Ford Chairman Bill Ford, consequently, seems “disappointed” with the media coverage, reports Bloomberg.


He had some Thoughts of his own:

“The headlines looked like Ford was retreating, and nothing could be further from the truth,” he said yesterday during Ford’s annual meeting.“We’ve been listening to our customers and watching the shifts in the market. “We’re placing bets where we think you, the shareholder, can get the best return.”


I dunno, man. Cutting the Fusion, the Focus and the Taurus because they don’t sell seems like backpedaling to me. And driving those measly would-be sales toward the more expensive Lincoln Navigator and Ford F-150 will make more of a profit. Which is good for shareholders.

And you’d better hope that when gas gets expensive again, you’ve got some nice hybrid and EV options available because that’s where the money will go.


But whatever helps you sleep at night, Bill.

3rd Gear: No Audi At The 2019 Detroit Auto Show

More and more automakers are making the decision to sit out of auto shows altogether, and the latest one to do so is Audi, which said that it’s skipping the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. It’s something that Mercedes and BMW had decided to do as well.


Audi said, according to Automotive News Europe:

...the brand “has had a long and successful history at NAIAS, debuting countless models that Audi customers enjoy today. For 2019, we have decided that we will not participate in NAIAS. We will continue to evaluate Auto Shows on a case by case basis relative to the timing of our product introductions and the value the show brings from a media and consumer perspective.”


Instead, automakers have been focusing their attentions on CES because the venue is bigger and the crowds are larger. They use the platform to launch new cars, since new cars and new technology are... basically the same thing now?

Detroit, meanwhile, is scrambling to try and maintain appeal of the show:

A spokesman for the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which organizes the Detroit auto show, said Thursday plans are well underway to revolutionize the event and provide participating companies “a global stage that delivers cost-effective opportunities to audiences” that “only Detroit” can offer.


Other ideas include moving the show from frigid January to October or June. You won’t see me complaining about that.

4th Gear: Volvo Might Be Going Public

Volvo’s Chinese parent company, Geely, might be considering a Volvo IPO, according to Bloomberg, which cites unnamed sources familiar with the matter. From the story:

Volvo Cars owner Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. has selected Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley to advise on an initial public offering for the Swedish carmaker this year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

China’s Zhejiang Geely and Volvo have discussed valuing the Swedish automaker in a range of $16 billion to $30 billion in a stock sale, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. The companies held meetings in Sweden and Hong Kong this month to discuss a dual listing in both venues, they said.


Geely holds 99 percent of Volvo Car AB and acquired a majority share in Lotus last year.

Volvo could try and benchmark itself against other companies like Tesla in the potential IPO, Bloomberg reports. In terms of sales growth, China is Volvo’s biggest market, followed by Sweden and the U.S.


5th Gear: People Aren’t Going To Car Museums Anymore

Here’s some sad news: It seems like overall attendance at car museums is declining.


This comes to us from the New York Times, which spoke to a number of different car museum managers and experts about falling ticket sales and waning interest.

From the story:

Auto museums, like some other cultural institutions, rarely turn a profit from ticket sales. And collections that were opened to the public by wealthy owners as vanity projects or tax strategies are closing as their benefactors get bored, tire of losing money or die.

“Perhaps there’s a limit to how many auto museums there can be,” said Matt Anderson, a curator at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Mich., and the president of the National Association of Automobile Museums. His members worry about declining attendance. “They’re struggling with this realization that younger folks aren’t into cars the way their parents and grandparents were.”


Part of it probably comes down to the internet. If you want to learn about a car, you don’t have to trek to a museum to read about it anymore. You can just Google it.

Of course, there are successful museums like The Petersen, which just underwent a multi million-dollar makeover recently. Still, though, museums like that survive on grants, fund-raisers and endowments, not just ticket sales. And with rotating displays, they are able to keep things fresh and audiences coming back. It’s much harder for a smaller and privately owned museum to do the same.


It’s not like the cars get crushed after a museum closes, though. Owners try to sell them off, so that’s encouraging. And from there, who knows? Maybe they can be part of another museum.

Reverse: Hello To Tubeless Tires


Neutral: Do You Like Going To Museums?

Are car museums something you actively seek out when you visit a new place? Or are you not a “museum person”?