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: But Still Selling Millions Of Cars, Because China
Japanese automakers don't quite have the cachet they once did in China after a sea of rising Chinese nationalism and a dispute over some islands of possible strategic importance turned that country's more persuadable citizens against the island nation.
Toyota, Nissan, and Honda all missed their sales targets after a year that saw the slowest growth for Japanese automakers in 24 years, as Bloomberg reports.
The winners? Ze Germans, who are all growing. Volvo, also, is reaping all the benefits as it is now a Chinese-Swedish company. The Americans are also growing rapidly, with GM continuing to dominate and Ford outpacing Toyota with 19% year-over-year growth.
Chinese buys so many cars that even the people who are slowly growing are still growing.
2nd Gear: Porsche To Sell 200,000 Cars This Year
Porsche. It's like a real car company.
When VW's Martin Winterkorn made all of his many divisions announce these crazy sales goals he irked more than a few employees, but it seems to have worked with Porsche, which is now on its way towards 200,000 sales next year as was their goal.
Hell, they're almost there.
Sales in December surged 39 percent from a year earlier to 20,644 sports cars and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), boosting full-year deliveries to a record 189,849, Porsche said on Thursday. That marked a 17 percent gain on 2013 levels.
More than two-thirds of Porsche models sold are SUVs, thanks to its new Macan model which hit dealerships last April, sales data showed.
And the real kicker: Even with all those SUV sales none of their sports cars are demonstrably worse. I'd argue that Porsche sports cars are generally better.
3rd Gear: Lincoln v. Cadillac
If you ask any smart person which domestic luxury car brand they'd like to be in charge of they'd say Cadillac. It's not without its problems, but it's got the best product and the best rep right now.
But maybe that's backwards thinking? I like the way Alisa Priddle put it this morning:
Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen is the hare. He has big plans including moving headquarters to New York, operating the brand as a separate division financially and spending $3 billion on vehicles and powertrains by 2020 in pursuit of global sales of 500,000.
Lincoln's new chief, Kumar Galhotra, is the tortoise. He made the surprise announcement of two additional new vehicles being added to the four others being doled out one a year.
Lincoln plans to spend $2.5 billion over the next five years on product development and grow sales to about 300,000 by 2020, with a heavy reliance on the China market it entered last year. But Galhotra and his plans are low-key compared to the bombastic Cadillac chief.
To be fair, John Cena high on PCP is "low-key" compared to de Nysschen.
4th Gear: Mark LaNeve Winds Up At Ford
Former GM exec Mark LaNeve is now at Ford as the company reorganizes its C-suite following Mark Fields' ascent to the top job. John Felice, who held the job previously, apparently "elected to retire" after 30 years with the automaker. At 55. We should all be so "lucky."
Felice’s departure follows a year in which Ford’s U.S. market share dropped a full point to 14.9 percent, the lowest level since 2008. Ford sales fell 0.6 percent in 2014 — a drop it blamed largely on the changeover to the newest version of its F-150 pickup —vs. a 7 percent gain for the rest of the industry.
GM’s sales and market share declined significantly during LaNeve’s five-year tenure as its North American sales and marketing chief, though that slide began long before his arrival. He worked closely with sales analyst Paul Ballew, whom Ford hired in December as its chief data and analytics officer.
At Allstate, LaNeve helped create the well-known “Mayhem” advertising campaign.
To LaNeve's credit, he was there at a time when GM's products particularly sucked.
5th Gear: The Aluminum Thing Is Happening
I feel like this WSJ article is like the 900th on the topic of aluminum-in-cars-is-super-happening-everyone, but there's probably a good reason for that and here's the key bit:
Amsterdam-based Constellium, a spinoff of Rio Tinto PLC’s Alcan unit, expects demand for sheet aluminum from the U.S. auto industry to grow to 1 million tons a year by 2020, from 100,000 tons a year now. It sees an increase to 600,000 tons from 200,000 tons in Europe over the same period.
There are only four companies with operations in the U.S. that can supply the aluminum sheet Detroit needs: Alcoa Inc., Novelis Inc., Logan Aluminum Inc. and Constellium. There is so much demand for their metal that they are already getting auto makers to accept seven-year and longer contracts.
You don't commit to seven-year contracts for cars you aren't building. Aluminum is the new steal.
Reverse: A Tragedy
On this day in 1916 Rembrandt Bugatti, a sculptor and younger brother of Italian auto designer and manufacturer Ettore Bugatti, commits suicide at the age of 31.
Neutral: Have SUV Sales Hurt Porsche? Or helped?
Photo Credit: Getty Images