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: Shades Of Enzo
Ferrari didn't do so well this weekend at the home race in Monza, which is to say they've performed basically how they've performed the last few years. Despite spending tons of money and hiring talented drivers, Ferrari has been middling in most areas of motorsports.
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne would like to see that changed according to this report from Bloomberg:
Ferrari, which sits in fourth place in the season’s standings after the Italian Grand Prix yesterday, has had “unacceptable” performances in the high-profile racing circuit in recent years, Marchionne said to reporters yesterday at an event in Cernobbio, Italy. While there are no plans to replace the long-time Ferrari chief, “nobody is indispensable.”
Ferrari, which is 90 percent owned by Fiat, is a key component of Marchionne’s plans to expand in luxury cars to better compete with Volkswagen AG, which owns Lamborghini among its stable of high-end nameplates. Montezemolo has run Ferrari for more than 20 years and wants to limit the brand’s volumes to safeguard exclusivity. He has clashed with Marchionne.
We're team Marchionne here because, though Ferrari does have an obligation to protect its brand, its brand has basically been: We're a bunch of lousy, humorless pricks who make great cars but terrible people.
Lamborghini, on the other hand, sells tons of cars, still seems exclusive, and somehow manages to not seem annoying as a brand.
2nd Gear: GM's Board Is SO SLOW
How slow is it?
In February, the initial recall of hundreds of thousands of cars with defective ignition switches was treated in such a routine manner at the board’s monthly meeting that the board’s chairman, Theodore M. Solso, said he had only a vague recollection of the details.
“I can’t remember the specifics,” Mr. Solso said in an interview. “It was a large recall. There were probably cost estimates.”
Yeah, way to instill confidence in us guy.
3rd Gear: Russia's Car Market Is Tanking, Down 26%
Early reports indicate that the Russian car market was down 26% year-over-year as Vladimir Putin slowly drags the economy down to prove some sort of point.
This has led to Volkswagen halting production in Russia for ten days, starting today, along with a scaling back of production.
With Russia's economy faltering and sanctions likely to persist, Russia is no longer a good bet for growth.
4th Gear: Toyota Wants To Be The Ultimate Back Seat Driver
This article from the AP includes an interesting view from Toyota of what their mix of autonomous/safety systems are designed to do:
Toyota expects by “mid-decade” to roll out a next generation of safety systems in the U.S. that allow cars to steer themselves enough to stay in the center of a lane. And to keep the driver focused on the task at hand — driving — the cars will also feature a camera that monitors the driver’s eyes and makes sure that hands are on the steering wheel. If the eyes drift off the road or hands come off the wheel, the car would issue a warning.
“In other words, a full-time back-seat driver,” Ken Koibuchi, general manager of Toyota’s intelligent vehicle division, said at a recent briefing.
I actually think this is a helpful metaphor for how we should view technology, or at least closer to one. Instead of envisioning a computer that takes over, envision a rally co-driver telling you where to go and letting you know about obstacles ahead, et cetera.
5th Gear: Mercedes To Build More Cars In The U.S.
Russia may suck as a market, but you gotta love Alabama and the U.S. as a place to sell and build cars. Specifically, RWD cars and trucks.
Daimler AG will begin producing its ML Coupe, a compact sport-utility vehicle, at its Mercedes-Benz factory here next year, increasing the plant's number of models built to five amid an expansion that would lift annual output to more than 300,000 vehicles by 2016.
Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche also said the luxury car maker is weighing the need for a new assembly plant to produce rear-wheel-drive vehicles. He didn't say what countries were being considered for the factory. Currently, global demand for luxury rear-wheel-drive vehicles is outstripping the auto maker's supply, he said.
All of that sounds good. Well, all of that but for "ML Coupe." Ugh.
On September 8, 1986, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Yutaka Kume, the president of the Nissan Motor Company, officially open Nissan's first European manufacturing plant in Sunderland, Britain. Sunderland is situated in the northeastern part of England, a region that was hit especially hard by the deindustrialization and economic strain of the 1970s and 80s. Many of its coal pits, shipyards, steel mills, and chemical factories had closed or were closing, and the Japanese company's arrival gave many of the town's residents hope for the future. Twenty-five thousand people applied for the first 450 jobs advertised at the plant.
Neutral: Do You Think Ferrari Has The Right Vision? Am I just biased, as an American, against the Ferrari ideals. Or does Ferrari have the wrong ideals?
Photo Credit: Getty Images