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: Negotiations Are Going Well, You Could Say
While the Trump administration’s lurching machinations surrounding trade agreements are divisive at best, and baffling at most, one of the things that most people could agree was actually a Good Thing was the remarkably labor-friendly negotiating position that all auto workers should make $16 or more an hour.
Sure, the only auto workers that actually get paid $16 an hour are American and Canadian auto workers, but if Mexican workers got a nice big raise out of the whole thing (Mexican workers currently top out at around $2 an hour), injecting money into the Mexican economy, thereby helping to alleviate some of the issues that fuel deep systemic problems in Mexico, it could still help a lot of people.
But the way the American negotiating position is structured is driving the Mexican negotiators absolutely batty, the Wall Street Journal reports. Here’s Eduardo Solis, president of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association:
Mr. Solis said, the Americans are asking for an additional 75% North American content requirement for a list of “core parts” including engines, transmission, chassis, suspension, batteries for electric cars, and 70% of aluminum and steel used in vehicles must be from North America under the proposed rules. Automakers in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada would have four years to comply with the new rules for light vehicles and two years for pickup trucks.
“The U.S. proposal isn’t acceptable. The percentage, the transitions, the restrictions. You have to understand the U.S. proposal is like putting padlocks on padlocks,“ Mr. Solis said of the two-layered rule of origin. ”Imagine a car that does comply with the percentage, but doesn’t comply with all the core parts. Or you comply with core parts but don’t meet the steel and aluminum requirements. Or you comply with the first three but you don’t meet the wage requirements…It has the potential to influence investments, influence production in all three countries.”
I’m sure everyone will figure it out before the Trump administration’s arbitrarily-imposed deadlines.
2nd Gear: The Trump Administration Moves Back The Deadlines
President Donald Trump, apparently realizing that his deadline to complete tear apart global free trade agreements regarding steel and aluminum without accordingly igniting massive global trade wars was a bit unrealistic, has moved its own arbitrarily-created deadline back to June 1st, the New York Times says:
The Trump administration said on Monday that it would delay a decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico for another 30 days, giving key allies a reprieve as the White House tries to extract concessions from trading partners who have resisted those demands.
The extension reflects concerns by the Trump administration of a swift retaliation on American products by European Union nations, and will also give the Trump administration more breathing room to work on a separate trade battle with China.
If it sounds like the People Who Are Supposed To Know How To Do These Things are just winging it at this point, that’s because they almost certainly are.
3rd Gear: Fiat Chrysler Sales Are Up 5 Percent
“Big SUVs won’t sell forever!!!!!!!!!!!” I scream into the void. “Small cars ride or die!!!!!!!!!!” I plead. “The second oil jumps you will massively regret all of this, and I will inevitably be proven right at some point because markets eternally swing back and forth, and if I just keep repeating it for a long enough time there’s a statistically-guaranteed chance I’ll be proven right eventually so I’m just going to keep wailing like a banshee!!!!!!!!!” I say, to the car companies who are cutting all their cars, as I fall off a cliff, on fire.
But right now Fiat Chrysler is giggling all the way to the Bank of the Right Now, according to The Detroit News:
New vehicle sales for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV increased 5 percent in April, driven by a record month for Jeep.
Jeep’s 20 percent increase from April 2017 was driven by gains for the Wrangler, Cherokee and Compass. FCA’s Dodge brand also posted an increase in deliveries last month, up 4 percent as the Journey and Caravan were up 39 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
Sales of the Italian-American automaker’s Ram trucks brand fell 9 percent in April. The Chrysler brand fell 18 percent and Fiat was down 45 percent.
Fiat should sell more cars than a few ancient 500 variants and a Mazda Miata, though the Car Industry Knowers will certainly blame it on “American tastes for trucks.”
4th Gear: The U.S. Military Will Get Self-Driving Vehicles Before You Do
And that shouldn’t surprise you, if you’ve been following what the American military has been doing for, oh, the last 20 years or so (and I bet you didn’t even know Jalopnik went back that far, if you click the link, BUT IT DOES). All of those billions upon billions of dollars of research appear to be paying off, however, Bloomberg says:
With an annual budget of almost $700 billion, the Pentagon can afford to aggressively pursue autonomous vehicle technology well beyond fuel and food delivery trucks. The Army, for instance, is pushing forward with efforts to develop unmanned tanks and smarter vehicles for bomb disarmament, though many of those technologies will be remote-controlled, not autonomous.
Major Alan L. Stephens, an officer at the Mounted Requirements Division of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence in Georgia, said in December that the Army wants to start testing light, fast remote-controlled tanks with the same firepower as the current 70-plus-ton manned M1 Abrams tank within the next five years.
I guess it’s easier to develop a self-driving tank than a self-driving car, considering how a tank doesn’t really have to avoid anything in its path. Just drives right on through. Or blasts it.
5th Gear: Maybe One Day You’ll Be Able To Buy A Volkswagen-Didi
Didi, a Chinese ride-hailing service similar to Uber, needs cars. A lot of cars. Up to 100,000 cars, in fact. That’s so many cars that Volkswagen has signed up to supply two-thirds of them.
But the fascinating thing isn’t that VW is making cars (it’s done that every day for, like, 80 years now), but that VW and Didi look to be actually building cars together, according to this Reuters report:
Volkswagen will also jointly buy some new cars with Didi to allow the Chinese company to expand its fleet. The two eventually plan to collaborate to design and develop dedicated vehicles, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the details are still private.
The executive did not give financial details of the deal but said that Volkswagen will get a slice of the revenue once the venture develops.
If you want to build your own cars, it’ll help if they’re already Volkswagens.
Reverse: Bread And Roses
On this day in 1926, Ford Motor Company becomes one of the first companies in America to adopt a five-day, 40-hour week for workers in its automotive factories. The policy would be extended to Ford’s office workers the following August.
Neutral: On What Precise Day Will The Global Oil Market Spike?
I predict August 26, 2019.