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: SAAR 17 Million!
The seasonal adjusted annual rate (SAAR) was supposed to be around 16.3 million — i.e. an estimate of 16.3 million total sales for the year based on the amount of cars sold in this month relative to how this month normally figures within the context of a year's average car sales.
It was 17 million, making June's 1.4 million sales part of the best month since July 2006 when it wasn't quite clear that we were headed right off a fiscal cliff.
Now, if you're a ZeroHedging pessimist you go "Look, last time we had sales this high it all went to shit." Which is a stupid, post hoc ergo propter hoc argument to make. We could absolutely be in a bubble right now, but all car sales are telling us is:
1. Americans want to buy cars.
2. Americans feel better about their financial position.
3. Some Americans have access to way too easy sub-prime auto loans
So long as the economy doesn't shit the bed point #3 shouldn't be such a big deal. If it does… you don't want to go there.
2nd Gear: GM, Chrysler, Nissan Up/ Ford, VW, Honda Down
Amongst the biggest players, Volkswagen, Ford and Honda had the worst months with VW losing 8.3% of sales year-over-year, Honda down 5.8%, and Ford down 5.8%. It's worth noting that Ford and VW did better than industry analyst forecasts and Honda was about on par.
GM, of course, is the biggest surprise, growing 1.0% thanks to a strong performance by Buick and no big drop in any of its brands. Nissan, as we all know, is killing it and was up 5.3% despite a slip from Infiniti. Chrysler, thanks to Jeep/Ram and Fiat, continued to grow.
Besides the GM bomb drop, it's nice to see Mazda continuing to grow and all the luxury brands are expanding with Mercedes, Audi, and BMW all having good months. Jaguar took the biggest hit.
Full chart here.
3rd Gear: GM Is Not In The Clear Yet
Anthony Foxx says the feds aren't going to let up on GM, although GM seems to be taking the recall issue seriously now as they've, uh, recalled 40% of all their cars still on the road.
Still, GM has a bad habit of not learning from anything that happens to them.
"We're going to keep putting the screws on this until it gets right," he told reporters at a Tuesday breakfast organized by Christian Science Monitor.
I get the sense that they've tried to get everything out of the way before the end of Q2 so we'll see what happens next.
4th Gear: China's Growing Middle Class And The Auto Industry
There's a great piece in the WSJ this morning about the rising possibilities (and challenges) of the middle class that comes along with paying people better.
A century ago, when Henry Ford began paying his assembly-line workers $5 a day, the equivalent of $116 a day today and double the manufacturing norms of the time, he triggered a social revolution in America that transformed low-paid workers into middle-class consumers. Much the same has happened in China.
But now auto makers are confronting in China what U.S. auto makers discovered decades ago: Workers' aspirations rise with their pay. China is no longer a low-wage workshop for auto companies. It is increasingly a center for engineering, and research and development initiatives.
Oh well, it's not like China is going to run out of people to make into engineers any time soon.
5th Gear: How To Make Money On Driverless Cars
There's a sense that this driverless car thing is going to happen, at some level, at some point, in some not so distant future. We'll see, as there are legal hurdles aplenty, but people now thing that there's a $50 billion market in it so everyone is interested.
But should you skip investing in carmakers?
However, it is the tech and telecom firms - from U.S. bellwethers to small European companies - that are seen benefiting the most, fund managers and analysts said.
"It's a whole new market emerging," said Christian Jimenez, fund manager and president of Diamant Bleu Gestion.
"The best way to play it for investors in the long term is to buy names such as Microsoft or chip makers such as Infineon, not (automakers) Peugeot and Renault".
I'm not convinced, especially since Microsoft is so behind on autonomous cars. It seems like investing in Infineon and not Peugeot is just a smart decision no matter what.
Reverse: And Then They All Fell Into A Pit
The 1 millionth Corvette, a white LT1 roadster with a red interior and a black roof—the same colors as the original 1953 model—rolls off the assembly line in Bowling Green, Kentucky on this day in 1992.
Neutral: How Many Cars Will We Sell In 2014?
Can the market hold? Will it fall apart?
Photo Credit: Getty Images