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: Nissan Beats The Odds
Nissan just reported a very good global first quarter, with operating profits up 58 percent year-over-year. This success can be attributed to booming vehicle sales in the U.S., their largest market, as well as China, where evidently the slowdown hasn’t quite hit them yet. Nissan is the largest Japanese automaker in China. Here’s Reuters:
First-quarter net profit grew 36 percent to 152.80 billion yen. Revenue rose 18 percent to 2.9 trillion yen, boosted by a 5.5 percent increase in sales in the buoyant U.S. market, Nissan’s biggest market, and an 11 percent rise in China, despite concerns about the outlook in Nissan’s second-biggest market amid stock market turmoil and economic jitters.
“The immediate situation (in the Chinese market) is tough and we can’t let our guard down,” said Nissan Corporate Vice President Joji Tagawa.
That makes them the second big automaker to pull decent gains in China despite their slowdown, but remember these Q1 and Q2 results don’t take into account the worst of the slump. The full effects are probably yet to be seen.
2nd Gear: Lowered Expectations
For the first time ever, Volkswagen zoomed past Toyota in global vehicle sales, putting them at number 1 in the world. That’s a big deal for them. But keeping that trend going may be tough with the slowdowns in China and also Russia, leading to more moderate sales targets. From Automotive News:
Volkswagen posted higher quarterly profit on a strengthening European autos recovery and cost cuts but lowered its global sales forecast amid a slowdown in China and challenging markets in Russia and South America.
Full-year deliveries may be flat on last year’s record 10.1 million sales, VW said, after previously guiding for a “moderate” increase.
“We are keeping a very close watch on global macroeconomic trends, especially where there are uncertainties such as in the Chinese, Brazilian and Russian markets,” VW CEO Winterkorn said in a statement.
3rd Gear: Ford Aims To Be ‘Like A Startup’
“We have to act like a startup” has to be one of the most grating phrases in all of business, whether it’s applied to old guard companies like Ford or new, actual startups. To most it invokes a culture of video games in break rooms, skinny jeans, unrealistic profit goals (if there are any) or this kind of bullshit.
But Ford CEO Mark Fields wants his company to “disrupt” like a startup, according to Reuters, but to him that means being prepared for the kinds of technology-driven seismic shifts coming to the industry:
Ford and other major automakers are racing to position themselves to profit during what Fields termed a rare “period of change and disruption in the industry” that includes car-sharing, autonomous vehicles, connected cars and new ways for people to get around.
Fields pointed to 25 experiments Ford announced earlier this year to determine mobility needs of the globe’s consumers in coming decades.
“We are really pushing ourselves to think, to act, and disrupt like a startup company,” said Fields, who heads the automaker founded by Henry Ford 112 years ago.
Phrase it however you want, but it’s probably good to be ahead of the curve on those things.
4th Gear: The GM Ignition Switch Back In The News
The attorney leading the case of General Motors car owners suing the automaker over the ignition switch debacle says he has more information about the company he’ll be doling out to the media in the coming months.
It’s all part of a renewed media campaign against what the lawyer calls a “false narrative” around the ignition switch defects and recalls. Via Bloomberg:
Texas attorney Bob Hilliard represents accident victims and car owners seeking compensation. He pledged to hand out new information “on a rolling basis,” and to reveal pre-trial evidence from GM to counter any statements he feels understate corporate blame, including that GM officials didn’t know of the flaw.
“The disturbing documents that now are allowed to be shared will speak for themselves — clearly, unequivocally and loudly,” Hilliard said in an e-mailed statement.
It will be interesting to see what he has up his sleeve, if anything.
5th Gear: ‘iM’ A Big Deal For This Brand And So Is The iA
We mentioned in yesterday’s Morning Shift that Scion’s newest models, the iA sedan and iM hatchback, are their most “mainstream” models yet. They aren’t funky boxes or sport coupes. They’re pretty normal, all things considered. But they’re badly needed by the brand to push sales up, which are at extremely ambitious levels: 100,000 by 2017, about double what they do now. That’s a lot. One more, I promise, from Reuters:
Scion’s target for iA annual sales is about 35,000 to 45,000. It will compete with the Nissan Motor Co Versa, General Motors Co Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Motor Co Fiesta, and the Hyundai Motor Co Accent.
The iA will start at $17,600 for models with automatic transmission, including destination charges. The iM, Murtha said, has a sales target of about 25,000 and models with automatic transmission will start at $20,000.
That would give Scion four models to sell by the end of this year at about 1,000 Toyota dealerships in the United States, including the existing tC coupe and the FR-S compact sports car.
The story also alludes to “a compact utility vehicle or SUV-like hatchback” to debut by 2017, which the brand probably needs most of all. But how do they avoid overlap with Toyota? Just by being cheaper? Does Scion know what they’re doing?
Neutral: Is It Smart To Think ‘Like A Startup’?
Or is this just spin, and bad spin at that?
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