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: The Car Business Is Weak, Take Advantage
If you regularly read The Morning Shift it should be clear to you that the car market in the United States is suffering while the "light truck" market is booming.
Why? Easy credit. An expanding economy. More attractive and more efficient crossovers and SUVs.
Clearly, you should wait a few months and buy a car instead of a crossover or SUV.
Nick Bunkley has a piece today that points out, accurately, that truck/suv/crossover sales are way way up for Ford and GM while their car sales are way way down.
Automakers will go out of their way to say that they're not going to buy the car business with incentives, but if history is any guide they will eventually do so. Here's a great quote from Mark LaNeve, who keeps confusing selling cars with building hospitals in Haiti:
"We don't want to buy the business," LaNeve said on a conference call last week. "We want to earn the business the right way, with product excellence and a great customer experience. It's God's work. We're working on it all the time to get the right message in the marketplace."
Bunkley reports that KBB has seen incentives cool lately, but they're still high and I have a feeling we'll see automakers sweeten the pot this spring, whether that's through more options or cheaper cars.
2nd Gear: GM Gives Into Activist Investors
Remember that time a former Obama administration official Harry Wilson tried to shake $8 billion out of GM? It worked.
Rather than deal with some asshole on their board, GM agreed to buy back about $5 billion worth of shares and up their quarterly dividend to $0.36 a share. That brings the total payout to about $10 billion by 2016 according to Reuters.
Harry Wilson's move (on behalf of investors) may have been motivated purely by a desire to return cash to their own coffers but it isn't all bad. GM should maintain about $20 billion in cash reserves and, if the economy or car market doesn't crater in the next couple of years, this could help boost GM's stock price and overall value.
3rd Gear: Cleveland Is Now Building Ford's Futuristic Engines
We may take for granted the high compression, low emission powerplants that Ford produces these days, but compare them to the old Cleveland V8s produced at Ford's Cleveland, Ohio engine plant just a few decades ago.
The 310 horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine found in the MKS that's soon to be built at Ford's Cleveland plant produces more power and uses less fuel with half the cylinders and less than half the displacement than a 351 V8.
We live in the future.
Ford is also bringing production of its 2.0-liter EcoBoost for the new Ford Edge from Spain to Cleveland as the Freep reports, as part of a $200 million investment that's adding 450 workers.
4th Gear: Chrysler Re-Recalling 703k Vehicles
NHTSA, not content to not do their job, is reinvestigating old recalls to assure that the fixes actually, you know, fix shit.
A defective ignition switch (boy that sounds familiar) caused the recall of over 700,000 Chrysler/Dodge minivans and Dodge Journeys and now, guess what, they get to do it again!
Chrysler in the earlier recall tried adding a trim ring to prevent inadvertent key rotation. A NHTSA investigation begun last year concluded that repair wasn’t working. The wireless ignition module will now be replaced in all recalled vehicles.
No fatalities have been reported in the Chrysler or Dodge vehicles. The defect has been tied to one crash, which didn’t involve injuries.
5th Gear: Should Automakers Get Credit For Autobraking?
As automakers desperately try to argue for any credit when it comes to CAFE requirements we have to start considering what is legitimate and what is bullshit.
Car companies are arguing that the way we test vehicles doesn't take into account technologies that measurably contribute to less fuel use in average commutes. This is true. The question is just how true is it?
As safety features like automatic braking and adaptive cruise control become more widely available, traffic accidents are expected to fall. Fewer accidents will lead to less congestion and better traffic flow—factors that, when combined with speed management, could cut vehicle emissions by as much as 30%, say University of California at Riverside researchers.
Sure, but how are we going to realistically count that?
So far, Washington has shot down the idea. Some current and former regulators and environmentalists contend auto makers are simply trying to get around meeting tougher mileage targets. They point out the auto industry has met requirements in previous years and shouldn’t get extra credit on fuel economy for making vehicles safer.
Nice try, automakers, nice try.
Reverse: God Bless Texas
On March 9, 1985, the first-ever Adopt-a-Highway sign is erected on Texas’s Highway 69. The highway was adopted by the Tyler Civitan Club, which committed to picking up trash along a designated two-mile stretch of the road.
Neutral: Are You Considering Buying A Car? Crossover? SUV? Truck? Any Of The Above?
What would your next new car purchase be if you had the money (keep it reasonable)?
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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