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: Is This Why Sergio Really Sold Off Ferrari?
Things are getting curiouser and curiouser for Fiat Chrysler, who recently announced the sale of Ferrari to... the people who already own Ferrari. What gives?
By announcing the Ferrari spinoff just days after completing the Fiat-Chrysler merger in October, Marchionne, a self-proclaimed corporate “fixer,” signaled he may be open to another deal down the road. With the 62-year-old chief executive officer planning to stay at the helm to complete a strategic plan that runs to 2018, he’s still got time to consider a transaction.
“I’ve always had the view that this industry over the middle to long term needs to look at other consolidation opportunities,” Marchionne said in November after speaking at an event at Fiat’s test track in Balocco, Italy, where the CEO is known to take his own Ferraris on high-speed jaunts. “Eventually it must happen.”
Think about it for a minute. The Agnelli family that owns much of Fiat Chrysler is in a position to own the thing everyone really wants (Ferrari) and, if Fiat Chrysler merges with Mazda, then they'll potentially have less of a stake in the thing that's been a hassle the last few years (FCA) while still maintaining some control and benefiting from being part of a larger group.
Fiat-Chrysler could merge with a U.S. company, but that seems unlikely. A European automaker seems even less helpful, although Volkswagen could immediately overtake Toyota if they merged. The Koreans? Maybe Ssangyong, but even then it's not a great fit since FCA's best property is Jeep.
That leaves the Japanese and the two frontrunners are Mazda and Suzuki. Given Mitsubishi's partnership with Nissan Renault and Suzuki's work with Toyota it seems like Mazda is the obvious choice. Will they go with the obvious choice? There are too many factors to say for sure, but it does add interesting context to the Ferrari sale discussion.
2nd Gear: GM Calls Volt A 'Moonshot,' I Think We'd Call It A Miss
Is it spin? Is it hopeful thinking? Is it true? I'm left scratching my head trying to make sense of exactly how much people at GM believe their own line about the "success" of the Chevy Volt.
"It showed just the innovation prowess of our company and of the creativity, and beyond that, the ability to deliver something, the ability to deliver that innovation and deliver it in a way that's not a science project," added Pam Fletcher, GM's executive chief engineer of electrified vehicles, in a recent interview. "This is a car that's on the road that carries the same warranty as every other car we've ever produced."
Some critics say the Volt hasn't been a success because sales never reached expectations set by former CEO Dan Akerson: He wanted production to hit 60,000 a year by 2012 and GM at one point set a sales goal of 45,000 in 2012. Total U.S. sales since its debut have surpassed 73,000, but 2014 sales of 18,805 fell 18.6 percent from the year before, according to figures released Monday. The all-electric Nissan Leaf, meanwhile, sold 30,200 last year in the U.S., up 33.6 percent from 2013.
No two people share the same reality I guess.
3rd Gear: A Rolls-Royce SUV May Be Coming
Does anyone care if Rolls-Royce makes an SUV? I mean, will anyone be upset?
It's one thing for a limited edition sportscar company like Ferrari to build an SUV, but I don't think anyone who isn't at least an Earl should give a pheasant's crap that RR might build something its customers actually want. Just look at how building smaller and sportier cars has worked out for the company.
Chief Executive Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes said the brand had benefited from expanding its model range beyond the flagship Phantom, which can measure up to six meters in length and sells for more than 300,000 pounds ($455,580).
Rolls introduced smaller models such as the Ghost II in late 2014 and the Wraith Coupe in late 2013, helping lift overall deliveries to a record 4,063 last year. Both models are almost one meter shorter than the Phantom.
Not only do I not despise the idea of a Roller SUV, I'm downright excited about the prospect.
4th Gear: BMW Beats Mercedes In U.S. Sales Race
BMW juuust edged out Mercedes in the United States with yearly sales of 339,738 vehicles to MB's 330,391 vehicles.
How'd BMW do it?
BMW Group's namesake brand reported 41,526 deliveries last month, helped by the 3 and 4 series sedans and the X5 SUV. Daimler’s Mercedes brand said it delivered 34,009 vehicles, a 3 percent increase, getting a push from the redesigned C class and GL-class SUV.
Lexus grew 15% in December and 14% on the year to grow to 311,389 cars. Given how much better Lexus products have been lately I'm into it.
5th Gear: The Ford F-Series Is Still The Best Selling Vehicle In The U.S.
The fine folks at the Freep have put together a database of all vehicle sales for you to compare but, unsurprisingly, the "F-Series" pickup is the best-selling truck for the 38th consecutive and best selling vehicle for the 33rd straight year.
As they note, the next closest anything that isn't a truck is the Toyota Camry with 428,606 copies sold. GM breaks out the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra into different categories, but combined the Sierra and the Silverado do 741,588.
Anything interesting here?
Reverse: A Flawed Hero
On this day in 1925, John DeLorean, a maverick auto industry executive and founder of the DeLorean Motor Company, is born in Detroit, Michigan. The DeLorean Motor Company produced just one model, the DMC-12, a sports car with gull-wing doors that opened upward, in the early 1980s before going bankrupt. In 1982, John DeLorean was charged with drug trafficking; prosecutors argued that he was attempting to raise money for his struggling company. In total, approximately 9,000 DMC-12s were produced. The car became a collector's item and got a big publicity boost when it was featured as a time-travel machine in the "Back to the Future" movies starring Michael J. Fox.
Neutral: Should Fiat Chrysler Mazda merge? What about VW Fiat Chrysler?
Photo Credit: AP Images