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: IT’S BACK! MAYBE! SORTA? HOPEFULLY?
There once was a time when Citroën, a French maker of French cars, made things that were weird and interesting and brilliantly engineered. That time was decades ago, and at some point Citroën lost its way. It started making dreary hatchbacks and boring family cars, ad everyone sort of figured that was that. Citroën would go on making beige unto oblivion, at which point it would die and we’d all lament about another great car company that lost its way and was now defunct.
Just like Saab. Just like Pontiac. Just like Oldsmobile. Just like a lot of brands that were owned by General Motors, really, though strangely Citroën is not owned by GM.
But in a Bloomberg interview under the headline of “Citroen Seeks Salvation in Quirky Cars to End Decades of Dull,” the head of Citroën, Linda Jackson, announced that her and her brand would not go quietly into the long night:
The goal is design that’s somewhere “between different and bizarre,” Jackson, 57, said at her office near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. “If you look in the mainstream, an awful lot of the cars are the same.”
Citroën specifically points to the joyous, bulbous C4 Cactus as an example of the direction it’s headed in, and to that we say “GOOD.”
The C4 Cactus is knobby and weird and perfect, to the extent that we even said it felt like “the coolest small crossover on the planet.”
Good for you, Citroën. If you die, at least die knowing you went out doing what you always did best.
(Making weird cars that not enough people bought.)
2nd Gear: The Toyota Camry Is The Most American Car In The World
The Toyota Camry is assembled in Kentucky and Indiana and a whopping 75 percent of all the things that go into assembling it come from the United States. That makes it the Most American Car on the planet, according to the most recent edition of the American-Made Index from Cars.com. The rest of the top five is completely made up of cars made by Toyota and Honda.
If anyone tells you they bought a Dodge or whatever because they like to “buy American,” tell them to shut up.
3rd Gear: Lyft Hires A Bank To Sell Itself
Lyft, the ride-hailing app that wants to be Uber but always seems to be playing catch up, hired the investment bankers at Qatalyst Partners to help sell itself either in whole or just in pieces, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal:
Ride-hailing startup Lyft Inc. hired Qatalyst Partners LP, the boutique investment bank best known for helping tech companies find a buyer, according to people familiar with the matter.
Frank Quattrone, the founder and executive chairman of Qatalyst, has contacted companies including large auto makers about acquiring a stake in Lyft, the people said. It isn’t clear whether Lyft is aiming to sell itself or raise new funding.
If you’re wondering what an investment banker does in a situation like this, think of them like a car salesman. It helps makes the company looks nice and pretty for potential buyers, and then goes out and shops the company.
Lyft’s already sold big chunks of itself to companies like GM, which paid $500 million for a 10 percent stake earlier this year. This sounds like it could be bigger than that.
4th Gear: Takata CEO Waiting For Regime Change
Shigehisa Takada, the CEO of airbag maker Takata, will resign once a “new management regime” is in place, reports Reuters:
“I am not clinging to this. My role is to make sure the company does not take a bad turn until there is a passing of the baton,” he told an annual shareholders meeting, where he came under fire for failing to deal more effectively with the crisis.
The “crisis,” of course, refers to the fact that Takata made airbags which had a nasty habit of rupturing, spraying shrapnel everywhere, and ending the lives of the very people those airbags were supposed to save.
5th Gear: Venezuela’s Car Industry Has Collapsed
Venezuela, a corrupt petro-state known around the world for its delicious arepas, has seen its economy completely collapse. It’s at the point where there’s mass looting over food. When a state of affairs reaches that point, it’s sort of moot to say that people are having a hard time repairing cars and keeping them on the road, let alone buying new ones. A story from Bloomberg talks about that, but the problem runs deeper even than people not being able to afford to buy new things. There hard-currency market has collapsed as well, and that means there are no imports.
And without imports, the country’s car factories have shut down:
While the industry’s estimated installed capacity stands at about 250,000 a year, just 331 new cars were produced in the country last month, according to the Venezuelan automobile association, Cavenez. It’s a far cry from 2007, at the height of the oil boom, when production reached more than 12,000 a month.
“The industry has always been been import-based,” said Hector Lucena, a professor of labor relations at the University of Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela, where he has long studied the auto sector. “Without hard currency, you can’t do anything.”
The government of President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly said it no longer has the means to attend to the industry’s currency needs. Strapped for cash, automakers are now obtaining greenbacks by their own means.
It’s a horrific situation, with a vicious economic downward spiral now taking hold.
Reverse: America Gets Smart
After a flurry of rumors, DaimlerChrysler chairman Dieter Zetsche announces on this day in 2006 that the company’s urban-focused Smart brand–already popular in Europe–will come to the United States in early 2008.
Neutral: What’s Your Dream Citroën?
Citroën’s been lost for a while now, but it may have found itself again. What does your dream Citroën of the future look like?