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 900 MILLION Predictions from analysts yesterday pegged SAAR (the seasonal annual adjusted rate of selling used to track the car market) at around 16.5 million, which is high, but that was based on certain expectations for performance that have already been busted by Chrysler.
Let's start with Chrysler, who was supposed to hit 16% based on the same average. Their sales increased 19% with a 7% decrease in car sales and a whopping 130% increase in "truck" sales, which include things like the Jeep Cherokee.
Nissan was supposed to hit around 17%, and they were up 18.5% for the month, although that was with a 13% decrease at Infiniti.
We're just at the beginning of these reports and it's possible, GM, Ford, Volkswagen or anyone else had a bad enough month to drag down the market, but it's a big opening.
2nd Gear: We'll Know How Strong Things Are In GMville Soon
Ford told its investors that they were going to revise down expectations and now its GM's turn, which is more interesting because we're all curious what the mix of struggling foreign markets plus the recalls will do in the face of expanding sales in China and the U.S.
With the end of the third quarter Tuesday, GM will report financial results for the July-through-September period on Oct. 23.
For much of the last week, GM shares have fallen below the $33 price of its November 2010 initial public offering price. The stock fell 28 cents Tuesday to $31.94, its lowest closing price since June 2013.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas downgraded GM's prospects, projecting a fair valuation of $29 per share. But Citi Investment Research has a target price of $48.
3rd Gear: Things Aren't Great In Japan
Kind of predictably, a new tax part of Abenomics 2.0 combined with a sinking yen has forced a cutback in domestic production that's threatening to make PM Shinzo Abe's big plans seem a little overambitious.
Continued weakness in domestic demand has prompted carmakers led by Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. to resume scaling back production in Japan, even as the yen drops to the weakest level since 2008. Declining output poses a threat to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic revitalization efforts, as the tax increase precipitated the economy’s biggest contraction in five years.
“Individual consumption is taking a longer time than expected to recover,” Yoshitaka Hayashi, a director at the Japan Automobile Dealers Association, told reporters today in Tokyo. Dealers are concerned the weak yen will push up prices of goods including gasoline and hurt spending, he said.
On the other hand, Nissan just sold a trillion cars or something in the U.S.
4th Gear: America Really Wants To Make Luxury Cars
With incredible competition from Ze Germans and, to a lesser extent, Ze Japanese, Americans still think they're gonna make a luxury car that's going to compete.
Cadillac is sucking the fumes of its competitors despite producing some of the finest metal of its modern era, an implicit indictment of former CEO Dan Akerson's decision to appoint a Washington lobbyist head of Cadillac. Courtesy of CEO Mary Barra, Bob Ferguson once again is heading GM's government relations, replaced by Audi veteran Johan de Nysschen. But the legacy of Akerson's call lives:
Overall brand sales through August are off nearly 5 percent. Cadillac's redesigned CTS, aimed squarely at BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, lags nearly 6 percent. Sales of its ATS, touted as a 3-Series killer, are off 20 percent. Only the Escalade full-size SUV, a quintessentially American-style product, is selling reasonably well.
The inconvenient truth is that Detroit continues to stumble in the global luxury game defined by the Germany's Big Three and emulated more effectively by the Japanese, chiefly Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus division. Detroit? Not so much, thanks to a record of shifting management priorities, impatient capital, recurring business crises and an allergy to long-term commitment.
Yep. You'll have to read the rest to see how it's going to change, maybe.
5th Gear: The One Way Fiat Is Like Apple
In terms of company ethos, style, and basically everything else, it's hard to think of two companies that are more dissimilar than Fiat and Apple, but the WSJ has found a striking similarity: They may have both cheated EU tax rules in the same way!
At issue are the tax rulings, or so-called comfort letters, sent by governments to multinationals to give clarity on how a specific tax will be calculated. These would be illegal if they gave selective advantages to some companies.
In a parallel development, the commission also published its letter to Luxembourg's government on Tuesday, saying it had reached the "preliminary" conclusion that a tax decision concerning Fiat amounted to state support for the car maker, and the regulator had "doubts" about the deal's conformity with EU law.
That investigation is potentially more significant than the Irish probe due to the large number of funds and other companies that are based in Luxembourg and could be affected by future investigations, experts said. The EU's probe has also spread to Amazon.com Inc. AMZN +0.19% 's operations in Luxembourg and other companies operating there, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Fiat, ruining it for everyone!
Reverse: It's No V6 Ford Mustang
On October 1, 1908, the first production Model T Ford is completed at the company's Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford would build some 15 million Model T cars. It was the longest production run of any automobile model in history until the Volkswagen Beetle surpassed it in 1972.
Neutral: What's SAAR Going To Be For September? Taking the over or under of 16.5 million?
Photo Credit: AP Images