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: Those Darn SUVs
China, which is already the world’s largest car market, saw hefty double digit growth to the tune of 12 percent last month, thanks to huge gains by SUVs and minivans. Seriously, minivans.
Sales of SUVs was up 64 percent and minivans were up 26 percent. Demand for sedans actually dropped 0.6 percent. Total sales last month were a staggering 1.78 million cars.
Bloomberg reports that families in China are now buying either a replacement for an older vehicle or a second car, and they want something different. SUVs and minivans are that something different. Ford had a huge month in China and Chinese automaker Great Wall had a 19 percent gain in deliveries.
2nd Gear: The Russian Car Market Is Imploding
On the back of the weakening ruble, the Russian car market has contracted massively. Sales are down 42.5 percent for the year as of March and 36.3 percent for the quarter.
It’s the inverse and then some of China.
In March 2014, 243,332 cars were sold in Russia. Last month, just 139,850 were sold. And the top ten selling cars were all made in Russia, as imports have become prohibitively expensive. GM is making big cuts in China by closing a factory and pulling Opel out of the country entirely, and that doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Crosstown competitor Ford had an abysmal month in Russia, with sales down 73 percent. Might be time for them to do the same.
3rd Gear: GM Wants To Expand Its Truck Plant
General Motors is considering a $1.3 billion expansion of its truck assembly plant in Arlington, Texas. This is the plant where nearly all Tahoe and Suburban sized SUVs are made, not the Silverado or Colorado.
The plan is to add 1.2 million square feet to the plant and bring in another 589 jobs. There is also talk of reducing taxes by some 80 percent over 10 years in Arlington in order to incentivize GM to stay there and continue to build trucks there.
Arlington is meeting to approve or deny the construction request next week and could pass the incentives by the end of the month.
4th Gear: No Brake Defect Recall Coming For Old GM Trucks
The feds have been investigating about 2,700 reports of older GM trucks experiencing corroded brake lines, leaks, and possible brake failures for nearly five years. It seems that in states that use salt on the roads, the brake lines can leak and then be at risk for failing.
The probe is now over, and despite all the complaints there were no manufacturing defects found and there won’t be a recall. Instead, it’s being called a maintenance issue, and if you drive on salty roads a lot, you need to clean and inspect the underside of the truck. GM is offering replacement kits but is encouraging a regular maintenance schedule.
5th Gear: FCA Offering $3 Billion Bond To Refinance Debt
Fiat Chrysler has an aggressive five year plan, so it needs to offer debt to help pay for it. $3 billion worth.
This is going to be used for general corporate purposes, and that might mean paying off other debts held by FCA. That’s the sort of finance thing that makes me go cross eyed. Seriously. Debt to pay off debt? My head is spinning.
CEO Sergio Marchionne is calling for an aggressive investment of $60 billion to boost sales and revenue to $167 billion by 2018. Good luck.
On this day in 2009, the Honda FCX Clarity, a four-door sedan billed as the planet’s first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended for mass production, wins the World Green Car award at the New York Auto Show.
What will be the next segment to explode in China?
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