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 Final Accounting Is In
There was a lot of debate over whether or not bailing out the auto industry was or a good or bad idea, but a few years later I think it's fair to say that, at the very least, it's all worked out. The degree to which you credit good luck, good ideas, good timing, or good vibes from Cthulhu is up to you, but let's look at the results:
1. Unemployment as popularly measured (yes, NFP has problem) is consistently much lower than it was and the auto sector has been a consistent part of that growth.
2. The auto industry is on track to have its best year since the Carpocalypse.
3. Chrysler and GM are both profitable.
4. All of the formerly Big Three automakers have good prospects.
So what did this cost us?
The government spent $79.69 billion and got $70.43 billion back ($25 billion under the Bush administration and $55 billion under the Obama administration), which is roughly a loss of $9.26 billion or about 12%. If you don't count the interest and dividend payments it's $16.56 billion, but it makes sense to count that so let's do it.
From this David Shepardson report here's what might have happened if we didn't help out the companies:
The Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research and others have argued that government losses paled in comparison to the impact that would have followed a collapse of GM and Chrysler. That could have sent much of the U.S. auto supplier sector reeling as well. A December 2013 study said failure of GM could have sacrificed 1.2 million U.S. jobs, cut personal income by $79.5 billion and eliminated $17 billion in income taxes and Social Security taxes in 2009. It could have also boosted government spending by $6.5 billion.
Others have estimated fewer job losses connected with a failure of GM and Chrysler. The biggest unknown remains if — and how long — it would have taken surviving automakers like Ford Motor Co. and other foreign firms to make up the lost production from GM and Chrysler. Ford did not take a government bailout.
Also unknown is if U.S. auto suppliers could have survived the massive disruption of a collapse of GM or Chrysler. Former auto czar Steve Rattner said that the disappearance of GM could have pushed the state of Michigan into bankruptcy. Another big cost would have been the likely assumption of GM and Chrysler’s underfunded pension plans by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the government-owned pension insurer.
Still hard to know for sure and GM's shitty timing with their recalls certainly does make this look worse, but, c'mon, that $9.26 billion is nothing. We're going to spend upwards of $1.5 trillion on the Joint Strike Fighter program, which is like $500 billion overbudget.
2nd Gear: Ford Not Playing Up F-150's Fuel Economy Yet
Fuel economy improvements in trucks are typically measured in inches, not feet, but when Ford dropped 700 lbs from their new F-150 we sort of expected yards. That's not quite what happened.
I don't know for sure if that's behind Ford's decision to apparently not mention fuel economy at all in its first three TV spots for the new truck as Alisa Priddle reports. The ads will premiere during the college football playoffs.
Football is a big audience among truck buyers, and there is no more important vehicle to Ford right now than the F-150. It is considered a gutsy move to remake a best-selling work truck using lighter-weight aluminum. The ad campaign must convince customers this is the best F-150 Ford has ever made.
Ford is battling for customer acceptance, but the more than 800,000 trucks configured online show the largest potential demand of any Ford product to date. Ford is also battling for Wall Street acceptance in the face of concerns about the higher cost of aluminum as well as the cost and downtime at the two plants that had to be gutted and retooled to make the new truck.
I'm also curious.
3rd Gear: Oil Is Even Cheaper
So much for Libya. Extreme supplies mean that oil dropped to its lowest point in six years with record year-end supply. That also may have something to do with the news above since, right now, since who cares about gas prices?
Futures were little changed in New York, recouping a loss of 1.7 percent. U.S. stockpiles are projected to remain at 387.2 million barrels last week, the highest for the period in data going back to 1982, a Bloomberg News survey shows before government data tomorrow. U.S. oil drillers idled the most rigs since 2012, Baker Hughes Inc. said on its website yesterday.
Oil has slumped 46 percent this year, set for the biggest annual decline since 2008, as the highest U.S. production in more than three decades contributed to a global surplus estimated by Qatar at 2 million barrels a day. Saudi Arabia, which is steering the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to resist cutting output, has said it’s confident that prices will rebound as economic growth boosts demand.
“Nowhere are signs of a rising crude glut more visible right now than in the U.S.,” David Wech, an analyst at consultants JBC Energy GmbH, said in a report. Global refinery runs will fall in the first quarter, “further highlighting the looming weakness in the global oil balance.”
OPEC isn't letting off the gas, even though it's fucking Venezuela pretty hard. Why? It might have something to do with the Saudis wanting to make fracking look less and less appealing. They have such high reserves they can do this almost indefinitely.
4th Gear: Fuckin' Takata Man
Takata's flaws have been obvious for the last few months as we've seen how the the Japanese airbag supplier does business and how it repsonds to a crisis. They've been stuck in the Japanese mode of not responding, not admitting fault, not dealing with problems.
The one thing that Takata seemed to have going for it was that their president, Stefan Stocker, was not a member of the controlling Takada family but an outsider with experience in Japan but for a non-Japanese company.
That didn't work out. In response to the crisis Stocker is, uh, out, for some reason. Fired? Quit? No one seems to be able to say, but replacing him with CEO and family member Shigehisa Takada doesn't look good.
Critics have been puzzled by what they see as a muted response from top executives that has shaken confidence in the company's viability. Stocker's departure has some analysts even more concerned.
"Putting all the management back to the family sounds so negative," said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research in Tokyo. "As long as they don't have new management, this company won't survive."
5th Gear: France's Carpool Service Is Challenging Trains
Being able to connect to the rest of your country via high speed rail is sort of a dream to most Americans, but it's a reality in much of Europe and Asia. So why are people going back to cars?
“It may take an hour longer, but it costs half the price,” said Ms. Gomiz. “It doesn’t take long to figure out the math.”
European trains are expensive and, as the report points out, a stagnating economy means that re-investment in partially or wholly state-owned transit systems is difficult. As trains and tracks get older, there are more delays, the price needed for upkeep is higher.
Also, you don't have to worry about striking train workers.
Reverse: Speaking Of Strikes
At 8 p.m. on December 30, 1936, in one of the first sit-down strikes in the United States, autoworkers occupy the General Motors Fisher Body Plant Number One in Flint, Michigan. The autoworkers were striking to win recognition of the United Auto Workers (UAW) as the only bargaining agent for GM's workers; they also wanted to make the company stop sending work to non-union plants and to establish a fair minimum wage scale, a grievance system and a set of procedures that would help protect assembly-line workers from injury. In all, the strike lasted 44 days.
Neutral: Was The Bailout Worth It? Am I wrong? Am I right? How much would it have been worth losing?
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