This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. 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?
Last month we did things a little differently by putting the gears inside the comments below to make it easier for you to comment on individual gears. I think there were some benefits to it, but let's try it out the other way.
I still encourage you to make your own gears in the comments that we can star to the top.
1st Gear: March U.S. Sales Expected To Grow 8% This Month
As the economy starts to recover people continue to buy vehicles they probably should have purchased a few years ago. Research firm LMA Automotive expects an 8% increase for the month, says Reuters (via AN).
"We expect the economic environment to improve throughout 2013, as the likelihood of a dark cloud slowing the recovery pace diminishes," LMC senior vice president Jeff Schuster said in a statement. "Consumers do not appear phased by headwinds from Washington, as growth in auto sales are outperforming earlier expectations."
I'm unconvinced that we're still not in a period of people buying what they needed all along, as opposed to a huge movement of new consumers deciding to buy cars.
2nd Gear: Chrysler Wants To Be Like Starbucks And Nike
Speaking to reporters after the Automotive Press Association, Chrysler brand CEO Saad Chehab said he wants his brand to be cool and hip like Starbucks and Nike, reports The Detroit News. There's nothing wrong aiming high, but I'm not sure they're taking the right lessons from either company.
"There's a gazillion ways you can get your drink at Starbucks and that's a powerful reward," Chehab said. "That's a cachet-reward factor that Starbucks has, no different than Nike does it with the Nike ID," referring to the service that allows customers to personalize their own merchandise. "I see us as one of the first ones to look at those types of venues and lifestyles, and attend to those needs," Chehab said.
Sure, Chrysler has a lot of little special editions of their models, but that's largely because they haven't been able to afford to make the kinds of massive overhauls other companies have been able to achieve.
Nike ID works because a regular pair of Nikes is great, not because they need to convince someone to buy a pair of no longer competitive shoes.
3rd Gear: Speaking Of Special Editions
If you liked the Varvatos Edition 300, you'll be absolutely underwhlemed by the 2013.5 Chrysler 200 S Special Edition. Not because the concept isn't sound (Carhartt makes the Imported From Detroit shirts Ralph Gilles love to wear), but because the vehicle beneath it isn't.
I enjoy the highly custom work you get from Chrysler these days. There's a lot of dark chrome, semi-gloss accents, and polished bits. It's particularly menacing on a 300. The Chrysler 200 S gets all of these to produce a vehicle that does stand out… from the rental versions of those same vehicles.
Everyone (I think) at the company knows the 200 is a dog. The Sebring was scarcely up to class standards when it debuted, and when it debuted was a long long time ago. So, I'm not going to harp on this for too long. A new mid-size sedan is in the works and I'm looking forward to what the company produces.
Chrysler isn't alone. Toyota is doing the same thing with the outgoing Corolla.
4th Gear: Ford Increasing Production Of The MKZ
For all of the jokes we've made in the direction of the Lincoln MKZ, it is an attractive vehicle built on a platform we like. Were it not for the fact that there are four more products we'd rather see than a mid-sizer we'd probably not rag on it so much.
Alas, troubled Lincoln tells the Detroit Free Press they're addressing early production issues that made for scarce supplies of this important model.
Now they just have to get people on the other end to buy them.
5th Gear: The Jeep Cherokee Was Not Intended To Be A Jeep
Remember when we showed you the 2014 Jeep Cherokee like super early? It's just given everyone more time to ponder the new, important model and report on its development.
Here's an interesting bit from the Wall Street Journal: It's based on a design for Alfa Romeo. That explains so much.
As the article notes, not everyone is a fan of the more European design. For this reason we hear from sources that Chrysler was upset at us releasing the design early because they hoped that enthusiasts and the general public would see it at the same time, thus they released their own photos soon after.
Most of us here like it and look forward to seeing the new crossover in person next week in New York. It also makes us wonder about the Alfa Romeo CUV that didn't get produced.
6th Gear: The Feds May Sue Banks For Funding Discriminatory Loans
Even after the major gains in civil rights from the legislation of the '60s, there were many levels of systematic discrimination left within the United States. One of these was in lending. It's great to say every American should have the right to start a business or own a car, but if someone can't get the same financing as someone equally qualified then it's a right with no teeth.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says they're going to pursue banks who give money to dealers who discriminate purely based on race.
They say research shows African Americans and Hispanics are being charged higher markups than white consumers who have the same economic qualifications, in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. This, of course, is just one aspect of dealer discrimination. Age is another big one.
All of this is centered around the practice of letting dealers add to the interest rate with certain customers beyond what the bank would determine is a fair rate and then pocket the difference. Read this great take from Bloomberg and you'll see most people agree this is a good thing.
Consumers don't benefit. Banks don't benefit. Small banks and credit unions aren't affected. Really, this just helps crappy dealers.
Reverse: I'll Take A Hummer
Exactly 30 years ago to the day, the Pentagon awarded AM General with a huge pot of money to develop the HMMWV, which we all know as the Hummer. First used in Panama and then extensively in the Persian Gulf War, it's definitely a sign of the ascendant and interfering version of America in that period. Now, both the idea of the Hummer and the commercial brand it created are dead. [History]
Here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS.
What's your feeling on special editions? Do they make you want to buy a car that's about to go out of production? Would you rather just wait for the new car?