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?
Hey, look, we have a new commenting layout. You all said you weren't a big fan of the side-scrolling system so we've implemented a two-column layout which, if you click on, will show you even more information.
As with everything we do, it's iterative, so constructive critiques will go a long way towards making it all work.
1st Gear: Honda Thnks Chinese Buyers Don't Want Hybrids
Honda CEO Takanobu Ito told reporters at the Chinese auto show that, in his experience, Chinese buyers aren't particularly interested in hybrid or eco-friendly cars. This, despite the fact that the Shanghai Auto Show is full of them.
Here's what he told The Wall Street Journal and other reporters:
“Overall, we have high hopes for hybrid technology. In terms of how important it is to the Chinese market we are slowly releasing products and looking at how they do. But we think there are still more Chinese consumers who want to simply buy a car that fits their needs rather than buy a hybrid. By needs I mean a good-quality car with an affordable price that doesn’t break down. At present, we think these take higher priority.
If you were curious, Honda sold 542 hybrids in China out of nearly 600,000 vehicles sold last year (and it was a bad one).
Of course, it's more of a general indifference at this point than an outright hatred of green tech. For outright hatred just look at their attitude towards… well… the Japanese.
2nd Gear: But Cadillac Thinks Chinese People Love Brad Pitt
GM is taking advantage of the still strong Chinese market by expanding its Cadillac brand to even smaller markets, hoping to triple sales in China by 2015 according to Bloomberg.
That means nearly tripling the number of dealerships from 70 in 2011 to 200 by the end of 2013. There are already Caddy dealers in the larger cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and the like.
If it works that'll mean sales of 100,000 units a year, most of which will be locally built. Oh, and Brad Pitt is going to be pushing those cars because apparently Chinese people love Brad Pitt?
3rd Gear: And Nissan Just Wants Some Chinese Friends
Given the strong anti-Japanese bent of China's sometimes xenophobic view of history and the recent storm of xenophobic anti-Japanese rage, it's not surprise that the car Nissan brought to Shanghai is called the Nissan Friend-ME concept.
The aim of the new vehicle is to build a four-passenger sedan (you have to build sedans in China) that appeals to younger buyers so they'll have customers for life. Customers born in the 1980s (the Bālínghòu ) who will attain more status and money as they get older and buy more profitable vehicles.
As the name implies, there's also a social/smartphone aspect that allows occupants to share information and other content sourced from the web (once it passes through the censors).
4th Gear: Toyota Probably Wishes Gas Prices Were Higher
Toyota's never had a broader range of Prius vehicles with four variations (classic, tiny, MPV, and plugin) for sale around the world, which the brand hoped would lead them to 250,000 sales this year in the U.S. alone. Now Toyota's saying that may not happen because of falling fuel prices.
Per Chris Woodyard, Lentz told Bloomberg that "We'll continue to push Prius and Prius family, but if demand is less than the sales forecast, that may be adjusted."
I'd like to think people aren't buying Prii because they're dreadfully boring, but gas prices probably play into the consumer decision more than driving delight.
5th Gear: But Toyoda Still Loves America
Akio Toyoda seems like the perfect person to take over Toyota. He's had a run of shitty luck, but he's pushed good ideas and the company seems to be benefiting from it, as do consumers and enthusiasts.
For instance, the decision to build Lexus vehicles in the U.S. is one that probably would have taken the old Toyota forever to come to, but a recent shakeup that gave the U.S. more representation meant that, according to Automotive News, the decision was made to go forward with the plan in about a month.
That means Toyota will invest about $360 million in their Georgetown, Kentucky plant for a dedicated Lexus section. They'll be building the boring old ES, but maybe in the future they can expand that to cars enthusiasts want. I'd love to see a Lexus FR-S.
Frederick Henry Royce, who with Charles Stewart Rolls founded the luxury British automaker Rolls-Royce, dies on this day in 1933 at the age of 70 in England.
Royce was born on March 27, 1863, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, England. He grew up in a family of modest means and worked a variety of jobs, eventually becoming an electrician. In the mid-1880s, he founded a business that made electric cranes and electrical generators. In the early 1900s, after purchasing his first car, Royce began designing cars of his own, deciding he could build something better. Royce met British automotive dealer Charles Rolls, who agreed to sell Royce's cars; the two men later formed a company, Rolls-Royce Limited. Royce, who was known for his attention to detail and perfectionism, served as head engineer. The six-cylinder Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which debuted in 1906, was dubbed by the British press the world's "best car."
Neutral: China In The Driver's Seat More and more, decisions about what automakers will design and build are being made to suit Chinese tastes. Some of those moves, like long-wheelbase sedans, are impacting the cars available in the U.S. Is this a good or a bad thing?
Photo Credit: Getty Images