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The next phase of the Truck Wars is smaller trucks, General Motors will soon rank among a growing number of large corporations with female-majority boards, Nissan may cut its global output and so much more for The Morning Shift of Good Friday, April 19, 2019.

1st Gear: The Next Front In The Truck Wars

Longtime Morning Shift customers know how lucrative and crucial the truck market is. Hell, it’s what keeps the lights on at the American automakers these days. So while the New York Auto Show had a lot of new cars but no major surprises, shockingly different ideas or revolutionary products, signs there point to the compact truck market being the next front of the truck war, reports USA Today:

• Volkswagen brought a pickup concept called the Tarok to the New York Auto Show “to gauge market reaction for a truly versatile and compact entry-level pickup.”

• Hyundai is planning a mashup of a pickup and a small SUV after introducing a concept called the Santa Cruz at the 2015 Detroit auto show. The vehicle will come “a little later” than 2020, said Hyundai Chief Operating Officer Brian Smith, and doesn’t yet have an official name.

• Ford is planning a compact pickup in the U.S. to go along with its recently revived Ranger, which was once considered a compact but has turned into a midsize model.

Taken together, these efforts amount to the next chapter in the pickup wars raging in the auto industry. First-quarter pickup sales have ballooned 30 percent from the same period in 2014, rising to 659,105 vehicles, according to car-buying advice site Edmunds.

Hyundai’s been talking about the Santa Cruz truck since forever but it looks like it’s finally happening. As for the Volkswagen Tarok or Tanoak, I think VW’s clearly interested in a unibody truck for the U.S. market but wants to make sure it’s a volume player—after all, Honda Ridgeline sales aren’t exactly blowing anyone’s minds.

But this is a good development since the trucks are too damn expensive anyway. From that same story:

One reason why it might work: Full-size and midsize pickups have become increasingly expensive in recent years as they’ve become more popular.

Americans are paying an average of $49,713 for full-size pickups in 2019, up about 47 percent from $33,828 in 2009, according to Edmunds. And they’re paying $34,322 for midsize trucks, up 45 percent over the same time period.

“The smaller trucks have a good selling proposition” for buyers who don’t want to break the bank, Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said.

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Will American buyers be willing to go smaller for better value?

2nd Gear: GM’s Board Will Be Led By Women

General Motors is already one of the few major large companies with a woman as its CEO, but starting next year it’s going to break more barriers. With two men on its board of directors retiring later this year, the group will be made of six women—including chair and CEO Mary Barra—and five men. It will then be the only women-led board in the auto industry.

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Here’s Bloomberg on what that means in the rest of the corporate landscape:

The shift comes as women are slowly gaining more power at the largest U.S. companies, lifted by pressure from investors and employees as well as state-mandated quotas. Researcher Equilar says women may now comprise half the members of Russell 3000 company boards by 2034, a forecast that has shortened by two decades since 2016.

Barring changes in the composition of other company boards, Barra and incoming Best Buy Co. CEO Corie Barry will become the only female CEOs in the S&P 500 who serve a board with a majority of female directors, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., the only other companies with a current majority of female directors, are both run by male CEOs.

Another 19 S&P 500 boards would swing to majority female directors with the addition of one more woman, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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Good signs of progress. GM, to its credit, also ranks highly in terms of gender equality in the workplace, pay equity, parenting leave and more. With luck they become the model for the rest of the auto industry on those fronts.

3rd Gear: Toyota Still Believes In Uber

Uber’s business model probably won’t be viable until it doesn’t have to pay those pesky human beings to drive the cars anymore, so it’s investing heavily in autonomous car technology. And for now, at least, Toyota is happy to kick some cash their way, reports Reuters:

Uber’s autonomous vehicle unit has raised $1 billion from a consortium of investors including SoftBank Group Corp., giving the company a much-needed funding boost for its pricey self-driving ambitions on the eve of its public stock offering.

Uber Technologies Inc. said on Thursday that the investment values its Advanced Technologies Group, which works to develop autonomous driving technology, at $7.25 billion. SoftBank will invest $333 million from its $100 billion Vision Fund, while Toyota Motor Corp. and affiliated supplier Denso Corp. will invest a combined $667 million.

Toyota will also contribute up to an additional $300 million over the next three years to help cover the costs of building commercial self-driving vehicles, Uber said.

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4th Gear: Nissan Kicks A GT-R Toward Notre-Dame

The fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral was a tragedy, but the #brands are stepping up to pledge money for the rebuilding effort. But while groups like LVMH are kicking in hundreds of millions of euros, Nissan dug into its couch and found enough spare change for the hilariously small amount of $112,000, reports Bloomberg.

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I’m not saying Nissan was supposed to bankroll the whole thing, just that, well... $112,000 isn’t that much money. Especially for one of the world’s largest automakers.

Nissan Motor Co. will donate 100,000 euros ($112,000) for the rebuilding of fire-ravaged Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, a pledge that comes as the Japanese automaker seeks to repair strained relations with the French government and partner Renault SA after former Chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested.

Nissan’s contribution is “in recognition of and appreciation for Nissan Europe and Renault employees as well as the people of France,” the company said in a statement Friday. Nissan joined a host of companies and individuals pledging more than $1 billion to rebuild one of the French capital’s most important landmarks after an April 15 blaze.

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Nothing screams “No hard feelings over Carlos Ghosn, right?” like a token 100-grand fire donation.

That’s not even the best part, which would be this:

Renault hasn’t announced a gift.

Oof.

5th Gear: Nissan Denies Reports Of Sharp Cuts

Speaking of Nissan, the Nikkei reported the automaker is planning huge production cuts this year in a reversal from its Ghosn-era aggressive growth strategy. But now Nissan swears that’s not the case. Here’s Reuters again:

“The details reported in this story are completely incorrect, and Nissan has voiced its strong objection to the Nikkei,” the Japanese automaker said in a statement posted on its website.

“Nissan’s production plan for the current fiscal year will be disclosed on May 14, when the company announces its financial results for the previous fiscal year,” said the maker of the Rogue sport-utility vehicle and Altima sedan.

The Nikkei reported that Nissan aimed to produce about 4.6 million units in fiscal 2019, citing plans being communicated to the automaker’s suppliers. The move was likely to impact earnings and could cast a pall over Nissan’s alliance with French automaker Renault SA, the Nikkei said without elaborating.

That would be the steepest production cut in more than a decade by the Japanese automaker, as it battles weak sales in overseas markets including the United States where it plans to scale back sales operations, according to the Nikkei.

Earlier this year, Nissan, which has been battling falling sales, lowered its operating profit forecast for the current fiscal year to 450 billion yen ($4 billion), 22 percent lower than a year earlier. It would be Nissan’s lowest profit since 2013.

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And here’s why the denial is notable:

Japanese companies typically respond to media reports by saying they were not the source of the information and, depending on the content of the report, that they may be considering various options and that nothing had been decided.

It is rare for a Japanese firm say it has issued a strong rebuke to a media outlet.

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We’ll see, I suppose.

Reverse: Heard Of This Guy? 

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Neutral: Is There Really A Market For Compact Trucks?

Beyond car enthusiasts on the internet who swear they’d buy one, along with all those wagons and Subaru BRZs if they just got a turbo engine.