Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know as we await the rise of the machin—crossovers?
1st Gear: Surprise, Chevy’s New Crossover Is Pouncing On Its Sonic Sales
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A crossover is outselling other cars on a manufacturer’s lineup. Bring yourself back around after that earth-shattering news about crossovers still taking over the car market, and we’ll talk about it.
Sales for Chevrolet’s Sonic, the adorable little subcompact that you’d consider rallying but maybe pass on for a long road trip, are on a steep decline. Sales really took a downturn when the Chevy Trax subcompact crossover arrived in America at the end of 2014, according to Automotive News.
The Trax and Sonic are built on the same small architecture but in different areas of the world, according to Automotive News: The Sonic has long been the flagship for building subcompact cars in the U.S., which a lot of companies just don’t do because of the cost, and the Trax comes from Mexico and South Korea.
Americans just can’t get over this crossover craze, and Automotive News reports that the Trax has the fastest-growing subcompact crossover U.S. sales in the industry at 33-percent growth through May.
Look at the sales numbers, courtesy of Autmotive News:
In addition to the Trax outselling the Sonic almost three to one, Automotive News reports that buyers paid $5,100 more for the Trax in May and even paid $1,500 more for the Trax than the Cruze compact car.
Crossovers sell. We get it.
2nd Gear: What Ford CEO Jim Hackett Wants To Change
Jim Hackett is in and Mark Fields is out at Ford Motor Company, meaning the clock already started counting down on when he’ll make changes. Hackett, who replaced Fields as the CEO after his firing was announced in May, has a plan lined out for his first 100 days “in office” and it sure is ambitious.
Here’s an outline of what Hackett plans to do in his first 100 days, from the Detroit Free Press:
Re-evaluate revenue opportunities: With U.S. industry sales plateauing or falling, Hackett said Ford must look for new revenue opportunities and review areas where the company is not making money.
Evaluate the “fitness of the company”: This means trying to figure out the best, most efficient way to operate the business or making sure the best process is being followed to create products. “It’s actually finding ways to design things so that we don’t have redundancy and overlap,” Hackett said.
Re-evaluate capital deployment: Hackett wants to make sure Ford is getting an acceptable return on its investments.
Renew focus on innovation: Hackett wants to make sure the automaker is as focused as possible on becoming a leader on the development of autonomous vehicles and on emerging opportunities as a mobility service provider.
Hackett told the Free Press that he and executive chairperson Bill Ford plan to flatten out the corporate structure at Ford, so that management “doesn’t feel the weight of hierarchy on every decision.”
Hackett didn’t talk much about the direction of Ford’s products with the Free Press, other than a few mentions of design and self-driving cars. But one thing we can count on is that Ford won’t be producing flying cars anytime soon. Thank goodness, if we’re honest.
3rd Gear: Speaking Of Things That Fly
The craze for personal flying vehicles, which has been a thing for 100 years, is still in full swing. The latest to jump on is a company called Neva Aerospace, which, refreshingly, doesn’t seem to be making its personal vehicle adaptable to the road as well.
The company didn’t specifically call its vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle a “flying car” in its press release, and the vehicle doesn’t appear to have wheels in the early renderings of it.
But the envisioned fully electric vehicle flies, and renderings show a person mounting it like a motorcycle. From Wired:
The aircraft uses four electric turbofans, which the consortium members have already proven in other vehicles like drones. The whole thing will weigh in at a little over 1,000 pounds, including 330 pounds for the batteries and 220 for the pilot and his funky purple suit.
That setup should yield a flight time of 30 minutes at 50 mph, Neva promises. Its 25-mile range is plenty to get from one side of a congested city to the other, it will take off and land vertically, and you’ll charge it the way you power up an electric car—just plug it in. Longer term, Neva might add a small engine to run a generator and extend the range, but that plus the fuel it would burn comes with a big weight penalty, and weight is the enemy when it comes to electric powered flight.
The company said in its press release that the vehicle should be able to reach altitudes of up to 3,000 feet, and the advertised benefits of the vehicle include robotic maintenance, city transportation, heavy lifting, personal use and “extreme sports and leisure.”
Sounds extremely probable that we’ll have one of these soon—just like Toyota’s flying car in the works.
4th Gear: More Crossovers
In case you noticed the drastic, terrible, horrible shortage of crossovers and SUVs in this land we call America—there isn’t a shortage, that’s sarcasm—Automotive News reports that Mercedes-Benz plans to up its numbers of those types of vehicles on the lots.
The decision came after Mercedes realized that it has been “significantly short of the right inventory” on dealer lots in the U.S. so far this year, a dealer-board chairman told Automotive News. One of the main models getting a boost is the GLC compact crossover, with Automotive News that dealers have been almost out of GLCs and GLAs.
From Automotive News:
Mercedes officials declined to comment on the added allocation. But the increase is part of a pattern at Mercedes and other brands as U.S. consumers shift to SUVs and crossovers. The latest boost follows a bump in SUV allocation announced to Mercedes dealers in January and increases in 2016.
For all of 2016, crossovers and SUVs made up 46.6 percent of the Mercedes luxury mix (excluding commercial vans), up from 40.2 percent in 2015.
For the first five months of 2017, crossovers and SUVs account for 45.8 percent of the brand’s luxury mix, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Through May, the brand’s SUV and crossover sales were down 3.8 percent.
Just what we all need: more crossovers and SUVs. Hallelujah.
5th Gear: Cars 3 Crossed The Line First At The Box Office
Ahead of even Wonder Woman, which has been out since June 2, Bloomberg reports that the newest Cars movie topped the box office on its opening weekend. The movie, full of Zumba music, female empowerment and even a ghost track, had $53.5 million in revenue on its first weekend in theaters.
Cars 3’s weekend numbers beat out all of the movies it premiered with on June 16, including: All Eyez On Me, $27.1 million; 47 Meters Down, $11.5 million; and Rough Night, $8.1 million. The kids love the cars, everyone—well, the animated ones, at least. The youth car culture is not dead.
It was a really wonderful movie, if you were on the fence about being the only person who isn’t 7 years old in the theater. Everything also isn’t as terrible as it seemed for Lightning McQueen in the trailers. Go treat yourself to it.
Reverse: Michael Schumacher Wins 2005 U.S. Grand Prix Over Five Other Cars
The U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 19, 2005 was a weird one. Twenty cars were supposed to start the race, but only six showed up on the grid that Sunday. The other 14 staying in the garage choosing not to race on tires deemed to be unsafe after a practice puncture in a high-speed area of the track, according to CNN.
Fans “hissed and hurled bottles” when Schumacher, who would later have a debilitating skiing accident in December 2013, crossed the line in first, according to CNN. What a strange race it was.
Neutral: What Should Ford’s Big Game Plan Be?
The 100-day plan for new Ford CEO Jim Hackett is fine and all, but it’s lathered, rinsed and repeated in corporate lingo. With all of the power shifts and new jobs settling in, what do you want to see from Ford in the next however many years ahead?
Correction: The Trax is built in South Korea, not North Korea as originally stated. That has been updated.