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.
1st Gear: It’s Hard Out There For The Dart
Like a number of Fiat Chrysler products, the Dodge Dart isn’t a bad car, just a deeply uncompetitive one. And one that has, lately, been completely eviscerated by SUV and truck sales spurred by cheap gas prices. So FCA is putting it out to pasture eventually, along with its cousin the Chrysler 200.
In the meantime, the Dart is getting a price and trim level slash as Dodge attempts to unload as many of them as they can on people who probably should have bought a Mazda3 or a Honda Civic instead, reports The Detroit Free Press:
Until then, the Dart will be sold as the Dart SXT Sport, Dart Turbo and Dart GT Sport. Currently, the 2016 is available in SE, SXT, Aero, Limited and GT variants.
“We are repositioning the Dart lineup to better align production and dealer inventory with consumer demand and preference,” Tim Kuniskis, FCA’s head of passenger car brands, said in a statement. “The simplification of Dart models ... makes it easier for dealers to order and stock vehicles that customers are looking for.”
FCA said dealers can begin ordering for new variations of the 2016 Dodge Dart this month.
The remaining three Dart models are priced between $1,100 and $1,600 lower than their comparable models. However, the starting price of the entry level Dart will be higher because FCA is eliminating the Dodge Dart SE, which currently starts at $16,495.
Good luck with that.
2nd Gear: GM Is In Kansas Anymore
Speaking of how small cars are struggling at the moment, General Motors is set to reallocate a $245 million investment slated for a Detroit-area plant to one in Kansas where a crossover is likely to be build. Here’s Automotive News:
GM said in June that it would upgrade its Orion Assembly plant near Detroit in preparation for an undisclosed, all-new vehicle by 2018. Sources at the time told Automotive News that the vehicle was a Cadillac small crossover.
GM said late Monday that the investment would instead be made at its Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan. The company did not identify the vehicle.
The switch is “part of our ongoing product allocation process to build vehicles as cost-effectively as possible to benefit our customers and the business,” a spokeswoman said in an email. “The $245 million investment will go to Fairfax for the new vehicle program.”
The Orion plant builds the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano right now, but the latter is likely slated to move to Mexico; the plant will build the Bolt EV instead.
3rd Gear: Dieselgate, The Movie
Filmmaker Steve Kalafer is a three-time Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker. He’s also got an axe to grind against Volkswagen, as he owns a VW dealer franchise. Now he’s taking his rage to the screen in a new film, reports Automotive News:
The new one is called Backfire: The Volkswagen Fraud of the Century, and Kalafer is living the story himself.
In 39 years as a dealer, Kalafer has seen car companies in crisis before — such as with the Ford Pinto disaster in the 1970s and Audi’s unintended-acceleration fiasco in the 1980s. Those brands eventually recovered, but Kalafer isn’t so sure about VW in the wake of its diesel emission crisis.
Kalafer, who is chairman of the 17-franchise Flemington Car & Truck Country that includes a VW dealership in Flemington, N.J., says decisive measures are needed to address the harm inflicted on customers and dealers.
“I started with two gas pumps and a one-car showroom. I’ve been with all of these manufacturers all of these years,” Kalafer said in an interview in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas while the National Automobile Dealers Association convention was in town. “The reality is that unless these issues are dealt with straightforwardly, honestly and with equity, Volkswagen in hindsight will have destroyed their company.”
A documentary sounds fun, but I’m still holding out for a dramatization. Channing Tatum will play me, and Vin Diesel will play Jason Torchinsky.
4th Gear: Re-Fixing The Fixes
Here’s some more Dieselgate news: in Europe, VW will delay the recall of 160,000 Passats and Skoda models after fixes to the emissions violations were found not to work, Reuters reports.
Checks by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) showed that fuel consumption of some 2.0 liter diesel engines had increased following a software update to fix the problems, a spokesman for the company said.
“We have to go back to work on the software again,” he said, adding 160,000 Passat and Skoda Superb cars were affected.
5th Gear: Chinese Brands Struggle In China
Bloomberg has a piece on how Chinese automaker BYD is seeking to create a “Tesla-like buzz” in its home market with good branding at a time when Chinese buyers don’t exactly have a high opinion of home market brands. Those buyers would rather buy into fancy foreign cars like Buicks and Audis.
From the story:
Chinese carmakers, like the Korean and Japanese brands before them, are struggling to upgrade their image and move beyond reputations for making cheap, utilitarian vehicles sometimes accused of ripping off more established competitors. For BYD, a mass-market image hampers the company’s ability to charge a premium and differentiate its brand.
As China’s biggest maker of electric vehicles, BYD is vulnerable to being squeezed out of the top end of the market by companies such as Tesla, with its cult-like appeal that consumers pay a premium for. At the low end, dozens of small-time manufacturers are competing on price.
A host of companies, many without auto-making experience, also have staked a claim to creating connected electric vehicles as the government has encouraged technology companies to help upgrade the traditional auto industry.
Reverse: Father Of MG
Neutral: What Can Fiat Chrysler Do To Get Small Cars Right?
Or does that market just not matter in the era of SUV dominance?