This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday morning. 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?
1st Gear: C.R.E.A.M. Italian Style
We've explained why the Jeep Renegade is a great option for consumers, but we should mention why it's great for Fiat Chrysler.
Sure, they're probably going to sell many of them and it'll help them reach their goal of moving a trillion Jeeps a year, but the real benefit to FCA is in running up their profits on the back of Italian autoworkers and a slumping euro.
What's going on?
The dollar is much stronger than usual relative to the euro and the vehicle is made in Italy, so when it's exported over here the company is making a higher profit margin. But wait, that's not all!
Not only can Fiat Chrysler extract fatter margins because it’s paying Italian workers in the European currency, the London-based company also benefits when it converts dollars from U.S.-made vehicles into euros for reporting purposes.
Yep, the dollar is stronger relative to where it usually is to the euro, but the euro is still greater. That's just good timing.
2nd Gear: Fiat Chrysler Doing Better But Needs To Even Better Than That
FCA is making money hand-over-blackberry-clutching-fist in the United States and it's even making a little euro to spend in Europe, but it's not necessarily going to be enough.
First, Fiat wants to spend more than $10 billion trying to make Maserati and Alfa a thing, as well as continue investments in core products like Jeep and their minivans.
Second, to do that sustainably they need to continue to make a lot of money in the United States, which they are currently doing.
Third, as Reuters points out, they're only making about a 4% profit margin in North America, which means that they're going to have to sell more than their cross-town rivals in order to make the same amount of profits.
Assuming they can avoid huge recalls next year they may be able to bump up that margin juuuust a bit.
3rd Gear: It's Not Like The Workers Are Getting Rich
An important story in the run up to the UAW negotiating a new contract with the Big 2.5 from Brent Snavely:
More than 42% of hourly workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have been hired since 2009 and make a lower wage than the longer-term workers — more than twice the percentage originally envisioned when UAW members approved the lower pay rate in 2007.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne bristled Wednesday at the suggestion that the lack of a cap on entry-level workers that Ford has in its UAW contract amounts to "favoritism."
"We are the fastest-growing North America brand, and we have had to hire people to get volumes up," Marchionne said Wednesday during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.
Expect more stories like this as every automaker says they've had to do what had to be done to stay alive and the UAW saying "yeah, on our backs assholes."
4th Gear: Ford Makes Less Money, But Less Less Than Expected
The best place to be in the market is to have low enough expectations that you can always beat them and Ford, for the last eight months at least, has been trying to lower those expectations.
It worked. Analysts expected Ford to make roughly, I don't know, $157.56 this quarter and they did better than that, bringing their pre-tax profit to $6.3 billion for 2014. Granted, that's down $2.3 billion, but it's not bad news when you convinced everyone that you've maxed out your credit cards.
The fourth-quarter results were driven by a $1.5 billion pre-tax profit in North America, down $252 million compared to a year ago. Ford made $6.9 billion in North America total in 2014, down from $8.8 billion because of lower sales volume and recall costs. Ford lost 1.1 percentage points of market share in North America to end the fourth quarter at 14.3 percent, largely related to lower F-150 share as the automaker cut production for the changeover to its new 2015 pickup.
Ford said strong U.S. sales helped offset some of the losses.
In South America, Ford lost $187 million in the fourth quarter, and finished the year with a $1.16 billion loss there. The automaker took a one-time $1.2 billion charge in the fourth quarter related to Venezuelan currency problems.
Ouch. $1.2 billion? Here we thought it was bad when it was just $700 million.
5th Gear: Dumb People Are Shorting Tesla, Dumb People Are Buying Tesla
I had a conversation with a person last week who had purchased what she intimated was a decent amount of Tesla stock, including some at a price north of $200 per share. In our conversation, she was shocked to learn about the EV tax credits Tesla was getting in the State of California and didn't realize she could access the company's quarterly filings online.
This person didn't at all strike me as an idiot, although clearly this investor had bought into the hype machine and had made an investment without doing any sort of actual research beyond – and I swear I'm not making this up – watching interviews with Elon Musk.
It's a matter of great internal debate as to whether or not the investor I spoke with or the people who are shorting Tesla because of slumping oil prices are acting more idiotically.
The high valuation has made it a target for short sellers. Bearish bets have jumped to 18 percent of shares outstanding, up from 9.7 percent in August and within the top 5 percent among stocks in the Russell 1000, according to Markit data. Short wagers climbed to a record 25 percent in 2012.
This isn't to say you couldn't make an informed decision to buy or sell Tesla, based on either the reasoning that the stock is either over-valued in the short term or potentially under-valued in the long-term if they manage to make the Model 3 work.
I'm just saying that if Tesla is to succeed it will succeed whether or not oil is $1 a barrel or $100 a barrel. Also, Tesla could fail in either case.
Reverse: There's A Conspiracy Theory In Here Somewhere
On this day in 1843, William McKinley, who will become the 25th American president and the first to ride in an automobile, is born in Niles, Ohio. McKinley served in the White House from 1897 to 1901, a time when the American automotive industry was in its infancy. During his presidency, McKinley (who died from an assassin's bullet in September 1901) took a drive in a Stanley Steamer, a steam-engine-powered auto built in the late 1890s by brothers Francis and Freelan Stanley. The Stanley Motor Carriage Company produced a number of steam-powered vehicles before going out of business in the early 1920s, after being unable to compete with the rise of less expensive gas-powered cars.
Neutral: How Many Jeep Renegades Are They Going To Sell? Throw out your guesses.
Photo Credit: AP Images