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: Don’t Like It? No One Gives A Shit
But, like the under-eye cream I’ve been quietly stealing from my wife to deal with the weird wrinkle I’m getting between my eyes from furrowing my brows at Travis every time he suggests RVs aren’t cool, I have to accept that it wasn’t really designed for me.
Yes, friends, the Chinese had it figured out a long time ago. They sell us cheap plastic shit that breaks for a few decades, save up their money, and then we ship them fancy American cars designed to their specs. It’s kind of genius, if you think about it.
Sure, their labor laws suck, their environment is wrecked, and they have about as many restrictions on their speech as I have regrets about mentioning publicly that I’m using under-eye cream... wait, what was I saying?
Oh yeah, China. Here’s the WSJ’s take:
Mr. Fields said China will probably be Lincoln’s biggest market by 2020, a date by which he hopes to sell 300,000 Lincolns annually throughout the world, tripling today’s volumes. Lincoln officials declined to provide sales numbers because they are just getting started in the Chinese market.
Cadillac sold 73,000 cars in China last year. To gain a foothold in China, Cadillac has used its large XTS sedan, which represented 45% of Cadillac’s 2014 sales in the country. Mr. de Nysschen said more luxurious and capable offerings are needed if the brand is to be taken seriously.
Cadillac and Lincoln were once the envy of the global premium-car business, but fell behind after years of underinvestment and internal competition with other brands. After shedding many brands and restoring corporate finances, GM and Ford executives say returning the two luxury marques to prominence is a top priority.
As it should be.
Cadillac is further ahead at this point, but don’t count Cadillac out now that they seem to be flirting with an identity.
2nd Gear: The Cadillac CT6 Tries To Be Rick Ross Big, Lil B Light
Speaking of Cadillac, the CT6 is going to be overshadowed a bit by the big Lincoln for the same reason it isn’t news when Taylor Swift is sober in public but it is when Lindsay Lohan is. Don’t ignore the CT6, though, as the new big Caddy has beauty that’s beyond skin-deep.
Specifically, GM engineers have become obsessed with taking the weight out of their cars without having to go to full aluminum. The body of the CT6, for instance, is about 198 pounds lighter than a pure steel car would be. From Reuters:
CT6 engineers decided to use high strength steel around the passenger compartment. Aluminum would have been lighter, but steel makes a better sound shield, so the car needs less noise absorbing padding, Hester said.
GM saved money by eliminating costly metal-forming dies, in one case replacing 35 parts with one casting. “If done right, mixed materials takes costs out,” said Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development.
As they point out in the article, the car does start to add weight back in with the 20-inch wheels and other features that luxury buyers demand.
3rd Gear: Chinese Luxury Company Wants To Sell Cars In America
Because the world is a complex place, while American luxury brands are desperately trying to sell cars in China, Chinese-owned luxury brand Volvo is doing anything it can to sell more cars in the United States.
To wit, Bloomberg reports that Volvo will put about $500 million in building its first United States plant to build... something. We don’t know yet, but it’ll be XC90-based so assume some sort of crossover maybe?
This is all part of a bid to boost the brand from about 466,000 global sales last year to 800,000 by 2020, which is a tough road to hoe. In addition to the what there’s also the question of the where.
Will they build in the South? Will they build in the North? Can California make a play? What about Texas? South Carolina? Ohio?
4th Gear: The EPA Bluffed Automakers On Fuel Economy Standards
You’d think people would be too smart for the “I’ll offer 10, you’ll say 5, and then we’ll agree on 7.5” kind of negotiating by now, but it’s apparently how the world works.
In a new book on clean cars, the former head of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality comes out and admits they totally bluffed automakers on truck fuel economy standards to get them to agree on anything. Per David Shepardson:
In 2011,the EPA initially asked automakers for 5 percent increases in fuel efficiency for light trucks starting in 2017 but Oge says the agency wasn’t serious about it. “Our proposal is a straw man. Not only are we sure the car companies won’t accept it, but we never had any intention of pushing for 5 percent for light trucks outright,” Oge said, saying EPA’s own technology team didn’t think that was realistic. “
The Ann Arbor tech team doesn’t think it’s realistic that Chevy could improve the fuel economy on, say, a Silverado pickup by 5 percent year on year starting in 2017.”
Oge argues that it made sense to ask for more than the EPA really wanted because “we are expecting pushback from the companies no matter what we bring to the table. The proposal isn’t outrageous and it gives us a bit of wiggle room.”
They settled at 3.5%, which pissed off Japanese automakers so much she says a Toyota representative threatened to stop building trucks in Texas, which is something that would have never happened, but it’s entertaining to see how everyone negotiates.
The EPA plays tough, the Americans play dumb, and the Japanese threaten to take their ball and go home.
5th Gear: Go Buy A Chrysler Product Right Now If You Want One
Chrysler, more than anything, wants to hit five years of month-over-month growth. Is five years really that much better than 59 months? For them it is. As such, if you’re a dealer, there’s a ton of cash in it for you if you hit your sales goal and a huge profit loss (as much as $100,000 or more) if you don’t make it.
March is the last month to hit that goal and the sales month ends very soon, so go out today and see if you can make a deal. Automotive News has the whole story, including this tidbit:
In March 2014, the dealer sold 124 vehicles. This March, the dealer’s goal to receive a bonus has been 135 sales, despite this March having one fewer selling day, one fewer weekend, and the dealer no longer having Dodge Avengers to sell, as he had last year.
“These are stupid numbers,” the dealer said, adding that, as of last week, he was projecting to miss his monthly goal — and its attached payout — by 15 percent, or the equivalent of 20 cars, making him reconsider his aggressive hunt for the month.
“We’re being asked to just sell more in less time. At some point, you have to decide when to jump off the merry-go-round before you do something stupid.”
Not all dealers are willing to not do something stupid. Go take advantage of that dealer.
Reverse: Well, It Sort Of Worked
On this day in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama issues an ultimatum to struggling American automakers General Motors (GM) and Chrysler: In order to receive additional bailout loans from the government, he says, the companies need to make dramatic changes in the way they run their businesses.
Neutral: Would You Buy A Lincoln, Volvo Or Cadillac?
You’re going to buy a luxury vehicle, which of the three do you want? And yes, you can include concepts.
Photo Credit: Getty Images