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 read because cars are the greatest oh yes they are the greatest.
1st Gear: It’s Not That Simple
“Oh, just bring the factory back from China,” people say. “People will buy things if they’re made in America!” they add. But it’s not so easy. Even when things are assembled in the United States, the parts themselves often are not, as Reuters explained in a big feature that used motorcycle and go-kart maker Monster Moto as an example:
When companies reshore assembly to U.S. soil – in Monster Moto’s case that took two years to find a location and negotiate support from local and state officials – they are betting their demand will create a local supply chain that currently does not exist.
For now, finding U.S.-based suppliers “remains one of the top challenges across our supplier base,” said Cindi Marsiglio, Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s (WMT.N) vice president for U.S. manufacturing and sourcing. Wal-Mart partnered with Monster Moto and several other U.S. companies in a drive to increase spending on American-made goods by $250 billion by 2023 in response to consumer demand for American-made goods.
And even worse, a lot of the reason why companies moved manufacturing overseas isn’t in pursuit of some nefarious plan to impoverish the American worker. They did it because we, the American people, demanded it through the constant hunger of lower prices. Lower prices can often only be achieved by cutting costs, and a large part of lowering corporate costs is lowering the price of labor. Or eating into a chunk of their profits.
And corporations refuse to give up on their profits.
So when companies bring manufacturing back, they raise prices. Which means fewer people buy their products, “Made in USA” label be damned. The vicious cycle continues.
2nd Gear: Vehicle To Vehicle Communication Stuck In Limbo
Vehicle to Vehicle, or V2V communication, is vital to the autonomous car revolution. If you’re having trouble understanding why that is, think about when someone in another car waves you on from an intersection or something. That sort of thing is vital. A lack of communication contributed to the first at-fault crash of a Google car. One of the main obstacles to V2V implementation is the lack of a universal standard, so that a Toyota could talk to a Chevrolet, for example, instead of being locked into talking to only other Toyotas.
That standard was coming around thanks to a proposed rule from the Obama administration, but now who the hell knows, partially because of the complete inaction of the supposedly “pro-business” Trump administration, and partly because of opposition from groups opposed to the proposed technology to be used as the standard, or those just opposed to any sort of government mandate whatsoever, Bloomberg reports:
The Obama administration proposed the rule in December, saying it could eliminate 80 percent of vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers. If the rule is finalized, all new light-duty vehicles would be required within four years to be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems. The technology will work hand-in-hand with new automated safety devices, such as automatic braking, in another step toward making driverless vehicles a reality, the Department of Transportation said at the time.
More than 400 people and organizations filed formal opinions with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by last week’s deadline, reflecting a wide range of viewpoints.
The end result is that fully autonomous cars will probably be delayed for a few years. We’ll figure it out someday, maybe.
3rd Gear: There’s A Good Chance Your Next Rental Car Will Be A Nissan
Rental cars are usually the bane of human existence. Unpleasant, disgusting, and poorly maintained, any car that gets a reputation as a rental car generally also gets a reputation as a bad car. That’s been an influence on a lot of manufacturers moving away from rental fleet sales, but not Nissan. Automotive News says Nissan is going all-in on rentals:
“It’s part of the business,” Munoz told Automotive News during a wide-ranging discussion at last week’s New York auto show. “The dollars we get are relevant, so we’re going to continue to be there, even if other companies don’t want to.”
Munoz made the defiant declaration partly in response to criticism from competitors about Nissan North America’s overall market share growth. Detractors have commented — usually in hushed tones — that Nissan’s climb to a 10 percent U.S. market share has relied on increased sales to rental fleets rather than organic demand from retail customers.
“Money is money” actually isn’t a bad position for a for-profit corporation.
4th Gear: Chinese Brands Are Trying To Succeed In Their Own Market
The Chinese car market is huge, owing to China’s huge population, but the upper echelons of it are dominated by foreign competition. Even in China, Chinese cars aren’t exactly regarded as the standard bears of quality, technology, and luxury. And Chinese companies are looking to change that, according to Reuters:
Zhang said SAIC’s MG and Roewe - brands based on technology acquired from bankrupt British car maker MG Rover - plan a total of five car models and nine sport utility vehicles, and would aim to offer quality comparable to global brands such as Nissan, but at a lower price.
A concept shown to reporters for an MG sports coupe it will exhibit at this week’s Shanghai auto show could pass for a Jaguar.
“I worry for them,” Zhang said of the global brands. “You see local technology getting stronger and stronger.”
I find the idea of an MG, based on old and sad British tech, passing for a Jaguar to be entirely preposterous. Impossible. No way.
Not yet, anyways.
5th Gear: United Airlines Reports Earnings Tonight
Reverse: Hey, It’s The Mustang
The Ford Mustang, a two-seat, mid-engine sports car, is officially unveiled by Henry Ford II at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York, on April 17, 1964. That same day, the new car also debuted in Ford showrooms across America and almost 22,000 Mustangs were immediately snapped up by buyers. Named for a World War II fighter plane, the Mustang was the first of a type of vehicle that came to be known as a “pony car.” Ford sold more than 400,000 Mustangs within its first year of production, far exceeding sales expectations.
Neutral: Where’s Your Car From?
If you have a relatively new car and you take a look at your Monroney, it should say both the location of the final assembly for your car, as well as its “foreign parts content.” What’s yours?
(I drive a Yugo. None of it is from here.)