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: Look Tough, Be Tough, Sell Tough
This article came out a couple of weeks ago, but I missed it and I think it’s an interesting take on why automakers are so keen on selling police cars to fleets despite the seemingly low profits, relatively small numbers, and general aversion to relying on fleet sales.
Bick Pratt, head of government fleet sales for Dodge, credits the law enforcement accounts with raising awareness of its muscular cars.
“You hate to see a Charger Pursuit grille in your rearview mirror,” he said. “But we think there’s a lot of carry-over in terms of the macho appeal of the vehicle.”
The Dodge Charger is the second-most-popular sedan that parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sells. Ford’s Explorer is one of the most popular SUVs on the market.
Bick Pratt? Are you kidding me? Why does everyone at Chrysler have such appropriately tough-sounding names like Mike Manley, Reid Bigland, and Chuck Mansaber?
2nd Gear: ‘Peak Car’ Is Not Hype!
So the trends clearly show that Americans are driving more than they did a few years ago. But that doesn’t mean calls of “peak car” missed the mark. Eric Sundquist and Chris McCahill of the State Smart Transportation Initiative point out that vehicle miles traveled per capita (which rose at a slower rate than total driving in 2014) remains well off its 2004 high—6.6 percent off, by their calculation.
Instead, Sundquist and McCahill believe there’s a “new normal” of American motorization: lots of driving, sure, but slower growth of car use than in the past, and likely some declines moving forward.
I’m not persuaded either way, but I do agree with the author’s conclusion that transportation patterns are changing and we need to consider that when shaping public policy.
3rd Gear: FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne Is Not An Engineer
The trial over a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a fiery rear-end crash that killed a four-year-old boy in Georgia included a videotaped deposition from Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in which he states, credibly, that he is “not an engineer” and then slightly less credibly that he has “no way of knowing” if Jeeps are safer with the fuel tank in front of or behind the rear axle.
That seems like a problem, however, I am not a lawyer.
4th Gear: The March To Mexico Continues
Mexico will pick up production of the next generation Chevy Cruze, which is currently built in Lordstown, Ohio. This, as every automaker looks to Mexico for its cheap trade and access to global markets.
Don’t worry, as Reuters reports, the company will still build the car in Lordstown, just as it builds the Cruze in something like a million other places.
GM will also build the new Cruze in South Korea, which is strange because GM made it sound like they’d never build anything in Korea again if they could avoid it.
5th Gear: New York To Start Car Loan Program To Curb Abuse
Unfortunately, predatory lenders exist and, instead of taking advantage of people who can afford to be taken advantage of, they prey on the weak. That’s why they’re called predatory lenders.
A common venue for predation is the used car market, where loans are made for crappy cars with usurious interest rates. And sure, you can say it’s their fault for not knowing better, but as a society we do a bad job of educating consumers and it’s the responsibility of the rest of us to help the less informed... if only because the costs of their mistakes tend to land on everyone else.
That’s why I’m glad to see the City of New York jumping in to start a loan program aimed at helping potential borrowers.
The stakes are high. “We know that for many families, especially those with low incomes, a car is the single largest purchase that they will make,” said Julie Menin, the commissioner of the consumer affairs department.
Deluged with complaints from frustrated consumers, the Department of Consumer Affairs is introducing the municipal auto loan initiative, a program that will effectively circumvent the dealerships by allowing troubled borrowers to get loans directly from a number of lenders throughout New York.
This isn’t the government handing out loans, this is merely the government helping connect potential borrowers with potential lenders who are more than happy and willing to loan at a reasonable rate.
Reverse: Almost Exactly A Year Older Than Me!
On this day in 1982, Danica Patrick, the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race, America’s top level of open-wheel racing, is born in Beloit, Wisconsin.
Neutral: Do Cop Cars Make You Want A Cop Car?
Does that Caprice on your tail make you want a Caprice?
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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