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: Money Is How You Change Things
Fiat Chrysler’s been in a rough way as of late. Not only has it completely failed at the way it handles recalls, but the quality of its cars tends to be such crap that last year its fired the guy responsible. In an effort to change all that, it has decided to change the way it goes about the quality business, according to the Automotive News:
Fiat Chrysler plans to no longer hold its purchasing staffers to individual cost-saving goals on parts. The goals had effectively tied the staffers’ hands when suppliers sought pricing relief.
Instead, the automaker says that cost savings goals will be managed by teams, allowing greater flexibility with individual suppliers.
Mind you, FCA isn’t saying that it actually plans to drop more money, just that it plans to drop money differently. The plan is to no longer take money away from individual people if they can’t meet their cost goals. But at the same time, it’s unclear what will happen if someone needs extra cash for a component. Will some other component, bought by another buyer in the same team, have to suffer to make up for it? And will there actually be a change in the quality of its products? Who knows, really, but we’ll find out when the policy goes into effect next year.
2nd Gear: But Money Can’t Save Us All From The Inevitable
Johanna Quandt, who was Germany’s second wealthiest woman due in large part to her 17% stake in BMW, has died. Quandt, 89, came into her estimated $11.6 billion first by serving as BMW chief Herbert Quandt’s personal assistant in the 1950s, and then marrying the guy.
BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer praised her “warm and uncomplicated manner,” according to the Financial Times, but the Quandt family legacy is most definitely complicated. The family, including Herbert and his half-brother Harald, had strong ties to the Nazis, and built much of its early empire on the back of the cruelty and horror of slave labor.
With her death, control of BMW finally passes completely from the first generation of Quandts. Her shares will pass to her children Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten, who already sit on BMW’s supervisory board.
3rd Gear: Speaking of money, Lexus is trying out not letting you haggle with it
Lexus, in an effort to goose sales in the long-term, is looking to experiment with a haggle-free dealership experience, according to the Detroit Free Press:
[Jeff Bracken, general manager of Toyota’s Lexus luxury division,] announced today at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars that a dozen handpicked Lexus dealers will start a pilot project where prices for new and used cars as well as parts and service have set prices that are not subject to negotiation
Dealers must be willing to let customers walk away if they don’t like the set price.
The last brand to make that move was Saturn, and I can make some cheap joke about “har har har look how it worked out for them,” but the truth of the matter is that Saturn wasn’t done in by its haggle-free dealership experience, but by a whole bunch of other things.
There are advantages and disadvantages to going haggle-free, but I can see the appeal. Best of luck to you with that, Lexus.
4th Gear: And Volkswagen Is Still Trying To Understand Americans
You might think that because you see VWs everywhere, that the United States is a big market for Volkswagen. But it isn’t, as only 6% of Volkswagen-brand sales come from the US. Volkswagen thinks this isn’t because Americans are horrified by beigekrieg, but because it doesn’t understand the American market. To rectify that, it’s putting a bunch of engineers in America. Again, from the Freep:
Volkswagen is hoping the establishment of a centralized engineering and product development center in Chattanooga, Tenn., will help it sell more cars in the U.S. and update its product lineup faster.
Maybe they’ll figure out we want more GTI, and less, well, whatever it is that it’s been doing with much of its lineup.
5th Gear: Tesla’s Still Trying To Get Into Places
It wouldn’t be a day here on TMS without some sort of Tesla news, and today we’re hearing more about Tesla trying to get into Motor City. Michigan, like a few other states, won’t allow the electric automaker to sell cars directly to its customers. Tesla’s probably got an even bigger uphill battle there than in other places, considering how entrenched the Big Three are, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still trying. This week it’s been meeting with everyone in Michigan that will listen, according to the Detroit News:
Meetings with dealers, automakers, legislators and officials from [Governor] Snyder’s office have been ongoing, Jim Chen, Tesla’s vice president of regulatory affairs said Tuesday.
“We have been meeting throughout the entire year,” said Chen, who said he was in Michigan a week ago. “It’s something we’re continuing to work on.”
Chen said Tesla wants to invest in Michigan. He said the company works with more than 50 Michigan-based suppliers.
More choice! More choice for everyone!
Reverse: Don’t Forget The Boats
On this day in 1947, Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completes a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti.Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands by drifting on ocean currents.
Neutral: Do You Actually Like Haggling?
On the one hand, tense negotiations can be stressful. On the other, you might end up getting a pretty steep discount. Do you think haggling actually benefits or hurts the consumer?