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: More Than 2 Million Of Them
The world wants cars. America builds cars. Manufacturers in the U.S. shipped a record 2.1 million new cars last year, a 73% increase from 2004.
What's going on? From Christina Rogers:
U.S. export growth defied a strengthening dollar last year, which makes the practice less profitable. A big part of the increase stems from America-built Fords, Jeeps, BMWs and even Nissans and Toyotas shipped overseas. A growing number of U.S.-made cars are now going to countries including China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
“The U.S. has become one of the low-cost places to build cars,” said Ron Harbour, a senior partner with the Oliver Wyman Inc. management consulting firm.
There's a C.R.E.A.M. angle here, too, as the dollar is usually weaker against the euro and the Japanese yen and the production plans go way back. Yes, the dollar is stronger now, but it's too recent to be a huge impact at the moment.
The global popularity of SUVs and CUVs also comes into play as the U.S. was originally the prime market for these vehicles, meaning that production is based here. As Asian and Middle Eastern markets want SUVs it only makes sense to continue to expand production in the United States.
2nd Gear: Audi Usurps Mercedes
Ze Germans continue to fight one another for market share in an increasingly tight race for the global luxury crown.
Audi is now ahead of Mercedes by about 12,000 cars which, considering how many they sell, doesn't seem like that much. The slight edge comes from an increase in China, which is its biggest market, as well as in the United States.
As Reuters points out, we're still waiting to see what BMW manages to pull off, although I'd guess they're going to edge out both.
3rd Gear: Americans Keep Buying Nissans
If it weren't for us yanks, Nissan would be seriously fucked. Europe remains weak, competition in China has increased, Japanese sales are decreasing, and Russia is in a free fall.
With all that, Nissan projects better-than-expected profits on the backs of hardworking Americans driving Nissan Rogues.
Net income will be 420 billion yen ($3.5 billion) in the year ending March, compared with its previous projection for 405 billion yen, the Yokohama, Japan-based company said in a statement today. Nissan also raised its projections for full- year operating profit and net revenue, though it cut the global delivery target by 150,000 vehicles to 5.3 million units.
Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn is counting on the U.S. to buffer the effect of a recession in Russia and slowing growth in Japan and China. Major automakers including Nissan all reported their best January U.S. vehicle sales in at least seven years, buoyed by cheap gasoline and falling unemployment.
“The U.S. is their biggest cash cow,” said Koji Endo, an auto analyst at Advanced Research Japan. “The strong trend will continue for a while and they will keep enjoying the ride in that market.”
Wait until they have a truck someone might actually buy!
4th Gear: GM Going To Build Bolt At Orion
Not surprisingly, the new Chevy Bolt all-electric vehicle will be built in GM's Orion Township plant where they build the Sonic.
Media days for the Chicago Auto Show begin Thursday with an opening address by Alan Batey, president of GM North America. There are also two Chevrolet press conferences scheduled over the two press days. An updated Equinox will be unveiled as well as other product news.
Basically, the Bolt is a Sonic platform with LG Chem batteries and a powertrain similar to the Spark EV.
5th Gear: Car Dealers Don't Want To Be The Next Target
The people who want to get your data are, it seems, smarter than the people whose job it is to project that data. With companies like Target and Home Depot having to deal with massive customer data breaches, auto dealers seem like a ripe target.
Dealers increasingly are turning to third-party software developers to create mobile apps and virtual showrooms to help sell cars. At the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in January, groups introduced new technologies such as personalized websites and tablet-based signature pads on which customers can sign documents during the car-buying process.
“Underpinning all of these new technologies is the need to secure information and to do it in a privacy sensitive way,” Hill said in an interview. “There’s a lot of information they have about customers. They must make sure they’re working with trusted providers to take that issue seriously.”
Better that they trust third-party software than try to do it themselves.
Reverse: He Dreamt Of Being A More Expensive S-Class
Automotive industry pioneer Wilhelm Maybach, who founded the luxury car brand bearing his name, is born on February 9, 1846, in Heilbronn, Germany.
Neutral: Will A Strong Dollar Kill U.S. Exports? Or will the world still want our SUVs and Honda Accords?
Photo Credit: Getty Images