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: How Much Sexy Can You Handle Because You’re About To Get Lots Of Sexy From Lexus
Toyota CEO and noted car guy Akio Toyoda is working to push Lexus well past the staid, grandfatherly, Japanese-Buick it spent two decades establishing for itself. According to Automotive News, that means more extreme designs, more coupes and sedans, but also no wagons because he doesn’t find them sexy:
Lack of sexiness is one reason Lexus won’t chase European rivals in offering station wagons, Toyoda says. And it’s also a reason to not rush out a family-hauling, seven-seat SUV.
The car guy CEO, whose grandfather founded Lexus’ parent company, Toyota, says it is time for the brand to err on the side of emotion, rather than utility.
Interviewed at the Tokyo Motor Show last week, Toyoda said Lexus is entering a new phase symbolized by the LF-FC concept that debuted here, an elegant fuel cell sedan, and the RC coupe launched last year.
The key words are “emotional and cool,” he said. The kind of cars being considered internally underscores the new outlook.
I think wagons are cool, Akio. :(
Much to the chagrin of Lexus dealers however, this means the brand is putting the brakes on a larger three-row crossover for now, which is something buyers have been clamoring for for some time.
2nd Gear: If We Don’t Someone Else Will
One big thing we learned from the Tokyo Motor Show is that the Japanese automakers are planning to go big on autonomous driving, the goal being to get cars that self-drive on the highway out to the public by 2020.
In particular, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn doesn’t want to cede territory to new players in the tech space, reports Automotive News:
Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn, the Japanese industry’s most vocal proponent of automated driving, said Nissan intends to harness the same pioneering spirit that led it to gamble on the Nissan Leaf and turn it into the world’s top-selling electric car. If Nissan doesn’t, he said, challengers will.
“The tech companies will take as much space as we are ready to abandon,” Ghosn toldAutomotive News in a reference to Apple, Google and Uber, all of which have assembled sizable teams of experts on self-driving cars. “If we leave ground uncovered, if we are slow in developing autonomous cars, neglecting connected cars, well, guess what? We’re going to be calling for more competition coming from outside the industry.”
3rd Gear: No One Cares About Quality Ratings
Perhaps the biggest winner with this trend of cheaper gas has been Jeep, which has seen surging sales numbers over the past year. That’s in spite of consistently poor quality and reliability ratings from publications like Consumer Reports. Bloomberg reports on this trend:
Instead Jeep is, by any other measure, a massive hit. The iconic brand is closing in on a second-straight year as the fastest-growing major auto line in the U.S. Sales in the market rose 23 percent this year through September, outpacing second-place Subaru’s 14 percent, after soaring 41 percent last year. Jeep, along with Ram, is the main moneymaker for the third-largest automaker in the U.S., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
“Jeep reminds me of the European sports cars of the late ’50s and ’60s,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com. “They were just nightmares in terms of quality and reliability, but people still loved them. Jeep is unique. People of all ages really aspire to owning one. It has a certain cachet, regardless of the surveys.”
4th Gear: ‘10 To 20’ People Responsible For VW’s Diesel Cheating
We still have few answers as to who exactly was responsible for Volkswagen’s diesel emissions cheating practices. Citing unnamed sources within the company, Reuters reports that 10 to 20 are believed to be directly involved in the scandal:
A source told Reuters earlier this month that more than ten senior managers had been suspended during an internal inquiry at the German carmaker. Sources have provided the names of six suspended top managers including three brand executives.
“The number of people responsible will not be confined to a handful,” the person said, declining to be identified because the matter is supposed to be confidential. “This should be a two-digit number in the range of between 10 and 20.”
5th Gear: Mixed Support For UAW-GM Deal
Thousands of General Motors’ hourly workers will begin voting today on the proposed deal between their union and the automaker, but two plants who have already voted on the plan are split on it. From The Detroit News:
UAW hourly employees at GM’s first two assembly plants to vote on a new tentative agreement split their votes: Lansing Grand River Assembly favored it, but Fairfax Assembly in Kansas City, Kansas voted it down by a 2-1 margin.
GM Flint Assembly, Arlington Assembly, Orion Assembly and Toledo Transmission employees are among UAW members slated to vote on the deal Monday. Still other locals will vote later in the week.
The tentative agreement, if ratified nationally, would provide 52,600 members a larger bonus from the 2011 contract, raises and would move entry-level workers to the same health care plan as veteran workers.
Neutral: What Can Lexus Do To Get Sexy?
I actually think they’ve been on the right track lately. Their cars might not be beautiful in the traditional sense, but they’re bold and different—and increasingly potent when it comes to performance.
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