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 before I make you come over and fix my sad, neglected Porsche.
1st Gear: Toyota Sinks Big Bucks Into Making The New Fancy Camry
There’s a new Camry on the way, and it finally looks a bit more interesting than a sad, melted bar of soap on wheels! To make it happen, though, Toyota is sinking its largest ever investment into an existing United States manufacturing plant, reports the Washington Post.
The automaker will spend $1.33 billion on upgrades to its huge Georgetown, Kentucky, plant, which accounts for almost a quarter of Toyota’s North American vehicle production, including the Toyota Camry and Avalon as well as the Lexus ES 350. Much of the upgrade will go into retooling the line for the new Camry, as well as into updating equipment that can help streamline production all over.
Toyota plans to spend a total of $10 billion in the United States over the next five years.
No new jobs will be created beyond the 700 additional workers hired in advance of the new Camry’s release, however, they’re keeping around all 8,200 members of the plant’s existing workforce.
2nd Gear: Nissan’s New CEO Wants More EVs, And Mitsubishi To Stop Sucking In The U.S.
There’s a turn at the track I always go to named “Santa Rita,” after the patron saint of the impossible task. I don’t know if Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa is of that particular religious bent, however, he might want to bcc: her on a few emails. Chief among his goals are a bigger push into electric vehicles by Nissan (sounds nice!), and getting Mitsubishi to play a larger role in the United States (uh-oh), per Automotive News.
Saikawa, the first Japanese Nissan CEO in 16 years, told Automotive News a new Leaf EV that will debut in Japan this year will eliminate some of the range anxiety that plagues the current model. Before 2020, Nissan wants their EVs to be able to reach 300 miles on a single charge. (The current Leaf only goes 107 miles.) Additionally, Saikawa suggested they may develop another EV in addition to the Leaf, and add electric powertrain options to some of Nissan’s existing models.
Mitsubishi sales will be a tougher nut to crack, though. Mitsubishi only sold 96,267 vehicles in the United States last year, making up only 0.5 percent of the U.S. market. This is where I’d advise against keeping the same car around for nearly a decade with only mild facelifts, but Nissan’s been pretty bad about that, too.
That being said, Nissan executives are already working with Mitsubishi on reserach, development, product planning and other areas, and Saikawa says they can help further by sharing platforms and engineering. They won’t rebadge any Nissans as Mitsubishis as both marques compete with each other in the United States, however, we may get reworked Renaults in their place.
3rd Gear: Volvo Is Just As Worried About Trump As The Rest Of Us
Trade restrictions such as the border adjustment tax proposed by Trump could be devastating to foreign marques like Volvo, whose North American CEO Lex Kerssemakers warned Reuters that increased costs could be passed:
It’s very bad business for us unless we transfer all that extra money towards the list price.
The customer is the loser, or we are the loser. Everybody’s the loser
Any import taxes could come at precisely the wrong time, as the marque is about to hire 4,000 workers for a new $500 million plant in South Carolina. The plant will produce Volvo’s S60 sedan, and is set to open in late 2018.
4th Gear: Crossovers Are Still A Thing As Car Sales Decline A Bit
In completely unsurprising news, roughly one in every three vehicles sold since October 2016 has been a crossover, per Automotive News. That’s 1.4 million of the 4 million vehicles sold in the first quarter of 2017. Crossover sales are up 58 percent since 2016, while car sales have declined 7.8 percent.
What’s to blame for everyone’s newfound love for big beige-boxes? Lower gas prices. Kelley Blue Book analyst Tim Fleming told Automotive News:
It’s something that has been going on for more than 10 years. It just really accelerated three years ago when gas prices came down — when fuel economy became less of a concern.
So far, the biggest seller has been the Nissan Rogue, so they’re at least doing something right over there.
However, for the first time since 2009, 2017 started off the year with a decline in automotive sales. Auto sales are down 1.6 percent for the first quarter of 2017. Automotive News suggests that we may be in for a down year, despite expected growth in the U.S. economy.
5th Gear: The Demon Is Already Stealing The Hellcat’s Mojo
With the introduction this week of a new ultra-mega-halo-muscle car for Dodge, the old Hellcat is losing its appeal. Alternatively, now may be the time to pick up a low-mile, probably-not-gently-used Hellcat. Automotive News writes:
Autotrader listed more than 2,500 new Hellcat-powered Chargers and Challengers at U.S. dealerships last week. While that’s not a huge number given Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ roughly 2,400 U.S. dealerships, it’s a big turnaround for cars that had people leaving nonrefundable cash deposits less than three years ago.
Hundreds of the 2016 and 2017 Hellcats still carry dealer markups of as much as $10,000 over sticker that infuriated consumers when the Hellcats were launched in 2014. But hundreds of other new Hellcat Chargers and Challengers are now discounted as much as $13,000 under sticker, according to the dealer ads on Autotrader.
Demand has finally caught up to production. Those who wanted a Hellcat mostly have theirs by now, or they’re putting it up for sale to make way for the new Challenger SRT Demon.
Of course, these low Hellcat sales could be part of a wider market saturation with muscle cars, as Kelley Blue Book managing editor Matt DeLorenzo told Automotive News:
There’s been similar stuff going on with Mustang and Camaro. The market for these things may have been saturated. If you look at all the high-performance V-8 cars out there, things aren’t selling.
It’s a good thing the new Demon is a crazy halo car, then. Muscle cars just aren’t volume sellers right now.
Reverse: The Real Fastest Car In The World, According To Top Gear
Neutral: What would you do to bring Mitsubishi back in the United States?