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: Then What Was The Auto Show For?
The debut of the updated 2018 Ford Mustang yesterday came as a weird January surprise, considering it happened a week after the biggest auto show in North America and one where most of Ford’s big news was about mobility and trucks that don’t exist yet. What happened? Lord knows we could have used some news at the Detroit Auto Show besides just the new Toyota Camry.
Evidently, Ford chose to reveal the updated Mustang at the show floor itself, to a random crowd and not during the customary media preview days, as well as simultaneous events in New York and LA. But The Detroit Free Press says dealers, show-goers and reporters alike feel short-changed:
Anybody who paid good money for a ticket to the show’s Charity Preview Friday or public days Saturday, Sunday and Monday has reason to complain that Ford hid the fact that they could see the Mustang’s new looks and features if they stayed home until Tuesday.
Somewhere out there, a mom or dad is explaining to Mustang-loving children they didn’t get to see the new model because Ford was playing “I’ve Got A Secret” when the family spent its time and money on a day at the show.
The Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which puts the show on and includes many Ford dealers, also has a legitimate gripe. Speaking for myself, and many of the other journalists from around the world who attended Ford’s news conference at the show Jan. 9, a look at the 2018 Mustang and a few hints about its improved performance would have been a welcome addition to Ford’s very light presentation.
It was a weird move on Ford’s part, but I’m sure we’ll all get over it. Someday.
2nd Gear: Automakers Still Haven’t Given Up On Hydrogen
Hydrogen power! Still a thing, according to some. BMW and the Japanese automakers have experimented with it the most, probably, and now they and energy companies are investing even more. Via Bloomberg:
Toyota Motor Corp., BMW AG, Daimler AG, Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. are joining oil and gas giants including Royal Dutch Shell and Total SA with plans to invest a combined 10 billion euros ($10.7 billion) in hydrogen-related products within five years.
In all, 13 energy, transport and industrial companies are forming a hydrogen council to consult with policy makers and highlight its benefits to the public as the world seeks to switch from dirtier energy sources, according to a joint statement issued from Davos, Switzerland. The wager demonstrates that batteries aren’t the only way to reduce pollution from cars, homes and utilities that are contributing to climate change.
The other members are gas companies Air Liquide SA and Linde AG, miner Anglo American Plc, electric utility Engie SA, rail company Alstom SA and motorcycle and heavy equipment manufacturer Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.
Will it lead to anything substantial, or are they just trying to lay the groundwork for a future that might not happen? Anyway, good luck.
3rd Gear: Political Theater
Only a fool, not a true patriot, would say that American jobs and American manufacturing investments are a bad thing. But General Motors’ announcement of $1 billion invested stateside and 7,000 new jobs, while good news, is really something that has been in the works for years now, and it’s good political theater given the current climate with the president-elect targeting automakers. Via The Detroit News:
Trump earlier this month called out GM on Twitter for building Chevrolet Cruze Hatchbacks in Mexico. In recent weeks, Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Toyota Motor Corp have made U.S. investment announcements. Hyundai Hyundai Motor Corp. and Kia Motors Corp. announced Tuesday that they plan to invest $3 billion in the U.S. in the next five years, and that the Korean automakers are considering building a new plant here.
“With all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S. (even before taking office), with all of the new auto plants coming back into our country and with the massive cost reductions I have negotiated on military purchases and more, I believe the people are seeing ‘big stuff,’” Trump tweeted Tuesday after GM’s announcement.
Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for Autotrader, said in a statement: “General Motors’ announcement today is mostly theater to play in the news cycle created by President-elect Trump’s tweets. These investments and hiring plans have long been in the works and are a continuation of what the company has been doing in recent years — trying to run a successful, profitable business. The only thing ‘new’ here is GM’s aggressiveness in announcing its plans.”
4th Gear: Brexit Will Suck
As British lawmakers navigate how to exit the EU, it’s becoming more and more of a reality that it will drive up the cost of goods Britons consume, including cars, reports Reuters:
With a free trade deal, Britain might avoid the standard EU import tariffs, such as 10 percent for cars, but without a customs agreement it would face having to prove its exported products are indeed British.
In the case of a car, with say 30,000 parts, the task of proving sufficient local content is enormous for manufacturers.
“It’s variable, but the increased cost could be as high as 10 percent,” Jim Rollo, deputy director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory, said of the financial impact of that task.
Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of trade policy think tank ECIPE, said the extra cost involved with customs barriers could be the final step in the de-industrialization of Britain.
“They’re going to consider shutting the factory. Most of manufacturing industry has profit margins much less than 10 percent, and would have to consider relocating to the EU or Turkey,” he said.
Besides stalwarts like Jaguar Land Rover and Mini (despite BMW ownership), major auto producers in Britain include Honda and Nissan. And if you think Carlos Ghosn is going to stick around just out of the kindness of his heart when things get too expensive to produce there, you have another thing coming.
5th Gear: Pence Promises ‘Big’ Infrastructure Bill
During his campaign, President-elect Trump promised comprehensive infrastructure reform. The topic hasn’t come up as much lately, but Vice President-elect Mike Pence made it clear it’s still a priority. Via The Hill:
“I called [Trump] this afternoon to tell him I was coming by,” Pence said at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting. “In addition to urging me to send along greetings, he said, ‘Tell them we’re going to do an infrastructure bill — and it’s going to be big.’”
Pence added that the package would contain funding to “help communities and states all across America meet the needs that face too many communities and oftentimes stifle growth.”
The comments come as doubts have grown about the size and timing of Trump’s infrastructure bill. The real estate mogul promised to deliver a proposal to Congress within his first 100 days in office, but that timing is expected to slip amid competition with other GOP priorities.
Trump told The New York Times that infrastructure would not be a “core” part of his agenda, while incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told radio host Hugh Hewitt that infrastructure would likely take a backseat to ObamaCare repeal and tax bills.
Reverse: We’re Having A Fire... Sale
Neutral: Do Big Debuts Even Need To Happen At Auto Shows?
We still gave the updated Mustang a bunch of press, because it’s very much up the Jalopnik alley, but maybe it proves that auto shows aren’t as essential for debuts as they once were?