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: Trump VS. Ford
Speaking to a sold-out crowd of more than 2,300 people Tuesday at the Birch Run Expo Center in Michigan, still-GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump once again took at aim at Ford Motor Company over plans to invest $2.5 billion for new Mexican car plants.
That’s been a sore point for people in the region. Ford recently announced the Wayne, Michigan Assembly Plant will stop building the Focus and C-Max in 2018, and some fear production could be headed to the Mexican plants, though that has not been confirmed. From Bloomberg’s recap of the event:
“Ford is building a $2.5 billion plant in Mexico,” he roared to a packed auditorium in Birch Run, Michigan, and 2,000 voices responded with lusty boos. “I’ll actually give them a good idea. Why don’t we just let the illegals drive the cars and trucks right into our country?”
Say what you want about the man, but he doesn’t pull his punches. He continued:
The real estate developer and former reality TV star boasted that “President Trump” won’t let Ford move jobs to Mexico and will convince the automaker’s chief executive officer, Mark Fields, to bring jobs back to the United States.
“I would say, the deal is not going to be approved, I won’t allow it. I want that plant in the United States, preferably here,” he said, as the crowd rose to its feet, chanting “U.S.A.,” punctuated by a woman shouting “Detroit.” “So then I only have one question: Do they move the plant to the United States the same day or a day later?” Trump asked.
Ford has countered by saying the Michigan plant is not closing, but the Mexico thing is expected to be a sticking point this summer as UAW contract talks continue.
This isn’t the first time Trump has been critical of Ford specifically, or the Mexican factory plans. In June he swore to impose 35 percent tariffs on Ford on parts and cars coming from the plant. (He’s also an investor in Ford’s credit arm.)
2nd Gear: Meanwhile, Ford Is Moving Jobs Out Of Mexico
People in Michigan are rightfully fearful about the state of their jobs with C-Max and Focus production on the way out. But there’s some good news for workers in Ohio: for the first time ever, Ford will shift medium-duty truck production to the Buckeye State, out of Mexico. From Reuters:
Ford Motor Co (F.N) on Wednesday will start building its medium-duty F-650 and F-750 commercial trucks at a Cleveland-area plant, moving production out of Mexico for the first time.
The shift to the 41-year-old plant in Avon Lake, Ohio means that about 1,000 workers represented by the United Auto Workers union will keep their jobs, Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president, said in a statement issued by the company. There are about 1,400 workers at the Avon Lake complex.
The timing sure is interesting.
3rd Gear: Olds Are The Future Of Cars
Since you damn Millennials can’t stop smoking Molly long enough to get jobs, move out of your folks’ basements and buy cars (actually that myth is wrong, and changing quickly as the economy recovers, but I just like making the joke) your parents, the Olds, have become the demographic that defines modern cars. From Bloomberg again:
Not only are seniors staying on the road longer, they also aren’t coasting into the sunset in clunkers. In the past five years, the number of new cars registered to households with a head age 65 or older has risen 65 percent, according to IHS. Drivers over the age of 75, meanwhile, registered about six times as many new cars as those age 18 to 24. The children may well be the future, but the fogies have the cash. What’s more, they want to use it before it’s too late.
Why? As we’ve covered before, they can afford them better than younger folks. But their needs are also helping to drive a lot of the autonomous tech we increasingly find on modern vehicles.
New safety features are letting seniors stay at the wheel longer and compelling them to trade up to newer models. Active braking has started to come standard on many vehicles, alongside blind-spot warnings and sensors that keep cars from drifting out of a lane. By May 2018, backup cameras will be a requirement on all new cars in the U.S.
That whole piece is worth a read.
4th Gear: Cadillac To Focus On SUVs And Crossovers, Like Everyone
Cadillac’s in the midst of a product renaissance. Their latest sedans have all been excellent. Problem is, people aren’t really buying them. Their U.S. sales are down at a time when rivals like Lexus, Audi and even Acura are up more than 10 percent. At least one part of that problem is the dwindling sedan market in favor of SUVs and crossovers, a trend we discuss almost daily on TMS.
So Cadillac is doing the logical thing, the thing everyone is trying to do, by focusing more heavily on those growth segments. From the Detroit Free Press:
Cadillac’s product makeover will include five new SUVs or crossovers by the end of the decade, a new subcompact car and three redesigned models that straddle the line between compact and midsize cars, according to a presentation by brand President Johan de Nysschen to analysts in New York Tuesday.
There’s also the dealer problem.
“The reality, particularly in the U.S. is that the quality of the Cadillac dealer network does significantly trail that of our competitors,” deNysschen said.
But the average return on sales for Cadillac’s dealers has improved slightly to 2.5% this year through July, up from 2.3% last year. “It’s not the best in class. It’s not the worst in class,” deNysschen said.
5th Gear: Rent A Nissan On Campus
Nissan is expanding its presence on college campuses across the U.S. with a new rental program with Enterprise. Via USA Today:
In a bid to get younger drivers to try out its cars, Japanese automaker Nissan has reached a deal to become the exclusive provider of Enterprise rental cars on nearly 90 U.S. college campuses.
The deal, announced Tuesday, represents another leg in the auto industry’s multi-faceted strategy to win the hearts and minds of Millennials who are often apathetic about cars.
Once again, Millennials aren’t apathetic about cars, but if they are I doubt Altimas and Versas will help. But this is a useful program for college kids.
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On this day in 1988, director Francis Ford Coppola’s critically acclaimed biopic “Tucker: The Man & His Dream” premieres in U.S. theaters, starring Jeff Bridges as the brash Chicago businessman-turned-car-designer Preston Tucker who shook up 1940s-era Detroit with his streamlined, affordable “Car of Tomorrow.”
Neutral: Who Is The Future Of Cars?
Olds or Youths? Which vision gets to define things? Or is it both?