GM regains top US sales from Toyota after 90-year streak ends

2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV

2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV
picture: General Motors

The General has stolen first place from Toyota again, Stellantis is anticipating another poor production year in Italy and Jaguar has a new plan for the future: to be a Range Rover. All that and more in this Tuesday’s edition of The morning shift for July 5, 2022

1st gear: GM is back on top – for now

Toyota sold more cars worldwide last year than any other manufacturer, beating Volkswagen for the title for the first time in five years. It Also sold General Motors here in the US — the first time anyone had done so since 1931, and the first time a foreign automaker had ever claimed the top spot. Now the numbers are in for the second quarter of 2022, and GM is back on top here at home, albeit by a hair’s breadth. Out of Automotive News:

According to the Automotive News Research & Data Center, GM outperformed Toyota by more than 47,000 vehicles in the second quarter. GM delivered 578,507 vehicles while Toyota sold 531,105.

“Whatever we wholesale, [dealers] sell,” said Jack Hollis, the new executive vice president of sales at Toyota Motor North America. “At the moment we don’t see any softening.”

Overall, second-quarter U.S. auto sales fell 25 percent for the 10 automakers reporting as of press time on Friday, July 1. Ford Motor Co., Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar Land Rover had not yet reported sales for the second quarter and was due to report this week.

Toyota defied the headwinds in the supply chain better than anyone, which is probably why it outperformed GM throughout 2021. However, these pre-pandemic preparations could only last so long, and Toyota is certainly not immune. Everyone goes through:

Automakers’ parts shipments have erupted and collapsed at different times during the chip crisis, said Stephanie Brinley, senior automotive analyst at S&P Global Mobility. “The situation is so volatile right now that in a month you can say that one OEM had more chips than the other. But that’s too small a snapshot to understand how well automakers are getting through the process,” she said.

So congratulations to GM, who has resumed his familiar position as America’s sales leader for the moment anyway. Unfortunately the streak is over and due to the shortage of chips there will be no more stars in the record books.

2nd gear: Stellantis Slows in Italy

The company that includes Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia, Peugeot, Citroën, Opel and Vauxhall has seen an annual decline in production in Italy for the past four years. 2022 will likely be no different, according to union officials. Out of Reuters:

A global semiconductor supply shortage could cost Stellantis up to 220,000 vehicles this year, affecting lost production in Italy, union FIM CISL said, adding that this would mark the fifth consecutive year of falling production in the country.

FIM CISL, in its regular report on the group’s production in Italy, said that Stellantis produced 351,890 vehicles in the first half of this year, almost 14% less than the same period last year, with the main plant in Melfi and the van production facility in Sevel are the most affected websites.

Using data for the first half of the year and potential full-year production based on booked orders, the union estimates that Stellantis could lose between 200,000 and 220,000 vehicles in 2022, said Ferdinando Uliano, the head of the FIM CISL union.

This, for this reason, is a problem that predates the chip shortage but is sure to be exacerbated by it. “It’s like one of [Stellantis’] large factories were shut down for a year,” said the union leader.

Four out of ten cars Stellantis makes in Italy come from the Melfi plant, where the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X are made. Melfi is also where Stellantis is expected to produce four different battery electric crossovers across its various brands in 2024, and where the company had to shut down production for a week in June because the flow of silicon had dried up so much.

3rd gear: Volkswagen now owns Europcar

Europcar, a rental company you probably won’t meet if you live in the US but one you’ll definitely recognize on vacation, is now effectively owned by Volkswagen. The automaker will claim 67 percent of the company after leading a consortium to buy out nearly 94 percent of its shares Reuters.

Volkswagen owned Europcar before, in the late ’90s and early ’90s. This time, the brand will use it to offer alternative car uses Automotive News Europe reported this morning:

VW will place Europcar at the heart of its mobility services strategy, which will include traditional rental cars, carsharing, subscriptions, leasing – and autonomous vehicles after 2025.

Volkswagen Financial Services will host the new central platform, although all VW Group brands will have their own services tailored to the needs of their customers, the automaker said.

Christian Dahlheim, Head of VW Financial Services, said the diversification of mobility services is a response to changing customer habits.

“People increasingly want to use their vehicles rather than buy them, which is a trend we’ve seen over the past few decades,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.

Of course, VW is not the only manufacturer trying to win the subscription game. BMW and Mercedes-Benz even have United forces for similar reasons. The difference with Europcar is that Volkswagen starts with a company that can draw on traditional car rental, which is already profitable, and ensures that it has the means and scale to experiment with different conditions:

Dahlheim said an expanded Europcar could succeed where others have not because it is based on the “fundamentally profitable” traditional car rental business.

“If you look at the sharing and subscription business in isolation, which is what we’ve done in the past, let’s face it, no one has managed to make this profitable in a reasonable way,” he said.

“The rental car business is a profitable business,” he added. “Sharing and subscription is basically renting a car, so we think it’s a successful business model if you have a fleet that you offer as rental, sharing or subscription depending on customer needs.”

It might even expand to the States one day, where I expect a focus group will recommend a name change.

4th gear: Nissan has another truck recall

About a week ago we learned that Nissan is recalling more than 360,000 Pathfinders sold between 2013 and 2016 worldwide defective hood locks. Unfortunately, the brand’s other workhorses have their own recall that surfaced late last week, but we didn’t get to cover it. The Titan – which one probably won’t be in this world much longer anyway — and Frontier have a roll-away problem, per consumer reports last week:

Nissan is recalling more than 180,000 2020-2022 Frontier and Titan pickup trucks because the trucks could roll even with the shifter in park. So far, the automaker is aware of four reports of injuries.

The automaker is currently developing a solution to the problem, but in the meantime, Nissan says owners should use the parking brake every time they park their vehicles. Once a cure is available, owners can take their trucks to a Nissan dealership for a free repair.

If you have a new or new Nissan pickup, get used to using this parking brake. If you don’t want it but still want one, maybe that’s another reason why revisit an old frontierinstead of trying to nab one of these admittedly handsome but old-at-heart folks newer models that just came out. They say they never die.

5th gear: Jaguar has plans

With all Jaguar’s struggles, I never thought we would see a day when the brand seemed to have less of a direction forward than Lotus. And yet here we are. Allegedly, Jaguar’s next era will be dominated by electric SUVs. In other words, it’ll be just like its sister Range Rover, but more boisterous. Out of car car:

Jaguar is planning a trio of “gorgeous” electric-sport crossovers to break the £100,000 barrier and bring the brand into Bentley territory from 2025.

The new two-tier, three-model range promises to dramatically reshape Jaguar as a maker of exclusive, electric, aluminum-rich cars at 50,000 to 60,000 a year.

These will be based on a single platform called the Panthera, use closely related mechanical packages, and be manufactured in Solihull.

When he became CEO of Jaguar Land Rover two years ago, Thierry Bolloré made no secret of his plan to reflect the ethos – and success – of the Range Rover in a reconfigured Jaguar range. Within months, Jaguar’s design team under Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s chief design officer who was appointed to the role of the group’s creative director, underwent a major revamp, but since then details have been extremely patchy.

It’s justifiably tragic how Jaguar had this major rebirth in the late ’80s and early 2010s, when it really looked like it had finally figured itself out and escaped the doldrums of old luxury, only to squander that enthusiasm again. Whatever comes next, I just hope it looks as weird as this I pacealthough perhaps a better name would help.

Back: Speaking of old luxury

On this day in 1990 became the original Lexus LS400 went on sale in the UK, after 365 days of driving. That gives me an excuse to embed one of Lexus’ fever dream TV commercials from that era. Why are all the old white men in suits standing on the Leaning Tower of Pisa? To provide a sophisticated visual metaphor, of course!

Neutral: The G[V]OATS

Renault Espace F1 amazing sound

Everyone is still talking about the new one Supervan, which looks awesome. But the Espace F1 always willI am the people mover to beat in my heart.