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 that quell the voices screaming in your head for more opinions about trade imbalances.
1st Gear: An Electric BMW 3 Series May Be The First Actual ‘Tesla Killer’
So far the only cars to really take on Tesla’s grip on the spirit of electric cars in the world have been the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt. They’re fine cars, but they’re plastic hatchbacks. They’re not Tesla rivals in any meaningful sense.
This is why I’m excited about a new report from the German Handelsblatt, picked up by Automotive News and Reuters, which is that BMW will reportedly show the world an electric 3 Series this year. And it’s not just some lame California special, which a range of two miles before it has to spend 97 years changing. It’ll be the real deal, and it should be here by the end of the summer, apparently, per AutoNews:
The electrified 3 series, which is a high volume sales model, will have a range of 248 miles (400 km) and is seen as a direct response to the early success of Tesla’s Model 3, which goes on sale later this year, according to Handelsblatt.
Tesla has received hundreds of thousands of reservations, with a deposit of $1,000 each, for the Model 3. Tesla plans to start volume output of the Model 3 in July.
BMW declined to comment.
So while BMW is likely stabbing the 2 Series’ manual transmission in the heart, they’re at least doing something right on their panic push not to get left behind in going electric.
2nd Gear: The Wiring In Your New Car’s Dashboard Is An Absolute Mess
New car dashboards today are increasingly stuffed with glittering infotainment screens, from all-digital dashes to gigantic in-dash touchscreens. How has all of that been wired up? Extremely poorly, apparently, as one supplier explained to Reuters:
Peer at the instrument panel on your new car and you may find sleek digital gauges and multicolored screens. But a glimpse behind the dashboard could reveal what U.S. auto supplier Visteon Corp found: a mess.
As automotive cockpits become crammed with ever more digital features such as navigation and entertainment systems, the electronics holding it all together have become a rat’s nest of components made by different parts makers.
The report cites the work of Detroit-based supplier Visteon, which has landed a contract to clean up dashes for Mercedes-Benz, and the report notes that streamlined digital dash tech makes cars more fuel efficient, can save automakers $175 per car in production costs and largely un-clutter the user experience as well:
Disjointed dashboards “are one of the most noticeable gaps in user experience — what you see right in front of you,” said Andrew Hart of UK-based consultancy SBD Automotive.
On many car models, he said, audible warning systems to alert the driver to a potential collision are not in sync with the radio, meaning your favorite song could drown out the warning beep.
“That’s a crazy example of something when you don’t consolidate ECUs,” Hart said.
I feel so validated for thinking that so many infotainment systems for so long have been so, so maddeningly bad. Hopefully now, with fewer suppliers and more control in dedicated companies, things will improve.
3rd Gear: Uber Claims It Didn’t Know About Ex-Google Engineer Copying Files
The Google/Waymo vs Uber legal battle has not looked particularly good for Uber. Each bit of information that gets dug up in court seems to put Uber in an even worse light. Last week, we all found out that in March 2016 the ex-Google engineer Uber hired, Anthony Levandowski, told then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick that he had discs containing data from his work on Google’s self-driving car project.
Now Uber denies that this was really as bad as it sounds, as Bloomberg reports:
Wednesday’s filings address the judge’s order that the companies summarize evidence they intend to present to a jury when the case goes to a trial set for October. The dueling narratives reveal sharp disagreement over the significance of a March 2016 conversation when Levandowski told Uber’s then-Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick that he possessed some discs containing Google information.
Waymo says it’s proof that Uber knew — almost a year before the trade-secrets suit was filed — that the engineer had downloaded proprietary information.
But Uber depicts the event much more innocently. It says Levandowski found the five discs in his home, from the time he worked at Google, and later that same day, on March 11, 2016, reported to Uber that he destroyed them. Levandowski didn’t say or suggest to Kalanick that he downloaded the information “for any improper purpose or that he had deliberately taken any Google proprietary information,” according to the filing.
According to this Bloomberg report, Uber is now also claiming that Levandowski only downloaded all of his documents because Google didn’t pay his first installment of $50 million (of a total $120 million bonus) until two months after it was due, didn’t pay him his second installment of $70 million until about a year and a half after he left the company. This is getting messy.
4th Gear: The Big Three Don’t Want To Tighten NAFTA Like Trump Admin Does
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in the Trump cabinet recently said he wants to tighten up NAFTA’s origin rules to avoid it becoming a “back door” for Chinese parts. The Big Three aren’t so hot on that, as Automotive News reports:
Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, said the current 62.5 percent local content requirement in NAFTA was working just fine and “strikes the right balance” for encouraging local manufacturing investment and keeping the industry’s costs competitive.
The American Automotive Policy Council represents GM, Ford and FCA, if you’re curious.
Ross has said that NAFTA’s rules of origin need tightening to avoid benefiting producers from outside the region from tariff-free access to the U.S. market. He also has noted that vehicles now have many new electronic components that were not contemplated when the pact was negotiated in the early 1990s.
But Blunt disputed that the origin rules were allowing China to benefit from NAFTA in a major way, arguing that Chinese components make up less than six percent of the value of North American-built vehicles.
I trust absolutely no parties on either side of this debate, so I’m just going to let this one ride and out watch the discord in peace
5th Gear: German Prosecutors Probe Porsche Over Dieselgate Software
It’s still not entirely clear who precisely developed the software behind all of Dieselgate’s differing dramas, particularly because it seems like every day there’s a new car accused of cheating on emissions. Porsche was recently named, and now the local government is investigating Porsche to find out if it helped make emissions-cheating software, as Reuters reports:
The Stuttgart probe is the latest part of a sweeping investigation of Volkswagen Group, which owns the Audi, VW and Porsche brands. Illegal software has been found in VW, Audi and Porsche cars equipped with diesel engines.
Prosecutor Jan Holzner said on Thursday the Porsche probe was not a formal investigation but was rather still at a preliminary stage.
Porsche had no immediate comment.
If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, right?
Blonde bombshell actress Jayne Mansfield is killed instantly on this day in 1967 when the car in which she is riding strikes the rear of a trailer truck on Interstate-90 east of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Neutral: What has been your favorite ‘Tesla Killer’ that never did it?
I remember the anticipation before the Chevy Volt originally came out. It seemed like GM was really going to blow everyone else out of the water with huge corporate budgets and an ambitious tech sheet. Oh well.