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: Well Actually, Regulations Can Be Good
President Trump has always said he wants fewer regulations on everything, which is perfect as I love Upton Sinclair. But apparently the vast majority of the automotive industry thinks this is, in fact, NOT a good thing, Bloomberg reports:
The automaker trade group that urged President Donald Trump to review tougher U.S. fuel economy rules now says the industry, federal government and state of California should all want to do a deal to increase standards because of public support.
Reaching an accord will entail compromise on how much the companies should need to increase fuel efficiency over time, Mitch Bainwol, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in an interview Tuesday. The group, whose members include General Motors Co., Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp., is calling for a three-way pact with the Trump administration and California, which has the toughest clean-air rules in the country.
“There is a profound consensus perspective on fuel economy and greenhouse gases,” Bainwol wrote in a slideshow he’s scheduled to present Tuesday at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars in Acme, Michigan. “The only issue is the degree of the slope.”
The industry request comes after an industry-funded study which found that consumers overwhelmingly want more fuel efficient cars. And why wouldn’t they? If you can get everything you want, but pay less for fuel, then everybody wins.
On the other hand, the study also found that consumers said they don’t want to pay anything extra for fuel efficiency. Which, whatever, to be honest. People will always say that, but fuel efficiency has been increasing for decades, cars have gotten more expensive partially because of it, and cars have still been selling like hotcakes.
I want free lunch, too, but that’s life. Still gotta eat.
2nd Gear: The Price Of Oil Might Shoot Through The Roof
Venezuela is completely in turmoil right now, with a kleptocratic pseudo-socialist autocracy violently trying to suppress any form of political dissent. That’s the sort of thing that tends to make Americans’ eyes glaze over, until they remember that Venezuela produces a hell of a lot of oil. And kleptocratic dictatorships aside, its instability that can make you pay attention to the awful humanitarian crisis going on down there.
Oil has the potential to shoot up to over $80 per barrel within a few months, RBC Capital Markets analyst Helima Croft told CNBC:
“The thing is Venezuela has no capacity to overproduce at this point. Their oil production is going in one direction and that is down,” she said.
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela, one of the world’s top crude producers, on Monday as political turmoil continued to cause chaos and the country runs out of cash.
“The national oil company owes $3.5 billion due in October-November. They are unlikely to make those payments,” Croft added. “Venezuela has less than $10 billion now in reserves, and then have $5 billion in debt payments coming due this year. ... We really do think a disorderly default is on the cards for Venezuela.”
This sort of thing is exactly why responsible companies like GM or Toyota load up their lineup with a delightful spread of everything from hulking SUVs to fuel-sipping or even electric cars. That’s because oil is volatile, and you can’t plan a car five years in advance based on oil prices today.
3rd Gear: Nissan Would Like To Remind You That You Have A Person
I’m not a parent, but I imagine that if I were to become one, I would constantly forget entirely that the tiny human I raised from birth existed at all. Just, you know, *POOF* gone. Nissan is now putting in a system for parenting morons like me, to stop you from killing your own children, Automotive News reports:
Nissan’s system detects if a rear door was opened or closed before the car was started, but then wasn’t re-opened again after the vehicle was put in park and turned off, the system notifies the operator with display notifications in the instrument panel of the car. If the driver fails to open the rear door, the car will then emit subtle but distinctive chirps of the car horn.
The idea came from Nissan engineers Elsa Foley and Marlene Mendoza who wanted to find a way to remind drivers to check the backseat before leaving the vehicle.
“The idea is if you open a rear door, whether to put a child or a package in the rear seat, the vehicle will help alert you when you get to your destination that you may want to check the rear seat,” Mendoza said. “We’ve built in enough time that you don’t have to rush, but if you don’t open the rear door again when you get out of the vehicle, we want to think for a moment about what you may have put in the back seat.”
AN notes that 29 children have died already this year from heat stroke, after being left in hot cars.
I can’t believe this needs to be a thing, but it desperately needs to be a thing.
4th Gear: Tesla’s Chief Battery Person Is Out
Kurt Kelty, Tesla’s director of battery technology, has left the company, the Financial Times says. Maybe Kurt was burnt out. Maybe Kurt didn’t love batteries anymore. Maybe Kurt got a better gig. Maybe Kurt just wants to go fly fishing. Maybe Kurt just doesn’t want to work at Tesla anymore. Maybe Kurt wanted to see the launch of the Tesla Model 3 through, before doing anything else.
We don’t really have any idea at the moment why Kurt left, but there may be a bit of a pattern over at Tesla, the FT notes:
Mr Kelty’s departure follows Chris Lattner’s exit in June, just six months after he joined from Apple to lead Tesla’s Autopilot software. The automaker said at the time that the former Apple executive “was not the right fit” for the company, while Mr Lattner also tweeted: “Turns out that Tesla isn’t a good fit for me after all”.
Tesla’s revolving door also saw top engineer Chriss Porritt leave for Apple in April 2016, followed a month later by Greg Reichow, former vice-president of production, and Josh Ensign, ex-vice president of manufacturing.
Do you have any idea if there’s a genuine pattern here? Email us.
5th Gear: The Germans Have A Diesel Fix
Talks between the VDA, Germany’s automotive association, and the German government have yielded an agreement, Reuters reports:
Crisis talks between German carmakers and politicians concluded on Wednesday with a compromise deal to cut emissions by updating the software of 5 million diesel cars in an attempt to avoid vehicle bans, Germany’s auto industry association VDA said.
German carmakers will install new engine management software to make emissions filtering systems more effective and bring down pollution levels of nitrogen oxide by 25 percent to 30 percent, VDA said.
Details are still forthcoming, but it’s still unclear if the emissions cuts will rob the cars of power and/or fuel efficiency.
There’s a good chance it’s a bit of both.
On this day in 1987, in the fastest race in Indy car racing at the time, 24-year-old Michael Andretti wins the Marlboro 500 at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, with an average speed of 171.490 miles per hour.
Neutral: What Are You Getting When Oil Skyrockets?
Gotta trade your V8 whatever-the-hell-you’ve-got in for something a bit better than gas. Might I suggest a Fiesta ST?