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: And Here We Were, Hoping For A Chance To Buy A Yeti
For a while, as odd as it may sound at first, the Volkswagen Group was reportedly contemplating bringing its wildly successful Eastern European brand Skoda to the U.S. The idea was that with the Volkswagen brand badly tarnished in America, then maybe, just maybe, Skoda—which has seen some strong sales successes in its home market in recent years—could fill the void here.
Yeah, not happening, reports the always-reliable Georg Kacher over at Automobile, speaking with one very candid board member:
Although this option is still being evaluated at Skoda HQ in Mlada Boleslav, northeast of Prague, the heavies in Wolfsburg have poured cold water all over the idea.
“We may be crazy, but we’re not mad,” commented a senior VW board member. “Entering this huge market with an unknown brand, a model range focused on Europe, and a non-existent dealer network is pure suicide. Furthermore, the last thing Volkswagen of America needs now is in-house cannibalization.”
“We may be crazy, but we’re not mad,” the VW board member said. I need that on a t-shirt. Anyway, it makes total sense, and there was no guarantee of success in our market. Looks like VW may need to just stick this one out.
2nd Gear: Meanwhile At Porsche
Because the bad news never ends for the VW Group, Porsche is now also under investigation by German authorities for possibly using cheat devices for its fuel economy and emissions. Via Bloomberg:
Germany’s Transport Ministry and Federal Motor Transport Authority are examining whether Porsche installed devices allowing its cars to sense whether they were being tested for fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions, representatives at both agencies said today.
That type of technology allows manufacturers to falsify results by making cars appear more energy efficient during tests.
A Porsche spokesman said by phone the company’s cars complied with fuel consumption and emissions laws that were in place at the time the vehicles were registered.
[...] According to the report, some Porsche cars can detect whether they’re on a test bed based on the lack of steering wheel movement during operation. German authorities started a similar investigation targeting Audi in November, the magazine said.
3rd Gear: Our Headlights Suck
America’s headlight regulations are sadly and woefully outdated compared to that of other countries, and it’s starting to bite us in the ass in at least one way: it is now harder for vehicles to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s prestigious Top Safety Pick award if their headlights are not up to snuff. Via Automotive News:
The overall decrease reflects the addition of new headlight ratings to the IIHS’ ratings criteria for 2017. For the first time, vehicles must earn a “good” or “acceptable” rating on new headlight tests that measure the forward distance illuminated on straight and curved roads to qualify for the Top Safety Pick+ award.
“The field of contenders is smaller this year because so few vehicles have headlights that do their job well, but it’s not as small as we expected when we decided to raise the bar for the award,” IIHS President Adrian Lund said in a statement.
The industry’s de facto pacesetter on safety equipment turned its attention to the humble headlight after pushing automakers to adopt high-tech crash prevention systems for collision warning and automatic braking in recent years.
IIHS says that roughly half of all fatal crashes occur between dusk and dawn. Yet government standards for the basic safety equipment standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allow for “huge” variations in illumination, according to the group.
Bring on the lasers!
4th Gear: How VW Cleans House
This Bloomberg story is worth a read in full, but it’s about how VW’s new leader Matthias Mueller hired General Motors veteran Thomas Sedran to be its Strategy Chief in charge of “remapping the direction” of the business after the diesel scandal. The company’s challenges are deeper than just diesel cheating, too. Here are some of them:
For a company built around mobility, VW is surprisingly static, weighed down by a record of success that never necessitated a deeper analysis of its byzantine structure. Its main Wolfsburg facility — a jumble of manufacturing halls and office buildings that covers an area as big as Monaco — was established by the Nazis in the 1930s to churn out a “people’s car.” Its state backing and isolation from other German industrial centers contributed to an insular culture with its own set of rituals.
There are bizarre excesses like the so-called Service Factory — a team of 3,400 caterers and custodians paid the same wages to serve sandwiches and sodas as line workers who assemble Golfs and Tiguans. There’s an in-house butcher churning out more than 7 million sausages a year and a garden center where employees can order flowers. Its hometown of Wolfsburg boasts the Autostadt, a park-like tourist attraction that celebrates VW’s history with a museum and pavilions for its various brands.
And there was an extreme deference to authority, with underlings exiting elevators to make way for top brass, and lunches in the executive dining room delivered under gleaming silver domes. Past Volkswagen bosses perpetuated the hierarchical structure. The gruff Winterkorn was detail-obsessed and micro-managed vehicle development. He was molded by his own boss, chairman and family patriarch Ferdinand Piech, a grandson of the Beetle’s creator.
Put that on your reading list today.
5th Gear: What About The Detroit Auto Show?
Next month is the Detroit Auto Show, the Super Bowl of American auto shows, but what can we expect there? More tech and more mobility, and fewer traditional car reveals and press conferences, reports The Detroit News. Which should be interesting given CES is basically a car show now too, and happens in the same month:
Some automakers are cutting back on traditional news conferences at the 2017 Detroit auto show to focus on the latest technologies instead of sheet metal during a new AutoMobili-D tech event.
Organizers for the 2017 North American International Auto Show said Wednesday the show spent “multi-millions of dollars” for the tech showcase that will debut during the upcoming press preview and industry days, and the following year extend into public show days.
“It’s not just about how pretty the car is, it’s about what the car’s going to do for you and with you, and how different that’s going to be going forward,” NAIAS 2017 Chairman Sam Slaughter told The Detroit News. “Next year it will bleed over into public days and within a few years it really won’t be a separate thing. It will just be what an auto show is about.”
Maybe we just stop doing this in January, but I’m mostly saying that because I hate how cold it is.
Reverse: RIP Khan
Neutral: Skoda In America?
Would it have worked?