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: No One Will Emerge Unscathed
Now that the British have intentionally imploded their economy, it’s time to suss out how their dumb thing will affect the rest of us. It doesn’t look like it’ll cause the United States to break up or anything (some of us already tried that, it didn’t work), but it will hurt the American car industry, according to Bloomberg:
S&P Global Ratings cut its estimate for U.S. auto sales this year to 17.5 million vehicles from 17.8 million, citing slowing demand from individual buyers and the effect on the nation’s economy from U.K. voters’ decision to leave the European Union.
In short, British people have screwed themselves up so badly that they now will all have less money, which means less money to spend on cars, which includes American cars.
Those limey bastards.
2nd Gear: Europe Is Still Really Mad At Volkswagen
American owners of cheaty Volkswagen diesels have tentatively received what looks to be a pretty sweet deal in compensation for the company’s deception. You know who hasn’t received a rotten centime yet? European cheaty Volkswagen diesel owners. And the European Union is starting to get pissed about that, the Financial Times reports:
The European Commission is strongly objecting to how VW has offered US owners of diesel cars that were equipped with software to cheat in emissions tests up to $10,000 each in compensation, but nothing to their European counterparts.
EU officials said VW’s blunt refusal to make a gesture to car owners in Europe could do reputational damage to the wider auto industry, with a knock-on effect on the reception that the sector will get when it tries to lobby the regional bloc on other issues.
But here’s the kicker. It doesn’t look like VW is actually capable of making a similar payout to Europeans. The deal offered to Americans will end up costing the company around $15 billion, but if that same deal was offered to Europeans, it would cost the company $43 billion, or almost triple the amount, thanks to so many more VW diesels being sold in Europe.
The EU is acknowledging that it’s “unrealistic,” but VW is saying it wouldn’t be necessary, anyway, as American emissions restrictions are tougher and surmounting them wouldn’t be an easy fix.
3rd Gear: Speaking of, Germany Is Especially Pissed
It’s not just the EU that’s mad at VW for a lack of any real compensation, but Germans especially sound like they’re ready to start something soon (from Bild via Bloomberg):
“It’s not acceptable that the government doesn’t take any real consequences from the emissions scandal and gives a blank check for tricks and deceptions,” said Oliver Krischer, a member of Germany’s Bundestag from the opposition Green Party who is leading a parliamentary investigation committee. “It needs to be explained why companies in Germany don’t pay fines. It’s also not OK that European drivers are treated worse than American VW drivers.”
Part of the reason why the German federal government has been so soft on Volkswagen up until this point is because any real punishment would be cutting off its nose to spite its face. The German state of Lower Saxony actually owns 20 percent of Volkswagen, so any move to recompense German VW owners will actually just hurt more German citizens.
Which is a downside of state-invested capitalism.
4th Gear: No One Wants To Test Their Self-Driving Car In Canada
With the recent fatal crash involving a Tesla cruising on Autopilot, extensive testing of self-driving cars is more important now than ever. And that testing has been ongoing, in places like California, and Nevada, and Michigan, and Virginia, and Europe, and really in a lot of places that people drive cars.
One place that no one wants to test a self-driving car is Canada, according to Reuters:
Ontario’s program to allow testing of self-driving cars on public roads has not received any applications since it launched Jan. 1, the Canadian province’s government said on Wednesday, as a recent U.S. accident increased scrutiny of the technology.
Ontario, home to nearly all of Canada’s auto industry, said last year it would be the first province to allow testing of self-driving cars.
Oh well. Maybe the next time some sort of paradigm-shifting technology spreads across a major industry that affects the lives of billions of people comes around, someone will want you, Canada.
5th Gear: Toyota Thailand Is Laying Off 800 People
Toyota is looking for “voluntary reductions” of up to 800 people for its Thai operations, according to the Bangkok Post, the first time Toyota has ever laid off anyone in the country. But Thai officials are just sort of brushing it off:
Surapong Paisitpatanapong, a spokesman for the Federation of Thai Industries’ automotive club, said Toyota’s voluntary redundancy does not reflect a downturn in the industry, as the number of affected workers is marginal compared with the 60,000-100,000 workers now employed by carmakers in Thailand.
“The expired first-time car buyer scheme’s negative impact remains potent and will put continued pressure on Thailand’s car market,” he said. “But the country’s economic fundamentals remain strong and are capable of creating annual car sales of up to 900,000 vehicles based on Thai per capita income of US$6,000 a year.”
Toyota has actually pledged to re-hire the people taking the buyouts within a year or once the car market improves, the Bangkok Post reported.
On this day in 2000–eight weeks to the day after the fourth-generation NASCAR driver Adam Petty was killed during practice at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire–the driver Kenny Irwin Jr. dies at the same speedway, near the exact same spot, after his car slams into the wall at 150 mph during a practice run.
Neutral: Where Should You Test A Self-Driving Car?
I’m going to switch my sarcasm gene off for one second (which is very hard to do, I know), because it actually seems like it would make a lot of sense to test a self-driving car in Canada. Not only is Ontario home to a large automotive industry, but it’s got incredibly varied weather. Weather seems like a big challenge for self-driving cars, especially when it comes to the snow and ice that Canadian drivers normally have to deal with.
But there are a lot of factors that could affect where you would test a self-driving car. Where would you test yours?